How to Answer "What Do You Expect From a Supervisor?" in an Interview

This is One of the Trickiest Questions You'll Face in a Job Interview

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One of the most common interview questions is, "What do you expect from a supervisor?" This can be a remarkably difficult question to answer, as you typically do not the boss' managing style and, if your answer differs from her approach, can hurt your candidacy. You need to be able to show you are able to work independently without looking like you have a problem with authority; it can be a delicate balancing act.

 

How You Shouldn't Answer the Question

Many candidates use this question as an opportunity to vent about their current role or a horrible boss they had in the past. While it can seem natural to share your past experiences, it can give the hiring manager a bad impression of you. 

For instance, this would be a poor answer, "After my last role, I really want a boss who is level-headed and talks to me before agreeing to projects. I also want someone who judges me based on my work, not based on office politics."

In this example, your language shows you had issues with your manager and lingering resentment. They only get your side of the story, so they may assume you're a problematic employee or will cause drama in the workplace. 

How to Answer the Question Effectively

Do not focus on the behavior of a past boss or bosses. Do not criticize past managers or complain; it will only reflect poorly on you.

Instead, focus on what empowers you to do your best work. Focus on good qualities that help you do your job well. 

Rather than using soft descriptions, such as personality traits, mention specific behaviors that you appreciate as an employee. Perhaps you like to have regular check-ins or to be consulted before moving forward with a project.

These behaviors and preferences give hiring manager a good idea of your working style. 

Sample Answers

Use these examples to help develop and frame your answer depending on your needs and preferences:

  • I appreciate a work environment where supervisors try to make personal connections with their employees.
  • In my last job, I liked the fact that management did not show favoritism and they were understanding of employees needs, as well as their strengths. Of course, these things take time to know, but I would want my supervisor to try to know me in that way.
  • I would like to be able to go my manager if I have an issue or idea and to be able to feel comfortable to expressing my thoughts. I would also expect my supervisor to be open and honest with me and to let me know if there is anything I could do to improve upon or do differently in my work. 

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