I'm looking to become a manager, and there are a few rounds of interviews with various executives in our company. This will be my first managerial position, but I'm confident in my skills and management ability (my manager has been "grooming" me for this position for a few months). Because of my inexperience with the hiring process for managerial staff, I asked my manager. She told me that it would be rounds of interviews with executives to determine whether or not I am a good fit.

Although I'm a bit nervous, I'm even more curious as to common business practices, but a quick Google search didn't reveal much information regarding hiring for managers.

I've been to interviews before, but what are some of the major differences between hiring an manager versus hiring an employee, and how can I use them to my advantage?


3 Answers 3


Here are a few things to keep in mind when interviewing for a middle management position:

  1. The interviewers will be seeking someone with management experience. Even if this isn't listed on the job description, the interviewers will definitely prefer someone with management experience. Why? Because people with management experience are more of a known quantity. You don't truly know how capable of a manager you are until you've managed, and the fact that a candidate has survived a minimum of a year as a manager is a reasonable proxy for the ability to succeed as a manager in the future. So if you don't have bonafide on-the-job management experience, be prepared to describe situations in which you managed people and/or situations particularly well.
  2. The interviewers will be seeking someone with plenty of domain experience and/or expertise. Do you want to become a software development manager? Then you'll need lots of coding experience. Do you want to become a foreman on a construction site? Then you'll need lots of experience hammering nails. You don't necessarily need to be best at your craft on your team, but more often than not, you'll need to be in the top 10% amongst your peers in your chosen area of expertise to gain a management position.
  3. The interviewers will be seeking someone who is confident, well-spoken, and well-liked. Ultimately, the interviewers will be seeking someone who can lead, but it's difficult to assess whether or not a candidate will be capable of leading a particular group in future situations. Given this reality, the interviewers will prefer candidates who are confident (but not arrogant), well-spoken, and easy to get along with, because each of those interpersonal qualities are correlated with effective leaders.*
  4. The interviewers will be seeking someone who is a good cultural fit. Most interviewers probe for cultural fit, but cultural fit is much more important when hiring for a management position. Why? Because a middle manager must be on the same page with upper management, and be ready, willing, and able to further the group's objectives. At the same time, they must be on the same page with either the subordinates that they are about to inherit or the subordinates who they are about to hire. A bad culture fit could impair the group's ability to routinely accomplish important objectives.

  • Some interviewers may prefer candidates with a more Machiavellian leadership style, but those are the exception, not the norm.
  • 2
    +1: I'd like to take your culture fit remark a step further. When I'm hiring a manager or a director for my team, that person is an extension of the culture I'm trying to build. They don't need just to fit into that culture; they need to express it and be a direct part of it. As a senior leader, I can't build/nurture the organization culture on my own. My leadership team does that, and as such they need to exemplify those traits that achieve that goal. Jul 31, 2021 at 15:42
  • The second point is not necessarily true - people oriented skills are preferred over domain expertise in management.
    – sfxedit
    Jul 31, 2021 at 19:19

Since this appears to be an internal promotion for which your present manager "has been grooming you," it would appear that s/he believes that you have what it takes, even though you haven't done it before.

The simple difference between a manager and a line-employee is that a manager is primarily responsible for directing the efforts of other people, and might not have direct control (or, the necessary personal expertise) to do the work himself. "Managers" manage people, and they also communicate with other organizational units on behalf of the team which they manage.

It's perfectly all right to have "butterflies!" :-)   Based on your description, I think that you already have an advocate ... your present boss ... who is confident that you possess (and/or can acquire) the necessary "people skills." Management is all about "people skills."


The two other answers so far are excellent, for example mentioning people skills, communicating with other groups, domain experience, likability, cultural fit, prior management experience. All good.

I think many interviews focus on past or current projects, but not necessarily the soft people-oriented attributes that are required for team success. I'd like to add on some other requirements / skills / attributes, in particular that may or may not come up in a managerial interview, but are going to be required. I'll enumerate these with some comments.

  1. Accountability - think performance reviews, goal setting, keeping work on-track. How do you go about making sure work is being done? Are you able to make the decision that one of your team members must exit the company? Can you do that directly and in a timely manner?
  2. Hiring and Staffing - do you yourself know how to interview candidates effectively?
  3. Leadership - you have ideas and you have the confidence to chart a path and execute it. They'd like you to be able to take the wheel and steer.
  4. Goal Setting - Take the organization's goals into your team. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-a-manager-2276096
  5. Mentoring / Coaching - Can you help your team members succeed to the best of their ability? Can you help them grow? https://www.thebalancecareers.com/coaching-questions-for-managers-2275913

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