An operations manager is an important part of any functioning management team. This individual typically oversees processes focused on the company’s production or service delivery.
A major focus for this individual will be efficiency across a variety of departments and being able to maintain and continuously improve the quality of work.
For individuals interested in this type of role, you should expect to be strategic in your work and development of processes, but also skilled in mentoring team members and finding ways to increase the quality of customer service across the board.
Maintaining and ensuring consistency across all team members is also a huge undertaking for many operations managers.
Being a successful operations manager means you help keep the company compliant, efficient, and profitable. You’ll be tasked with maintaining a smooth operation of all company procedures, across team members and departments.
Your work will typically impact the rest of the organization, so you’ll want to be a confident, communicative, and organized individual.
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Operations managers are responsible for a wide variety of tasks that can include everything from logistics to resources management, to budget planning and maintenance.
An employer is looking for a candidate who is an efficient problem solver, quick on their feet, has experience with change management, and can tackle operational problems without issue.
Here are some of the main responsibilities that operations managers might be responsible for:
Cost-effectiveness. For many companies, their goals and benchmarks are all tied to the bottom line. The responsibility of the operations manager is to ensure all processes across the company are being handled most cost-effectively.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest way, but the most efficient way.
Organization and efficiency. These terms can be used very broadly, but for operations managers, they often mean the ability to remain organized across a variety of different tasks and ensuring things are completed in the most efficient way possible.
This doesn’t always mean taking something on yourself. It can also lend itself to appropriate hand-offs, using software to ease the burden, or even removing certain tasks entirely.
Compliance. Depending on your industry, compliance will be something that the operations manager should not only understand but have full management over.
You’ll want to ensure the processes you create as an operations manager are compliant based on any rules and regulations your company is expected to follow.
Objective planning. As companies plan to become more efficient and profitable, they will often look to create objectives they’re hoping to achieve in a certain amount of time.
The operations manager will play a big role in formulating both strategic and operational objectives across the teams. They’ll be the level-headed player in these discussions, often determining what objectives are realistic, and what might be unattainable.
Profitability. Although profitability could be argued as a responsibility in each of these listed so far, it’s still something an operations manager should be monitoring.
Operations managers may be tasked with examining financial data and using the numbers to help increase the company’s profitability in several ways.
Budgets. Financial budgets are sometimes managed at the team level, but an operations manager should still review them before they are finalized.
To maintain efficiency and gain profitability, budget management must be monitored consistently. This often falls into the operations manager’s bucket.
Quality control and KPIs. The operations manager will typically be required to perform quality control checks and monitor specific KPIs. These playback into profitability, budget, and planning.
Training and recruitment. Many operations managers also act as an arm of human resources (HR) so they may be tasked with things like recruiting, employee training, as well as general supervision of staff.
Since they are familiar with the specific details of the company’s process, they are often the ideal individual to take on these responsibilities.
Customer service. To be profitable, you need customers. An operations manager might be tasked with increasing the quality of customer service. This can include any number of things like re-training employees, soft skills or sales training, and more.
As with any interview, a little bit of preparation goes a long way. You’ll want to spend some time before you head into your interview researching information about the company and the industry if you are not familiar with it.
Feel free to look up your interviewer on LinkedIn to get some additional information that you might be able to use in your interview.
You’ll also want to look over the job announcement and read through each detail and description of the job’s qualifications and responsibilities.
Using keywords from the posting can help you stand out against other candidates. It shows that you’ve done your research on the job at hand and that you truly are passionate about landing the job.
As with any other interview, you’ll want to be sure you have dressed appropriately. Do your research on the company and work environment to decide whether business attire is required or if you can go more business casual. When in doubt, dress up.
Here are some common questions you may be asked to answer in an interview for an operations manager position, as well as some examples for answers you can use as a starting point for your interview. Of course, answers will vary based on your experience level and the type of job you are applying for.
We are struggling with change management when we attempt to change or even slightly alter a process across the organization. Can you walk me through how you motivate employees to adopt new processes?
When potential employers ask this question, they are looking to see how you can maintain consistency across the organization.
You may inherit a team that is resistant to change or come in beneath a manager who isn’t interested in changing the way things are currently managed. They are looking to understand how you might respond in a situation like this.
“When it comes to change management, the resistance to change is usually because employees feel they do not have the time to pause and re-learn a process. What I would attempt to do is understand why they are happy with their old method over the new ones. Then, I would work together to better understand how to create a smoother experience for them and my rationale as to why the new processes will help them in the long run.”
Our company is very data-driven and we expect our operations manager to make decisions based on data. Tell me about your experience with data processing and statistical software.
Data might be used to make budgeting decisions or help to make key team decisions to improve profitability or efficiency. You’ll want to make sure that if these are key responsibilities listed in the job description, you have some experience to back it up.
“I’m extremely familiar with Microsoft Excel as well as Google Sheets and can use both for data analysis. In my previous jobs, I have been fond of the build-in statistical features to help understand KPIs for teams that can help us understand places we may need to improve.”
If a department or team was struggling to meet certain deadlines and asked for your assistance, how would you prioritize their need for help with your priorities?
This is the perfect question to showcase your organizational and prioritization skills. Your interviewer will be looking to understand how you determine the importance of projects and how you manage your time. In your response, articulate how you would tackle this issue.
“I would begin by holding a meeting to better understand the needs of the team, as well as the specific deadlines they’re looking to hit. Based on this, I would develop a strategy based on deadlines to focus on what’s immediately important. I would also develop a plan to recruit my team members for the extra hands-on board, if necessary and depending on their workloads and deadlines.”
How do you manage 1:1 employee meetings?
This is more of a behavioral question than a skill or experience question. Your potential employer is looking to see how you would manage a team.
Depending on your management style, you’ll want to articulate how passionate you are about seeing your team succeed and how you recognize the importance of their growth as well as your own.
“I ask all of my direct reports to come to our 1:1 meetings with a shortlist of topics prepared to discuss. This can range from work projects to personal growth goals. I try to maintain an open-door policy so that questions and topics for discussion aren’t only saved for a manager and direct report meeting, so we can handle our workload in the most efficient way possible.”
How do you handle an individual or process that acts as a bottleneck for a project?
Bottlenecks are a company’s worst enemy and operations managers should be able to identify them and eliminate them.
These are anything that holds up your company’s ability to produce its results efficiently. You’ll want to make sure you can answer this question appropriately, in that you aren’t looking to cause waves, just be a problem solver.
“First, I would poll the team in question to understand where they feel the problem lies. Then, I’d look at the data to see how long it’s taking each individual to complete a specific piece of the project. We would then come together as a team to understand how to adjust the process in those problem areas to help the project run more smoothly.”