From employee to supervisor – a major career milestone
Before you can take charge in a new supervisor role, you have to get through the interview - and the best way to prepare for your upcoming supervisor interview is to practice answering these 27 supervisor interview questions. We've prepared some great, job-winning answers that you can use as inspiration and tweak with your own career experience.
The role of a supervisor
As you can expect, with such a major career transition comes a whole host of new responsibilities. As a supervisor, you'll play a pivotal role in making sure your team works the way they're supposed to and that company goals are met. You may find yourself wearing a lot of hats, including planner, motivator, communicator, and problem solver. This is especially true considering that you're the bridge that closes the gap between upper management and staff.
Get ready for your interview
Before you can walk into the interview room, you have to prepare yourself. The interviewer will be on the lookout for key information that proves you have the knowledge and experience to succeed, but they'll also be watching for your ability to present yourself confidently and professionally. Here are a few things you need to do in advance of your supervisor interview:
Research the company to get to know about its culture and values
Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses
Get your opening statement ready
Practice your responses to boost your confidence
Develop some strategies, like taking deep breaths and positive affirmations, to handle the stress and calm your nerves
Participate in some mock interviews to get some feedback on your presentation
Check your body language – eye contact, firm handshake, and projecting confidence
27 Supervisor Interview Questions and Answers
Now that we've covered what to do before you step inside the interview room, it's time to dive into some sample interview questions for a supervisor role.
Behavioral interview questions are the ones where the interviewer wants you to “tell me about a time when….” These are the open-ended questions that you can to use the STAR method to answer.
1. Describe a situation where you had to resolve a conflict among team members
“At ABC Company, I worked in a team of 10 people and three of them were constantly having conflicts. I sat down with them individually to find out what was going on and then had a group meeting to discuss company values and policies. In that group meeting, we hashed out some compromises that put the problems the three were having to bed. It was great because getting them to work together again without all the hostility improved the morale of the entire team.”
2. How do you handle underperforming employees, and can you provide an example?
“Of course, the first step is to find out why they are underperforming. It does no good to reprimand and threaten someone for underperforming if the root of the problem isn't fixed. While I'm not a Psychologist, I would try to help the employee to find a centered, more balanced approach to doing the work. Outside of that, I've found that setting clear goals and even providing additional training have helped a lot.”
3. Share an experience when you successfully implemented a new process or procedure
“When I worked at XYZ Corp, there were a lot of manual processes – from taking customer orders to purchasing. It was a pen-and-paper type of environment. I did some research and found an ERP system that allowed us to automate a lot of those processes. Team morale sky-rocketed, because jobs became easier, and we saved about $10K a month because purchasing was more accurate.”
4. Give an example of how you've motivated your team to achieve a specific goal
“Once we had that ERP system in place at XYZ Corp, I wanted to help the team get used to using it. So, I implemented a little friendly competition. Basically, whoever used the system the most, and did so with the fewest errors, would win a half day off work. This forced everyone to take the time to learn the system - some even did research about it on their own time.”
5. Discuss a time when you had to make a tough decision under pressure
“Early in my career, there was an equipment failure that almost stopped production in its tracks. Of course, that would've meant major revenue loss. I got the team together to discuss the resources everyone had, based on their role in production, so I could figure out how to reallocate very limited funds to get the problem fixed without sacrificing safety or further damage to the machinery. The team and I came up with some temporary fixes while we waited for the repairs to be completed, which meant we were able to keep up with customer demand and minimize losses. The quick decisions I made got everything back up and running three days in advance of the deadline set by leadership.”
Leadership and management questions
Of course, you can expect that there will be some role-specific supervisor interview questions where the hiring manager wants to make sure that you know what will be required of you.
6. What is your leadership style, and how does it benefit your team?
“I've learned that the transformational leadership style serves me well. In the past, I've found that leading by example and building open relationships with staff has inspired them to strive for excellence. They want to know that they're being asked to do something that leadership does, too. It's also been a great way to inspire innovation, which leads to employees feeling a sense of ownership in the work they perform. This has, of course, had a profound impact on productivity and team morale.”
