Top 30 Supervisor Interview Questions
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With the opportunity they provide for career progression, often with an eye on a path into management, supervisor vacancies are in high demand.
Beyond what its job title would suggest, the supervisor role stretches far beyond simply managing a team.
As a supervisor, you will be expected to:
- Possess a high level of interpersonal skills
- Be able to delegate effectively
- Be a good communicator
- Have the ability to plan ahead
- Solve problems and make decisions on behalf of your team
Salaries for supervisor roles in the US vary, depending on geographical location, employer, industry and the number of employees you are responsible for; but an average starting salary is around $36,000.
One of the best ways to stand out as an ideal candidate in an interview is to do your research and plan ahead.
First, thoroughly read through the job advert and description so that you have a complete picture of what the supervisor role entails.
For instance, look for the following:
- How many people will you be responsible for?
- What is the reporting structure between your team, you and your superior?
- Will you be expected to work overtime on a regular basis? With or without pay?
Second, research your employer. This shows respect, foresight and enthusiasm for the industry.
Third, read '10 Surprising Job Interview Tips You May Not Know'.
Finally, plan your answers to any questions you may be asked in the interview, bearing in mind the specifics of the role advertised.
To help you with that process, here are 30 supervisor interview questions with an explanation of potential answers:
Avoid those awkward interview pauses while you think up an answer to a question by considering responses in advance, such as those below:
This first question can often trip people up into providing a lengthy answer that includes little information relevant to the job at hand.
The purpose of this question is to find out why you think you are suitable for the job. What makes you an ideal candidate? What value can you bring to the supervisor position and the business?
Your answer should be succinct and relevant. Mention where you are now, give a brief description of how you progressed to this point, then outline the experience, skills and qualifications you possess that make you ideal for the supervisor vacancy.
For more on this question, see our article on 'Answering the Interview Question: Tell Me About Yourself'.
The purpose of this question is to check whether you have a thorough knowledge of not only what a supervisor does but also the kind of person best suited to the job.
Your answer should not be a list of all the tasks and responsibilities included in the job advert. Instead, provide your understanding of the type of person who can best fulfill a supervisor role.
Your answer should include:
- The ability to deal with a variety of personality types, skill sets, age groups and backgrounds
- The ability to adapt to changing situations, solve problems and make decisions on behalf of the whole team
- Good communication skills across all levels of the business, for instance with their team, manager or other supervisors
- The ability to understand, lead and motivate their team
- Organisational skills
- The ability to draw together the workloads of each team member into an overall plan and measure both team and individual performance
This question refers to an ‘ideal’ supervisor but bear in mind the actual supervisor role you are interviewing for too.
At this point, you generally will not know what management or supervisory style is preferred by your employer, so you can best answer this question by showing confidence in your management style but also your ability to adapt that style when necessary.
Provide examples of how your management style may have changed as you have progressed in the workplace and how you have applied your style in different situations.
You may find it helpful to read our article on 'Leadership Skills'.
This question is all about problem solving; specifically, how you will solve the employer’s problems.
Your answer should demonstrate that:
- You can drill down to the root cause of the problem
- You not only have an effective overview of the team’s performance but can also isolate the performance of each team member
- You can adapt to a changing situation
- You understand your team and know how to motivate them
- You can assess your performance
- You can put a plan of action in place to redress the situation
If possible, provide examples of how you have successfully handled this situation in the past.
From an employer’s point of view, the most important part of a supervisor’s role is to maintain an effective and well-performing team. One of the easiest ways to do this is to understand your team and know exactly how to motivate them.
Your answer should therefore demonstrate how you will:
- Build a working relationship with your team so that there are open lines of communication in both directions
- Ensure each team member knows exactly what is expected of them
- Work with your team to set targets and take on board their feedback and suggestions
- Encourage teamwork and collaboration
- Handle employee concerns
You should also describe how you have motivated employees in your current or past jobs.
Your answer should reassure the employer that you are capable of supervising a team on their behalf.
Similar to question 5, this seeks to discover whether you can effectively handle your team and maintain its effectiveness.
It also ensures that you are aware of the importance of following human resource legislation and company procedures.
Your answer should address:
- Your method of dealing with conflict between employees; for instance, speaking to each employee separately, investigating complaints and speaking to other team members
- Your awareness of grievance procedures
- How you have settled a conflict between two employees in the past
This question asks you to demonstrate your authority as a supervisor and your communication skills.
- How you communicated with the employee
- How you implemented the disciplinary action
- What could be learned from the situation
As with the previous two questions, the employer wants to know that you can handle a team of employees across a variety of scenarios, including those that are challenging.
The purpose of this question is to find out how well-developed your communication skills are, how you deal with conflict and your level of maturity in the workplace.
When answering this question, do not criticize the other party. State the reasoning for your disagreement, how you expressed that disagreement, any action you took to reach a resolution and how you reacted to the outcome.
