List Of 30 Tough Interview Questions for a Manager
Tell us about your proudest moment as a manager.
How to Answer
There might be many career moments that make you proud; however, choose an example relevant to this new role. For instance, if this management role requires notable skills in leading a team of sales professionals, then provide an example of when your leadership skills resulted in a significant sales success or client-related win.
The story that you provide does not need to be a colossal tale of overcoming a massive hurdle. Even if you have a story that highlights a simple accomplishment that you achieved through strategy and hard work, this can be a fantastic and memorable response.
"My proudest moment as a manager was when my team and I completed an overhaul of the company's sales process, resulting in a significant quote-to-close ratio for the organization. For quite some time, we were losing sales, and talented sales reps, to our competitors. During exit interviews, there was a common theme that our system was antiquated and that our company was not competitive enough to keep competitive sales reps engaged and interested. One of the most significant issues was that our company still relied solely on cold calling to start relationships, and we tried to move too quickly to close on the initial call. Our sales team had become known as pushy in our industry and not relationship-focused. Over the course of a few months, I collected the feedback that our department received. Then, my team and I created a pitch to present to the leadership team. We suggested introducing 'new school' sales systems that focused on helping the customer and putting them first. It took 8 months to build out a new sales program, and we officially launched the new method 3 months ago. This project was a significant undertaking but entirely worth the effort. Our surveys have shown a major boost in client satisfaction, and our closing percentage has already increased by 14 points. Next up is to finalize our sales training and onboarding process. I am currently working with our HR department to shift how we attract new sales talent, ensuring that any new hires will fit well with the customer-first culture we are working hard to cultivate. By working on this project, I felt very proud of the hard work my team put in. We looked critically at the feedback we received and persuaded the leadership team to move away from 'how it's always been done.' This experience has taught me that a company should always be agile in it its sales methods, keeping an ear for what their customers and their team members are saying."
Talk about the last disagreement you had with a team member.
How to Answer
Disagreements in the workplace are not ideal; however, conflict can arise regardless of your management style and leadership talents. The interviewer wants to see that you can handle conflict professionally and deal with it swiftly, to avoid further damage to your team or the workplace culture.
The question is phrased as 'talk about...,' which means that the interviewer wants to assess a real-lift conflict and how you got through the situation. For this scenario-based interview question, you can use the STAR framework (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to form your reply. This answer method will help you deliver a well-structured response that is easy for your interviewer to follow.
"(Situation) A few weeks ago, my team had a tight deadline to reach for one of our largest clients. One of my team members was feeling overwhelmed, and over the course of two days, she continued to make negative comments about our progress and ability to meet the deadline. Her attitude was dragging down my team's performance, an action that we certainly could not afford especially considering the time crunch. (Task) As the manager, it was up to me to address this situation immediately, but instead, I let the issue drag on for 2 days because I felt that I was too busy to have a corrective conversation. (Action) Instead, I lost my patience and corrected her behavior in front of four other team members. I quickly realized that my behavior was just as unacceptable as hers. I apologized to her for the public disciplinary action and asked that we speak in my office about the matter. She appreciated that I took accountability for my swift words while also acknowledging that her behavior was harmful to the team and worthy of correcting. We agreed to handle future similar stresses like this with more empathy and a positive mindset. (Result) In the end, we all pulled together and completed the project on time. This situation taught me that I needed to express my concerns sooner rather than allowing frustration to build. The following weekend I read the book 'Think Like a Monk' by Jay Shetty. The primary points of the book included overcoming negativity and overthinking. The book also discussed learning from everyone you come across and how kindness and patience are critical to success. I gained so much perspective from the book that I purchased a copy for each of my 20 team members. This action showed that I wanted to invest in their success, and we have seen far less conflict since this occurrence."
Do you think a chain of command is essential in the workplace?
How to Answer
The interviewer wants to know if you believe that a chain of command is necessary for organizational effectiveness. The way you approach this question can impact how the interviewer interprets your willingness to be a good team player who respects the company's organizational makeup. Understanding the critical nature of a chain of command shows maturity and the fact that you recognize that lucrative companies require a precise distribution of accountability, responsibilities, and tasks.
"I believe that a chain of command is important in most business situations. For instance, a chain of command is necessary for employee issue resolution, a lot of decision making, and helping clients understand where they should direct their queries and needs. I believe everyone in a team needs to understand their responsibilities while respecting others at the same time. The depth of this chain of command, of course, varies depending on the size of the company. Could you share with me a bit more about the chain of command within this organization?"
Choose any leader you admire. What do you admire about their platform, and how have you implemented their work into your leadership style?
How to Answer
The hiring company wants to know what type of leaders you admire and who you desire to emulate in your approach as a manager and leader. Many intelligent and inspiring thought leaders are available to teach us about leadership, workplace culture, people management, and more.
Notable voices on leadership today include people like Simon Sinek, Sir Richard Branson, and Arianna Huffington. If you like being inspired on social justice topics, perhaps you closely follow people like Chad Griffin, Founder of American Foundation for Equal Rights, or Opal Tometi, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Whatever the source of your inspiration and admiration, discuss the person's impact and influence on you.
