Hiring a Great Manager

Bad manager. Good manager. Great manager. These phrases get tossed around all the time. They’re highly subjective, usually based on personal experiences. And they don’t always line up from employee to employee. Consider:

  • One person says, “I love how much room and leeway our manager gives us on certain projects. I feel empowered to take the lead.”
  • While another says, “Our manager is totally uninvolved. I never know what to do next, or where to find an answer, especially when I’m leading a project.”  

One person sees “hands-off,” or “trusting.” The other sees “removed,” or “checked out.” They’re two sides to the same coin, but these types of labels can be pervasive, and even divisive among workers.

Can You Measure What “Great” Means?

What about metrics, you say? Every organization uses different ways to measure how well a manager is doing. This can include things like how they budget costs, or how their employees spend time across projects. It can also include feedback that workers share with you or other members of HR.

Still, even when data helps determine how managers are doing, the line between bad, good, and great can come down to how you define what you need your managers to deliver.  

Take a look at the following list. Make note of which statements are important to you, or that align you’re your organization’s view of a manager’s role:

  • They run tight, efficient meetings.
  • They’re easygoing, and give employees lots of freedom.
  • They’re great at tradeshows and with customers.
  • They’re available when people need them.  
  • They have the support of senior leaders.
  • They’re hands-on and heavily involved in every project.
  • They understand budgets.
  • Their employees like them.

For the most part, these are all good qualities to have. But chances are, some of them resonate stronger than others when you consider what your organization really needs right now. How you reacted to each may say less about a manager’s skills or traits, and more about how well a manager—or prospective manager—fits key organizational needs.

Below, we’ll take a look at ways you can define what great means. Doing so can help you tailor your managerial search.


Is your next great manager already a member of your workforce? For many organizations, the employee experience involves mentorships and training opportunities that turn key performers into leaders. Read more in our recent report, “The Employee Experience. ”

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From Good Fit to Great Hire

Wouldn’t it be great to never worry about making the wrong hire for a managerial position? It can be tricky to pull that off. Some candidates interview very well, but interview skills and managerial skills aren’t one and the same. Others have great credentials and references, but never sync with your company culture. And, there are those who plateau for one reason or another, or leave for another opportunity rather than rise within yours.

What are you charged with? Watch the adjectives:

  • Do you need a strong communicator?
  • Are you hoping to track down an experienced taskmaster? 
  • Do you need an agile manager who easily balances projects?

Whatever you’re charged with, here are a few tips to help you unpack and define certain adjectives and other descriptive words before you open a requisition on your next managerial search:

1. Make your list.

It’s important to note that hiring someone who will become a “bad,” “good,” or even “great” manager isn’t about luck. It’s about being clear on what you’re looking for, and how your organization needs managers to show up and perform.  

Maybe “great” isn’t your goal. Instead, you just want to avoid hiring a “bad” manager. Okay. Either way, when you make your list and define different labels, you begin to explain what the words mean objectively to your organization. To get there:

  • Write out examples that show what words like “good,” “bad,” “great,” “excellent,” etc. mean within your culture. Is there a current manager you can point to as an example? A former manager?
  • You can also construct a list of no-brainer characteristics—either pro or con. For instance, “lazy” is probably not a trait you want in a manager, and would wind up in the “con” column. Even if something seems obvious, write it down anyway. It will help you get started, and might make you laugh a little. 

2. Unpack meanings, even if certain words seem obvious at first.

If you’re making a no-brainer list, you might land on a word like “bully.” At first, you might put this in the “con” column and move on. But wait. What if “bully” winds up being similar to the difference we saw earlier between “hands-off” and “checked-out” earlier?

  • Maybe bully means “tough but fair” to one employee, but “harasses and belittles everyone” to another.
  • Now you’re left with “tough but fair.” Perhaps this is worth exploring “tough but fair,” especially if you’re hiring for a department where things need to shape up a little.
  • Staying with “tough but fair,” this type of character trait may also translate to “works well with senior leaders.”

 3. Begin to build a profile.

The more you drill down into the meanings of different words, the easier it will be to construct a profile of the ideal candidate.

  • With your descriptive words unpacked, the profile will lay the foundation for the desired experiences, skills, and educational must-haves that your ideal candidate will possess.
  • Having a candidate profile on hand provides you with a valuable tool at every phase of the managerial hiring process. This includes how you write your job description, score resumes, conduct interviews, and even negotiate.
  • The profile will also help you determine where and when you post your managerial job opening. Will you use a career site like Indeed.com? Will you work with a recruiter? Or, will you focus more on promoting from within?   

Just like hiring an employee for any other opening, hiring a manager is not a cookie-cutter situation. Therefore, defining your labels until they help you narrow down your specific criteria can be a strong way to start. When you do, you might discover that the next great manager is already working for you.


Adding managerial-level talent dovetails with the way you recruit. But nurturing and retaining your talent is wrapped up in other parts of workforce planning, including onboarding, mentorships, job shadowing and more. myStaffingPro’s applicant tracking software helps you get the employee experience off to a great start. Contact a representative today.

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