people in discussion UN001

7 Strategies for How to Hire Better Managers

How can organizations select people leaders who will truly help the organizations thrive? Learn our best strategies for how to hire better managers.

Organizations ask a lot of their managers. They are expected to run business operations, execute on strategy, coach and develop others, handle personnel issues, and often still do work in addition to leading it. They are responsible for executing on organizational strategy, getting work done, and keeping the business moving. Further, managers influence their employees’ engagement, performance, and developmental potential. Great managers harness the power of their people to not just achieve results but go above and beyond to the level of greatness. Poor leaders, on the other hand, fail to build teams, set expectations, develop trust, and grow their people, leading to poorer performance and higher turnover. Managers play a huge role in organizational success. And yet, Gallup estimates that organizations hire the wrong people into their manager roles an astounding 82% of the time!

Why are companies so bad at hiring managers?

Employees are often promoted into management positions because they show interest, have the most seniority, or have been the best performer in their current role as an individual contributor. But as the old saying goes, what got you here will not get you there. The qualities that make great individual contributors do not always translate to strong leadership skills.

Further, especially with internal promotions, selection processes for managerial hiring are often far from best practice, lacking specific competencies, objective data, and standardized structured interviews. This decreases the predictive power and increases bias in the hiring process. Finally, managerial hiring decisions are often made in a vacuum, including only the leader and possibly the next-level leader in the process, making it challenging to predict how a future manager will work with cross-functional teams.

Great managers harness the power of their people to not just achieve results but go above and beyond to the level of greatness.

How to hire great managers

So, how do organizations break the cycle of poor managerial hiring and start selecting leaders who will help employees and the organization thrive? Consider these 7 best practices for hiring great managers:

  1. Measure for future potential: Develop a leadership competency model that operationalizes what good leadership looks like then assess all managerial applicants against that model. Leadership competency models create clarity about what success looks like for those aspiring to management and clarifies areas of leadership strength and opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers. You can adjust your model to distinguish between levels of leadership but keep it simple enough to stay applicable and easy to use across the organization.
  2. Incorporate context: In addition to standard leadership competencies, assess experience and potential for that role’s specific operating environment. Even with similar levels of competence, some leaders will be better suited for regulated vs. ambiguous, high- vs. low-risk taking, or transformational vs. stable environments. Also, context may shift between functions or locations within the same organization. Identifying a role’s specific context will allow you to identify candidates best suited for a specific environment and slate future leaders for their best fit at an organizational level.
  3. Incorporate objective data: Judging future leadership potential is hard because it is often confounded with information and perceptions about past performance. Human error creates bias and noise in the hiring process, making it hard to select the best candidates for the future. Incorporate objectivity into your managerial hiring process by leveraging technology and assessments to keep your instincts from getting in the way of making a good hire. Make sure the tools you select measure competencies aligned with your leadership model and context. This will also increase the diversity of your leadership pipeline by reducing human bias and measuring all candidates by the same standard.
  4. Keep it structured: We know that managers must be good with people, and this makes it easy to make hiring decisions based on good rapport rather than leadership skill or potential. However, connecting quickly and good first impressions are not synonymous with the ability to build trust-based relationships with direct reports. Using the same structured interview and standardized process with every candidate helps remove bias and maximize the likelihood of choosing the best future leader for the team.
  5. Gather multiple perspectives: Often managerial candidates interview with HR, the hiring manager, and potentially the next-level leader. Incorporate a panel interview including the applicant’s potential direct reports to give the team a voice and gather more information about the candidate’s leadership style. This can sometimes be challenging with internal applicants but is well worth it where feasible. Also, consider adding in one or more interviews with leaders in cross-functional departments to gather feedback from other stakeholders.
  6. Give a realistic preview: Selection should be a two-way street: the organization should choose the candidate and the candidate should choose the organization. A great selection process does not only gather the right information about each candidate. It also provides a realistic preview of the rewarding and challenging aspects of the role. Giving candidates a preview into what they will have to work through or learn to live with is important for helping your candidates decide if this company and role is right for them and opt-out if not. Using a realistic preview helps you make better hires that are more likely to be engaged and stay.
  7. Search openly: Today, most managers are selected from outside the organization due to factors like poor development planning, lack of succession strategy, perceived lack of interest, etc. Sometimes managerial roles aren’t even posted internally, giving current employees no chance to step up and show their potential. Post your managerial roles internally and advertise them broadly. Most organizations have internal talent with the potential to take on the next role, even if those future leaders aren’t obvious at first. Broad searches increase fairness and create internal growth opportunities. And as a plus, internal candidates come with the institutional knowledge to get up to speed and perform more quickly than their external counterparts.

Incorporate objectivity into your managerial hiring process by leveraging technology and assessments to keep your instincts from getting in the way of making a good hire.

Importantly, once you have invested in a predictive managerial hiring strategy, measure the success of your program! Keep track of the answers to questions like: Do recruiters and hiring managers feel more informed and confident in their hiring decisions? Would you hire this person again? Do people like working for this person? Is this leader achieving their objectives? Only by measuring these outcomes can companies show success and continue to improve, and without it, the investment may be for naught.

Organizations invest large sums of money into executive selection and development planning at senior management levels, but often reserve very few resources for their managers despite the crucial role managers play in engagement, performance, and retention. And the consequences are substantial. Poor managerial hiring results in unprepared leaders and a shallow bench of talent. Incorporating these 7 best practices into your managerial hiring program will help you source, place, and select the right leaders into your critical management roles.

Connect with us to learn more about how to start hiring better managers today.

headshot erin crask


Erin Lazarus

Erin Lazarus is a people science enthusiast and Industrial-Organizational Psychology leader focused on building teams that provide the opportunity for every person to work at their highest point of contribution. She leads teams to design powerful candidate and employee experiences that allow organizations to harness the power of their people. Her teams partner with business leaders using science and data to enhance people strategy in areas including employee selection, workplace assessment, organizational culture, employee engagement, performance management, succession planning, and leadership development. At SHL, Erin consults with clients to transform productivity through deeper people insight.

Explore SHL’s Wide Range of Solutions

With our platform of pre-configured talent acquisition and talent management solutions, maximize the potential of your company’s greatest asset—your people.

See Our Solutions