Manager
Interview Questions

A Manager is responsible for overseeing the operations and financial health of a designated company unit. For example, the role may manage the company’s entire operations, a specific business or service unit, a division, or department. A Manager will establish and meet business goals, maintain budgetary and fiscal health, help shape the company culture, and typically lead a group of reporting staff members.   

A qualified candidate will be high energy and bring a demonstrated track record of leadership in an organization. While some manager qualities are consistent across all industries and roles, consider whether you will need someone who already has a command of matters in your specific industry or business. In all circumstances, look for a candidate who has superior critical thinking skills to analyze and resolve problems, the ability to effortlessly communicate with staff and superiors, knowledge of human resources management functions, experience with budgeting practices, and excellent computer skills with exposure to software applicable to your business.   

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 Manager interview questions to help you get started: 

In your experience, what makes a manager effective at motivating employees?  

What you want to hear: A key Manager responsibility is to motivate their team to want to excel. Motivated team members are more likely to maximize their potential individually and collectively and increase your organization’s overall productivity. While there are many strategies available to Managers, some common ways to motivate employees include creating a reward system for reaching sales targets, providing clear and achievable individual and team goals, fostering an environment of open communication, leading by example, and providing the tools needed to execute job duties effectively.

Red Flag Icon Red flag: A candidate who can’t readily recite techniques to motivate a team either lacks experience or has failed to develop the leadership skills required for the role. Placing such a candidate in a Manager role is a risk for demotivating your team as a result of micromanagement, poor communication, lack of support, and other managerial shortcomings.  

Conflict between employees is inevitable. What techniques do you use to resolve conflicts in the workplace?

What you want to hear: Strong interpersonal skills are essential for the role of Manager. It’s important the candidate can explain the basic techniques for conflict resolution that they use when observing or being made aware of issues between employees.Techniques include being an active listener, remaining objective, encouraging the parties to remain calm and focused, and working together to find an appropriate solution.

Red Flag Icon Red flag: Managers who lack the skills to resolve conflict are a risk for leading a team of disgruntled and unproductive workers. Small issues often become large issues simply because of neglect, and it is the Manager’s responsibility to ensure conflict is addressed as soon as possible. 

Think about the employee who is consistently underperforming. How would you approach that employee and what strategies would you use to boost their productivity?

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 explain 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 Icon Red flag: An effective 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.

What do you consider your biggest weakness as a Manager? What tactics do you use to overcome that weakness?

What you want to hear: We all have weaknesses and top candidates will be self-aware enough to identify their own. Look for complete candor in the response, and the methodologies they use to compensate for or improve on those weaknesses. They should show evidence of being self-motivated to learn and grow.

Red Flag Icon Red flag: A candidate who claims not to have any weaknesses should be viewed with s suspect eye. Additionally, a candidate who acknowledges weaknesses but has taken no steps to improve those skills is showing a lack of motivation or tendency toward procrastination, neither of which are suitable qualities for the role. 

As an employee, who was the most effective mentor as a Manager you worked for and why?

What you want to hear: This question allows you to gain insights into the managerial qualities your candidate values, and by extension the qualities they will likely bring themselves to your role. Are the qualities they possess a good match for your organization? Do they appear to be someone who your current team will respond to in a positive way? Was the candidate influenced by a mentor you would respect in your organization?  

Red Flag Icon Red flag: A candidate who reflects on a mentor who does not appear to be substantive in a way your organization would consider to be of interest is waving a red flag that they have either learned skills that are not a fit with your role, or that they lack judgment in who they identify as an effective leader.    

Give an example of when you’ve improved the operational efficiency of your department as a Manager.

What you want to hear: This answer should be a detailed explanation of the operational inefficiency the candidate elected to address, the objectives of a plan to address the issue, the training session required to implement the solution, and the outcome of the initiative. The candidate should demonstrate good analytical and critical thinking skills. The more unique or large scale the challenge to be resolved, the better. Listen as well for how they “sold” their plan to management and staff, and the metrics they used to measure success. 

Red Flag Icon Red flag: A candidate who is unable to walk you through at least one plan most likely lacks the qualifications to run your unit. Look for a candidate who will arrive ready to develop and implement new plans for your unit, not learn how to do so on the job. 

Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Manager position.

Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:

  • Understand how to motivate and inspire their team
  • Are trained to resolve conflict before it affects productivity 
  • Bring a general managerial style that is a good match for your team and company   

Bonus questions!

What three words best describe your management style?  Explain how each has been used in a previous role.

What do you consider to be the most rewarding part of being a Manager?

What is your strategy for delegating tasks among staff?

How do you handle the stress of working under tight deadlines?

Tell me about a time in your personal or professional life that you led by example.

What are three ways a Manager can benefit a company?

How do you evaluate the success of your team?

What is an effective tactic for building a positive company culture among your staff? How have you implemented it with past teams?

What do you consider to be the biggest failure you experienced as a Manager? What did you learn from it?

What is your favorite digital tool to support your productivity as a Manager?