Tough Interview Questions for Managers: How Do You Recognize Incompetence? Excellence?

Tough Interview Questions for Managers: How Do You Recognize Incompetence? Excellence?

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
I think of this as a tough interview question for managers that offers you an opportunity to demonstrate how you manage and how you lead.

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Here are two fun back-to-back interview questions that you as a manager, or you, as a leader in an organization can be asked. The first one is how do you recognize incompetence? And it might be followed up by how do you recognize excellence?

Forrest Gump put it very well–Stupid is as stupid does. Thus the notion that you’re going to evaluate people for their incompetence (incompetence, I think is the wrong word, their failures) their failings in a role. Thus, it’s based on performance.

Now, rarely is it because someone doesn’t want to do a good job. Most people do. So the question is, why does the performance failure recur? Often, it’s because they don’t have the resources to support them. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the will to do what they need to do. Your job is to identify standards that everyone agrees to by which they’re going to be evaluated and measured. So that in this way, there’s an objective criterion that you can use to assess someone’s performance.

The same thing is true with excellence. How do you recognize excellence? Above and beyond. We’ve got basic measures by which you’ve established standards of performance. And you might discuss what some of those standards are for excellence, for incompetence or failure for an employee. And thus how do you benchmark becomes part of the conversation. How do you recognize? How do you support the person who’s failing to pull them in or dispose of them if that’s really what’s going to be necessary? Obviously, you hope it isn’t. But standards have to exist.

You set the standards in cooperation with them. And then in answering this question, talk about how you deal with performers who are above the line and below the line. Below the line tends to be easiest. Above the line tends to be more complicated.

Is it that you try and get them advancement opportunities? Do you give them more challenges. You talk with them about where they want to take their successes as they move forward. Whatever it is, figure out what your standards are for supporting someone moving ahead, who’s performing extremely well.

Hope you found this helpful. I’m Jeff Altman. My website is Go to the site and go exploring. There’s just gonna be a lot there to help you in the blog. In addition, you can schedule time for a free discovery call with me for coaching, schedule time for a coaching session, and find out about my courses, books, and guides. There’s just a lot there to help you.

Also, connect with me on LinkedIn at Have a terrific day and most importantly, be great!

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2400 episodes.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? People hire me to provide No BS career advice whether that is about a job search, hiring better, leadership, management or support with a workplace issue. Schedule a discovery call at my website, 

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