How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions for Managers?

 
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Young managers with the boss“I want to be a manager!” Many people share your dream. These people will compete with you for every good managerial position, and you will need to convince the interviewers that you are the best job applicant, that it makes sense to hire you and not someone else.  

But how can you do that? What decides the winner at the end of the interview? And what questions will they ask you in a managerial interview?

We will try to help you finding the answers to your questions. Welcome to InterviewQuestionsForManagers.org, a website that specializes only in managerial interviews.

Written by Matthew Chulaw, Recruitment Consultant and Job Interview Coach

What to expect in your interview?

Good candidate for a managerial job is a complete package. They should know something from both project and process management, have great communication skills, understanding for team work, leadership, and for business. To test if you meet such requirements, employers will conduct a long and complex interview session (or more sessions) with you.
You can expect some screening and behavioral questions, IQ test (or a personality test), and perhaps even a short case study to solve.

Personal (screening) interview questions

man in blue jacket and gray tie gesticulat with his hands, while answering an interview questionYour managerial interview will start with several screening questions. Answers to these questions are not the most important one, but the majority of job applicants will be screened out at this stage of the interview process (click a question to see sample answers, and an in-depth analysis of the particular question).

Why do you want to become a manager?

Tell us about your dreams. Show us that you have goals, that you want to achieve something in your career. Talk about your skills and abilities, goals and desires that make from you a great candidate for any managerial position.

Do not connect your answers with the past, with your studies. To say that you want to get a managerial job because you graduated from management (or from economics) would indicate a must, not a desire.

And do not forget on your non-verbal communication. Gesticulate, smile, show some enthusiasm. We need to see that you really want to be a manager.


 

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Every person has at least one weakness. The difference between average and exceptional employee is that an exceptional employee is aware of their weakness, they can admit it, and they strive to improve on it, pursuing excellence.

Try to talk about strengths that are relevant for a job of a manager – communication skills, organizational skills, leadership, interpersonal skills, etc. Show us that you know what matters for the job, and that you strive to become a great manager, strengthening you strengths, and trying to improve on your weaknesses.

 

What characterize a good manager from your point of view?

You apply for this job, because you know you can do it well. Otherwise it would make no sense to apply- for you, and it would make no sense to make a hire- for us. Show some confidence, show us that you are a good manager.

You can talk about leadership, about an ability to understand the people in the team and to lead them towards a mutual goal. Alternatively you can look at it from the perspective of the company, and say that a good manager strives to help their employer to prosper, and understands the connection of their personal goals and goals of the business.

 

Can you tell me a little about your experience?

pannel interview for a managerial position, led in a big corporationFocus on the things that matter to us. Your most relevant experience, the responsibilities you had in your last job, the goals you tried to achieve, and the things you actually accomplished.

We ask you to tell us “a little”, and you should do exactly that, unless you want us to consider you a bad listener (and to screen you out).

And if you have no real working experience, talk about a part time job you had at a college, summer job, basically anything that shows us that you understand what it means to have a job, and to have some responsibilities.

 

Other personal questions (answers in the interview success guide)

  • Tell me something about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Why should be hire you?
  • Your biggest professional failure?

Interviewers try to assess your communication skills, your motivation to do the job, and your personality, while asking the personal questions. Every good manager should have an ability to listen to other people, to speak clearly and to the point.

Behavioral interview questions for managers

Man is confused in an interviewOnce the ice has been broken, it is time to get serious. Interviewers will inquire about your behavior in various work-related situations–that’s called behavioral questions (targeting your past experience), or situational questions (examining your attitude to hypothetical situations that can happen on the workplace).

While answering these questions, you should present yourself as someone who is able to make a decision and carry the responsibility, someone who can understand the needs of the other people, and goals of the company.

What is more, you should present yourself as stress resistant and motivated employee, who tries to deliver their best in job, day in day out. Let’s have a look at the questions (click a question to see a longer analysis, and sample answers to the question).

Describe a situation when you had a conflict with your colleague. What was the situation. How did you handle it?

If you have no previous working experience, mention a conflict you had with your schoolmate or a teacher, and if nothing else, you can even talk about a conflict in your personal life, or one that you experienced only in your mind :).

Your attitude matters to us, not the particular situation you narrate in an interview. We want to hear that you try your best to avoid conflicts, we want to hear that you can admit your mistake, that you can take responsibility, and apologize to your colleagues…

 

Describe a situation when you needed to meet a tight deadline. How did you cope with it? What was the result?

in person interview, leadership role. We can see man and woman in black, sitting at the same table.Managing people, projects, or processes is not a piece of a cake. Many people imagine long business trips, interesting meetings, and evening coffee breaks with their beautiful secretaries. I could tell you a lot about these experiences…

But they are not the core of a job of a manager. Those are just some perks that help us to deal with the real tasks and pressure we face in the job. We want to hear you talking about difficult things, about deadlines that were impossible to meet and yet–you somehow managed to meet them at the end (or at least you fell just short of meeting them). Once again, it is your attitude that matters…


Describe the situation when you were unable to reach the target. What was the reason for it? Why did it happen?

Failures belong to life – both personal and professional. Good managers do not pretend to be impeccable. Oppositely, they are well aware of their failures, becasue they know that one learns in hard times, that failure is a best teacher (unless we experience nothing but failures).

We want to hear that you tried your best, that you worked hard (perhaps overtime), that you prioritized the tasks and did everything you could to meet the target. You just failed to do so, and you eventually learned an important lesson in that situation

 

What biggest management problem did you face in your last job?

a good looking interviewer talks to a young job applicant. An illustration of a scene from the interviews. Problem, or a challenge? Tell us about a big problem you faced, how you embraced the experience, and how it has helped you to become a better manager.

Talk about you problem that you eventually managed to address, and solve. Try to speak nicely about the experience, and describe us (step by step), how you proceed and solved the problem.

And if it is your first job application, talk about “management problem” you faced during your studies. Everyone of us has managed something while studying–a school project, a study group, a training program, an event…

 

Other behavioral questions (answers only in the Interview Success Package)

  • Describe a problems of motivation you had in the past.
  • Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
  • Describe a difficult decision you had to make in your professional career. How did making this decision affect you?
  • ….

As you can guess, it is difficult to answer these questions if are are applying for your first job. If it is a case, you should simply say what you would do in a given situation.

Anytime when answering a behavioral question, try to describe a situation with a good outcome. For example, if they ask you to describe the biggest management problem you faced, you should talk about a problem that you eventually managed to solve (even if it wasn’t really the biggest one).

 

It is not only about your answers to interview questions

Charismatic managerLet’s face the truth. Not everyone can become a good manager (at least not in a given moment of their career). If people should listen to someone, if the person should motivate them, they need to meet certain criteria.

Think charisma, understanding for the people, ability to connect with them, and lead them on their way.

Whether you meet these criteria or not is not decisive, however. What matters is whether you can convince the interviewers of meeting them, of having in you all it takes to become a great manager.

Great sales skills–and especially an ability to connect with the recruiters and “sell” them your own skills, will take you a long way in your interview…. Check the questions on our website, prepare good answers, gain confidence, and ace your interview. We wish you good luck!

Sincerely

Matthew Chulaw

Your Personal Interview Coach, author of the content

Check the individual questions now:

Other, external resources we recommend for your interview preparation:

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