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Submitted by jarber on


Does anybody give prospective management candidates case studies or exercises to work through as part of the interview process?

We have exercises that we have individual contributors do when they come for all-day interviews. This helps us see their critical thinking and presentation skills when given a novel problem and not much time (it is 45 minutes).

We've used something similar for managers/directors but are debating whether to continue it.

I'm wondering if others has given or experienced these types of interview exercises?

(BTW, I work in Silicon Valley where Google and other companies often give engineers problems to solve so it's normal in some circles...)

mkirk's picture
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I have given, and been given, these types of exercises and feel their value is pretty small, compared to giving engineers problems to solve.

Effective management involves relationships over a long period of time and in an infinite range of situations - this is impossible to replicate in an interview test. Unlike engineering, or accounting, or coding problems. So the most effective way to make a decision is to focus on past behaviour, looking to unearth consistent trends. 

I would say that the use of a 'test of management ability'  implies the organisation doesn't share these views on what makes effective management, so I would tread carefully. By all means test for specific technical knowledge or abilities, but it's effective questioning and listening that will provide guidance for managerial abilities.



jarber's picture
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Here's some more details if this helps....

I think the qualities we are trying to unearth are (1) ability to quickly analyze novel situations (2) ability to communicate a strategy/approach clearly. Since the role is a design manager, they need to show that they can analyze a product and come up with an approach to improve it.

What we have found is that some managers are able to present their work (they do a portfolio presentation since they are applying for a design management position and usually that goes well since it is rehearsed) but when we give them a novel problem to solve, with limited time, everything falls apart. (We give them 45 minutes and then about 5 of us who have been in the interviews earlier in the day come in and they present back what they'd do to solve the design challenge)

The people who do well take the problem and look at the larger strategy and issues. And then they give a coherent 5 minute presentation of what they'd do. The people who do poorly, hone in on a detail, accept the status quo and sometimes don't communicate coherently.

Yet, those who do poorly on this exercise, are well practiced at standard interview questions and can do a rehearsed presentation.

I'd be open to other ways to unearth these skills through interviews if people think that doing such an exercise is demeaning to someone applying for a management position.