There are a number of supervisor interview questions that get asked all the time. That means if you’re applying for a role that oversees others, you need to be prepared to answer them!
This list of interview questions for supervisors will help you get ready and impress on the big day.
1. What do you look for when hiring someone?
For jobs where supervisors make hiring decisions or participate in candidate screening, this question provides valuable insight.
Hiring managers want to know that supervisor candidates have experience bringing people on and understand the responsibilities that come with it. Vetting potential employees is a complex process. This interview question for supervisors gauges your hiring capabilities and lets key decision-makers understand more about your hiring strategies.
It’s about highlighting your ability to build a cohesive team and identifying the characteristics you value most in direct reports.
The best way to answer this question is to share one experience as a manager or supervisor in the hiring process. Discuss the key factors you consider from candidates and what strategies you use to find the best people for every role you fill.
2. Share a time when you had to make a crucial decision as a supervisor
Leadership positions require tough decision-making. Your actions as a supervisor can greatly impact the company’s bottom line, so hiring managers want to know that you can make those decisions strategically and confidently. They are also evaluating what you consider to be a crucial decision.
When responding to this supervisor interview question, think back to a situation where you made an impactful decision. Walk the interviewer through your thought processes and go into how you ultimately came to the decision you made.
Ideally, it would help if you focused on decisions that paved the way for positive results. Your goal is to show interviewers that you understand the weight of difficult choices and know how to approach them methodically. The question tests your problem-solving skills and your ability to work under pressure.
This question can come up for any position, but it’s common for those interviewing for supervisor roles. It can be a tough one to answer and often catches candidates off guard. That’s the entire point, forcing you to sell yourself on the spot.
The goal of this question is to allow you to highlight your core skills and qualifications. It’s your time to tell hiring managers what you bring to the table that other candidates may not have. It’s a guess because you’ll never really know. But it’s important to emphasize your unique successes and why they would help the company.
Answers should walk the line between confidence and humility. Talk about your skills and how you can be an asset to the company. Focus on what sets you apart.
4. What do you do to make sure employees are motivated?
Supervisors do more than delegate tasks. They run entire teams and must keep everyone motivated to continue producing results.
Interviewers use this interview question for supervisors to learn about your motivational techniques. There are many ways to help your team reach its full potential. Now is your chance to talk about your strategies.
Discuss the methods you use to keep your reports engaged in their work. Always provide an example to illustrate those techniques in action and emphasize the positive results you achieved.
Reiterate your eagerness to apply those techniques with a new team and express flexibility in how you motivate your team. The best supervisors can keep employees interested in their jobs long-term, so it’s always a good idea to brush up on motivational strategies before you head into your interview.
5. How would you describe your leadership style? Has it changed over time?
There are several different leadership styles you can employ. Research common strategies and determine which methods work best for you. There’s no inherently right or wrong response to the first part of the question.
Interviewers aim to learn more about how you approach being a leader and how you fit into the organization.
The second part of this supervisor interview question is more multifaceted. Supervisors often adapt their approach based on their teams’ feedback and current needs. Showing you’re flexible enough to adjust your techniques goes a long way.
It reassures hiring managers that you can evolve to provide the best guidance possible.
Research the company before your interview to learn more about its culture. The best responses can show hiring managers that your leadership style fits the corporate environment.
6. How do you resolve conflict between two employees that you supervise?
Resolving conflict is another thing that supervisors have to do regularly. Conflicts are bound to happen with several different personalities collaborating as part of a team.
It’s a supervisor’s job to squash drama, find common ground, and maintain productivity. This question almost always comes up in interviews for leadership positions because it’s such a crucial aspect of the job.
Focus your answer on how you mediate conflicts. Choose a real-world example from your past that illustrates how you resolve conflicts swiftly and efficiently. Don’t be afraid to talk about your mediation styles and what you do to keep the peace in your team.
7. Tell me about a time when you needed to fire an employee
Terminating employees is one of the more challenging aspects of being a leader. Those moments are delicate, and interviewers want to learn more about your experiences.
Professional approaches are best. Companies typically prefer hiring supervisors who know how to navigate the complexities and can successfully handle the task without drama.
This interview question serves to highlight your experience and unveil more of your methodologies. Interviewers are inviting you to talk more about your approach and what steps you take to break the news and maintain productivity for the rest of the team.
Give this question ample thought before your interview. Avoid bad-mouthing former employees or implying that you get a thrill out of terminating people. Emphasize your confidence, but show that you also have empathy.
8. What’s the most challenging part of being a supervisor?
This is a unique question that helps interviewers understand your approach to being a supervisor. Leading a team isn’t always easy, and you’ll likely encounter many unique challenges that test your skills.
Asking this question allows interviewers to gain insight into your thoughts on leadership. Talking about what you think is challenging sheds light on many things. It lets you talk about your ethics, strategies, and beliefs. Ultimately, it helps hiring managers see if you are the proper fit regarding company culture and values.
Leadership is complex, and there are many facets you can talk about in your response. The best way to respond is to discuss dilemmas that forced you out of your comfort zone and required you to think out of the box for a solution.
Avoid anything that would allude to struggles in your everyday life as a supervisor. Instead, focus on the challenges you successfully overcame and how those moments helped you grow in your career.
9. How do you want your direct reports to view you?
When interviewers ask this question, they want you to talk about your capabilities from the perspective of someone you lead. It’s a way for decision-makers to learn about your self-awareness while closely examining the traits you wish to exude.
