Similar interview questions:
Tell me about your best boss.
Did you have a boss you liked working with in the past?
What is the best way to manage you as an employee?
Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is probing your work style. And, if the question is being asked by your potential future manager, the question is probing further into how you have responded, both positively and negatively, to managers and management input in the past. Managers are wary of potential employees who may present work style issues and this question is designed to probe for potential future problem employees.
The best approach to answering this question:
Focus on what you have done in the past to make your manager look good (or great). Even though you may want to answer the question focusing on your past manager, you should focus on what you have done in working with that manager. Even though this may seem like a subtle difference, it makes a huge difference in how your answer is presented. Focus on vision and leadership qualities as they translate into delivered results. And even though the answer is not specifically behavioral, you should answer with a behavioral example, if possible. If you had a successful manager, reference that person personally. Also, it’s important to pause at the beginning of this question to give it some thought before answering.
An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
(pause) “I believe that a successful manager should provide the team with the big picture, a view and a vision of where we are going and how our work specifically fits into the overall direction of the company. Yet focused on delivering results. As an example, I had a recent manager who was excellent at keeping our team focused on delivering results which were in full alignment with a recent change in corporate direction. Let me tell you more about it…”
An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
(pause) “I have had two direct managers as well as a team lead in my past internships. It was actually the team lead in my last internship who had the qualities of a successful manager that I admired the most. While my overall manager was there to provide the team with overall direction, which was important, it was the team lead who translated that overall direction into how we could have a specific impact on a day-to-day basis. Many internships do not produce deliverable results, but what impressed me about my team lead is how she kept me focused on delivering results on a weekly basis. The net result is that I delivered my component of a critical project within the timeframe of my internship.”
An example of how you should not answer this question:
“A successful manager is one who leaves me alone and let’s me just get my job done. One who doesn’t ask me to report on anything. And doesn’t ask me to attend the stupid, endless, boring meetings. I just like to come in, put on my earphones and block out the rest of the world. That’s how I get the most work done. Everything else is just an interruption to my day.”
Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!