Woman working on laptop at a table with a woman shuffling papers
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

 

Why this matters:

While the assistant manager should generally follow the lead of a more senior manager, they are often the ones left in charge when the manager is away for any reason. As such, they should feel comfortable making the kinds of decisions that a manager would typically make.

What to listen for:

  • A keen awareness of their boss’s management style and decision-making process.
  • Great answers may mention organizational policies and keeping the organization’s values in mind.
  • Confidence in leadership skills is a plus.

Why this matters:

Assistant managers juggle many different tasks in a short period of time, ranging from office logistics to staff management to assisting senior management with larger projects. Because their schedules vary constantly and their responsibilities impact everyone in the organization, it’s important to hire someone who knows how to manage their time effectively.

What to listen for:

  • Strong answers demonstrate comfort with a variety of responsibilities, and a knowledge of how their success will impact team members and senior management.
  • The candidate’s ability to pivot on a dime, as required by business demands.

Why this matters:

In a busy organization, it’s important for leaders to be willing and able to delegate. A strong assistant manager knows this—and can strike the right balance between taking primary responsibility for something, pitching in where needed, and assigning some tasks to others.

What to listen for:

  • Listen for how this candidate decides what to take on themselves—and what to delegate.
  • Strong delegating skills. How do they ensure their assignments are clear, and that they give people freedom in deciding how to carry them out?

Why this matters:

Assistant managers are frequently on the ground with other employees and should be able to quickly sense when a conflict arises. They should be able to gather objective data on the situation and effectively diffuse it—without having to bring in senior management.

What to listen for:

  • An ability to peacefully resolve any variety of conflicts, ideally where all parties leave content.
  • Empathy and an ability to relate to others.
  • Past examples might demonstrate the ability to approach conflict in a constructive way.

Why this matters:

An assistant manager’s responsibilities may vary by the day—or even by the hour. It’s important to find someone who won’t shy away from going outside their job spec. This question can also demonstrate a candidate’s ability to lead a team—or contribute meaningfully to a shared goal.

 

What to listen for:

  • Strong answers will show the candidate’s ability to be a self-starter and go the extra mile, as required.
  • Examples may also show the candidate’s innate problem-solving skills.

Why this matters:

Assistant managers are often handling day-to-day operations, while a higher-level manager may spend more time focused on the bigger picture. This often includes training team members and actively providing support and feedback, so having experience with training is a must.

What to listen for:

  • Great answers will showcase initiative—recognizing the need for a team member to learn a new skill and taking the time to train it.
  • Patience and understanding.
  • The ability to vary the method of training. Some people are visual or auditory learners—others learn best by doing.

Why this matters:

In addition to managing the staff on a daily basis, assistant managers may also be responsible for approving time off, coordinating schedules, and arranging other office logistics. A stellar candidate thrives under stress. This question allows them to simultaneously demonstrate their flexibility, empathy, and operational chops.

What to listen for:

  • A good answer exhibits empathy—and a strong sense of life priorities.
  • Problem solving skills and a resourceful attitude that prioritizes always having a backup plan at the ready

Why this matters:

In many ways, the assistant manager is the bridge between management and staff, so it’s important that they are on the same page—particularly with regards to top-down directives and policies. This allows the candidate to showcase how they choose their battles, stick up for what they believe in, and manage up, if needed.

 

What to listen for:

  • Strong answers showcase both maturity and the ability to resolve disagreements with constructiveness vs. drama.
  • A belief in the greater good—and a desire to be effective.

Why this matters:

The role of an assistant manager is often a stepping stone to a higher leadership role. It’s important to learn how the candidate envisions their future career path—and gain a sense of their longer-term interest.

 

What to listen for:

  • Enthusiasm about the organization and industry.
  • Ambition and the desire to grow with your organization.
  • A desire to build upon and improve relevant leadership skills and processes.