The first step to a successful job interview is to prepare for it. Anticipating what you may be asked and knowing what you want to talk about with each question can help you appear more professional and more in control of the situation. This is, in fact, why we always advise jobseekers to become familiar with common interview questions before they attend an interview with a potential employer.
When it comes to questions for managerial level interviews, they’re more difficult predict because they usually have to do with specific aspects of the role and generic or open-ended questions are not that common. But, there are a few that you might be asked about your leadership skills and it’s important that you prepare for them. One question that employers tend to ask is ‘what is your management style’ - a question that targets your leadership abilities.
To understand how to describe your management style you first need to understand why the employer is asking it.
You’ve probably already heard that people leave managers, not companies, and as such the hiring manager is asking you about your leadership style to determine if you’d be someone that team members can trust and follow.
It falls under the behavioural interview questions category, and to answer it effectively you’ll need to showcase your ability to understand the issues in management as well as describe real world experiences.
The idea is to demonstrate your problem-solving abilities in leadership and help the potential employer understand how you’d be an asset to any team.
How to Answer the Question
To answer this question in a manner that will convince hiring managers to choose you, you will need to demonstrate your trustworthiness. You will need to demonstrate your ability to understand potential problems that could arise while you’re a manager and you also need to indicate how you’d go solve them. It’s also important to share an example from your previous experience as a manager as this will serve as an indication of your skills.
Check out these tips to start creating your own answer.
- Talk about teamwork: A good manager understands that they’re an invaluable member of their team and that they are nothing without their team. Leaders are only as good as the team behind them, and you need to showcase your ability to collaborate with others. Of course, delegation is also important so try and talk about how leadership and teamwork go hand in hand.
- Emphasise how you are flexible: There’s one way to answer this question, to say that you’re flexible. Flexibility is important because it showcases that you can understand what each issue at hand is and that you are then able to tailor your solution to match the situation. As such, talk about different personalities and how they need to be treated differently, but also talk about how each situation can be different and that different situations also need a different
- Explain how you help people develop: One of the best attributes of a good manager is that they recognise potential and that they push people to meet it. During your interview, you should talk about how you can identify what each person can do and what steps you take to help them develop professionally.
- Focus on a time you dealt with a difficult team member: Not everything is rosy when you’re a manager and you need to demonstrate that you understand this and that you can be depended on even when the going gets tough. Relating a story of when you were successful at dealing with a difficult employee, will help the hiring manager understand more about your management style than you could ever tell them.
- Share Real-Life Stories: It’s important to not lie during your interview. Not only because lies can be uncovered when your potential employer speaks to your previous employer, but also because you’d be starting your new job on the wrong foot. Your answer should communicate your ability to manage different types of people and how you can help them bring out their best qualities. If you’ve never worked as a manager before you can speak about a time you led a project or about how you plan on managing teams.
- Tailor your answer: By tailoring your answer to the company’s needs you’re basically increasing the chances of getting hired. Do some research beforehand and make sure you mention some of the things you’ve uncovered during your interview. If for example, your research has demonstrated that the workforce is multicultural make sure you mention your ability to manage multicultural teams.
The following examples can inspire you on how to shape your own answer when asked to describe your management style.
- “I’ve always admired and tried to emulate managers who seem to know just what to do in any situation. They delegate when delegation is appropriate, they build a consensus when a consensus is needed, and they work side-by-side when that’s what’s needed. They just seem to know how to be what their employees need them to be at any given time. I’ve always tried to be that type of manager, and I believe I’ve been successful so far. I’ve offered my team members guidance when they needed it, and I’ve also worked side by side with them when there was an emergency.”
- “I don’t have one management style. I think that when you get too comfortable relating to your employees one way, then you miss out on opportunities to develop them and make the most of their abilities. I believe that a good manager looks to the future and tries to push their employees in that direction. Helping people develop their skillset can help boost productivity in the long-run and so I believe it’s important to not be short-sighted.”
- “I just try to adapt to the situation. Looking at my own career, there have been times when I knew what I was doing and wanted my manager to back off, and there were times when I was learning a new skill and could have used some hand-holding. I think the most successful managers are the ones who can adapt their style to the employee, and to the situation. Not every employee needs the same management style all the time.”
Mistakes to Avoid
Answering this question in a way that’s unconvincing or in a way that does not cater to what the prospective employer expects to hear could cost you the job, so to craft the perfect answer ensure that you tailor it to the company and that you are showcasing your strengths in leadership.
Some common mistakes you need to avoid include:
- Avoid Talking About Management Trends: Theories are great, but you need to be able to demonstrate expertise in this area. So share more real-world experiences and less jargon and trends.
- Don’t Appear to Be Rigid: Any good manager knows that a one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t cut it in the workplace. Different team members require different handling, and different situations often require different approaches. Make sure you focus your answer on flexibility.
- Avoid Buzzwords: Buzzwords discredit what you’re saying so rather than including phrases like ‘open-door policy’ and ‘synergy’ as they sound unnatural and will make you sound as if you’ve already practised the speech.
- Make it Sound Like You Can’t Control the Staff: Cooperation and teamwork are great, but a manager is still expected to manage people so ensure that when you say that you give your team members their space, it doesn’t sound like you can’t keep them in line. Simply focus on how you push your team members through motivation.
How you answer this question can determine whether you get or lose the job, so make sure you focus on all of your good qualities as a leader and that you offer plenty of examples where you demonstrated excellent managerial skills.
Have you ever been asked this interview question? Let me know in the comments section below!
This artical was originaly published in October 2014.