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Ways To Define Your Management Style This Year

The question “What is your management style?” is very common in interviews. How can you understand and give a great answer to this question?

Ho Lin Profile
By Ho Lin 4 minute read

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What is your management style

You’re sitting in a job interview when you’re asked, “What is your management style?” and you freeze. You’re not applying for a management role. Have you come to the wrong interview? Don’t panic — many recruiters and hiring managers ask this question no matter what position a job seeker is applying for. Why? Because everyone has managed something at some point in their lives, and you will likely be responsible for managing something in your new job, even if it is only yourself and your priority list rather than a group of team members.Recruiters ask this question because your management style says a lot about your decision-making process and priorities, but also because it is a clever behavioral question. The way you answer this question will tell them as much as the example you give them.

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What to know when discussing your management style

First, you should be aware that there is a right answer to this job interview question, or there is a right way to answer it, at least. When recruiters ask this question to job seekers who are not applying for management roles, they really want to know how they will fit into the company culture and how much initiative they are capable of taking. So whether you prefer a democratic, autocratic, laissez-faire (hands-off approach), or collaborative management style is of minimal importance. It’s all about evidence.

An interviewer will always prefer a personal story over nothing

Even if you have never managed team members or co-workers in your professional work history, you should do your best to answer the question, even if it means using a personal story that involves collaborative teamwork rather than expressing a specific management style. The idea is to show them that you are capable of managing other people.

You should tailor your answer to the job you’re looking for

Just as a good manager tailors their management styles to their team members, you should tailor your answer to suit the job you are looking for. For example, if you are applying to a creative industry that depends on cross-team cooperation, then giving an example of a time when you have used a collaborative or delegative management style is good.

You should be as specific as possible

Whether you prefer a laissez-faire management style or you like to be on hand to give clear direction, you should be as specific as possible in your answers. For example, you might say:

“I personally prefer to show persuasive leadership skills and have a flexible but firm management style. I understand that some people prefer a relaxed approach whereas others need more guidance, so I often start by asking team members whether they prefer a hands-off approach. I believe that the best managers are those who can adapt to their team members while still staying in control and making important decisions analytically.” 

As you can see, it is best to answer this question about your leadership style no matter how unrelated to the position it may seem. Whichever of the many different management styles you favor, the best thing you can do is to give a complete and effective answer.

How to create an effective explanation of your management style

You should view this interview question as one that requires a two-part answer. There is the answer and the example. If you only give half an answer, hiring managers will either doubt your experience or, worse still, your listening capabilities.

1. The answer

In order to give a complete answer to this common job interview question you should take some time to prepare for it. Ask yourself what you consider to be the qualities of a good manager and management style, then try to think of examples where you displayed these qualities yourself.

If you are unsure, you can check in with previous team members or even friends to see what they say. While there’s no wrong answer, it is important to remember that autocratic management styles are not overly popular these days. Examples of a bad answer could be, “I don’t consider myself to be a leader”, or “I’m a natural leader. I take complete control of every situation.”

While one of these answers is far too passive, the other is extremely controlling (especially if you’re not applying for a management position). Neither of these answers suggests the person will fit well with a progressive work environment. Instead opt for answers like, “I prefer a collaborative management style where I provide guidance to team members and delegate appropriate tasks”, or “I think a good manager should take the largest part of decision-making responsibilities, but I like to have input from team members to ensure they feel valued.”

While the management styles described by these answers remain mostly the same, the first sounds more proactive, and the second sounds more confident than controlling and doesn’t imply that the person likes micromanaging others.

2. The example

Once you have provided your concise answer, it is time to give an example of your management skills in practice. The example you give can be from your academic, personal or work life as long as it is appropriate and clearly shows your leadership style. For example, if you have a participative or collaborative management style, you could give an example of a group project undertaken at work or college. For example:

 “In college, I was a part of a group presentation project. The group was failing to make progress because there was no leader, so I stepped in to start discussing the roles we could all take. I encouraged teamwork and delegated tasks to those I thought would excel in them. Once all team members agreed, I set a series of deadlines. We completed the project in time and got an A.”

As well as offering a clear example of a management style, (in this case a democratic management style) this example gives the recruiter an idea of what kind of person the job seeker is. It even follows the STAR format, which lays out a method of answering behavioral questions as follows: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. If you follow this format when answering questions, you will be certain to give a complete and comprehensive example.

Follow the above tips to give a clear answer and a specific example of your leadership style, and you will have a good chance of impressing the recruiter or hiring managers at your job interview.

FAQ: “What Is Your Management Style?” Interview Question

Have questions? We’re here to help.

It is wise to prepare for this question, even if you are not applying for a management position because a hiring manager is very likely to ask this question. In fact, some recruiters make a point of asking all interviewees this question.

Can I tell a story of an interpersonal or unimportant management decision?

Yes, you can give any examples that you feel effectively answer the question as long as it clearly indicates your management style.

Yes, the STAR method is known to be an effective way of answering this common interview question because it ensures a complete answer that provides evidence. It does so because it provides a structure to follow. If you want to know more about the STAR method, you can read about it on ResumeHelp’s blog.

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Ho Lin Profile

Ho Lin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and editor with two decades of experience in content strategy, creation, and development. He holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and his background includes experience aiding military veterans as they transition to civilian careers.

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