7. How do you handle a demanding boss or difficult situations with higher management?
“Through open communication, respect, and delicacy. A lot of it comes down to having well-researched and articulated solutions to issues that are causing the boss to be demanding. I analyze the situation and provide data and evidence to support any recommendations I make. I also take the time to highlight my team's achievements and contributions, so that higher management can feel assured that they're making the right decisions to remedy whatever is causing them to be demanding.”
8. What is the biggest responsibility of a supervisor regarding safety?
“It all comes down to the culture I create with my staff, so that they understand how important things like safety training and protocols are to maintaining safety. While I maintain the final decision on what constitutes a safe environment, I allow them to have some input on what they can do to make things safer. This gives them ownership and they're more likely to follow procedures.”
9. Differentiate between the roles of a supervisor and a manager
“As a supervisor, I understand that I'll have the duty of overseeing daily activities. I know I have to offer guidance and support to ensure that what needs to be done gets done. On the other hand, the managers are the ones who make the long-term plans and upper-level decisions that affect the broader aspects of achieving company goals.”
10. Provide an example of how you've fostered a culture of continuous improvement in the past and how productivity or efficiency was affected
“When I worked at XYZ Inc., our project team was running into a lot of bottlenecks in the project delivery process. So, I held a team meeting and encouraged them to challenge the status quo by brainstorming solutions. While some tried to adopt the this-is-the-way-we've-always-done-it mentality, others came up with ideas to streamline processes. We ended up adopting new software that automated some of the steps. The team members who helped to brainstorm the idea had an infectious attitude toward embracing the change, that brought the status quo folks over to the new way of doing things. In the end, we increased productivity by around 40%.”
Continuous development is a big deal in today's work world. These questions will tell the interviewer if you're committed to the role and where you stand on keeping up with the times, going with the flow, and adapting to change.
11. How do you continuously improve your supervisory skills?
“I firmly believe in learning something new every day. It's the only way to keep up with the rapid changes occurring in this industry. I attend workshops and seminars and subscribe to industry newsletters. I keep in touch with people in my network, too. That's ultimately been my best source of new information.”
12. What qualities do you believe an ideal supervisor should possess?
“The best supervisor leads by example. I don't feel it's right to ask someone else to do something I'm not willing to do myself. On top of that, fairness and empathy are also critical to building strong team morale. When the people who report to you feel like you're on their side, they're willing to work harder and are better at adapting to any changes that come down the pipeline.”
13. What makes you a good fit for the supervisor position?
“I have a history of motivating and guiding teams. In my previous roles, I received numerous accolades for the positive work environments I built. Those environments fostered a culture of innovation through strategic planning and open communication that facilitated future-facing problem-solving. I can certainly repeat that here.”
14. How do you handle stress, and what strategies do you use to stay calm under pressure?
“Mostly through deep breathing exercises. I know that most stress comes from within, so I take a moment to center myself before tackling major projects or problems. Once I find my zen, I approach situations with strategy – find out what's going on, brainstorm ways to fix the problem, and communicate the steps to my team. I've found that my ability to practice mindfulness has helped my team members to reduce their stress, too.”
15. What's your greatest weakness, and how do you manage it to be an effective supervisor?
“I have a tendency to be overly critical of myself. It's part of the reason that I've developed calming strategies and analytical tactics that help me to get through issues that come up. When I first realized I was too critical of myself, I sought out constructive feedback from peers and learned to set realistic expectations. This way, I shifted my focus to self-improvement and away from perceived shortcomings.”
16. Discuss your strengths as a supervisor
“I am really good at motivating my team. In fact, I've been able to guide lackadaisical staff members, who were only at work to collect a paycheck, to a place where they had a stronger sense of ownership in their role. This strength comes into play through my ability to set clearly defined goals and a vision for higher standards. I also encourage open communication and transparency that promotes a positive work culture.”
17. How has your supervision style changed over time?
“When I first started as a supervisor, I focused a lot on managing tasks. I learned that the best way to do that was to have a properly motivated team. Now, I place greater emphasis on open communication, feedback, and inclusion. This has allowed my teams to blossom into cohesive groups of people who take pride in their work and achieve objectives through collaboration.”
