“Describe Your Ideal Manager” Interview Answers

describe your ideal boss or manager in interviews

Employers love to ask job interview questions about what management style you prefer, what type of manager you work best under, and more.

They want to see if you’ll fit into their organization and make sure you don’t have a toxic attitude, too. But how can you make sure you’re giving a good answer without knowing much about them?

In this article, I’ll explain how to answer interview questions like:

  • Please describe your ideal manager
  • What type of management style do you prefer?
  • How do you like to be managed?

…Even if you don’t know much about their organization or aren’t sure what you prefer. 

And without ever scaring the employer away or saying anything that’s a potential “red flag” that could cost you the job!

Let’s get started…

How to Describe Your Ideal Manager in a Job Interview

1. Know your audience

You’re going to have a much easier time answering questions like, “describe your ideal manager” (or management style) if you’ve researched the company before the interview.

That way, you can try to show you appreciate their company culture and style, to show you’ll be a good match.

You don’t need to lie, but you do want to adjust your answer to show you can fit into their team. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to get hired.

So check out the company’s website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube before an interview to try to get clues about their general management style. And then in the interview, if you’re talking to your future supervisor or manager, try to note their personality.

Do they seem hands-off and relaxed? Or more strict and likely to give detailed guidance each day? 

Noticing these things will help you answer with confidence (and without costing yourself the job).

2. Show you can adapt to any style

You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner when answering this question. So avoid using words like “always” and “never” when describing your ideal boss, supervisor, or manager.

That way, if you’re slightly wrong about what type of management style they have, you still haven’t cost yourself the job.

For example, don’t say:

“I prefer a laid-back management style. I never enjoy working for supervisors who check in often or watch my work closely, and I only do good work when I’m left alone.”

Instead, this is a much better example answer for what management style you prefer:

“I enjoy a laid-back management style, but I’ve also worked for supervisors in the past who check in often and prefer to guide my work more closely, so I’m okay with that as well. I try to adapt to the organization and management style of the company I’m in.”

3. Talk about past jobs to demonstrate how you’ve worked well with former managers and supervisors

If applicable, you can mention a past supervisor whose style you adapted to. This isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s always more convincing and memorable to tell a story rather than just say, “yes, I can do XYZ”.

As an example, you might answer by saying:

“I’ve typically been given a lot of freedom to make decisions and self-manage in my career, which I love. However, in my last job, my boss resigned and a new supervisor came in who had a much more hands-on management style. I was still able to work well under this style of management and ended up getting along great with this new boss.”

4. Keep your answer brief and to-the-point

When you describe your ideal manager in an interview, aim for around 20-40 seconds. You don’t want your answer to get too long here. Be direct, get to the point right away, and then conclude by sharing an example and/or explaining why you work well under a variety of different management and leadership styles.

(This should sound familiar if you’ve read the steps above and didn’t skip down in the article).

5. Don’t draw attention to any negatives

If you happen to have one or two former managers that you didn’t enjoy working under, that’s NOT information you want to share in your interview answer.

So do NOT say something like:

“I prefer a hands-on management style. My last boss only checked in with me once or twice a week, and I really struggled to get my work done and stay on track.”

6. Practice your answer at home

I recommend practicing by recording yourself talking into your smartphone (ever modern phone should have a voice recorder app). That way, you can see how your answer sounds and make sure you’re remembering the key points you want to mention in your answer.

Don’t memorize word-for-word; you’ll just sound like a robot or get nervous in the interview. Instead, focus on talking about the key points you want to discuss, and in the order you want to discuss them.

Once you’re able to give a clear, concise answer without leaving out key pieces, you’re ready for your interview!

Example Answers to “Describe Your Ideal Manager”

Here are three full sample answers to, “describe your ideal boss” or “describe what management style you prefer to work under?”

These should sound familiar if you read through the steps above, but will serve as a review and help you create your own impressive-sounding answer to this type of interview question.

Example Answer 1:

“I enjoy working under a manager or supervisor who gives me the ability to make decisions and trusts my work, but I’ve also worked for supervisors who check-in quite often and have more of a hands-on approach to leadership, so I’m okay with that as well. I try to adapt to the organization and adjust my work to add value to whatever style of company I’m in, and how my manager prefers I work.”

Example Answer 2:

“I’ve typically been given a lot of freedom to make decisions and self-manage in my career, which I love. However, in my last job, my boss resigned and a new supervisor came in who had a much more hands-on management style. I was still able to work well under this style of management and ended up getting along great with this new boss.”

Example Answer 3:

“In my previous role, my manager let employees work independently and decide when to ask questions and seek out help. I found this to be great for developing confidence and decision-making skills and I enjoyed the environment. However, I’ve had managers whose style was to watched employee performance more closely. I had one boss who wanted to meet at the end of each day to discuss projects. I think I prefer being given more autonomy, but I was able to perform well under a more hands-on management style, too, so I can work well for both types of managers.”

Example Answer 4:

“I work well with a variety of different styles and try to fit into the existing team culture. However, I always like a manager who can effectively communicate, give detailed feedback, and coach me to improve. That keeps me highly motivated. In my last job, I had a great manager who had the whole team motivated. They encouraged employees, provided great feedback and decision-making, and were open to discussing objectives, too. I think that’s a sign of a good manager or good management as well, being open to discussing topics, and encouraging employees to start a discussion, instead of simply dictating everything.”

***

You may also be asked similar interview questions, such as, “How do you like to be managed” or “What management style do you prefer?” so coming up, we’ll look at a sample answer for those two interview questions as well.

Example Answer to “What Management Style Do You Prefer”

“The management style I prefer is a hands-off approach that allows team members autonomy. My colleague, James, who referred me for this position described the company culture and overall approach to management here and it sounded like a great fit. I’d say my last manager was an ideal boss because he trusted me to make important decisions, but also gave constructive feedback and told me when I could have done something better. This helped me learn and grow in the role. I’ve also had bosses who preferred to supervisor more closely, and I’m fine working for that type of person as well. I just feel that through my most recent role, I’ve grown accustomed to a more hands-off approach and that’s how I’d describe my ideal manager.”

Example Answer to “How Do You Like to Be Managed?”

“I’m a very independent worker but I’m also able to keep the big picture in view and stay focused on the team’s overall success, too. I like to be managed with a trusting, hands-off leadership style. I’m great at taking direction, I like coaching managers who provide feedback and guidance, but after that, I like to be trusted to implement what I’ve been told. I’ve worked under a variety of different management styles, though, and can adjust to any leadership style. But my preferred management style is what I described earlier.”

Conclusion: Answering What Management Style You Prefer

If you follow the steps above, you’ll have a great interview answer when an employer asks you to describe your ideal manager or boss.

By showing you can work under a variety of management styles, they’ll feel confident in hiring you.

And by also mentioning your personal preference, you’ll show them you’re giving an honest, thoughtful answer to the interview question instead of only saying what they want to hear.

That’s why the answer steps and examples above are effective in explaining what management style you work best under… because you’re showing honesty and giving the hiring manager a genuine answer, while still showing you can work well under a variety of managers, supervisors, and leadership styles.

 

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