Last updated on August 24th, 2020 at 12:30 pm

You’ve done it all–repaired ventilation systems, changed windows, installed new plumbing in a big building, repaired hundreds of defects. You’ve done your years as a maintenance technician. It’s time for a transition to a role of a supervisor.

But what will happen in an interview for this position? What questions will the hiring managers ask you, and how can you make the best possible impression with your answers? I will tell you right now. Enjoy!

 

Can you please tell us something about your working experience?

You can’t supervise technicians unless you have the technical skills. You will have to decide about the most appropriate action, or intervene when your team will struggle to repair certain defect or perform an installation.

Tell the interviewers how long you’ve been repairing things, and briefly list all systems and installations you have experience with. What always helps is when you have an experience with a similar type of building/facility, because obviously in similar places one deals with similar types of installations and defects.

However, avoid going into technical details. They shouldn’t get an impression that you still have a mindset of a technician. You can repair things, sure, but you understand that this is a supervisory/managerial role, and that repairing want be your main duty anymore…

 

How do you imagine a typical day in work as a maintenance supervisor?

The key is to find the right balance between supervisory work  (primary) and technical work (secondary, but still important).

Certainly you should say neither that you imagine watching the workers from your comfy office, coming out only when someone calls you, nor that you envision repairing the more difficult defects while your subordinates take care of easier tasks.

Actually the best answer is a story of something we can call a “typical day of a maintenance supervisor”. For example:

I imagine arriving early, before everyone else, checking the plan of work for a given day–what we should install, repair, etc, trying to make a realistic schedule. Then I will allocate tasks to each technician, and ensure that everyone knows what they are supposed to do. I may give more elaborate explanation on complex issues. Then I will oversee the workers, giving advice when necessary, or helping with some highly technical problems. I may do some reporting or light administrative work when there is time. This is how I imagine a typical day, though I understand that the days won’t always resemble each other, and that I may have to address some specific challenges on any given day.

Focused supervisor in a production hall

How would you describe your supervisory style?

Try to describe it as very active. That means that you don’t observe the workers only from the distance (whether they work or smoke cigarettes), but overlook the work closely, intervening when necessary.

At the same time, however, you allow your subordinates at least certain degree of freedom, letting them to think about the solution of a problem for a while (before you tell them what they should do), so they can also progress as technicians.

 

Imagine the following situation: It’s Friday, and two technicians didn’t arrive to work. You need to finish the installation of a new plumbing system til the evening. But there aren’t enough pair of hands to handle the task. What will you do?

This is your chance to show right attitude, and also your managerial mindset. You can actually suggest a two steps process.

Step one is trying to bring some other technicians onboard, or even contacting a daily staffing agency and using their services to replace the missing workers for the important day.

If that doesn’t work, if you don’t get anyone, you will awaken the technician in you. You will motivate the remaining colleagues who came to work, and join them in the installation. You may work overtime, but you and your team will do everything to meet the deadline.

Most interviewers will be impressed with such an answer, since you demonstrate both right attitude to work, and problem solving ability.

 

How would you motivate the technicians to work harder?

Try to talk about other motives than money. Perhaps you will try to build an excellent atmosphere in the team, so people feel responsible for each other and work harder. They do not want to let their colleagues down, and they try to end the job in a shorter time.

In some teams, however, such attitude will not work. What almost always works though is that you will be present on the building/construction site all day long. When supervisor is present, people tend to work harder. When supervisor leaves (for a meeting, to buy something, for a lunch), everyone goes for a cigarette :). Sad but true, that’s how it works in many workplaces…

May also interest you: Supervisor interview questions.

 

Describe the most difficult installation you ever performed (defect you ever repaired).

Obviously your answer depends on the scope of your skills and experience. I suggest you to avoid technical details or excessive professional jargon, since your interviewers may not understand technicalities.

However, a good example is anything when you had to cooperate with a group of other people (technicians, electricians, engineers), since it shows that you are a team player, and can work in a team, or lead one.

Try to talk with enthusiasm about the difficult installation. Hiring managers should get an impression that you still enjoy your work, that some passion still burns within you.

enthusiastic job seeker in nice clothes talks to a hiring manager

One of your subordinates does not respect your instructions for a few days. What will you do?

Try to show some empathy and a understanding for the situation on the job market. Surely, you cannot afford disobedience on the workplace, and one “bad apple” can spoil the morale of the entire team.

At the same time, however, it’s not so easy to recruit new technicians, and if you send someone home you may as well end up understaffed…

You can therefor say that you will have a one-on-one with the employee in question. Talking to them in a calm and empathic way you will try to understand the problem. Maybe they aren’t happy about their salary, or they face some problems in their personal life, or they dislike something about your leadership.

Anyway, once you understand the issue, you can try to address it. And you will try, and if it doesn’t work, you will threaten them with dismissal. And if even that doesn’t work, you will eventually dismiss them. You will try whatever you can, but at the end of the day you won’t mind sending them home (when everything else fails).

 

Other questions you may face in your maintenance supervisor interview

  • How do you plan to go by an example for your subordinates?
  • Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues in your last job. How did you solve the conflict?
  • What do you know about XYZ type of a plumbing (ventilation, electricity) system (model, type)?
  • Why do you want to work for us, and not for one of our competitors?
  • Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work.
  • Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
  • Do you have any questions?

* You can also download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

interview questions for maintenance supervisors, PDF

Conclusion and next steps

Interview for a job of a maintenance supervisor belongs to interviews with average difficulty. Typically only a few other candidates will compete with you for the job, which makes your situation comparatively easier (for some jobs you may compete with dozens or even hundreds of candidates).

The key is to convince them that you made a successful transition from the mindset of a technician to a mindset of a supervisor. Many job seekers fail at this point. Remember, the company does not want to hire the best technician in the city (perhaps it is you). They want to hire a supervisor, with good technical skills. But a supervisor, not a technician.

Keep this on your mind while preparing your interview answers, and anytime you won’t be sure about what you should say… I wish you good luck!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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