How to answer the interview question: How would your supervisor describe you?

The reason the interviewer is asking this question is because they want to know how you got along with your boss and if you will be a problem employee or a 5 star performer. This question can be a bit tricky, especially if you didn’t have the best relationship with your former manager.

Tips to Answer this Interview Question:

The important thing here is to not badmouth a past manager or the company in general. The insurance industry is a small world and, whether you like it or not, hiring managers will back-check with people they know, such as carrier reps or former coworkers. This might have happened already once they saw your résumé — before they even scheduled the first interview! Do not make up answers here; you will be found out.

First, if you have a job description for the position you are applying for, look at the qualifications section. If it has words you know your past managers have said about you in past reviews or to others, use those words when answering this question. Just be prepared to back them up with concrete examples.

For instance, if the job requires strong detail orientation, and you were praised for your ability to work accurately, say something like: “My managers have often commented that they wished they were as detailed as I am. Last week, my boss came over to my desk and complimented me on the amount of certificates I made and how none of them required any revisions.”

If you don’t have a job description, think about the skills you feel are needed for the role and pick the most vital ones — the “meat and potatoes” necessary to perform the job. Then, share a past experience or two when you were praised for these skills. If you have a letter of reference or a thank-you letter from a customer, bring it out and offer to share it with the employer. The written word speaks volumes, especially if it is on company letterhead.

What if you know your past manager will not have “good things” to say about you and they are a well-known figure in the insurance industry? It happens to everyone at some point; there are just some people we don’t get along with no matter how hard we try. Do not try to bypass the question or answer indirectly. Instead, use the question to illustrate how you deal with difficult people and difficult managers.

For example: “My current boss and I have had cultural differences, and at times we have struggled to get along. If you asked her to describe me, she would say I’m not shy and I’m not afraid to voice my opinion. She might also say I am a little too quick to want to change things. However, she will also tell you I always put the customer first. She would say I go the extra mile to make sure my work is done right and on time; that I’m highly organized and extremely dependable.”

The bottom line with this question is to answer it honestly, directly and not give “fluff” answers that the interviewer can see right through. Your candor will be appreciated; it demonstrates that you aren’t afraid to deliver bad news when necessary.