Overseeing and coordinating day to day activities of a team, department, production plant, or an entire company, hotel or retail store, requires a variety of skills.
Your interviewers will use a combination of personal, situational, and behavioral questions, trying to assess whether you are the right candidate for the job–whether you have what it takes to be an excellent operations manager.
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. Let me briefly talk about the differences in one paragraph, before we proceed to the questions.
Top level vs mid/low level operations management interviews
For top-level operations management (when you oversee the daily operations of the entire company, and a big one), the questions will relate mostly to your past experience.
They will inquire about 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 (leading a team, a department, or a small retail store, hotel, etc).
You will face mostly personal and behavioral questions in your interview, while the hiring managers try to understand your motivation, goals, and attitude to various situations that may happen in the workplace, such as conflicts, struggling to meet a deadline, communication issues, etc. Let’s have a look at the questions.
Why do you think you can be a good operations manager?
You can refer to your previous experience. You can say that you did a great job as a supervisor, or as leader of a small 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.
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.
Many companies advertise the same job. Why do you want to work as an Operations Manager here?
Praise them for something. You should find something special either about the company, or the products/services they sell. It allows for several good interview answers.
First one is saying that you checked their portfolio, and learned about their daily operations and goals, and that it strongly resonates with you. You simply believe to be the right operations manager for the particular segment of economy/market.
Second good answer consists in praising the business, for example their excellent reputation, the working environment, employee benefits, and other things, citing it as a reason why you liked their offer more than the offers of their competitors.
Third option is referring to a personal recommendation. If you know someone in the company, if they recommended you the job, for whatever reason, you should explain it to the hiring managers.
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 (adjust your answer to the particular place of work):
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, someone 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 be responsible 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 (which can quickly change with the new virus pandemic, however), 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 working time to planning.
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 of allocating insufficient resources to certain project/process.
Or you can say that you worked in a company that evolved extremely fast, the number of employees was growing almost on a weekly basis, and all of this made the planning and budgeting difficult.
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.
How do you feel about firing someone? What would you do if your best friend (who happens to work under you) came to work drunk?
Tell the interviewers that you are ready to dismiss anyone, even your friend, if you consider it the best course of action for the company. 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 decisions in work.
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. Perhaps you will even give them advice on the next steps 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 in the workplace, while trying to motivate 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…
Other questions you may get in your operations manager interview
- What do you want to accomplish in this job?
- Have you ever successfully implemented a cost-cutting strategy?
- Talk about your successful experience with negotiating contracts with vendors.
- Your task is to hire five new operators, but there is little interest in the job market. How would you proceed?
- You have probably learned something about our company by now. In your opinion, what should we improve on in our production process?
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
- How would you schedule shifts for your team members? What would you consider when allocating people on shifts?
- A supplier we’ve been cooperating with for a long time suddenly raises their prices by ten percent. How will you react?
- Describe the biggest failure of your professional career…
Conclusion, great answers to all questions
Interview for a job of an Operations Manager belongs to difficult interviews. You will typically compete with many other, skilled applicants, and you will have to answer tough scenario-based questions.
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.
And if you are not sure what to do next, or simply want to finally get rid of interview headaches and streamline your preparation for the big day, have a look at an eBook I wrote for you, the Operations Manager Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to 25 most common operations manager interview questions will help you relax, stand out, outclass your competitors, and sign a new employment agreement at the and of your interview.
Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck!
* Alternatively you can also download all questions in a one-page long PDF, print it and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
May also interest you:
- Leadership interview questions – An essential skill for every good manager, your leadership skills will be tested in an interview for virtually any managerial job. Are you ready to demonstrate them in an interview?
- Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your interview.
- How to overcome interview nerves – Simple guide to help you get rid of anxiety.