Why Should We Give You a Job Managing When You Haven’t Managed Before?

Why should we give you a job managing when you haven't managed before?

This question is for people who haven’t managed before and are interviewing for a managerial job. Invariably, someone is going to ask you (if you’re lucky, they’re going to ask you; sometimes they just leave it unsaid and you need to be proactive with it), “You’ve never managed before and this is a manager’s position. What makes you think you can do that?” A lot of people fumble around with an answer and there are a few different ways to answer it.

The first one is to justify it. I’m not a big fan of answering this way because the interviewer can nod his/her head in agreement and dismiss your answer. There are a few other ways to answer it.

Managers have to have these attributes,” and you list a couple of qualities that managers need to have. “They need to be driven, motivated, knowledgeable, empathetic, need to be able to coach and mentor…” You talk about several different qualities and attributes a manager needs have. Then, from there, you say, “I haven’t done them all together. I’ve been in situations such as…” And then you talk about one situation where you had to coach and mentor. Another one where you didn’t have the authority but, ultimately, you can influence people to follow your lead and do the things that the manager would have someone do. That’s one approach to take, but it’s easy to dismiss these arguments as being BS.

It is my favorite way of doing it. Someone asks you a question or they haven’t asked you the question and it’s late in the interview and you want to address this proactively. Let’s say they ask the question.

I’m sure some point you didn’t manage people and were stepping into your first management job. What made you think you were capable of doing it and how did you get your shot?” When they talk about why they were able to do it, you respond by saying, “In much the same way I’ve done (and mention a few things) and I’m ready. I know I’m ready.” Or, if they just choose to talk about how they got it, you follow up with, “what qualities did you have or experience that you have that prepared you for that moment?”

You follow up by saying, “I’m that way, too.”

If they don’t ask it in the question is hanging out there unasked as the elephant in the room, toward the end of the interview or at the very end if they ask, “Is there anything else,” you say, “I’m sure at one point you weren’t in a managerial role. Someone saw in you the experiences and determined that you are ready. What did you’s think of yourself at that point? Did you think you are ready?

“Yes, I thought I was ready.”

Great. What qualities and experiences prepared you for that moment?” They will then talk about their life which, I’m sure, is not radically different than yours. You will respond by saying something like I said before. “That’s my situation, too. I know I’m ready at this point. I’ve had these experiences, as well. As such, I’d like to be able to step up in the next organization and help you folks succeed, just as I felt my current firm succeed.


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff 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, all 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 more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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

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