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Name ten qualities of an ideal manager.
Well done. You've just described Captain America. No biggie.
He’s a natural.
Prove you're his carbon copy when answering interview questions for managers. Be the perfect candidate recruiters are looking for.
This guide will give you:
- Top 10 manager interview questions based on situational and behavioral interview techniques.
- Manager interview questions and answers to help you prepare and land your dream job.
- STAR-model answer examples for situational and behavioral interview questions for managers.
- Additional manager interview questions you may expect from recruiters.
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Looking for more interview questions? See:
- Best Informational Interview Questions
- Common Phone Interview Questions
- Situational Questions for Interviews
- Top 10 Interview Questions
- Questions to Ask an Interviewer
- Expert Tips for Interviews
- Best Tips for Zoom Interviews
- How to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions
Don't worry. You got this.
Take a look at the list of common questions recruiters ask managers during interviews and STAR-model answers:
1. Could you tell me about a time when you improved your ideas based on your teammate's suggestion?
Your interviewer has no mercy. They've brought out the big guns already.
Why is that, though?
Among many things, your job is to retain talent. But without listening to your employees, their needs, and opinions, you're doomed to fail. Miserably.
Prove with your answer that your team has a say.
Situation: We conduct regulatory spot checks for our finance department in England every summer.
Task: This year, the team had to complete the process for the Scottish employees, too. So I established a universal process for all employees, and the management approved it.
Action: My team member rightfully noted that we didn't have to ask for a signature from the Scottish employees to start the whole process. Whereas in England, we had to. She ran her finding with legal and was right.
Result: Thanks to her initiative, we reduced this particular process to one e-mail and completed Scottish checks way ahead of schedule.
It wasn't so difficult, was it?
Notice there's a trick to coming up with the best answers.
It's the STAR method technique to disarm interview questions for managers:
- Start by describing a Situation.
- Move on to an assigned Task.
- Point out the Action you took.
- Show off the final Result.
That way, you'll avoid follow-up questions from recruiters probing for more detailed answers and clutching their teeth while waiting for you to slip up.
Find more STAR-model answer examples in our guide and get some practice: How To Make A STAR Interview Answer And Land Jobs
2. Would you give me an example of when you had to deliver negative feedback?
You received feedback countless times, but what about delivering it? It's easier to appreciate a point of advice or admit to your mistake than to tell others they could've done better.
Being a leader means directing people towards better results, and it's no picnic.
Show your recruiter you're ready for the dark side of the job, too.
I ran an internal communications department at a bank. One of my team members took care of our company’s newsletter. He had a task to produce a loaded newsletter with the bank’s quarterly results. The tone of voice he used for the newsletter surprised me. It was inappropriate for a business environment. I decided to set up a meeting with my coworker and explain why the newsletter needed a rewrite. The session took us around an hour and a half. I wanted my employee to have all the time he needed to ask questions and dispel any doubts about the edits. At the end of our meeting, he suggested using his example to refresh the writing style rules at a team meeting. It was a fruitful meeting that led to significant engagement from the bank employees. And my team appreciated the short reminder of the dos and don’ts.
3. How do you delegate responsibilities within the team?
Recruiters want to learn how you approach task distribution among your team members and prioritize and evaluate each task.
That's management 101.
So, make Peter Drucker proud with your answer.
This kind of interview question can be used for first-time managers, too, as it helps determine whether you're eager to take on a leadership role and how you handle a group.
Remember to refer to the level of freedom you give to your teammates or control you have over their performance!
I strongly believe in delegating tasks based on the level of knowledge and skill, plus the person’s capacity. Together with the team, we discuss what’s about to happen and who’s the best choice for the task at hand.
Last year, we took over the process from another department. It wasn’t a complex one, so I assigned the least experienced team member to do it. I was aware she already had the necessary knowledge and skills, and wanted to involve her in more ambitious matters. I’d noticed that she didn’t feel confident about the task, so I assured her that she had my full support, and if she’d needed me to be present at the stakeholder meetings, I’d be there. We built a takeover plan together, and she led the project from then on. The takeover went flawlessly. I was happy that we created a space where my team member wasn’t afraid of asking me, the stakeholders, and our team questions. It resulted in no understatements and a clear workflow. The team was really happy with how easy the process was for them to understand.
4. Could you tell me about a time when you noticed a drop in motivation in your most experienced employee?
Everyone struggles with motivation. Especially after holidays. sigh
But it's not always the case of a too-long vacation.
Is it not?
Employees may feel down because of unmanageable work-life balance, outside blockers to meet deadlines, or being exposed to stress for a long time.
That's when you come in and help solve the problem. Either because you noticed their struggles, or the team trust you enough to come to you when they feel stuck.
