Hiring the wrong manager can cost a business thousands of dollars. When hiring people for management positions, it’s important to get it right the first time around. After all, managers interact and influence entire teams within your organization.
A poor hiring choice can send toxic ripples through your entire organization, leaving human resources to clean up the mess.
It all starts with the interview process. Here’s an important key to keep in mind: Generic interview questions simply won’t cut it. You’ll need to zero in on managerial style, how they communicate, and their approach to decision-making to ensure you hire for optimal cultural fit.
In this guide, we share 50 interview questions to ask prospective managers, including what to look for during your interviews. Pick and choose the sample interview questions that best align with your company’s values, goals and hiring process.
General interview questions and answers
As an HR pro, you don’t want to bombard the candidate with detailed questions about their management style right out of the gate. General interview questions set the stage for the rest of the interview and give your applicant a chance to tell you about who they are, what they’ve experienced, what motivates them, and what they value.
These questions help to break the ice and provide you with key facts about the candidate’s background and general work history before diving into more details.
Question: ‘Tell me about yourself.’
While a seemingly basic question, this one is a must. It allows the candidate to walk you through their history and speak about their personality — something that’s pretty hard to deduce from a resume alone. What do they mention first? What do they want you to know? This provides essential insight into what they value and what they believe their strengths are.
It also opens the door for you to ask new questions based on any interesting facts they share. For example, if they worked as a chef once, what did they find most challenging about the role? What did they enjoy most about it? Do they still cook?
This question also helps you identify potential company culture fits. Do you see this person fitting in with the team members they would interact with every day? Do they share your company values? Do you recognize any interests other members of the team share?
The ideal answer:
Since each candidate is unique, there isn’t one specific ideal answer. However, the answer should give you the opportunity to dig deeper. They should focus primarily on their work history, accomplishments, and past experience that is relevant to the role they’re pursuing. Why are they the perfect fit?
The candidate should provide authentic anecdotes from their past that exemplify the traits they want to convey. If they simply provide you with a list of appealing adjectives, like hard-working, driven, or compassionate, without tangible examples from their past, they are likely not the right fit.
Question: ‘Tell me about your previous work experience, and how it relates to this role.’
The candidate’s work experience and specific training are extremely relevant, so this is an essential question to ask. What qualifies them for this position, and what unique experience can they bring to this role?
The ideal answer:
The candidate must be able to clearly articulate what skills are transferable from their previous roles, as well as areas where they can provide a unique perspective. They should make it clear they understand the role and what impact they can have on it and the organization at large. This is also a chance for them to talk about any relevant certifications they may have.
Their answer should leave you feeling confident they understand the responsibilities of the role and are more than qualified to tackle the challenges head-on.
Question: ‘What motivates you in your career?’
Beyond financial gain, it’s important to discern why the candidate wants this job in particular. What do they usually enjoy about management positions? Are they motivated to be dependable, helpful, collaborative and innovative? Are they excited about overcoming challenges, developing their expertise, training or teaching others, and contributing to a company’s mission?
The ideal answer:
This answer should be personal, specific and honest. It should hint at both professional and personal motivations, as the former is almost always influenced by the latter. If they’re only interested in one side of the coin, they might not be telling the full truth. They should also provide examples of how they’ve used their motivations to find success with their work.
Question: ‘How do you help foster a positive company culture?’
A positive company culture is essential to a happy, healthy, and productive workforce — and managers play a major role in establishing and maintaining that culture. As any HR pro or hiring manager knows, a positive company culture doesn’t just happen; it takes forward thinking, intention and consistency.
The ideal answer:
The candidate should demonstrate strong communication skills as well as genuine passion and enthusiasm for getting to know people and supporting them. They should provide specific examples of how they have enhanced company culture in the past, as well as how they will enhance your own company culture. Ideally, they will reference something specific about your company’s culture, showing they’ve done their research and understand the values of your company.
- What work environment do you feel you work best in?
- How do you prioritize balance and wellness for both yourself and your team?
- Can you provide an example of how you’ve built strong cross-functional relationships with other departments or teams to achieve shared goals?
- Describe a time when you had to take on a project that was outside your comfort zone. How did you adapt and succeed in leading your team through this unfamiliar territory?
- Have you ever identified an operational inefficiency within your team or department? How did you address it and achieve improvement?
