Interview questions for managers

Whenever a question begins with a specific request such as “Tell me about a time,”or “Can you give me an example… ,” the answer will require that you relate a specific incident in which you performed an action.


The formula for a strong story is to tell the interviewer “Why you did it,” “What you did,” and “What the outcome was.” In other words, the story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Remember to listen to the question and determine if the interviewer is asking for “a” time or “an” example and, if so, then answer the question with a specific example.

Manager interview question about “Motivating Others”

Question: “Tell me about a time when you motivated a team in a unique way.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I am a manager who recognizes and rewards hard work. I had a team who came to the rescue with a project that required three months of overtime—weekends and evenings. I made sure that all members of the team talked to me about their family situation and whether it was causing a strain and what they were doing about having some fun outside of work. I rewarded each person with a certificate for a weekend away at a local beach resort when the project ended successfully. I believe in life balance, and I think that is the reason the turnover rate at this company is several digits below the average.”

■ “As a manager of a customer service team, I have found that competition motivates the employees and they have fun competing. I have set it up so that they earn points for meeting certain goals or plateaus. At the end of the month they cash in the points for merchandise from the ‘company store’ or for things like movie tickets or dinner coupons.
The morale in the department stays high, and there is a great deal of camaraderie relating to these contests.”

■ “In the sales industry it is very common to have ceremonies to reward top performers. I had been on the receiving end of such rewards when I was a sales rep and found that after a while I had a whole bookshelf full of beautiful trophies that weren’t doing anybody any good. When I became the person in charge of selecting awards, I came up with a unique idea to give engraved golf clubs, watches, or luggage as the awards. It was a big change from tradition, but most people were really motivated by a more practical gift.We had a wonderful year that year, and a lot of people walked away with some great gifts.”

Delegation in Management role

Question: “How do you manage through delegation?”

Possible Answers:

■ “At my last company, I had the accountability of setting standards for the group and for being a role model for the other managers.While others gave appreciated input, it was ultimately my job to meet the goals. I set the course of direction and then made sure the other managers and supervisors were onboard with me. My management style is to let each manager run his or her department as a small business. I stayed in touch through one-on-one and group meetings and by making myself available to deal with issues and problems as needed. Although I led the team, the team itself accomplished the goals.”

■ “Deadlines are a way of life in my business.We had a publication deadline, and it was not a choice between quality and making the deadline.We had to produce both. I brought in some outside production editors to make sure that the team members weren’t stretched so tight that they were making major errors.We made the deadline, and no one ever knew that we almost killed ourselves to do it. I rewarded each team member with a night on the town.”

■ “One thing I learned early in my career is that no one person makes a project successful. I may lead my team toward the bigger picture or goal, but it is the individual team members who carry out the implementation of the project. My strong communication and organizational skills keep the project on track and moving in the right direction, but ultimately it is my ability to motivate and coach the team members that has made me a successful manager.”

Ability to Influence Others

Question: “Tell me about a time when you were able to convince others that you had a better idea or way of doing things.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I worked with a team of product development people to come up with a new product. I was the liaison between the marketing and product development teams.The ideas had to be communicated back and forth between groups. I was the person who had to come up with creative ideas to appease both groups while not offending egos. It was the most challenging project I’ve ever worked, on but it was also one of the most successful.We were able to come up with a winning product and a successful campaign launch.”

■ “While working as a project manager, I analyzed the latest data provided and found a flaw in our system. I put together a spreadsheet and presented it to management as well as to my team. I was able to demonstrate what needed to be changed and to justify the cost involved. My team backed my findings, and I was able to influence management to agree to put in a new system at great cost but that in the end would show excellent savings.”

■ “My writing ability has allowed me to present the facts, but it also gives me an opportunity to present ideas within my own framework. I worked with a team of graphic designers to come up with the Web site for our company. Although the design was very important, the words I wrote blended to make a complete message.The site has been recognized as a top Web site in the industry.”

Communication Style

Question:“Tell me about a time when your communication style influenced a decision.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I was the key contact during the labor negotiations of a contract dispute. As the leader of the negotiations in one particular case I was able to let the opposing side know that I heard its issues and that we were trying to accomplish a compromise. At the same time, we weren’t willing to give in completely on some of the key points. Because they saw that I was being open, they trusted me and talked to me openly. In the end we were able to satisfy both sides.”

■ “I am an experienced presenter and often make presentations to groups of major decision makers.There was a particular time that I spoke to key decision makers in a multimillion dollar investment firm. By finding out what their expectations and needs were in the beginning and letting them know that I understood their expectations, I was able to influence them to buy our entire system.”

■ “I find the key to successful communications and sales is to see the problem from the customer’s point of view. I had a customer who did not think he needed my product. He was only going to hear me out because he liked me. I began by asking him about his business, and once I started questioning him, I found out that he would benefit greatly from the product. I spent almost four hours talking to him about his business and what we could do for him.The problem was that no one had taken the time to listen to his needs. People just started selling to him. I ended up with a good customer as a result of listening.”

Decision Making Question and Answers

Question: “Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision that you knew would be unpopular.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I consider myself a strong manager who is open to suggestions. I had one experience in which I had to make a decision that was not well accepted by my staff. It involved cutting one of the benefits they were receiving. I had a meeting and announced the news to the staff. It was greeted with a great deal of anger and frustration. I listened and addressed every question that was asked of me. I had done my research and homework and was able to use facts to demonstrate that the cost-benefit ratio was not in line with good business decisions.They left less upset than when they first heard the news, but it took some time for the bad feelings to go away completely. I believe that talking with them intelligently and using facts made a difference in their feelings in the long run.”

■ “There was a time when I hired a manager from outside the organization.This was met with hard feelings by some of the contenders for the job who had been passed over. I took a hard stand, even though it was not a popular one. I talked to the disgruntled individuals one-on-one and tried to explain my reasons. Although it is not my preferred style, I had to exercise my authority here. I have to admit there were some tense days to live through at that time, but I firmly believed that I knew what was best for the long haul, and it turned out I was right.”

■ “As part of management, I realize that my decisions will not always be viewed as positive. One of those times was when I had to make a quick decision to buy advertising at a special rate in order to achieve a quick roll out of a time-sensitive product. I had analyzed the budget and was attempting to gain maximum leverage. I was later criticized for not having consulted the team and getting input. My decision was made based on getting the most value for the least amount of money. Fortunately for me, the project rolled out in a timely manner and was quite successful.”