How to prepare for a management Interview
When you prepare for a management interview you need to think about what you have achieved through others or if you are going for your first manager role, how you will achieve through others.
What do we mean by “achieving through others”?
At a basic level, a manager is a person that has responsibility for and directs a group of staff. The manager is responsible for the output of the team. Therefore, as a manager you cannot just do all the work yourself. You must get others to do work needed to the right standard within agreed timeframes, hence being able to achieve results through others.
Your Job is to Manage and Lead
As a manager your job is to manage. Sounds simple right? Managing is dealing with people and thus managing relationships. Just take a look at the bookshelves at the number of books dedicated to managing relationships in one form or other – because managing relationships is not easy.
If you are going for your first management role, then a small portion of your job is about management. You are likely to still be doing a lot of actual work too.
If you are in or heading into senior management or director level roles, then you may find that 90%+ of your job is to lead and manage others. You don’t produce much “work” personally. All, or nearly all, of your output is through others.
Learn your way:
So when you prepare for a management interview you should think about how you:
- lead and manage people
- communicate with others
- organise others
- persuade, cajole, encourage, coach … all the different ways you get others to do a task or project
- motivate the team and set direction for the team
- work with team members
Expect to be asked a number of questions about your “management or leadership style”. A very good starting point to answering all these questions is to work out how you specifically tackle all these areas.
Being a good manager is also about being true to yourself, authentic and genuine. Take what you do and paint it in the best light possible.
Plan answers to interview questions:
Make sure you prepare good answers to all the obvious manager interview questions. Examples of some questions you might face include:
- How do you handle disagreements between team members?
- How have you gained commitment from your team?
- What is your management (or Leadership) style?
- How do goals help you become a better leader?
- How can we motivate you as a leader?
- Have you ever helped to implement a significant company change in one of your past roles?
- How do you manage a poor performer?
- How do you manage a star performer?
- Have you had to take someone through disciplinary before?
- What would you say is the difference between management and leadership?
What are the key problems the company has and will solve by hiring you?
Understanding the problems the company has is a critical step in your preparation process. If you don’t know what the problems are then how are you going to show you can to solve them effectively?
Your interview performance always relative to expectations of the interviewer and the other candidates.
If you are going for your first management position, then the challenges outlined in the job advert or by the recruitment consultant for the team and position are probably all that you must answer well.
General research on the company will help you talk to additional challenges which will help you stand out from other candidates.
Understanding the problems that your role will encounter is a must. You will probably be expected to have a good understanding of the company level issues that will impact your function.
Try to understand as many of these as possible from your research and from the experience you have gained working in your function. Demonstrating this wider awareness will help you stand out from other candidates.
Bring into your answers how you will contribute towards solving these functional level issues too.
If you are applying for a senior manager or Director level role, then understanding the problems faced by the company as whole rather than just your function is a must. Part of your role will be helping to solve the wider company problems and challenges.
During the interview you must demonstrate an understanding of the company level problems and provide examples of where you have tackled similar problems and the outcomes you achieved.
As an interviewer, I would also expect you to be asking questions to gain a better understanding of potential issues during the interview. Doing so demonstrates your confidence, your questioning and problem solving skills and would give me more confidence in your interest and ability.
How are you going to demonstrate your energy levels?
Being a good manager or a leader is hard work. There are a lot of demands on your time and on your emotions. The stresses and strains of dealing with problems, challenges and staff members takes their toll.
How are you going to show you have enough energy to manage these challenges and to progress into more senior roles in the future?
During the interview show your energy in how you talk, in your enthusiasm and excitement for the role. Also provide examples that demonstrate you have good or high energy levels – enough to happily do this role and more.
Examples might be talking about all the additional activities you do outside work after a long day in the office. It might be talking through how many objectives you and your team delivered on during the last year. Put your thinking cap on and work out how you are going to demonstrate your energy levels during an interview.
Working longer hours is probably expected. There are individuals that stay in the office for long hours but might not produce that much. How are you going to show you are more productive than they are, or you have a higher level of output, or you work smarter than they do?
Working long hours can also be seen as a negative by interviewers. For example – maybe you are not able to delegate effectively and end up doing the work of your team. Be warned and make sure you cover off these negative areas in your answers.
If you come across with low energy, and the role is demanding, then you could easily be out of the running.
Use lots of appropriate examples in your answers to interview questions
Using a lot of good and relevant examples of where you have solved problems or successfully managed specific activities is a must.
Construct the examples to demonstrate where and how you have solved problems that your target role will be facing. As I am sure you know, examples are important to develop the interviewer’s confidence and trust in you and specifically that you can do what you say you can do. Each key point or statement you make should have an example to back it up.
The examples must show you are operating at the level of your current role and ideally of the role you are applying for. This means that a lot of your examples will come from your current or previous role. Make sure the examples are relevant to the question being asked and the problems the employer may be facing.
To do this well, you need to have a good range of examples, each carefully constructed and practiced before the interview.
Make sure the examples you use reinforce the level you work at currently. Ideally most of these examples should show you are or will soon be operating at the level of your target role.
The questions that you ask matter – prepare for your management interview
During the interview and certainly at the end of the interview, you will have opportunities to ask questions.
For manager level interviews, sensible and relevant questions are expected. The more senior the role you are applying for, then you should ask better and more probing the questions. This shows:
- The level of research you have done
- How keen you are on the role and the company
- Your confidence levels
Interviews are a two way street. The company and the interviewer have to impress you too – with the opportunity the role has for you and how it will progress your career.
By asking good and probing questions that help you find out more about the role, the people, and the challenges the business is facing, the more interested the interviewer will be in you.
The majority of your questions should be specific to the company and demonstrate your research and interest. It is okay to have a couple of more generic questions in the mix.
Carefully prepare questions for your management interview.
The competition for management level roles is usually higher than more junior levels. There are less roles and plenty of people wanting them. Therefore, you need to prepare well if you want to be in the running for a job offer.
The most vital preparation you can do is matching your relevant skills and experiences to the problems the role you are apply for is likely to have.
Being a good manager is hard work. From the interviewer’s perspective, if you work to prepare well for the interview, then you are much more likely to work hard in the actual job.