Three questions to ask when hiring supervisory positions

I was recently asked by a friend for advice regarding three questions to ask when interviewing a prospective candidate for a supervisory or managerial role. These are the three I suggested for her scenario, however, I think these are fairly good questions to ask in general for any mid-level management interview.

  1. What techniques do you use to motivate your employees/team while avoiding the increase of conflict or negative impacts on morale?

    Ensuring employees are motivated to be productive in the performance of their tasks is the sacred blood flow of a company. Unless your industry can magically print money, you need productive workers. Unmotivated employees lead to poor productivity levels, inefficiency, and a loss of corporate competitiveness. This is the lifeblood of any company. If circulation slows and stops, the company will fail.  So what ensures your employees are motivated and productive?

    It’s been said, employees do not leave companies, they leave managers. While not wholly accurate, it conveys a very strong point. An employee that has a great manager, will usually continue working productively, even if they are employed at a lousy company.  Where as, even an employee of a top company, will leave, if they have a horrible manager. 

    Being a supervisor or manager brings a certain amount of authority. However, the rod can only motivate to a degree, abuse of authority is a common cause for employee churn. Leadership, accomplishes the same goal, with far better outcomes of increased productivity and reduced employee churn.   With this question, we want to access the candidate’s leadership abilities.


  2. How do you facilitate bi-directional knowledge sharing, including the encouragement of idea sharing from those you lead? How do you go about evaluating, implementing, and determining the profitable feasibility of said ideas and innovations?

    Here we want to ensure the candidate is inclined to share knowledge and processes with those under their direction, rather than holding knowledge for themselves and becoming a single point of failure.  We do not want a supervisor to be a “locked gateway”.  Nor do we want a culture in which ideas and innovations are suppressed. In this day and age, innovative ideas differentiate Amazon and Sears, Tesla and Chrysler. That said, not every idea is good. A manager needs to foster an environment that encourages innovation while simultaneously implementing a framework that evaluates both the immediate impact and the effect over time to ensure that any new process enacted, affects the organization positively.

    We want to ensure the candidate is a facilitator who enables their team to be productive and fosters their growth. Does the candidate micro manage, is their way the only way, or are open to change and accepting of suggestions and input from underlings?


  3. How do you handle conflict and failure? Both in regards to those under your supervision and more importantly, your own? When in-over-your-head or too heavily invested, what actions do you take to ensure the situation does not reach a level that puts the well being of the greater whole in jeopardy or at risk? (project, team, business, well being of personnel) What external resources beyond yourself and your team, do you utilize or reach out to in order to ensure that you, your team, and the venture as a whole continue to be successful?

    What are we looking for here? Primarily, an ability to look outside one’s self and to ensure stakeholders are notified in an appropriate timeframe when issues arise.  Simple answers can include: “I google the problem.” “Seek input from a peer/colleague.” “Reach out to stakeholders.” 

    We want to ensure that the candidate is not going to attempt to put out a fire alone, without activating alarms to notify the appropriate response teams. That their ego will not prevent them from reaching out for assistance when the situation warrants doing so.  As a stakeholder, we do not want to discover one of our business’ buildings
    burned down because we were never alerted to the fire.

How are those three? Yes, they are a bit long. But really they cover the primary issues I see in supervisory/team dynamics.

I. Motivation of the team.
II. Empowering the team.
III. Mitigating risks – particularly those with the potential to negatively impact the smooth operation of the project.

If able, be sure to ask follow-up questions. If not, then I suggest prefacing your three questions with the following statement. “For each question, please elaborate and provide an example from two of your listed past employments. Express how each required and necessitated different approaches.”

Thoughts? What are some questions you’ve found useful in weeding out good leaders and supervisors from bad ones?

 

 

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