My teammate was building an external microsite for the supply chain department. There were tons of meetings to understand the product portfolio. But, unfortunately for her, the supply chain lead had changed in the middle of the project. And they had a completely different vision for the site. They asked my teammate to forget all the ideas she’d worked on and start anew. I noticed her drop in motivation immediately because it affected the quality of her work. She started accepting all ideas without thinking them through. She wanted to get the job done fast. I decided to speak to her to boost her confidence and reassure her of her skills. I knew she’d negotiate better terms with the stakeholders. As a result, she scheduled an ad-hoc presentation, including the supply chain lead’s suggestions, with what should stay and go. My team member met with heads nodding in agreement. And the end product received very positive feedback from external users.
5. What do you do to build positive team culture?
What's your way of building healthy relationships and approach to work?
How do you manage your employees' expectations?
What values do you build your team culture on?
Tell your hiring manager you're a Helen Keller fan and show how you implement cooperation into your team's daily routine.
As an entry-level manager, referring to playing team sports will boost your chances of scoring.
I see building a positive team culture as talking openly to each other, creating an inclusive environment, and taking care of our wellbeing. There are plenty of strategies you can implement depending on the team you have. What worked best for us was having large team breakfasts every month. Sometimes we invited other teams to join us. Every team member brought something they prepared, baked, or cooked, and we had an hour to ourselves. We talked about everything but the job. We had a rule that if anyone said something about work, they had to put a dollar in our team’s piggy bank that we spent on sweets. This simple breakfast habit helped us forget about the stress for a while, make connections, and understand each other better, which later proved valuable in our daily job.
6. Could you tell me about a time when you had your team's back?
You don't necessarily need to carry your teammates piggyback to prove yourself. And using this as an example will make the recruiter suspicious of the relationships with your employees.
Go easy this time.
Show recruiters that you identified a situation where your team needed support and delivered to their needs.
My team moved processes from one vendor to another, which required us to walk our stakeholders through the changes. We prepared a presentation that explained the impact it’d have on their side. When one of my team members had been in the middle of delivering it, one of the stakeholders started questioning our policies. I noticed a bit of struggle on my employee’s end to get back to the presentation, so I decided to step in. I highlighted that it wasn’t the point of that day’s meeting and that I’d be happy to explain the policies to him the following week. The stakeholder respectfully agreed, and after the meeting, my employees thanked me for my support.
7. Would you describe a situation where you had to let an employee go?
It's never easy to tell another person they're losing their job. But someone has to do it. And since you're the manager, it's always going to be you.
Once, a fresh application support specialist joined my team. We discussed how we work and communicate, and set their goals for the next three months. We had weekly one-on-one meetings during the probation period to make sure we were on the same page. After a while, I noticed that my team member struggled with completing their tasks. The team confirmed they hadn’t been asked for help, too. I took it to our weekly huddle. We went through some examples to see what the problem was. I assured my team members that they can always come to the team or me and ask questions if they struggle. I also needed to make it explicit that unfinished tasks would have unpleasant consequences for our team and eventually them. Before we closed the meeting, we discussed ways of improving my employee’s performance, to which they agreed. Unfortunately, not much changed in the next month. My coworker didn’t complete many tickets, and those they did complete had significant mistakes. I decided to let the employee go. We arranged a meeting involving an HR representative and discussed why I’d taken such a decision. And without sugarcoating, I thanked the employee for contributing to building a positive atmosphere in the team. In the end, we scheduled the shipping of their belongings.
8. How do you translate the company's goals into your team's strategy?
That serves to determine whether you understand how you and the team fit into the company's scheme.
So, explain your ways of breaking down the overall company's targets and translating them into your and your team's KPIs.
Piece of cake, amirite?
In the end, make sure to describe how you talk about the goals with your team. You need to convince the hiring manager you help your team understand the value they create by doing their job.
At the beginning of each onboarding, managers explain the values we hold on to in everything we do to their new hires. So during the presentation to our new writer, I made sure to describe each of the four values and how they fit into their yearly goals. That way, our employees are aware those aren’t only empty words, but actual indicators of one’s performance. Thanks to my presentation, my team knows the importance they play in the content team. They know that what they produce as writers affects other departments. No one has ever under-delivered their targets.
9. How would you describe your management style?
On the scale, from Larry Ellison to John F. Kennedy, how much laissez-faire are you? Or perhaps you prefer the good cop, bad cop style?
Whatever your strategy is, you'd better be flexible. A good leader knows they need to choose methods working for their team, not the other way around.
How should you know what to say?
Tailor your response to your future position. If you're going to work in sales, mention what approach you'd take as a sales lead, e.g., trends are changing fast, and your marketers need to stay on top to get leads, so it'd be good to invest in their long-term development and professional training.
I believe the best management style is a flexible one. You need to adjust your methods to what’s necessary at that particular moment, like team bonding activities, stepping in and taking over, or letting the experienced team run on its own and report progress.
