How to Prepare for a Management Interview so You Get an Awesome Job

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

“Hi - Thanks for coming in to meet the team last week. Unfortunately…”

Ah those dreaded words, “Unfortunately…we’re not going to be moving forward with your candidacy for the role.”

Interviewing for a management position can feel like a brutal obstacle course. You need to demonstrate your leadership skills while explaining how you'll hit the ground running. At the same time, you're being thoroughly tested on everything from your communication abilities to your understanding of the company's strategy and offerings.

To avoid the dreaded, “Unfortunately…” conversation, you need to be prepared and do everything you can to make the most of the opportunity.

But do you know how to prepare for a manager interview in a way that positions you as a must-hire candidate?

Today’s guide will help you ace your management interview. You'll learn how to research the company, tell great stories about your skills, and avoid mistakes that can hurt your chances.

Steps to teach you how to prepare for a manager interview

A candidate learning how to prepare for a manager interview

Keys to Preparing for a Management Interview

Acing a management interview requires more than just showing up and answering questions. It's crucial to be well prepared and showcase your skills and abilities. 

Here are the key areas to focus on as you get ready for your next big interview:

Do your homework…

It starts before you ever talk to anyone about an opening. You should always research the role and the company before you apply. It’s the first, foundational step to everything else you’ll do.

So what does it mean to research a company?

You should work to get to know the company, their culture, and their latest developments. 

To find out these things, look a few key places:

  • Check their GlassDoor reviews to see what they’re really about. Some even include valuable feedback about the interview process. (Pro Tip: Be sure to sort by recent reviews and read 5-10 of them to get a real picture; sometimes the top ones aren’t the most representative nor recent)
  • Review the company’s LinkedIn page for signals. This can show you if they’ve recently shrunk or grown significantly, recent news, and anyone you may know that works there (and could put in a good word!)
  • Check out what the CEO and executives are talking about on social media or in the news after you check out the LinkedIn company page. You can also then keep an eye out for any recent news that matters. 

This sort of prep will pay off in a variety of ways: it helps you be ready for every step in the interview process, and most importantly, it can help you decide if you really want to apply at all.

Make a good first impression

First impressions matter, especially in interviews. You only get one chance to make a great first impression, so proper preparation is key. Here are some management interview tips to help you start off on the right foot:

  • Dress appropriately. Call ahead to find out the expected dress code for interviews at the company. You should aim to dress slightly more formally than their normal office attire, but you don’t want to be in a suit when everyone else is in T-Shirts, nor vice-versa.
  • Project confidence and enthusiasm. According to Jobspin, 39% of candidates leave a bad impression due to lack of confidence, poor voice quality, or failure to smile. To avoid this bad impression be intentional about maintaining good posture, speak slowly and clearly, make regular eye contact, and smile. I used to write “Smile” at the top of my interview notes to remind myself to do this.
  • Research your interviewers. Find out who will be interviewing you, so you can learn a few things about them. Check their LinkedIn profiles to find out their backgrounds. This can help you find common interests to mention, and think of good questions to ask them specific to their role, responsibilities, and experience.
  • Know why you want the job. Every company likes to ask at least once (but often many times), “Why do you want to work at our company?” Having a strong, specific, well-rehearsed, genuine answer can really make you stand out. 
  • Ask good questions. While there isn’t always a lot of time for questions, having a few prepared can help reinforce the message that you really want the job and have an interest in what they do. For example, finding out why the previous manager left the role, or how the role opened up, can tell you whether you could inherit a disgruntled team, exciting expansion, or a piece of the hiring managers team that grew too big. 
  • Be ready for some annoyances. The truth is, most companies run terrible interview processes. People can show up late, unprepared, never having looked at your resume, and a host of other frustrating behaviors.  Keeping your cool, and deciding ahead of time what you will and won’t tolerate, is as important as all the efforts we’ve mentioned before this. And if something does happen, you may be surprised what a few well timed deep breaths can do to calm you in those situations.

