I recently applied for a promotion with my company, but was passed over. Now I have applied for the job of the person who did get the job.

Having just gone through the interview process, I have a general idea of what the questions will be like. Below are some of the questions that I felt I could have answered better the first time around.

I'd like to ace this interview, so any suggestions on how you would answer these questions is appreciated.


1. Two employees are constantly engaged in conflict with one another. How do you proceed?


2. Two employees have requested the same time off, both for very good reasons. You need one of them to work to keep your department running smoothly. What do you do?


3. An exceptional employee suddenly begins to perform poorly. He comes to work late, and the quality of his work is decreasing noticeably. How do you approach the situation.


4. How would you describe your management style?

TomW's picture
Training Badge

Let's start with this:

How would YOU answer those questions?

twaldo's picture

I think the points I'd try to touch on this time around are:


1. Two employees are constantly engaged in conflict with one another. How do you proceed?

-Speak to them both individually
-Ask for specific examples to separate true problems from simple venting, and to help understand the issue completely
-Through the meeting as for examples on how the issue could be resolved
-Consider the issue from both side, what are the employee's needs or wants? Is the conflict simply a symptom of a larger problem
-Try to find some common groun or an acceptable compromise.


2. Two employees have requested the same time off, both for very good reasons. You need one of them to work to keep your department running smoothly. What do you do?

 I have no idea with this one. I mumbled something incoherent in the last interview. I'm thinking:
-Do everything in my power to try and accomodate the request (I can work 6 days and take a lieu day the next week).
-Explain the situation to them both and ask again if either would be willing to compromise
- Determine if it is necessary to take the entire time off, maybe they actually only need a day or two
- If they are unwilling to make a compromise, let them know that a decision will be made.


3. An exceptional employee suddenly begins to perform poorly. He comes to work late, and the quality of his work is decreasing noticeably. How do you approach the situation.

-Ask him directly if something is bothering him either inside or outside of work
-Inform him about his behaviour; it's possible he is not aware that anything has changed
-Monitor for a week or two
-If things have not improved hold another meeting and lay out clear concequences if there is no change, then follow through on them.


4. How would you describe your management style?

I'm very responsive. I try to earn respect and create a feeling of teamwork. I look at my team as peers, though I am comfortable showing leadership and disciplining when necessary.

jrumple's picture
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As I was going through the questions, I heard echos of podcasts I've listened to. Unfortunately I can't find one that I know I've heard. With five years of back episodes, let's see if we can give you some filters for getting started. I recommend each and every past episode. You can download them today and schedule time for getting caught up later.

I'll start with your question #4. Check out How to Answer the Leadership Style Question episode.

My first impression was that there was a specific episode for your question #3. There isn't. I think some of the advice in How to Manage an Arrogant Producer may help. In The First Question in Your One-on-One episode, Mike relates a story about an exceptional employee he had and was able to catch a problem before they began performing poorly. There are probably some ideas in there that can help you. For me, the answer for this question is Feedback, as in Manager Tools Feedback. Of course that depends on already having a good relationship with the employee through 4-6 weeks of One-on-Ones.

I know there is an episode describing how to answer an interview question in general. I can't remember the specific title. (Does anyone else remember it?) Before I started listening to Manager Tools I was taugh the STAR model for answering interview questions. After listening to Manager Tools, I use and teach a Modified STAR. To understand the Modified STAR, we need to learn STAR.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Situation: Give one simple sentence to set the stage. "When I was working on XYZ project, I had a similar thing happen." "There was a time when I was in charge of a fundraising project." "I had to manage conflict in my team when I was working at ABC company."
Task: One or two sentences describing what you were assigned to do in the situation.
Action: Describe the behaviors that you did to resolve the situation or complete the task
Results: Describe how things were resolved, the impact to the company, the impact to the team, where things stand now.

The Modified STAR is all of that above, but open your answer with the result. "There was a time when I was able to help save the company $10,000 by not losing an important customer." Then go into the STAR. Mark and Mike talk about this as giving the interviewer a frame around the answer so they know that it will end and about when you're getting close. Avoid the "and then...and then... and then..." answers because it will put the interviewer to sleep.

Next the best predicter of future behavior is past performance. As I look over your answers here, I don't see any past performance. The questions don't imply this and let you go out on that limb if you want to. Try to draw from your past performance. What similar situations have you been in where you've handled similar situations. Describe what you have already done and the results you've observed.

Focus on Results. When you first draft a STAR response to these questions, you'll probably focus a lot on the Task and your Actions. Review and edit these responses. You should spend 40-50% of the 3 minutes in your answer to describe the results. That gives 30% on Action. 10-20% on Task and 10% on Situation. After you have shifted the focus to the results, now you can write your one sentence introduction to the Modified STAR. Memorize this opening sentence. 80% of your answer should be prepared and practiced. 20% should be adapted within the interview to take the rehearsed sound out of the answer. Right now you can draft a Modified STAR response for every bullet on your resume.

Paint a verbal picture. During your Task and Action part of your answer, the interviewer should be able to close their eyes and visualize what you were doing. This means that you're describing your behaviors (Words you say, How you say them. Facial Expressions, Body Language, and Work Products). An example from your post above is "Speak to them individually."

