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Top Ten Management Interview Questions And Answers

So you’ve been working your way up the corporate ladder. You’ve learnt all there is in your previous roles within your sector and now it’s time to move up to a management level role. You’ve landed yourself a very important interview and you’re wondering what type of questions you are likely to be asked.

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Take some time to think about what being a manager involves and what the organisation are looking for in a manager. Managers typically these days are very hands on and will have people responsibility. Depending on the size of the organisation they can be tasked with either setting the direction of their team or implementing an existing plan that aligns with the company strategy. Being a manager involves taking responsibility and being accountable for the performance of the team against objectives.

Here are some typical management behavioural competencies that are likely to be assessed during an interview, some potential questions under those headings and some information to get you thinking about preparing specific examples ahead of the interview.

Related: Can you share an example of managing poor performance?

1. Management Style



Q: Describe your management style and give us an example when you had to adapt this style to the benefit of the team and business?

A: There are several different styles of management (directive, collaborative, authoritative, participative etc.). It’s best to answer this question honestly – so describe your natural style of managing people. If you haven’t managed people before and you’re looking for promotion describe how you have worked in teams of people before and describe what role you’ve naturally adopted. Did you naturally take a lead role? Were you comfortable giving out instructions and directing? Did you enjoy sharing ideas with the team or encouraging your team members to participate?

There’s a second part to this first question – how have you adapted your natural style? That’s why it’s important to be honest with this question (instead of trying to guess what the company want in a manager). Think of a time when you had to change your natural style of management to get the best out of the team or an individual? Managing people is a challenging task and people have different ways they like to be managed and have different learning styles and preferences and organisations need to understand your knowledge and awareness of these facts. As a manager you’ll need to recognise this in your team as your job is to get the best out of everyone.

See also: Talk us through a time when you had to make or communicate a difficult business decision and how you tackled this?

2. Managing People



Q: Give us an example of a time you were managing a well established team of people and you were tasked to increase productivity?

A: Most management roles require people management skills and experience and there may well be several questions asked during the interview to gather different elements of managing people – so it’s worth having several different examples prepared with slightly different angles covered (motivating and empowering people, training and developing people, managing poor performance, managing conflict within the team, managing difficult or disruptive behaviour etc.).

In your answer interviewers will be looking for how you have created a positive environment that encourages learning and development and like the above example they’ll be looking for evidence of how you have ensured career aspirations of the team are recognised and managed effectively for both the individual and the business. Interviewers will be looking for how you have empowered individuals and teams to bring out the best in each member and how you have pro-actively sought to understand the teams' skills, motivational aspects and aspirations. In order to get the best out of people managers must act as role models and champions for the core values of the organisation. Managers know how to create excellent rapport with their team members to gain respect and to maintain productivity and they do this with enthusiasm.

See also: Can you tell us about a time when you’ve made a positive commercial decision and how this impacted the profitability or the bottom line (operational costs)?

photo by: Liberty National



3. Managing Performance


Q: Can you share an example of managing poor performance? Think about an occasion when you either turn this poor performance around positively or when you had to manage them out of the business? Take us through step by step what actions you took?

A: Remember when you are sharing examples of people management – if the interviewer works in Human Resources they will be very knowledgeable of the right way of managing performance, disciplinary, grievances etc – so don’t make it up as you go along! In this particularly question interviewers will be looking at how you first identified the cause of the poor performance (disinterest in the task, de-motivated in general, ability or capability issues, issues at home affecting work performance, relationships at work etc.)

See also: Tell us about a time when you used your influencing skills to alter someone’s point of view and get buy-in?

The interviewer will be looking for how you diagnosed the problem in the first place, how you assessed whether the person had the necessary tools and resources to do the tasks, how you identify whether they required further training or time to shadow with a competent colleague, or if you re-assign the task to someone else in the team. They’ll also be looking for how you have set clear objectives and kept track of progress against these goals. The absolute last resort is managing a person out of the business and hiring managers will want to know this was the case in your example. If you’ve simply fired someone who was not performing then this action can potentially increase the risk of reputational damage (this is particularly difficult to calculate the cost) or worse increases the risk of legal action for unfair dismissal.

4. Tough Mindedness


Q: Talk us through a time when you had to make or communicate a difficult business decision and how you tackled this?

A: In business it isn’t always about getting people to like you or like the decisions you have to make or communicate. Of course you want your team to respect you professionally and work well together. However, there are going to be times when even you may not like the direction of the company and you’ll need to implement these changes positively and communicate this tough message to the team. Even if you’ve not agreed with the managements decision you’ll need to implement with enthusiasm and interviewers will spot the signs a mile off if you’ve “gone native” – meaning you’ve tried to deflect any responsibility for the decision, you may have even shared your disagreement with the team – this behaviour is not actually going to do you any favours in the interview, particularly if the job you are applying for requires someone to deliver some big changes.

See also: Give us an example of when you were tasked to implement a strategy and how you translated this information to the team objectives?


If you are not able to make difficult decisions and communication tough messages with passion and commitment you are likely to have a very disengaged and de-motivated team and your original motive to get the team on your side might actually back fire as they’ll have little respect or commitment to the tasks ahead. Think of a time when you’ve had to make a difficult decision and how you’ve thought through your approach to handling this situation. Interviewers will be looking for how you’ve gathered all the facts before making or communicating a difficult decision, how you’ve understood the rationale for the decision and how you’ve listened to other people involved or impacted by the decision.

5. Commercial Awareness / Business Acumen


Q: Can you tell us about a time when you’ve made a positive commercial decision and how this impacted the profitability or the bottom line (operational costs)?

