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Management Interview Guide

Summer 2006 Nick Bloom Kevin Krabbenhöft Nikki Lamba

if possible) for when you try and call back. Confidence is the key with switchboard. and let us know if any issues do arise. my name is Homer Simpson and I’m calling from…. On the scheduling part: The first goal is to avoid getting automatically screened out by the switchboard thinking you are a salesperson or a commercial market researcher. It is essential you do not upset anyone. Save the detailed description for when you are questioned.. Know your pitch inside out before scheduling. Switchboard operators often do not possess the time and patience to hear a detailed explanation of the project. A “piece of work” or “study” is better..” is much more personal and effective than “Hello my name is Homer Simpson and I’m calling from…. Make sure you take a name (and e-mail. so they will most likely recognize your voice. running the interviews with the individual managers is interesting and provides an excellent insight into some of the issues facing manufacturers. . production or operations manager and have them connect you. For European countries. tell the switchboard the projects university affiliation(s) and that you are working on a project to try and understand management practices and their impact on productivity. No interview is worth causing any trouble over.” If you cannot reach the manager. Japan. Korea and China be sure to mention the relevant government endorsement. When you call back with the person’s name you are almost always put through. You will be in contact with the switchboard – and managers . Since you might be calling multiple times.quite often over a short period of days. or for managers. take the name of the secretary/PA with whom you spoke. funding and research credibility rests on “doing the right thing” and not causing problems. Slow down when you say “London School of Economics/Cambridge/Stanford” and “supported by the Bank of _____” o Otherwise. firm and avoid sounding like you are reading a script. India.General Scheduling: The most difficult part of the survey process is scheduling the interviews. Once the interviews are scheduled. Our Government endorsement. it’s helpful to be friendly with secretaries/switchboard/PA as they can decide whether or not to put your call through. o If asked. Always be polite. Always politely exit if there is any possibility of a problem. You will also find it much easier to schedule an interview with a manager when you start by saying their name: “Hello XXXX. Sound positive. Be short and to the point. Other possibilities (in the US) are the VP of lean/production/operations etc. the more confident you sound the more likely you are to be put through to the person you really need to speak to. Avoid using the words “survey” or “research”. directly ask for the plant.

and are good for four reasons: o Ethically. Often if you schedule for weeks in advance. if they know this is for a good cause they are more likely to cooperate and provide information. However.g. This is very important for making sure they understand the interview. we must inform them about the interview process and background o Practically. as the probability of someone calling you back long distance/international is very slim. schedule the interview for the upcoming 5 days. my name is Homer Simpson from the LSE and I’m currently doing a piece of work endorsed by the Treasury on management practices. If possible.Once you are put through to the manager: If the person is away it is normally best not to leave a voicemail. o Informationally. non-attributable and does not mention financials. sending them details – ideally by fax – will increase the probability they put this in their diary and keep the appointment. Take down their e-mail address and direct extension (if they have one) and schedule an appointment. Try the following which are quick with some success: o If they refuse on the basis of time: “Could we call back at a better time – I am working on this for the next 2 months so maybe I could back next month?” . This will ensure that they will remember the interview and your name when you call back. for a UK call). over pestering is not an effective trick for getting cooperation – even if they agree to schedule an interview an unhappy manager will be less likely to keep to this. Once this is agreed ensure you send them the details by e-mail and/or fax. Be sure to send the email by the end of the same working day so that they remember you and note the appointment. Introduce the project (e. they might forget about the appointment (particularly in India and Southern Europe). if they’re busy. Schedule any time that is convenient with them – even if you can not make that time another interviewer on the team will be able to. send the manager a short reminder email confirming the date and time of the telephone interview. Also. o Operationally. “Hi. and I was wondering if I could speak to you for about 45 minutes regarding your experiences” Assure the manager that this is completely anonymous/confidential. o If they are unkeen initially explore any constraints with them. schedule for whenever it is convenient for them. o 24 hours before the scheduled interview time. the more they know in advance the fewer questions they will have during the interview and the quicker the interview will be.

