Shift work is very common in different forms of businesses. A five star hotel, a small cafe at the airport, a huge warehouse, or an ordinary production plant. In all of these places people often rotate on shifts, because the operation goes on nonstop. And while the shift patterns differ–8 hour long shifts, 12 hours long shifts, or, in some extreme cases even 24 hour long shifts, it is important to have a leader in each group of workers, often called a shift leader.

Working on this position, you will often do the same things as the others–for example serving customers in the cafe, or driving a forklift in the warehouse. But you will have a few extra responsibilities, and you will earn better than your colleagues. You will deal with no-shows, delegate tasks to different workers on the shift, and make sure that everyone does what they are supposed to do. In bigger places you may actually have only managerial and organizational responsibilities, and won’t do the ordinary work–unless one of the workers doesn’t show up and you have to replace them. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face in your interview for a shift leader job.


Why do you want to work as a shift leader?

Try to explain why you consider yourself a good match for the job. You can say that you have experience with the work employees do in the place (warehouse, cafe, retail store), understand the ins and outs of a typical day, different problems and challenges they may face during the shift. So as a leader you should be able to address every issue quickly, and make sure that everyone takes care of their duties.

You can also say that you believe to have decent leadership and organizational skills, which should help you in your work, as you try to lead your colleagues on a shift. Last but not least, you seek some career progress just like everyone else, and after working in the place for months or years, it is perhaps a time to move one step up the corporate hierarchy.


Tell us about a time when you demonstrated leadership

When any position has the word “leader” in the job title, you can expect to get at least one question about leadership in the interviews. And this is the most common one. The most important thing to realize it that you can demonstrate leadership in any job, and also in your personal life.

Just think about situations when you went ahead and said something others were afraid to say. Or when you came up with some innovative idea. Or, when you stayed overtime and worked hard, and motivated your colleagues to do the same. In all these situations you demonstrated leadership, and for sure you can find at least one such occasion in your memory… Ensure the hiring managers that you can step out of your comfort zone, and be the driving force in the workplace.

* May also interest you: Team leader interview questions and answers.


How do you imagine a typical day in work as a shift leader?

This obviously changes from one workplace to another. Shift leader at STARBUCKS will do different things as a shift leader in a warehouse. Read the job description carefully, and try to figure things out.

However, I always suggest you to mention doing the manual work, when you have no more important duties to handle. Sure enough, you won’t make a coffee for someone when you are solving a dispute with a customer, or trying to find a replacement for a barista who didn’t come to work. But when you have no more important tasks on your list, you will join the other baristas and help them with serving the customers.  That’s the attitude hiring managers seek in the good applicants for the job.


Imagine that two employees have a conflict together. What will you do in the situation?

I suggest you to stress a couple of things. First of all, individual approach to each conflict. You won’t immediately blame one guy simply because they have a bad reputation, and often start conflicts. You will investigate the situation, try to understand what happened, and act accordingly.

Second, you should say that you will keep your eyes open, trying to spot any problems in the workplace as soon as they arise, and address them immediately, because you know that a conflict of two employees can have an extremely negative impact on both the atmosphere in the workplace, and the productivity of individual employees. That’s perhaps the best you can do with this question. Second alternative is talking about a conflict you helped to solve in one of your former jobs, and demonstrating you conflict resolution skills on that situation.

How will you make sure that all employees take care of their duties during the shift?

You can refer to a couple of concepts here. One is having a clear system of goals and control mechanisms in place. For example, each employee will have to report to you once they completed this or that task. In such a way you can easily see when someone falls behind with their schedule, or when something else unexpected happens.

Second idea is stressing an importance of being out there, among the workers. You do not plan to sit in your comfy office, walking in the hall just twice during the shift. On the contrary, you want to be out there, supervising the employees, making sure that they are actually doing what they are supposed to do, instead of playing on their smartphones or hanging around the place.

Last but not least, you can talk about building a strong team culture in the workplace, making sure that employees feel responsibility for one another, and do not want to let their colleagues down. In such an atmosphere it is highly unlikely to see people lazing about…

* May also interest you: How do you motivate others at work? 7 sample answers.


How do you plan to deal with the complaints of the customers?

Even with this one you should keep on your mind a couple of things. First one, ensure the hiring managers that you will take each feedback seriously, and won’t dismiss it quickly. With each complaint you will try to understand what exactly happened, and do your best to remedy the situation and make the customer happy.

Second thing is accepting responsibility. Sure enough, one of the employees did a mistake, failing to meet the expectations of the customer. But you will consider it your mistake, because you are a shift leader and you should make sure that every employee working under your supervision knows what they are supposed to do.

Third one is simply stressing the importance of an outstanding customer service. You know that a couple of bad reviews online can ruin a reputation of a business in this strange era. Hence you will do whatever you can to make sure that the customers are eventually happy, that you resolve their complaint.


Other questions you may face in your interview for a shift leader job

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work on multiple tasks or projects simultaneously. How did you prioritize?
  • What motivates you the most in this type of work?
  • Describe the situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone.
  • What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • Describe a situation when you did not agree with the opinion (or decision) of your superior or supervisor, and knew that they were wrong. How did you handle that?
  • After everything we discussed in this interview, do you have any questions?


Final thoughts, next steps

Interview for a position of a shift leader belongs to interviews with average difficulty. Many companies promote one of the employees to the position of a shift leader. If it is the case, and you will interview for this job with your present employer, it makes your situation much easier. They already know what you are capable of, and perhaps consider you the right candidate for the job. As long as you do not remain silent, you should succeed.

Things get more complicated in a typical hiring process. Just like any other supervisory position, vacancy for a position of a shift leader will attract many applications. You should try your best to stand out with your interview answers (this article should help you to do so), and make the best possible connection with the interviewers. I hope you will manage to do it, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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