You’re not applying for a management position.
So, why should you care about common interview questions for managers? Why are you even here?
You are here because interviewers like asking leadership questions regardless of your experience. That’s because they want the best candidates with the most potential.
So they ask:
“You’ve never been the boss? Don’t care. What is your management style?”
And you think:
What is my management style? What is “management style” anyway? Good cop, bad cop?
Because the closest you’ve gotten to management was as captain of the cheerleading squad.
Not to worry. Even if you’re not interviewing to be a manager, you might get this question. And this article will tell you how to prepare for it.
You will find out:
- Why interviewers ask, “What is your management style?”
- How to prepare for leadership questions regardless of your experience.
- How to answer the “what is your management style” interview question.
And if you want to turn every interview into a job offer, get our free checklist: 42 Things You Need To Do Before, During, and After Your Big Interview. Make sure nothing will slip your mind!
“What is Your Management Style?” - What Is the Interviewer Asking?
The first thing you should know is that there is a “right answer” to the “what is your management style” question.
That’s because this is what’s known as a “behavioral” interview question. And to deliver a correct response to a such a question you need to give an example of past behavior.
So, when the interviewer asks you to describe your leadership style what do they want?
That’s right! They want a brief success story about a time when you led or managed a person or team.
Tell a story about a time when you were a successful leader.
Once, I had to finish a project with a tight deadline while shorthanded. The first order of business was to redistribute the workload. I held a meeting, and we mapped out the project. I asked for volunteers to take on the extra tasks, after delegating most of them to myself. I opted for a pace-setting managerial style. I set a fast pace, taking work from team members who couldn't perform and assigning it to others. We finished the project in a state of exhaustion. But the team admired the fact that I rolled up my sleeves and joined them. My supervisor asked me to turn the experience into a workshop for others. Later, the project won an industry award that made the team very proud.
Say that you don’t have experience, but you’re sure you’d do fine.
I’ve never actually managed a team for a job before. But I’m a born leader, so I’m sure it would come naturally. I would listen to what my team needs and help them any way I could.
But that’s not all.
The “what is your management style” question isn’t only about management. The interviewer wants to know if you’ll fit in with their work environment.
That’s why the best answer will show that you’re flexible and adaptable.
I adjust my management style to meet the needs of the people I’m managing.
I have a rigid management style that I impose on my underlings.
But wait there’s more!
Of course, you should also tailor your answer to the position and the company.
Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. This guide will show you how to incorporate each element into your response.
Remember, the “what is your management style” interview question isn’t only for candidates seeking managerial positions.
An interviewer could ask you to describe your management style even though you have no experience.
Or if you’re an entry-level candidate the interviewer might ask to describe the management style you prefer.
That’s why it’s best to have an answer on hand.
The career path for the position you’re applying for could lead to a management position in the future. The role might include working on teams.
The interviewer might want to know something about your general leadership style.
Regardless, it’s best to have a well-developed answer in your pocket.
Here are some alternative versions of the “what is your management style” question:
- How would you describe your management style?
- How would you describe the management style you prefer?
- What managerial style do you use when leading ambitious projects?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- Can you describe a situation where you successfully led a team?
- Have you ever coached or mentored someone?
Pro Tip: Remember, there is no "right" or "wrong" managerial style. There are only “better” and “worse” methods relevant to given situations.
Want more common interview questions and best answers? We’ve rounded up the top ten. Read our guide: “Most Common Job Interview Questions and Best Answers (+20 Examples)”
How to Answer the “What is Your Management Style” Interview Question
What is management style?
Management style is the way that supervisors or leaders interact with subordinates or team members.
So, what are the different types of management styles?
Here are some management philosophy examples:
- Autocratic - the boss is bossy (micromanagement).
- Democratic - the boss includes workers in decision making.
There are other managerial styles. Most fall somewhere between Autocratic and Democratic.
For example, some managers go with a “coaching” supervisor style. Coaching involves the director focusing on the employee’s learning process.
Here’s the catch.
No single supervising style is perfect for every situation.
Coaching isn’t going to work well in a situation where there’s a tight deadline. It’s also one of the unnecessary managing styles to adopt when you're working with a team of experts.
Autocratic managers who threaten employees into working well do better in times of crisis.
