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Four Tips for Interviewing for Your First Management Role

Making the transition from individual contributor to manager can mean a big change in your career, and it starts with landing the role. Hopeful managers may be intimidated by their lack of management experience in the workplace, but fear not – here are some proven ways to show hiring managers you are ready to take the lead.

1. Share experience from your personal life.

Even if you haven’t managed anyone before, there are ways to demonstrate you’ve been a good leader. Think about examples from your personal life. 

When I was first starting out in my career, I was asked during an interview how I would handle a sensitive situation. I described a time when 15 friends and I rented a beach house and because of excessive cars and street parking issues, had to deal with ongoing visits from the police. In response, I created a system where we took turns parking in a nearby public lot. It wasn’t popular at first, but eventually, I was able to get buy-in and the process worked. Volunteering to be the first person to park my car in the lot helped.

The President of the company hired me. The example showed my ability to manage peers through a difficult process while demonstrating my willingness to do what was unpopular for the best of the team. Don’t be afraid to use personal examples to showcase your leadership skills and potential. 

2. Use real-life examples of leadership qualities.

If you don’t yet have official, professional experience, talk about other ways you have demonstrated leadership. Hiring managers are likely open to a variety of examples; captain of a sports team, organizer of social events or being the lead on personal projects like a volunteer opportunity or a big vacation with friends. Even something like pulling together the softball team at work shows a lot about a person.

You can convey other leadership qualities, too, like communication and persuasion. One quality of an effective leader is the ability to communicate with different levels and different types of people, and to adjust cadence and style based on the situation. You may have a more relaxed style with a close peer and step it up for senior leaders.

Being persuasive is also a desired skill. Without being a bully or using intimidation, a hiring manager wants to see your ability to state your case, share the benefits, hear others’ opinions and steer the group to consensus. 

3. Show you can be hands-on and do the work.

Most first-time managers are “Player/Coach,” meaning they need to produce as well as lead the team. If you are interviewing for this type of role, first demonstrate you can do the parts of the job that are not management. Interviewing for a sales manager role? Show the hiring manager you will be a strong sales person, then demonstrate how you can be a successful leader. 

In addition to contributing to the team, you will show that you can lead by example and put in the hard work you are asking of the people you will be managing. 

4. Be prepared for commonly asked questions.

Prepare for your interview by anticipating potential questions. The more you plan, the more confident you will be during the interview. Some of the questions often asked of people interviewing for manager-level roles are below, and can be tweaked when I know the person is interviewing for their first management position.

  • What is your management style?
  • Are you a micromanager? Give examples of how you are or are not.
  • How do you handle conflict?
  • How do you support your team?

In addition to anticipating questions that will be asked of you, ask the hiring manager thoughtful questions that can give you another opportunity to understand the kinds of leaders the company is looking to attract. For example:

  • What do you look for in a manager?
  • What qualities do your most successful leaders possess?
  • How are the leaders in the organization supported?

Interviewing for your first management role is an exciting time to think about your strengths and accomplishments as a leader, and to make sure those points are articulated during your interviews. Don’t let your lack of professional management experience deter you from going for it.

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