Aristotle said it best when he proclaimed, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”
As a college student, you’re looking to jump into the workforce and prove your talent and leadership abilities. However, Aristotle’s wisdom suggests you may want to start off highlighting your follower skills, instead.
In fact, without devoted followers, all of the Elon Musks, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerburgs of the world wouldn’t have reached such high positions of power and success. It’s with the assistance and dedication of strong followers that they were able to build their companies to greater heights than ever imagined.
But with so many negative connotations surrounding the follower persona, it’s important for college students to know how to highlight these positive qualities during an interview:
Show off your listening skills
“Communication skills” is a positive quality you learned in resume and cover letter writing 101. Even entry-level jobs require these types of skills, and recruiters are paying attention.
In fact, 35 percent of recruiters say soft skills assessments are a top trend that will shape the future of recruiting, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2017 report.
However, being able to effectively communicate your point to various personality types isn’t the only important soft skill followers need. Leaders need someone who is skilled in actively listening to their current and future goals.
To show this skill, be aware of any nervous or distracting gestures. Playing with your hair, rocking in your chair, clicking a pen, or constantly touching your tie are just a few signs of nervousness that will make it seem you’re not truly focused.
Be sure to open yourself up and ask thoughtful questions. Interviewers will engage even more when they realize you weren’t only listening, but also are genuinely interested in what they’re saying and eager to gain a better understanding.
These acts of being fully present will make you more memorable. They’ll recognize and appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable by listening intently, speaking up to show your personality, and being an overall compassionate person with the ability to truly listen.
Express your team spirit
Both followers and leaders need to understand how to be team players. The only difference is that followers need to understand how to propel the team forward, even though they’re not leading the pack.
To express your team spirit in an interview, start by showing how dedicated you’ve been to your collegiate ‘teams.’
Share a detailed story about a time when you worked in a team setting and how you helped everyone excel and meet your deadline. Give them a glimpse into the type of team player you are by explaining why you liked working on team projects in college, what it means to be a team player, and how you’d help your co-workers through difficult situations.
Share your commitment
Behind every successful leader is a team of committed employees.
This team is full of followers who are ready and willing to dedicate themselves to bettering everything and everyone around them. Their dedication takes a strong commitment to stick it out and finish what they started, an attribute any successful leader admires.
To impress leadership with your value for commitment, walk into an interview knowing exactly what the company’s mission is and what leaders are passionate about. Then, show your commitment to the same values and mission.
Another admirable form of showing commitment is sharing times when you struggled but refused to give up. For example, share a story of a class or project you had trouble completing. Be detailed in your stories by describing how the struggle came about, your honest feelings during that time, and what you did to persevere and prevail.
In the end, these tips won’t work if you aren’t confident in your abilities and role as a follower. The success of each interview relies on you believing in yourself and your ability to help a company reach its greatest potential.
****Campus to Career thanks Val Matta for this post!!****
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers.