Five things to think about when hiring a manager

New manager meeting team

A managerial hire has the power to make or break your department, so it’s essential you get it right. To help your recruitment process, our experts advise on the right questions to ask.

Recruiting a new manager can be one of the most important and influential hires you’ll ever make.

A good manager should be experienced, dynamic, trustworthy and have strong leadership skills — but finding a candidate who ticks all these boxes is a challenge.

To help make the process a little easier, we talked to some of our experts about what you need to consider when hiring a manager.

Does their experience hold up to scrutiny?

“When hiring a manager, you’ll have certain expectations of your candidates,” says Lance Maree, director at Robert Walters’ Johannesburg office. “In recruiting for a junior position, you have much more flexibility as you’ll be able to mould the candidate over time. But when hiring at management level, you aren’t given that luxury. You really need to make sure your questions hone in on a candidate’s specific experience and knowledge to ensure they can hit the ground running.

“For example, if you’re hiring a financial analyst manager, you’ll need to ask specific questions that test their experience and knowledge,” continues Lance. She suggests questions that assess candidates’ skills and accomplishments as well as the types of projects and teams they’ve led. “Do they do casual projections? How good are their financial modelling skills? Do they have a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification? These are the type of questions you should ask.”

“When assessing a candidate’s CV, ask yourself whether it shows an understandable career progression with enough time in each role for them to be able to learn the management skills you’re looking for,” adds Nic Sephton-Poultney, managing director of Robert Walters South Africa. When it comes to interrogating a CV, it’s essential to assess each candidate’s unique skillset in relation to the job, he says, rather than simply jumping to conclusions about their experience based on previous job roles and titles.

Have they progressed too quickly?

“A candidate appearing on the job market just a year or so after first moving into a managerial role could be cause for concern when it comes to hiring a manager,” Nic warns. He explains that this could mean they were promoted beyond their comfort zone in their most recent role, or that they simply don’t have the resilience for a career in management.

“Similarly, if a candidate is promoted up the ranks of a company quite quickly, it could mean they won’t have spent long enough in any single role to gain the type of experience you’d expect from a candidate of their seniority,” Nic continues. However, he notes that isn’t always the case, and suggests hiring managers use the interview process to explore a candidate’s career progression, asking questions about their management responsibilities in their roles to date.

Do they have a unique talent?

“Every single person in the world has their own unique talent,” Nic explains. “When interviewing for a management role, try and discover what a candidate’s unique talent is, because ensuring they are able to utilise that talent in the workplace is one of the best ways you can make sure that they’re successful in their role with you.”

“That’s the essence of being a good manager — being able to use that unique talent to make a positive impact on a situation, an individual, or a team,” he adds. As he explains, not every talent is right for every managerial role and not every managerial role will allow a candidate to feel fulfilled, so it’s important when hiring a manager that you find the unique talent that matches the requirements of the role.

Can they make important decisions?

“One question you should always ask candidates is, ‘What is the most important decision you’ve made as a manager and why was it so critical?’” says Lance. “An essential part of being a good manager is the ability to feel comfortable making important decisions independently. That’s what sets good managers apart — the ability to step up and make hard decisions when necessary.”

Another essential part of managerial decision-making is dealing with any conflict that might arise within your team. “Assess a candidate’s communication and decision-making skills by asking them to describe any conflict management experience they may have,” he adds. “Ask them how they managed their team to overcome the conflict and you’ll get a good insight into how they make decisions that influence the success of the wider team.”

Will they fit into your workplace culture?

“Making sure a candidate’s management style is a good cultural fit for your company is essential,” Lance continues. “To get a sense of whether a candidate is right for you, ask them how their current director would describe their managerial technique.” Not only will this reveal their style, it will also give you a good indication of how they perceive themselves, he adds.

Another important question to ask is whether their management style has changed over time. “An important trait of good managers is the ability to change their management style over time and adapt to new technology, colleagues and working practices. You should also ask them if they’ve received feedback on their management, and if they have, whether they’ve been able to respond positively to it.”

For more hiring advice, read our article on how to avoid bad hires.

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