"One leader I admire and follow closely is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, as she is playfully called by many people who follow her career in politics and advocacy. As an incredibly well-spoken individual, she took office at the age of 29, giving a strong example to people, especially women of color, proof that they can achieve great things and be viewed as leaders in their space, regardless of age, gender, or background. Alexandria boldly advocates for social justice issues such as medicare for all. The most notable lesson that I learned from Alexandria is that power doesn't mean putting yourself first. She is quoted as saying, 'My job is to put other people's needs before my own, not the other way around.' As a manager and leader focused on growing and improving, I take this lesson seriously and apply it every day in the workplace."
How do you come up with new leadership approaches?
How to Answer
When your interviewer asks about leadership approaches, it's a good idea to start with a clear understanding of the difference between management and leadership. In short, management is more about controlling, and leadership is about influencing. As a leader, you work toward getting people to buy into your vision. As a manager (who should always act as a leader), you must also ensure that daily targets are met. Anyone can be a manager, but the question is, can you be an effective leader who can motivate the hiring company's team members.
Some leadership approaches you may be embracing include:
- Showing your team flexibility and adaptability in how they work.
- Communicating with full transparency so that your team knows what to expect in most situations.
- Displaying empathy and being a helpful leader who brings a human touch to the workplace.
- Expressing an interest in the success and growth of each team member and investing in them
Now, it's time for you to express how you develop modern and effective leadership approaches. Perhaps you follow a specific influencer in the leadership space. Maybe you dedicate time to reading books, listening to leadership podcasts, or taking coursework to strengthen your leadership approaches.
"I am an enthusiastic learner, and I listen to many audiobooks on the topic of leadership and team development. I commit time every morning to listen to a leadership-related podcast, and I am actively involved in the conversations happening within my team. Lately, I have been learning a lot about Transformational Leadership, what it means, and how I can bring this leadership approach to my team. This leadership style is all about encouraging and inspiring my team to think innovatively. Transformations Leadership provides my team with autonomy while also building their enthusiasm towards the goals of the group. One industry thought leader that I follow regularly who speaks a lot about Transformational Leadership is Chester Elton. I recently read his book, 'Leading with Gratitude,' which gives strategies for showing gratitude to boost employee performance and reduce turnover. This book has been a valuable resource and has taught me numerous ways to show my team members that I appreciate them."
What is the kindest thing a direct report has said about you? How did the compliment make you feel, and did you agree with the praise?
How to Answer
The interviewer wants to learn more about your greatest strengths as a leader while gaining insight into what your team members see as your best management qualities. The final part of this question will help the interviewer see if you can accept compliments while remaining humble. Show the interviewer that you recognize your strengths and greatness while also showing that you are open to hearing feedback and improving your management skills.
"It used to be hard for me to accept compliments from my direct reports. I am a naturally humble person; however, it does feel nice to earn verbal recognition for a job well done. Recently, I helped one of my team members put the finishing touches on a project they were falling behind on. My team member was impressed that I recognized their struggles and went out of my way to help them achieve their goals. They wrote a very nice review that went to my leadership team. The employee-submitted review spoke highly of my hands-on management style and the attentiveness I bring to the team. It felt fantastic to be recognized as a dedicated leader, and I couldn't help but smile ear to ear."
What is the biggest challenge you face as a manager today? How do you overcome this challenge?
How to Answer
Managers have always faced significant challenges. These demands became more apparent with the 2020/2021 COVID-19 pandemic changing the landscape of work dramatically. At the same time, new challenges presented themselves. Some of the most significant issues a manager might face today include:
- Managing a remote or distributed team of employees, ensuring optimal productivity.
- Creating camaraderie among remote employees, despite the social loss of traditional office environments.
- Making smart hiring and termination decisions and following through correctly in a remote environment.
- Driving teams of people and projects in a new environment demanding flexibility, adaptability, and agility.
- Remaining highly knowledgeable of social justice issues and how they impact businesses and teams.
Choose what you believe to be your most significant challenge as a manager today. Discuss the matter, and focus the bulk of your response on the actions you take to ensure a positive outcome.
"As a manager, I face many demands and a great deal of change. Some situations are difficult roadblocks, and others are exciting challenges. The biggest challenge I face as a manager today is remaining agile in inclusive practices. I find this challenge to be exciting and inspiring. It's critical that I, as a leader, am ready to answer to social justice issues and help my organization to react appropriately as social justice movements evolve. Evidence shows that inclusive practices are critical to a company attracting, keeping, and growing talented teams. I meet this need by ensuring that my team members are provided with equal opportunities while always feeling accepted in the workplace. I educate my teams on social justice topics and have transparent conversations regarding my expectations in treating their co-workers with kindness. I also work hard to ensure that my diverse team is excited to work with me and feel that their contributions are desired and valued. I evaluate my talent attraction and hiring process regularly and survey my existing team to identify improvement opportunities. While onboarding a new team member, I ensure that the processes are friendly and accessible for all. I also spend time researching and learning about disparities in the workplace to remain empathetic and hyper-aware of the needs of others."
Tell us about the last time you implemented change. Describe the issue, what you did, and the impact you made.
How to Answer
This question is an excellent opportunity to highlight your skills as an innovative leader and change maker. Since the interviewer is looking for a specific story-based example of a time when you implemented change, try delivering your story using the STAR answer method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and this framework can help you craft a response that is easy for the interviewer to understand and follow.
