What Qualities Do You Look For In A Boss

How to Answer Interview Question: What Qualities Do You Look For In A Boss?

At some point in the interview process, hiring managers will want to assess how well you respond to supervision if you are hired for the job and they’ll try to find out if you have any issues with those in authority because a great boss will have exceptional interpersonal, and relationship-building skills and is someone who people want to emulate.

So whether you’ve had wonderful past work experiences with supervisors/managers or they were a collective nightmare, answering this question can admittedly be a tough nut to crack. It will be helpful to get a plan for what you’ll want to say or not say because answering interview questions on the spot could be nerve-wracking, especially when they’re opinionated like this one. What really matters is how you phrase the qualities you want in a boss, the manner you present it the moment the question is asked and it’s important also for you to be confident and thoughtful.

Furthermore, the interviewer may ask this question to see how you react to authority figures as they want to be sure that your management style or leadership style matches with their company’s culture. Discuss with the interviewer about the qualities that you admire, and value in a leader.
If you’re applying for a position at the management level, you will have to discuss the great managerial qualities that you hold. It’s a good idea to get some ideas from the organization’s job description as that document will have many useful keywords you’ll bring into the conversation.


Reason hiring managers ask this question

Hiring managers ask, “What qualities do you look for in a boss?” to learn about your leadership preferences. They are probing your work style. And, if the question is being asked by your prospective boss, he/ she wants to know how you’ve responded either positively or negatively, to management input in the past.

Also, if you are looking for a management position, they want to know the type of supervisor you are. Ultimately, your answer gives hiring managers a sense of how you’ll fit with the company.
Hiring managers are wary of prospective employees who may present work style issues and this question is designed to probe for potential future problem employees.
By preparing your answer, you’ll come up with a response that shows you work well under supervision and you can get along with most employers.


Similar interview questions:

Tell me what you liked about your best boss.
Do you have a supervisor/boss you enjoyed working with in the past?
What is the best way to treat you as an employee?


How to answer the interview question ‘What qualities do you look for in a boss’

We’ve looked at the reason why hiring managers ask this interview question. Now let us look at the steps to effectively discuss the qualities you want in your ideal boss:

  1. Research the company
    Before your interview, try to read about the organization and get to understand the kind of management style they have and whether you’ll thrive working in this organization due to their management style. Take note of a couple of key characteristics of this employer. Even if you cannot find out who your direct manager will be, you can still find out about the general culture of the organization. Thoroughly go through the company’s organizational structure before your interview in order to have an idea of their management style. This information can help you arrange your response when asked the above interview question as it relates to the job you’re applying for so that it shows how you could seamlessly adapt to their system.
  2. Reflect on past experiences
    Think about previous employers or managers you’ve worked with and ask yourself if their management style was a contributing factor to your success. Think about what they did well and what they could have improved upon. Select a couple of positive attributes which your previous employer had and say them in your answer.
  3. Show you’re flexible
    Rather than being too specific, you have to try and find more of a middle ground. This way, you’re showing the hiring manager that you adapt easily to any management style. To discuss how you’ve thrived under various supervisory styles in your past and be prepared to give samples of how you have been productive with different types of bosses but not too many as you don’t want to come off like a job-hopper with a long list of previous jobs.
    Show that you are ok working both independently and also taking directions from a supervisor. You’ll have to make emphasis about your ability to work independently as well as take direction from an authority figure. You don’t want your prospective employer to see you as someone who needs an excessive amount of supervision or too little supervision. Make it clear that you can adjust to any type of working environment and that you have the necessary skills needed to get along with authority figures. Think about the role you’re interviewing for before you answer, try to strike a balance, and remember to emphasize your adaptability.
  1. Keep it realistic
    Remember that even the most efficient employer can only do so much as his or her ability permits. So try to be realistic in your answer by giving reasonable expectations for your ideal boss. Make it clear that you understand people in authority have a lot going on and that you understand they are also trying to balance their work with their leadership duties.
  2. Take the Fence

One good strategy is to play it safe and mention something good about each side of the equation, working independently vs. with a very hands-on supervisor.

  1. Don’t get too carried away with your answer

Less is more and while you try to keep your responses short and sweet, refrain from getting too wordy. Don’t say that you have unrealistic expectations for your potential manager or that you’re going to be too needy as an employee. The less you say, the less likely it’s that you’re going to trip yourself up and remember one-word responses won’t do.


Here are some qualities of a great boss:

