If you’ve been tasked with hiring a new manager, you may be feeling a little nervous. Get it right, and your candidate could breathe new life into your organization. Get it wrong, and the team they’re managing could end up floundering and blaming each other for missed targets and deadlines. That’s right – managers play a pivotal role in helping teams reach their potential.
As well as providing strong leadership, skilled managers nurture employees’ professional development, enhance employee engagement, build strong communication channels between teams, manage resources effectively, make smart decisions under pressure, and much more.
So, how can you tailor the interview process to maximize your chances of finding an excellent manager who goes above and beyond for their team? The good news is there are always plenty of superstar managers looking to embrace their next professional challenge.
To find your perfect match, you just have to know what interview questions to ask manager candidates. If you’re wondering what kinds of questions will produce the most illuminating answers, we’ve put together a list of key queries to pose to interviewees.
15 interview questions to ask when hiring a manager
Manager-level interview questions tend to fall into five categories: background questions, performance questions, conflict resolution questions, leadership questions, and soft skills questions.
Remember to ask at least two or three questions from each category to ensure you gain a holistic view of their skills, experiences, and temperament. There’s no point in hiring a candidate with excellent technical skills if they’re going to cause conflict and organizational rifts.
Background questions for managers
Background questions are designed to provide an oversight of the manager’s experiences so far, as well as their current career stage. Questions may include:
Please share your background and experiences
Asking general and open-ended interview questions for managers is a great way to start the interview. This question should be easy to answer, allowing candidates to expand on their career highlights and sell their best attributes.
If your candidate’s answer is a little short, gently prompt them to provide further details. If their answer is a little long and rambling, on the other hand, do try to interject and move on. You don’t need to hear their life story!
Why have you decided to explore new job opportunities?
Hopefully, your candidate will have relaxed into the interview after the first broad question. Now, you can ask slightly trickier questions about their motivations for applying for your vacancy. Watch out for any negativity in their answers. If the candidate complains about their previous colleagues, they may lack the interpersonal skills they need to manage a team.
A manager with strong people skills is likely to be much more diplomatic in their answers, focusing on the potential career opportunities your post offers or the practicalities of their working life. For example, your candidate may be looking to relocate or move to a full- or part-time position.
How did you progress from the beginning of your career to your most recent position?
Every career path is different, so there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. However, it will provide you with valuable insights into their potential competencies and experience levels. For example, someone who has quickly moved up the ranks to a senior position is likely to be smart, motivated, and hard-working.
However, they may lack some of the soft skills people develop as they age. For example, someone who has taken a little longer to reach a managerial position is likely to know how to communicate effectively, organize their time, and resolve conflicts. However, slow career progression could also signal a lack of confidence, ambition, or assertiveness.
Think carefully about what the candidate could bring to the table and try not to penalize anyone for taking career breaks or trying out a few different sectors before settling into their chosen profession. You never know how someone’s personal life has impacted their professional choices.
Performance questions for managers
One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is assessing the performance of their team and helping individuals reach their potential. The following questions will help you ascertain their performance-tracking skills:
How do you plan for performance improvements?
This question will establish the candidate’s goal-setting and assessment skills. Effective management is about much more than delegating tasks. Managers who genuinely care about their team members will provide tailored training and development opportunities, encouraging employees to stay in the post while providing your organization with coveted skills.
What are the most important metrics to measure in your department/team?
This question will verify whether the prospective manager knows the goals of the team and the ultimate purpose of their role. Managers need to track carefully chosen metrics to ensure their team is working effectively and take action when these metrics are less impressive than expected.
How do you measure performance in your area?
Success is likely to look different across your company’s teams, so your manager must know how to track performance in their specific department. Similarly, they should know how to assess their own performance and speak confidently about the habits that help them excel
Conflict resolution questions for managers
No matter how warm and welcoming your company culture is, conflicts are likely to arise from time to time. These questions will demonstrate a candidate’s ability to deal with them:
Tell me about a project or situation that involved input from multiple departments/stakeholders. What did you do/say to manage the situation? What was the outcome?
