How to Interview Aspiring Managers

How to Interview Aspiring Managers

It is a common phenomenon in sports: After the best athletes retire, they are in a belief that they can transition to a coaching career seamlessly – only to fail miserably right away.

Same thing goes with managerial positions. Managers mostly do not make managers by actually managing people, but by being the most promising employee in the firm. There is of course no rule dictating every high rising star made manager is destined to fail, but Carter Cast, Professor at the Kellogg School of Management, argues that the stellar employee pond might not be the only one to fish from when it comes to promoting people.

It can be difficult to know who will stand out in a position of leadership, since the skills making someone a great individual contributor do not always translate to being great at team leadership.  Prof Cast, who also formerly operated as CEO of, knows a thing or two about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to managers in action.

When interviewing future managers, you should look for the following three skills:

Self-awareness: How realistic and honest can they be about their abilities? Do they know what they’re good at and where they have to improve? Do they know their very own trigger points and stuff that brings them over the edge? To assess this skill in an interview, Cast suggests asking the following: “Give me an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And tell me how you make adaptations at work accordingly.” Also, “tell me about a time that you failed and tell me what you learned about it from a personal standpoint.”

Trust in others: When you are in charge and responsible for a team, it can be hard at first to give up some control. Trust in your team members has to be learnt for some. If you cannot let go, Cast predicts, you most certainly will end up micromanaging your team members. “ They never teach their subordinates how to fish. They try to fish for them.” Cast says. What you need are people who know when to step back and let the team flourish, do their thing, but at the same time know when a worker truly needs help and guidance, and then step in to offer a helping hand. Good managers are mentoring managers.

Listening skills: Good managers are also listening managers, who ensure that their employees feel heard. As a safe way to assess this in interviews, Cast recommends letting the interview handle a hypothetical scenario where one of their employees has refused to get on board with a team project. How would they react? Listening managers would say something like: “Tell me more about why you can't support this. I want to understand this better,” Cast says. You want to hear “clarifying questions that summarize what the employee is telling them and then the manager tries to solve it. What you don’t want to hear is that “they immediately get defensive and say, ‘well, you have to support us, it's in the budget!’”

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