I led a project team some time ago that involved people from various departments. Suddenly the team started to underdeliver. I learned it was a miscommunication that sparked negative feelings towards the project team members. I designed some fun and communications-based tasks for the team to strengthen their teamwork skills to overcome this. It took several games to make sure every person spoke to each other, and in the end, we had a brainstorming session. Its purpose was to discover which communication style worked best. Guess what happened. The productivity between the departments doubled, and we beat the sales target by 12%.
You’ll hear this question in your interview for a manager position. You can bet on it. Read our guide to prepare the best answer: Tell Me More About Your Management Style
10. How do you build trust in your team?
That one is a cousin of the management style question.
Do you micromanage, or you're happy with your employees growing into their roles with freedom?
Exactly. Making room for growth and freedom builds trust.
And there's more to it, like open communication between you and your teammates, confidence in your employees' strengths, and a level of autonomy in decision-making.
Revolve around those five areas when building your answer.
That year, the peak season hit us hard. Before Q4, I spoke with the team about the nearest workload projections and their capacity. The situation didn’t look good. We usually would’ve filled in a temporary worker position, but it happened that there’d been a recruitment freeze for a while then. I spoke openly with the team about the freeze and that it wouldn’t be possible to add a headcount at that moment. I suggested preparing training sessions for volunteers in other departments about matters they could quickly help us with. In addition, I dedicated a few hours a day to help out with the project. The team was pleased with how we navigated the difficult circumstances. And they appreciated that I contributed to reducing the team’s workload.
Additional Interview Questions Managers Should Prep For
You know now the skills and personality traits you need to prove during a manager interview. But—
It's a job interview like any other, so you'd better prepare for questions that have to do with your motivation, problem-solving mindset, and skills outside an ideal leader folder.
Here's a bunch of general interview questions at a manager level you should take a look at:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me something that's not on your resume.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- Tell me about a conflict you faced at work and how you dealt with it.
- What type of work environment do you prefer?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- What made you apply for this position?
- What makes you a good fit for this position?
- Why are you leaving your current position?
- How would your coworkers describe you?
- How would your boss describe you?
When coming up with answers for such questions, use the STAR method as well. And stay relevant at all times. Your responses should always relate to the skillset, qualities, and experience your employer desires.
So, take another deep look at the job description before your interview. It'll give you all the information you need to nail it!
Internal Interview Questions for Manager Candidates
The previous examples work for both internal and external manager candidates.
But when you're preparing for an internal move, you'll hear even more detailed questions about the company.
You've got the potential to become a mature and more visible representative of the company's values, so recruiters will do everything to make sure you're up for it.
It'll be your job to prove you not only understand the company's goals but that you're ready to keep the ball rolling and have others follow suit.
See the questions directed at internal candidates for supervisors:
- What made you want to work for us?
- What was the biggest lesson you learned with us?
- What was the biggest accomplishment you made while working for us?
- What do you like most about your current role?
- What do you not like about your current role?
- What situation at our company prepared you for this position?
- What would you do if you were accepted for the new position?
- What would you do if you weren't accepted for the new position?
- What would you change if you got the post?
- What does your manager think about you moving on to another team?
- What makes you the strongest candidate for the position?
- Why should we hire an internal candidate instead of an external one?
Recruiters always dig deeper into what drives internal potentials to change roles. And they stay on high alert at this stage of the interview. So, if dragging your colleagues or boss through the mud comes to your mind, drop it. And keep it outside the interview room for your success's sake.
The Unusual and Unexpected Managerial Interview Questions
Oddball questions that leave you speechless are a thing. And there's a method in this madness.
Hiring managers will test your composure to see how you manage random situations. The brainteaser questions strip confidence off you and lay bare your creativity and critical-thinking skills.
You can't leave 'em without an answer.
Why don't you have a go with the below brainteaser interview question examples?
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
- If you were an animal, what type would you be and why?
- If you were God, what would you do?
- If you won the lottery, what would you do?
- What is the best way to tell whether a fridge light really turns off when you close it?
- You've been given an elephant. You can't give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?
"That's crazy. How to think of the best answer for such questions?"
Just take a deep breath and relax.
Expect the unexpected, and don't let recruiters intimidate you.
Take a second to think about the purpose of their question.
- What skills is it about? Communication, conflict resolution, teamwork?
- What does it have to do with leadership?
- What can I say to link to managing a team?
When you figure that out, only then formulate your answer.
Don't rush it!
And you will make it out alive.
Here’s what you need to remember about your managerial interview in a nutshell:
- Interview questions for managers revolve around leadership personality traits and navigating through difficult and uncomfortable situations. Make sure you have a few of such examples up your sleeve to refer to.
- Practice your STAR answers (ideally out loud) before meeting face to face with your recruiter.
- Walk in the interview with confidence. You know now to expect and handle the unexpected, so use it to your advantage.
Now tell us—
Do you have questions about first-time manager interviews? Perhaps we missed key manager interview questions? Give us a shout in the comments! Let's get the conversation rolling.