- What’s your philosophy on delegation? Can you give an example of a project you successfully delegated and the impact it had on your team’s performance?
- How do you foster an inclusive work environment?
- How do you balance different strengths and personality types across a team?
- What is your approach to one-on-one meetings?
- How do you approach your own professional development?
- What is your “superpower” — and what do you wish your superpower was?
Questions about management styles
Different managers have different management styles, so it’s imperative to ask a prospective team leader interview questions about their managerial approach. If that approach doesn’t gel with your company culture, the new manager could seriously derail team well-being and productivity.
Leadership and management questions:
- How would you describe your management style?
- What does it mean to you to be a manager or a team leader?
- Give me an example of how your management style helped an employee under your leadership.
- Give me an example that reflects your conflict resolution style.
- How would you describe your delegation process?
- How do you continue to develop your management skills?
- Have you ever delivered bad news or an unfavorable opinion to someone in a position above you? How did it go, and what were the consequences?
- Tell me about a time when you had to sell an unpopular idea to colleagues. How did you do it? What were the results?
- Has your management style ever clashed with someone else? How did you handle that situation?
Questions about team members
Managers provide direction and vision to their team and motivate them to achieve their goals. You need to know they can ably steer the ship while also creating and maintaining an environment where team members can safely and effectively communicate, collaborate and innovate.
Questions about how they manage their team:
- How do you measure and assess your team’s performance?
- Can you give specific examples of how you handle employee performance throughout the year?
- How have you handled an employee who is underperforming? Can you give an example?
- What is your approach to feedback? Discuss a time when you had to provide constructive feedback to a team member. What steps did you take to ensure growth and improvement?
- Tell me about a challenging conflict you’ve had to address within your team. How did you approach the situation, and what was the outcome?
- In a rapidly evolving industry, how do you ensure your team stays up to date with the latest trends and technologies?
- Can you provide an example of a time when you facilitated your team’s continuous learning?
- Can you describe a time when you had to lead a team through a major change or transition? What strategies did you use to ensure a smooth transition and maintain team morale?
- As a manager, how do you handle situations where team members have differing opinions or approaches to a project? Can you share a successful collaboration experience that led to a stronger outcome?
- What soft skills do you seek to develop in your team?
- How do you encourage professional development in your team?
- How do you encourage teamwork?
- What is your process for conducting performance reviews?
- How do you balance your responsibilities as a manager with your team’s individual growth and development?
- Can you share an example of how you’ve helped a team member reach their potential?
- What strategies do you use to set clear expectations and goals for your team? Can you give an example of how this approach improved team performance?
- In a diverse team, how do you ensure that all team members feel included and valued?
Questions about decision-making
Managers are decision-makers, which means the success of the team and the company at large depends on their ability to quickly and effectively problem-solve to determine the best way to proceed, regardless of the size of the challenge.
A reliable manager thrives when facing an approaching deadline and is excited instead of intimidated by complex challenges. They not only need strong critical thinking skills; they must be able to apply their skills to a myriad of tough situations in order to guide and calm their team members when stress levels are high.
Questions about how they make decisions:
- Can you give me an example of a situation that demonstrates your thought process for problem-solving?
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to make a difficult decision involving an employee.
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to make a difficult decision involving your responsibility as a manager.
- How confident do you feel about project management?
- What is your process for taking the company’s goals and implementing them into a strategy?
- What soft skills do you consider essential to successful decision-making?
- How do you manage priorities?
- Describe your approach to handling high-pressure situations and tight deadlines. Can you provide an example of how you kept your team focused and productive during a challenging time?
- Describe a situation where you had to make a tough decision that wasn’t popular with your team. How did you communicate and navigate this decision to maintain trust and motivation?
Discover your candidate’s skills and experience
Hiring the wrong manager is costly — both for your organization’s bottom line and for team morale. Utilize these 50 interview questions for managers to secure a well-rounded view of each of your candidates to ensure you hire the right person for the job, every time.
The interview process can set the stage for years to come. Will you end up with toxic managers who wreak havoc on your organization from the inside with poor decision-making, lack of organization, a disregard for your company culture, and a bad attitude? Interviews are your chance to find the candidates who can fill your company’s needs while meshing seamlessly with your company’s culture.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our other interview guides for hiring other types of candidates.
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