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Leaders make or break a team. They can either be the glue that holds a team together, the rocket fuel that generates momentum, or the hole in the boat that eventually sinks it. That’s why it’s so important to get the right people into management positions. Senior leadership interview questions and answers are key to making sure you hire the right people.
A few years ago I was working for a startup that was experiencing world-class growth. We'd 3x'd two years in a row and were on course to hit that same growth trajectory again, but we made one key mistake. We hired a new executive leader who'd never worked in our industry before, or sold to our customer demographic.
The hiring process was pretty standard - we asked them the same interview questions for management candidates (at this point in time we didn't have interview intelligence software) that we would've asked anyone else in their place, we checked their references, and we ran through scenarios proving they could perform in the roles they were being hired to do. But what we should have been doing is asking leadership-specific interview questions to identify whether they had the skills, mindset, and experience needed to thrive (and not just survive) in a rapidly-growing business like ours.
We really liked the candidate and quickly made them an offer. For the first month or so everything was fine, but when we had our first quarterly meeting, we realized that things weren't going as well as we thought. This new leader lacked the knowledge and understanding they needed to make effective decisions, and as a result, our entire team floundered.
We ended the quarter 10% short of "goal" and instead of taking a step back and listening to team feedback on what had worked in the past, this leader pulled the entire marketing and sales system we spent the last two years building out by the roots and tried to re-invent the proverbial wheel. Within a month, prospects stopped responding to our advertising, got confused about what we were truly selling and our entire sales team became demoralized. By the end of the next quarter, half the sales team was turning in their resignations and had left to take on different roles- now more than 40% short of our quarterly goal.
We could've solved this by simply asking better management interview questions from the beginning and resting so much on network referrals and references. Now, we have access to Ai powered tools like Pillar that can analyze a candidate's answers to more targeted and specialized questions during the hiring process.
To help make sure you don't fall into the same trap we did, this article will include some of the best leadership interview questions I've seen to use in your interview process.
The STAR Method is a great way to determine if a candidate has the right leadership skills and experience for a role. It focuses on a four-part framework - beginning with a situation, task, and action and ending with the results of the candidate’s actions. It's a widely used behavioral interview technique that focuses on the specifics of an individual’s work history, allowing you to delve deeper into their experiences and stories without going into too much detail or becoming overly personal.
Examples of STAR interview questions for managers include:
• Describe a situation in which you had to lead a team through a difficult project?
• How did you manage conflicting interests and views from your team members during the process?
• What action steps did you take to ensure everyone was working towards the same goal?
• What were the results of completing that project?
• What did you learn from that experience?
As you can see, first: we asked them to describe a situation, then transitioned into the task that needed to be completed, the actions they took, and the results they achieved. It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers here - what you’re looking for is a clear understanding of the candidate’s experience, how they handled difficult situations, and whether or not their approach could be successful in your own company.
If you'd like to see a sampling of these questions you can check out our blog - we have two resources that I'd highly recommend:
Or, you can schedule a demo to see a library of more than 1000 of these questions within our suite of interview intelligence tools. The questions are categorized by role and organized by topic, so you can quickly and easily find the ones that are best for your needs and add them to the interview as prompts.
To hire great managers, creating candidate scorecards and management questions and answers are essential in the interview process.
My favorite interview question to ask managerial candidates is: "When hiring a manager or team leader, we like to speak with several people they've led in the past. What would your previous team say about you if they knew you'd never hear their responses?"
It's a great way to get insight into the type of leader they are and how people respond to them. It's also useful for getting feedback from people who won't be in the room, as well as gathering intelligence on certain traits you may not have noticed first-hand.
Here are some interview questions for managers with answers to add to your list:
Q: Tell me about the most important job of a manager?
A: A manager’s primary role is to ensure that team members have the resources and support they need to successfully complete tasks and fulfill their duties. This involves setting clear expectations, providing guidance, offering feedback, and tracking progress.
Q: What strategies have you used to successfully motivate a remote team?
A: I find that it’s important to set goals and provide incentives to keep the team motivated. For example, I’ve implemented a reward system whereby team members receive bonuses or rewards for meeting certain milestones. Additionally, I make sure to stay in regular contact with team members by hosting virtual check-ins, coaching, and providing feedback and recognition for a job well done.
Q: How do you ensure that team members are held accountable for their performance?
A: I use a combination of regular performance reviews, individual feedback sessions, and encouraging direct communication between team members and myself. But even more than that, I begin and end every conversation with one question - "How do you feel?" And I have one expectation of them - honesty. I remind them that I will always be there for them but that I can't help if they don't communicate what they need.
Questions like these will show the candidate's insight into the deepest role of a manager- encouraging people. It'll show you how they understand team dynamics, and how they respond to difficult situations. To effectively evaluate managerial candidates, I suggest including these questions in both your interviewer training documents and the video interview platform you use to assess candidates.
First-time manager interview questions and answers are the hardest to prepare for. It’s hard for a candidate to know what they don't know, and hard for an interviewer to assess someone who's been an IC (individual contributor) and is now taking on the responsibility of managing people.
Here are some interview questions to ask a potential manager that can help you get an idea of how they will handle the position:
Q: How do you ensure your team members stay engaged and motivated?
A: I start by setting clear objectives and expectations for them, in terms of what they need to achieve. Additionally, I prioritize regular communication, providing feedback when needed, and encouraging open dialogue. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together towards a common goal.
Q: How have you handled conflicts between team members in the past?
A: When conflicts happen between team members, my first step is to have an open conversation with each party first and then both parties together to identify the source of the conflict. I then use active listening techniques to understand their perspectives, while also offering guidance to help each person work through their differences. Ultimately, my goal is to help them resolve the issue in a productive way and rebuild team rapport.
Q: What strategies have you used to gather ideas from your team?
A: My strategy is to create an open and safe environment, where team members feel comfortable enough to voice their thoughts and opinions without fear of being judged. This can be done by setting up a brainstorming session or having weekly check-in meetings where everyone has the opportunity to share their ideas. Additionally, I like to reward employees for offering viable solutions to the problems we're facing as a team. This encourages others to come up with innovative ways of tackling issues.
These questions will help you evaluate how the candidate approaches, communicates and evaluates all aspects of their management role. Ultimately, it will provide insight into their leadership abilities and potential effectiveness as a manager.
If you're in the midst of hiring managers and have been frustrated by either the results that you're getting or the current hiring process you have in place, schedule a demo with our team. Pillar's mission is to help you hire better managers. Let us show you how our innovative interview intelligence software and tailored approach can help you find and hire top talent. Our suite of tools will make your interview process more effective and efficient - we guarantee it!