1. Describe your management style
Example answer: I trust my team. I start out every project by making sure that I give clear directions and outline our overall goals, but I make a real effort not to micromanage. I prefer to remain hands-off when it comes to individual tasks, but at the same time, I’m always available for help, guidance and assistance when needed. I like to know what’s going on with regular informal check-ins, but I try not to make people feel like I’m breathing down their necks or forcing everyone to sacrifice valuable work time in order to hold unnecessary team meetings. I was on a large software project a few years ago that had five people each working on a separate piece of code that would eventually get put together into one large program. Rather than have people start and stop work to participate in group sessions, I set up a communication board that allowed us to message instantly either as a group or individually. I also included a status update section where we could post what we were all working on and how it was going. It allowed me to stay up to date on every aspect of the project without being intrusive and gave us all a way to work together. It also made it possible for anyone to reach me at any time with issues and problems, allowing us to problem solve quickly. The entire program was finished on time and the board was such a successful idea that I now use it with every project I work on.
2. How do you define success?
Example answer: I find a lot of value in setting goals, outlining the steps required to achieve those goals, and then completing those steps. This not only allows me to break down the big picture into easily actionable parts, but also gives me a good overall idea of what needs to be accomplished. Each box I check off on my list of tasks is a small success on the way to the larger finished project. I was tasked with leading a team of seven employees last year. We had been assigned the massive task of reorganizing a technical manual library that hadn’t been updated in years. It was an overwhelming task overall, but by breaking it down aisle by aisle, and even shelf by shelf, we were able to take what felt like a monster project and turn it into easy to accomplish tasks. I also included rewards and incentives for completing sections to keep us going. Not only were we able to finish by the deadline, but by adding the fun and challenge elements to the project, we remained motivated and weren’t burned out at the end, in itself a major success.
3. How do you manage stress among your team members?
Example answer: While I find I do some of my best work under pressure, I know not everybody works that way which is why I like to keep a close eye on how everyone on my team is doing. If I start to notice stress or negativity within the team, I try to tackle it quickly and proactively. I’ll talk with the individuals and assess the situation and see exactly how I can help alleviate it. A few years ago, I was on a group project where we were tasked with finishing a large design for a client. Each of the team members were assigned a separate part of the project with the idea that we would come together at the end and present the final product. While the majority of the team worked well together, there was one individual who was consistently missing deadlines and slowing things down. This created friction and stress among the members of the group. Rather than let the issue fester and potentially jeopardize the project overall, I took the employee aside and we discussed what was going on. He confided that he was having some personal issues that were cutting into his work time. We went over some options and came up with a solution where he was able to switch his hours around and adjust his schedule to accommodate this issue. As a result, he was able to catch up with the group, we finished on time, and the client was ecstatic with the final results.
4. How do you handle conflict between team members?
Example answer: There are always two sides to every story, which is why it’s so important to me to remain as neutral and open-minded as possible whenever I hear of conflict between teammates. I was in a situation a few years ago where two members of my team were clearly unhappy with each other. Rather than let it fester or ignoring it with the hope that they would be able to work it out themselves, I sat down with them individually and asked them to explain what was going on. We discussed reasonable and professional solutions that worked for both parties and the matter was resolved.
5. Tell me about a time you let an employee go.
Example answer: Nobody likes firing people, but there are times and situations when it just has to happen. One summer I was working as a supervisor for a local pool. We had a lifeguard who was consistently late to the job. As his supervisor, it fell to me to talk to him about this situation. I pulled him aside on three occasions and spoke with him about why he was late and how that was a violation of the company policy and how the fourth time would be grounds for his dismissal. I made sure to keep the HR team involved with every step and properly document each meeting. Unfortunately, he was tardy a fourth time and I had to let him know that he was being terminated. It wasn’t an easy task, but it had to be done.