Think of an example that will resonate with the hiring company. For instance, if the company faces a challenge attracting new talent, consider giving an example of a time when you improved your company's talent attraction process to be more enticing and competitive. This approach will help the hiring company to see a fit between their needs and your skills.
"(Situation) When I first joined my current company, I quickly noticed there was little structure in how we followed up with high-quality leads. (Task) As the new Sales Manager, I knew that I had to repair this lack of structure since it directly tied to my sales team's success, including our sales numbers, closing ratio, and other critical metrics. (Action) The company had invested in Salesforce, but they were not utilizing it properly, so I engaged a Salesforce Administrator. The Salesforce Administrator and I had discussions on how we could maximize the team's capability in the system. Next, the Salesforce rep and I held a 3-day training with the sales team to ensure they were fully capable of following through and completely bought into the importance of utilizing the CRM correctly. We trained on Contact Management, Lead Management, and Dashboard Dynamics. (Result) Over the period of three months, we saw an incredible boost in our sales numbers. The team increased their outgoing calls by 70%, and our call-to-close ratio skyrocketed."
How do you measure the success of your team members?
How to Answer
There are many metrics for measuring employee success. The interviewer would like to know your preference, which will tell them more about your management and leadership style. As a manager, you know that it's important to track the performance of your team members. These metrics help you understand where to give praise, what areas to provide additional training, and which team members you may need to put on an individual performance plan. When discussing how you measure your team members' success, you can also mention which tools you use to keep your metrics and reporting in order.
"I like to take a 360 view of each team member's activities to measure their success. The primary social factors that I look at are attendance, how they get along with other team members, and their workplace initiative. Attendance is a major factor that connects directly to the team members' success and performance. When a team member likes the people they work with, they will be helpful and cheerful on the job. They are also more likely to stay with the company for the long term. When a team member shows initiative, they know their value to the company and their team. These team members are likely highly engaged. When it comes to productivity and performance KPIs, I look at sales growth, customer satisfaction survey results, and customer retention rates. We use Salesforce diligently, and I run regular reports and check our dashboard regularly."
What is your biggest weakness as a manager?
How to Answer
The interviewer is looking for red flags, gaps in your knowledge, and how you carry yourself as a leader on the job. When discussing your weakness, genuine vulnerability is essential, but be sure to include what you are doing to improve on the weakness. The interviewer wants you to be honest about your shortcomings. At the same time, they want to see that you are proactive and dedicated to professional growth.
It's important to maintain a positive tone, show confidence, and display a desire for growth. Choose a weakness that is not a core skill for this management position. Be sure to have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness. Avoid cliche answers such as 'I work too hard,' or 'I am loyal to a fault.' These are sugarcoated weaknesses that candidates use when they are unprepared. Interviewers never appreciate this approach.
"My biggest weakness as a manager is [X]. I believe that [lift yourself up by mentioning that you show potential in this area]; however, I could improve. To grow in this area, I am [discuss the specific action steps you are taking to improve this weakness]. By [give a dedicated timeline], I plan to [mention the goal you wish to reach when it comes to improving this weakness]."
If we hire you as our next manager, what do you need from us in order to succeed?
How to Answer
If you are asked questions about the tools you need to succeed at work, it's a good sign that you have landed an interview with a mindful company that values its employees. Congratulations! Give this query the thought it deserves. That means answering beyond the physical tools you need, like a computer and a CRM.
Remember that a great manager is focused on the logistics of managing people, projects, and more while also focusing on the soft skills required to lead effectively. Some resources that a manager may need to succeed include:
- Access to a mentorship program. Managers need to grow and learn from their leaders, as well!
- Autonomy on the job and trust that they will make the right decisions.
- Resources to provide their team members to encourage knowledge building.
- An innovative leadership team steering the ship.
First, consider the resources you believe a manager needs to succeed. Then, think about what you specifically need to excel in your role. When you express your needs, be as specific as possible. At the end of your response, if the vibe of the interview allows, think about asking a direct question regarding the tools and resources that will be made available to you.
"Thank you for asking this question. I appreciate that Company ABC has expressed a desire to help me succeed in this role. As an ambitious manager and an enthusiastic leader, the tools that I value the most include active and positive support from my leadership team and training-based opportunities for my team members. When I am equipped with the right tools to boost my team's knowledge base, I can generate the strongest results. These resources might come in the form of continued education opportunities or internal training supports. My ultimate goal is to succeed on the job while empowering my team members. Could you share with me the tools and resources Company ABC has available to help managers and their teams to succeed?"
What questions do you have for me about the team you would be leading?
How to Answer
Enter your interview ready to ask questions that are compelling and unique. If you ask the same questions that other candidates ask, you will not stand out as a critical thinker and can quickly put yourself in the same box as your competition.
Take your time to craft engaging questions that are custom to the interviewing company. Ask meaningful questions regarding how the team members prefer to be led and what challenges the former manager faced. With a critical eye, look at the company's job posting and see if you can draw out what you believe to be their biggest pain point. Ask yourself what the hiring company wants you to solve as their new manager, and direct your questions from those starting points.
"Thank you for asking. While preparing for this interview and performing extensive research on the organization, I thought of a few questions that I look forward to discussing. First, could you share with me the biggest challenge the most recent manager faced in this role? Can you describe the team's preferred leadership style? Last, what personal and professional development and growth opportunities are present for me as a manager and made available for the team?"
What is the #1 attribute a manager should possess? Discuss how you emulate this characteristic.
