What’s Your Management Style

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There are many common interview questions you will come across in your job search process. One example is the “what’s your management style” question. You may also hear “describe your management style” or “what do you think makes a good manager.” Even though the phrasings are different- the meat of the query is the same. The way you answer this inquiry will depend on how you prepare and what you think the interviewer is really asking.

As far as questions go- this one is fairly straightforward. When an interviewer asks you this- he or she likely wants to know what you do to manage a team. Your answer may give insight into the values you feel are important. Not every management style will work in every business. The hiring manager likely wants to ascertain whether you would be a good fit in the company. To really give a good answer- you simply need to practice and prepare before the interview.

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How to Answer the “What’s Your Management Style” Interview Question

Define Good Management: Before you can explain your management style- you have to define what you see as good management. This helps set the parameters for what you are going to talk about. Like with other interview questions- this one requires you to tell a story. If you do not properly define good management- you and the hiring manager may judge the story differently. Without this definition- the scope of a manager is too large to answer this difficult question well. It may be helpful to do some research on the company. Is there a preferred management style used throughout the business? If so- you should try to align your definition of good management with what the company is currently doing.

What are the four basic management styles?

According to the Harvard Business Review, your leadership style can fall under these four different management types:

  1. Teacher Managers provide their employees with advice-oriented feedback and personalized development opportunities.
  2. Always-on Managers maintain a constant supply of coaching, closely follow their employee development, and are invested in upgrading their employee’s skills.
  3. Connector Managers offer feedback based on their own range of experience, but often connect their employees to additional team members in order to encourage career growth.
  4. Cheerleader Managers are hands-off in their style. Although they are supportive and available to employees, they encourage staff to independently pursue career growth and development.

Point to Your Past: Once you have established what characteristics are important in a good manager- you need to point to a story from your past. This should showcase how you incorporate these good management techniques into your own leadership style. Be careful that your story is not too long. Most interviewers only have a set time for each interview- and you do not want to take up too much time on one topic. At the same time- you want to make sure your story adequately conveys your management skills. Use your knowledge of the company to ensure you include traits and skills that are important to the business. Each company is going to have its own values and culture. You should try to highlight your adaptability and similar values through this and other stories you tell.

Talk About Unique Attributes: Rather than simply defining good management and telling a story that shows you using those beneficial skills- you need to set yourself apart. What makes you a unique manager and therefore a great hire? You can add a unique skill by including an additional professional quality you did not mention in the definition of good management. Maybe you defined good management as being direct- hands-off and democratic. In that case- you could explain to the hiring manager how you are all three of those things- but you also take the time to coach your direct reports when necessary. Management positions are often sought after by qualified individuals- so you have to focus on what makes you unique to help catch the attention of the interviewer.

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Sample “What’s Your Management Style” Interview Answers

1. I see good management as giving direction and subsequently space- so the employees can get their tasks done. I think a good manager will be available if problems arise- but will also stay hands-off. As I manage my direct reports- I try to embody this style. At my last job- we were working on a large project for a new client. Because we had never done a task like this before- I had to give my direct reports clear directions. Once they understood what needed to get done- I assigned everyone a task and we all got down to work. I noticed one of the direct reports struggling- so I quickly stepped in to coach her on the technique. I take management to a new level by splitting the work up equally amongst myself and my direct reports.

2. There are many management styles out there. I think a manager has to be diverse and know when to implement the best style. For example- in this new business you need someone who can give clear direction- motivation and professional development. You need an individual who will work alongside his or her direct reports to get the projects done on time. I have managed in a variety of environments with knowledgeable employees and employees who did not know what they were doing. I think the best managers out there do not have a single style- but rather they are able to understand the needs of their team and provide that leadership.

Properly answering the inquiry can be challenging if you are not ready. Now that you have some sample answers- you may be better prepared to answer this and other interview questions.

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