Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

20 Interview Questions To Help You Hire a Great Manager (Like Father Christmas!)

By Santa Claus (Charles Trivett) | Dec 21, 2015 | Assessing Applicants

What makes a great Manager, great?

santa drawing on a white boardLast week, we invited the big man himself to share his thoughts (if you haven’t read our guest post from Father Christmas, click here, you’re missing out)!

The thing is, for Santa it’s pretty easy to be a great manager; he’s inherently good, his team are a bunch of highly-skilled elves & all of his responsibilities & deadlines have pretty much been predetermined!

As human beings we have to work a little bit harder to gain respect, hard work and loyalty from our staff – and not everyone can live up to the challenge (believe me).

So, with the help of Kris Kringle himself, we’ve whittled down what it takes to be a great manager into 8 key measurable attributes and come up with 20 interview questions to help you find one for your business!

1. Jolliness

Personality is so important for any manager.

jolly smiling santaObviously, people (or elves) are going to react better to a friendly, encouraging face than a mean old Scrooge, who brings down the entire atmosphere.

Jolliness (or friendliness) is a pretty obvious trait that you’ll (hopefully) be able to suss out with moments of meeting candidates, but there are still some personality questions that you may want to ask to back up your observations…

Q1: How would your current team describe you?

Q2: How would your best friend describe you?

Q3: If you could describe yourself with one word, what would it be?

This question should reveal something more personal about your candidate and that could be a good thing or a bad thing…

Good Signs:

Natural answers that reveal a friendly, dependable and jolly nature, of course!

(I can’t really imagine a situation where you’d want a grumpy Manager…)

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who are clearly fibbing; can you imagine describing Santa as ‘detail-oriented’ and ‘proactive?’
  • Candidates who can’t answer or who answer with traits that clash with your culture, for example, ‘oh, I’m a really cynical person!’

You do genuinely want someone who’s going to get along with the team!

2. Passion

Santa saying - I'm not just a whimsical figure who wear's a charming suit with a silly demeanor, I'm a symbol!"You want to hire someone who’s not only capable of leading your team into victory, but who’s also motivated to do so!

How can you know?

Well, have they ever stepped up to the plate before?

Q4. Tell me about a time when something went wrong at work and you took control.

Q5. What do you like about managing people (or elves)?

Q6. Have any of your personal experiences helped you to become a good manager?

Just look out for signs that your Manager is genuinely passionate about managing other people.

Good Signs:

You need someone who’s willing to take the reins and control the situation (like Father Christmas…)

It shows a passion, bravery and commitment to lead, no matter what is thrown at them (even snowballs!)

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who have no evidence of stepping up when the going gets tough… the sleigh won’t ride itself.
  • Candidates who clearly prefer to take a back seat within the team… there’s a workshop full of brilliant little helpers for that!
  • Candidates who badmouth their colleagues or show an emotional response to team situations should go straight on the naughty list.

Can you imagine how different Christmas would be if Santa hated his job?

3. Firmness

Man dresssed up as Santa smiling and then going grumpy within secondsOf course this is a biggie!

A great manager will be able to supervise and manage other employees confidently and effectively, without being a horrible boss (see ‘jolliness…’)

A great manager will inspire and motivate nice staff members to develop and grow but they’ll also know how to deal with naughty staff members!

Even Father Christmas had to let Buddy the elf go in the end…

Q7. How would you track the performance of your team?

Q8. Tell me about the last person you had to let go.

Q9. How have you encouraged the development of staff members in the past?

Management isn’t all rainbows and candy canes!

Good Signs:

You’re looking out for people who have experience & passion for developing others; they’ll understand that training is a really important part of building a close-knit, super team.

On the other hand, a good manager will also know when it’s time to get tough – and won’t be afraid to do so. (I wonder if any elves have ever made it onto the naughty list.)

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who are too quick to discipline struggling staff members, without asking questions or offering any support.
  • Candidates who seem naïve to the negative responsibilities of managing people, like disciplining, sacking and redundancies etc…
  • Candidates who are unsure (or against) the training and development of other staff members.

4. Conflict Resolution Skills

I’d like to think that Father Christmas doesn’t need this skill…

(But you never know, those elves do seem a bit cheeky at times)!

Cartoon: one elf giving another an electric shock with Christmas lights
Going hand-in-hand with firmness, all great managers will be able to resolve conflicts fairly and efficiently.

Q10. Tell me about the most difficult team you’ve ever lead…why were they difficult and how did you cope?

Q11. Tell me about a time when you didn’t agree with something at work… how did you tackle the issue?

You just don’t need tension in an office setting; it’ll bring everyone’s mood down!

Good Signs:

Keep an eye out for candidates who can give multiple examples of when they’ve quelled awkward situations before they went too far; the peacemakers of the office.

If you could do with some helpful tips on conflict resolution 101 – check out this online fact sheet. 

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who blame and badmouth their colleagues or managers.
  • “Renegades” who openly go against their managers’ wishes.
  • Candidates who lack the confidence to deal with conflict.

Great managers need to be able to keep everyone in line, without demoralising the team!

5. Adaptability

Santa Claus wearing sunglasses dancing outdoors at North Pole in snowfall. He is celebrating Christmas after hard workNow, this attribute is two-fold.

