Operations Manager interview questions and how to answer them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 September 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are preparing to be interviewed for the position of operations manager, you will stand a better chance of securing the position if you are prepared for the questions that are likely to come up. Of course, the sorts of questions that are specific to an operations manager interview will differ from more common interview questions, although you can still expect some of the latter. By reviewing the possibilities and considering how you would answer them, you stand a much better chance.

In this article, we explore the sorts of questions you can expect during an operations manager interview with advice on how to prepare for and answer them.

Related: Operations management: definition and roles

Preparing for operations management questions

Being adequately prepared for an interview is almost invariably going to increase your chances of making a good impression and subsequently securing the job. Reviewing possible questions, such as those contained in this article, can be a good way of preparing. This will also allow you to consider which aspects of your skill set and experience will be the best to keep in mind.

A good way of formulating your answers is to use the STAR method (situation, task, action and results). This method will allow you to break down your answer into parts that are easy to distinguish, and can also help prevent rambling. It's best used for situational or competency-based questions. The steps to the STAR method are detailed below:

1. Describe the situation

The situation is the context in which the event took place. If you are recounting something that happened in the workplace, then you should give details on your role, with whom you were working and when it took place.

2. Explain your task

In this step, you should describe your assigned role and what was expected of you. Focus on what you were supposed to do, not what others were tasked with. Focusing too much on the faults of others will make it look like you cannot take responsibility.

3. Specify the actions you took

This is probably the most important part of your story. In this step, explain to the interviewer the steps you took to address the situation and your reasons for doing so. You can go into a reasonable amount of detail. This might include whether you tackled the problem alone or collaboratively, how you became aware of the problem and whether or not you delegated anything.

4. Detail the results

There are two things you want to include during this step. The first is what happened as a consequence of your actions. The second is what you learned from the experience. Whenever possible, explain the result in terms of a tangible difference made. For example, saying that you decreased waiting times is not as good as saying that you decreased waiting times by 15%.

General operations manager interview questions

These sorts of questions are likely to be asked towards the beginning of an interview, and are designed to give the interviewer a general idea of your personality, priorities and experience. Here are some examples:

  • What would you say are the primary responsibilities of an operations manager?

  • What are the most important skills that an operations manager should have?

  • What caused you to choose a career in operations management?

  • Tell me about your greatest strengths.

  • Tell me about your greatest weaknesses.

  • What part of your role do you enjoy the most?

  • Who is the best manager you have ever worked with, and why?

  • Why do you think you are the best candidate for this job?

  • What do you know about this company and how it functions?

Behavioural or situational operations manager interview questions

In addition to knowing the duties of an operations manager, the interviewer will also want to assess how you approach your tasks. This can be achieved by means of questions that are behavioural or situational in nature. These will assess how you would react in certain hypothetical situations, and how you have dealt with real situations in the past. Here are some examples:

  • What is the most significant challenge you have overcome in operations management?

  • Tell me about a time when you failed as a manager. How did you handle the experience?

  • How much do you know about budgetary management?

  • How do you motivate people?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to take the initiative to resolve a problem.

  • What sorts of statistical tools are you familiar with?

  • How do you go about establishing rapport with a new employee?

  • What are your best skills as an operations manager?

  • What would be the first thing you would do if you secured this position?

  • How would you describe your management style?

  • How do you think others would describe your management style?

  • What criteria do you use to determine the success of your team?

  • How do you think management and leadership differ, if at all?

  • How do you go about delegating responsibilities?

Example answers to interview questions

We have selected five of the questions listed above to provide you with examples of good ways to answer them. These are general guidelines, and should be adapted to your personal experiences and skills.

How would you describe your management style?

In any position that requires some leadership, personality can often be as important as experience or qualifications. Your interviewer wants to know that you are flexible, and that you know how to lead. Give examples where appropriate, and try to avoid justifying your answers too much. Confidence is important here.

Example answer: ‘I try to combine an easy-going approach with firmness, based on the situation and how the team is performing. If everyone is working diligently, I maintain an easy-going approach to ensure that my team don't feel unnecessarily pressured. However, I do keep a careful eye on them, and will start to become firm if I see problems or laxity.'

What criteria do you use to determine the success of your team?

As an operations manager, it will be very important that you know how to evaluate your team and their performance. The interviewer will want to see that you have a methodology that you implement, which allows you to make effective assessments. Moreover, the methodology should be somewhat nuanced, as a one-dimensional answer will indicate that you lack critical thinking or sufficient experience.

Example answer: ‘When it comes to how I assess my team's performance, I do so based on two different standards. The first is a minimum acceptable baseline. Anything that falls short of this will be deemed a failure. The second standard is to assess current performance relative to previous performance. This allows me to see whether there is an improvement. Wherever possible, I will quantify performance via pre-set metrics, which grants me a clear view of what is happening.'

How do you go about delegating responsibilities?

This question allows the interviewer to assess how you manage both pressure and responsibility. Knowing how and when to delegate is an essential leadership skill, and you should try to show your interviewer that you can delegate effectively.

Example answer: ‘There are two reasons why I would delegate a task. The first is to prevent my work from becoming inefficient due to overburdening. The second reason is if I think that a certain team member can learn a lot from taking on the added responsibility. Of course, I must be confident that they are up to the task, and if a delegated task is not completed I will assume full responsibility regardless.'

What sorts of statistical tools are you familiar with?

As an operations manager, you will often have to work with large amounts of data, as this can be used to assess how well your team is doing. It can also help you identify areas for improvement within your organisation.

Example answer: ‘My go-to statistical software is Microsoft Excel. This is mostly because it is widely available, and I'm used to its user interface. I find the statistical functions to be very useful when it comes to understanding performance metrics. Since the two can supplement each other, I have also become familiar with Tableau and have come to use it regularly.'

How do you motivate people?

This is closely related to your management style question, but is much more focused on the issue of employee motivation. Even if employees don't need motivation, they still need management. Keeping them motivated just makes the job a lot easier.

Example answer: ‘I have found that engagement is the best motivator, especially when trying to introduce change. Whenever I have implemented a change that team members resisted, I find that simply asking them to accept it doesn't work. Instead, I arrange meetings where they can voice their concerns, which allows me to address them. It also allows me to explain why certain changes will make their jobs easier, which usually does the trick.'

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.


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