How to Answer
When approaching this question, consider that there is a difference between attributes and skills. An attribute is a quality you naturally have where skills are learned through your education, training, and experiences. When the interviewer asks about important attributes, they want to know more about the qualities and characteristics you consider most important rather than the 'hard skills' of a manager.
There are many attributes that a manager should possess. Choose one that you believe to be most important, and be ready to discuss how you emulate this characteristic. Give a story-based example that supports your claim.
Some attributes to consider:
- Positive mindset
"The number one attribute a manager should possess is a positive mindset. With a positive mindset, I can encourage others and inspire them to bring enthusiasm and energy to their work. It's always easier to lead and influence others when they have a positive mindset to follow. An example of when my positive mindset made a difference for my team was when our company was going through a hostile takeover. Team members were fearful of being laid off, and the ones who felt confident that their job was secure were afraid that the work environment would change for the worse. I led daily huddles with my team during the entire takeover process. I helped to alleviate fears and create a positive yet realistic mindset around the organizational changes. In the end, many people across our company lost their jobs, but approximately 80% of my team were retained, which was the highest retention number across any department. I believe the positive mindset that I spread allowed my team to face the headwinds of change and make the best of the situation."
When hiring, what qualities do you look for in a candidate, and what do you consider red flags?
How to Answer
If this management position requires you to attract new talent and make hiring decisions, you must know how to make a good hire! The interviewer wants to know which qualities you value the most when hiring new team members. Many people will respond with 'a positive personality' or 'honest' and 'enthusiastic.' Challenge yourself to stand apart from the rest by providing a more thoughtful answer. Show the interviewer that you understand which qualities would work best for their organizational values and company mission.
There are many red flags that you can look out for as a manager and hiring authority. When interviewing candidates, some of the most obvious red flags include lack of eye contact, jumping around on their resume, or appearing unprepared for their job interview. Again, when you answer this part of the question, try to dig deeper and provide red flags that show you are mindful and discerning when making hiring decisions.
"There are clear positive qualities and obvious red flags, of course. Aside from these, I work hard to dig deeper and look for patterns and clues that might be less apparent to a manager with less experience. Some of the greatest qualities I look for when engaging a candidate include being prepared with excellent questions for me in their job interview. I always ask if they have questions, and the candidate who does not is turned down. When a candidate asks a very intriguing question, I know they are a deeper thinker than most. I also love to see a candidate that shows good judgment when answering hypothetical or scenario-based interview questions. It's one thing to know the right thing to do, and it's another to think outside of the box and become a problem solver when a challenge arises. For red flags, the biggest ones are showing up late to an interview or speaking poorly of past colleagues or managers when asked about previous positions. Again, digging deeper, I look out for indicators such as lack of factual support when answering behavioral-based interview questions. I also look for over-inflated statements on their resume. One of the biggest red flags is when candidates answer the question they want to answer rather than the one I actually asked. Active listening skills are a must-have."
Why do you want to leave your current management position, and how will moving to our organization be a better fit for your needs?
How to Answer
This interview question is direct and can be challenging to answer if you have not given deep thought to why you seek an employment change. The interviewer wants to understand the circumstances surrounding your desired exit. They also want assurance that your reason for exiting the role will not happen again with their organization.
Prepare a rehearsed statement that includes honest reasoning. 'My current role is no longer a fit' is not an answer that will bode well with a discerning interviewer. Neither is a vague reply like, 'There is no room to grow.'
Whatever is motivating you to leave your current position, be sure to keep your overall response positive. For instance, you don't want to say that the company's industry is 'dying' or the organization is terrible to work for. Even if it may be true - keep that information to yourself and focus on the future!
1) Start with a positive comment about your current role.
2) Mention the challenges you face and what you have done to overcome them.
3) Outline the transferable skills you have developed between your current role and this new opportunity.
4) Talk about how you can take this skill set and use it to excel in this new role.
"In my current company, I have held progressive leadership roles, ranging from Team Coordinator to Senior Manager. Each promotion I worked towards helped me develop professionally and advance as a leader in the XYZ industry. My employer is a mid-sized, family-owned business, and I have reached the top of the leader board as a Senior Manager, which is a bittersweet accomplishment. The organization has been wonderful to me, and they have provided me with every opportunity possible to grow my leadership skills and advance my industry knowledge. However, the three company founders hold the roles senior to me, so I have truly reached my ceiling. If I were to be offered this role, I would be thrilled to know that there are numerous opportunities for me to grow my career as I prove my skills and character."
We believe that a great manager has more than the ability to lead; they also have the passion. Why do you want to lead others?
How to Answer
Management is focused on bringing order to a situation (the ability), and leadership is about bringing meaning and conviction to a situation (passion). The interviewer wants assurance that you will bring a blend of ability and passion to the workplace. First, carve out what you believe to be characteristics of a passionate leader, and be prepared to discuss the characteristics you genuinely emulate as a manager. When you have a passion for leading, you will likely:
- Bring contagious excitement and enthusiasm to your team members.
- Make decisions with integrity, always choosing to do the right thing, not the easiest thing.
- Think ahead in most situations, ready to guide your team into their next win.
- Love to explore options, scenarios, and new ways of approaching your work and the work of your team.
Discuss what you believe to be the difference between managing and possessing a passion for leadership. Then, provide evidence that you possess the passion required to be an impactful leader.