Supervisors can affect the entire work experience for multiple employees. Everyone has had a leader that ruined their enjoyment of the job or made it difficult to succeed. Interviewers want to make sure that you’re not one of those managers.
They want a better idea of how you would come across to the teams you lead. It’s an opportunity to envision you in the role and ensure you fit the company culture well.
10. Have you ever been part of a negotiating contract?
This interview question for supervisors is similar to discussions about being part of the hiring process. In fact, it usually comes as a follow-up.
Contract negotiations are tricky, and they can be intimidating for supervisors who aren’t well-prepared to represent the company. Ironing out the kinks of a work contract isn’t about squeezing as much out of a job candidate as possible. It’s about finding a healthy middle space to attract amazing talent for the organization while keeping its needs in mind.
If you’ve never been part of contract negotiations before, do your research. Learn about techniques that leaders use and talk about how you would approach the discussion in a hypothetical situation.
If you already have experience with contract negotiations, go into detail about your methods and emphasize the good outcomes that came after.
11. Have you been a supervisor before?
You’ll likely hear this question at the start of your job interview. It’s a common ice-breaker that helps open up discussions about your experience.
If you’ve never been a supervisor, be honest about that fact. You can discuss times when you’ve taken a leadership role, but don’t lie. Lying will only harm your chances of getting a job offer.
If you have experience, the goal is to be confident and relate your skills to the organization. Emphasize how you benefit the company and reiterate why you’re the person they’re looking for. Show hiring managers how you can fulfill their needs and remind them of what you have to bring to the table.
12. How do you define success as a supervisor?
Supervisors play an important role in every organization, and their performance can seriously impact a team’s performance.
This supervisor interview question serves to test your self-awareness. Interviewers want to know that you understand how your performance affects the performance of the team you manage.
The best answers lean heavily into the mutual nature of team and leader relationships. Think about your past successes and how you got there. Recognize that your team affected your success as much as you affected theirs.
Stress that importance and provide real examples to illustrate your understanding of the mutually beneficial relationship between you and your reports.
13. If you make a mistake, how do you address it when speaking to your team?
Everyone makes mistakes, even supervisors. There’s no such thing as a perfect manager, and you must understand that you can always make bad calls. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, but what’s important is that you own up to them and take steps to correct them.
Despite how it sounds, this isn’t a tough question that aims to throw you off. Interviewers genuinely want to know how you respond to mistakes. Do you avoid responsibility and pass the blame, or own up to your wrongdoings?
This question is multi-layered. It tests your self-awareness while also providing insight into your ethical approach to leadership.
When responding, reflect on a relatively minor mistake. Avoid anything that might have resulted in major repercussions. Talk about how you addressed the mistake professionally and what you did to make things right.
14. What’s your approach to getting up to speed when supervising a new team?
When you’re interviewing for a new supervisor position, there’s a good chance that you’ll be stepping into an existing team. The reports you’ll work with already have their way of doing things, and there could be a learning curve before getting into the swing of your managerial duties.
This interview question for supervisors aims to dig deeper into your flexibility. Interviewers are questioning your ability to adapt to a brand-new work situation. They’re looking to learn about how you ramp up and what steps you take to ease into the role with as few hiccups as possible.
If you have past supervisor experience, think about those first few weeks on the job and what you did to get up to speed. It’s also a good idea to research the company and learn more about the team you’ll work with if given the position. Understanding the job’s responsibilities and knowing how the organization operates go a long way.
15. How do you approach an employee who is underperforming?
Hiring managers use this question to learn more about how you step up to help your direct reports. Being a supervisor requires you to deliver criticism and address performance issues as they come up.
Some leaders will simply discipline reports that underperform, but the most prized supervisors will work with those individuals to set goals to achieve a high standard of work. Underperforming team members can negatively impact your success. Interviewers want to know that you are proactive in resolving those problems.
In your answer, talk about moments you had to step in to resolve performance challenges. Reiterate that you’re comfortable providing constructive criticism and are committed to helping your team reach its full potential. Discuss the methods you use and focus on the situations that resulted in positive outcomes.
16. Share the ways you lead by example for your direct reports
Good supervisors lead by example in one form or another. They model the performance and behaviors they expect from their team.
This question gives you a chance to tell interviewers how you set the stage for success and become a leader that reports want to follow. There are many ways to lead by example. You could maintain high productivity levels, flex your time management skills, or communicate openly with your team.
All of those examples encourage your reports to do the same. Think about how your actions positively affect your team and benefit your mutual accomplishments.
17. Share a time when you had to teach an employee something complicated
Here’s another supervisor interview question that invites you to showcase specific leadership qualities. The ability to teach others effectively is a valuable skill that can benefit organizations in many ways. Showing you have no problem being an educator and motivator can significantly improve your chances of moving forward in the interview process.
To answer this question, talk about a time you had to go over complex operations. It could be a moment when you had to introduce new software or when you had to teach a valuable soft skill like client communication.
Whatever the case, talk about how you approach your lessons. Discuss the methods you used to help the employee understand those difficult concepts. Then, finish by providing an example of how your teachings benefited the employee and your company.
Getting familiar with these supervisor interview questions will help you perform well and make a great impression on potential employers. And while some of them might seem tough at first, they’re all manageable if you spend some time preparing.
Work through these, practice your answers, and you’ll do great!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.