But the autocratic management style is less effective over longer periods of time. Often, talented employees get frustrated and angry under such managerial pressure.
That’s why your “what is your management style” response should be “flexibility.”
But once you say your managerial style is flexible, you’ll want to take your answer to the next level.
How? By personalizing your answer and tailoring it to the open position.
So, one of the first things you’ll want to do is think about what “good management” means to you. Ask yourself:
- Have you ever had a manager that you thought had a great supervisor style?
- What was it that appealed to you in the way they handled their team?
- What skills or characteristics would you steal from the managers you like?
- Have you ever had a manager that you hated or despised?
- What was it about their managerial style that made you frustrated and angry?
- What bad managerial characteristics would you avoid?
- Has a superior ever praised you for your leadership style?
Write down a few characteristics that you find appealing or make a full management styles list. The idea is to expand upon the element of “flexibility.”
Think about what characteristics you’d bring to the table as a manager. But don’t toss any old managerial skills onto the pile.
Here’s where you’ll start to tailor your “what is your management style” answer to the position and the company.
Now, you may be the rare and lucky candidate whose chosen company details what they want in a manager.
If that’s true for you, stick with things that reflect the managerial style they prefer.
The rest of you should try to match elements of your managerial style to company culture.
Let’s use General Electric as an example.
The company’s management philosophy:
- Successful people and ideas don’t “happen overnight.”
- Employees “need the right environment” to grow.
You notice on one of GE’s career pages that the company is at the forefront of leadership development. Plus, GE pumps over a billion dollars a year into employee development programs.
You get the impression that GE builds its corporate culture around career-long learning.
So, the interviewer asks you, “What is your management style?”
And you might say something like:
I don’t have one style of management. I assess the situation and the team before deciding what action to take to get results. There are times when the health and safety of the team depends on clear instructions. Having said that, I agree with GE’s approach to supervising styles. Investing in the long-term development of employees is the best way to achieve sustainable results.
I don’t have a managerial style. I just push my team to meet targets and deadlines. That’s the job of a manager - to make sure that their employees get stuff done.
Finally, you need to tell a success story about a time that you led or managed.
The best way to prepare for the “what is your management style” question is to practice using the STAR method.
The STAR method helps you remember how to talk about your accomplishments.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result:
Situation - You start by explaining a situation which required you to solve a problem, use a skill, or come up with a new idea.
Task- Next, you explain the action that your job requires in such a situation.
Action- After, you describe the action that you took. If it’s different than the required task, you should also explain why you chose a different path.
Result - What happened in the end? How did the situation play out once you acted? It’s best here to illustrate successes with numbers and details if you can. Numbers help reinforce the impact that your action had.
Start by referring to a situation or a task:
“My team was struggling with deadlines on a regular basis.”
Follow with the action you took to resolve the problem:
“First, I gathered anonymous feedback to identify underlying problems. Second, I asked the team to introduce targets and accountability measures.”
What was the result?
“The team had a shared sense of obligation after setting their objectives. They started pushing and supporting one another to meet goals. The result was that all team members began to meet their deadlines 90% of the time. ”
So, how do you answer the “what is your management style” question?
By using this formula:
Flexible Management Style + Personalized and Tailored Approach + Success Story
Pro Tip: You might find it difficult to talk about your achievements during an interview. But telling a story and giving examples is a way to make yourself memorable. So, don’t be shy!
Want more advice on how to discuss your strengths at an interview? Read our guide: “How to Answer the “What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question (Examples)”
Best Answers for the “What Is Your Management Style” Interview Question
A “What Is Your Management Style” Response For Professional Managers
Let’s say you have managerial experience. Think about what’s worked best for you in the past. Go into a bit of detail to personalize your answer.
For me, the best approach to management is to switch back and forth between styles. But when I have the downtime, I like to encourage the team to bond. A good manager is one that invests in building a close-knit team that works well together. Of course, this managerial style only pays off in the long run. For more immediate crisis situations, I choose to reassign tasks or pick up the slack myself. I use threats and negative motivation only as a last resort.
Once, I was in charge of a team of 15+ people working across departments. The team started to miss deadlines. I found that miscommunication was causing some interdepartmental hostility. To resolve the situation, I organized a team building activity. I gave the team several fun, communication-based tasks. After each game, I mixed the members until everyone had worked together at least once. In the end, we had a discussion about what forms of communication worked and what didn’t. I then led a brainstorming session about how they could use these skills around the office. The hostility between the teams evaporated and productivity doubled. We even beat our sales target that month by 12%.
