Maybe it is also your story: You’ve done a manual job for a while. It can be at McDonald’s, it can be in a warehouse, you can be picking fruits in the fields, or carrying bricks on a construction site. You sort of proved yourself with hard work and responsibility. Now, finally, perhaps after six months, perhaps after a year, the company/organization wants to promote one of the staff members to the role of a supervisor. And you are the prime candidate. Or at least one of few. Finally perhaps you can dash the manual job (or at least partially, because many supervisors help other staff members), and earn more money. At the end of the day, who deserves it more than you?

There is one catch though. You’ll have to pass an interview, with one of the managers. And you wonder what will happen, what questions they will ask you. Before we proceed to these questions, let me start with good news: you do not have to be afraid of a difficult interview. You sort of already proved yourself in the job. Sure, they may ask you some situational questions (what would you do if…), and also inquire about your motivation and stuff. In most cases though, unless you remain silent, or give them some really bad answers, they will promote you to the position of a supervisor. Because they picked you for this interview for a reason… Let’s have a look at the questions though.


What does working for our company/organization mean to you?

Companies always see loyalty in people they promote. Actually they hope that few years down the road, you will be promoted again, this time from a supervisory role to a managerial position. Once they offer you promotion, or at least a chance to interview for one, they count with you for a long run.

That’s why you should show some loyalty to the company. Maybe you didn’t have the best position up to now. But you’ve learned a lot, worked hard, and you see a meaningful purpose in what their organization does. You definitely hope to stay for a foreseeable future, because it means a lot to you working for them, and it will mean even more once they give you more responsibility, and instead of being supervised you will supervise other people.


How do you imagine your typical day in work of a supervisor here?

This one should be really easy for you. You had a supervisor up to this point, and knew what they were doing. Hopefully it was the same thing they were supposed to do… Anyway, benefit from this experience in your answer, unless you know that the previous supervisor did not take care of this duties, and that’s the reason why they are promoting someone else to the role. In such a case you can even point out things you want to do better than your predecessor.

It is also crucial to show proactive approach to work. Don’t forget that supervisor isn’t a manager. A supervisor should spend time with the people they supervise, and ideally also help with the work (when they do not have other, more important duties). The interviewers shouldn’t get an impression that you expect not to get your hands dirty ever again once they promote you. On the contrary, you do not mind taking on manual labor when necessary.


Is there any person in the team/ group of people you’d prefer not to supervise?

We all know how it goes in the workplaces. Some colleagues like you and some don’t. One cannot be friend with everyone. No doubt you’d prefer avoid supervising (or working with) certain colleagues, but you should never say so in an interview. Maybe you had conflicts with this or that person–perhaps you were both quite ambitious. But such situations simply belong to the workplace, and they should not discourage you from trying your best in the job.

I suggest you to say that you won’t mind supervising anyone, and that you can get over any personal issues you had with this or that person before.

Your friend Mike–a former colleague from the shift, comes to work lightly drunk one morning. What will you do as their supervisor?

What they try to hear from you is that rules are rules, and they are valid for everyone, without exception. It doesn’t matter if Mike was your friend, even a best friend. If drinking is forbidden (and in which job it isn’t?), you’d immediately report the situation to the manager.

Needless to say, you later do not really have to do it in the job. And anyway, the situation is more complicated than that… If a company struggles with workforce, and if we talk about minimum-wage jobs, sometimes the managers cannot even afford firing someone. This is true especially when it is a good employee who simply made a mistake once… While interviewing for a job, however, you should show the right attitude to the situation, the one they expect to hear from you.


Some people may not respect you as a supervisor, for all sorts of reasons: envy, friendship, former state of affairs (you had the same rank as them just a week ago), etc. How do you plan to deal with that?

This is a real problem that I observed on several workplaces in the past. And it isn’t necessarily one you can deal with easily. But you have a few options for a good answer. First one is saying that you will simply stick to the rules. If they do not respect you or your orders, their bonuses will be cut or they will face some other inconvenience. At the end of the day, they won’t have much choice, at least when we look at it from this perspective.

Second alternative is saying that you hope to win their respect. How can you do that? Going by example, treating everyone fairly, being a supervisor who actually listens to the workers, and so on. Of course, it may not work with everyone, but you at least give yourself the best possible chance to win their trust and respect.


Tell us about a time when you had to give someone a difficult feedback.

This may be super tricky for a first-time supervisor, someone promoted from the bottom. Up to this point you perhaps just received feedback, and now you are supposed to give others such. In any case, you should come up with some situation–either from work, or from your personal life. The key is to ensure the hiring managers that you won’t remain silent, that you are ready to both praise and criticize your new subordinates. This question is actually common in many managerial interviews, and we have a special article with 7sample answers dedicated to it here. One sample answer from that post:

I had to give such feedback to my superior, in my last job in a warehouse. Speaking honestly, it was a tricky situation. The manager was younger than me. They were smart and ambitious, but lacked real experience with logistics. And I knew that the way they told us to organize the stock in the warehouse was not the most effective one. Instead of boasting in front of my colleagues that I knew better than the manager, I arranged a one on one with them. I told them my ideas in private, explaining how we could make the warehouse operation more effective. At the end of the day, I had ten years of experience from warehouses under my belt. They thanked me, and sent me back to work. They eventually didn’t proceed with my suggestions. I do not know why, but for me it was the end of the story. I gave them my feedback, but at the same time I respected the hierarchy in the warehouse. They had the final word, and they were responsible for our results. All I could do from my position was sharing my feedback with them. And that’s what I did.


6 other questions you may face while interviewing for a supervisor promotion with your present employer

  • How do you see your future with this business? Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • You’ve been working for us for some time already. In your opinion, what is the one thing we can improve here? Can you impact it in any way as a supervisor?
  • In your opinion, what role does constructive criticism play in the workplace?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a poor performer in your team.
  • Tell me about a time you wish you’d handled a situation differently with a colleague.
  • What are your salary expectations?


Final words

Getting a job of a supervisor by promotion is actually much easier than getting it in regular interview. You’ve already made some name in the organization (hopefully a good one), and they hope you will do well. What’s more, while in a typical supervisor interview you may compete with dozens of people for a lone vacancy (since supervisor is a popular job title with low entry requirements), when it comes to internal promotion they typically choose a new supervisor just from two or three people. The less people you compete with, the better your chances of actually getting the job!

The key is to show your loyalty to the company, and that you hope to stay with them for a foreseeable future. You should also show realistic expectations on the job, and enthusiasm for this opportunity. As long as you manage to do that, and follow my guidance with your interview answers, in nine out of ten cases they will promote you. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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