“Tell me about a situation where you exceeded the expectations of your role.” This is a typical request during an interview for a leadership role and is a good indicator of what the focus of other questions will be. Nevertheless, though preparation for your interview is essential, you should refrain from memorizing rote answers to typical interview questions – allowing your personality to shine in the moment is equally as important as being prepared for the questions.
Managers need to understand and support their employer and the market they operate in and must have a keen grasp of the corporate strategy and philosophy; only then can they really fit in with the company. Managers and – thus the top candidates for the position – must be personable, authentic and trustworthy. They ensure their actions speak as loudly as their words so they can influence their employees and win over their colleagues and superiors.
If you are applying for a management position, you must be prepared to be thoroughly tested – and “average” answers to interview questions for senior management positions simply won’t be good enough.
Interview question No. 1: When do you know you have delivered something outstanding?
Your answer to this question will highlight what factors motivate you. Headhunters particularly are looking for whether you are motivated more by positive assessments, praise or bonuses than by responsibilities and results.
If you primarily describe the way you solved a problem and the amount of work that went into it, you are showing the former. To demonstrate that you value the latter more, describe the quantifiable targets and the results achieved. Truth be told, the question is designed to establish the bar by which you measure your and your employees’ performance, and how results-oriented you are.
Interview question No. 2: What should we associate with your name?
This interview question is about your personality. Your answer shows what is important to you, what personality type you represent and how you wish to be perceived within the organization. In particular, the interviewer wants to establish:
- Your professional values and ambitions
- Your motivation to contribute new ideas
- Your ability to actively shape your future responsibilities
- Your honesty in terms of self-assessment and with colleagues
- The extent to which your actions match your words
- Your leadership style
In this situation, you should put the needs and interests of the company before your own.
Interview question No. 3: What traits does a good manager need to succeed?
Headhunters and senior managers are interested in your management skills. Illustrate how you have been influential in previous positions. How do you manage conflicts within your team? How do you motivate your employees? What abilities does your management style highlight? How do you deal with crisis situations? Describe examples of how you have realigned your team to new goals and guided them to achieve their target.
The following factors are important to success: let your interviewer know that:
- Your sights are firmly fixed on corporate goals and you know how to achieve them
- You trust your employees, listen to them, value them and lead them as a team player
- You want to build team spirit through open and honest communication
- You understand and use various, flexible leadership techniques
Interview question No. 4: What will your employees learn from you?
This interview question has more behind it and delves deep into a candidate’s psyche. Headhunters get a precise indication of your personality and management qualities. Highlight concrete examples from your past to ace this question, but be aware of the following:
- Avoid answers that come across as boastful or arrogant – “My skills are unique” may sound like a clever answer, but you should avoid such banalities in an interview.
- Show that you were not only a leader but also a facilitator for your team.
- Highlight the value you bring and the benefits you want to give to your employees.
- Explain how you plan to develop and encourage your employees.
- Demonstrate how you use coaching to support your employees in their efforts to progress.
- State which of your own characteristics and abilities you are proud of.
Interview question No. 5: Can you successfully deal with underperforming employees?
Your answer will establish your management style – in particular, if you are very demanding and quickly categorize a member of staff as an underperformer, or if you first review an employee’s performance after sustained shortcomings. Here, explain the reasons for your specific reactions based on individual circumstances.
Furthermore, the human resources manager is interested in how your management style helps your employees to perform better. They want to know if your methods of management are motivational or authoritarian.
In the end, it comes down to how you judge your results. Here, your cognition, objectivity and self-criticism are key. Discuss:
- What style was successful
- The actions that yielded results other than those you expected
- What damage limitation you undertook
- Your lessons for the future
Naturally, this is just a small collection of questions that your interviewer may ask. Top candidates for management positions can find more information regarding possible questions as well as additional useful tips on our website. That being said, regardless of the questions you are asked, remember that your confidence should be apparent in each and every answer you provide. With confidence levels that exceed even the highest levels of preparation, you are sure to excel as you progress along your professional journey.