I am an all carrot type of boss. I can’t stand those managers who yell, threaten, and hover. I treat my employees like equals and reward them with plenty of back pats and compliments. I believe that a positive work environment and a jolly supervisor makes for happy elves.
A “What Is Your Management Style” Response For Job Seekers With No Experience
Let’s say you don’t have any prior managerial experience. You might have a harder time answering the “what is your management style” question.
Start by cherry picking a few characteristics you liked in past managers. Then follow up with a story about how you were a strong leader at school or in your private life.
I have not yet had the opportunity to find out what my particular managerial style would be. At the same time, I’ve found that the best managers are those that have an adaptable supervising style. From my experience, I work best with managers who pay attention to individual's needs. My last manager was a good example. She used slow periods to coach workers who needed more instruction. When things sped up, she gave clear instructions and took on tasks herself if necessary.
Although I’ve never been a manager, I took on several leadership roles as a student. I was the team captain of our academic team for two years. I made sure that each team member knew what they were responsible for before matches. At the same time, we often switched roles depending on who felt strongest. I took a democratic approach to leadership. I motivated the team by encouraging constructive feedback after matches. We won districts both years, and we’re invited to nationals my senior year.
I’ve never been a manager before, so I don’t have a managerial style. I guess I would try to strike a balance between being liked and feared. People walk all over you if they like you too much. So, you have to yell enough for them to be afraid of not listening to you. At the same, time you can’t yell so much that they hate you and want to leave their jobs.
Pro Tip: Try to use numbers and details to illustrate the impact your managerial style has. Not only are you a flexible manager, but your leadership inspires a 12% uptick in sales. That’s quantifiable value.
Now that you’ve aced your interview what’s next? Time to send a thank you email. Find out how: “How to Write a Thank You Email After an Interview (+10 Examples)”
So, what is your management style? Now you know.
You are flexible. You understand the values of the company. And you can take charge of both yourself and others
Because after all, the interviewer wants to know that you’re the best. And the best candidates are those with skills beyond what they need for the position.
Still not sure how to answer the "what is your management style" question? We can help! Leave us a comment, and we will help you identify what's unique about your management style before the big day.
Sample Business School Essays
Since many business school admissions officers encourage applicants to “write less, say more,” it is important to communicate your background and career ambitions in a concise and clear way. The essay gives admissions officers an opportunity to learn who you are, where you're going, what you have done and why their school is right for you. Use this small space to give the admissions officers a deeper sense of who you are by answering the prompt with brevity.
This section contains three sample business school essays:
- Business School Essay One - The Business of Recovery
- Business School Essay Two - Leadership in Action
- Business School Essay Three - Repair and Restore
The Business of Recovery — Sample Essay One
Prompt: What are your career goals? What skills do you expect to gain from studying at ABC Business School and how will they contribute to your professional career? (500 words).
Watching my brother transform from a man who had lost his ability to walk to a man who can play basketball with my father kindled my fascination of the physical therapy world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the field of physical therapy to grow faster than average in the upcoming years. I hope to join this field during an exciting time of growth, furthering the rehabilitation of those who have been injured.
Following graduation from ABC Business School, I intend to serve a marketing team in a local physical therapy company, such as Ridgeview Physical Therapy. My short-term goal is to lead a team, furthering success in the Ridgeview area. Due to the popular physical therapy company thirty miles from Ridgeview, much of the local population is unaware of the quality services Ridgeview Physical Therapy has to offer. I hope to increase visits by 40 percent in the first 5 years of my employment. My long-term goal includes extending the company’s reach into surrounding cities, and eventually beyond national barriers, becoming a global marketing manager.
I expect to gain skills and experiences from ABC Business School that will propel my short and long-term goals. I hope to develop an experiential and diverse learning experience and have the opportunity to interact with different groups of people to learn from their business insights and endeavours. From ABC Business School, I seek the tools and resources needed to further engage in my marketing knowledge, perform professional strategic analyses, and re-evaluate my past work experiences. I look forward to taking courses from Professor Jim. W. Reid, who has published the research of the success of Matthews and Marketing in his book, “Matthews Commerce,” which has helped me continue my career this far. I also look forward to taking the unique classes taught by Professor Rachel E. Davis, introducing me to the physical therapy world and enriching my business skills in that area.
