There are many questions for an interviewer to ask from the candidate. That bank of questions can be of any category. Those can relate to any possible thing about you and your career. Most of the time the interviewers are interested in knowing about the present and the future you to assess whether or not you suit the requirements of the job which their organization is offering to you. But there can be questions during your interview relating to your past as well.
Oh no! Do not worry. They won’t ask you the old past but they may ask you about your recent past in your career path. And this means that they are very interested in knowing about the previous jobs or the organizations those you have been associated with. Along with asking the kind of questions like ‘what was your role there?’; “How did you manage a particular situation during the previous workspace?’; ‘what motivated you for your work?’ and many others; a question often asked from the candidates during the interview is ‘what would your direct reports say about you?’.
Don’t worry this is not an absolute technical sort of question but the behavioral question in away. Read further to know more about this question and ways of answering this.
What the interviewer is trying to judge?
I would like to move ahead and tell you about every bit for answering this question but first, what is ‘direct reports’? Well, these are not any sort of data, paper, or document reports but direct reports in this question mean a subordinate or supervisee.
That means a person who works a position under or below another person; here that other person refers to you. So, you become the one who will manage your subordinates called your direct reports. Now, coming back to the main question; ‘why does the interviewer ask this question from you?’ here is why-
1. To check your managerial skills: since direct reports are the ones who are managed by you so their feedback or comments mean that they are commenting on their manager. This thing directly depicts the kind of managerial skills you hold.
2. Know your management style: people have their ways or styles of managing work and people. Which one do you prefer over others and why so is what an employer is interested in knowing because ultimately this will impact work culture at his place.
3. Your suitability for the job: many jobs will require you to possess some of the managerial skills beforehand. So knowing about your direct reports will give a sense for your suitability to a particular job.
What do you think about what all you need to do to prepare your response to this question? Are you the one who believes that you can just make-up any lie/story to tell? Say only good words about yourself? Because how will the interviewer get to know whether you are telling truth or making the answer yourself? Well, this doesn’t work that. Honesty in this answer is something that will help you to impress the interviewer. Following the following pre-requisites to formulate your answer to this question:
- Think of your job roles: Remember those times or job positions those you have held and you were required to guide or manage some people. If there are more than one job-positions where you worked as a supervisor then try to inculcate a balance of good and bad responses from your direct reports in your answer.
- Think of your relationship with your previous subordinates: What all do you think your subordinates would say about you? Did they like your working style or not? If not then why? Where was lacking? Was it on your part or theirs?
- A well-rounded picture of yourself: Try to formulate such an answer that will depict your personality and character traits as a well-rounded personality. You don’t have to include just good points or just the bad ones in your answer. Take a balance of the aspects to present yourself during the interview.
Tips on what to include and what to avoid
About what to INCLUDE:
Being honest is certainly desired while answering the questions in your interview, but to what level should you be honest? And what are other things to do while coming up with an answer to this question? Here are some tips on what are the dos:
1. Being honest: Okay! This means that you do not have to hide any negative feedback or comment from your subordinates. What you have to do is to mention about such comments, accept the fault and then say that you are working on to improve this shortcoming in you as a manager.
2. Include examples: Examples will work as life injecting elements in your answer. If you mention examples in your answers then that answers become more authentic. So is the case with a response to this question.
3. Be specific: Do not beat around the bushes. Come to the point in a straight manner. If it’s something positive then its good, if it’s something negative its better as you will get a chance to work on it and be better.
4. Strengths: On the path of being honest do not forget your strengths or skills for which some of your supervisees have also praised you. Along with shortcomings in your management styles, also do mention your strengths as a manager.
Things to AVOID
Above all were for the things those you should focus on or stress on while giving your response to this question. There is however another side of the picture as well, i.e. The things that you should avoid or not say in your answer:
1. Focusing only on weaknesses: This is a mistake that most of the candidates do many times. They think if they will mention all of their fallacies then they will sound like an honest person. But this is not the case. Stating many of your weaknesses may cast a bad impression on the interviewer.
2. Being un-confident: Many of the candidates lose their confidence while answering this question. That can be because they may not have anything good to talk about or nothing to talk about. But, be it any condition or situation you cannot afford to give up your confidence.
3. Commenting negatively: I know you may still be angry with some of your subordinates, you may still be holding a grudge for any of their un-worthy tasks but your interview is not to give way to you pent-up feels. Don’t comment negatively about your supervisees, calmly mention their faults.
4. Being too vague: Just saying that my direct reports would say I am a good being or I am a bad supervisor will not complete your answer. Elaborate it, why are you saying so?
