Interview Questions: how to answer "Describe your management style"

By: Robert Gaines

If you’re interviewing for a managerial position it’s fairly obvious that you will be asked to discuss your personal management style. The interviewer will be keen to find out how you interact with staff working under you, how you work on a day-to-day basis and your perceptions of leadership.

How you answer the question is likely to also tell the interviewer a lot about you as an individual. So it’s important that you are prepared with good examples and can talk in a positive manner, but without sounding arrogant or pompous about your skills.

If you’re lucky enough to have contacts within the company, try and find out as much as you can about how the business works, particularly at management level. Such information will be invaluable in how you present your own management style to an interviewer. Equally, it’s essential to be very clear about the expectations of the role for which you are to be interviewed. As with preparation for any other interview question, you should always go through the job specification carefully and ask yourself how you will fulfil the criteria. And, naturally, you should be very clear in your mind about your strengths and weaknesses as a manager and how you can rationalise them.

Getting the job done

Management is about getting a job done and being effective in handling those people responsible for doing the work. Remember to not simply focus on yourself, but to demonstrate how you get the best out of people – the ability to both drive and encourage others, as well as being able to rein in staff when need be. Explaining the role of management may seem unnecessary, but defining the purpose will help to clarify the type of manager that you are.

Are you a team player?

If you see yourself as part of the team, make sure you describe how that works. Weak managers may find that their status is undermined if they try to be one of the team, so demonstrate your strength. It might be that you are always willing to roll up your sleeves and get involved when things get tough, but have the ability to also step away to examine why things might be going wrong for one particular team member.

How approachable are you?

Are you open to new ideas from your team? A good manager won’t feel threatened when staff make suggestions that will benefit the team. Think of examples where you’ve implemented new ideas that bring greater success to the business.

Dealing with problems and change

Listening and compassion are both important aspects of management. Think about how you deal with staff that have experienced problems and have approached you for help.

If you’ve been through any type of change management, it would be useful to bring this into your discussion. Businesses have to be adaptable in order to be competitive. As a manager you may have been required to convey difficult messages and implement change, so demonstrating your skill in empowering others to adopt new working methods will be a real positive.

What is your management style?

There are many different types of manager. Are you autocratic or democratic? Are you hands on or hands off? Do you adapt your style according to what circumstances demand? With a young team, their inexperience may demand a strong line and leading by example to provide security and support, whereas an experienced team would respond more positively to a more collaborative and cooperative relationship that also allows for more independent working.

Think also about the type of people you enjoy working with and describe the relationships you have with your team. It’s easy to work with enthusiastic and motivated individuals, and not too much of a challenge to get the best out of them. But how do you cope with more difficult characters? Are you able to develop diffident or unconfident staff and help them achieve their potential? Mentoring is a good skill to have.

Don’t pretend to be perfect!

Talk about an aspect of your management style that you want to improve – if you can suggest that you aspire to become a better manager this will stand you in good stead. It will show that you aren’t too set in your ways, are willing to learn new skills and techniques, and are more likely to adapt to a new working environment.

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