Great managers a) need to be able to adapt and change when necessary and b) be willing to do so!

Unfortunately, there are plenty of skilled, potentially adaptable managers out there who simply aren’t willing to change.

These people need to take a leaf out of Father Christmas’s book – he’s been around for a LONG time – and things have definitely changed since little boys and girls would ask for spinning tops and skipping ropes for Christmas!

But he’s still on top – because he’s willing to adapt!

Q12. Tell me about a time when you had to complete a task you’d never done before…how did you go about it? Were you successful?

Q13. Tell me about a time when you had change the way things were working? Why? And What happened?

Q14. When was the last time you faced an unexpected setback? What happened?

Managers have the ability to adapt to different challenges; great managers relish those challenges.

Good Signs:

Great managers will face setbacks head on and work with whatever resources they have to come up with a solution, learning along the way.

Are you an office chameleon?

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who clearly aren’t willing to take on extra responsibilities.
  • Candidates who are stuck in their ways.
  • Candidates who panic in the face of set-backs (they might abandon the task, pass the buck to someone else, blame others for the defeat).

6. Negotiation Skills

Santa with a laptop and a phone negotiatingA good manager simply MUST be a good negotiator;  chances are, most of their job will be persuasion of some kind

(Even Father Christmas has to haggle with his suppliers!)

Good managers can negotiate without causing conflict or upsetting anyone and they certainly won’t resort to threats or intimidation.

Q15. Tell me about a time you’ve had to negotiate with someone.

Q16. Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone who didn’t agree with you.

Q17. Sell me this pen. (This is a toughie for most people!)

Good Signs:

Good negotiators can show… fairness, firmness, kindness, empathy and confidence.

A successful negotiator will be able to assess the opposition’s point of view and use it to convince them that their idea will benefit everyone involved.

They’ll keep everyone happy and jolly!

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who intimidate or threaten others rather than attempting to negotiate. (We’ve been assured that they’ll be receiving a lump of coal this year!)
  • Candidates who think they don’t need to negotiate because they’re always right (they’ll just go ahead and do what they want).

7. An Ability to Make Decisions

santa with his naughty listGreat Managers have the innate ability to make a rational decision and stick to it!

Sometimes managers will have to be tough – think Santa’s naughty-nice list – and sometimes they’ll make mistakes (it’s inevitable, nobody’s perfect).

What’s important is that they have evidence and critical thinking to back up every choice they make.

Q18. Describe your decision-making process to me…

Q19. What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make recently and how did you come to that decision?

Q20. Are you a risk taker?

(Do you think Father C just guesses who’s been naughty or nice?)

Good Signs:

Look out for interviewing candidates who are level headed and can cope under pressure.

They’ll understand the consequences of certain actions and they’ll have their own way of making a decision, taking into account all the information.

Warning Signs:

  • Candidates who take too many risks. (Now in this respect, Father Christmas isn’t exactly the best role model – drink-flying through the sky!)
  • Candidates who take no risks whatsoever – if no one took risks, nothing would ever get done.

Some risk is inevitable, but you really don’t want to hire someone who does what they want, when they want to, without considering the consequences!

8. Perceptiveness

Santa sneaking up on co-workers.Have you ever worked under a boss who seemed absolutely, completely and inexplicably blind to what was going on around them?

Lazy co-workers, trouble-makers and staff who are burnt-out seem to somehow slip under the radar until it’s too late.

As far as I’m concerned, a great manager will notice anything untoward straight away and will tackle it head on.

That’s why a manager should get to know their staff and should never be an illusive figure, shut away from others in their own office!

(Unfortunately it’s hard to judge a person’s perceptiveness with just one interview question – you should use your gut feelings throughout the process – you’ll be able to sense those who are well attuned their surroundings!)

Use Your Gut Instincts!

The 20 questions we’ve revealed above will go a long way to helping you find a strong leader, like Father Christmas, for your business.

Come on – think about it – anyone who can organise thousands of elves, keeping them jolly and never missing a deadline must be doing something right!

Recruiter Pro Tip.

There are, of course, other attributes that cannot be revealed by mere questioning and to assess those, you’re going to have to use your gut instincts & keen eye for body language.

You should ask yourself questions like…

  • Will they fit in with my team (or irritate them)?
  • Are they a bit too bolshie?
  • Have they left a lot of previous jobs, without good reason?
  • Are they going to cause friction?

And like we said, people are much more likely to follow and be inspired by a manager that they actually like and trust!

If all else fails… ask yourself “would they make a good Father Christmas?”

If you’d like to receive more tried and tested interview questions from us (and pinched from other super-successful companies) click here to subscribe to this blog!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Relax, indulge and enjoy the time with your family… you deserve it.

- Santa Claus (Charles Trivett)
Charles dressed as Santa

Santa Claus (Charles Trivett)

Charles heads up Coburg Banks’ IT Division, and has worked in recruitment for nearly 20 years.  His knowledge of how to optimise and get the most from a recruitment campaign is second to none, and he now works with a select handful of clients in maximising their recruitment ROI. (He also makes a pretty good Santa – don’t you think?)

> More blog posts by Santa Claus (Charles Trivett)

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