try to speak on an “equal to equal” basis. McKinsey and any university affiliation you have as long as this is correctly stated. Say something like “We would really like to be able to include your firm in the survey. India & China) there is variation in this. Make sure the managers perceive all interactions as a pleasant experience. For example you could say “I am a student at Kellogg working with the LSE and Stanford on a project on manufacturing management. Could you think how we could do this?” General Tips Be polite. LSE. except if he starts it himself. This means that senior guys (VPs of manufacturing. If you sound interested. Stanford.) should be able to answer the questions If the company is larger. and at all costs avoid offending anyone. always tell the truth. For example. open questions. Always drop an interview rather than risk causing any problems. then usually there will be a couple different production managers or people at that level. production.o If they totally refuse . This is also important for funding and research support. Always seek advice if in doubt. Ask precise..e. In Europe the LSE is pretty good (but Cambridge and Stanford may work better) while in India the LSE was very effective. but in some countries (i. Adapt you vocabulary to that of the manager. Generally. in France avoid using lean manufacturing lingo. while in the US local universities helped a lot. never too long. some about “operateurs”. There are a large number of firms in the sample database so it is not worth annoying any individual firm or manager. Do not ask these together as .“Is there another manager in your firm we could speak to who might have more time?” o If this still fails try the old reverse the problem trick. You can usually try at least two or three different people in the company. with a lot of respect and interest. The only constraint is to speak to someone that’s knowledgeable about the company’s practices You are welcome to use any combination of Cambridge. the manager will tell you more.. try to use his own vocabulary by adapting your questions: some speak about “ouvriers”. Always use the language of choice of the manager wherever possible – typically this will be the national language. Never combine multiple questions together as this is confusing – for example do ask: “How do you monitor the production process?” followed up by “Who would typically get to see the KPIs?”.” Our experience was that McKinsey was not helpful (firms worry about commercial confidentiality and being sold consultancy). Interviewing Tips At the beginning: try to set an atmosphere that is both professional and relaxed. etc.

Maximize your efficiency: Run blocks of scheduling calls together. Another is to make it clear this is to ensure governments listen to them when thinking about policy – in each country we have government endorsement and a policy feedback process so this will hopefully influence policy. Make sure they understand what they will gain – one clear rationale is to improve government policy to help manufacturing. In most of these countries manufacturers are losing jobs fast and anything that helps government to help management and productivity will be attractive to them. Avoid bad practices like making 3 calls. This will be very unproductive. Remember it is less rude to cut them off when they are spending a lot of time talking about something unconnected then to allow them to talk but then run the interview over the time limit. it is very fruitful to start early (8am for France or 7am for Greece). You can do admin (send emails. be strategic by asking the next question quickly. having a long chat. We will send them a pack within 6 months and hopefully within 3 months. You can also try setting mini-targets – only taking a break after scheduling 2 interviews. making another 3 calls. Managers have finite patience so cutting people off when they ramble is good as long as this is done politely. Manage your time: if they are taking too long. take notes while the manager speaks so that you don’t have to ask for information twice.one question “How do you monitor the production process and who would typically get to see the KPIs?” as this will overload them and risks missing part of the question. typically about 20 scheduling calls in one go which should take around 1 hour. Often just the fact that somebody important is listening is positive. For the continent for instance. making another 3 calls. Try to use those time windows to call a lot. This is very helpful for: o Keeping these managers happy to maintain them in our database for follow up surveys o Ensuring they are debriefed o Spreading the research results and methodology – the more people that know the bigger the impact. and to get schedules or interviews on the spot. etc. You . Group questions by topics. They will also value the international report we will send to them at the end of the research. Challenge Yourself: Adapt your timing to your country. Maximize the calling time: you will notice that certain hours are better than other to reach managers. doing some internet surfing etc…. going off for a break. At the end of the interview take down their e-mail (if you don’t already have it) and ask if they want to be sent the results. but it is pointless to call during lunchtime (so you might want to get your lunch at the same time). very quickly. find phone numbers. Once you are conducting the interview and feel comfortable enough with the questions try and mix as many of the organizational questions and HR questions into the management part of the survey.) during the low-efficiency time windows or after the end of the day. For this reason.

You don’t ask a favor. etc. but again very quickly. you will often get the name in the email… 2. If it’s not enough : « je suis chargee d’un projet soutenu par la Commission Europeenne et la Banque de France ». could I speak to the production manager please? Be self-assured and clear. And you lose time. Sometimes they are not allowed to give the name. Reassure the switchboard: their job is to introduce you. 3. you do your job! If you are too polite. only if they ask why you are calling.don’t need to work long hours to do well but you do need to be productive when you work. so ask for the email in order to send the “official letters” and present the project. or if you try to explain everything at that stage you might not go through. from London. very short : good morning. Some of them are very suspicious. Set personal targets. Interestingly. insisting on the “magic words”: in French: “LSE de Londres” sounds impressive already. Try to ascertain when he is generally in his office. Then. If they ask. If she doesn’t want to put you through. just give the initials: that’s the LSE. Do have a clear sentence ready.) Second contact: use the name Same technique with the name: 80% success. explain the project. Banque de France Commission Europeanne. or a survey. Then the problem might be that the manager is never in his office. let this be your minimum! Country Experiences: FRANCE 1. try to get the name.) First contact: make it short The aim is to speak to the right person as quickly as possible. If you are polite and sound serious they might help you a lot. Sometimes they will just put you through directly BUT most of the time they will ask who you are: don’t tell your name yet. make clear that this is not a marketing offer. Use the magic words: Treasury. and to “protect” the very busy manager.) Third time (and more…) : tenacity . too slow. If you can conduct 4 interviews on a normal day.

