Managers, how do you handle an interview with your future team?

Mar 14, 2020

7 mins

Managers, how do you handle an interview with your future team?

You’ve been recruited to manage an already existing team and—surprise!—during the hiring process, you’ve been asked to meet your future colleagues. It’s a hefty challenge: you’re going to be evaluated by the people you’ll potentially soon be in charge of! Are you going back and forth between wanting to impress them and needing to show your leadership skills? What’s the best attitude to adopt for this job interview? What do you do with this first meeting with your future team?

Meeting the team: a good practice that benefits everyone

As a manager, you must recognise that an interview with your future team might be uncomfortable. Asking for the opinion of team members might mean that you don’t get the job. However, meeting your future team during the recruitment process is a positive step that benefits everyone:

  • From your point of view, this interview lets you—their possible future manager—see what it’s like as the head of the team and to anticipate any difficulties you may face. Even if it’s just a first glimpse, you can gauge the challenges ahead! This interview will help you save valuable time by laying the foundations for working together.

This is what Hugo, a managing editor, noticed when he had the opportunity to meet three members of his future team during the recruitment process. “That interview helped break the ice, which made it a lot easier to integrate when I was hired. From the very beginning, I felt I already knew a little about the team that I had just started to manage and understood what was at stake for them. It really saved a lot of time,” he said.

  • From the team’s perspective, this meeting lets everyone start preparing for a new leader. This is important when you know that a new boss is being “imposed” upon you, which can be a source of anxiety.

While not all companies automatically ask teams to participate in the selection process of their future manager, getting their opinion is, above all, a sign of trust. Maelle recently dealt with two team leader changes at the investment fund in which she works. When her manager left the company, the position stayed open for a while. Management initially hired someone who didn’t cut it. After that recruitment error, Maelle and her team were asked to participate in the hiring process. She believes this move greatly contributed to a successful candidate being chosen. “It’s a sign of trust that management had us meet with the applicants. The previous manager, the one it didn’t work out with, had been brought in through people he knew at the company and we didn’t meet him before he started. This time, we were able to have a dialogue during the hiring process, and it was a fit on both ends,” she said.

This step is a good way to lessen the chances of meeting resistance when you start the job. Once everyone has had their say and a consensus is reached, your arrival on the team will be an uneventful one, and there will be less doubt concerning your integration.

Our tips to manage meeting the team

As a future manager, you’re going to be evaluated, so of course you want to make a good impression! Hugo had this in mind when it was suggested that he meet some of his future colleagues before a decision was made. “I knew that this meeting would be decisive. If I didn’t make a good impression, if one of the three people that I met had doubts or a negative opinion, the process would be over for me,” he said. It’s a meeting not to be taken lightly, and one that requires plenty of preparation. Here’s our advice to maximise your chances of getting the thumbs up from your potential future team.

1. Determine the team’s expectations

This interview will help you start to figure out the individual and collective expectations of your potential team. A manager is there to allow a team to work more productively by bringing a vision, support, solutions and tools to their daily work life. If there’s time for them to share their expectations during the interview, you’ll have to do a big chunk of the work by asking the right questions! Here are a few relevant questions to ask your future team:

  • “What do you generally expect from your manager?”
  • “What do you think will be important for me, taking on this job?”
  • “What are the main problems you’re faced with in your job?”
  • “How can I help you overcome them?”
  • “What is your schedule like, what are your work habits?

2. Talk about the job

Your future team would probably like to know how you see your role. To help answer this, it might be interesting for you to visualise the sometimes varied responsibilities of the employees who will make up your team. This is a subject worth preparing for, according to Hugo. “It’s important to find out as much as possible about the people you’re going to manage, be super clear about their job descriptions and take the time to see what they do [on LinkedIn, for example]. They’ll ask you what you think of their work, that’s what’s important to them,” he said.

3. Talk about the way you work

Above and beyond your expertise, it’s often your vision of work and the methods you wish to put in place that will interest your future team. What type of management, which tools, which ways of communicating, of reporting? It’s better to be clear about your expectations concerning the way work will be organised. This common vision is the element that finally convinced Maëlle during the interview that this was the manager she needed.“What I liked is that it was easy to have a conversation and it was constructive. We had the same way of seeing work, the way things have to be done to achieve our objectives,” she said.

4. Adopt the right attitude

On the one hand, it seems essential to be humble. You don’t have the job yet and you don’t know the company, its field, or its clients very well. If you turn up and give the impression that you want to revolutionise your future colleagues’ way of working, it could be perceived as criticism. That’s not an attitude to inspire trust! Hugo strongly recommends being attentive on this point. “It’s essential to show that you’re not there to stir up trouble,” he said. “It’s a new team, you’re starting from scratch, you need to observe and respect what they’ve built. You have to get to know them.”

As a future manager, you will be asked to prove your leadership. Balancing modesty and self-confidence is a complex attitude, as Hugo explains. “Playing the role of a manager takes a bit of mental gymnastics. You have this duty to be humble, and at the same time, you must also show that you are capable of making decisions, of banging your fist on the table if necessary.”

Maëlle was fully aware of the complexity of these demands when she met her future manager. “On the one hand, I was super impatient to be guided by someone inspiring. I needed someone with experience in order to move forward. But at the same time, as I had gone two and half years without a boss, I was apprehensive about having someone impose themselves [on the team]. I really liked my autonomy and my independence. I needed to find someone who was able to find the right position in relation to my expectations.”

Your objective is to reassure employees. You know how to be an understanding, inspiring manager who is also capable of helping team members develop and grow. Of course your management style will adapt to each profile, but the best way to make a good impression is by being modest and understanding, and listening to your team.

5. Don’t make any promises

It’s important not to promise anything as you don’t know the team or the position well enough. If you’re eager to get going and shake things up, don’t forget that it takes time to see things objectively. It’s important to listen and to have an attitude where your questions lead to your team asking questions. Focus instead on what you can bring them in addition to what they already do in order to enrich teamwork.

6. Be yourself

Beyond that desire to want to give the best impression of yourself, be especially sure to be yourself. For Hugo, this is the most important point, as a major part of this meeting hinges on gut feeling. “At this stage, I’d say the personal meeting accounts for 75% of the interview score. It’s all about feeling, and that’s why you’ve got to be natural, to be yourself.”

This interview is above all a chance to physically meet the team, which lets you see if you feel comfortable working with them. The team will also make their own minds up—and their criteria aren’t always solely professional. “Really, your future team wants to know what kind of person you are,” said Hugo.

If you know someone’s personality, their values, how important work is in their life, this allows you to sense if they will be on the same wavelength as you. This is where an interview can get personal, Maelle explained. “We talked about our family situations and personal obligations. For example, my future manager told me that he had shared custody of his kids, which put me at ease. Being a mother myself, I figured we’d be on the same page,” she said. It’s just a small detail, perhaps, but one that makes a difference!

Perfect for laying the foundation for future collaborations, an interview with your future colleagues is a golden opportunity not to be missed! While preparing for this interview, keep in mind that the team’s expectations can sometimes be complex. In fact, if the position is vacant or new, there’s history: someone left—either by force or by choice—or the company was restructured, which may cause discomfort or worry for some employees. The team is going to have to adapt to someone new in charge again. Don’t forget that this “test” is a two-way street. The team will of course try to gauge how well you will fit in and lead them. However, this interview is also a chance for you to see if the position is right for you and if you feel comfortable in the company.

Names have been changed to ensure anonymity.

Translated by Kalin Linsberg

Photo: WTTJ

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