How can I land this management job with no management experience?
July 28, 2015 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I've been out of work for 4 months. I'm in the running for a management job. I don't have any management experience except a senior position in which I led the team for 5 months because my manager left her job. And that was 8 years ago. How can I pitch myself as the right person for the job?

I'm an introvert and I don't think I have particularly strong leadership qualities, but I'm desperate for a job, so I really want this one. I'm good at process capture and technical documentation and writing in general, and have a strong background in mentoring and training others. So I've got some parts of the skill set covered, but have never had direct leads. This would be managing a team of ten. I've also got a lot of operational experience in the industry.
I've had one interview already with one to go, and I've been told I'm one of two final candidates. I'm not confident that I am right for it, but right now, after having one or two onsite interviews a week for four months with no offers, I'm at a new low for confidence anyway.
Any pointers that could help me fake it 'til I make it would be much appreciated.
posted by OrderOctopoda to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I was interviewing for management jobs, I found it helpful to speed read some management books. You have to put yourself into the mindset of someone responsible not for a specific task you carry out yourself, but for a group of people -- for motivating and supporting them, and for dealing with their personal and interpersonal foibles. So and so wants to work from home, but they're one of your lower performers; do you let them? Person X and Person Y have a conflict; what do you do? How do you motivate and retain your staff? Those were some of the questions that got thrown my way.
posted by salvia at 7:13 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Crash course: Manager Toolspodcasts. If nothing else, it'll help you talk the talk.
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding Miko's suggestion. Go though the basics feed first, then pick and choose from the main feed.
posted by pyro979 at 7:53 PM on July 28, 2015

Been there myself.
Try reading the One Minute Manager by Blanchard. It's short and to the point.

Also know that an important aspect of managing is not to know all the answers yourself, but to know who does know the answers.

Keep in mind that anyone who is hiring is trying to solve some kind of problem or may be using the hiring to change some aspect of the operation. Try to get them to tell you what that problem is. Someone hiring you wants to know that you are bringing solutions not problems. Look like that solver.

Interview tip - be confident and decisive - solutions not problems, right? Don't talk too much or embellish. Managers should be seen as thoughtful.

And most of all don't get caught looking like a know it all (see above).
posted by Zedcaster at 8:00 PM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Analogy here, stay with me...

Occasionally, baseball scouts will sign a player with limited experience in the sport. They sign these "tools" players because, while they lack substantial baseball experience, they excel demonstrably at several of the component physical skills that are critical for success in the sport. That is, they are fast. Or they throw hard.

You may not be able to demonstrate experience in management, but can you determine what the key traits are that this place in looking for in a manager and make a convincing case that you have these traits? That's your play here. You can't campaign for the job on experience, so you'd have to demonstrate somehow that you're gifted at the component skills they would want in a manager.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:24 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some of my best people managers had no management experience when I hired them.

Who I chose in those cases:

Candidates who are interested in people. Genuinely interested and committed to their development.
Candidates who have demonstrated teamwork, mentoring or training experience in the past.
Candidates who genuinely want to be a people manager (i.e., having their own team is part of why they are applying for the job)
Candidates who ask me how they can get support for experience they lack (prove they take the job seriously)

Big red flags for me:

Candidates who only want to manage a team because they see the pay rise or career advancement. ("Why am I applying? I want to advance my career in company xyz. I should have been made a manager long ago because I am the most senior specialist bla bla bla")
Candidates who only talk about how they personally will achieve results rather than how they will motivate and manage their team to achieve results.
Candidates who pretend to have management experience when they don't. i.e., if you were a focus person or a group coach, say that-- but to equate that with management shows me you don't understand what management is really all about.

Be honest smartly, would be my final advice. Good luck.
posted by frumiousb at 9:58 PM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm an introvert and I don't think I have particularly strong leadership qualities

I hope you intended that to be two separate statements, and not one statement. There's no relation between being an introvert (which is about where you get your energy) and being a leader (which is about how you can motivate people and align their activities). In fact, many would argue - myself included, and I work in the field of leadership development - that introverts are far better at leadership than extroverts.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:15 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Three thoughts.

First, understand where this position is in the hierarchy. A lot of what they are going to be looking for will depend upon whether your manager will "look through" you and continue to exercise a lot of direct control over the people you supervise and the extent of your power over your team. (A manager who can fire someone on his team, and who controls the team's raise and bonus pool, is a very different creature from someone who simply supplies one of many bureaucratic inputs into those decisions.)

Second, focus on specifics. You've surely had good managers, and bad. Spend some time thinking about what the good managers did (and did not do) to be good, and develop a short-checklist you can articulate of management practices that you feel work and would look to implement, filtered through your understanding of the power / hierarchy position of the job and your sense of the boss vs. mentor culture of the place.

Third, make sure that you understand and have articulated your qualification for what is expected from you as an individual contributor. It is a rare first-line manager of a ten-person team who does not have a significant set of individual contribution objectives. That you, as an external hire, have gotten to the second round with no managerial experience is strongly suggestive that this job will not be in the exception category for that. The people hiring for this seat will be paranoid to avoid someone who just sees himself as a "boss" who does nothing but have meetings and exchange emails all day long, neglecting or attempting to delegate or avoid individual contribution duties. You need to be politic in how you communicate this, so they don't see you swinging the opposite way, but you can't avoid it, either.
posted by MattD at 10:27 AM on July 29, 2015

I'm desperate for a job, so I really want this one

This part worries me a bit. Can you clarify a bit what sort of of job it is (tech industry?) and whether you think it's straight people management or some hybrid manager/individual contributor role?

I just took a job managing around 20 tech people, and there's no way I would ever have time to, say, put the app code on my laptop. At 10 and up you should spend 100% of your time on things like:

- one-on-ones/career development
- hiring/people problems
- process improvement
- improving communication
- interfacing with other teams/departments and striving for 100% transparency on what your team is doing, all the time

You might be good at it if you get your head in the right place. The process stuff helps, but mainly you need to be a good listener and keen judge of character. You must know when the team has a legitimate issue you can solve for them, and when they are full of s***. You must go to bat for them, and you must hold them accountable. You must care about each person, but be able to fire people when needed. Etc.

So if you really want to go this route, go in whole-heartedly. But if it's just because you need a job, any job, please don't set up a situation where people will have a bad manager, if the above description doesn't appeal to you. Essentially any time you are doing IC work you should probably be managing instead ...

As far as coming across well in an interview, you should have a management philosophy in mind and ask questions about the current state of affairs. What does the team need? How is morale? What's turnover like? Do you think you've hired the right people? Etc.

If you tell us more about the industry I might have better suggestions. Tech is what I know best.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:52 PM on July 29, 2015

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