Translating Student Leadership Skills into Successful Interviews

Being a student leader, whether it be through club leadership positions or on campus employment opportunities, equips you with so many transferable skills that you can learn to leverage in job interviews. Being able to effectively translate your student leadership skills takes practice and effort. Here are some key takeaways from my personal experiences as a Senior CSE Career Captain!

First, apply your student leadership skills throughout your interview preparation and networking. One of the greatest things I’ve learned through my position as a Career Captain liaison at the CSE is the power of self-advocacy. Working with professionals as a graduate student, and having to communicate with leaders from different backgrounds, teaches you how to show up prepared, confident and ready to take on challenges, while advocating your strengths and skills in those roles. 

This served me incredibly well at the ALPFA Convention in 2019. There I applied these skills to my networking and showed up prepared, professional and engaged. It’s about learning how to boost your innate power and strengths to a whole new level. We do it all the time when coordinating with professionals and planning club events, so why not translate that into our professional personas.

One time I was interviewing with one of my target companies and was asked a question I didn’t know the answer to. My adrenaline was pumping, but instead of shutting down, I took a moment to admit my fault and advocate for all the reasons why that mess up was not representative of how I would show up in the role. I got the job offer a few weeks later. 

Holding yourself in a professional manner in awkward or intimidating situations is incredibly important for interview success, and is something us student leaders overcome many times.

Then, learn and practice how to leverage your experience to answer interview questions! There are several different leadership skills that you can develop and highlight in interviews that will help you stand out.

For example, one of the best ways to take advantage of your student leadership experience and go beyond just leadership, is to take on project management roles within your position. Project management is such an effective and rare transferable skill, that having successful experience in it will serve you very well in the future. 

Through the CSE I have held multiple project management positions in which I delegated tasks, effectively communicated with assisting teammates and managers, and then executed a smooth and successful final product. It’s this independence and ability to take direction that employers would love to hear about. 

Continuing to use project management as an example: In an interview, when using the STAR technique to talk through your experiences for a behavioral question, be able to discuss the ways in which you:

  • Took instruction
  • Managed all the working parts of a delegated project 
  • Handled obstacles to success as they arose, while learning when is the right time to ask your manager for assistance
  • Learned how to effectively communicate the impact your project management had (the results that came from your effective efforts)

…that right there is the golden ticket to being a hirable candidate. 

Student leadership positions are truly an amazing source for augmenting your innate skills, creating connections and gaining experiences in project management. Take a moment to apply these skills to your interview preparation and the way you show up in the professional world, and don’t shy away from leveraging that experience when answering interview questions.

Original blog post by Yvette Smith ’20, MA’21, former Senior CSE Career Career Captain.

By Yvette Smith
Yvette Smith CSE Research Assistant, Former Senior Career Captain Yvette Smith