With the right preparation and mindset, you can put your best foot forward for any company’s interview process. Yet this foundation is just the beginning. There’s more to prepare as you advance through your interview process. So let's take a look at more tips for managerial interviews.

Prepare your examples and stories

Interviewers like when you can give them real-life examples that show your skills and experience in practice. This is a skill that takes practice, so it’s a good idea to prepare some key stories ahead of time, so that you can confidently answer their questions. 

Fortunately, there is a helpful framework you can use called the STAR method.  It stands for:

  • Situation: Describe a specific event or challenge. Example: "Our main supplier went out of business, risking project delays."
  • Task: Explain your role or responsibility. Example: "I was the project manager responsible for keeping the project on track."
  • Action: Detail the steps you took. Example: "I found new suppliers, negotiated terms, and expedited the transition."
  • Result: Share the outcome. Example: "We completed the project on time, under budget, and secured a new $500,000 contract."

Organizing your stories this way makes them clear, concise, and impactful. To do this, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Set the scene by describing the Situation and Task you faced.
  2. Then walk through the specific Actions you took to address it.
  3. Finally, share the positive Result you achieved.

Remember that your resume doesn’t have to be perfect. Every manager hits roadblocks sometimes – what matters is how you persevere and navigate them. That means the Action step is the most important part; done well it shows your skills in delegation, problem solving, how you use your team to help, and your communication. 

A few good stories, especially if they align well with what the company wants to hire you to help them with most, can make you stand out from the crowd of candidates you’re up against. 

The more you prepare and practice your narratives, the more confident and natural you'll feel delivering them. It can also help you recognize which stories are your strongest and most related to the company and their open role, or how you want to tweak them to more closely fit them.

A candidate preparing answers to questions for a management interview

Prepare Your Answers to the most Common Management Interview Questions

Most of the time in interviews you’re going to be the one talking, usually answering the interviewer's questions. 

That means you need to spend time preparing to have good answers ready.

Management interviews typically involve three main categories of questions aimed at evaluating your skills:

1) Behavioral Questions

These are asked to understand how you've handled different situations and challenges in the past. The premise is that your previous behaviors are good predictors of how you'll act in the future. They often also reveal key needs the company has and what’s important for you to succeed as a manager. 


  • "Tell me about a time you had to manage a difficult team member?
  • "How did you handle a situation where you or your team failed?"

2) Situational Questions 

These questions are similar to behavioral questions except that they’re more forward looking. These questions ask how you would handle a situation in the future, instead of what you did specifically in the past. 

Not only does this show to them your critical thinking and decision making skills, but it also often reveals key challenges and needs for the role you’re interviewing for; it’s reasonable to assume if they ask you about handling a challenging team member, a difficult boss, or very aggressive goal, that you may face exactly that if you get the job. 


  • "How would you handle your boss giving you an aggressive timeline that is difficult to balance with other projects your team has?"
  • "What would you do if your team was resistant to a new policy you rolled out?"

3) Technical/Role-Specific Questions 

These questions are harder for us to predict in a post that gives advice to a variety of different managers. However, the key point is to recognize you will get some questions that are very specific to your role, department, and that company’s needs. 

For example, if you work in finance, you might get some regulatory questions, or if you’re an engineer, you can expect a few technical questions that are appropriate to the role and level of manager you’re interviewing for.


  • "How do you think [recent regulation] will impact us? How would you approach updating the team about it?" 
  • "How do you balance dealing with legacy tech debt, and helping your team continue to make forward progress on new features?” 

4) Leadership & Management Questions

If the role you’re interviewing for includes managing other people, you should expect to be asked about your leadership and management practices. These questions will be to make sure you lead and manage the same way the company does. 

While every company can be a bit different, there are fundamentals most companies look for their managers to practice. And if you checked the GlassDoor reviews, you’ll probably get an idea of what they do, or you may discover an opportunity to advocate for approaches you know would address issues you read about there. 


