You’ve done the dreaded manual jobs for long enough. You learned the challenges of working in a team, understood how to meet your goals, and now you’d like to supervise others, finally seeking promotion to your first ever supervisory role. But what will happen in the interview? And do you have a chance to get this job without previous experience with similar work? We will try to find the answers on the following lines.

First of all, you can definitely get the job without previous experience, even in the current economic climate. As long as you convince them of your readiness for the job, and show right attitude to the work of a supervisor, you will have the same chance as someone with 10+ years of experience.

Then you just have to come up with better interview answers than other people who compete with you for the job. Answers to questions about your motivation, strengths, and especially about your attitude to some tricky situations you will face in your first time supervisory job. Think conflict with an employee, two members of a team not cooperating together, one of your subordinates spoiling the morale in the team, etc. We will have a look at all these questions now, one by one.


Why do you want to work as a supervisor?

Just do not say that you deserve the job, or that you are tired after doing the manual labor for years. You should focus on the value you can bring to their organization as a supervisor, and your skills and personal traits that make from you a good candidate for the job, regardless of your lack of supervisory experience.

You can start by explaining that having worked under different supervisors over the years, you’ve learned the challenges of the job, and how to address different problems that can occur in any working team, on any given day. What’s more, you understand the ins and outs of the job of the laborers (manual workers), and will be able to give them a helping hand if needed, or show them how to solve any problem they encounter in their work.

Then you can proceed with the description of your skills and personality traits. Say that you have excellent observation and organizational skills, can deal with different personalities, solve conflicts, and gain respect of your subordinates. You can also praise your communication skills, and sum it up, saying that you believe to have the right personality for the job.

* May also interest you: Customer Service Supervisor interview questions.


How do you imagine your typical day in work as a first time supervisor?

Job description can help you understand what exactly you will do, but I suggest you to remember two words: proactive approach. Ensure the hiring managers that you do not fancy sitting in some comfy office drinking coffee, while the workers sweat outside, trying to reach their daily quota. On the contrary, you want to be always present in the workplace, making sure that everyone is taking care of their job, and intervening early when things do not go according to the plan. That’s the attitude they seek in a best candidates for the first time supervisory role.

You can also say that you do not mind taking on manual labor, if one of the workers doesn’t come to work or the team is behind and has to meet a tight deadline. Ensure them that you do not mind getting your hands dirty when necessary, and won’t cling too much to your fancy job title of a supervisor.

You notice that one of the employees works much slower than usually. What will you do?

Instead of simply shouting on them and telling them to work harder (if they want to keep their job), you should suggest a more sensitive and constructive approach to the issue. Say that you will have a one on one with the employee, trying to understand the core of the problem.

Perhaps they face some health issues, or they have a problem in their personal life, or somehow lost their motivation, or find the work boring, or have problems with other team members. It can be anything, and unless you understand the problem, you can hardly address it. Hence you will talk to them, and just then decide what you will do…

* May also interest you: What do you expect from your manager or supervisor?


What do you consider your greatest weakness when it comes to supervisory work?

Professional interviewers should uncover your weaknesses, after talking to you for five minutes, or even less. But anyone can lead an interview with you, and good interviewers often use this question as well, trying to see what you think of yourself. Can you admit having a weakness? Are you humble, or overconfident?

Those who believe to have no weaknesses can hardly move forward in their life, since they do not see areas for improvement. You should not leave such an impression in your interview. Everyone has some weaknesses. But it is your attitude that matters for the interviewers. Admit your weaknesses, and tell them how you try to improve on them. That’s the answer they seek in a great job candidate.

Obviously, you should pick a weakness that won’t ruin your chances of getting a job of a supervisor. Do not say that you struggle with concentration, or communication, or time management. But if you say, for example, that you need to improve on your computer skills, or that you do are weak with numbers and accounting, it won’t be a show-stopper. Supervisors do neither difficult calculations in work, nor process management, or advanced computer work. Such abilities have only a minor impact on your work.


You see one of the workers stealing a small item from the workplace. What will you do?

Certain things shouldn’t be tolerated, and stealing is one of them. However, you should again approach the situation sensitively, and consider all implications firing this employee would have on your team… Perhaps you are understaffed already, struggling to meet deadlines. The employee in question is a hard worker, and this is the first time you see them trying to steal something.

In such a case, maybe you can just give them a warning, saying that if you see them stealing anything another time–regardless of how small of an item it is, they will have to pack their stuff and go. Of course, if they steal some valuable item, or if they come drunk to work, it is an immediate showstopper and you have to let them go, regardless of the circumstances.

Do not be afraid to think out loud in your interview. Show them that you won’t respond as a robot to different situations, always doing A when B happens. On the contrary, you will consider every situation individually, as well as the implications your actions will have on the team you supervise, and just then you’ll decide what you will do.


How do you plan to assess the motivation of the people you supervise?

This is a technical question. Choosing the right metrics and comparing productivity of everyone on a daily basis is a great answer. The metrics will depend on the work the team does (number of products built on a shift, number of quality checks performed, etc), and you will fully understand them after orientation and training in the company.

You can also say that you plan to talk to your people on a daily basis, trying to get feedback, and understand if they are satisfied with their jobs, and motivated. One way or another, you should demonstrate that you understand the importance of motivation in the workplace, and have a clear idea how to measure and evaluate it, on an ongoing basis.


How do you plan to go by an example for your subordinates?

Following the rules, arriving on time (or even before your team members arrive to work), working hard, and even helping with manual labor (if necessary, for example when one of the employees does not arrive to work, and you do not have a replacement ready) is a good answer to the question.

Your participation will help you to understand the ins and outs of their work, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. People always respect the “boss” who does not mind to take on manual labor (even if only for a few hours each week)…


Other questions you may face in your first time supervisor job interview


Final Thoughts

First time supervisor is a popular job title with low entry requirements. It attracts a lot of applicants, and you will almost always face a tough competition in your interview. And though job search is a game of numbers, and you should do better in every next interview (learning from your mistakes), underestimating your preparation for the next one will be a bad idea…

Read this article once again, and check also other online resources. Do a good research about your future employer, and read the job description at least twice before the start of your interview. The more you know about the company and the job, the easier it will be to connect with your interviewers, and come up with the right answers to their questions. I wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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