Each manufacturing plant is an amazing system of employees, resources and processes that bind the two together. How well does the system work, however, and what results it produces on a daily basis, depends mostly on the work of a plant manager.

It will be your task to maximize the productivity of employees while minimizing unnecessary costs and maintaining quality standards. You can change a lot in this job, and it will stand out on your resume for years to come. But before it can happen, you have to succeed in an interview. It will be a difficult one.

Let’s have a look at 15 questions you may face while interviewing for a job of a plant manager, including difficult situational and behavioral questions.


Can you please tell us something about your previous working experience?

Unless you ever carried a protective helmet on your head, you won’t get this job. Newbies who never got a taste of work in the production process, who do not understand the ins and out of manufacturing, aren’t typically invited for this interview.

I am sure you know a lot, and did a lot, but what matters is how you present it in an interview. Try to demonstrate your experience with a variety of tasks. Starting with planning and dreaming, continuing with running day to day operations of a team, or department, and ending with improving processes and changing things to better.

Talk about working with both people and resources. Do not tell them only what you did, but also what you achieved. Did you manage to improve an efficiency of a certain process by 10%? Or did you discover an unnecessary expense in this or that part of production, and getting rid of an expense saved 10K for your employer each month?

If you can narrate such situations while talking about your past experience, you will set yourself up for success right from the start of your interview.


What do you know about our manufacturing plant?

An extensive research about your prospective employer is essential in this case. Of course your situation is much easier if you apply internally, if you try to get promoted to this role. Because then you likely know about the pluses and minuses of the plant, and can easily identify areas for improvement.

If you apply for a job in a plant foreign to you, try to research particularly about the following:

  • The final products and principal customers.
  • Size of the plant, number of employees.
  • Key suppliers and business partners, machines and resources they use in the production process.
  • Corporate vision and values the business tries to promote in the workplace and in the outside world.
  • Best practices and regulations in the given sector of production.

The more you know about them, the easier it will be to answer certain questions, and to make a good connection with the interviewers. Ignorant candidates who rely only on their previous experience and do not learn anything about the plant and the company before the interview are never hired.

You should not hesitate asking them questions, and even pointing out possible areas for improvement, directly in an interview, while talking about their plant. Show them the amazing value you can bring to their business. They hire you in order to change things to better, and you should have some ideas. Without doing a good research you can hardly come up with any ideas…


What will be the first thing you do if we hire you for this job?

Buy a new car and throw in a big party for your friends. Immediately book a luxury holiday for you and your wife in the Maldives. Smoke a Cuban cigar on a balcony and devour in your success…

You will likely do one of these things–or even something more extravagant, but as you can surely guess, they wonder what you will do in the job. You have few options for a good answer, and the choice depends on your situation.

If you apply internally, and have a deep knowledge of the company, people and processes, you can point out two or three areas of production/processes you want to focus on and improve immediately.

Situation differs when you apply in a plant in which you never worked before. In such a case I suggest saying that you will talk to leaders of all departments. You will try to understand how everything works and interrelates, and study results of latest audits. Then you will spend days observing the daily operations in the plant, trying to get a good grasp of how it functions.

Doing all these things you should be able to quickly understand the daily life of the manufacturing plant, and also find some areas for improvement.

senior manager gesticulates with his hand while explaining things in an interview

Describe a time when you demonstrated leadership in your work.

Questions that start with “describe a time” or “tell us about a situation when” are called behavioral interview questions. Typically you will get many of them interviewing for a plant manager job. In all these cases, your attitude is more important than the situation you narrate.

For this particular question, the key is to show that you do not mind stepping up to a leadership role. Even when things go wrong, or when everyone else is against you. Some good situations you can talk about:

  • Certain process was in place for years and all employees were happy with it, becasue it was convenient for them and they were used to it. But you saw some areas for improvement and decided to change it. You faced opposition from your colleagues, but you pushed on, following your goal to improve things.
  • The company (or a certain department, team, or even just one employee) was struggling heavily with something. Can be motivation, internal problems solving some issue, conflicts, anything. You stepped in and led them out of the difficult situation.
  • Something bad happened in the company, a big mistake, a stop-line, anything. The culprit wasn’t clear. You decided to take responsibility and said it was your mistake as a manager.
  • Any other situation in which you demonstrate that you do not always wait for others to tell you what you should do, but can take action and step into a leadership role.


