Operational manager interview questions can be difficult to understand, let alone respond to and prepare for. As a result, many candidates for these positions struggle with their preparation and have an immense amount of stress leading up to the interview.
However, this does not have to be the case for you. Preparing for the interview properly does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. And, if you invest in doing it the proper way, you will be far ahead of your colleagues.
To do this, you must be efficient and learn how to answer some of the most common operational manager interview questions.
In this article, we will discuss what these questions are and the best strategies you can use to prepare for your interview.
What are employers and hiring managers looking for when interviewing people for the Operational Manager position?
There are thousands of organizations across the globe currently searching for operational managers. Each of them has a unique list of skills they want the candidates to have, unique goals, different customers, and distinct values.
As such, it is impossible to say every operational manager must have the same exact skills. Still, some skills have been proven to be very useful for operational managers, regardless of which company you work for.
A few of these traits include:
Knowing how to openly and clearly express your views and goals is absolutely crucial for operational managers. This type of manager needs to lead teams very effectively and to do this, they must know how to communicate.
Proper communication is the first step to building bonds with employees. As a manager, knowing how to delegate tasks entails using communication, too.
Organizational skills will help you immensely boost your productivity as a manger. Not being organized only gets you more frustrated and wastes your time.
Not having this skill set means risking falling behind your competition, which should be avoided at all costs. Organizational abilities let you save time so that you can focus on what matters most to you.
All directors, managers, and executives undoubtedly need to have leadership skills. After all, they are called leadership positions for a reason: you will be leading a team at your job. Many different skills are included within the leadership skill category.
For example, empathy and flexibility can help you boost relations with employees. It unites individuals with common goals. This could help them view you more positively as a leader.
As an operational manager, you will be making decisions on a daily basis. In fact, your decisions will likely have a major impact on your team’s success.
This would make most people extremely stressed, but great managers know how to overcome that stress and make great decisions even under pressure. Decision-making skills will boost your entire team’s odds of success.
Attention to details
Consider the jobs that require a lot of attention to detail: surgeons, engineers, technicians, and similar jobs. Operational managers are not usually included in this list, but attention to detail is necessary to succeed in this position.
Paying attention to details sets you apart as a leader. It allows you to perfect your craft and boost the accuracy of reports. If you let one mistake go unnoticed, it may spiral out of control. To prevent this, attention to detail is needed.
All of the previously described skills would be classified as soft skills. However, you must also possess some technical skills to be a great operations manager.
For example, you must be great at managing money. Being resourceful and efficient with money allows you to make the most out of what you have and optimize your odds of success.
Without proper budgeting, your team may not be able to reach their full potential with limited resources.
You might be an incredible manager, but even the best of the best cannot avoid problems entirely. You will still engage in conflicts and be met with challenges.
When this occurs, you need to have problem-solving skills to fix the issue quickly and restore the situation back to normalcy.
This allows your team to stay on track instead of getting bogged down by issues. It also boosts productivity and increases goal achievement.
18 Operational Manager Interview Questions with Sample Answers
General Interview Questions
1. What makes you interested in operational management?
There needs to be passion behind your application to the operational manager role. Highlight your emotional reason and history behind your choosing this career. Make sure it is meaningful and unique to you.
One way to respond is: “I would like to be the operational manager since this role impacts individuals across the entire organization. It allows me to make an immense impact and to truly use my skills to their limit. I have seen the importance of managers in other roles, and I believe my success in my last few roles was due to a manager helping me. I would like to help others in the same way.”
2. Tell me about your strengths and weak points.
Everyone has a unique list of strengths and weaknesses. The ideal candidate is open and honest when describing them. This will make you seem authentic and genuine to the employer. Do not give non-answers to the weakness part of the question.
For instance, you could say something along the lines of: “My top strength is leadership. I have extensive leadership experience. From leading nonprofits as a high schooler to more recently being employed as a financial manager, I know how to properly communicate with people. My top weakness is being too focused on details. I may miss the big picture and get bogged down in the small details, especially when working with complex supply chains.”
3. What made you leave your last job?
Typically, employers do not want to hire people who are not loyal to their employers. So, when answering this question, you should be careful not to seem disloyal. Highlight the specific issue you had with your last employer or state what made you think a new job was needed for you.
A sample response is: “I left my prior sales operations manager position because the CEO left, and the new CEO began to implement policies I believed hurt the entire team. He did not take input and did not allow us to truly act like a united team. The environment became very toxic, conflicts were constant, and I knew I needed to seek new employment.”
Experience and Background Interview Questions
4. What do you believe an operational manager does on a daily basis?
Questions like this one ensure that you have done enough research and know the basic workings of your role. To answer well, read the position’s job description. Focus especially on the ‘daily tasks/expectations’ section if there is one.
