You have to include anecdotes in your answers because almost every question will ask for a specific event, project or experience.
Before going into interviews, you should review everything you've done in school and at work and pick some team projects that would be good to discuss.
1. Can you talk about a team project or some kind of group activity you've worked on before?
Ideally, you will talk about something that was a success rather than a failure. You should use the following 3-point structure for these questions:
- State upfront what the problem was - Maximizing returns? Attracting more donors for your nonprofit? Winning more customers?
- Talk about the team you worked in, who did what, and what your role was. Did you manage people or delegate tasks? Those are best, but if you were a "foot soldier" that can also work as long as you worked long hours, were attentive to detail and/or came through in the end to save the team in some way.
- State the results - Did your brand awareness go up? Did you get more funding? More members for your organization?
This is one of the fundamental questions that you need to be prepared for, because it will almost always come up in some form in interviews.
2. Can you describe a situation where a team did not work as intended? Whose fault was it?
This is another variant of the "failure" question.
I would recommend starting with a situation where your team did work as intended and talk about how it wasn't working at first and what you did to fix it.
Never blame someone specific - instead, say that there were "personality conflicts" and that you worked to resolve them.
To make things even easier, you could re-use the story you told in question #1 but instead position it as a failed team situation that turned into a successful one.
3. Can you discuss an ethical challenge you were confronted with and how you responded?
If you've already worked full-time, any ethical challenges you faced at work or any whistle-blowing you've done are best to discuss; otherwise, you could talk about how you stopped funds in a student group from being used illegally or how you caught someone cheating.
Just make sure you don't over-dramatize it - your life is not a soap opera and you shouldn't go on for 10 minutes about your internal conflict deciding whether to turn someone in for their wrongdoing.
4. What was the most difficult situation you faced as a leader and how did you respond?
Point out how you stayed calm and collected in the face of a challenging situation, and how your cool decision-making process led to a positive outcome.
Maybe 2 of your subordinates couldn't get along and you had to arbitrate; maybe you were 3 months behind on a project and had to get a team together to finish it in 2 weeks; maybe you were an RA in a dorm and you had to prevent 2 residents from harassing each other.
Just make sure that it's a real problem, as opposed to only getting an A- when you should have gotten an A.
5. Can you discuss a time where you had to sacrifice your time for the sake of a team project?
This is the classic "burn the midnight oil" question, and you should definitely have something prepared for this one. There are 2 key points:
1.! Whatever you did had to involve long hours - 60-70 hours per week or more 2.! It had to have been over an extended time period - so Final Exam week at school
would be a poor example. Aim for something that took place over weeks or
Maybe you were working full-time and also leading your volunteer group to build shelters; maybe you were taking 6 classes, running a fraternity, and then got called upon to direct that huge Cinco de Mayo festival.
It doesn't matter too much what it was as long as your story is detailed and convincing.
6. Do you work better as a leader or a follower?
Resist the urge to say "leader" and instead talk about how you can function as both a leader and another member of the team, depending on what the situation calls for. You don't want to hog the spotlight or do everything, but if leadership is required, you can step up and handle it.
Specific examples to back up the above points are also required.
7. What is your leadership style?
A "moderate" answer works best here. You're responsible and can make sure things get done, but at the same time you don't annoy your teammates by micro-managing.
If you're interviewing for an Analyst or Associate position, you do want to be a bit more "hands-on" and point out that you often go in and correct mistakes to make sure everything's perfect - since you'll be spending around 50% of your time doing this.
Again, a specific example is needed once you've stated in general terms what your style is.
8. Does the leader make the team?
No, the team makes the team. The leader can provide direction and unify everyone, but 1 person alone is not a "team." A leader can make things better and turn around a dysfunctional team, but it's equally important for everyone to pull their own weight.
You can often re-use some of your other "leadership" or "team" stories you've used and spin them differently.