how-to-run-a-small-business

Interview questions for an office manager

Hiring an office manager is an important part of growing a small business. Office managers are, in a way, the purest “operations” employee: their job is to ensure, at all times, that the team is happy and productive. Their work ranges from the mundane tasks that keep the team going – like ensuring that everyone has the tools needed for their day-to-day job, to the larger things that come to define your company culture – such as organising events.

Office managers need some vital qualities:

They need to be an exceptional people person. They’ll be working with a lot of people – both in the team and outside it. An ability to have positive, productive relationships with them isn’t just a bonus – it’s a necessity.

They need to have a high attention to detail and great organisational skills. They’ll need to know every problem, frustration and hiccup that needs to be solved, or that might arise.

They need to enjoy solving problems – even when the solutions are mundane, administrative stuff. If they do their job well, they’ll be saving the team a huge amount of time and effort: managing that needs to be something they are motivated by.

Unfortunately, these are qualities that aren’t hugely easy to test for in interviews, so how do you run an interview for an office manager position?

Be situational

You’re looking for someone with a track-record of applying the qualities outlined above. That means you’re going to be using an age-old interview question structure:

“Tell me about a time when you…”

Some examples of the next part of this question:

  • Dealt with a large group of people
  • Handled something which was exceptionally hard to organise
  • Were exceptionally resourceful

In their answers, look for evidence of the qualities outlined above. Does it sound like they are innately organised? Do the experiences they mentioned suggest they are good with people? Does it sound like they enjoyed solving problems – or was it more of a chore?

Be practical

You can ask as many questions about their experience as you want – but you won’t necessarily get good information about how they’ll be able to improve your business. To find that out, you need to see examples of how they’d work specifically with your team.

Take them around your office. Introduce them to people, and see how smoothly they get along. Then, sit them down and ask:

How would you improve our office? What would you change?

You’re putting them on the spot here, so don’t expect a miraculous, cure-all answer. Instead, make your judgement on how resourceful they seem. Do they have a willingness to reach out to people, use their network, and think outside the box?

If you want to really lean into the practical testing – you could invite them to help out with a minor event – such as a team lunch.

Obviously don’t throw the entire task on them – just have them giving people a helping hand. This is an opportunity to see how they mesh with the rest of your team while managing a task which is a bit mundane – but still requires solid commitment. If they’re sociable, positive and people in your team seem to get along with them – that’s a great sign that they’re right for the role.

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