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How to move up and become a people manager

By Mark Staniland, Regional Managing Director of Hays London City & Midlands

Is people management part of your career plan? If so, it’s not always clear how to get there and what experience might come in useful. It’s important to demonstrate your potential to manage other people and emphasise any transferable management skills to your interviewer.

Here is what you should be ready to discuss in your interview:

1. Prepare to talk about your stakeholder relationships

During your interview, you will need to discuss the progress of your relationships with your key stakeholders and how you managed their expectations. This will show that you have:

  • strong stakeholder management skills
  • the ability to have an open dialogue with senior team members
  • good communication skills and;
  • can build strong professional rapport leading to trust and credibility.

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2. Your experience in training and guiding other members of the team

Part of your previous role might have been to train new starters in your team and in different departments of the company. Or in addition, people might have come to you for regular advice, knowledge and guidance as you were maybe the most experienced and knowledgeable team member. It is best to mention these when asked “Why do you think you’ll be good for this role?” or “How do you describe your relations with your colleagues?”

If you are struggling to find examples, think about the following instead:

  • volunteering at school or university
  • coaching a team for a particular sport
  • acting as a mentor in any way.

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By presenting these types of scenarios you will be able to demonstrate the clarity of thought, communication skills and patience needed to be an effective people manager.

3. Knowing your strengths and remit

Employers will look for any examples that show delegation within your respective role. You’ll need to show the ability to let go of the reigns and hand work over to people. This will show that you are capable of establishing a remit and playing people to their strengths.

This may not apply to you directly if you’ve not been a manager in your last role. However, examples such as handing over work to a colleague whilst you were on annual leave, or to an intern who might have joined to help with administrative tasks, will also be good to talk about.

No matter what the case might be, ensure that you outline how you communicated your expectations in order for the task to be completed on time. Even if you have at least a strategy on how you would delegate, the hiring manager will be able to see your potential here.

4. Are you a team player?

When applying for this type of role, it is important to understand that you need to be highly team-spirited and passionate about reaching shared objectives. Think about experiences where you have gone ‘above and beyond’ to achieve these goals for your team or organisation. This is usually good to mention when asked “How would you describe your relationship with your team?” or “How would you describe your current team members?”

5. How high is your emotional intelligence (EQ)?

Last but not least, having a high level of EQ is essential for employee relations, engagement, productivity… and ultimately staff retention. This means you are aware of the emotions of people who would directly report to you and have the ability to create positive team moral.

Focus on times where you have been sensitive and tactful when managing the emotions of others, for instance when dealing with conflict between two team members, or being compassionate and helpful towards a stressed or overloaded colleague.

Don’t forget the positives here too! A good people manager will also know how to motivate team members, so if you have ever given a colleague advice, inspiring pep-talk or the boost they needed in that situation, this will work in your favour.

These are usually presented as more difficult, sometime indirect questions, so make sure to prepare in advance to avoid common interview errors. Some of these might be worded in a way such as “Can you describe a challenging situation you were faced with in the workplace” or “How do you deal with conflict?” Use this as an opportunity to let your emotional intelligence shine.

Taking everything into account, you most likely have experienced more than one of these examples before. After the interview, emphasise how excited you are about this opportunity and that you are ready to take the next step in your career of managing people. If you feel confident that it’s time for you to move forward, do not hold back and rise up to the challenge. Remember, every manager started off from somewhere.

Even if you do not succeed the first time, do not give up as this will help you learn for the next interview.

For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant. In 2000, he launched Hays Education with just six recruiting experts. By 2007, it had become the market leading education recruitment consultancy in the UK with a turnover of £70m, and employing 250 staff. He was appointed as Managing Director of Hays Midlands in 2011, and in 2015 was also appointed Regional Managing Director of Hays City of London business, based in Cheapside.

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