"I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I have spent a lot of time and effort gaining the ability to manage others; however, what sets me apart is my passion to lead. Passionate leadership matters because, with this passion, I can bring enthusiasm and vision to my team. My desire to lead others is driven by my pull to influence others and build an inspired workforce. Whether the goal is to provide better service or create a stronger workflow, I know that the passion I bring to leadership will trickle down to others and make a difference in many ways. When I pass this energetic enthusiasm onto my team members, they have more drive, set clearer goals, and help their team members to succeed."
How do you react when a team member presents an innovative idea to you?
How to Answer
As a manager and a mindful leader, you must show your team members that you value their input and ideas. The interviewer wants to know how you respond to new ideas, foster creativity in your team members, and nurture new ideas from your team members. Perhaps you hold brainstorming sessions with your team members or encourage mind-mapping techniques. Discuss your approach to recognizing others' innovative ideas. Express that, although you understand that not every idea is a winner, you still respect your team members' thoughts and value their efforts.
"Quite some time ago, I learned the POINt technique, developed by Bob Moore, a former Pfizer executive. POINt is an acronym for Pluses, Opportunities, Issues, and New thinking. First, I praise the idea and look for the value that the idea brings. Next, I consider the opportunities or benefits that could come to fruition if we implemented the idea. Part of being a discerning manager is to still 'poke holes' in ideas but with respect, of course. A company still needs to be profitable and take a calculated risk, so I will consider some challenges we could face when implementing the idea. Through new thinking, the team and I can approach these challenges and find solutions. It may even turn out that although the original idea may not be a go, it can be a catalyst to an entirely new concept that we can successfully implement."
How do you approach diversity and inclusion issues within your team?
How to Answer
There are many strategies available today to address diversity issues in the workplace. Significant diversity issues that a company can face may include a lack of acceptance or respect between employees, gender equality, little accommodation for varying beliefs, lack of accommodation for physical disabilities, and generational gaps.
The interviewer would like to know if you have ever deployed strategies to address any workplace diversity issues. If you are an experienced manager in a larger organization, you may have more experience in this area; however, any management level can take actions - big or small - to improve company diversity efforts. When you answer this question, be as direct and specific as possible. Questions surrounding diversity and inclusion are no time to give a vague or wishy-washy response.
"As an HR Manager for a mid-level organization, I must be conscious of potential biases occurring in the workplace. This year I led our company in a new technology implementation meant to reduce bias in the talent screening, hiring, and evaluation processes. As a result, our hiring process has become fair to genders, races, religions, and other social categories. I approached this issue by presenting data on hiring bias and gaining input from my team regarding ways they felt they could actively contribute to making change. I was able to gain excitement from my team members and value the ideas they brought forward. As a result, we have seen a significant increase in diversity hires and a boost in overall company morale."
One of your team members asks for a compensation raise. What do you do?
How to Answer
If you work in a structured, corporate environment, you will likely encounter 'review season' where compensation increases and promotion requests are expected. If you aren't expecting a promotion request or compensation raise request from your team member, it's easy to be caught off guard. Being unarmed and without a plan can result in committing to something unintentionally or reacting in a way that damages your relationship with your team member.
When a team member asks for a compensation raise or a promotion, there are many factors to consider before giving a definitive response. The interviewer wants to know that you would respect your team member while also considering company processes and policies. For instance, there may be a pay band, or the employee may not be eligible because of low performance. If you have faced this situation in the past, lean on your experiences when forming a response. If you have not been in this situation, describe what you believe to be the best course of action.
"First, I would thank the person for coming to me with their request. I would ask for specific details on their expectations and then give myself time to perform due diligence. For example, I might say, 'Thank you for bringing this to me. What do you believe would be an appropriate increase?' Once I have the details of their expectations, I would say, 'Please give me some time to review your request. Let's meet in one week, at this time, to discuss your request in detail.' Then, I would take time to review the company's policies on promotions and raises. Next, I would review my employee's performance and benchmark against other employees to ensure fairness. Either way, the conversation will be one that I am very well prepared for. I view compensation raise and promotion requests as an excellent opportunity to have one of two conversations. The first, and my favorite, is a conversation surrounding my team members' exceptional performance where I can complement their work and grant them the raise or promotion. On the flip side, the request may be unfounded. In that case, I would have a conversation focused on helping the team member grow into the compensation range or job title that they desire."
Walk us through your decision-making process when facing a challenging management decision.
How to Answer
The interviewer wants to see evidence that you are a critical thinker. The hiring company wants a manager who can take a challenging situation and make a calculated decision that considers all potential outcomes. Show the interviewer that you approach decisions by considering the company's needs while balancing the expectations of stakeholders, employees, and customers/clients.
Effective problem solving and decision-making requires you to think rationally and creatively at the same time. A simple framework for problem-solving includes:
1. Identifying the core issue.
2. Looking for alternatives to the issue.
3. Considering the alternatives (pros vs. cons).
4. Making a decision.
5. Implementing the decision.
6. Reviewing the results to ensure your choice is validated.
7. Beginning again if your initial choice is not validated.
Think of a recent situation where you needed to make a challenging management decision. Walk the interviewer through your process, and be sure to describe the result you were able to achieve.