When my brother’s car accident in 2011 caused immobility in his left leg, he never thought he would be able to play his favorite sport again. David Andrews, a 1994 graduate from ABC Business School, ensured that that would not come to pass. I spoke with Andrews about his journey, and he told me that it was through the opportunities and education he received from the professors and students at ABC Business School that helped him open his own practice. I hope to follow in Andrews’s footsteps. With the passion I have for the success of Ridgeview Physical Therapy, and the determination I learned from watching my brother, all I need to complete my goals is the knowledge available to me through an MBA at ABC Business School. I look forward to completing my career aspirations using the tools received from ABC Business School to contribute to my professional career.
The world of physical therapy is growing, and with my skills in marketing, I hope to grow the local Ridgeview services across the globe.
In this essay, the applicant is assigned to answer the prompt in approximately 500 words. The admissions officer expects a clear and concise essay that does not veer off the question and exemplifies quality writing, grammar, and punctuation. In questions similar to these, the admissions officers are looking for:
- Student’s understanding and knowledge in answering questions: The writer explains his short and long-term career goals, referencing the future of the career (Bureau of Labor Statistics) and quantifying his goals (Increase by 40 percent within the first 5 years).
- A deeper look into who the applicant is: Writer shares personal information that also relates to answering the question (brother in physical therapy). Make sure that any personal information you share does not veer off of the question that needs to be answered.
- Proper research on the school to adequately answer the second question: Student mentions names of professors who have demonstrated help in the past (professor’s business research book) giving credibility to the student that he believes they will be able to help him in the future. Avoid flattery and only speak of the school in a way that shows proper research and answers the question presented.
Leadership in Action — Sample Essay Two
Prompt: Present evidence of your leadership capacity and/or potential. (Approx. 550 words)
Nancy, the CEO of Jasmine Publishing House, bought me a coffee and told me I should invest in warm gloves as we sat down at a corner diner for what would be a game-changing business meeting. As the leading publishing house in Europe, Nancy informed me that JPH was interested in closing a multi-million dollar deal with our fashion magazine, Zoelle, provided we changed the magazine's appearance to attract a broader European audience.
As production manager, my job was to lead and supervise a staff of 30 to match Nancy's vision, working closely with the design team, photographers, production staff and marketing team. After three weeks of heavy brainstorming, we developed a fresh appearance for the magazine.
I invited Nancy to a meeting with me and three of our executive producers. I shared with her the strategy we had created in order to solve our appearance problem, as well as estimated costs and complications. Nancy agreed that the direction our magazine was going fit well with her vision and audience, and that JPH would be happy to work with us within the next week.
Although the team was excited to accept the offer, I was concerned that we were not prepared to complete the project so quickly. Though the executive producers did not understand, as our production team was to begin work on the next issue the following day, I explained that there may include deep financial consequences if we rush into the process. I wanted to ensure that JPH received a consistent layout from Zoelle magazine. Nancy agreed to wait until the upcoming issue was complete before beginning work on the new look.
We began work the following Tuesday, after the latest issue was produced. I collaborated with an eight member marketing team to develop new branding for our magazine and mediated this branding with the design team, ensuring that it was able to blend well with their ideas and insights based on the first meeting with Nancy. I led the operation of the first issue to be published via JPH, supervising 30 employees.
After the issue was published, our sales increased by 42 percent in the first week. After leading the Zoelle team to a business deal close and a fresh start, I learned that with the proper leadership, a staff of varied talents, insights and opinions can work closely together to produce a magazine that continues to increase its sells each issue. My initiative helped provide Zoelle with its largest new contract that year, a $2 million deal. Customers from Europe and the United States commented with positive remarks on the new look, showing interest in the replacement of the former look, which had been being published for seven years.
After this leadership experience, I was able to see my potential as a leader. I can communicate effectively with all members of a group and help connect them with one another to make a larger picture. I protect my business discernment even against an upset crowd, and am able to properly persuade others to understand other perspectives. Through learning more about leadership every day with my work in Zoelle, I hope to continue to strengthen these abilities and witness the success they can bring to media production.