Preparing your answer
Regarding the structure of your answer, I have the following points to suggest to you:
- Telling your duties and whether you had direct reports: Okay! In the beginning, you have to be clear on the matter that whether or not you had subordinates under you. If yes, then at what capacity? How did you use them to manage them? What were there and your duties in the organization?
- What do you think they think about you: Moving ahead, mention about the thinking or feelings of your direct reports for you. What do you think or what they used to say about you
- What do you think for the future: So, based on all that you said about your past or previous jobs what is that you can say about yourself from the viewpoint of your prospective subordinates?
- Why so? Mention the reasons behind your every claim. If you think your previous or future subordinates would say something good about you, tell reason; if you think they would say something negative, then to mention the reason.
- Example: this makes a great way of answering the above point of ‘why so?’. Examples will make the interviewer believe in you and your answer.
Well, though I am not so sure of it I believe my direct reports would say that I am quite an organized person. And when I say ‘organized’, I mean in everything. I am organized in prioritizing my work, then in completion of my tasks, and then send it as per the deadlines. My team at previous organizations knew this thing and that’s why they never worried about missing any deadline because I used to keep track of every task at hand. I believe sometimes I get so much organized that my subordinates find trouble in time management and working with me. But, I have always tried to teach such time management to them as well.
If I go as per my assumptions, I would say that my direct reports would call me a good teacher to them. I am saying that because after hosting career development sessions every month and weekly sessions on motivation during my previous job I helped my direct reports in learning new skills so that they can be more productive and efficient in performing their jobs. And since I am thinking of adopting the same method of managing people here as well, I believe, my direct reports from this organization too would say the same thing.
If you ask me about the best role that a manager could play to his or her team, I would say the role of a motivator. I like to empower my team members. I empower them with the right knowledge, right tools, and the right level of encouragement. These all are something that will help them in succeeding in their career path. My staff often says that I am a great motivator and a good manager, I just try to be on a path that team members need to flourish and feel excited about rather than going negative with them.
A guide. Yes! This is what my staff members or direct reports will say about me if asked. And the reason I believe them to say so is that I am always available for any sort of guidance they will ever require for their jobs at hand. I schedule meetings with every member on a bi-weekly and monthly basis. I ask the challenges faced by them in their works and then offer solutions to them regarding the same. I like it when they take their decisions themselves after having a little guide.
I believe every manager has his or her way of handling people, work, and sometimes both simultaneously. Many managers follow a dictatorship style of management with their people, some follow complete lassies fair method of leading and some depend on the democratic style of managing people. I think a bit different. I don’t think that a person should keep sticking to only one type throughout all the projects. I believe some projects require you to be strict and so my direct reports may be harsh, sometimes I would like to follow a democratic style and so my direct reports may be good at that time.
What would they say? I don’t think anything other than ‘the best boss’. Well, jokes apart, I think my direct reports will hold something good to say about me. This is for a reason which is that I behave towards each person as per his or her requirements. We all know that there are different types of people in this world and organizations. Some are a bit lazy and others are super active. You need to keep strictness for those lazy ones and set the active ones free so that they can solve problems with their creativity. So, I believe different people will hold different views from me.
I have always strived to do my work in the best possible interest of the organization that hires me. So my every task, every guideline that I ever give to my direct reports is based on what my organization needs are. In doing so, I have been hard on my subordinates as well as I have also praised them whenever my company used to complete a project successfully. So, I think my direct reports would have somehow a mixed kind of feedback about me. And I am okay with that as long as my company or organization is getting benefited from my work style.
Examples of bad answers:
To be honest with you, I don’t remember when I had any subordinates or direct reports to guide or manage. I barely used to manage myself, how could I manage others. Well, jokes apart, I don’t think I have had any direct reports or will have any ever. Oh, wait! I had it when I was a volunteer for one of the social works given to our team in the organization. I was to command a whole team of 8 members. I worked well with them and they too were good under my directions. That’s it. I do not have any other experience as a supervisor.
I used to have subordinates during my last to my last job. They used to work under me and to be very honest with you, I don’t think they should be at a place where they are. They were not up to mark in their work, I used to have some sort of complaint from them every now asks then. They were not serious about their work. If you ask me I would say that I deserved better, better than them at-least. I wish I never have such direct reports ever in my life. Or given a chance, I would like not to have any subordinate at all.
‘Direct reports?’ when do they have anything god to say about their supervisors and managers? Huh? As same were my subordinates. They had the least of the efficiency that you can presume on any work. The motivation level was nothing more than zero. I was strict with them because of this nature of theirs and so, they never liked me. In-fact I too never liked them in-turn and it was their fault entirely. I had to face many rebukes from my bosses for the work that I used to entrust to my juniors and subordinates. I don’t think I have anything positive to say here.