"As a manager, one of the most challenging decisions I make includes the fate of a team members' employment. When I have an underperforming team member, although it is hard to consider terminating their employment, I must consider the health of the overall team, department, company and consider how my decision will serve our clients. Recently I faced the reality that one of my strongest-performing team members was severely sliding in their performance. First, I looked at the facts to uncover the core issue. Data showed that this person made 35% fewer prospecting calls over the past quarter than quarters past. Then, I looked for alternatives to the issue. Were there other numbers to consider? This person's clocked activity has also decreased over the past weeks. I considered that I could either give this person a written warning and put a performance plan in place or terminate them for inadequate performance and replace them with a new team member. I decided to invest time in correcting this person's behavior since they had previously shown me they could be a star employee. I met with this employee and presented the facts from their sales numbers and performance reports. Together, we created a performance plan that we could agree on and attached it to a specific timeline. I also offered resources through our HR department to help this individual deal with the personal issues holding them back, causing the core issue. After 3 weeks, I reviewed the data and found that the employee's performance was trending upward. I will continue to review this person's performance carefully; however, I am confident that my decision-making process helped me to save the company time and money by investing in the resource we had rather than terminate the employee based out of frustration. This calculated approach to decision-making has served me very well when facing challenging decisions of the past, and I am confident it will continue to serve me as I move forward in my management career."
Talk about the last person you terminated. What was the situation and how did you approach the conversation?
How to Answer
Employee termination can be a difficult part of being a manager; however, it's often an unavoidable situation. The interviewer wants to know that you can handle the challenging task of terminating a team member. Show that you know how to correctly facilitate a termination to avoid putting the company at risk legally or in reputation. Express that you have correctly directed empathy for the employee in this situation and understand how to handle a delicate situation like termination with professionalism and poise.
Since the interviewer wants you to talk about a particular situation, try using the STAR framework when delivering this response. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and this framework can help you craft a response that is well structured.
"I have the confidence and knowledge to lead an employee termination in a way that minimizes emotions while keeping the company protected from legal or reputation-related repercussions. First, I ensure that my documentation on each employee is detailed and meets any legal requirements. I also engage the HR department before taking any action. Terminations must be dealt with swiftly and based on fact versus feelings. This means that if an employee is being let go for poor performance, I will have the proper documentation ready to support my decision. Terminations can be highly emotional for the employee, so I follow a framework allowing me to remain in control of the situation and reduce the chance of an employee making a damaging exit due to shock and anger. (Situation) Last month an underperforming employee on a 3-month Individual Performance Plan failed to make the required improvements. (Task) As the District Manager, it was my responsibility to follow through on our PIP agreement which stated that failure to boost performance would result in termination. (Action) I held the termination meeting on a Friday afternoon, an approach that I believe minimizes the impact on my existing team members. I got straight to the point and broke the news to the employee. Then, I took the time to listen to the employee, allowing them to react. Then, I reviewed the next steps with the terminated individual, which HR had prepared, explaining how their final pay and related logistics will unfold. I thanked them for their contribution, walked them to their office to gather their personal belongings, and walked them out of the office. I had a quick debrief with my team afterward. (Result) Because I handled the termination with structure, I was able to minimize the negative impact on my remaining team members and protect my company from the damaging aftermath of a jilted employee."
Discuss the last professional development opportunity you provided to your team members. Why did you choose this approach to development, and what were the results?
How to Answer
As a manager, there are many ways you can support the career advancement of your team members. Depending on allowances from your company, the provisions may vary.
Some of the ways you can provide professional development opportunities to your team members include:
- Promoting opportunities for online learning and training.
- Offering a mentorship program.
- Facilitating participation in professional organizations.
- Providing credits or tuition toward continuing education.
- Sending employees to industry events and conferences.
- Providing up-to-date technology, resources, and tools.
When you take a professional interest in your employees, everyone benefits! Speak with enthusiasm about the latest professional development opportunity you provided to your team. Discuss why you chose this particular avenue, and be sure to include details of how this choice made a positive impact on your team.
"The most recent professional development opportunity I provided my team members was an all-access MasterClass Business membership. MasterClass is an immersive online experience where learners can enjoy pre-recorded video content from experts of all kinds. In my team development budget, I requested a pass for our team of 12. The business-focused offering from MasterClass is an incredible way to help my team members learn new business skills. They can learn at their own pace, and I also created a schedule to learn together and discuss topics and ideas in our weekly Lunch and Learns. This month we focused on developing skills in leadership, negotiation, storytelling, and effective communication. The results have been incredible. My team members show more confidence, especially when communicating with our clients and putting their ideas forward in group meetings. The investment has been well worth it."
We are looking for a manager who brings empathy to their team but also knows when to draw a professional line. How do you know when to be firm with a team member?
How to Answer
When approaching questions around disciplinary action and being firm, it's important to know that a great manager and leader knows the difference between being assertive and acting aggressively. The interviewer wants to see evidence that you are not a bully in the workplace and that you aren't a pushover either. Assertiveness means being an effective communicator who respects others while also standing firm on your point of view.
Describe how you bring a balance of empathy and professional assertiveness to the workplace. Provide examples of times when you have had to draw the line away from too much empathy and be firm with a team member. Talk about the red flags, warning signs, and scenarios you look for to ensure you lead with impact and not being pushed over.
