Supervisor Interview Questions (And Example Answers)

By Chris Kolmar - Aug. 19, 2021
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Interviewing for a supervisory position at a company demands greater preparation than for most other jobs.

A supervisor’s competence or lack thereof directly impacts the performance of all employees they oversee, so you can bet that any interviewer is going to ask you difficult questions.

The interviewer will ask you questions that assess your leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as the length and quality of your experience.

In this article, we’ll explain the qualities of a good supervisor that you should try to convey.

We’ll also provide you with 30 common interview questions for supervisory positions that you need to prepare for, as well as example answers to help you draft your own.

What Makes a Good Supervisor?

There are several hard and soft skills that effective supervisors possess.

Key skills include:

  • Planning and organization. It’s up to you to efficiently and effectively delegate employees. You need to be able to plan for the future and prepare for contingencies.

  • Problem-solving. Teams need to tackle problems through a unified solution. It’s up to you to provide this common direction.

  • Decision-making. Contrasting voices in a team lead to endless debate and zero action. Supervisors step in to make the final say and propel the team forward.

  • Motivating. Unmotivated team members are ineffective. You have to appeal to a common goal.

  • Communication. Every other skill is useless if you can’t get your idea across. It’s up to you to make sure every team member understands any crucial aspects of the project.

  • Energy. Teams look to their leaders for inspiration and direction. A leader who devotes themselves to the task-at-hand and leads by example motivates everyone.

  • Charisma. Charisma doesn’t mean that you have to be super extroverted and outgoing. It just means that your words are influential and can affect employee actions.

  • Empathy. When team members have an issue they need addressed, they have to believe that you’ll understand their viewpoint before they’re willing to bring it to you.

How to Prepare for a Supervisor Interview

To prepare for a supervisor interview, follow these steps:

  • Prepare stories that demonstrate your leadership. Whether you’re applying for your first ever supervisory role or you’re an old hand at management, you need to arrive at your interview with several stories of your leadership skills in action.

    Brainstorm all the times that you’ve taken ownership over a project, delegated tasks to peers or subordinates, or seen through a concept from design to implementation. Keep in mind that you’re going to be asked a wide variety of questions about your supervisory experience and inclinations, and many of these will be behavioral interview questions.

    To answer behavioral questions, use the STAR method, which involves setting up a situation, describing your task, detailing the actions you took, and concluding with the result of your contributions. It’s a tidy way to organize your stories so interviewers have an easy time understanding your direct impact.

    With this organizational framework in mind, start thinking of common types of questions you’re likely to hear (your biggest accomplishments, your disagreements and failures, and your greatest learning experiences) and come up with a story that fits each category.

  • Learn the company’s needs and management style. If you’re applying for an internal management position, then you probably already have a decent idea of the corporate structure and methodology.

    If you’re an outsider, do some digging on company review sites and read the job description closely to understand what their ideal candidate looks like. The more information you have about the company and, even better, the team you’d be working with, the more you can tailor your responses to suit the employer’s needs.

  • Consider your own management philosophy. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to simply study up and parrot exactly what the interviewer wants to hear — especially if it runs counter to your actual beliefs or preferences.

    Take time to consider how you like to lead teams, what tact you take for keeping projects on track, and how much emphasis you put on certain metrics. Knowing what the company wants to hear can help you couch your answers in their preferred language, without being a phony.

  • Prepare the right questions. Coming up with incisive and thoughtful questions is a big part of most supervisory roles. With that in mind, preparing great questions for your interviewer can be just the thing to set you apart from other candidates.

    The more you ask questions about how the team gets things done and indicate a genuine appreciation for their current workflow, the easier it’ll be for the hiring manager to envision you in the role.

Top 30 Supervisor Interview Questions

When answering the following questions, it’s even more important to practice smart interviewing behaviors than other job interviews.

This includes behaviors such as:

A slouching, timid candidate could still make for a good software developer, but rarely an effective supervisor.

When we provide our sample answers, take note of how each of the hard and soft skills mentioned earlier is conveyed.

Also, notice how the STAR method is used to answer situational questions.

Without further ado, the top 30 supervisor interview questions you need to prepare for are:

  1. What supervisory experience do you already have? Every single interview for a supervisory position will ask you this question early on.