You could say this in response: “The daily tasks of an operational manager include conducting research on competition, delegating tasks, presenting ideas to the team and executives, coordinating meetings, speaking to numerous team departments, as well as performing budgetary work.”
5. Tell me about how budget planning works. What steps are included in the process?
Budget planning is one of the key tasks performed by operational managers. In essence, the task involves creating a budget based on the team’s goals, competition analysis, input from team members, and other research. Be as specific as you can be to demonstrate that you not only understand budget planning but also communicate well.
A sample response is: “Budget planning is the process of making a budget from speaking with the team, studying operational trends, and generally thinking about the most efficient way to spend money. I would first think of how much money we have. Then, I would speak to team members about their goals. I create a plan for how to achieve team goals with the cash we have, and then make a budget around this.”
6. Do you have any expertise in logistical management? What is your level of experience in the field?
Having experience can almost always be used to your advantage. If you can showcase examples of your prior success in logistical management, this can highlight you are a great candidate. Try to connect these experiences to how you can benefit your new team.
You could respond with: “I have over 10 years of experience in management, and over 6 years of experience in logistical management specifically. I have worked mostly at smaller startups leading their teams in budgeting and other aspects of logistics by focusing on long-term goals.”
7. Do you have experience with negotiating vendor contracts? Which negotiation approach do you think works best?
Negotiation is an interpersonal skill that most of the most seasoned operational managers have mastered. By maintaining strong negotiation abilities, you will be able to get the best deals for your team and help them succeed because of this. It boosts current sales operations and helps you achieve long-term vendor relations.
One way to reply could be: “Yes, I do have quite a bit of experience with negotiation. I used to be the chief negotiator for my last organization. I would work with both major national clients and local small businesses and persuade them to utilize our products. I think the best approach to use is to frame the negotiation in terms of your client’s best interests. This has helped me land numerous multi-million dollar contracts for my last employer.”
8. Which management information systems do you know how to use?
It is key to be experienced when applying for an operational management job. As we mentioned earlier, highlighting this can prove your efficacy and technical skills as a candidate. Try to do some research on which management information systems the organization uses and learn as much as you can about them in advance.
One way to respond is: “I have experience with several management information systems, including software for inventory control, HR software and communication services such as Slack, marketing software and analysis tools like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, and more.”
Role-specific interview questions
9. Tell us about the experience you have with management information systems.
Having experience is crucial when seeking employment in operational management. It is advisable to conduct research on the management information systems utilized by the organization and acquire as much knowledge as possible beforehand.
A sample response is: “I have used HR management information systems when I was an operations director. There, I was specifically in charge of recruiting and Human Resources. Such that I used tools including Slack, Monday.com, and Paychex.”
10. Suppose you have a very limited budget to work with. What would you do to maximize its use?
Unfortunately, resources and cash are limited in business operations. There may be times when your organization struggles tremendously, and you will need to make the most of very little. Give examples of your efficiency and strategies you would use to overcome this issue.
A sample response could be: “I have had times in my prior career where I had to work with very limited resources. I would first note specifically what our top goals are for company operations at that point, and then make a list of tasks that can help us achieve those goals. I rank them based of impact for each dollar cost. Those at the top are what I would invest in.”
11. If your team was struggling with achieving an organizational goal, what would you do to help them?
Highlight your willingness to work hard for the sake of your team and organization. Note how you would use critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to address the issue.
When responding, you could state something along the lines of: “I always keep a close eye on my team and am open to discussion. So if I notice people have a hard time meeting goals, I speak to the team directly, and we would brainstorm ways to overcome this. If there is conflict in the way, I would address it separately.”
12. How would you keep the quality of your team’s production high while also boosting their efficiency and productivity?
People are often asked to choose between quantity and quality, but this may be a false dichotomy. There are ways to both increase efficiency and productivity while also keeping the quality of productivity high. Note how you have been able to do this in the past and how you plan to do it for this specific organization.
One way to answer is: “I have found the best way to boost efficiency while keeping quality high is to focus on assigning tasks based on each employee’s strengths. This allows them to become more productive. But, when people work according to their strengths, the quality of work also increases simultaneously.”
13. What are the most important responsibilities of an operational manager?
As an operational manager, you will likely have an immense amount of responsibility. You will undoubtedly be a busy person! However, when answering this question, focus on the tasks you think are most meaningful and what you think you will spend the most time doing.
For instance, you could say something like: “The most important role of the operational manager is to delegate tasks to those working in the operations department. It also involves coordinating shipping and vendor contracts, as well as budgeting.”