"I work very hard to gain agreement and enthusiasm from my team members. I offer flexibility around unexpected situations and life events, such as being sick, running late, leaving for a mid-day appointment, or calling in because of a family emergency. I ask my team to be straight with me, and if they need a day to recuperate, then take a paid vacation day rather than lying about being sick and letting the team down. I will draw the line and be firm when I see a pattern emerge. For instance, a few months ago, I had a team member who was 'sick' every Friday morning and miraculously recovered by Monday! The first couple of times this happened, I played along, but I did document the instances. After the third time, I met with the employee on the following Monday and let them know that I noticed a pattern of sickness on Fridays. I remained empathetic and asked what I could do to help them overcome the roadblock they faced attending work on Fridays. It turned out that this person's babysitter had stopped working Fridays and she was looking for a new solution but had not found one. I talked to her about alternate scenarios and provided resources. I offered her work-from-home Fridays until she could find a solution, so long as she promised to make herself available online as much as possible during the day. In this instance, I nipped the issue in the bud while remaining empathetic."
How do you show your direct reports the importance of communicating clearly with you and their fellow team members?
How to Answer
When there is a breakdown of communication in a team setting, it can have dire effects on efficiency, workplace culture, and profitability. As a manager, you must understand how communication should be taught and approached in the workplace.
The interviewer wants evidence that you lead by example when it comes to your workplace communication approach. Describe what you believe to be proper and effective communication, and discuss how you support these beliefs.
"I show my direct reports the importance of communication through my willingness to ask questions if I do not understand a situation the first time. I do not pretend to know something to save face just because I am the leader. By creating an environment where questions are encouraged, I greatly increase my team's communication levels. As a result, I have seen a healthier safety record, better efficiency, and a boost in team camaraderie."
Walk us through a time when you provided honest feedback to a direct report.
How to Answer
There is an art to giving honest feedback, and the interviewer would like to know that you are capable of this tedious task. Excellent feedback means that:
- You are specific.
- You make the feedback actionable.
- You provide a clear timeline for change.
Discuss any formal training you have received on giving feedback or a book you have read on the topic. Perhaps you use a particular methodology to delivering feedback that generates positive results the majority of the time! If you have a specific story-based example of a time when you provided honest feedback to a direct report with a positive result, be sure to weave in the details of this real-life example.
"When providing feedback, I like to use the 3x3 method, which I was trained on in my first management position. With this method, I offer up three strengths and three potential areas for development. I had a team member who was often late to work or would call in sick. I let her know that she was well-liked by her coworkers. I told her that our clients complimented her customer service skills. I said I appreciated her willingness to help new hires. Then, I proceeded to let her know that her team felt disappointed, hurt, and lost trust in her whenever she would call in sick, leave early, or show up late to her shift. Together we worked on a 30-day perfect attendance plan. In the end, she did much better and, although her attendance was not perfect, it significantly improved."
Why are you the best manager for us?
How to Answer
This question is another way for the interviewer to ask why they should choose to hire you. When making hiring decisions, a company will choose the person they believe will help them solve critical problems or significant pain points. By clearly discussing how you will solve the hiring company's biggest needs, you are positioning yourself as the top choice candidate.
Stay on track with the purpose of the question! It's common for a job seeker to answer in a way that shifts the benefit from the hiring company back onto the candidate. One example of this happening (and the distinction is very subtle!) is to deliver a response like, 'I believe I am the best manager for you because I am passionate about sales. This job is exactly what I have been looking for, and I will work hard to deliver results for your company.' Notice how this answer quickly became about the job seeker and not about solving the hiring company's biggest concerns.
Carefully review the job posting for clues of what the hiring company needs. Zero in on the greatest (and proven) skills you possess that will meet the company's needs. Then, clearly highlight the benefits of hiring you. Make sure that your answer is unique and one that no other candidate will also deliver. Now is your time to stand out and shine!
"I understand your company is seeking a Sales Manager with a proven ability to lead a team of field sales reps. You seek a leader who can properly train, motivate, and encourage a boost in sales numbers while providing the tools for each team member to perform at their peak ability. My experience, and past results, align very well with this need. I am an experienced sales trainer, having trained over 50 successful outside sales reps this year alone. My teams' retention rate is the highest in my company. Over 80% of my team members have exceeded their goals for this quarter already. I am a passionate trainer and mentor who is very hands-on and approachable. I would love to bring these skills and traits to your company."
Have you ever mistakenly said something offensive to a direct report? If so, how did you mend the relationship? What did you learn?
How to Answer
Saying something unintentionally offensive at work is a terrible feeling and an act that can be very challenging to repair. When you are hired into a management position, there are significant (and justified!) expectations for you to be hyper-aware of others' feelings while protecting each unique member of your team.
When responding to a behavioral or situational-based question, it's best to give a specific story-based example rather than responding with a general statement. You can form this type of response using the STAR method, an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Focus on the positive action you took once you realized your error. Show the interviewer that you were accountable for your actions and that you took the time to repair trust with this individual.