6. Tell me about a time you led by example.
Example answer: To me, you can’t be a good leader if you’re not willing to also do the work. While I set tasks for my team, I always make sure they’re not tasks I myself wouldn’t be willing to do. I was supervising a shop that was responsible for cleaning and testing float monitors used in storage tanks when we got a call from a business that had several of our products in a sewage tank. The sensors weren’t reading properly, and he was concerned. We did some research and realized the sensors were due to be replaced. It was a miserable task, but someone had to do it. On top of that, we were short staffed in the shop which meant that the team doing the task would be down one man and it would take two days instead of one. Rather than make the employees suffer any longer than they had to, I cleared my schedule, threw on a hazmat suit, and joined them in the tank. We were able to get the whole task done in one day and the client was satisfied. After the work was done the two employees each approached me individually and expressed how grateful they were to have me in there helping them out and that it made them really respect me as a leader and teammate.
7. How do you motivate people?
Example answer: Motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so I like to really get to know my team on an individual level. I feel like this gives me a good feel for what works for each person. A few years ago, I was overseeing a sales team. While our numbers were good, they weren’t great, and a big part of that was a result of one of the members of the team dealing with a child going through cancer and chemo. Because of the gravity of the situation, I decided the team needed a good carrot-on-a-stick reward with a positive spin to it to get them excited about selling. I promised them, if they broke the previous year’s record, that I would shave my head and donate a portion of my salary to a local cancer charity that was working with the employee’s daughter. This didn’t just motivate the team, it completely re-energized them! Suddenly the entire group was working overtime and we expanded the challenge and turned it into a company-wide event. We not only broke the previous year’s record, but fifteen of the employees joined me in shaving their heads and we collected and donated over $5000 to the charity. We had so much fun that we turned it into an annual event that they are still participating in to this day.
8. Give an example of a tough decision you had to make.
Example answer: When making professional decisions, I like to keep in mind the good of the company before I consider personal feelings. A few years ago, I was in a situation where I was responsible for hiring a new team member for a large project we were working on. I had managed to narrow the selection down to two candidates; a new hire who was perfect for the job and another, established employee who was not quite the right fit for the position but whom I considered a personal friend. While I would have loved to hire my friend, it wouldn’t have been the right choice for the company, so I hired the new employee. When my friend asked me why I had made that decision, I explained it to him. We discussed other opportunities that he would be a better fit for. At the time it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one and one I would make again.
9. What is your biggest management weakness?
Example answer: There are times when I have to remember that although I’m the supervisor and ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a project, that I also have to step back and trust my employees to do the jobs I’ve hired them for. In past situations when problems would arise I would often find myself jumping in and fixing the problem myself, bypassing the person who was assigned the task. While my jumping in did solve the immediate problem, it would often lead team member to feel as though I didn’t trust them or lacked confidence in their ability. It was a hard lesson to learn and one I still struggle with, but now, when I am faced with an issue, I step back, take a deep breath and really assess what’s going on and how I can fix it without stepping on toes or undermining my fellow teammates.
10. How do you delegate tasks to your team?
Example answer: I prefer to delegate tasks based on the aptitude of each team member for the task at hand. Prior to delegation, I like to sit down with my team and discuss the project. We break it down and determine exactly what needs to get done and who is the best person for each task. I review each assignment personally and make sure that the individual it’s assigned to has the level of knowledge and skills to complete the task in the time required. A few years ago I was brought in to replace a project manager in a store that was, for lack of a better word, failing. The sales team was unmotivated, the customer complaints were a mile long, and the entire store was dirty and disorganized. We closed shop for 24-hours so I could sit down with the entire team and discuss what was going on. Within an hour of talking to the employees, I discovered that the previous manager had spent their time pitting team members against each other, scheduled work hours and tasks based on who they personally liked, not what the employees had actually been hired to do, and had made working there miserable for most of the employees. We completely restructured the entire team based on what each person’s strengths and skills were. We also spent the rest of the day cleaning and reorganizing the store. The next day we opened with everyone in their new roles and with new tasks assigned. Within a week we were doing better numbers than had been done the month prior, and within six months the store had become one of the top performing stores in the area. It made me feel so good knowing that I had helped turn the store around and all it had taken was actually listening to what the employees had to say and delegating them tasks and responsibilities based on their skills and strengths.