Hiring managers is one of the most important things you can do as a human resources professional or business owner. These are the people who run your business, shape the company in the public eye and influence corporate culture. Targeted selection interview questions use a manager's work history as a gauge in identifying probable behaviors in her future efforts.
You can read a resume's list of hand-picked successes the applicant wishes to present to you, but that can't tell you everything. A competency-based question, such as "Describe your most challenging situation you've faced as a leader" is a good, broad-based query. The response should describe a sequence of events that shows the manager's understanding of the problem and that the eventual solution was deliberate. This sequence might include a descriptor of the issue, identification of known ramifications of potential solutions and the path taken.
Managers are leaders of people. As such, they need to be able to handle everyday human issues, such as motivation, conflict resolution and coaching, among a host of others. The questions you ask of the prospective manager must result in answers that tell you whether she runs the show or her employees run over her. Asking a question like "Give me an example of how you got an uncooperative team member to align with your goals" tells you how well the person can lead and motivate -- and whether those techniques are collaborative or threatening. If she says the person was not able to be turned back and had to be terminated, it may raise questions about her ability to guide people with different personalities and career goals toward the same objective.
In life and in business, it's often not the problem itself but how you handle it. Whenever you ask a candidate what her major weaknesses are, syncophantic responses like "I'm too loyal" or "I'm a workaholic" tell you nothing. Prospective managers need to be introspective enough to be honest with themselves and objectively identify those areas of improvement. Asking something more specific, such as "Tell me about your biggest failure as a leader," tells you the specifics and also gives you a guide as to the amount of remorse the manager feels about the issue. The response should show concern for her performance and its influence on others, as well as the solution she attempted to implement to solve the problem.
Plans for Improvement
Managers sometimes are barely able to manage, failing to lead a division, group, or company to bigger and better things. A question like "Identify the biggest areas of improvement this company needs" does not require a specific, detailed answer involving information about your organization the candidate could never know. However, this question regarding the prospect's plans to improve your organization tells you what she knows about your company, how much she cares about the long-term success of it and the amount of thought put into her potential new position. This is a better version of the classic "Tell me what you know about our company" that is far too limited in scope.
What You Can't Ask
It's tempting to ask personal information about a person that has the potential to exert so much influence on your company. However, there are federally mandated limits to your queries. You cannot, for example, as a question like "Tell me about your family plans for the future" or "How old are you?" Questions in general cannot address anything regarding family planning, sexual preference, health issues or religion. Keep it professional, focusing on what happens within the four walls of your business. You'll find out criminal histories and major health issues that might prevent the person from doing her job after an offer is extended.