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April 29, 2019

21 Awesome Interview Questions for Management Positions

interview questions for management positions

Managers are crucial to every organization.

They set and track business goals, train and motivate employees and ultimately take responsibility for the company's most imperative projects. And they have a lot on their plates.

That's why the cost of making a bad hire at the management level can be huge, sometimes more than you can afford to lose. If you're ready to make your next management hire your best yet, this list of interview questions will help you find the perfect fit.

Why it's crucial to hire the right person for your management positions

Falon Fatemi is an ex-Google financial analyst and current CEO of Node who learned about the true cost of a bad manager, the hard way. “I once hired a function leader who didn't plan well and generally disrespected other team members' priorities. As a result, we lost two—nearly three—key employees. That's an exceptionally high price to pay,” she told Forbes.

Here are just some of the numbers on the cost of a bad hire:

  • The cost of a bad hire can reach up to 30% of the employee's first-year earnings — US Department of Labor
  • Bad hires cost $240,000 in expenses related to hiring, compensation and retention — The Undercover Recruiter
  • 74% of companies who admit they've hired the wrong person for a position lost an average of $14,900 for each bad hire — CareerBuilder

And it’s not just the financial aspect.

On a larger scale, a bad manager negatively impacts employees’ productivity as well as the company’s culture.

In the same Forbes article, Fatemi shared another bad apple experience, “I once hired a manager who built a chaotic, everything's-a-fire-drill environment. Even after removing the employee from the equation, we still had to invest time and resources to reset the behaviors of team members who emulated the manager's approach.”

You want to make sure you get your management hire right the first time around.  

Start by asking yourself one crucial question:

What are you looking for in a new manager or executive?

To help you answer that, we’ve put together a quick list of the top characteristics of awesome leaders and managers, according to some top-notch HR research.

What to look for in a great manager

In the end, the saying is true: People don’t leave companies—they leave bosses.

So what sets a great boss apart from an average one?

Best-selling author Marcus Buckingham dove deep into the research, including mining through some 80,000 survey responses from managers. Here's what he found out about the kinds of competencies and behaviors a top-performing manager will have.

  • Transform talent into performance

Employees need specific triggering to help turn their skills on. The ability to discover what’s unique about an individual and leverage that into tangible business outcomes is what sets a truly great manager apart.

Great managers recognize the individual skills of each employee and challenge every employee to shine in their own unique way, all while fostering a strong sense of unity in the team. It's not a job for the emotionally challenged.

  • Give credit and show appreciation

Most managers know employees respond well to recognition. (After all, none of us wants to feel like our work is being taken for granted.)

But how many managers can pinpoint the type of recognition that matters most for each member of the team?

“It’s a manager’s job to recognize each employee plays to a different audience. To excel as a manager, you must be able to match the employee to the audience he values most: his peers, yourself, the customers, etc.,” writes Buckingham.

  • Tailor coaching to learning styles

To quote the late great Stephen Covey, "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities."

We all learn differently, and that's OK.

Some of us are analyzers, some are doers, others are viewers. According to the research, mediocre managers make the mistake of assuming all employees are motivated by the same things and that they all learn in the same way. A truly great manager is one who understands that what works for one employee may or may not work for another.

  • Hire for talent

Great managers don't limit their team's potential to the list of skills and responsibilities on a job description.

They hire candidates whose talent will redefine how the job is done. Look for managers who are bold enough to select the talent that will take the company to the next level.

  • Do more of what works

Instead of focusing on “improving” an employee's and turning them into someone they're not, outstanding managers shift their attention to a person’s unique strengths to help them grow their inherent talent.

The art of interviewing for management positions

According to research from Brandon Hall Group & Glassdoor, “Organizations that lack a standardized interviewing process are five times more likely to make a bad hire than those that do have such a process.”

It's time to get this stuff right. To help you master the art of interviewing the best candidates for management roles, we’ve put together a list of 21 awesome interview questions to add to your own guide or process.

Work history and experience questions

These questions will help you find out how a candidate's background relates to the open position.

1. Tell me your story. How did you get from the start of your career to your last role?

This is a great icebreaker that also gives you insight into how they view their own career path.

2. Tell me about your leadership experience.

Ask them to tell you about a time they helped develop an employee to get an idea of the kind of coach or mentor they'll be.

3. What was the age, gender and race makeup of the last team you managed?

This is huge. You need to know their views on workplace diversity and inclusion.

Behavioral questions

These questions can help you predict a candidate's future by evaluating their behavior in past roles.

4. Can you tell me about a time when a member of your team made a mistake? How did you handle it?

Get a glimpse into the types of boundaries that are important to the candidate and what brand of culture they want to build.

5. What would you do differently next time?

Hopefully, they know what to change so that the next time there’s a better outcome.

6. What was the reaction after that happened?

See how the candidate relates to their team while putting out a fire, and if they're someone who can take responsibility for their actions.

Soft skills and motivation questions

These questions will help you understand if a candidate can work collaboratively and manage diverse teams.

7. What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?

Instead of hitting your candidates with the same old “What are your strengths” question, this is a more organic way to uncover their strengths.

8. What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past three months?

To identify the candidate's weaknesses, simply swap the question around.

9. What's your plan for building rapport and credibility with your new team?

You want to know how your candidate plans to win the respect of the team.

10. How do you stay in contact with your team members?

Find out more about their communication style.

11. What's your process for prioritizing tasks during busy times?

Get a feel for how they handle work amid stress and overwhelm.

Competency-based questions

These questions are designed to help you quickly evaluate a candidate's skills and mindset by measuring how they handle certain situations.

12. How do you find opportunities to integrate management goals within your team?

Find out if they're someone who can step up and get strategic when required.

13. What's your definition of an awesome manager?

Uncover the type of manager your candidate plans to be.

14. What criteria did your last company use to reward employees?

Find out which performance criteria they're used to tracking.

15. Who was the last person you promoted? What prompted you to promote them?

The answer to this will let you know if they actively work to grow and retain employees.

16. How many people did you promote on your last team?

Assuming the previous answer was yes.

17. How important are deadlines?

Get an idea for how firm or flexible they'll be.

18. How do you handle missed deadlines?

Get a feel for the candidate’s ability to lead through a rough patch.

19. How do you give helpful feedback?

See if they're the type to address performance issues directly and work with employees to find a solution together.

20. Tell me about a time you had to give some difficult feedback.

Determine how well they deal with having to give "bad" news.

21. How would you help prevent employee burnout?

Find out where they stand in terms of work/life balance.

What to watch out for

The above questions are great for finding what you're looking for in a future manager, but what about weeding out what you're not looking for?

Here are a few tips to help you uncover any red flags. 🚩

  • Screen for network fit.

Your future manager's ability to adjust to the way the rest of the team works is key. Hiring for network fit has been shown to improve employee performance at the two-year mark by 30%—more than twice the impact of hiring for culture fit.

  • Ask open-ended questions.

Questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no are a great way to make the candidate think. They can also give you a good feel for how the person communicates in a more impromptu situation.

  • Avoid hypotheticals.

Always ask for personal examples to help you understand why a candidate made a specific choice and what they learned from it.

  • Assess the silent stuff.

55% of all communication is non-verbal. Remember that the way the candidate responds to everyone, from your receptionist to your CEO, says something about who they are and how they'll lead.

Hiring rockstar managers is no easy task, but with a smart set of tools and guidelines, you'll have a much easier time choosing the right leader for your teams. Before you launch into any manager interview, make sure everyone on your hiring team is on the same page about what you're looking for and what questions to ask in order to help uncover your next A-player.