Overseeing and coordinating day to day activities of a team, department, or sometimes of an entire company, requires a variety of skills. Interviewers will use a combination of situational and technical questions, trying to assess whether you are the right candidate for the job–whether you posses these skills.

Bear in mind that there are three levels of operations management (low-level, mid-level, and upper-level), and the interview process differs for each one.

For top-level operations management (when you oversee the daily operations of the entire company), the questions will relate mostly to your past experience, teams and projects you led, and you may also get some highly technical questions, related to the core business of the company you will manage (e.g. automotive, robotics, rubber industry, etc).

In this article, however, we will focus on low-level and mid-level operations management. You will face mostly situational questions in your interview, and high level of technical expertise won’t be required. Neither will they expect you to have twenty years of experience… Let’s have a look at the questions!

 

Why do you think you can be a good operations manager?

You can either refer to your previous experience. You can say that you did a great job as a supervisor, or as leader of a smaller team of people, and the results you achieved in your former jobs, and things you learned in both your successes and failures, prepared you to become an excellent operations manager in the future.

Another alternative is listing your skills and strengths, such as excellent interpersonal skills, understanding for the production cycle or for their business field, numerical skills, observation skills, leadership skills, and strong sense for organization and planning.

Older manager leads a business meeting

Many companies advertise the same job. Why do you want to work as an Operations Manager here?

The key is to convince them that they are your first choice (even if they aren’t). You have many options of doing that. First one is referring to their field of business, the final products/services they deliver to customers. You can say that you are enthusiastic about their production, or have experience in that particular field, and therefor you applied with them, and not any other company.

Another option lies in referring to their reputation, either with existing employees, or general public, for things such as great working environment, friendly and professional top-management, excellent training program for new hires, exceptional package of employee benefits, etc.

If you apply with a very average company, however, or one that is not well-known, you can simply say that you chose them becasue of the location of the production plant (close to your house), or because you liked their job description more than the job descriptions of their competitors.

 

How do you imagine a typical day in work?

This is a tricky question, and your answer will have quite an impact on their decision to hire you (or to send you home). The most important thing is to show them that you can work independently, and expect to be busy in work.

You shouldn’t refer to your overall responsibility, which consists in monitoring and analyzing the current system of production or provision to check its effectiveness, and working out a strategy for improving things in the team/department or entire production plant. You should refer to things you’ll actually do in job.

For example you can say the following:

Right after arriving at work I will have a brief conversation with my direct subordinates, ensuring that everything goes according to the plan, and that we do not need to address any immediate workforce issues (employees not coming to work, being sick, etc). Then I will oversee the operations, and do everything that’s required to ensure the smooth and effective operation of the plant. This may include talking to vendors and suppliers, resolving conflicts of staff members, doing some micro management in the workplace, creating and adjusting daily plans, interacting with other managers, taking part in interviews, and so on. I expect to be busy in work, and look forward to the variety of duties I’ll respond for…

 

Imagine that one of your subordinates does not respect your orders, but we can not afford to lay them off, due to the situation on the employment market. What will you do?

This is a common situation nowadays. In the past, people paid more respect to their managers, since they were afraid of losing the job. Now, in the midst of economic expansion, people are not afraid anymore–since they know that companies have to think twice before sending them home…

You should suggest some creative solutions to the problem. One will be using your exceptional interpersonal skills to improve your relationship with the particular employee, on a personal level, which nearly always leads to better performance in work.

But there are other options as well, such as internal relocation within the company, introducing system of rewards that encourages loyalty and obedience, etc.

 

Tell us about some challenges you faced in your last job while working on the plans and allocating budgets.

First and foremost you should stress the crucial role of proper planning in operations management, and that you plan to devote a reasonable part of your time in work to this activity.

In an ideal case, you should narrate a challenging situation from your last job, one that you eventually managed to solve. This can be dealing with a lot of variables and unpredictable future events, which made the process of planning difficult, and increased the chances of making a mistake.

Or you can say that you worked in a company that evolved extremely fast, the number of employees was growing on a weekly basis, and all of this made the planning and budgeting extremely difficult.

If you have some experience, you will be able to give a good answer to this question. Remember to talk with enthusiasm and try to include some numbers and details. This will make your answer more genuine in the ears of the interviewers.

Manager pointing his hand on somebody

How do you feel about dismissing someone? Have you ever done it before?

Show the interviewers that you are ready to dismiss anyone, even your friend, if you consider it the best course of action for the business. Tell them that job change is a part of life, and that you won’t let your emotions or personal preferences to interfere with your job.

But you can also show some empathy, and correct attitude to fellow human beings, saying that you will ensure that the leaving employee is properly compensated, and that you will even give them advice on the next steps they can take in their professional career, considering everything they learned in the job with you.

 

Describe a situation when you had to motivate someone in work (your subordinate, or even your superior).

Ability to motivate the workers to try their best (or at least to do something in work) is crucial for each manager. You can talk about helping the employees to see the connection of their personal goals and goals you tried to achieve in the company. Or you can refer to an interesting system of rewards and benefits you introduced to the workplace, aimed to motivate the people.

Another alternative consists in saying that you always did your best to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and responsibility among the employees, an environment that naturally encouraged them to try their best in work, since they did not want to let their colleagues down…

 

Another questions you may get in your operations manager interview

  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • Have you ever successfully implemented a cost-cutting strategy?
  • Talk about your successful experience with negotiating contracts with vendors.
  • What do you want to accomplish as an Operations Manager?
  • What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
  • Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work.
  • You have probably learned something about our company by now. In your opinion, what should we improve on in our production process?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.

 

Summary and next steps

You can expect a difficult interview in front of a panel, but your success (or failure) in this interview is not a question of luck. Think carefully about all teams and projects you’ve led in your career, the things you achieved, and the lessons you learned when you failed to achieve your goals.

Prepare for the questions from this article, especially for the situational and behavioral questions. Last but not least, try to interview with the right mindset. You should believe in your chances to succeed, and think nicely about your interviewers. These things will reflect in your non-verbal communication, which is equally important as your answers to their questions. I wish you good luck!

 

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Matthew Chulaw

Matthew Chulaw

Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Matthew Chulaw

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