You can't do a job well unless you're passionate about it. Personal supervisor interview questions will take you on a journey through what makes you want the role.
18. Why do you aspire to be a supervisor and what drives your interest in this role?
“I believe that a good supervisor is also a mentor and I am genuinely passionate about making a positive impact on the members of my team and the company as a whole. I love watching team members grow in their roles and, when I get to be a part of that by guiding them and inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves, I get a feeling of immense satisfaction.”
19. What are the three essential qualities of a supervisor and how do you exemplify them?
“It's simple, really. A good supervisor needs to know how to communicate effectively, they should be adaptable, and they should be able to motivate a team. The transformational leadership style that I've adopted during my career allows me to encourage innovation and provide opportunities for growth, which leads to team members feeling valued. That in and of itself increases productivity.”
20. How do you make a strong impression as a supervisor?
“I can give you a one-word answer for this question – enthusiasm. I've found that enthusiasm is highly contagious. So, when I meet new team members, I make sure that they get a sense that I'm passionate about being their supervisor and welcome the opportunity to take them under my wing to help them grow professionally and personally.”
21. What are your salary requirements?
“While compensation is important, I'm more focused on aligning my skills with the requirements of the role. With that said, the research I've performed indicates that people with my skills and achievements earn $X per year. Online reviews indicated that your company offers a range of $Y-$Z for this position, is that right?”
Handling challenging scenarios
Can you handle stress? Of course you can! Here are some pretty tough supervisor interview questions that you'll need to be ready to answer to prove it to the hiring manager.
22. What is your strategy for resolving issues with employees who resist change?
“By understanding that change can actually be scary for some people. The best course of action is to find out what's making the person resist the change. This involves open and empathetic communication to understand their concerns. After that, I give data-backed reasons for the change and talk about the benefits. If they need extra training to support their transition, then I make that available to them, too.”
23. How do you ensure effective communication within your team?
“When I worked at ABC Company, I started using Slack for digital collaboration. It was a great tool that allowed team members to engage in open communication – whether they were in the office or not – and gave me the opportunity to keep up with the status of ongoing projects. It ended up improving efficiency, because there were fewer emails to dig through and people could get answers to questions more quickly.”
24. What is your approach to performance evaluations and feedback?
“I believe feedback should be frequent and specific. Evaluations that are only done once per year are often seen as a chore for supervisors but, when you engage in regular feedback, problems are addressed quicker and staff members learn what they're doing right as projects progress. More frequent feedback also encourages accountability. When team members know that reviews are coming more often than annually, they tend to be more productive.”
25. How do you motivate underperforming team members?
“The most impactful method I've used to increase motivation is friendly competitions. I've also used brag boards that allow team members to gain recognition for work well done. No matter which method I use, though, I make sure that it's constructive because the overall goal is to improve confidence. When their confidence increases, their ability to perform goes up, too.”
26. How do you onboard new staff members?
“I have a very structured approach to welcoming new staff members to my team. It starts with introductions and an overview of expectations. I show how those expectations are aligned with company values and goals and make sure they have the tools they need to excel in their role. When I was at XYZ Inc., I created a mentorship program. It was highly successful, because it helped team members get to know each other and it shortened the learning curve for new staff. Plus, they felt supported and were ready to contribute from day one.”
27. Have you ever had to fire an employee?
“Yes, I've had to make the tough decision to let a staff member go. It wasn't an easy task, but I've learned that it's sometimes necessary, especially as it relates to the well-being of the team and the organization. I made sure to maintain a high level of empathy and respect, while following the company's established procedures. I also provided clear reasons for the termination and offered support to the team during the transition. At the end of the day, I was able to maintain a positive work environment and ensured that the team understood the importance of accountability and performance.”
Passionate about leadership
When you're passionate about being a good supervisor, your answers to supervisor questions will come easily. Especially if you remember that the focus should be on building relationships with team members, meeting company expectations and communicating effectively.