Nothing is certain but death and taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin—but if he'd been around in the 21st century, he might have added the interview question "How do you like to be managed" to his list. After all, you’re almost guaranteed to be asked this question at some point during the interview process, no matter how far along you are in your career. So how should you prepare to answer this interview standby?
First and foremost, stay positive when you answer this question. The hiring manager wants to know whether you'll be a good fit, but she also wants to see how you handle a potentially sticky situation. Don't fall into the trap. Save the venting for happy hour with your best friend or significant other, and focus on what you’re looking for in a supervisor. Even if you've had a series of unfortunate bosses, flip the script and discuss the (opposite) positive trait. For instance, if you're currently working for a micromanager, don't say "I don't like to be micromanaged." Instead, say you like to work to find solutions on your own with regular check-ins and support from your manager.
Remember—the hiring manager knows you're on your best behavior during an interview, so she’s looking to see how you'll behave with your customers, clients, and coworkers.
Do your research—but be true to yourself
By the time you're asked this question during the interview process, you might have an idea of what the corporate culture is like—or even what your potential boss is like. You could have mutual acquaintances, or perhaps you know the company by reputation.
This is all good information to have, but you shouldn't spend so much time focusing on what you think the hiring manager wants to hear that you aren't true to yourself. After all, during an interview, you’re still on equal footing with the hiring manager—once you've been hired, you're no longer in the position to state your preferences about things like management style. You want to convey your flexibility, but it's better to figure out the position isn't a good fit now rather than six weeks into the job.
Be concrete and specific
Because this is such a perennial question, you can have a standard answer at the ready. When you prepare for your interview, think about past supervisors. You might want to jot a few notes about the characteristics you found most appealing. For instance, perhaps you appreciated a former supervisor who scheduled regular check-ins with each team member to discuss the employee's current projects and career goals. You could cite these meetings as an example of a manager who is committed to frequent communication and mentoring—certainly worthy aspects of any management style.
As you think about the past, also think about what management approach meshes best with your own work style. Do you prefer written or verbal communication? Do you like to bounce ideas off another person, or would you rather brainstorm on your own?
Consider your preferred leadership style
Organizational psychologists have developed multiple frameworks for defining leadership styles. They might describe the coaching-style approach as the "democratic approach" or a by-the-book manager as a "bureaucratic" manager. Each leadership style has its place. Brushing up on how these styles are defined and understanding what works best in your industry can help you formulate your answer. For instance, if you prefer a bureaucratic, by-the-book approach, working at a rapidly growing startup might leave you feeling rudderless.
Don't let "How do you like to be managed?" throw you off your game. It's a good question. Job-hunting is a lot like dating—you might have to "meet" multiple job opportunities before you find the right fit. You need to be true to yourself and have a good understanding of what environment will make you the most effective professionally. After all, if you're not comfortable in your role, you won't be able to contribute at your highest potential—and it's quite likely you'll find yourself back on the job market.