    You need to show how you’ve actively demonstrated the hard and soft supervisory skills mentioned earlier, as well the results that were generated.

    Sample answer:

    “I have led many teams in the past. At my last job as a supervisor at CompanyA, I was responsible for overseeing employees from many different departments.

    As my team members varied widely in specializations and backgrounds, communicating effectively and resolving disagreements were critical skills.

    I noticed some team members were shyer and more reserved, so I told everyone that they could voice their concerns to me privately, and I would listen to what they had to say.

    This ensured that all employees were engaged with providing solutions to our common goals, which we always met in record times.”

  2. Why should we hire you above other candidates? Many other job-seekers will have the same skills and experience as you, so you need to find a way to stand out and leave a strong impression.

    The key to answering this question is to get a bit personal and abstract. Convey what makes you special while remaining humble.

    Sample answer:

    “Effective supervisors must possess the ability to communicate with all types of people. I’ve been practicing this my entire life, both inside and out of work.

    Whenever I’ve had to solve a problem with a team, I’ve strived to relate and listen closely to individuals of all personalities.

    Understanding different viewpoints allows you to appeal to a team’s shared values and communicate in a way that unites everyone. This will enable you to effectively achieve goals together.”

  3. Have you ever hired an employee? What factors do you think are important when choosing a candidate? How you answer this question will indicate a few important traits to the interviewer.

    They want to see that you’re aware of the steps required for building a solid team and know what to look for in a good teammate.

    Sample answer:

    “Yes, at my last job, I interviewed and hired two software developers.

    I like to first speak with candidates over the phone, explaining our company culture and the nature of the job in detail to find out if they’re still interested.

    I then invite them to an in-person interview, where I assess their skill level and personal characteristics. I look for personalities that are self-motivated and mesh well with the rest of the team.”

  4. As a supervisor, what was one critical decision you’ve had to make? You need to confirm to the interviewer that you’ve been responsible for important decisions in the past and maintained a logical thought process in doing so.

    You also have to show that you were confident in making such decisions independently.

    Sample answer:

    “At my previous role at Marketing A, I decided to cut a large piece of content from our client’s website.

    Plenty of resources had already been invested in the content, but ultimately it didn’t fit with the client’s brand.

    I gathered and weighed feedback from all parties involved and made the final decision.”

  5. How have you successfully motivated employees? Supervisors are responsible for maintaining a team’s morale and adjusting their motivational techniques as needed.

    Sample answer:

    “Different co-workers require different forms of motivation.

    I’ve used public praise and acknowledgment of achievements to motivate many of my employees.

    I was able to motivate others by competitions or contests with a small prize. I’m always seeking to understand my employees’ personalities to develop effective ways of encouraging them.

  6. How do you resolve employee disputes? You need to demonstrate prior success with resolving employee conflicts and a style of resolution that fits the company’s culture.

    Sample answer:

    “The key is to make sure both parties feel that they’ve been listened to, or else similar problems will arise.

    I always get everyone’s input about the conflict before making any decisions. I’ve found it helpful to bring everyone together in a room and act as a mediator.

    I always get an agreed-upon resolution in writing and provide a copy to everyone.”

  7. How do you deal with employees that aren’t performing up to expectations? The recruiter wants to know that you’re comfortable addressing a team’s problems and understand how to set employee standards and goals.

    Sample answer:

    “I recently had a marketing specialist who wasn’t responding to emails promptly and failed to deliver important documents as promised.

    I outlined for them the specific complaints, and we came up with a game plan together. We scheduled a time each day for them to exclusively answer emails, and discussed creating calendar reminders to help them remember to send reports to clients.”

  8. What is your greatest supervisory weakness? Be honest and give areas in which you could genuinely learn more. The interviewer doesn’t expect you to be perfect, just that you’re self-aware and always striving to improve your weaknesses.

    That being said, don’t air your critical flaws and make yourself look bad.

    Sample answer:

    “I don’t always understand all types of personalities as well as I wish. However, I try to expose myself to all types of viewpoints and remain open-minded to steadily increase my understanding.”

  9. What is your greatest supervisory strength? Take this as an opportunity to brag about a critical management skill of your choice.

    However, stay humble and don’t go overboard.

    Sample answer:

    “My ability to listen closely and understand what motivates people. I understand that all my employees are individuals with their own beliefs and values.