often resulting in scheduling or being directed to the right individual within 48 hours. get PA’s address and request them to forward it. If given company email address or personal address is unknown. Do refer to your past calls. Often you will be sent directly to the MD/President. in which case they can decide whether they want to speak directly or if there is a GM of Operations. Many German companies seem to have no experience in dealing with telephone interviews and are therefore curious as to why you are calling. then ask them for the right person before trying to schedule with MD. get email address and send outline. . For any interview. particularly those after 5pm (Indian time). Note that the Indian lunch hour ranges from 2:00-4:00pm and most managers work until 6:30-7:00pm (Indian time). If emailing an MD. keep jobs in mfg). *Note the names of any individuals you speak to in the MD’s office and refer to them in emails. Mentioning that you are a student in London helps. This means you usually just have to ask switchboard to be put through to the manager and the manager will usually be near the phone. Je cherche donc a joindre un directeur de site ou un responsable de production. If busy or unavailable.) Scheduling: Ask for MD’s office and then describe project to MD’s personal assistant. make a friend… Be more specific about your project and explain whom you would like to speak to and why (in French: Nous travaillons sur le lien entre management et production. INDIA 1. request the private number. A key point is to send the information later as that seemed to keep the managers happy. extension number or mobile number of the interviewee. Emails are very effective. Pourriez-vous me dire qui serait le mieux a meme de me repondre ? / Qui serait mon meilleur interlocuteur ?) GERMANY The Germans are quite easy to get on the phone.e.The switchboard will start to recognize you after three or four times. as does the Bundesbank letter in conjunction with improving the policy landscape in Germany (i. Ask to be connected to/for the number of General Manager of Operations or Head of Operations.

) Switchboarders: killing them with kindness and authority . For almost all questions. Try to leave an extra 15 minutes whenever possible. o Never call a senior manager by their first name (unless told) as this is a sign of disrespect in India. Those that you can not find note down and we can get agency in India to track these down. Try not to interrupt and if you need to. thus saving time. especially when they learn you are calling from England. production process. Often answers are long-winded because managers will provide detailed explanations about competitors. Be prepared to take notes as this information could answer some organizational questions. Interviewing: Ask interviewee if they have any questions before you begin. Speak slowly and clearly. Generally the larger companies have websites where you can find their contact information. Often when calling factories. and will thus respond in Hindi or another language. you will encounter workers who pick up the phone that are not proficient in English. many of which might not address your initial question. Indian managers will provide very long and detailed answers. do so very politely and apologetically. and financial information. possibly more which has implications for booking interviews back to back. manufacturing sector/industry. Cultural and other Observations: o People (bottom-up) are very helpful and eager to help. even when the person on the other line seems to be fluent in English as they are often unfamiliar with foreign accents. Always speak respectfully to people senior/elder to you. Interviews will last 45 minutes to an hour.Many of the phone numbers listed in Access are wrong and often missing. Often they will want to know why their firm and they personally have been selected. feel free to speak in English. ITALY 1. You will need to ask multiple questions (beyond those on the interview sheet) to extract the right information. Questions are often misunderstood and managers get sidetracked. Language: Almost everyone is comfortable with English and unless they respond in another language.

Send the material to the general e-mail they gave you and call the day after. If they ask for more information. If managers are interested (and usually they are) they will tell the switchboarders to be more receptive in case you call again. new regulations etc. If the switch boarder is tough and will not give you anything else other than the general email (info@ .. Etc. don’t get anxious. Trying to minimize their work. Ask them to forward it to the manager and send the email and on the subject line write “All’attenzione del etc.Switchboarders tend to deal with calls coming from salesman. talking to the manager and scheduling the interview will be relatively easy. Financial Time. try to show the manager that you are listening to him and you are actually interested in having a dialogue with him. Sometimes they speak in a very technical way. London School of Economics (adding “di Londra” might be redundant in English but is very effective in Italian) sounds very professional to the operators. do not complain. ask the switchboard for the manager’s email address “in order to send some background official information” before calling back. Speak slowly. don’t give up. In the second call you will notice the difference. suppliers or clients. .. If you feel to ask a question out of your curiosity. Don’t give the impression that you are filling up a questionnaire. it’s very risky! Calm down and do not play their game. of course). If the manager is not available to pick up the phone. These are the arguments that worked particularly well among the others in order to convince them: “The Ministry doesn’t know anything about manufacturing firms so we are trying to make this report to help them to help you. If they haven’t heard of LSE.. make it clear that you are not a seller and this is not a survey. they should have heard of The Economist. When switchboarders refuse to give you any manager’s personal e-mail or names. clearly and with full of confidence saying who you are and who you’re looking for. “Dottore/Dottoressa” (if you have a university degree. is very helpful to underline what kind of (important) person you are. Be carefully.) Switchboarders 1-0 Once you have defeated the switchboarders. so do not explain the reason why you are calling unless requested.)! Tell them about the press coverage the project has received. and Newsweek. just do it. Be polite and don’t be shy to ask them to clarify some points. 2.etc). they speak very fast and they expect a fast reply from you as well. Be very polite with operators but remember that you are not one of their “peers”..” (Better allocation of funds.. You’ll waste some time but the quality of the interview will certainly increase. European Union and Ministero del Tesoro cards work quite well. Adding your title.. “Stiamo lavorando ad un progetto di ricerca su scala mondiale con l’incarico del Ministero del Tesoro e dell’Unione Europea” worked well. When you run the interview.