Behavioral interview questions
14. Tell me about a project you were involved in which numerous teams worked together. How did you participate in the project and what was the outcome of your participation?
Highlight your ability to make a positive impact on the entire team when answering this question. Note how many people were in the team, what your role was, and the steps you took to contribute to the project. Then highlight how your participation and leadership allowed the entire team to flourish.
A sample answer could be: “I have been involved in leading and participating in numerous large team projects. For instance, I was in charge of facilitating a large vendor recruitment project. There, I had to contact dozens of vendors and speak to them about partnering with our team. In the end, over 60% agreed, and we made millions out of the initiative.”
15. What is your experience with generating presentations? Were they successful?
Knowing how to create compelling and informative presentations is key to your success as an operations manager. By showing you have presentation skills, you also highlight your effective communication abilities and confidence.
One way you could answer this is: “I have made thousands of presentations throughout my career. For example, I had to make a presentation to one of the largest companies in our local region to convince them to become a supplier for our clothing company. I highlighted the key benefits of our organization and kept their interests as my number one concern. In the end, they ended up signing a multi-million dollar contract with us.”
16. How have you adapted to the changes in the industry?
The industry is constantly changing. You need to be able to adapt to these changes. Without strong adaptation skills, your entire team may fall behind and start losing clients. Thus, highlight times were you noticed an industry change and quickly adapted to it.
A sample answer is: “When I first joined my last team, they were using quite outdated technology to keep track of inventory. They had no HR platform for communication with one another or keeping track of productivity and no long-term growth plan. I decided to invest in technology as a leader. This led to the team becoming more efficient and technologically savvy. It also improved performance metrics, like productivity.”
17. How did your ideas and institute estimates impact your prior team? If you could change anything about those ideas, what would you change?
The interviewer wants to see that your leadership and action made a significant positive impact on your prior team. To do this, you should highlight the specific initiatives you started and the impact they had on the team. Use statistics and specific examples when possible.
A sample answer is: “One of my main initiatives was to begin assigning employees tasks based on their strengths. I noticed individuals became far more motivated and passionate as a result. By investing in technology, I saw the productivity of the team increase by over 25%.”
18. What was the biggest issue your prior teams have faced? What did you do to overcome it?
As previously noted, it is key to be adaptable and a critical thinker if you want to succeed as an operational manager. Give any examples of you using these skills to overcome major issues your prior teams faced. Use key metrics like productivity to prove your point.
A sample answer is: “Yes, there have been many times when I helped my team overcome hardship. For example, when we were on a very tight budget, I decided we needed to focus on specific products more. I made the decision through extensive market research. In the end, this led to us generating a significant amount of revenue and eventually being able to raise the budget.”
Questions for You to Ask in an Operational Manager Job Interview
When you think of an interview process, what typically comes to mind? Usually, the candidate is being asked many questions and the interviewer simply judges the responses and asks even more questions.
However, you also have the opportunity to further engage the interviewer and stand out from the crowd by asking them questions yourself. Doing so shows your passion and curiosity.
You could ask many different questions to the interviewer, but here are a few ideas:
- When would you like to hire your next operational manager?
- Do I report to the executive, the board, or someone else?
- Do you train new managers? What is the onboarding process like?
- How do you review manager performance (if you do reviews)?
- What type of managerial leadership style suits this team best, in your opinion?
- Could you please describe what an ideal operations manager looks like to you?
How To Prepare for the Operational Manager Job Interview
Now that you understand the basics behind what the operational manager job entails and some of the commonly asked interview questions for this position, you might be feeling more at ease. However, there are still a few extra steps you could take to ensure you truly prepare as best as you possibly can.
For one, you can reread the questions we already included in this article. Do not simply read over them, but rather, a ty silly form short responses to each question. Think about your prior experiences in your career and which you might bring up as examples of your skills, too.
Then, carefully reread the job description for the role you are applying to. Look over the company’s website. See if you can find any notes on values or key facts about the organization. Try to notice a few weak points for the organization so you can highlight how your skills can help them fill this skills gap.
Finally, consider reading some reviews of the company or speaking to friends in the organization (if you have any). They can give you even deeper insight into what the organization is like. Plus, before the night of the interview, get some rest and remind yourself of why you love this career.
Another one of the most important strategies you could use while being in an interview is called the STAR method. This strategy is extremely useful when you are telling stories or narratives. So, it is commonly used when answering a question like: “Tell me about a time you did X” or “What experience made you…”
The STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The Situation is simply what was happening at the time of the story (who was there, what the problem was, where you were, etc).
The Task is what you wanted to accomplish. The Action were the steps you took to accomplish your task. And finally, the result is the outcome of your Action.