Perfect Phrases for Supervisor Interview

Demonstrating leadership Supervisor qualities during the interview will be necessary if you have had accountability for supervising others’ work. You should be prepared to talk about how you have related to people and handled people-problems to show your competence in this area.

Handling Personnel Problems

Question: “Give me an example of a time when you had to handle a personnel problem and what you did.”

Possible Answers:

■ “One of the people I supervised was not following the protocol for making requests. I asked him politely to use the forms that everyone else was using, but he became belligerent. I took him aside when the opportunity presented itself and told him that he and I needed to have an understanding so that we could work things out. He knew that I would eventually have to take the problem to the next level and decided it was in his best interest to cooperate.

There were no further problems after that, and from then on he followed procedure and acted professionally toward me and the other team members.”

■ “I had a difficult problem with a supervisor who was taking credit for the work that her team accomplished. Some of the team members came to me and complained.They said it was affecting their attitude. I called the woman in and explained how her taking credit was affecting production and morale. She became very upset that others saw her that way, and she said she was unaware of her behavior or the reactions of others. She wanted my advice as to how to change the situation, and I suggested talking to each person about how much she appreciated his or her team effort. She took my advice, and there was a noticeable improvement in morale as well as in her behavior after that.”

■ “Selling the concept of change when merging companies has been one of my greatest challenges.When a company of a similar size acquired my current company, it seemed like everyone wanted to be unhappy and complain. By holding a series of meetings with the people affected, I was able to start them looking at the positives of the situation—a stronger team, more exposure in the market, better benefits, etc. Eventually they did begin to see it from the other point of view, but it was a tough sale.”

Supervisor Problem Solving

Question: “Give me an example of a time when your efforts solved a problem.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I headed up a project that involved customer service personnel and technicians. I organized a meeting to get everyone’s buy-in on a new project that would increase sales opportunities. I held a meeting to brainstorm and get input. One of the problems was that there were technical and nontechnical people involved, and they had different ideas of how the project should run. I drew up a plan, taking the best ideas from both groups and then organized teams, balancing the mixture of technical and nontechnical people.We had a deadline to meet, and I did periodic checks with the teams. After three weeks, we were exceeding expectations, and the team members had a new respect for each other’s contributions.”

■ “One of the most challenging problems I faced as a supervisor was in creating a strategic alliance with a provider of chemicals to use its specialized blending equipment and delivery network.The provider was not interested in a sale because it was such specialty equipment.What I came up with was an exchange. My team would provide marketing, billing, and technical assistance for the use of the equipment.The provider jumped at the opportunity. I convinced my team that this was a win-win situation, and the project moved forward without a hitch.”

■ “In my last position I faced a challenge of some kind almost every day. One day that stands out was when we had a ‘sick out’ day when several of the team members called in sick as a protest against an unpopular decision to change their benefit plan.We were short several key people who were necessary to keep the plant running. I appealed to management for help, and much to my surprise, they volunteered to come forth themselves to run the plant for the day. Some of them had come up through the ranks so it was a bit like ‘coming home.’ It was a very trying day with so many bosses in one place, but we managed to pull it off. Fortunately the protest only lasted one day.”

Supervising Others

Question: “What would your coworkers and subordinates say about your management style?”

Possible Answers:

■ “They would tell you that although I am a manager, I am also the type of person that can be counted on no matter what.They know that they can trust me to keep confidential information confidential and to listen to their problems without repeating them.”

■ “They would tell you that I would never ask them to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. I am not above jumping in and helping when the situation requires it.”

■ “I require results from my team. My team members would tell you that every member is aware and focused on the objectives and outcome of the project as a whole and not as individual contributors.They would also tell you that I am fully committed to the team effort.”

Supervisor interview questions/answers about “Initiating”

Question: “Tell me about a time when you initiated an action that brought results.”

Possible Answers:

■ “I am a person who tries to plan ahead, and so I usually have a planned schedule for every step of a project.There was a time however when my plan started to fall apart because of a systems crash. It was chaotic for a while until I called and located office space that wasn’t being used for a few days. I was able to bring my team into the space and utilize the equipment needed to complete the job.We were back on schedule in no time and met the deadline.”

■ “As a project manager for my last company I could see a need for a template to guide team members through projects while allowing them to prioritize. I came up with a prototype and presented it to my manager. She liked the idea and suggested I follow through on the development. I did some refining based on her suggestions and then presented it to my team. Members were delighted to have a format to assist them in organizing their tasks. After the template was put in place and used successfully, my boss presented it to management and they okayed it to be used companywide. I received an award for not only the idea but for initiating a more efficient process that will save time and ultimately money.”

■ “As an officer in the military I had many occasions to initiate action. One time in particular there was a plan of action that went bad, and I had to step in and take the initiative and make a very quick decision.We were in a live fire exercise that should have stopped when a signal was fired. I shot the signal flare, but the firing didn’t stop. I had to make a decision and had my troops hit the deck. I then signaled to the radioman to call in a cease-fire. All fire stopped immediately, and all troops were reported safe. I found out later that the platoon firing the machine guns never got the message about the cease fire signal and would have just continued firing. My initiative and quick decision saved my troops from being seriously injured or killed that day.”


Question: “You say that one of your strengths is follow-through. When has that made a difference in your work?”

Possible Answers:

■ “As a pharmaceutical sales rep if I didn’t follow through on my promises, I couldn’t have survived. I remember there was one doctor who wasn’t going to see me or to buy my product no matter what I did. My first strategy was to get past the office manager, who I call ‘the gatekeeper.’ I went in once a week and chatted with her and said that I was just following through. Eventually I found out that she liked music, and that gave me something to discuss with her. If she told me she was attending a concert or music event, I went out of my way to ask how it was on my next visit. I think she finally decided I was an okay-kind-of-guy, and she was able to get me in to see the doctor. She told me that I was the first salesperson to show any interest in her or the workings of the office.When I did get to meet the doctor, I used the same approach on him, finding out what his interests were. It worked like a charm. I was able to sell the most product this doctor had ever bought from the company.”

■ “As a human resources supervisor I have to constantly follow through on details of projects for managers. It seems as though everything happens at the end of the year regarding performance reviews and raises. Last year we had a mandatory holiday break, and the data for raises to be effective January 1st had to be submitted two weeks earlier than usual. If you’ve worked with managers who dreaded completing their performance reviews you will know what I am talking about when I say it can be ‘like pulling teeth.’ I was working with two managers who were behind schedule, and I didn’t seem to be able to make any progress. I finally made a deal with them. If they would send two a day for a week, we could complete the project on time. Each morning I would call and ask if there was anything I could do to help them make the daily quota.

It got so they looked forward to my call and my reminder. I am proud to say that I made that deadline, and the managers actually thanked me for getting them through their dreaded chore.”

■ “I remember a project on which I supervised seven people. Between the multiple projects going on and the seven people to keep track of, I wouldn’t have survived without being very organized with reminders to myself to follow through on certain dates, projects, or upcoming events. My work ethic is that if I say I am going to do something, I can assure you that I will do it, if at all possible.This project was no exception. It was on time with only a minor problem or two to take care of along the way.”