Some great interview questions to ask involve prompting the candidate to expand upon specific experiences. If they struggle to talk about working with multiple stakeholders, they may not have sufficient experience to take on a management role or may be hiding a personality that’s difficult to work with.
How do you handle conflicts between team members?
Conflict management is an uncomfortable yet vital aspect of managing a team. A good manager will emphasize the importance of empathy, objectivity, early intervention, and gathering evidence.
Although every conflict is unique, there are several rules and techniques managers should always use to maintain a strong rapport with their team members and prevent further issues. Once a resolution is resolved, managers should also monitor team dynamics and take extra care to monitor collaboration and mutual respect. If your candidate fails to display a fair and kind approach to conflict resolution, they’re unlikely to be effective managers in the long term.
Provide an example of a situation where you addressed a team member whose behavior was detrimental to the team and work environment. Please explain how you effectively communicated to the employee that their attitude or conduct was unacceptable and discuss the subsequent outcome.
It’s relatively easy to reel off a list of conflict management strategies. However, it’s much more difficult to describe conflict resolution in action. This question will help you ascertain how much experience the candidate has with addressing rifts in their teams, as well as their propensity to deliver satisfactory outcomes for all involved.
Leadership questions for managers
A skilled leader will help drive positive change and boost productivity. Asking the following questions could help you find an inspirational manager:
How can you inspire your employees (or others) to follow your lead?
Leadership is one of the most important skills a manager can possess. However, it’s notoriously difficult to master. Managers who inspire their teams to do great things must communicate a compelling vision that makes everyone feel optimistic about the future.
At the same time, they should offer concrete support and coaching opportunities, so employees have the tools they need to produce excellent work. Asking this question will tell you whether the candidate has the requisite motivational abilities and supportive capabilities to lead.
How can you effectively delegate responsibility for an assignment? How do you select the right individual? What tasks should you delegate, and how? How do you monitor progress and provide follow-up?
Delegating tasks is more difficult than it sounds. Managers who know their field well are often tempted to take on much of the work themselves, taking away valuable learning opportunities from their team members. So, as well as choosing the right person for the task, a good manager is willing to let team members take risks and do things their own way.
At the same time, they’re able to delegate tasks to team members they know have the right skill set to complete certain tasks, ensuring they don’t overload some individuals with the bulk of the work. A strong candidate will explain in detail the various steps involved in delegation.
What is your greatest managerial strength?
This question will help you compare and contrast your candidates’ strengths. Remember – there’s no correct way to manage a team, and managers have different strengths and abilities. It’s your job to ascertain whether your candidates’ skills align with the needs of your team and wider business.
Soft skills questions for managers
Soft skills are often underrated. However, asking the following questions could help you find a manager with the outlook your company needs to thrive:
What’s your plan for building rapport with your new team and demonstrating your credibility?
Managers sometimes struggle to gain the trust of their team members, leading to poor productivity and high turnover. Asking this question will help you find someone passionate about building a robust rapport with their team.
What’s your process for prioritizing tasks during busy times?
Prioritizing tasks is easier said than done. Finding someone with a detailed approach to organization will ensure they’re able to deal with stressful situations and heavy workloads.
What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?
This question will help you ascertain whether your candidate is passionate about their work and will fit in with your company. For example, you’re better off finding someone whose best day involved pulling off a difficult task rather than someone whose best day involved a light workload!
Where to show caution when recruiting a manager
Hiring a manager will always come with risks. However, conducting the following checks will mitigate these risks and reduce your chances of hiring a troublesome candidate:
Assess alignment with company values during the screening process: Write down your company's core values and assess whether the candidate’s experiences and personality align with them.
Seek information and perspectives by posing open-ended inquiries: Open-ended questions give interviewees time to expand on their experiences and sell themselves, rather than provide the answers they know you’re looking for. Remember to listen carefully and take plenty of notes.
Focus on real-world scenarios and tangible experiences instead of hypotheticals: Asking for concrete evidence will ensure the candidate is genuine and will hit the ground running in their new role.
Become the best manager candidate
As you can see, there are heaps of questions you may wish to ask to find the best managerial talent. If you’re looking for your next great leader, we recommend asking plenty of open-ended questions and diving into their soft and technical skills.