When an interviewer asks you about your last or current supervisor’s management style, they’re trying to get a sense of how you fit within the chain of command. For example, by responding that your supervisor is a micromanager and a stickler, it could appear that you don’t enjoy being monitored or having your work scrutinized.
Recognizing that your supervisor is fair, proactive, or detail-oriented not only shows a team-oriented mindset, it shows that you’re a good observer. Those who can follow the examples of managers and supervisors are often the best candidates for those positions in the future.
Points to Emphasize
Although it’s necessary to keep the tone positive, painting a complete, honest picture is acceptable. Being an astute observer means seeing both the good and the bad.
- Recall specifics when applicable, but focus on the bigger picture of your supervisor’s habits.
- Start and end with positive notes, just as you would if delivering criticism directly to the individual.
- Strive for balance. It’s okay to mention that your detail-oriented supervisor sometimes loses track of the big picture.
- Talk about how you’ve been positively influenced by supervisors in the workplace.
Unless you’re at the top of the food chain, it’s always your job to support your higher-ups. Keep the conversation upbeat for best results.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Undercutting a supervisor isn’t an effective way to elevate your own knowledge or talent. Make sure you keep perspective and stay professional:
- Never talk down about a supervisor, current or past. Employers might assume it’s a natural behavior.
- Don’t lead in or end with negative statements. Start and finish on good notes.
- Have something to say. Lack of awareness of one’s supervisor gives the impression that it’s not a job you’re interested in securing one day.
- Don’t be influenced by emotion. When discussing someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with personally, focus on professional qualities.
Mature individuals are aware of how to offer criticism without making personal attacks. Make sure you come across as such in your interview.
It’s a good idea to reflect on a range of interactions to get an accurate overall picture when answering this question. An example response:
My last supervisor was a major influence on me professionally. He made effort to check-in with the team frequently without being overbearing. He also had a big personality, but he knew when to keep things light and when to stay serious. Above all, I think he was great about seeing the big picture without losing sight of the details.
Stay focused on the supervisor’s consistent behaviors; try to avoid anecdotes or responses which illustrate supervisors in a chummy kind of light.