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How to Answer Job Interview Questions for a Manager, Supervisor or Team Leader Role

Updated on June 7, 2014
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Whether you are a new manager or one with years of experience, preparing answers in advance will maximise your chances of success.
Whether you are a new manager or one with years of experience, preparing answers in advance will maximise your chances of success.

Job Interview Questions for New Manager

These are typical questions asked in a job interview for new managers, team leaders or supervisors.

  • What makes you think you will be a good manager?
  • Why do you want to step up to a management role?
  • What type of manager do you think you will be?
  • Tell me about a manager that has inspired you in the past.
  • Who was the worst manager you ever had and why?
  • What have you learned from previous managers?
  • What would you do if you had to fire an employee?

Interviewing for a Job as a Manager

If you have an interview lined up for a managerial position or are looking to climb the corporate ladder at your existing organisation, there are some key questions that are bound to be asked to ascertain not only that you are the right fit for the company, but also if you are the right person to lead, motivate and inspire the existing team.

Most interviewers will be keen to hear of your management style. Do you dangle the carrot or whip with a stick? They are looking to establish whether or not you will get the best out of the staff and if you will be able to quickly build trust and respect.

It's vital you prepare your answers in advance and find out as much about the company culture and values as soon as you can. Use this information together with the job description to determine what management style the organisation is looking for and if, of course that is in synergy with your own values, skills and experience.

Plan ahead and have lots of examples of scenarios and situations you have dealt with in the past. Include those where you have had to get the best out of your team, perhaps in some challenging times and always think about how you can finish all your answers with a positive result.

If you have never been a manager, supervisor or team leader before, think of examples you can give for hypothetical questions. These are questions that assess what you would do in a situation that you haven't yet encountered in order to establish if you are on the same page as the employer, or indeed, have an abundance of logic or common sense! There's some examples in the box on the right of this page.

Regardless of whether you are a new manager or not, dig deep in your memory banks to see if you have any transferable skills from your personal life that you could include as examples. Perhaps you have coached a football team or organised a school trip? These can be used to good effect to show your leadership skills and responsible attitude outside of the work place.

Words to Include in Your Answers

The interviewer will be expecting to hear that you manage effectively and lead by example, so strong key words you should include within your answers are:

Fair

Honest

Considered

Methodical

Supportive

Mentor

Coach

Listen

Motivate

Inspire

Lead

Develop

Performance

Guidance

Report

Build

Results

Positive

Make sure you substantiate these claims by using them within answers and not just as a long list - not all within the same answer though!

Your Management Style

Every manager has their own style, but the key here is to show that you are flexible and adaptable enough to meet the needs of your team and the business. Show that you don't have a one-size-fits-all approach and that you are receptive to feedback too and not just the giver.

  • “What kind of manager are you?”
  • “How would you describe your team leading abilities?”
  • “How do you take charge of your team?”
  • “What are the most important qualities of a supervisor?”
  • “How do you lead a team?”
  • “What management style do you find most effective?”

Your answer should include how you encourage your team to get the job done and not a blow by blow account of your day to day duties as a manager.

Points to include would be:

  • Working together as a team
  • Approachable
  • Diplomatic
  • Tactful
  • Motivating
  • Knowledgeable
  • Adaptable
  • Supportive

“I believe that working as a team of which I am one of the members is the most effective strategy to adopt as we are all working to achieve the same end result. I find that I don’t use only one management style as I have to adapt according to the individual needs of the team members. This may mean that newer or less experienced staff may require more instruction and close supervision whereas higher performing or more experiences workers may be able to work more autonomously or be set more challenges to keep stimulated and motivated.

Regardless of their level of competency, I always ensure I provide support and encouragement together with recognising their achievements and sharing this with the rest of the team which builds confidence and inspires others.”

You may like to talk about how you are able to exert your authority in certain circumstances, or that you have great coaching or mentoring skills. Be sure to provide examples.

  • “What would you change about your management style?”


This is just another way of asking “What is your greatest weakness” but making it more specific to the role so whatever you answer, use the same rules as before.

Motivation

Every team needs a leader and one who can drive them forwards when they are feeling low or a task is challenging, repetitive or boring. This is where you need to show off your leadership skills and what you can do to motivate and inspire your team to get the job done, happily.

“How do you motivate your team in challenging circumstances?”

Be careful here that you are not only providing answers that may be based on incentives or treats. Show that you have good leadership skills and your team members are motivated to get the job done as they value you and want to be successful rather than you having to only bribe them.

How do you communicate with your team when faced with a challenge? Do you give clear instruction and plenty of verbal recognition to spur them on? Do you recognise that each member of the team is an individual so therefore may need differing levels of support and guidance or appropriate tasks assigned to them depending on their level of competency?

Dealing With Under-performing Staff

Probably one of the emotionally most challenging aspects of being a manager is when one of your team is under-performing. Being objective in order to performance manage them to hopefully improve or worst case scenario, manage them out of the business is key here. Whether you guided them to get back on track or fired them, you should always aim to talk positively about the experience and not speak negatively (particularly with personal feelings) about the employee.

  • “Give me an example of how you have dealt with an under-performing team member in the past.”
  • “What was the situation?”
  • “How did you deal with it?”
  • “What was the outcome?”

The interviewer is most likely looking for an answer which shows that you have taken appropriate steps to assess the situation based solely on facts and what action you took to improve it.

“In my last role I had a team member who was under-performing, so after analysing his figures I had a one to one conversation with him where I listened to how he felt his performance was. We quickly established that he had lost some of his confidence and needed some support. We then worked together to create a plan of training and development and evaluated his progress on a weekly basis until he was up to speed.”