    By practicing empathy and allowing everyone to speak their mind, I’m able to unite teams and gather solutions to solve any problem.”

  10. How would previous colleagues describe your supervisory style? You want to demonstrate that you possess self-awareness and align with a company’s culture.

    Sample answer:

    “My staff would likely say that I’m supportive, but not micromanaging.

    I like to strike a balance between receiving regular updates from my employees and empowering them to make independent decisions.

    I like to analyze feedback and results to make sure I’m effectively supporting the team.”

  11. Has your supervisory style changed over time? If so, how? It’s crucial to indicate that your supervision skills are always improving and that you adapt your style as necessary.

    Sample answer:

    “At my first supervisory position, I asked for daily check-ins from my employees.

    I thought this wasn’t overbearing initially, but learned that my staff felt more trusted if I didn’t ask for such frequent updates on their work.

    I updated these check-ins to a bi-weekly basis, which my employees were happy with. I also observed an increase in productivity as a result.”

  12. Has an employee ever made a significant mistake? How did you respond? The key to answering this question is to focus on your ability to view mistakes as a learning opportunity and discuss with employees how to prevent them from happening ever again.

    Sample answer:

    “At a previous job, one of my programmers left an error in his code that crashed the program.

    I sought to understand why the mistake occurred, so I asked for their perspective.

    The employee explained that they had not double-checked their work. Together, we discussed an action plan to ensure this did not happen again.

    They agreed to document when they double-checked their code for a probationary period. This helped them build the habit for their entire stay at the company, and the mistake never occurred again.”

  13. What kind of relationship do you think supervisors and staff should maintain outside of work?

    The answer to this question is both yes and no, and you need to show that you understand exactly where this line is drawn.

    Sample answer:

    “Team lunches are a great way to improve a group’s atmosphere and foster collaboration. However, you should never delve into an employee’s personal or life issues that aren’t relevant to work.”

  14. How do you measure team success? The purpose of a team is to achieve a company’s goals while keeping in mind teams are also made up of humans.

    You need to demonstrate a multifaceted understanding of team success.

    Sample answer:

    “I define success as achieving a positive atmosphere and working environment for my team, as well as our ability to meet business objectives.

    I’m always gauging feedback to understand how I can better support my team, both to make them more effective as well as to make them feel engaged and included.”

  15. Do you consider yourself a leader? Remain humble and self-aware when answering this question.

    Sample answer:

    “Yes, but I like to lead by example rather than “boss” team members around.

    Leaders must support the individuals on their team rather than dictating their actions. I seek to understand my employees’ personalities and relate to them so we can achieve a common goal.”

  16. Why did you leave your previous job? You need to assure the interviewer that you follow up on your commitments and won’t leave a team stranded. Leaving jobs after a short time isn’t a good look.

    Sample answer:

    “I served at my previous position for eight years, overseeing multiple teams over many projects.

    Now that we’ve fully completed our last big project, I’m ready to seek new experiences and challenges.

    Your firm’s projects seem extremely interesting, and I’m confident this is the next step forward for me.”

  17. What would you do if you were falling behind on schedule? You need to show that you understand how to identify the source of a problem and address it.

    Sample answer:

    “The first thing I would do is try to figure out where and why we’re falling behind. Depending on the situation, I would then develop a solution to tackle the problem.

    The blame would lie on nobody but myself. Employees are responsible for their specific tasks, but if we’re falling behind on schedule, it’s up to the supervisor to right the ship.”

  18. How do you take constructive criticism? Acknowledge the importance of not taking feedback personally. Its purpose is to improve the effectiveness of the team.

    Sample answer:

    “I always take it in positive ways. Constructive criticism should never be taken personally.

    I use feedback to identify my areas for improvement and work hard to make adjustments.

    The priority of every supervisor should be the success of the team. If one cannot manage their ego and strive to improve continuously, then they definitely shouldn’t seek a managerial position.”

  19. What’s the most valuable skill for a supervisor to possess? The interviewer wants to know that you understand what makes a supervisor effective.

    Pick one of the hard skills we mentioned earlier, explain its importance, and relate it to your own experience.

    Sample answer:

    “The ability to communicate with all types of people.

    Individuals cannot effectively contribute to a team if they don’t understand the goals and duties involved.