In this essay, the applicant was asked to detail her leadership abilities through the application of a relevant example. She was asked to do this in approximately 550 words, using concise language and proper grammar and punctuation. In questions similar to these, the admissions officers are looking for:
- Applicant's ability to share leadership qualities with a relevant example: This writer shared leadership qualities of communication (brainstorming with different staffs and helping them connect their ideas together), listening (brainstorming and understanding staff concerns), delegating (ensuring each team did what was supposed to be done), and managing (managed and supervised a staff of 30) through the use of an example from her work with Zoelle Magazine.
- Proof of a potential growth in these leadership skills: The writer hopes to “continue to strengthen” her leadership skills. She provides examples of how she learned from previous leadership roles.
- How these skills will help further your career: The writer used an example from her current career and concluded her essay with a look into the potential of leadership in her field.
Repair and Restore — Sample Essay Three
Prompt: Describe a challenging situation you have faced in the past. How did you overcome the challenge? (450 Words)
I looked across my celebratory cheesecake and beamed up at my new coworkers. I couldn't believe I had finally landed my dream job. All of the senior editors were having lunch in the cafe across the street from the bakery where the finance team and marketing team shared dessert. I had been hired as a budget analyst at my favorite magazine. My job was to work alongside the business manager to help create a more healthy marriage between the finance and marketing departments, thus improving our sales and workplace environment. On my way home, I reflected on my relief in finally having an exciting and secure career.
Just three months later, we met at the same bakery where I had celebrated my new job. Every department from our small, close-knit staff was present. As the publication manager began to tell us the news, I remember how our faces fell. Our publication company was going out of business, and every publication was to be shut down. She explained that they had tried to find another publishing company without success.
Not only did I feel as though I failed the company, I also knew that I, as well as the other 17 employees, was out of a job. We went back to our offices and packed up our things. Writers and designers were frantically calling around, asking for open positions. An employee from the finance department began tweaking his resume, and the marketing department apologized to the publication manager and editor-in-chief, who responded graciously.
I had to leave my apartment not long after losing my job. I stayed with a friend on the north side of town as I tried to find a job in a shrinking economic suburb. It took six months to find a position, and though I had to move and leave behind my dream, I found a new way to work toward my new dream.
From this experience, I learned the importance of adaptability. Only through my ability to embrace the change happening around me was I able to find a new job and start a new life with new visions and goals. Applying for my MBA would have sounded bizarre to the disheartened, homeless idealist who lost her dream. But now, after finding in me the strength to persevere, I am able to take what I learned from my previous job and pair it with what I learn from the university. This knowledge will help me ensure that the future companies I work with will not have to endure a similar fallout.
However, if there comes a time when I am again involved in a lost company, I know how to repair. I know how to restore.
In this essay, the applicant was asked to recall a challenging situation to which the writer overcame the boundaries. The writer was asked to do this in approximately 450 words, using concise language and proper grammar and punctuation. In questions similar to these, the admissions officers are looking for:
- Applicant's ability to identify a challenging moment in her life: This writer uses a relevant example of a challenging situation, describing the challenge of losing a job, losing housing, and having to move to a different city.
- Examples of how the applicant overcame these challenges: The writer cites her “adaptability” as the reason why she was able to overcome this challenge. Instead of giving up, the applicant tells of applying for other jobs, even ones that were out of her comfort zone and in another city.
- Brief insights to what the applicant learned from the challenge: This writer learned how to maintain strength, perseverance and adaptability in challenging situations. The applicant tells of continuing the learning process in her MBA program and allowing it to help future companies.
Here are our top five tips for writing a business school admissions essay:
- State specific reasons as to why you are a good “fit” for the school, rather than simply stating “I am the ideal candidate for your program.” Why are you the ideal candidate?
- Use real life examples in your essay. This will help to bring your essay to life.
- If you’ve taken an unorthodox path to business school, don’t be afraid to play that up. Business schools appreciate those who are unafraid to take risks.
- Thoroughly research your target schools in order to have a clear idea of how to appeal to each of them. Every school is looking for something different in their students.
- Avoid flattery. A good school knows that it’s good, and telling them so just wastes valuable space in your essay. Use that space to talk yourself up, instead.