17 Leadership Interview Questions

A hiring manager asks leadership interview questions.

Finding capable managers is critical to employee retention and engagement. Nearly 50% of employees say they’ve quit at least one job because of a bad boss, yet 82% of companies are using the wrong criteria to select managers.

Asking the right leadership interview questions can help ensure that employers recognize the qualities employees respect in a supervisor, including:

  • The ability to motivate others
  • The insight to know when to be assertive
  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Transparency
  • Relationship-building skills
  • Fairness

Employees want to work — and will work harder — for leaders who base their decisions, including promotions, remuneration, and project assignments on quality and productivity rather than office politics. The 17 management interview questions below can help employers more effectively vet candidates for management positions by ascertaining whether they have the qualities most likely to increase employee engagement and productivity.

Developing an Interview Process for Leadership Roles

There’s more to an effective interview process than asking clever questions. Creating a procedure that your team can use every time you fill a management role can help you determine which interview finalists have the leadership qualities necessary to make your company more successful.

The first step is to determine which type of leadership style is the best fit for your company’s mission, core values, goals, and culture. Does a more traditional bureaucratic style work best with your company culture? Would a manager with a servant leadership style align more naturally with your company’s core mission? Once you’ve decided what kind of leadership approach will benefit your organization, devise an interview process by following these steps:

  • Decide who will be conducting candidate interviews and weighing in on the hiring decision.
  • Make sure everyone involved in the interview process is trained to avoid asking illegal interview questions, as well as questions that can inject unconscious bias into the hiring process.
  • Draft a script with a combination of questions designed to build rapport, learn more about the candidate’s experience, and test how the job seeker might perform in a variety of situations.
  • Create an assessment scale for members of your hiring committee to use to grade applicants.

Leadership Interview Questions That Build Rapport

You want to avoid unscripted small talk that might accidentally lead toward a discussion topic that might lead to unconscious bias. It’s best to begin using prepared icebreaker questions from the first moments that you greet each candidate. Ask ice breaker questions that address candidate capability, such as:

  • Have you ever used our products or are you familiar with our brand?
  • How has your job search been going?
  • Has your search led you to any conclusions about trends in our sector?

With these icebreakers you can begin gauging each candidate’s familiarity with your brand and enthusiasm for your field from the earliest moments of the interview while simultaneously putting them at ease, ensuring that their responses are more honest and spontaneous.

Values-based Questions

This category of leadership interview questions can help you determine whether the candidate shares your company’s core values, mission, workplace ethics, and preferred leadership style.

  • If you were writing a code of conduct for a startup what three values would you prioritize?
  • How would you deal with a situation in which your values are at variance with a coworker’s or supervisor’s?
  • How do you negotiate situations where your values differ from those around you?

Candidate responses to these values-based questions can illuminate how closely their values and ethics align with your organizational mission and ethos.

Questions That Measure Communication Skills

Communication is a critical skill for almost all roles, but it’s a particularly important quality in a supervisor, project manager, or team leader. These questions can help measure your next manager’s communication acumen:

  • Can you recall a time when you needed to negotiate with a difficult customer, vender, or coworker and tell us about how you managed to resolve the situation?
  • How do you prepare for presentations?
  • How would you sell me our brand’s product or service if I knew nothing about it?
  • Your direct supervisor has just made a suggestion that you think is a terrible idea. What do you say?
  • How do you plan to forge and maintain good communication with the team you will be managing?

As you listen to the responses to questions aimed at measuring communication skills, take note of how clear and engaging each candidate is.

Problem-solving Questions

The way candidates answer behavioral or problem-solving questions can reveal whether their approach to facing challenges aligns with your company’s management style. You may want to ask:

  • What is the first thing you do when you’re assigned a new project?
  • How would you repair relations between two parallel departments with a history of not getting along?
  • What was the biggest mistake you’ve made on the job and how did you resolve it?
  • Tell me about a time when a team you were leading had disagreements. How did you resolve the situation?

Depending on your company’s core values and culture, you can focus on a number of factors as candidates answer these behavioral questions, including whether the applicant exhibits traits like confidence or empathy.

Assessing Candidate Responses

As members of your hiring committee assess candidate responses to leadership interview questions, have them pay attention to how each candidate describes past successes and setbacks. If they tend to say “I” rather than “we” when recounting career highlights but deflect blame to others when they talk about missteps, they may not be the right choice for an organization that values accountability.

Take note of applicants whose answers display a tendency to commit common management errors, such as:

  • A lack of clear goals and expectations from direct reports, including performance assessment and feedback.
  • A failure or reluctance to delegate and a tendency to micromanage.
  • A tendency to favor quick fixes over long-term solutions.
  • A failure to support work-life balance and workplace wellness.
  • A resistance to change.
  • An inflated self-image that might undermine a team ethos.

One of the most critical aspects of interviewing candidates is knowing how to ask follow-up questions that encourage top applicants to expand on their answers so that you get a sense of the approach to work and leadership. The general follow-up questions below can help you to get more information from almost any of the preceding questions:

  • Looking back, what would you have done differently if you had to tackle the challenge you just shared with me now? What resources do you wish you had at the time to resolve the issue?
  • What lesson did you learn from that success or failure that has shaped how you do things now?

You Know What Leadership Interview Questions to Ask. Now Post a Job and Get the Word Out

Now that you know the right questions to ask your company’s next leader, and what to look for in their answers, it’s time to attract top performers with the leadership and management skills you need with a job post on Monster.