be quick to apologize and ask for the name of the new person in that role. It is extremely difficult to catch a manager at his desk as they are often in the factory or in meetings. ask for his/hers and if they would be kind enough to forward the information to the appropriate person. If the secretary/PA refuses or doesn’t know the manager’s email address. try the automated company directory using the last name of the manager. Most importantly. Explain that the government wants to listen to them – and be sure not to mention the European Union! UNITED STATES 1. Be mindful that sometimes these people may have left the company or retired. be strategic in your timing. or Friday late afternoon when they are less likely to have meetings. Keep ringing through to get the manager. Managers are less likely to delete these emails as they are coming from internal addresses. In addition to calling repeatedly. and engaging. monotonous. ASK the secretaries/PA what might be a good time to reach the manager as they know their travel/meeting schedules. Try to speak to an operator if possible. you can always try the sales department and ask who the most relevant person to talk to would be. Try to call in the morning (8am-9am) when they arrive to work. If you cannot reach an operator or need to get an extension number. or try to talk to a PA that can help you schedule a time. If not. You can also try a variety of people and seniorities – in smaller firms senior people may be easier to catch at their desks. Note that famous LSE alumni include Mick Jagger and Monika Lewinsky – mentioning them is often a good ice-breaker (but know your Stones songs)! Use ICARUS to try and check on the names of some of the people in the company. The main thing is to keep trying – they will eventually pick up (our guess is they are not often at their desks). do your best to sound inquisitive. If this is the case. Mention that this report will be fed into Government policy to make sure the Government listens to them and help raise UK productivity (and hopefully keep jobs in the UK). positive. practice and figure out the best approach for you. and speak .UNITED KINGDOM The British managers seem rarely to be found at their desks.) Getting past the switchboard: The US is harder because of the prevalence of voicemail – it’s very hard to actually get a person to pick the phone up. If you sound dull. Introduce yourself by saying your name and the fact that you’re calling from the London School of Economics in England. For an interview – but not for an initial call – it is reasonable to have them Tannoyed/paged on the factor floor. Given the high prevalence of telemarketers and salespeople in the US.

and if they have any questions before you begin. that you have called– particularly a few weeks into the project. etc. A large number of scheduled interviews will not run due to managers being unavailable.quickly/mumble. The main thing is to keep on calling without stopping to reflect on let-downs. Keep in mind that these people do not know you and you will never speak to them again. At the end of Management 2 Questions. Introduce yourself (name and Cambridge/LSE/Stanford project) and thank them for making time. This record will be a great resource in remembering names. leave a short voicemail letting them know that you called and that you will try to contact them later. ensure them that you are nearing the end and have a few short organizational questions. I’m sorry I missed you for our telephone interview but hope to speak with you soon. dates. Let them know you are aware of time limitations and reassure them that you are almost finished between the Management 2 page to the HR page. If you leave a message use this number for call backs as it is not international for them. Thanks. Follow this up with a short email saying sorry that you missed them and that you are interested in rescheduling and ask them for a convenient time. Otherwise. Ask them if they received your email. You might encounter people that are rude on the telephone or hang up.) Running the Interview Be prompt: Call 3 minutes before scheduled interview – this gets things going promptly and gives you a bit more flexibility on timing. try to reschedule for another date/time immediately. begin right away as US managers are always in a rush. Remember we have the US number that forwards into the team room. Do not be offended or discouraged. you will be written off as a telemarketer. you will most likely have missed them and will have to reschedule (very tedious and difficult). . If you call late. FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER! Take good notes for each call that you make. When this happens. 2. If they pick up but are unable to carry out interview at that time. For example: This is _______ calling from the London School of Economics in England.