Field manager interview factors

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Whether they are called superintendents, supervisors, or account managers, the position that oversees a large work portfolio performed by multiple crews is critical to a landscape company’s success.

September 11, 2012
Steve Cesare

Steve Cesare

Whether they are called superintendents, supervisors, or account managers, the position that oversees a large work portfolio performed by multiple crews is critical to a landscape company’s success. Ideally, these “field managers” possess a balanced skill set blending strong operational knowledge, interpersonal skills and business acumen. Given the importance of this position, I am constantly surprised by the lack of detail asked of these candidates during their selection interviews. To address that shortcoming, this article offers sample interview questions to help landscapers identify talented field managers.

Safety. Safety considerations represent a vital component of a field manager’s professional skill set. Specific examples include: equipment safety, employees not wearing proper PPE, injury reporting procedures, and controlling workers’ compensation costs.

  • Describe the last time you coached an employee who was not complying with a safety procedure.
  • If you were told one of your employees was injured on a slope, what specific steps would you take?
  • Explain the role of an MPN to workers’ compensation costs.

Customer Service. Company success is the result of customer satisfaction, which is typically derived from high-quality customer service. Field managers are the company’s primary customer service role models in that they have extensive contact with customers, establish meaningful customer partnerships and exhibit professional knowledge and personal trust necessary to secure ongoing customer business.

  • What specific written information do you have listed in each of your job customer profiles?
  • What three criteria distinguish high-quality customer service from average customer service?
  • When was the last time you failed to meet a customer’s expectations? What were the outcomes?
  • What is the value proposition you deliver to a customer?

Business Acumen. Field Managers must be capitalists, thoroughly understanding the fundamentals of generating revenue, controlling costs, and achieving gross margin goals. This expertise is demonstrated through accurate pricing, selling extra work, optimizing labor efficiency, and minimizing costs.

  • What three key factors do you consider to ensure a job is managed efficiently?
  • What is the gross margin for your entire portfolio?
  • What recent steps have you taken to increase your portfolio’s gross margin?
  • What is your crews’ average hourly wage rate? Burden rate? Billable rates?

Job Quality.
Impressive job quality makes every field manager’s job easy to perform. Employees take pride in delivering it, customers appreciate its aesthetic beauty and landscape companies stay in business because of it.

  • Regarding job quality, what three features do customers expect from their landscape contractor?
  • What aspects of a job do you consider when evaluating its quality? How do you measure them?
  • What specific training have you personally provided to your employees to improve job quality?
  • How do you motivate a crew to do high-quality work on a job without exceeding labor hours?

People Management. A successful field manager is able to select, train, motivate, evaluate and retain high-quality employees. Those functions, as well as maintaining compliance with all policies, guidelines and laws, manifest the field manager’s alignment with and embodiment of the company’s mission statement and core values.

  • Describe the details and precise actions you took the last time you had to discipline an employee.
  • Describe the specific steps you take to develop a cohesive, high-quality work team.
  • What procedural steps do you personally take to fill a vacant Foreman position?
  • Describe the process you use to train employees on using equipment, hooking up a trailer and improving customer service. When was the last time you personally delivered that training?

Interpersonal skills. High-caliber field managers realize sincere interpersonal skills with subordinates, customers and business partners are non-negotiable components indicative of their personal and professional success. They instinctively demonstrate respect, honesty and fairness at all times.

  • What type of person do you not like to work with? Given that bias, how do you work collaboratively with that type of person?
  • Tell me about the last time you got angry with a co-worker, customer or supervisor. What happened?
  • What do you do to ensure you are a good communicator?
  • If you were told that another employee did not respect you, what would you do?

Field Managers perform diverse complex functions, all of which contribute to company effectiveness. The ability of landscapers to interview them thoroughly helps ensure the right questions are asked, the right candidates are selected, and the right behaviors are demonstrated thereby producing the results necessary for the company to improve, grow, and succeed.

Steve Cesare is an industrial psychologist with the Harvest Group, a landscape consulting group. Send your HR questions to