Job Interview Question

Why do you think you can manage a team without any prior managerial experience?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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If you are interviewing for your first management-level job, you will definitely be asked some version of this question.  They are going to want to know if you think you can do this job and why.

The key here is to explain that at some point, everybody who becomes a manager has to manage a team without any prior managerial experience. Everybody who is a successful manager has made that transition.  What then, makes you confident that you are someone who can make that transition?  What do you have in common with those people so that you can say, “they did it, and this is why I can do it, too.”

I would give an answer that sounds something like this:  “What I’ve seen is that a really successful manager is someone who is extremely driven, has a strong work ethic, has strong communication skills, wants the best for the company as well as for their employees, is willing to train and mentor others, and is someone who lifts people up and helps develop them and removes obstacles from their success.  I am that kind of person and I can give you some examples of that.  In X role, I did Y.  In A role, I did B.”

The examples you give should show you exhibiting those character traits in various situations.

Maybe you had a role where you had to make people do things but you had no authority over them.  That means that you had to be a better manager than someone with the power to actually make them do something.  You had no stick, so you had to use only the carrot.  That makes extremely strong managerial experience.

If you have a story where you were on a team and took on the role of leader to get the team to a goal, then absolutely tell that story.  Tell what obstacles you faced, how you resolved them, and what the results were.

I also like turning the question back to them:  “So, Mr. Manager, at some point, you didn’t have managerial experience, either, right?” They will agree, of course, because they have to. So you say, “What made you think that you were someone who could take on that role?” They will say, “Because I was A, B, and C.” You say, “Well, I’m that way, too, and I can be successful, just as you have been.”

This question is also an ideal time to introduce your 30/60/90-day plan.  It’s extremely helpful at management-level interviews because they demonstrate your strategic thinking and problem-solving skills, both of which are essential to a successful manager. And when you write out your goals, you will show them that you do, in fact, know what it takes to be successful in this job and you are completely capable of it.


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