Describe a time when one of your subordinates struggled with motivation. What did you do to help them regain their motivation?

Motivation is a common problem in almost each production plant. The work of laborers is often repetitive, and supervisors may also struggle. In my opinion, you have two good ways of answering this question.

  1. Narrating a situation in which you demonstrate individual approach to each crisis of motivation. You do not believe in one-fit-all solutions. And therefor you talked to the employee, to their supervisor, you tried to understand the core of the problem, and why they struggled. This can be anything from personal problems or health issues to conflicts in the team and lacking recognition. Once you identified the problem, you addressed it from your position.
  2. Talking about a situation when you introduced some system change. For example you saw that many employees were struggling to meet monthly targets or basically did not work hard. And hence you decided to change the entire payment system, introducing variable pay, or some form of bonuses, as a logical motivation for the employees. Or perhaps you started team building events across the plant, helping people to know each other better. You strengthened a team spirit in the workplace and suddenly everything improved.

One way or another, you should talk about a situation that had a happy end–you eventually managed to motivate the person in question.


Tell us about a situation when you improved certain production process in work.

Another behavioral question. This time they are trying to assess your process management skills. Try to talk about details in your answer. Most manufacturing plants already have great processes in place. It is almost impossible to find one thing that you change and improve the effectiveness of production by 5%.

But you can certainly find 10 things or processes you can improve (relating to both resources and people), changing small details here and there, each of them resulting in 0.5% improvement of effectiveness (in average). At the end you improved the effectiveness by 5%…

More than anything else, they should get an impression that you enjoy looking for improvements, trying to better things. This depends on a way in which you talk about your successes and innovations you implemented.

Can they hear some enthusiasm in your voice?

Special Tip: Download the list of all questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

interview questions for plant manager, PDF

How do you feel about hiring and firing employees?

There is no place for emotions in an effective management. At least not when we talk about difficult decisions that will have an impact on someone’s life.

Ensure the interviewers that you will always try to do the best thing for the business. If it means firing someone who’s been with the company for 10 years, you will do it. Getting a job and losing a job is a part of life.

And while you will certainly think about implications hiring or firing someone will have for the company, you won’t spend too much time thinking about the implications for the person in question. You cannot afford to do it as a plant manager, because if you did it you would certainly make many wrong decisions…


Other questions you may face in your Plant Manager interview

  • Describe a time when you faced a conflict of personal and professional interests in work.
  • What do you expect from this job? What do you think it will bring to your life as a manager and professional?
  • Describe a time when you had to meet a tight deadline in your work. How did you change your daily routines to ensure you’d meet the deadline?
  • What do you consider the biggest failure of your professional career?
  • What are your ways of monitoring the performance of your employees, teams, and processes in work?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone in the plant (they didn’t like the message, or didn’t understand your language). What did you do while trying to get your message over?
  • What do you consider your greatest strength, and your biggest weakness as a manager?
  • After everything we discussed in this interview, is there anything more you’d like to add, or anything you want to ask?


Conclusion, next steps

Plant manager is a prestigious job title, and you can expect a difficult job interview. Prepare to talk a lot about your past jobs. Not only about what you were responsible for, but also about your goals, achievements, and failures.

They will typically ask you many behavioral questions. Inquiring about the way in which you addressed certain situations in the past, they try to understand your way of thinking, your attitude to work and to all kinds of situations that happen in a workplace.

Behavioral questions aren’t easy. If you do not know how to answers them, or experience anxiety before the start of your interview, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Multiple great answers to all difficult behavioral questions will make your life much easier in the interviews.

And do not forget to do a proper research about your prospective employer. Learn as much as you can about both their daily operations and long term goals and vision.

This is a difficult interview, but if you prepare for it, you can succeed, and secure an amazing job contract. I wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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