6 Interview Questions for Managers at Any Level

August 5, 2014 at 6:00 AM Kathleen de Lara

interview questions for managersHiring for middle, senior, supervisor and executive management roles? Turns out the ideal candidates for any of these positions aren’t all that different from each other. A recent study by Harvard Business Review's Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found employees at management and non-management-level positions have a similar outlook on the skill sets team members in their roles should have to perform well at the company. 

Here’s more: 

The same competencies were selected as most important for the supervisors, middle managers, and senior managers alike, and six out of the seven topped the list for top executives. Executives at every organizational level, our respondents reported, need a balance of these competencies. The other nine competencies included in the study were chosen only half as frequently as the top seven.

What does this mean for recruiters? While it seems logical that there’d be sets of principal skills for candidates at various points of their professional development, recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t segment their hiring strategy and limit interview questions based on the positions they’re aiming to fill. 

“…Based as it is on the assumption that once people develop a skill, they will continue to exercise it. But, interestingly, we don’t apply it in athletics; athletes continue to practice and develop the same skills throughout their careers…From our analysis we conclude that there is some logic to focusing on distinct competencies at different stages of development. But, more fundamentally, it shows us that there are a set of skills that are critical to you throughout your career.”

Looking to fill your mid-management role? What you could actually be hiring for is the company’s next upper-level manager.

Try adding these questions to your next candidate interview to measure and gauge their performance in the position you’re recruiting for and for their move on up in the company:

Inspires and motivates others

What are some skills any good manager should have?

Ever heard the phrase, “Takes one to know one?” Candidates that can identify key elements and behaviors (like transparency, rationality, confidence, and the ability to delegate) of a manager who is able to effectively communicate, champion, and lead a team already has the foundation in place to develop those skills and, at the same time, support the team.

Solves problems and analyzes issues

Have you ever been asked to perform a task at your previous company that didn’t align with what you thought was right? If so, how did you deal with the issue?

Assess a candidate’s ability to lead and to follow. Great team members understand how to maintain employee morale, and how to professionally and privately disagree with a manager or colleague. As HubSpot founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah said, “In a leadership environment, good leaders are able to debate and argue behind closed doors and then fully support a decision in public, even if they (privately) disagree with that decision.

No employee agrees with every decision, every process, every ‘best practice’…what matters is how they react and perform when they don’t agree.” In the same way, this question can also help recruiters evaluate a candidate’s judgment and knowing when to break away from plain bad or immoral business practices.

Displays high integrity and honesty

Tell me about a time you didn’t deliver on a commitment. 

Getting insight to a candidate’s shortcomings could give you the sneak peek of the events preceding their latest triumph. “Success by failure is not an oxymoron. When you make a mistake, you’re forced to look back and find out exactly where you went wrong, and formulate a new plan for your next attempt,” entrepreneur Jeff Stibel explained when asked about manager interview questions. “If you’re not failing every now and then, you’re probably not advancing.”

Listen to how the interviewee admits responsibility and acknowledges failing to meet a colleague’s or manager’s expectations, and how he or she recovered from the mishap. It’s not about hearing about a time a candidate botched something, but rather, if and how they executed a Plan B.

Collaborates and promotes teamwork

What’s an opinion you hold that most people disagree with?

An employee who knows how to provoke a productive debate could be the risk-taker the company needs to stir up innovation and to test the waters on unconventional ideas – the ones with a method to the madness, of course.Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker uses this question to find managers who aren’t afraid to swim against the current every now and then. “When I ask this question, I’m looking for people who are creative and innovative and can bring debate to the norm. If everyone agrees with everyone else, you end up with an average outcome.” 

Drives for results

Can you share an example of a project, campaign, or business strategy from your previous work experience that stands out as a notable success story? 

Pay close attention to the KPIs candidates list as markers defining success. Do they align with the role’s tasks and responsibilities? How in depth does the candidate discuss plan details and measured metrics? Does he or she bring up challenges the team ran into? By asking this question, recruiters can get a sense of a candidate’s thought process, techniques for executing an idea, and solutions to overcoming any obstacles encountered.

Communicates powerfully and prolifically

What do you want to do after _insert your company name here_?
Learn more about a candidate’s aspirations for the career they’ll have beyond working for your company, and hiring managers will be able to understand how to better manage and work with team members to develop and grow their skills.

Entelo’s Jon Bischke asks this question to all candidates, and while it may catch some off-guard, the tactic helps recruiters gauge talent’s foresight. “If you’re looking at what’s in their best interest, that actually helps accelerate the growth of the company, because if they’re thinking about where they want to be in five years and preparing for that, then they’re becoming better at the job that they’re doing today.”

Ask the right interview questions to encourage a conversation with candidates that isn’t canned and packed with rehearsed answers to get an honest evaluation of a potential hire who may or may not be the right fit for the company. Want to learn more about how to better connect with talent from the source through the hire?

Related Articles:
Implement Interview Load Balancing and Never Give A Bad Interview Again 
What Happens When You Standardize Your Interview Process 
Does Maybe Have A Place In Interview Feedback? 

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