Questions about Past Supervisors (Frequently Asked Questions in an Interview)

by | Mar 6, 2020 | Interviewing

These questions can come in many variations. It may simply be asking you to describe your supervisor, or maybe it is asking about what type of person you respond best to. It may also be asking what you didn’t like about your past boss. Regardless of how the question(s) is presented, rest assured you will probably be asked a question regarding your relationship with past supervisors.

As we continue to review the most frequently asked questions in an interview, let’s explore the dreaded “How Would You Describe Your Relationship With Your Supervisors?”


Why Is It Asked?

• Determining If There is a Fit – The Hiring Manager would like to determine if there is a fit between the two of you. Most likely the Interviewer will listen to you describe your past supervisors and compare him or herself to this description. Unless you have a brand new supervisor interviewing you, the Hiring Manager probably has a pretty good idea regarding who responds well to his or her style and methods.

• Assess Professionalism – The Hiring Manager may want to see if you are going to speak negatively about your past company or supervisor. Similarly, you may be assessed for whether you will share information that is confidential (or at the very least) inappropriate to communicate.

• Evaluate Humility – It is easy for a Job Seeker to fall into the trap of taking credit for everything and failing to give others their due. Make sure you express the positive impact your past supervisors have had in your career and the success you have enjoyed.


How Should It Be Answered?

• Describe the Value You Added – Communicate to the Hiring Manager the role you played in assisting your supervisor. Mention how you were a “go to” person or a “sounding board” for your boss. The vision you want to frame for the Hiring Manager is that you will quickly develop a strong relationship with him or her and add value in a short period of time.

• Be Honest – Describe what type of supervisor you really would like to work for as long as you don’t say an “easy” one. Prior to the interview, determine what really motivates you and why. This will probably help you determine the ideal supervision method. If you have an example of someone impactful in your career, then share that person with the Interviewer.

• Communicate How You “Manage Up” – No supervisor desires to be caught by surprise. The term “managing up” or keeping your supervisor informed has become a common term in business language. Describe how you make a concerted effort to keep your supervisor in the loop; therefore, allowing this person to look good in the eyes of others.

• Stress Your Adaptability – Communicate to the Hiring Manager that you can work successfully in a variety of different situations and supervisors. Stress your ability to work well in a team, but also independently. Try not to pigeon-hole yourself to only one style or method.


What Not To Do:

• Criticize – Don’t forget that you most likely are interviewing with the person who will be your direct supervisor. This person does not want to hear about all the faults of your past bosses. The inference made by the Hiring Manager is that you most likely will have similar concerns with future supervisors. So, no matter how bad your past supervisor was, no matter how much it is the reason you would like to leave, refrain from criticizing.

• Lay It On Too Thick – No relationship is perfect. If you speak too glowingly regarding your current supervisor, it may just cause the Hiring Manager to wonder why you are leaving or to question your sincerity.

• Be Too Needy – Although any Hiring Manager is striving for a good relationship with their new hire, no one desires to bring in a person who will be high maintenance. Don’t describe how you would like close or constant supervision.


It is widely considered true that the #1 reason a person leaves their current position is their supervisor. If you think about this theory, it may cause you to start to wonder why more time and effort isn’t spent during the selection process on ensuring that there is a good fit between you and your future supervisor.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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