35 interview questions for people managers (with example answers)

Updated 1 June 2023

As a people manager, you're responsible for managing the performance of various teams and overseeing their development and well-being. When interviewing for this position, showcasing your knowledge of people management principles and strong organisational and leadership skills can demonstrate your suitability for the role. An effective preparation method is reviewing potential interview questions and drafting your answers. In this article, we explore 35 interview questions for people managers, explain why hiring managers ask them and provide sample answers that may guide your interview preparations.

11 general interview questions for people managers

During the first part of your interview, the recruiter is likely to ask you some general interview questions for people managers. They want to learn about your personality and career aspirations, including why you're looking for a new job. Here are 11 general questions you may hear during a people manager interview:

  1. Why are you leaving your current job?

  2. Why do you want to work here?

  3. Are you interviewing with other employers?

  4. Why people management?

  5. What are your strengths as a leader?

  6. Where do you see yourself in five years?

  7. If you could change one thing about your skill set, what would it be, and why?

  8. How would your former subordinates describe you in three words?

  9. What are some key qualities of a successful people manager?

  10. Summarise your CV.

  11. Tell us something about yourself that you haven't included in your application.

Related: Guide to people management: steps and skills for success

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10 background and experience interview questions for people managers

After learning more about you as a person and candidate, the interviewer may ask about your background and professional experience. This allows them to understand your education and expertise from previous jobs. Here are 10 questions about your background and experience they may ask:

  1. How many years of experience in people management do you have?

  2. How has your education prepared you for working in this role?

  3. How many people have you managed?

  4. What have you done in the last six months to improve your people management qualifications?

  5. Tell me about a time when you worked with a challenging subordinate.

  6. What relationship-building methods are most effective when managing a new team?

  7. What is the most useful feedback you've received at work?

  8. Tell me about a time when you shared negative feedback with an employee.

  9. Discuss the last time you informed someone that the employer had terminated their employment.

  10. What is the biggest challenge you've encountered and overcome as a manager?

Related: 10 manager interview questions (with example answers)

11 in-depth interview questions for people managers

In-depth questions are usually more complex and require you to explain your people management expertise or discuss situations in which you used particular abilities or overcame specific challenges. When recruiters want you to discuss workplace situations you've encountered, they may ask situational or behavioural questions, which you can answer using the STAR interviewing technique. The technique allows you to describe the situation, explain your task, discuss what actions you took and share the results. Here are 11 in-depth questions for people managers:

  1. What's your management style?

  2. What process do you use to delegate responsibility?

  3. How do you use the power of authority to convince someone?

  4. What would you tell a subordinate who wore an inappropriate outfit to work?

  5. What are the five Cs of people management?

  6. How do you encourage team members to use innovative thinking?

  7. What would you do if you discovered that multiple subordinates had lost motivation to work?

  8. What is your biggest success as a people manager?

  9. What's your approach to change management in leadership?

  10. Have you ever encountered a workplace conflict that was impossible to resolve?

  11. What strategies do you use to minimise employee turnover?

Related: How to use the STAR interview technique in interviews

3 people management questions with sample answers

Studying sample answers to frequently asked people manager interview questions is an effective way to prepare. It helps you discover how to properly structure your answers. Here are three people management questions with explanations and sample answers:

1. How do you foster a sense of commitment amongst your team?

Interviewers ask this question to ensure you know how to create a culture where your subordinates feel dedicated to their roles. By fostering a sense of commitment, you may improve the team's motivation, which can increase success rates. To answer this question, give examples of methods or strategies you use and how they affected your team.

Example: 'I believe increasing a sense of commitment starts with getting to know my team members. By discovering their passions and interests, I can maximise their potential. Assigning them tasks that align with their strengths also gives them the freedom to work their own way.

To create an engaged team, I always set standards and communicate them to the team while clearly describing their duties. In addition, I like to lead by example. I always work on challenging projects to show that delivering quality work leads to satisfaction. When I see that someone is trying their best and feels dedicated to their work, I reward their efforts.'

Related: Why is commitment important to employers? (And how to show it)

2. How do you ensure your team complies with the organisation's policies?

Ensuring compliance helps managers ensure their teams deliver high-quality results and work in a safe environment. Ensuring all team members follow internal procedures may be challenging, so interviewers want to know if you can enforce that. To answer the question, explain some methods you may use and how they're beneficial for ensuring the team complies with policies.

Example: 'To ensure compliance in the workplace, I start by documenting all policies and communicating my expectations to the team. For example, I may create and distribute a handbook employees can use when in doubt. I also believe that removing barriers and making compliance easily accessible is the key to success. For this reason, I make the resources available in different formats, including physical copies and digital files that anyone can access through the team's shared digital storage app.

Whenever an employer introduces a new rule or policy, I offer my team complimentary training. This allows everyone to stay updated on the employer's expectations. With on-the-job training, team members can ask any questions about the new or old policies, which clears any confusion and helps me ensure they understand the procedures and standards.'

Related: Workplace policy examples (with definition and types)

3. What is a serious challenge of managing a remote team?

You may hear this question if the position you're applying for requires you to oversee a fully or partially remote team. Interviewers may ask about your experience with remote management challenges to know if you have experience leading a remote team and feel confident in doing so again. To answer the question, give an example of a challenge related to leading a remote team.

Example: 'One of the most serious challenges of managing a remote team is employee burnout. In my previous job, I managed remote employees for two years. I also witnessed the organisation's transition from in-person to remote work. Six months after transitioning, people showed less initiative and were less enthusiastic about upcoming projects. To solve the issue, I scheduled a series of one-on-one meetings. I had previously analysed their performance and noticed that this wasn't an issue when we worked in the office.

By meeting with each person individually, I could ask them the same questions and compare their answers. For example, I asked them to rate their work satisfaction and list three key changes they noticed after switching to working from home. The majority mentioned workplace isolation, which was likely causing their burnout. In response, I proposed we go back to working from the office one day per week. To my surprise, everyone was happy about it, and the solution helped the team regain their enthusiasm.'

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