A: Interviews will be looking for evidence of how you make decisions that impact either the company’s profitability or increased revenue. If the job isn’t a revenue generating position then the interviewer will be looking for evidence of how you have reduced operational costs. To demonstrate commercial awareness you’ll understand and provide evidence of how you’ve managed resources [people, skills, costs, time and budgets etc.]

Interviewers will be interested in your up to date knowledge of the market sector, your knowledge of competitors and customer demands and how you’ve applied this knowledge to the benefit of the organisation. If you are not applying for a revenue generating role then recruiters will be interested in how you have reduced costs or streamlined or automated processes to save time which consequently reduces operational costs. Make sure you understand the company’s competitors and their major challenges in the future – this will not only demonstrate you are commercial aware but shows to the recruiters you have researched the company.

See also: Talk us through step by step how you managed a team through a major change? What was the change? What was your part in the change and what was your approach?


6. Influencing skills



Q: Tell us about a time when you used your influencing skills to alter someone’s point of view and get buy-in?

A: Influencing skills are extremely useful in business – there may be times when you are relying on people in the business to support an objective or project and you’ll need the specific skills and knowledge of people that don’t report to you or sit in your team. You’ll need to get the support from the management and then influence people to contribute to the successful completion of that project.

Influencing skills requires a high level of confidence and the ability to communicate a compelling rationale and business case. To help you think of relevant examples consider times at work when you’ve obtained approval for a new project, made recommendations for improving a process, suggested solutions to a problem, resolved a conflict or convinced someone to see things from your point of view.

7. Implementing Strategy


Q: Give us an example of when you were tasked to implement a strategy and how you translated this information to the team objectives?

A:
When you hear the word strategy you’d be forgiven for immediately thinking that’s for the leaders of the organisation, the board members or the CEO’s responsibility. However, implementing strategy is everyone’s responsibility. Great managers know that they need their teams to understand and to buy in to the organisations strategy and how the team’s objectives align to the overall strategy or direction of the company.

The role of the manager is to communicate an often high level statement and translate into an understandable and workable set of priorities for the team. Make sure you craft an example that covers understanding the company’s strategy, translating into a workable document, cascading important company information down to the team and working with the team members to delivery against the aims of the business.

See also: Tell us about a time when you had to manage a recruitment campaign or had to hire a new member to the team?


8. Managing Change


Q: Talk us through step by step how you managed a team through a major change? What was the change? What was your part in the change and what was your approach?

A: It goes without saying these days that the only constant thing in business is change and organisations hire individuals that can prove they have successfully managed change in their previous roles (this doesn’t necessarily mean in a management role). You may have survived a business transformation, a department restructure or an organisational design project.

In your example include how you understood the rationale for the change and how you designed a communication plan to ensure everyone affected by the changes were fully up to speed on the reasons and the impact of such a change. Particularly for a management position recruiters will want to gather evidence of how you have involved those individuals affected by the change (planning, implementing and embedding the changes.) They will also be looking for evidence of what those phases involved – mapping out the “AS IS” and “TO BE” processes, data cleansing and data integrity activities, training etc. Interviewers may also want to understand how you got the buy in from the individuals and how you think this impacted the outcome of the changes.

See also: Give us an example of managing a problem to a successful conclusion?


9. Hiring / Recruitment skills and knowledge



Q: Tell us about a time when you had to manage a recruitment campaign or had to hire a new member to the team? What was your rationale for the new hire and how did you source and select the right person, with the right skills?

A: Whether you take over a well established team or are tasked to build one you’ll be involved in hiring at some point in your management role. It’s not always a like for like replacement and the managers I’ve worked with in the past have always taken the time to review the current skills, knowledge and the strengths and weaknesses of their current team before deciding on the new job requirements. Recruiters will be looking for this thought process and a relevant, reliable, fair and objective sourcing and selection plan to find the right people with the right skills.

Recruiting as well as managing people requires a good knowledge of employment law and you should include this in your example. When thinking through the sourcing strategy how did you decide how to attract the right candidates from a diverse pool of talent? When thinking about the selection methods how did you ensure it was fair, objective and complied with the Equality Act. Particularly in the public sector hiring managers will be looking for evidence of recruiting fairly and objectively and in a very structured manner. They will also be very interested about your knowledge and awareness of how you foster a diverse culture and working environment.

See also: Give us an example of a time you were managing a well established team of people and you were tasked to increase productivity?

10. Problem Solving / Solutions Driven


Q: Give us an example of managing a problem to a successful conclusion?

A: During my career I’ve gone to my managers many times with problems and watched how they’ve asked lots of questions, gathered information, thought though the facts and offered a solution – there’s not a problem that hasn’t got a solution and good managers will demonstrate this on a daily basis. It’s reassuring when you have confidence in your manager – however, when you are the manager you need to hone this ability to view all the facts and be able to think problems through and either come up with a workaround (something usually used on a temporary basis until the bigger issues have been sorted) or compromise if the problem simply cannot be solved in the short term without more resources (money, people or time).

You need to demonstrate an innovative approach, a resourceful approach and often a realistic and economical approach – unless you are applying to a business with a huge budget and massive resources you’ll need to think of a time when you’ve suggested, recommended and implemented low cost solutions that have had significant results. Think about sharing examples from your career history that match the corporate culture of the role you are applying – if it’s a charity then resources will be used sparingly, if you are applying for a role in a company that places high importance on quality then again match your examples to the company’s values and core competencies.

We hope this has given you lots of food for thought and got you thinking about all the examples you could share with your potential new employer.

Related: Describe your management style and give us an example when you had to adapt this style to the benefit of the team and business?

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