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Is Your Candidate a Good Manager?

2016-07-22 09:00:00 +0100 by Miriam Heale


Hiring the right person for the job is always a difficult process. Getting it wrong can cost the business time and money. Hiring a manager can be even more fraught with potential pitfalls as the wrong choice can impact on the running of a department or the morale of an entire team.

As is so often the case, the means to finding out whether or not the candidate in front of you is a good manager or not is down to information and asking the right questions. In the same way that candidates are judged for the quality of questions they ask their interviewer, so too must they be judged on the questions they ask the candidate.

Here are the five areas we believe will help you gauge the quality of the managerial candidate before you.

Managing Conflict

There is no shortage of management styles out there: literally thousands of books guiding people on their managerial journey. No two are the same and some have the odd useful notion on the subject of supporting teams if not managing them directly.

One of the hardest elements of management is dealing with conflict either between two team members or the manager and a team member. Asking a candidate how they would respond to a conflict in the workplace will tell you a great deal not only about their temperament but their ego also.

Those seeking to assert their dominance or feel they are having their authority challenged, may seek to escalate to deescalate: essentially using aggression to prevent any further confrontations. The flaws with this are obvious but sadly is not uncommon. Others may feel too uncomfortable to address the issue and pass the matter up to their superior or ignore it all together. Again, this does nothing to build trust or good relations.

The good managers are the ones who seek a diplomatic solution, validating the feelings and perspectives of those involved. Although the manager may not agree, the individual/s has the right to have their point of view heard.

If you’re feeling creative, a spontaneous role play scenario forces the candidate to put their money where their mouth is, plus gauges their capacity for coping under pressure.

Managing Under Performance

If the role requires direct line management, performance reviews and day-to-day support will be part and parcel of everyday life. For inexperienced managers this can be a real learning curve which is why asking a question on this subject is so important.

Unless your workplace looks like something out of Gelngarry Geln Ross, the days of overt criticism, passive aggression and outright shouting are long behind us. Or at least, they should be.

The right candidate will seek to reassure and reinforce, highlighting the positive elements of the employee’s performance whilst constructively identifying the areas of concern.

Equally they need to have the humility to reflect on their own performance and decide if (a) the assignment was suitable to the employees skills and experience and (b) was the employee adequately supported.

Ultimately a good manager will be able to pin point problems, identify solutions and implement them with minimal disruption or upset to the individual or the team.

What Makes a Good Manager?

This is something of a two pronged answer as there will be those managers who line manage and others who have managerial responsibility, but asking the candidate this question should yield some interesting and insightful answers.

Either way, many of the skills and personality traits will be the same: empathy, positivity, commitment. The ability to plan, think and speak constructively, the capacity to take an interest and care for their colleagues and the business as a whole.

Essentially someone willing to support others in order for them to excel. Moreover, a sign of a really great manager is one who admits that they don’t know everything, that they can’t do it all on their own and heaps praise on the people around him for making him look good.

What you don’t want to hear is meaningless and bullying babble about someone giving one hundred and ten percent, getting the job done, running a tight ship and other cliché nonsense. These are not the managers you want in a progressive business.

Getting the Work Done

This is really the crux of the matter. How will the candidate, whether they manage a team or not, get the work done?

Whatever the size of team the answer should be framed around, organisation and planning. The capacity to delegate or ask for help is also an important sign of leadership. Even a team of one can’t do it all on their own after all.

A good manager will never utter the phrase ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’. The view that one is infallible or superior to others shouldn’t be encouraged.

Similarly, micromanagement is a sure way to undermine team morale and drive an immovable wedge between the management and any one else involved.

Can They Hold a Conversation?

This may seem somewhat unnecessary, but actually engaging a candidate in small talk will give you an indication of how well they would hold a conversation with potential colleagues.

That all important culture fit cannot be understated. Someone can have all the knowledge in the world, but if they are difficult to work with or won’t gel with the existing team then there is no point in hiring them as they’ll be back on the market inside of six months and you are having to recruit again.


In short a good manager has to be equal parts warrior, priest and poet. They need to have drive to get the work done, a source of wisdom and guidance to their colleagues and have the capacity to empathise with, enthuse and embolden those they work with.

It is no easy task. Finding someone that can do all of those things and do the job, even more so. Fortunately for our clients, we’re here to help.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements and how we can find you industry leading management talent. Call now on 01202 888 986.

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