Why Leadership and Involvement in Activities Matters to Hiring Managers

For anyone that’s gone through the internship or job search process as a student, you’ve probably encountered those infamous words: “leadership” and “activities.” During interviews, you may have been asked questions (directly or indirectly) focused on leadership and participation outside of the classroom at Penn. Ever wonder why leadership and activities are scrutinized by companies?

Each organization values and considers the extent of your leadership and involvement in activities in different ways. However, leadership and involvement in activities provide some interesting information about internship and job applicants. Fair or not, those with significant leadership experience are very desirable to some companies. Why? Because leaders typically have a certain drive and passion to achieve. Leaders also may showcase strong project management skills, people management skills or both. Successful leaders may also have strong interpersonal skills, ability to work effectively with teams and take ownership and responsibility for projects. Given that past experience may predict the future, anyone who has demonstrated leadership experience and can highlight accomplishments or successful outcomes instantly becomes a candidate with a track record of success.

So what if you are not in a position to lead an organization? Keep in mind that you can be a leader or demonstrate leadership experience in many ways within an organization or club. Perhaps you are destined to lead a committee working on a big event or new initiative. Or you may find yourself presented with the opportunity to lead your peers or fellow group members on a project. Either way, both are excellent situations for individuals to utilize and develop their talents and skills and hopefully generate positive, tangible outcomes. And while leadership can be important and valued, involvement in activities can be very important as well. Simply joining a club or organization and just going to weekly meetings does not reveal much to recruiters. What’s more significant is how you can impact an organization you are a part of – any tangible improvements you can make to the greater good of the organization are valued.

So remember – get involved outside of the classroom. Pursue your passions and dreams. Embrace leadership opportunities that present themselves. Not only will you find these experiences worthwhile, others will value them too.

By David Ross
David Ross Senior Associate Director, Wharton David Ross