    In my past supervisory positions, I’ve always listened to my employees to understand what kind of learner they are. This allows me to effectively communicate ideas and help them develop their skills.”

  20. How do you provide constructive feedback? Many employees don’t respond positively to constructive feedback. The ability to effectively offer it is a mark of a great supervisor.

    Sample answer:

    “I always try to convey to employees that the purpose of feedback is to improve, rather than to blame.

    One way to do so is to speak generally, so they don’t feel called out. I say, “we should do X” rather than “you should do X.””

  21. How do you introduce yourself to a new team? Stress that you view employees as your equals and that you strive to build positive human relationships.

    Sample answer:

    “I like to introduce myself as an equal rather than as a superior. I may be responsible for making final decisions and delegating tasks, but we’re all equally important contributors to the team.”

  22. How do you introduce yourself to new employees? The interviewer wants to know that you can make new employees feel welcome and effectively integrate them into the team.

    Sample answer:

    “New employees are often nervous and want to impress their supervisors.

    I try to relate to them, establish an equal relationship, and make them feel welcome. This goes a long way in creating respect and trust.”

  23. How do you understand your employees’ aspirations? Knowing an employee’s aspirations allows you to motivate them and help them develop their skills. Convey to the interviewer that you understand this point.

    Sample answer:

    “By asking questions. I like to have natural conversations with my staff to understand who they are and what drives them.

    Aligning an employee’s tasks with their aspirations often results in greater satisfaction, productivity, and development of skill.”

  24. How do you delegate tasks among your team? There are a variety of effective strategies for delegating tasks. Whatever yours is, the interviewer wants to know that you have a logical thought process behind it.

    Sample answer:

    “I try to align a project’s duties with the strengths of my employees.

    I do this by asking questions and listening to my workers. I also make sure that every team member is comfortable with and understand what they’re expected to do.

    If a certain task’s requirements are not properly communicated to an employee, then that is a failing of the supervisor.”

  25. Tell me about the sizes of teams you’ve supervised in the past. Rather than simply providing a number, try to quickly include a hard or soft skill in your answer.

    Sample answer:

    “I’ve effectively managed up to 30 people in the past. They came from varying departments and had widely different professional backgrounds.”

  26. Who or what inspires you? There obviously isn’t one correct answer to this question. Whatever inspires you, just make sure to explain it in a way that conveys your passion and energy.

    Sample answer:

    “Steve Jobs has always inspired me. His ambitious personality and way of thinking outside the box were impressive.

    I try to emulate this by remaining open-minded to different viewpoints. This is critical as a supervisor, as you’ll often be dealing with unique people with equally unique solutions to problems.”

  27. What do you value most about our company culture? Before the interview, try to find the company’s mission statement on its website.

    Try to relate your personal values with those shared by the company.

    Sample answer:

    “All of my research has indicated that your firm celebrates diversity of thought.

    This aligns with my own beliefs. Listening to individuals from different backgrounds and experiences is key to discovering new solutions to problems.”

  28. How do you decide when to promote an employee? The interviewer wants to know that you’re in tune enough with your employees to assess their abilities accurately.

    Sample answer:

    “I promote employees that have clearly outgrown their current position and are always seeking new challenges.

    They need to demonstrate that they’re self-motivated and able to recover from setbacks. It would be disastrous to promote an employee, only to find out that they’re not qualified for their new duties.

    To avoid such an issue, I conduct internal interviews to make sure that the new position aligns with the employee’s aspirations and abilities.”

  29. As a new member, would you have difficulty speaking up during meetings? Address the interviewer’s worries by providing a previous example of when you’ve confidently voiced your thoughts as a new hire.

    Sample answer:

    “Not at all. In fact, I participated in an important meeting with the vice-president only a week after I first accepted a previous managerial role.

    I very enthusiastically voiced my observations and opinions on how to best achieve our goals.”

  30. Our supervisors need to be up to date with the latest technology. Do you view your tech skills as one of your strengths? List how you’ve successfully used some of the tech tools essential in your industry. Also, emphasize how you’re always improving your knowledge.

    Sample answer:

    “Yes, I’ve used a wide range of tech tools at previous positions. At my last job, I used AIDE to track project progress and Jenkins to deploy new builds.

    When I join a new company, I’m also quick to adapt and learn whatever tools are needed.”

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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