Feedback Delivery

Delivering feedback your team should be done on an ongoing basis and not just left for appraisal time. Employees need to know when they are doing a great job and of course, when they have made a mistake with details or training on what they need to do next time. Positive feedback is the easy part, but:

“How have you handled having to give someone difficult feedback?”

Choose a scenario where the feedback was difficult to hear rather than you finding it difficult to dish out. Allow the interviewer to see that feedback is important to you and your team and although it may be difficult to hear, it is the only way to either improve, or performance manage effectively.


Building trust and respect with your team will ensure they will support you during challenging times.
Building trust and respect with your team will ensure they will support you during challenging times.

Trust & Respect

As the team's new manager, you will have to build trust and respect as quickly as possible. Quite often, when a new manager takes over, employees can feel worried that there will be lots of changes or some of them will lose their jobs as the new manager tries to make their mark and put their stamp on their division. It is essential that you let your team see that you are keen to get the best out of them, but that you mean business at the same time. Of course, this is an ongoing battle where once you build trust and respect, you have to keep working to keep it.

“Describe a situation in which you inspired trust and respect in your team.”

As you are interviewing for a new role then a great example would be when you started your last managerial job and got your team “on side”.

“When I began my previous role my team had been without a steady manager for over a year and had three temporary ones so I had to gain their trust and reassure them that I wasn’t going to be there for a short time then leave. I implemented a team huddle meeting at the start of each day, which lasted 15 minutes with a “anything can be said inside these four walls policy”. Having this regular face to face contact time with the team helped us get to know each other quickly, nip any problems or worries in the bud and work as a collective to find solutions. Within a month the meeting evolved into more of an ideas session where everyone had a voice and could share their creativity with each other. I found that my team’s confidence and morale soared and their productivity increased continually by over 10% each month thereafter.”

Notice with this answer that there is nothing to say “I got them to trust me” or “I inspired them”. The example demonstrates how you were the guide who steered them on the path to success and didn’t just simply tell them what to do.


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Managing Change

Every business encounters change. This can be anything ranging from expansion, restructuring, relocation, redundancies and of course, a new manager. We spend a great deal of our lives at work, so it is important to be happy. It's important for your team to be happy.

Job interview questions surrounding how you have managed change in the past or what you would do in the future are common and give the interviewer an insight into how you cope under pressure, not only with your own emotions, but with taking the weight and responsibility of your team on your shoulders.

“What is the first thing you would change, if you were to start work here?”

Your answer to this depends on how much you know about the job, however tread with caution so as to avoid saying anything that may be deemed derogatory to the current or former post holder.

Why has this position become available? You should be able to find out this information I advance. If not; be bold and ask the interviewer. I am quite sure they aren’t expecting you to be telepathic.

Before you start, consider setting the scene by saying that your first priority would be to establish the boundaries of responsibility, the team in which you will be working, what kind of changes you would be permitted to make and who would be your next line authority figure to sign off any proposals. This is a much better strategy to adopt than simply stating “I would do this or that” unless of course it is clearly stated that the role is predominantly to make a fast, aggressive changes.

Talk about how you would consider the impact any changes may have on the direct team and wider workforce with empathy and that any changes would have to add value to the organisation both in the short and longer term.

If in doubt, ask the interviewer what the weaker areas that can be improved upon are and use that as a base for your answer.

  • “How do you manage change?”
  • “How do you deal with change?”
  • “Are you able to work in a fast paced environment?”

Change in the workplace is inevitable, especially in these tough economic times so you may either be interviewing for a role in which you will be managing change or be involved directly in dealing with changes.

Most of the time, change can be difficult for others to deal with so being able to lead a team or colleagues, through to the other side and giving examples of your success can lead to respect and reassurance that you are calm, collected and positive.

Regardless of the superiority of the role, having an example or two to demonstrate how you cope with or lead change will put the interviewers mind at ease. If the organisation is developing or moving in a different way that previously, then it is unlikely that you will be aware of all the facts prior to or during your interview as the interviewer may have to keep certain points strictly confidential.

What they are looking to see is that you accept that change is inevitable, you embrace it and you won't be fazed by any challenges or complications along the way.

Always talk positively when referring to another company and be very careful that you don’t divulge any sensitive information. It is acceptable to talk loosely about the facts and the interviewer will appreciate this, after all they need to know that you aren’t going to tell all and sundry private matters about them.

Give a brief synopsis on what brought about the change, your direct involvement, any positive impact this had together with any challenges and how you worked to overcome them.

  • “Tell me about a time when you felt that a planned change was inappropriate”

Only provide an answer to this if you can openly talk without compromising confidentiality or sensitive data. If you are able to answer then choose a situation where you successfully challenged the proposal. Keep your answer upbeat and professional omitting any personal grievances.

  • “Give me an example of a change you initiated and what positive outcome it had”

Rather than launching into an example here, aim to set the scene by discussing how you go about your roll out plan step by step.

Have you had to initiate redundancies for the greater good of the company future?

Did you change the structure of your team? If so, what were the outcomes.

Did save money or increase productivity?

  • “Give me an example of when your team were reluctant to change and how you overcame this”

I bet you have lots of examples here!

The main points to consider are the relationship you have with your team and how you listened to their concerns before reassuring them.

Most interviewers will want to hear that you recognise that not everyone is comfortable with change but you can lead and guide them through the process as a result of trust you have previously gained with them.


Your Interviews

I'd love to hear about any interviews you have had in the past for managerial roles. Were there any questions that caught you off guard? Was there a killer question that you gave a superb answer for, which made you think, "Yes! I've nailed it!"

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