When you picture an interview and the hiring manager asking, “Who was your favorite manager and why?” you probably see yourself sitting back with a smile.

This interview question is a cakewalk, right?

All you have to do is pick a supervisor you would enjoy catching a game or grabbing a drink with…

No, not quite.

When describing your favorite boss or manager, you need a proper response.

Which means you need to prepare an answer in advance.

After all, if you approach this question correctly during an interview, it is a fairly easy opportunity to shine!

The Reason Behind the Question

As with many other basic interview questions you get asked during an interview, it helps to know why the hiring manager might be asking you this.

1. To determine your attitude toward superiors

First of all, the hiring manager is getting a feel of your perspective on higher-ups.

Try not to hesitate or spend a long time thinking about this question.

You don’t want it to seem as though you don’t generally work well with your supervisors.

And if you can’t come up with an answer at all, that will be a red flag for sure.

2. To learn what kind of people you work well with

Perhaps you highlight the easygoing nature of a boss you had in the past.

This would tell the hiring manager that you tend to have good working relationships with people who are more laid-back.

On the other hand, you might appreciate a former supervisor’s drive and efficiency.

This would reveal you as an employee who teamwork well with a more “type A” personality.

How to Answer the Question

Keeping in mind the above reasons why this question might come up during an interview, here are a few tips on answering.

1. Choose One of Your References

Picking one of your references should instill confidence in the interviewer about the reference.

If it is a name listed on your application, the employer can validate your response if necessary.

If possible, also add concrete details that can be verified.

Even if the hiring manager chooses not to check for verification, specific details hold more weight than vague information.

If you do not already have your favorite manager on your reference list, add them!

Perhaps this person does not work in a relevant industry.

They were in sales while the position you’re applying for is as in production.

That’s okay.

You can use a reference to validate your character rather than the job description.

2. Stay Positive

Don’t ever talk about a previous manager/supervisor in a negative way.

Even if what you say is true, the hiring manager will immediately classify you as a negative employee.

You might have worked with a very difficult boss, but put that behind you.

Don’t place it on the table during the interview.

Such information simply doesn’t belong there.

Not to mention, why would you be speaking negatively about your favorite manager?

(Take this same approach when answering Why Are You Leaving Your Job?)

3. Add Your Accomplishments

Yes, you are discussing another person.

However, it’s still a great opportunity to highlight your accomplishments while working under this manager.

Maybe this manager provided a key hint in helping you hit your sales quotas.

Or perhaps they gave you the independence to think outside the box in finding a managerial solution.

Fit that personal accomplishment into your response.

Also, try to pick accomplishments you can quantify.

  • Add percentages when you discuss those effective solutions.
  • Mention dollar figures as you talk about reaching the sales quota.

That is what employers love to hear!

4. Relate Your Response to the Job Description

Pick character traits needed in the job description of your prospective position!

This will again indirectly highlight your qualifications for the position.

State that your favorite manager was the one who taught you some relevant qualities.

  • Try to add something that involves the culture of the company you are applying for!
  • It will help if you spend some time researching the company to discover relevant aspects of their company culture.

5. Don’t Forget to Close

As long as you keep this professional and relate your response to the open position, you should crush this question!

  • Don’t explain why a former manager was one of your friends.
  • Talk about why they were a mentor to you.

Clichés are terrible for a reason.

So, don’t open with, “Well, George was a really friendly guy and we had great conversations at the water cooler…”

Plan out your answer ahead of time and modify it for each interview.

Make sure that it relates to the current company you are applying for.

Sample Response

Following, you’ll find a great example of a response from an applicant interviewing for an editorial position with a journal publication:

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Hiring manager:

Describe your favorite manager and why they were your favorite.

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While working toward my graduate degree, I took on an administrative position as a graphic designer assistant with ABC Journal.

My supervisor, Jeff Smith, offered not only practical assistance, but also mentorship. He had high expectations, but also took the time to give clear instructions.

I appreciate that he gave me my first introduction to using XYZ Designs, which I noticed your Journal also uses.

His commitment to excellence has rubbed off on me and I still use some of the techniques he taught me for efficiency in the workplace, such as…

Although the above response is only a portion of a longer response, it shows the direction you could go in answering the interview question, “Who was your favorite manager and why?”

You can likely think of ways you might adjust the above response, such as:

  • Add a personal story
  • Mention more about the workplace culture
  • Bring in a specific accomplishment 

These are the elements that you can add to your response in order to impress your prospective employer and be that much closer to landing your dream job!