9. ‘Tell Me About a Time You Had to Learn a New Technology/System in Your Role and How You Approached Learning It’
With any new job, there will be some element of learning, whether that is learning a new role, a new industry, a new computer system or acclimatizing to a new company culture. This question tells the employer how well you adapt to learning.
Try to use an example of past learning that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for, if possible.
- What this new technology or system was and why was it necessary to learn
- How you assisted the learning process (for instance, carrying out prior research)
- What the outcome was
Concentrate on the positive side of the experience.
What the employer is looking for here is a demonstration of good communication skills, knowledge of best practice and a genuine concern for the welfare of your team.
It may be that the answer to this question is ‘no’, in which case, the employer will pass on to the next question or perhaps ask you to consider an imaginary situation where you dismissed an employee.
Do not criticize the dismissed employee or share their personal details. Simply state why their behavior was unacceptable. Outline any actions you took to resolve the situation before it escalated to dismissal and how you communicated with the employee.
Describe the steps taken in the dismissal process, including the grievance procedure, any investigation carried out, meetings held and correspondence sent.
Where you have supervised a team before, this is a straightforward answer to give.
However, where this is your first supervisor role, there may still be supervisory examples that you can mention.
For example, you chaired a project committee of eight workmates with a past employer or you organized 24 volunteers for a local fundraiser.
Supervisor vacancy adverts will generally state a salary. This may be a starting salary or a salary range.
However, this figure should always be seen as the beginning of a negotiation.
The best way to prepare for this question is to research supervisor salaries:
- In similar organizations
- In the same geographical area
- In the same industry
- Within the employer’s existing workforce
By researching supervisor salaries, you can be confident that your response to this question is reasonable. If the employer dismisses your suggested salary figure as outlandish, you can cite your research findings.
For more on this, read 'Answering: What Are Your Salary Expectations?'.
When an employer asks this question, they want to know whether your career goals are compatible with the supervisor role and the career path available within the company.
Recruitment is a time-consuming and expensive process for any organization, so staff turnover is always a major concern.
When you answer this question, bear this concern in mind. Explain how this supervisor role will help your career progression.
If you are unsure where you will be in five years, say so but again express the value of the supervisor role to your growing work experience.
For more on this questions, see our article on 'Answering the Interview Question: "Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?"'
For more information on career goals and progression, read 'Career Planning Tips'.
14. ‘Can You See Yourself Staying With the Company for a Long Time if You Are Hired for the Supervisor Position?’
This is a re-worded version of the five-year question but may also signify that the employer favors employees who will stay with them for several years.
As with question 13, explain how the supervisor role is a valuable step in your career progression.
The benefit of living close to your place of work is the ease of availability, whereas commuting each day may mean that you are less able to work extra hours, for instance.
You may decide to commute initially until you are settled in the role and then relocate closer, or certain restrictions such as childcare provision may prevent you from moving home altogether.
One thing to bear in mind is whether the employer provides a relocation package.
Whichever choice you make, be honest. If you feel that the employer would prefer that you live ‘in the community’ but you are unable to make that move, then express your commitment to the role.
Be honest but keep your reply relevant to the role you are interviewing for.
Relevant strengths for a supervisor role include:
It may be helpful to provide examples of your strengths in your current or a previous job.
For more on this, read 'Interview Question: "What Are Your Strengths?"'.
This is rarely a comfortable question to answer because you want to make a good impression, but it can provide insight into how well you learn from your mistakes and how honest you are.
Explain what you feel is your greatest weakness as a supervisor but follow up with how you are trying to improve.
For example, your greatest weakness may be your tendency to micro-manage because you want everything to be completed efficiently, but you are attempting to develop your delegation skills and place more faith in your team and their ability to work independently of you.
For more help with this topic, read 'What Is Your Greatest Weakness?'.
This is like the previous greatest weakness question but less specific. It does not mention the supervisor vacancy, but you should make your answer relevant to that role.
As with question 17, explain what you would like to change and the actions you would take to make that change.
Similar to question 2. ‘What Qualities Do You Think the Ideal Supervisor Has?’ – this question asks you to apply your answer to a real-life situation.
Remember to connect the qualities that made the good supervisor stand out to you with the supervisor role you are interviewing for.
For instance, if the factor that impressed you about that person was their ability to effectively supervise a team of 30 employees across three work sites, this may not be a relevant point to mention if the role you are interviewing for is to supervise a team of five in one location.
Find an aspect of their behavior that applies to the vacancy advertised.
This question asks you to demonstrate your leadership skills and how you will communicate with your team.
