By asking about work you've done, the interviewer is trying to gauge how you might approach similar situations or duties. This question can also be a way of determining a candidate's experience, by observing the kinds of situations where you are capable taking leadership. To frame the best response to this question, think about how you can tie in your leadership and communication skills.
Points to Emphasize
Here are the key elements you want to hit when answering this question:
- Make sure you establish the "5W"s to keep things clear. Those are who, what, when, why, and how the project was done.
- Point to measurable outcomes of performance as much as possible.
- Remember that it's your analysis that matters, and be frank about both the successful and unsuccessful strategies used.
- Keep in mind that you can use projects from outside work if they showcase your leadership more clearly. Organizational membership or even officership can provide the opportunity to build the same skill set being measured here.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Keep these in mind before and during the interview, and make sure you step around them.
- Don't play the blame game. They asked about a project you headed up, so you have to take responsibility for the whole process.
- Avoid getting into overly specific details about the step-by-step processes.
- Never apologize for your experience. If you only had one or two opportunities for leadership so far, highlight how much you took from them instead of downplaying that fact.
- Don't forget to construct a narrative that relates your "5W"s. Interviewers will not be able to follow the story of the event if information is just stated and not explained.
Here's one example of a concise answer that still puts the right information out there.
My last project was to pull together a working group to analyze find ways to streamline our supply options at the small t-shirt company I worked at. I worked with the production artists and accounting people to find the best fair trade solutions for the volume we were purchasing. We ended up with both the best choice for our situation at the time and a plan to scale our supply chain as our sales increased, giving us a little more out of the research than we originally planned on.
The key is to leave out any distracting details that would make the project the center of attention. That way, the emphasis stays on your role and how it affected the outcome of the project and avoids getting bogged down.