The General Manager is responsible for overseeing the business, administrative and human resources functions of your company. An effective General Manager will move seamlessly across the duties of designing and implementing business strategies; recruiting, training and managing employees; and addressing customer-facing issues to ensure top quality customer service.
A high value General Manager will create a smooth working environment driven by high energy and superior multitasking skills. A broad background in human resources, finance and budgeting, and customer relations are key to success in the role. Ultimately, look for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who understands the contribution of an effective General Manager to company productivity and profitability.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are General Manager interview questions to help you get started:
1. How would you describe your leadership style?
What you want to hear: Your candidate should use specific examples when discussing their leadership style. Listen for ways they promote team unity and productivity. For example, a strong candidate may say, “In my previous position as a manager I liked to inspire the staff by describing the vision for each project. That way, they always knew what they were working towards. I also lead my team by example by helping out with some of their daily tasks. They knew I was part of the group and felt comfortable reaching out to me.”
Red flag: Leadership styles that do not pair well with the existing company culture can cause reduced productivity and high employee turnover rates. For example, an authoritative style will disrupt a more laid back culture.
2. How do you deal with the stress of a fast-paced work environment?
What you want to hear: No General Manager role comes without pressure and stress. Deadlines are often close together, and a variety of tasks need to be completed at once. The ideal candidate will reveal a high level of self-awareness and discuss the techniques they use to operate successfully under fire. You want to see the capacity to maintain a pleasant demeanor and good humor at all times.
Red flag: A candidate who exhibits signs of getting frustrated or aggressive in stressful situations is not well-suited for the General Manager role. If your candidate cannot discuss specific high pressure situations they navigated well for themselves and the team, they might not have the experience you need for your role.
3. If you were hired, how would you approach reviewing our current systems for improvements?
What you want to hear: Aside from leadership skills, your candidate should have a vision for how the General Manager role will oversee company practices and procedures. Their answer should dig deep into methodologies for investigation, analysis, development, implementation, and evaluation. Look for a discussion of case studies from previous jobs to support their explanation.
4. Are you prepared to work odd hours or during holidays?
What you want to hear: General Managers often have to deal with unexpected issues. Listen for a high level of responsibility and a willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. Your candidate must understand the time and effort required to succeed in this role.
Red flag: A candidate who has personal life issues or circumstances that will limit their ability to provide complete oversight of the company at all times will likely not be effective in the role of General Manager.
5. Tell me about a time in your previous job when your idea was implemented.
What you want to hear: A qualified candidate will reveal not only the ability to come up with ideas for positive change, but the drive and skills to execute on those ideas. You want to hear specifics about their proposed program for change, and how they “sold” that program to management and their staff.
Red flag: A candidate who does not understand the politics of the role will have limited success. It’s not enough to just come up with ideas; ideas have to be presented, explained, and bought into by all parties with a stake in the outcome. Without consensus, the best ideas fail.
6. How would you handle an underperforming employee?
What you want to hear: This question gives your candidate a chance to display their management and communication skills. Look for specific methodologies. For example, the candidate may say they’ll meet with the employee and discuss the underperformance issues that have been observed. They may then explain to the employee how their underperformance affects their team and the company. Next, they might offer the employee the opportunity to share why they feel they are underperforming, inviting reasons such as lack of training, poor management, personal issues, or the like. Finally, your candidate might brainstorm with the employee creative ways of fixing the obstacles to better performance, and setting new goals for improved team play and productivity.
Red flag: An effective General Manager will have the tools for approaching and communicating with underperforming employees. A candidate who cannot cite specific examples from a previous role, or who appears too timid to confront an employee, or who lacks the ability to surface root causes, may not be bringing the right qualifications to your role.
7. Tell me what you know about our company.
What you want to hear: A strong candidate will be able to answer this question in detail based on information available from public sources. You want to see a candidate who took the initiative to conduct research and who can clearly articulate what they learned. They should have an appropriate command of your company’s products or services, and recognize key staff members by name.
Red flag: A candidate who failed to take the time to research your company lacks the diligence needed to succeed in this role. You don’t want someone who is simply hopping from interview to interview without the slightest personal investment in your company’s specific mission and goals.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your General Manager position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Have outstanding leadership and management skills
- Know how to develop and implement programs for change
- Are effective under stressful conditions
Need help writing a General Manager job description? Check out our General Manager job description template.
What are three professional skills you’ve gained from previous roles that could help bring value to our company?
What is your strategy for delegating tasks among staff?
Do you prefer communicating with employees orally or by email? Why?
Tell me about a time you coached or mentored someone. Describe your approach. What was the outcome?
You may be asked to manage a project with limited budget and resources. What strategies would you use to accomplish your goal?
What methods do you use to stay up-to-date with new industry trends?
Tell me about your typical day as a manager at your previous job. Would you anticipate your routine changing if you were hired here? Why, or why not?
Imagine that your staff doesn’t agree with a new process or procedure you’ve implemented. How would you respond?
Describe a time when you improved the revenues or efficiency of a department.
What do you believe our company’s values to be? Do you agree with them?
How would you organize a project that involves multiple teams with different skills?