When hiring an Office Manager, look for a candidate who is well-versed in all operations of an office, and capable of effectively managing staff. Listen for a candidate’s experience managing the front desk, designing filing systems, purchasing office supplies, overseeing IT issues, establishing budgets and monitoring expenses, and handling procurement and repair of office machines.
An office manager is a leader, so they should demonstrate top level skills when it comes to motivating a team, handling confidential information, and resolving conflicts. Customer-facing tasks should be handled with the highest level of professionalism to support the reputation of your company. In general, the Office Manager should be someone who is constantly challenging the status quo and looking for new ways to improve procedures and systems.
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 Office Manager interview questions to help you get started:
What do you believe are the key soft skills needed to succeed as an Office Manager?
What you want to hear: A good manager recognizes that their job is to ensure the office runs smoothly while sales objectives are met. Their answer should point to the soft skills that will assist them in motivating co-workers, boosting productivity, and resolving problems. Look specifically for leadership skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills to be included in their answer.
Red flag: Candidates who hesitate when answering this question may not fully understand the nature of this role. Technical expertise alone is not enough; the right soft skills are essential for success in this role.
What office management software are you familiar with?
What you want to hear: An Office Manager should be well versed in a range of computer products and administrative software. Besides being advanced in the Microsoft Office suite, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, they should be familiar with payroll and other task management software relevant to your business, such as Access, Visio, QuickBooks, or SharePoint.
What was your typical daily schedule in a previous job as an Office Manager?
What you want to hear: This question can highlight your candidate’s experience level. Did they perform tasks and manage responsibilities similar to the role they are now interviewing for? Do they appear to have an organized structure to their day? The candidate should reveal an ability to multitask in a busy work environment, providing insight into their management style for both administrative and employee-related matters.
Red flag: Describing duties not related to this position as you define it is a red flag. Ensure your candidate has a clear understanding of what this particular position entails, and further challenge their experience level.
What are your weaknesses as an Office Manager?
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: A candidate who claims not to have any weaknesses should be viewed with a 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 this role.
Describe how you manage a team with diverse personalities and skill sets.
What you want to hear: The main objective is to determine whether your candidate can easily adapt to different employees and situations. Investigate, for example, if they have the people skills and techniques for managing new hires versus more experienced workers. Newer hires may require more supervision, while experienced workers usually prefer the resources to complete their tasks alone, and desire help only when needed. Do they have a good sense of which employees are maximizing their potential, and which are underperforming? Do they have the tools to challenge employees and help them improve?
Red flag: A candidate who shares only one way of managing may not be effective with a larger team of diverse personalities. A rigid manager can cause frustration within the team and reduced productivity. Find a candidate who is flexible and always willing to learn new strategies.
In your previous job, describe a difficult employee situation you successfully resolved.
What you want to hear: Verify that your candidate can look at all the information available and find the best solution based on the circumstances. For example, a qualified candidate may say, “I had an under performing employee who insisted he would turn in his work by the deadline, which was quickly approaching. When asked to show his progress he refused and became upset. I could have chosen to wait out the deadline which would have been a poor outcome for the company, or I could have chosen to press him and risk an unpleasant confrontation. What I actually did was explain the importance of the deadline in a calm and respectful way. After his defenses were down, I offered to help him meet the deadline by working together. He admitted he was confused about certain areas of the project, but was too embarrassed to ask. We worked together to clear up the confusion and find a way that he felt more comfortable asking for help in the future. He has been more productive since then.”
Red flag: A candidate who lacks the ability to deep deeper and discover underlying motivations will not be effective in a leadership role. Reacting to every surface-level emotion an employee displays will not help an Office Manager resolve a situation for the benefit of the individual or the company.
Describe a time you developed and implemented an administrative plan in your previous position.
What you want to hear: This answer should be a detailed explanation of the issue the candidate was called upon to address, the objectives of a plan to address the issue, the training sessions 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: A candidate who is unable to walk you through at least one plan most likely lacks the qualifications to run your office. Look for a candidate who will arrive ready to develop and implement new plans for your office, not learn how to do so on the job.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Office Manager position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Bring extensive experience from a similar position
- Have superior interpersonal and administrative skills
- Understand how challenge existing systems and make improvements