Who’s the Boss? How to Handle Questions About Past Supervisors

questions about past supervisors

As you get the interview process rolling, an essential aspect that employers want to assess is how you have worked with past supervisors. They want to determine whether you have any issues with authority and to mentally evaluate the nature of your work style. Your interviewer may ask questions about your favorite supervisor to determine how well you will work within the company’s culture.

When the interviewer asks you to characterize your ideal boss, it could be posed as a reflection upon your past supervisors, or regarding your future choices. Prepare your answers to these questions:

  • Who was your best manager?
  • Who was your worst manager?
  • Describe your ideal manager.

Your answers need to show a balance between your ability to take direction from a supervisor and your ability to work independently. Also, avoid condemning any of your former employers. If you speak negatively about previous employers, hiring managers will wonder what you will say about them down the road.

Below are some guidelines for responding to questions about your ideal supervisor:

Find a Balance

Emphasize your ability to work independently, while voicing your comfort with taking direction from a boss. You don’t want to come across as requiring either too much or too little supervision. Before you answer, think about the position. Try to evaluate how much management the employer will require of you. Use this thought process to guide your answer.

Emphasize Your Adaptability

Share how you have worked with a variety of past supervisors. Be ready to give examples of how you have been effective with different types of bosses.

Best Qualities of a Supervisor

Consider what qualities are appealing to you that will also help the organization succeed.

Never Criticize Past Supervisors

Your prospective employer will assume you are a complainer. When an interviewer requests you to describe your least favorite supervisor, emphasize how you were still productive in this environment. Emphasize what you look for in a boss, rather than the traits you dislike.

Don’t Get Too Carried Away With Your Response

Don’t suggest that you have impractical expectations for some superhuman supervisor, or that you will be too needy as a staff member. Keep your answers succinct.

As important as your responses are, keep in mind that job interviews go both ways. You’re not just selling — you’re buying. Make soon-to-be employers pitch to you. You have much at stake in this professional pact. Their answers to your questions are as important as your answers to theirs.

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