Why Should We Give You a Job Managing When You Haven’t Managed Before?

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter explains how to answer this difficult interview question.


Today, I am going to address one of those tough interview questions and help you get out of one of those “stumper situations” that people find themselves in when they interview.

The question is for people who haven’t managed before and are interviewing for a managerial job. Invariably, someone is going to ask you (if you’re lucky, they’re going to ask you; sometimes they just leave it on said and you need to be proactive with it), “You’ve never managed before and this is a managers position. What makes you think you can do that?” A lot of people fumble around with an answer and there are a few different ways to answer it.

The first one is to justify it. I’m not a big fan of answering this way because the interviewer can basically nod his/her head in agreement and dismiss your answer. There are a few different ways to answer it.

“Managers have to have these attributes,” and you list a couple of qualities that managers need to have. “They need to be driven, motivated, knowledgeable, empathetic, need to be able to coach and mentor…” You talk about a number of different qualities and attributes a manager needs half. Then from there, you say, “I haven’t done them all together. I’ve been in situations such as…” And then you talk about one situation where you had to coach and mentor. Another one where you didn’t have the authority but, ultimately, you are able to influence people to follow your lead and do the things that the manager would have someone do. That’s one approach to take, but it’s easy to dismiss these arguments as being BS.

It is my favorite way of doing it. Someone asks you a question or they haven’t asked you the question and it’s late in the interview and you want to address this proactively. Let’s say they ask the question.

“I’m sure some point you didn’t manage people and were stepping into your first management job. What made you think you were capable of doing it and how did you get your shot?” When they talk about why they were able to do it, you respond by saying, “I much the same way I’ve done (and mention a few things) and I’m ready. I know I’m ready.” Or, if they just choose to talk about how they got it, you follow up with, “what qualities did you have or experience that you have that prepared you for that moment?”

You follow up by saying, “I’m that way, too.”

If they don’t ask it in the question is hanging out there on asked as the elephant in the room, toward the end of the interview or at the very end if they asked, “if they ask is there anything else,” you say, “I’m sure one point you weren’t in a managerial role. Someone saw in you the experiences and determined that you are ready. What did you’s think of yourself at that point? Did you think you are ready?”

“Yes, I thought I was ready.”

“Great. What qualities and experiences prepared you for that moment?” They will then talk about their life which, I’m sure, is not radically different than yours. You will respond by saying something like I said before. “That’s my situation, too. I know I’m ready at this point. I’ve had these experiences, as well. As such, I’d like to be able to step up in the next organization and help you folks succeed, just as I felt my current firm succeed.”


Do you think employers are trying to help you? You already know you can’t trust recruiters—they tell as they think you need to know to take the job they after representing so they collect their payday.

The skills needed to find a job are different yet complement the skills needed to do a job.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.

JobSearchCoachingHQ.com is there to change that with great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.

Connect with me on LinkedIn