"When we hired a new Sales Representative, I made some assumptions about her that I should not have. I asked her if she was married with children, and she said yes - she was married and had two children. Making small talk, I asked what her husband did for a living and how long they had been married. She replied by telling me that she and her wife had been together for 15 years, having adopted their two children. She told me they were married for just eight years due to same-sex marriage laws in our state. I was mortified with my assumptions and finished the conversation pretty quickly before walking away. Before approaching this team member again, I gathered my thoughts on how to present an apology. Later that day, I apologized to her genuinely and told her that I wanted to learn to lose the assumptions and automatic reflexes I had formed over the years. I owned up to my behavior and admitted I was wrong, which helped us build a good working relationship moving forward. The biggest lesson that I learned was never to make blanket assumptions about any aspect of another persons' life. Since this incident, I have taken sensitivity coursework online, and I enrolled my team members since I found the course to provide immense value. I, and my team, are much better at leading conversations in the workplace, and we continue to grow every day."
As a skilled manager, how do you deal with conflict on your team?
How to Answer
Your conflict resolution skills are a vital part of being an effective manager. The interviewer wants evidence of your ability to communicate with your team swiftly and professionally when conflict arises. You must show that you are unafraid to handle sensitive issues when they arise. An effective conflict management process includes:
1. Talking openly with the people involved.
2. Focusing on the events and facts rather than personality differences.
3. Listen carefully to all parties, allowing everyone to get their grievances out big and small.
4. Carve out the primary points of disagreement.
5. Carve out the primary points of agreement.
6. Create a collective plan of action to improve each area of conflict.
7. Review and follow up on the plan regularly.
Rather than delivering a general response of how you deal with conflict, try giving a real-life example of when you worked closely with your team to resolve a conflict. Show the interviewer that you can deal with conflict in a manner that aligns with the company's core values and leadership approach. When providing your story-based example, use the STAR answer framework to ensure that your story is clear, concise, and easy for the interviewer to follow. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
"I have strong conflict management skills thanks to my years as a manager in high-pressure and competitive environments. In my current position, I have had to exercise my conflict-management skills numerous times since my team works in a high-stress, highly commissioned work environment. Although positively challenging in many ways, this environment can cause conflict among the team when misunderstandings arise. For instance, a few months ago, I had a team member come forward claiming that another team member had poached their client and unethically taken credit for monetary commissions. This was a serious accusation, so I took it upon myself to dig into the reporting and see what evidence I could find. I collected the information that I needed from our CRM and gathered reports from the HR department regarding commission payouts. I then asked the two into my office for a meeting where we collectively reviewed the situation. There was a grey area that the employee's decisions and behavior fell into, so the three of us came up with a satisfactory solution. I have regularly checked in with each employee, and it seems that they are working nicely with each other again. I will continue to be diligent in my follow-up, and I will review the reports carefully over the coming weeks. When a conflict presents itself, I like to deal with it swiftly, openly, and with total resolution. Transparency and openness are how I lead my team, and this approach has generated positive results throughout my career in management."
If we hire you for this Manager role, what do you believe will be your biggest initial challenge?
How to Answer
When joining a new company and team, even the most seasoned manager will face a unique set of challenges. The interviewer wants you to openly share what you believe will be the biggest initial challenge for you in this particular position.
Some of the initial challenges you might face include:
- Your new team generating decreased performance, which can occur after a change in management.
- Reframing communication expectations if the previous manager was not strong in their role.
- Pressure to perform and make an immediate splash as the new manager.
- Creating a new workflow structure that meets the vision you have for your new team.
To answer this question with meaning, it will be important to draw on the job description and show that you have a solid understanding of the position requirements and the pain points you need to solve. With this knowledge, you can customize your response to show that you understand the hiring company's needs. Discuss the most significant initial challenge you believe you will face. Then, focus most of your response on the actions you will take to meet these demands.
"I understand from our discussion and the landscape you have described for me that the current team is experiencing an absence of structure and decreased performance levels. As a manager joining this team, I will be the 'outsider,' which means implementing a new workflow structure and a solid set of performance expectations should be handled carefully to avoid further demotivation and mass employee turnover. I will take my time when developing and introducing a new structure. I will first take the time to meet and get to know each employee while finding out what they expect from me and what they need to feel motivated at work. I will listen intently and learn how I can gain their loyalty and respect. I will carefully review existing processes and perform a detailed workflow analysis to develop initial ideas for improving systems and structure. Then, I will ask the team members discovery questions and work alongside them to offer solutions that will get us to our goals. Group and one-on-one meetings will be important, as well as 360 feedback. I expect this will be a significant undertaking; however, I am confident that I am equipped as an organized manager and enthusiastic leader to create the change that Company ABC wants to see."
Is compensation the most important factor for you when taking a new job?
How to Answer
The interviewer would like to know how much emphasis you put on financial compensation when considering a new position. In addition to compensation, there are many other factors to a fulfilling career. These other factors may include:
- Balance between your work and personal life
- Percentage of travel time required
- Medical and health benefits
- Perks such as a car or cell phone allowance
- Paid vacation days
- Location of the office you may be traveling to
- Career trajectory and pace of growth opportunities
- Overall workplace culture and company reputation
Talk about the most important factors to you when considering a new job, aside from a base salary or an hourly wage. If you are unsure of the compensation details offered for this role, you can certainly ask!
"Salary is important to me because I know that I am skilled and well educated. With that said, I do look at the full picture, which includes factors such as benefits and the amount of paid vacation time. I am currently earning a healthy base salary plus two bonus opportunities based on company profits. I am looking for a compensation plan aligned with the role and provides an opportunity for growth. I look forward to discussing the details of this role in further detail so that we can determine a fair compensation plan."