You might have had some great managers and others that weren’t so great. Regardless, this experience helped you figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to being managed. This question is also a chance for you to make sure that the group of people you’re working with, especially the manager, will create an environment that you can thrive in—so be honest! Your interviewer wants to understand what your ideal management style is and what your past experience with managers was like in asking this question. Managers want to know that while you can work on your own, you can also work well with others and under supervision. This overall helps them understand whether or not you’re a good fit for the team, and if they’re a good fit for you. You probably won’t have the perfect manager, but this question can help them figure out if your work style will mesh well with the rest of the team. So, let’s get into it!
Something key that you should highlight in your answer is the previous work experience that was successful. How can you prepare? Understand, to the best of your ability, what the culture is like at this workplace. A great place to start is the company’s website, the job listing, LinkedIn, or social media accounts. If they encourage collaboration, explain how you enjoy consistent check-ins with your manager to go over what you’re working on.
Which qualities do you like and dislike in a manager? What kind of work environment are you most successful in? Do you like to have a lot of guidance, or do you like to work independently?
The best way to do this is to write it all down. Create a list of times where you liked working with your managers. What did they do that made you enjoy their management style? Were they clear with expectations? Did they offer guidance and help when you needed it?
Pick one or two important qualities. Rather than creating a long list of things that matter to you when being managed, narrow it down. These should be related to one. There are a lot of options to choose from. It could be about your preferred communication styles, how much independence (or guidance) you received, or anything that made this a positive experience. Keep in mind, avoid talking about the job or manager’s perks—make sure it is work-related (if you have work experience) and professional.
You can say, “Constant communication and transparency from my manager is really important to me.” or “I work the best when my manager has clear goals for me and works with me so that I can achieve them.”
This step is not exactly necessary, but it will elevate your answer and help you stand out among other candidates. So, go back to your brainstorming ideas and pick a time where a manager demonstrated these attributes. Briefly, in 1-2 sentences, explain what happened, and then, in 1 sentence, explain the outcome. This will lead you to the last step of your answer.
For example, “At my previous job, my manager set monthly goals for her employees, and then, she would have weekly one-on-one check-ins. Having clear expectations motivated me to work harder, and these check-ins created an environment where I could ask for help when I needed it.”
Lastly, explain why these qualities are important to you in a manager. How does it encourage you to work hard and effectively?
You can say, “In setting goals and having open communication with my manager, I was able to take on more responsibilities, like helping other employees.”
What if you never had a great manager? Yes, not every manager perfect, but if you dig deep enough, you should be able to find some key attributes to a manager that was at least decent. If not, think about what you didn’t like. Maybe you disliked how they didn’t try to get to know you. Then you can say that developing a relationship with your manager is important to you.
What if you don’t have much work experience, or any at all? Then, it’s okay to pick non-work experiences. For instance, volunteering or even school. You can also say something along the lines of, “While I don’t have much work experience, I thrive in environments where I have independence and the chance to be a leader.”
In these types of interview questions, keep it simple. You don’t want to seem suspicious if you go on a long tangent, so overall, your answer should be around 4-5 sentences. And, again, keep it professional—don’t bring in any negative emotions such as, “None of the managers were good, they were all extremely unorganized.” This will reflect poorly on you.
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