Running Your Business

Qualities of a Good Manager: 10 Revealing Interview Questions


  • Specialized interview questions can reveal if an applicant would make a good manager

  • Try to inquire about their department's culture and what changes they would implement

  • Look for answers that match your own management style and reveal empathy, communication and delegation skills, creativity and diplomacy

Posted by October 2, 2018

In order to maintain a thriving business with productive, engaged employees, it’s important that each leader within the organization exhibits the qualities of a good manager.

Strong managers—who workers can look up to and respect—are key to the success of any organization. If your company is looking to fill a leadership position, there are several crucial characteristics that you must look for when considering candidates.

These 10 interview questions can help you determine whether individual applicants have what it takes to be an effective manager within your organization.

1. “Has your management style changed as you’ve gained experience?”

This question reveals several important leadership traits. First, it will show whether your applicant is willing to admit when they make mistakes. Second, it shows a willingness to evolve over time. It’s important for managers to admit mistakes and continually improve.

2. “How would you describe the culture in your department?”

The candidate’s answer to this query can demonstrate their ability to be objective and reflect. Additionally, it can provide you insight into their understanding around the importance of creating a good culture and building positive team morale. If the applicant struggles with this question, they might be too task-oriented; a good manager should be a combination of task and relationship-oriented.

3. “Tell me how you achieved a project goal when you had a time constraint, small budget or were understaffed”

This type of question can help you tell if the applicant is creative and able to think outside-the-box without putting all the extra responsibility on their staff. A good manager is willing to get in the trenches and help out when times are tough. Effective leaders are adept at allocating resources, delegating and pivoting when scenarios are imperfect.

4. “Do you have a process for mentoring employees?”

This one is really important. A good manager communicates well with their subordinates and cares about their futures as well as their goals. If your applicant has never really considered mentoring others, that might be a red flag.

5. “What is your preferred management style?”

It’s vital for a manager’s style to match the overall management style of the company. You also want to look for self-awareness—do the examples your applicant gave to other interview questions correspond with how they describe their style?

6. “How do you evaluate employees’ success during a performance review?”

This type of question can reveal if the applicant is a micro-manager or takes a more hands-off approach. You could even ask more specific questions relating to how the applicant would evaluate an employee who had exceeded goals but fell short in other areas (for instance, if they were consistently late to work). Another effective question relates to how they would handle a situation where an employee couldn’t find daycare for their child once a week.

The “right” answer will depend on whether you value a more hands-off approach. If you’re OK with staff taking flex time or working from home, then you’ll want to hire managers who feel the same.

7. “What is your favorite technology or digital tool for the workplace?”

In today’s day and age, it’s important that managers are digitally savvy and keep up with the latest trends in technology. Asking the applicant this question can help you get a feel for how in-touch they are with the latest developments.

8. “Do you have references from former employees?”

If the candidate has only managed one person and hasn’t told their company that they are interviewing, then they might not be able to provide references. But in other situations, this question can cut to the heart of an applicant’s leadership skills. This also shows if they treat everyone well—people who can only get references from those in higher positions might only care about the people who can help their career.

9. “Tell me how you would alter your previous employer’s work style”

This will show you if the candidate can traverse that fine line of being able to point out flaws without sounding overly critical or harsh. If the applicant can provide constructive insights regarding their previous employer, this shows they have the awareness and creativity needed to improve upon the style of the manager they are replacing.

10. “Who is your favorite leader or mentor?”

This is a great question to conclude the interview with, as it can provide more insight into the candidate’s motivations. Who does your applicant most admire, and why? Does that person’s style fit with what you’re looking for in a manager?

Of course, no set of questions can uncover every possible flaw or every possible strength in an applicant. But these questions can help reveal if candidates possess the most important qualities of a good manager, such as strong communication skills, creativity and empathy, as well as the ability to delegate and desire to mentor.

Happy employees are productive employees! Looking for a way to further engage your workforce? Check out the offerings included in United Concordia Dental’s Employer Toolkit.

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