City Manager Interview Preparation Guide
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City Manager related Frequently Asked Questions by expert members with job experience as City Manager. These questions and answers will help you strengthen your technical skills, prepare for the new job interview and quickly revise your concepts

54 City Manager Questions and Answers:

1 :: Tell us what’s your communication style?

This is another classic question that directly stems from asking about managing projects and leadership. A project manager is nothing if not an effective communicator. They need to be able to speak to team members, stakeholders, vendors, etc. Each group will need a slightly different approach. Stakeholders want the broad strokes, while teams will need more detail. If a project manager can’t clearly communicate, the project is doomed before it has begun.

2 :: Tell us have you managed remote teams and outsourced resources?

Not all projects are executed under one roof. With more dynamic project management tools and a global workforce to choose from, many project managers might never meet the members of their team, at least in the real world. Then there are the necessary resources that will be outsourced, which involves a different management technique than when working with employees. Knowing how they would manage people and resources can be a crucial point in your decision to hire or not to hire.

3 :: Explain me what’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a project?

Everyone makes mistakes; character is defined by how you deal with them. This question will allow you to first gauge the candidate’s honesty. If they say that they’ve never made a mistake, you can rest assured that they’re not being truthful and their resume can go into the circular file. However, when they tell you about the mistake they’ve made, note if they take responsibility for it (that will reveal their level of maturity) and, of course, how they resolved it.

4 :: Please explain what is your management style?

Intent: This is a classic question for management-level candidates. The interviewer's intent here is threefold: to find out if your management style fits, to determine if you have management ability and to probe how much you understand your own work style.

Context: Avoid responding with cliches. Hopefully you can say more than that you have an open-door policy or you manage by walking around.

Response: In today's environment, you need to speak to leading and developing your team, communication, how you organize and plan, how you execute and how you measure progress. It need not be a long answer, but responding with a well-thought-out approach to your management style will make a better impression than spouting generalities.

5 :: Tell us how do you motivate people?

Motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so I like to really get to know my team on an individual level. I feel like this gives me a good feel for what works for each person. A few years ago, I was overseeing a sales team. While our numbers were good, they weren’t great, and a big part of that was a result of one of the members of the team dealing with a child going through cancer and chemo. Because of the gravity of the situation, I decided the team needed a good carrot-on-a-stick reward with a positive spin to it to get them excited about selling. I promised them, if they broke the previous year’s record, that I would shave my head and donate a portion of my salary to a local cancer charity that was working with the employee’s daughter. This didn’t just motivate the team, it completely re-energized them! Suddenly the entire group was working overtime and we expanded the challenge and turned it into a company-wide event. We not only broke the previous year’s record, but fifteen of the employees joined me in shaving their heads and we collected and donated over $5000 to the charity. We had so much fun that we turned it into an annual event that they are still participating in to this day.

6 :: Explain me your process for delegating tasks to your team?

This is one of the more popular manager interview questions because, as a manager, delegation is a regular part of the job. Managers who delegate well are more productive, and so are their teams.

Clarify that you delegate according to individual team members’ strengths. If you’ve used industry-standard task management software, mention this skill. Explain how you manage the distribution of tasks so that the work is divided evenly among members for maximum efficiency. Then, provide a specific (and successful) example from your work experience, breaking it down according to the same steps you described as your process for delegating tasks.

7 :: Explain me how would your coworkers describe you? How would your direct reports describe your management style?

These are a couple of tricky manager interview questions, but they do come up often in these types of interviews. They’re designed to see how well you relate to your peers, as well as those who work for you.

Your answer is a great opportunity to speak about your strengths. Ideally, talk about the characteristics that make you an excellent manager. The trick is to accomplish this without sounding unbelievably perfect or arrogant. If you can, use positive yet sincere quotes that you’ve been given firsthand (such as in a performance evaluation or a LinkedIn endorsement), or compliments that have been relayed to you by others. If you don’t have direct quotes to share, it’s okay to speak anecdotally if you can back up your examples with an example or two.

8 :: Tell us how do you delegate work to your team?

While there are many interview questions for managers, this question in particular is important to prepare for. An interviewer will want to hear that you can comfortably delegate tasks to your team, both fairly and effectively. Consider past projects you have worked on and clearly explain your process for delegating work. Make sure you discuss how you picked the right people for the task and briefed them in.

9 :: Tell us how do you motivate a team?

One approach won't fit all when trying to motivate different team members, so when asking this question recruiters are looking for an understanding of how different personalities and working styles make up a team.

Give specific examples of how you get to know a team and how you assess each person's strengths. Explain how you use positive reinforcement and recognition to motivate employees and encourage them to achieve company goals.

10 :: Tell us what’s your background, personally and professionally?