I promised more links. Here are a few of the other episodes that you should load into your iPod today and finish before the interview:
Interviews-The Introduction
Horstman's Wager, Part 1
Horstman's Wager, Part 2
5 Ways to Master Horstman's 3rd Law of Interviewing, Part 1
5 Ways to Master Horstman's 3rd Law of Interviewing, Part 2
Accomplishments - Connecting Resumes and Interviews
How to Write Thank You Notes

 I still feel like we haven't answered your question #2, which you indicate you have struggled the hardest with. First try to draw from your past experience for resolving conflict where someone didn't get exactly what they wanted and a compromise was struck. Any compromise you have negotiated will be a better answer than what I have quickly drafted below.

Option to answering question #2: During our next one-on-one session I would ask each direct for more information about the time off they have requested. What they are planning to do, How specific their date requirements are, if they have alternate options available to them. Since we've built up a good relationship through our one-on-ones, I'll be able to better understand how important the time off is to that individual and how feasible their backup plan is. I'll remind them that our operations are important and we need to manage the number of people we have out of the office at any one time. I'll mention that I've received a number of vacation requests, some of which overlap and we're all going to have to work together to come to a resolution. If I know of someone else on the team who may be flexible to cover the time I will bring the situation to their attention during our one-on-one as well. I might open the topic by saying, "This is a time when many people are asking for vacation time. You know that it is important to keep a minimum number of people in the office at a time. Would you be interested in picking up some additional hours during your scheduled off time to help cover for teammates wanting to be on vacation?" Gathering all of these inputs would only take a week since we meet weekly for our one-on-one sessions. I expect that since the operation has some minimum manpower requirements, the overlap would come to my attention in plenty of time before the requested time off. I would then go over the data that I had gathered and make the tough decision. Managing a team is about making those sorts of decisions for the company. After I had made my decision and assuming we're talking about enough lead time to change travel plans, I would let everyone I had talked with previously know the outcome during our next one-on-one. If anyone had concerns about the decision I had made, I'd make it clear that they could discuss the situation with my boss or HR. In fact I would offer to walk them over to HR and introduce the topic for them. I don't expect to have much since I've already made it clear how important our staffing levels are to the company and to our customer. Of course if the response I got from the individuals led me to believe that this policy wasn't clear, I'd be sure to add staffing levels as a topic to our next weekly staff meeting. I would not discuss the particular situation which prompted this topic. I would simply present the information in the same way we first presented it. I would talk about how our staffing levels affect the company and describe the results when we have enough people and the results when we don't.

That is a pretty long answer. I don't know how long it would take to say, but you can practice that and time it. I know it took more than 5 minutes to type. You want your answer to take 3-5 minutes to give. You'll also want to tailor something like this to match your management style. Again, this answer is much weaker than you describing a situation in your past where you negotiated the resolution where two parties initially had competing needs.

As a side note, I included one-on-ones in this example a few times. This may prompt the interviewer to ask for more information about one-on-ones. That really opens a great door for you to describe the Manager Tools One-on-One and how it builds better relationships and increases communication. It helps build trust and is simple to implement. You can talk about the differences between Role Power, Expertise Power, and Relationship Power and that this is the first step to being able to perform as a manager. Your question #3 is another place where you can discuss Manager Tool Feedback and Systemic Feedback. The podcast was started because these things are done rarely and poorly in most organizations. It should go a long way in the interview when you can show that you have some existing management tools already in your skill set.

Colorado Springs

mpomraning's picture
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Regarding #1, there is an excellent podcast from August 2006 directly on this issue:  Resolving Conflict.

twaldo's picture

Thank you Jack for your detailed answer. I did listen to the "Weakness" and "Leadership Style" podcasts today, and realized just how far I have to go to get to the ideal answer. Luckily I still have several days before the interview to prepare some solid answers.

MPomraning, I also listened to the resolving conflict podcast. It was extremely helpful as well.

All of your feedback is appreciated!

SMcM's picture
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The resloving conflict cast is brilliant and that is how I would answer Q1.

I had to deal with that situation once and did exactly what MT suggested, and it worked!




jib88's picture

For Question #2: In addition to the excellent details that Jack gave, I would ask each of the DRs to come up with a plan for how to cover the work if both of them were out of the office. Not only would this help them understand potential difficulty involved if a tough decision has to be made, but they may actually come up with an acceptable solution.

ex: Perhaps there is someone else in another department that wants to expand skills in this area - this could be a good opportunity for that person to get practical experience. With a bit of negotiating, planning and coaching this person could be up to speed to provide cover for a week (with one or both of the absent DRs on-call).

If they come up with a realistic solution and are able to put it in place then it is a win for everyone. If they can't, then you make the decision based on whatever policy you have in place for team time off. If this is first-come-first-served, then so be it.

One key "final step" in your answer should address why you have a critical operation that will fail if one of two people are out. What if one of them is on a long vacation and the other has a death in the family or suddenly quits? You need to have a back-up plan in place that could address this, and would also address the situation for requested time off.


Desiretosucceed's picture

What a great post, what great responses. When you all mention different podcasts, etc. How would I get these podcasts on my Ipod? Do I click on your link or do it from ITunes. I am not very good at technology but really want to hear these podcasts.