Management Entrance Exam

If you want to practice medicine, you need a medical license.

If you want to build a bridge, you’ll need an engineering degree.

If you want to teach children, you’ll be needing a teaching qualification of some kind, right?

If you want to manage people, well, they’ll let just about any old bozo give it a go! Come on down!

But what if we had some sort of entrance exam for being a manager?

No Guidance

Most people become managers without receiving any management training. Some get a little bit. Maybe a 2 day course on mentoring or something. Hardly a robust learning experience.

I’d like to set a minimum set of standards for my managers, and then ensure the training was available to get them to that minimum standard. And minimum standards require testing against that standard.

I’ve seen so many companies with internal issues that are rooted in poor management by people who simply don’t know what good management looks like. How on earth are they supposed to figure it out on their own? Magic?

Anyway, here’s a quick sketch of the sorts of things I’d like to see on a management entrance exam:

Email Challenge

You’ll be given some background information on 2 scenarios. You will need to write an email summarising them:

  1. Something is broken. Write an email to your boss explaining the problem, possible fixes, and a recommendation for what to do.
  2. Write an email to your team, explaining the response from your boss. Maybe they chose option 1 instead of 2, and your team won’t like it.
  3. Bonus question for people with internal customer facing roles: The broken thing from 1 affects an important internal customer. Write an email to them explaining what’s going on.

If you can’t communicate well in email: you fail.

Report Challenge

You’ll be given some statistical information relevant to your role, as well as some more general stuff general (attendance rates for the month, maybe).

Summarise the information as a monthly report for your manager. You will have access to the standard office applications. You will not be given a template.

You have 1 hour.

Too detailed? Fail. Too simple? Fail.

Confusing layout, 6pt font on 75 PowerPoint slides? You better believe that’s a fail.

If you can’t present information to others quickly, clearly, and succinctly: you fail.

Priority Challenge

You’ll be given a list of 30 hypothetical things that need to be done in the next 6 months, relevant to your role. You know how big your team is.

There’ll be some prose statements about how urgent/important each one is. Things like “the CEO expects this one to be complete within 3 months”, and “a PM has committed to a customer that this will be done in 3 weeks”. The usual.

Each one will have an effort estimate next to it. 6 of them are wrong. You’ll know that, but won’t know which 6.

There will be too many things to get done in the time, and many will be urgent or high visibility. It’s impossible to do them all.

Choose. You have 15 minutes.

If you can’t prioritise: you fail.

Verbal Interview

Someone who isn’t your boss, maybe your manager once-removed, will interview you according to a script. You will be asked to explain or defend your answers in the previous challenges.

You need to be able to speak and present well, to defend your ability to be a decent manager.

If you can’t convince another manager (who passed this test) that you should be a manager: you fail.


Maybe. There are a lot of harsh tests in life.

I think it’s pretty harsh to subject employees to be managed by untrained, unqualified people who aren’t suited to the job.

What would be on your exam?

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  1. This should be made law! :)

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