The first time I asked for a promotion to become a manager, I was rejected. To keep me motivated (I think), I was given a Supervisor title without a pay increase or a team. That rejection forced me to search for answers on what managers hiring for managers look for.
Accepting a manager role is often seen as an upward movement where one’s dedicated work has been recognized.
If you are in a team leadership position now, reflect on what your organization was looking for when you were promoted. You may conclude it was the quality or speed of your work that was admired. While your conclusion may be true, the more likely reason to promote an individual to a manager role is to spread the same admired qualities in you to many others.
How to ace a management interview?
This man changed my perspective on leadership a decade back. He is tall with greyed out hair and the kind of laugh that makes you chuckle along with a lame joke.
I met him in a job interview, to lead a team for a telecommunication giant’s new product line. I already met with the recruiting manager and future reporting team members. This man was my last interviewer.
An advisor to the hiring manager, he wasn’t the decision maker but he was an influencer.
What are interview questions for a manager position?
I was nervous, I wanted the job badly. He sat in front of me, without the same 20 pages of questions the previous interviewer had. He didn’t smile.
Instead, he coughed out:
Why do you want to lead this team?
I shifted in my seat, but only slightly. I remembered the signs of interview anxieties to avoid. Don’t: blink, compress lips, play with hair, yawn, or touch face and hand. Geez, what can I do to not betray my nervousness?!
‘Snap out of it Vy, get back to his question, QUICK!’ my inside voice screamed.
How to answer the manager interview question?
Conventional practice said to talk about the courageous decisions I made. Or the innovative products I launched. Unsure why but those points fell silent. After a few discreet swallows, I responded with the feelings that poured out.
I told my story. I had five years of managerial experience and learned primarily from wrong leadership style choices. I realized what works to motivate one person has the opposite effect on another. I shared my passion to keep learning about ways to inspire people and their work. I finished with saying:
I want to lead this team to help them be their best
He made no movement or sound to give away his opinion of my babble. He moved on and warned of the position’s challenges. He called it a big job, in terms of hours and headaches, for the right person.
I thanked him for his time. To this influential man, I just confessed my earliest management mistakes. And admitted I was still learning about ways to motivate teams. I blew it. His body language said it loud and clear that I was not the right person for the job.
I was born in the sign of Libra, described as happy-go-lucky. And that year, lady luck was with me. The largest telecom company in Canada hired me.
Here’s the opportunity for you to reflect on why you want to become or stay on as a manager. If it’s for any other reasons than to care and develop your team, there are better career opportunities out there.
If you genuinely want to live behind the scenes and build more experts and leaders, then share this with the hiring manager.
Heartbeat fast moment
Replaced by crazy-happy dance feeling
I spent five happy years at that company alongside a memorable team. The man and I had a moment together before I left. At a Toronto patio, sharing a pitcher of beer and reminiscing about my early days.
The man asked about that day when I got the job offer. ‘Why didn’t you negotiate for more money or perks?’
I replied because I thought there were other candidates way more qualified at the same stage. I didn’t want to hurt my chances of being hired by asking for more.
He smiled that rare grin. Then said, ‘You were the right choice for a manager because you cared more about elevating your team.’
He groaned about what other candidates said. He cited their reasons, to get work done faster, to have more responsibilities, to make decisions, or to create my own plans.
Mr. C, I’ll call him, gifted me my favourite leadership interview question.
What are examples of leadership skills?
People who are asked to lead are often seen as reliable, solutions oriented, and business savvy. The check if you’re hiring for leadership qualities is if these qualities have been taught to others.
they are responsible and can be counted on.
Problem solver —
they rarely complain because they’re too busy finding solutions
Business savvy —
they get the economics of work and understand time is a scarce commodity
These self-motivating and results oriented individuals are natural selections for leadership roles. However, the acquired skills like the ones above, are only valuable to businesses if they can be passed on to more team members.
What are good questions to ask a manager in an interview?
If you’re on the other side of the table searching for your next manager, listen for the candidate who can teach others how to be dependable, creative problem solvers, and have business sense.
Ask how and in what situations have they altered another colleague’s work approach by educating and elevating them.
How do you teach others?
The managers I have learned from used various styles to create a new way of thinking. They didn’t regurgitate articles or dropped a text book on my desk. They acted out the behaviour, and showed me how it could be practically applied.
Patience is needed by great managers (teachers) to allow practice and many slip-ups to achieve success.
High standards is necessary from great managers. Easy managers who have patience for poor performance only teach lazy thinking is acceptable.
How do you help others to succeed?
When the motivation for others to succeed is high, the willingness to be patient, teach, and demand excellence comes naturally.
Many managers have the formula to become successful on their own. Though showing others how to apply their winning techniques is harder. And it grows more talent for a company.
I have conducted years of manager role searches and still get easily drawn to stellar individual successes. Their achievements often outshine mine and I want to hire them right away. BUT the experiences from wrong hires have taught me to take extra time to find those with a motivation to help others.
Hiring a manager is one of the heaviest weighted accountability. Because the function creates others like them. When hiring a new leader, we must ask if we want the person we are looking at cloned at our organization.
Why do YOU want to manage people?
Certainly there will be variances in each recruiter’s motivation for the needs of a team manager. Technical expertise or delivery management may appear at first to be of highest importance. Though if we look at our own experiences, the best managers we have worked with showed they care in our development while still delivering on clients’ and businesses’ needs.
The common check-in question I receive on, ‘How’s your team doing?’ is an indicator that businesses look for helpfulness as a quality in managers.
I appreciate your valuable time to read this. For more of my reflections on the life of work, follow ‘vee’ — thanks :)