Interview Question - "What Do You Expect From a Supervisor?"

Group of businesspeople interviewing a candidate for a job in their organization.
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Interview questions about what you expect from a supervisor can be difficult questions to answer, as you typically do not know the boss' managing style and, if your answer differs from their approach, this can hurt your candidacy. You need to be able to show that you can 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 have 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 that you had issues with your manager and still harbor lingering resentment. The interviewer will only get your side of the story, so they may assume you're a problematic employee or one who will cause drama in the workplace. 

How to Answer the Question Effectively

Do not focus on the inadequate behavior of a past boss or bosses. Do not criticize past managers or complain; this will only reflect poorly on you. Instead, focus on what empowers you to do your best work. If you have had an effective supervisor in the past, it is fine to praise the good management qualities they demonstrated that helped you to do your job well. 

Perhaps you like to have regular check-ins or to be consulted before moving forward with a project. These behaviors and preferences will give a hiring manager a good idea of your working style. 

Examples of the Best 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 perceive, but I would want my supervisor to try to know me in that way.
  • I would like to be able to go to my manager if I have an issue or idea and to be able to feel comfortable in 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.
  • I really appreciate managers who can give constructive criticism without making employees feel like they have failed or are being negatively judged. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally. When this happens, the best thing to do is to assess and learn from the mistake to avoid repeating it in the future, without belittlement or censure.
  • I believe that the best supervisors convey their expectations in a timely fashion, as well as keeping their teams “in the loop” regarding new changes in the workplace. Although I feel I work very well independently, I also like to touch base regularly with my supervisor to ensure that our projects are all on track – either informally through emails or at formal weekly staff meetings.
  • I think that it’s important that managers realize how important team morale is to job performance. While I hold myself accountable for doing the best work I can each day, it’s always a shot in the arm to be praised now and then for a job well done.