We manage something our entire life–our personal affairs, small business, our time (which we seem to always lack), or a team of people we lead in our job. One who knows how to manage people and resources effectively will always have some edge in life, at least when it comes to professional career.

Hiring managers in corporations all around the world understand the role an effective management plays in the workplace, and you will face some questions about your management skills, and your management style, in any interview for a team leader, supervisory, or managerial role. In this post we will have a look at 7 questions related to management style in particular. Enjoy!


How would you describe your management style?

Let me start with the most common one, and, in my opinion, also the easiest question from the list. They simply ask about your management style, without connecting it to any situation in the workplace. You can opt for any well-known categorization of management styles here, saying that you would define it as visionary, laissez-faire, authoritative, transformational, or whatever.

I suggest you to elaborate on the term though, for example with three qualities that define you as a manager. You can say that empowering your subordinates, letting quality people free hand, and overseeing the operation without unnecessary interventions defines your laissez-faire management style.

Another option is dashing the terminology altogether (at the end of the day this is a corporate interview and not a school exam), and explaining how you manage people on a daily basis and what you do, without categorizing yourself as this or that type of a manager. This answer works great especially if you try to combine more management styles in your work, and hence the way you lead the people does not fit any common category… You can also check 7 sample answers to this classic management style interview question.


Tell us about a time when you had to manage an employee who lacked motivation.

Behavioral (or situational) questions form the core of many corporate interviews nowadays. Instead of asking directly about your management style, they will inquire about certain situations each manager experiences in the workplace, and the way you handled them (or would handle them if you faced them). This tells them a lot about your management style, as well as about your attitude to work in general.

In this particular case, I suggest you to emphasize individual approach. Each worker is different, and strategy that works great with one demotivated employee may produce zero results with another. You can say you had a one on one meeting with them, trying to understand what was wrong. Then you addressed the situation accordingly. This can include personal motivation, relocation, new tasks and challenges, but also in some cases terminating their contract or giving them some ultimatum (unless they improve on their results until some a certain deadline, you’d have to send them packing). What exactly you do depends on your management style…


Tell us about a time when your team was under-performing. How did you approach it as a manager?

Another behavioral question. In this case, it is important to describe the situation in detail, to make sure hiring managers can envision the situation and your role in it. Then you can explain how your management style helped you to get the team back on track (or perhaps it did not, and that’s the reason why you have to apply for a new job, but you learned your lesson and will deal with the situation better next time).

You can talk about going by example (being the one who stays overtime and does extra work), making sure the team lives for the vision, and people understand how meeting goals of the business will help them meet their personal goals. Another option is bringing fresh blood onboard–hiring new people with a spark in the eye who can uplift the entire team. Of course, you can talk also about reorganizing the people and their roles (mixing it up trying to ), or giving stark deadlines and approaching the situation in this way.

Once again, it depends on your management style and also the situation you describe. The most important thing is to ensure the hiring managers that you tried what you could from your managerial position. Maybe it still wasn’t enough, because manager is not a God and cannot solve each problem in the workplace. But you tried, failed, learned your lesson, and moved on…

* May also interest you: Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a poor performer on a team.


Tell us about a time when you found your management style ineffective and had to change it.

This is a good one, because each manager faces such a situation sooner or later. A classic example: You are a democratic leader, empowering people in your team, letting them do the work without unnecessary interventions or pressure. Yet there is this one “black sheep”, an employee who simply doesn’t care, and does nothing all day unless they are directly told what they should do.

The key here is to show the interviewers that you do not stubbornly stick to your management style, and can adapt to various situation in the workplace. In the example situation it means managing this employee differently than the rest of the pack. For example setting for them a clear schedule for entire day and weekly/monthly deadlines and goals, and checking on them a few times each day making sure they do not waste time on their smartphone instead of working.

Of course, this was just one example, but I hope you got the point. Each manager has some style, but the best managers can adapt or even switch between different management styles, always picking the one fitting for the situation they face in the workplace. Your goal is to convince the interviewers that you are such a manager, or at least aspire to become one.

Managing people is one thing, but how do you manage yourself in work?

Each corporation is a pyramid, and unless you are a CEO (one day maybe :)), you will manage someone, and someone will manage you. Having said that, corporations still prefer to hire people who can manage their own day in work effectively, and do not require constant supervision from someone else. In my opinion, this question is mostly about time-management, but I understand some people may see it differently.

In any case, ensure the hiring managers that before managing anyone else, you always make sure that you spend your day in the office in the most efficient way. You can talk about having clear daily, weekly, or monthly goals, or about precise schedule from morning to afternoon. The key is to waste as little time as possible, devoting your working day to important tasks related to managing your team, and your own workload.


How do you prefer to be managed in the job?

One thing is the management style you prefer when working with others, another a management style you prefer when someone is actually managing you–which will be the case almost always. Now this isn’t an easy question. In an ideal case you should try to learn something about your future manager–perhaps they sit in the interviewing panel, perhaps you looked at their LinkedIn page, perhaps you asked your connections–understanding what management style they apply in their work, and saying it is your favorite style, the one in which you like to be managed, and eventually achieve the best results.

This isn’t always easy to do, however, since many people aren’t even on LinkedIn, or you do not know who will manage you in the company. In such a case I suggest you to to focus more on certain rules and values, instead of picking one management style in particular. For example, you can say that feedback is crucial for you, and you hope for a clear communication with your manager. You can also mention mutual respect, or letting you a free hand when it comes to your own managerial responsibility (you do not want your manager to cross-manage people in your team).

Another option is saying that you do not mind, that you do not have any particular preference. You can adapt to any management style and workplace, and are 100% sure you will find a way how to thrive under the management of your superior–regardless of their management style.


Tell us about a time when you had to apply authoritative management style in your job.

Many people believe authoritative leadership is outdated. Interviewing a hundred applicants for a managerial job and inquiring about their management style, I can assure you not a single one will describe themselves as an authoritative leader. Yet in certain situations you cannot really do without it. In some scenarios you have to raise your voice, give clear deadlines, and “stand behind the back” of your employees, making sure they are actually doing the job. A typical situation is when you have to meet a very tight deadline, or for example when an unexpected audit is coming and you have just a short time to prepare for it. Another scenario is dealing with an employee who does not respond to any other form of management.

Regardless of your favorite management style, ensure the hiring managers that you can turn into a tough boss, directing each and every move of your team (or one person in it), leading the people “with the iron fist”. Narrating such a situation it is important to emphasize communication, making sure that people understand why you manage them in such a way in a given situation. At the end of the day each difficult situation has a beginning and an end, and you can eventually return to your favorite (and more modern) management style…

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Matthew Chulaw
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