It’s important to get a snapshot of the applicant to bring their resume into sharper focus. Knowing a bit about their life story can inform how they might respond to issues at work, and whether they will fit into the corporate culture. The same goes for their professional history. Staying at a single job for a long time can be either bad or good, but you won’t know until you put their choice into context.

11 :: Tell us do you have budget management experience?

It helps to drill down into specific experience. Naturally, if the candidate has specific skills they’ll be briefly sketched in the resume, but here’s your opportunity to get a deeper sense of where they stand in terms of budget management. Project managers are known as planners. They schedule and lead teams to success. But there’s often money involved, so they better know how to handle a budget.

12 :: Tell us how do you prioritize tasks on a project?

Prioritization is important. There’s going to be more work in a day than can be accomplished, so any good project manager is going to have to determine what is crucial and what could be left undone if necessary. It will prove interesting and informative to see how the candidate makes these decisions.

13 :: Can you give me proof of your technical competence?

Remember the three possible competency scenarios: exceeds, meets or needs development. Even if you find yourself in the last category, you need to demonstrate that you are purposefully and rapidly developing in that area and trying to compensate with an area of strength. You are better off acknowledging where you are rather than trying to fake it.

14 :: Explain me what is your biggest management weakness?

There are times when I have to remember that although I’m the supervisor and ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a project, that I also have to step back and trust my employees to do the jobs I’ve hired them for. In past situations when problems would arise I would often find myself jumping in and fixing the problem myself, bypassing the person who was assigned the task. While my jumping in did solve the immediate problem, it would often lead team member to feel as though I didn’t trust them or lacked confidence in their ability. It was a hard lesson to learn and one I still struggle with, but now, when I am faced with an issue, I step back, take a deep breath and really assess what’s going on and how I can fix it without stepping on toes or undermining my fellow teammates.

15 :: Tell us how would you handle a project that was running over budget?

Let’s face it — budgets are stressful. This question is asked for two reasons: to learn how you handle stress and to understand your budgeting skills. Your interviewer will want to see how you prioritize tasks and which soft skills you use to reign in the cost overrun and make the rest of the project run efficiently.

Provide an example from your own experience in your answer. Don’t give an example where your project went over budget and you were not able to resolve it. Instead, go with an example that shows you can foresee issues and re-align your project to stay on track with the budget. If you don’t have an example that works, describe honestly how you would deal with a budget issue.

16 :: Tell us are you a risk taker?

The best way to answer such an open-ended manager interview question is to do your research on the company. Get a good idea of the company’s culture and goals. If this is a company that moves quickly and praises risks taken by management, then play up your ability to take calculated, informed risks.

If this company prides itself on its steadiness, then it’s a good idea to focus on your preference to make only fully-informed decisions. Don’t lie. Accept that you’re a multifaceted worker, but some facets fare better in certain environments.

17 :: Explain me how do you see a manager's role on a team?

You could start your answer by giving a brief definition of what 'management' means to you. But overall, this is an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of professional boundaries. While managers are still members of a team you'll need to show employers, by using relevant examples from previous experience, how you maintain a professional distance while still remaining on good terms with those who you manage.

Managers who work too independently risk isolating themselves from their team, but those who are too friendly may undermine their own authority. Demonstrate how you strike the balance between these two approaches.

18 :: Explain me have you worked in this industry before?

Does the candidate have experience in your industry? If they don’t, it’s not a game-closer. Much of project management is the same from industry to industry. Perhaps they have strong skills that relate to your industry, even if they don’t have direct experience. However, if they do have experience in your field, that’s a plus, so ask how those relevant projects panned out. Note how confidently they answer. You want an authentic person who is comfortable in the position.

19 :: Tell us how do you work with customers, sponsors and stakeholders?

Even project managers have to answer to someone. Responding to executives and stakeholders requires a different approach than the one they would use with teams and vendors. Part of their duties includes managing stakeholders who hold a position of authority over the project manager. That takes a subtle touch.

20 :: Tell me how do you manage stress among your team members?

While I find I do some of my best work under pressure, I know not everybody works that way which is why I like to keep a close eye on how everyone on my team is doing. If I start to notice stress or negativity within the team, I try to tackle it quickly and proactively. I’ll talk with the individuals and assess the situation and see exactly how I can help alleviate it. A few years ago, I was on a group project where we were tasked with finishing a large design for a client. Each of the team members were assigned a separate part of the project with the idea that we would come together at the end and present the final product. While the majority of the team worked well together, there was one individual who was consistently missing deadlines and slowing things down. This created friction and stress among the members of the group. Rather than let the issue fester and potentially jeopardize the project overall, I took the employee aside and we discussed what was going on. He confided that he was having some personal issues that were cutting into his work time. We went over some options and came up with a solution where he was able to switch his hours around and adjust his schedule to accommodate this issue. As a result, he was able to catch up with the group, we finished on time, and the client was ecstatic with the final results.