  • “How do you balance the immediate needs of your team with the long-term development goals of your team members?”
  • “How do you approach problem-solving? Who do you involve in decisions and how do you balance speed and quality?”

To see even more questions to prepare you, review our post: 20 crucial questions interviewers ask potential manager candidates.

Key Mistakes to Avoid In Your Management Interview

While preparing what to say is crucial, it's equally important to be aware of potential pitfalls that could cost you the job. Even minor missteps can leave a negative impression and hurt your chances. 

To ensure you put your best foot forward, watch out for these common management interview mistakes:

A candidate avoiding eye contact during his manager interview

Mistake #1: Avoiding Eye Contact

Maintaining regular eye contact is crucial when you are speaking to someone in almost any situation, but it matters even more in interviews. Twin Employment has found that 65% of interviewers admitted to not hiring candidates who failed to make eye contact. 

The interview is your opportunity to market yourself, so don't shoot yourself in the foot with an easily avoidable mistake like poor eye contact. 

Make a conscious effort to look your interviewer(s) in the eye. This shows confidence in your answers, and an active interest in the discussion you’re having.

At the same time, remember to strike a balance; you shouldn’t stare at them without blinking; the key is to make natural eye contact both when you’re speaking and listening, just as you would in a conversation with a friend.

A potential candidate that lies about his skills on a manager interview

Mistake #2: Lying or Misleading Your Interviewer

Honesty is always the best policy when interviewing. According to Workhorse, 85% of employers have caught applicants lying on resumes or job applications. Dishonesty in any form raises an immediate red flag and is usually an automatic disqualifier for hiring managers.

While you certainly want to put your best foot forward, don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your background and experience. Most people can detect if you’re lying, and can try to look up or reference check anything suspicious. While they may not come out and say they don’t believe you, the end result will be the same: removed from consideration.

It's better to be upfront, even about somewhat negative situations, if you’re asked.

When you’re asked about a failure or mistake from your past, own it. Share the situation candidly, but more importantly, explain what you learned and how you grew from that experience. 

Highlighting your self-awareness and ability to turn challenges into opportunities for growth shows emotional intelligence and maturity that hiring managers value.

A candidate that can't stop to talk on his management interview

Mistake #3: Talking Too Much or too Little

Like most things in life, this is about striking a balance. Getting out of balance can cause problems, which is why Career Builder found that among the most common interview mistakes are:

  • Not asking good questions (38%).
  • Talking too much (33%).
  • Appearing disinterested (32%)

What’s interesting about those is they’re all related:

  • If you talk to much, you may never give the interviewer a chance to clarify, ask follow up questions, or keep you on track.
  • If an interview thinks you’re bored, or not interested in talking to them, they’re not going to want to work with you in the future. 
  • If you don’t ask questions, it’s probably because you were either disinterested, or talking so much there was no time to ask.

Now, don’t go overboard with this last mistake. You don’t need to sit with a stopwatch and time how much you talk compared to the speaker or anything like that.

Instead, to strike a better balance, make it a habit to do a few things:

  1. Build in pauses. If you’ve been talking for a few minutes straight, pause and make sure the interviewer is still following.
  2. Keep your stories short. As we described in the STAR method, having a clear and succinct set of stories can make sure you talk a healthy amount.
  3. Pay attention to the interviewer. Read their body language and facial expressions as you speak. If they seem confused, annoyed, or distracted, pause and ask them a question. This can save you rambling or having lost them in an explanation that went off course.

With a few reminders set up in your notes for the interview, and a healthy amount of preparation, you can avoid these mistakes and have a great discussion with everyone who interviews you.

Final word 

At the end of the day, preparing for a management interview is about more than just having the right answers — it's about demonstrating your leadership qualities. The interview process tests whether you are a fit for what this company and role needs.

By doing your homework on the company and interviewers, preparing compelling stories, and avoiding common mistakes, you put your best foot forward as a candidate, increasing your odds of getting the job. 

When you land this job, it’s then important you put your best foot forward. Here’s a few posts that can help you do that:

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Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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