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Why this matters:

Production managers are crucial to aerospace, chemical production, food, construction, transportation, and countless other industries. It can be helpful to understand the candidate’s domain-specific experience to both know what kind of training is in store and where the synergies are for a smooth transition.

What to listen for:

  • How this candidate learns new industries and domains
  • Links between their most familiar domains and yours
  • Passion and excitement for certain products or industries

Why this matters:

Many manufacturers require production managers to help with some form of compliance, such as checking off FDA requirements or meeting ISO quality standards. This question provides an opportunity for candidates to discuss their compliance-related education, training, or on-the-job experiences — and to embrace any future regulatory training.

What to listen for:

  • Knowledge of local, state, and federal regulations affecting your industry
  • Experience with audits, inspections, and new processes
  • Interest in undergoing training and maintaining strict protocol

Why this matters:

A BOM, or bill of materials, is a list of the materials, components, and specifications required for production. Production managers may use this important document as a guideline for their work, a visual representation of the end product, a tool that can verify completion, and more. Beyond familiarity with industry terms, this question reveals the candidate’s ability to brainstorm.

What to listen for:

  • Basic knowledge of industry terminology and information included in a bill of materials
  • Experience or deeper understanding how a bill of materials can be used in manufacturing
  • Related experience with inventory, quality control, or manufacturing documentation

Why this matters:

For production managers, it’s not enough to ensure accurate production; they also need to schedule work in a way that fits supply inventory and the availability of labor and equipment. With multiple moving parts, this calls for skillful coordination as well as nimbleness in the face of unexpected barriers, such as staffing emergencies, supply chain problems, communication mishaps, and the like.

What to listen for:

  • Ample experience with scheduling challenges — resulting in successful resolutions
  • Resilience under pressure
  • Strong problem-solving skills

Why this matters:

Successful production managers lead effectively, conveying necessary information to workers and peers, while providing high-level reports to management. Communication that’s unclear or insufficient can result in production mishaps, including wasteful production runs, inaccurate products, and unhappy customers.

What to listen for:

  • Lasting lessons learned in communication with peers and teams
  • Self-awareness about communication-related strengths and weaknesses
  • A commitment to ongoing learning — and a positive attitude toward change

Why this matters:

Quality is a key objective of nearly all production managers. And even in the best production facilities, it can be an ongoing challenge. Insufficiently trained employees, communication failures, malfunctioning equipment, supplier problems, and other issues mean that production managers must be fast on their feet — and must act decisively. The answer to this question will shed light on the candidate’s prowess.

What to listen for:

  • The candidate’s reliance on SOPs and checklists to systematically catch and fix issues before they go too far
  • An emphasis on training and quality control
  • A stance of responsibility and ownership for any past mistakes

Why this matters:

It’s important for production managers to motivate workers to do their work quickly and accurately — through long months and even years. This takes knowing what collective and individual team members value, then connecting the dots to a job well done. It also takes caring about employees, so that they are bound to reciprocate with loyalty, care, and diligence on the job.

What to listen for:

  • Effective leadership principles
  • Examples that showcase the ability to motivate others
  • Demonstration of caring for team members, past and current

Why this matters:

Production managers are typically tasked with containing costs to help optimize margins. New production managers may be in a great position to spot process improvements, introduce more cost-effective suppliers, or even apply new methods or technologies to help shave expenses — if only by part of a percentage point. The answer to this question can show the thought your candidate has given to this perennial challenge.

What to listen for:

  • Past experience with conserving resources, speeding production, or otherwise cutting costs
  • Consideration of your industry or specific production area
  • Any mention of or interest in relevant suppliers, technologies, approaches, or systems

Why this matters:

Time management can be a challenge in any role, but this question is especially good for production managers because of their unique responsibilities. If the candidate systematically prioritizes and completes their own work, they may be particularly good at coordinating team workflows and scheduling. In any case, the answer will reveal how effective this candidate is with a variety of workday tasks.

What to listen for:

  • Examples of effective time management skills
  • Personal efficiency
  • Ability to prioritize, letting go of what’s not important
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