Ways to lead by example as a supervisor include:
- Having a thorough knowledge of what your team is working on, the business and the industry as a whole
- Working alongside your team rather than supervising from afar
- Respecting and listening to your team
- Having your team’s back
- Respecting your team sufficiently to confidently delegate work to them an avoid micromanaging
- Taking responsibility for the team’s performance, whether it is good or bad
As with any interview question, cater your answer to the supervisor role you are interviewing for.
This can be a difficult question to answer while remaining positive and not criticizing your current employer.
Instead of expressing the negatives of your current job, concentrate on the positives of the job you are applying for.
An example answer:
I’m ready for the next stage in my career progression. I feel that I have developed my skills to a level that I could effectively supervise a team. While I have enjoyed working for my current employer, they can’t offer me that opportunity.
For more on this, read 'The Top 10 Reasons to Leave a Job' and 'Answering the Interview Question: "Why Do You Want to Leave Your Current Job?"'.
This is where your prior research of the company comes into play. What attracts you to the business?
It could be:
Company culture, such as encouraging flexitime, desk-sharing and working from home
What the company does and how they do it; for example, a charity for the elderly who specialize in companionship services
The opportunities that the company offers over and above its competitors, which could include mentorships and funding for training
Make it clear that you are knowledgeable about the company.
For more information, see our article on 'Answering the Interview Question: "Why Do You Want to Work Here?"'
An effective team is one that works together towards a joint goal and values the input provided by each member. This is ‘team spirit’.
Your answer to this question may be based on your experience of team building or the way you interact with your colleagues, but could include:
Hiring individuals who will work well with the other members of the team, building the right mix of personalities and skills
Discussing goals and performance with the whole team to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what they are striving for
Making it clear what each team member brings to the team and what tasks they are responsible for
Communicating regularly with the team, both as a whole and individually
Celebrating achievements together
You may find it useful to read 'Team Building in the Workplace'.
First, be honest. Second, give positive and upbeat responses. This question may include your manager as a colleague, so remember that your answer may be verified, or negated, by the reference they provide.
Choose a response that highlights skills relevant to the supervisor role.
For instance, you could concentrate on your interpersonal skills by saying that your colleagues would pick you out as someone they can turn to when they need to talk things over to gain clarity on a situation.
Alternatively, you could focus on your team-building skills by stating how your colleagues have told you how good you are at bringing people with differing opinions together.
For more on answering this question, see 'Answering: "How Would You Describe Yourself?"'
Responding to this question requires a level of self-assessment. It asks you to see the world through the eyes of another person, which is a valuable skill for a supervisor.
As with question 24, your response should be honest, positive and relevant. For instance, you might say that a stranger would see you as approachable, a good listener or authoritative.
This article on how to describe yourself may be useful to begin your self-assessment.
The answer to this question will depend on your current situation. Do you have a lengthy commute or are your working hours restricted by childcare? Or, are there no outside restrictions on your working hours?
Answer honestly, but do not feel pressured to say 'yes' or to state how often you could work overtime.
This can appear quite a vague question until you consider it in the context of a supervisor role.
This question balances communication skills (listening to your team and acknowledging their contribution) with leadership skills (assessing the effectiveness of the suggestion and deciding on whether to implement it).
Answer the question in the context of the supervisor role, emphasizing both your communication and leadership skills.
The question asks whether you have a fixed mindset or can adapt to a changing situation. Looking back to question 2. ‘What Qualities Do You Think the Ideal Supervisor Has?’ – one of those qualities was the ability to adapt.
As with question 27, the answer to this question should be a balance between decisiveness and communication, with the added element of flexibility.
This question asks for your greatest accomplishment in a work context. The best way to decide which ‘accomplishment’ to mention is to do your research. Read through the job advert and description again and research the company. Is there a specific accomplishment that would fit with aspects of either of these factors?
Next, consider how you can describe this accomplishment in a way that demonstrates skills and knowledge that would easily transfer to the supervisor role you are interviewing for.
Also see our article, 'How to Answer the Interview Question: “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?”'
Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and the company by asking your own questions at the end of the interview.
Prepare a list of open-ended questions that are not answered by the job advert and description and are unlikely to be mentioned in the job interview.
Prepare five or more questions, but on the day of the interview, only ask the two or three that are most pertinent.
Areas on which you could ask questions include:
Training and development – Does the company fund its employees to take external courses?
Company culture – What are the greatest challenges being faced by the company right now?
Your performance in the interview – How do you feel I could have improved my performance in this interview?
The supervisor vacancy – What would be the focus for my first six months in the supervisor role?
The industry – How certain developments (specific to that particular industry) have affected the company
Remember, these are just examples and are not an exhaustive list. You must ask questions that are relevant.
For more on this topic, read 'Questions to Ask Your Interviewer'.
Give yourself the best chance possible of standing out as an ideal candidate by:
- Thoroughly reading the job advert and description
- Researching the company
- Assessing your skills and experience
- Researching the supervisor role in general
- Preparing answers to interview questions like those mentioned in this article.