  1. Honesty: Without honesty, there’s no trust. Without trust, what do you have? Honest communication helps navigate roadblocks, provides clear direction and allows employees to possess better confidence in their leader and therefore the company. Integrity should be included alongside honesty, as those two qualities go hand-in-hand.
  2. The capacity to mentor staff and supply resources that will help them: Hiring managers like to hire employees who are already skilled in the requirements of their roles. Hardly does a manager have to teach employees the way to do their jobs, but rather they’re tasked with aligning employees with the organization’s goals and its work culture. That often includes how things are done in the role you have which is specified in the organization processes. When a supervisor provides the coaching necessary for the successful execution of their roles, employees are much more capable, more open to asking for help when necessary, and able to identify and correct errors than if they’re left to work things out on their own.
  3. The ability to motivate: It’s important for a manager to be ready to not only motivate teams to succeed in a productive outcome, but also to be ready to motivate individual employees. That means they have to concentrate on what may interest their employees, effectively identify and maximize their strengths, and partner with them to find career opportunities for their growth.
  4. A high EQ (emotional intelligence): In today’s workplace, having a high EQ is the most vital trait of a good boss. Supervisors should have the ability to differentiate between their own personal beliefs and the thoughts/beliefs of others. This is ideal when it involves leading and motivating staff to achieve organizational goals and grow professionally.
  5. Trust: Employees need to know and trust that their boss has their best professional growth at heart which has to align somehow with the vision of the organization. Bosses must trust their employees to make good choices as they work, to ask questions once they are unsure, and to have the interests of the organization at heart.
  6. The willingness to give open and honest feedback: We all have weaknesses and room for growth, but many of us will never know this unless it’s brought to light by somebody else. Too often, we are silent once we see room for growth in others, for fear of hurting their feelings. However, bosses are usually in the best place to ascertain and speak to employees about these weaknesses. It’s best that they pass this observation across as soon as they notice it, so their employees have the chance to grow.
  7. The ability to inspire: A great boss is someone who inspires their employees to do their best. He or she should have the ability to identify their employees’ best qualities and bring them out. Additionally, they ought to pinpoint growth opportunities, share them in a constructive manner and help develop plans for improvement.
  8. Self-awareness: The most important skill a leader can have is self-awareness. This may seem simple, but just because someone has a title does not mean they intuitively have the skills to steer/lead people. Leadership requires understanding that a lot of employees are motivated differently and what personally drives some won’t drive others. For instance, a boss would love public recognition and would want to reward employees publicly with a lot of individuals in attendance but it’s important to acknowledge there could also be folks on the team who prefer a way different approach like an email from the boss acknowledging their accomplishments which is quiet, yet powerful. Leaders have to remember every individual is motivated differently, and therefore the decision to be aware of this fact is in the heart, not the mind.
  9. The willingness to learn what employees need: We all have two types of needs, practical and personal. Our practical needs are finding ways to progress in our career and achieve a high level of performance, while our personal needs are to feel valued, involved, and supported. Any boss who understands this, and takes care of every employee’s needs is going to be an incredible boss.
  10. Compassion: Good leaders show compassion when praising the success their employees made or addressing challenges faced in the organization. They know compassion is expressed either verbally or non-verbally. They can sense what is happening around them. They understand that the demands on employees transcend the organization. They know that each employee fulfills multiple roles in and out of an organization and each employee interaction can influence the working relationship. A good leader understands that accountability can still be expected while maintaining a high level of compassion.


A good leader should:

  1. Have respect for their employees.
  2. Provide clear instruction and constructive feedback.
  3. Make themselves available to discuss work-related issues.
  4. Exhibit patience throughout the training process.
  5. Keep a positive attitude and improves workplace morale.
  6. Treat people at all levels with courtesy and respect.
  7. Clearly communicate responsibilities, boundaries, and expectations.
  8. Value the input and ideas of others and give them the credit.
  9. Remove roadblocks that prevent you from doing your job.
  10. Allow you the freedom to do your job with minimal supervision.
  11. Be available when you need them.
  12. Respect employees’ privacy.


There are many other qualities you could look for in a boss. You will want your boss to be:

Invested in Culture
Positive Mindset


When you’re in an interview, the answers you give should be unique to you; as you have to separate yourself from other applicants. The other important aspect of answering this question is the reasoning behind your chosen qualities. Any job applicant can list a couple of qualities in a blink of an eye, but your why’s should be what impresses the interviewer. When going into details, you should say why the qualities you listed are important for a boss to possess.


What Not to Say

Never criticize a past supervisor. When discussing your ideal boss, avoid talking about the negative traits of your previous employers because putting down your former bosses can make an interviewer think you like holding grudges. Your prospective employer will probably assume that you are a difficult employee if you give an inventory of complaints, regardless of how well-earned they could be. You don’t want this. Even when an interviewer asks you to talk about your least favorite boss, focus on how you were still successful in that toxic environment and pinpoint what you want in a boss instead of the qualities you dislike.
Don’t elaborate. Try to limit the discussion to one or two past bosses so you don’t come off as a job-hopper.
Also, skip any bosses who had a go-with-the-flow approach. These people can seem lazy to other employers, and it could make them think you’ve got an identical work style.

No matter how inept your boss could be, we’re all a package of plusses and minuses. Surely your boss has some good qualities or he or she wouldn’t be the boss.
So avoid sharing any major character flaws or other personality shortcomings about your bosses because the question is an opportunity to air dirty linen.


Key Takeaways

Generalize your answer: Focus on qualities like excellent interpersonal skills or good organizational skills because this characterizes all good supervisors.

Be Positive: Don’t directly criticize a previous boss, even though it seems like you’re invited to do so.

Make it simple: Refrain from giving long narrations about your previous relationships with managers. Instead, use your answer to demonstrate how you adapt to the employer’s management style.

In the end, employers want to hire people that will lift their burdens, solve problems, and make life easier for them not the opposite way around. The last thing you would like to do is come off as someone who doesn’t get along with people or you’re difficult to manage.

As a boss, equipping yourself with these qualities can help strengthen your leadership skills and encourage your employees to try and do their best because it makes a happier workforce and, ultimately, a more successful business and in the end, everybody wins.

Interview Questions

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