A supervisor oversees the day-to-day workings of a specific team, work shift, or business department. As designated lead, they manage their staff whilst reporting back to and following instructions from senior management.
A supervisor‘s role involves various responsibilities, from ensuring a productive workflow to compiling performance reports. They support those under their authority with training and appraisals, work to resolve team conflicts, and seek out areas of improvement to better meet objectives.
As part of an organization‘s management team, those appointed the role of supervisor must be motivated to succeed on behalf of their employer. They must also possess a set of key skills and abilities, from effective leadership to data analysis.
This article explores these skills and abilities in more depth. It covers what to look out for when recruiting for supervisory roles, and how to identify the strongest talent in your applicant pool using pre-employment testing.
What should a supervisor be able to do?
A supervisor can work in almost any kind of organization or business setting, so there can be significant variations in the exact duties they are tasked with.
Daily, a supervisor is typically involved in the following:
- Planning operational activity and managing productive workflows in line with company standards and procedures.
- Organizing schedules and delegating tasks, clearly communicating team and individual responsibilities.
- Acting as an intermediary between senior management and employees, passing information between the two.
- Monitoring team and individual performance, providing guidance and feedback as necessary.
- Carrying out inductions with new members of staff and providing ongoing training.
- Conducting performance reviews and making recommendations for further training, reward or promotion.
- Resolving team conflict and employee issues.
- Keeping accurate personnel records, accounting for sick days, holidays, etc.
- Handling customer complaints that have escalated (when employed in a customer-facing environment).
- Managing disciplinary action as and when required.
- Ensuring all work is completed in line with legal requirements.
Skills to look for in a supervisor
A strong candidate for a supervisory role will have a broad skill set that enables them to successfully manage both people and processes.
When deciding on criteria against which applicants will be measured, consider the following skills as essential:
- Time management: supervisors are responsible for managing their priorities as well as overseeing the workload of their team, so they must possess excellent time management skills. They should be able to plan activities in the most productive way possible, whilst ensuring their schedule runs smoothly.
- Problem solving: when issues arise in the workplace supervisors are typically the first point of contact, working to find a solution without needing to progress the issue further up the management chain. They must identify the root cause of a problem and determine a course of action that is effective and aligned with company procedures.
- Communication: relaying information clearly and concisely is key to good team management, so supervisors need both written and verbal communication skills. They‘ll use these skills to provide instruction, offer constructive criticism, and discuss performance with senior management.
- People skills: from conflict resolution to performance reviews, there are many aspects of a supervisor‘s role that require them to treat employees with care and respect. They must be attentive to the needs of others, show empathy and compassion, and treat each team member as an individual.
- Leadership: strong leadership shows itself in many ways. In a supervisory role, it means knowing how best to work with a team‘s strengths and weaknesses, motivating others to reach their full potential, and pitching in when necessary.
Useful abilities for a supervisor
A successful supervisor won‘t just have the skills outlined above - they‘ll also have the capacity to apply them effectively. For this, they‘ll need the following abilities:
- Critical thinking: critical thinking ability allows a supervisor to be objective, evaluating things like individual and team performance from an evidence-based perspective. This will allow them to solve problems and make decisions in the best interests of the company.
- Numerical aptitude: supervisors must track key performance metrics and conclude from these to improve practices and procedures. This means they must be comfortable interpreting data and hold a high level of numerical reasoning ability.
- Decision making: since a supervisor holds a level of authority, they must be confident in making decisions autonomously. These decisions should be based on fact, made with sound professional judgment, and free from any personal bias.
- Delegation: a good supervisor understands the makeup of a team and how to leverage it to full effect. They can delegate the right jobs to the right people to ensure a productive, collaborative effort. They also consider the workload of each individual, making sure tasks are assigned in a fair and equal manner.
- Accountability: as a trusted member of the management team, a supervisor must take responsibility for their actions, holding their hands up when things go wrong and learning from their mistakes. Most of all, a supervisor should never pass the blame onto those working below them.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a supervisor?
A good recruitment strategy involves a range of tools and techniques that allow the hiring team to build insightful candidate profiles. This includes pre-employment tests that assess skills otherwise difficult to measure.
The soft skills tests you should consider when hiring for a supervisory role include:
- Decision making: this is an assessment of a candidate‘s flair for making well-considered, evidence-based decisions. Through a series of multiple-choice questions, they‘ll apply professional judgment and critical thinking to select the most effective course of action.
- Time management: here you‘re looking at critical time management skills such as organization, prioritization, and delegation. A candidate‘s results will tell you if they‘re capable of managing both their workload and that of their assigned team.
- Accountability: use an accountability test to ensure a candidate has the sense of responsibility to act in a supervisory capacity. Multiple choice questions will challenge their work ethic and ownership, giving you confidence that they‘re management material.
- Leadership: a supervisor role is the first step on the management ladder, so anyone appointed should have the potential to climb to the top. You can assess this potential with a leadership test and ensure your chosen hire will get the best from those under their supervision.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a supervisor?
Pre-employment tests should be used as a screening tool, with results helping to narrow down the applicant pool to the strongest talent. As well as testing for soft skills, you should also incorporate relevant technical and aptitude tests.
When hiring a supervisor, the following can add greater insight to the selection:
- Logical reasoning: a logical reasoning test challenges the candidate to identify patterns and rules that affect processes, a natural talent that dictates problem-solving and decision-making ability. A high score on this test shows an individual competent in the day-to-day application of success-related logic.
- Numerical reasoning: questions on a numerical reasoning test deal with information presented as data sets, which a candidate must interpret to draw the right conclusion. A supervisor will use this same reasoning ability as they evaluate performance data and work to find areas of improvement.
- Verbal reasoning: here the test taker must draw conclusions from written information, extract facts, identify inferences and weigh up arguments. A candidate with strong verbal reasoning ability will prove a strong communicator, able to interpret complex information and relay it in simple terms.
Depending on the nature of your business and the tools a supervisor will be expected to use, you may also want to administer software tests. For example, you may want to measure proficiency in Office applications or test for working knowledge of a CRM like Hubspot.
Our recommended test battery for a supervisor
Pre-employment testing enables objective, well-informed selection - provided you administer tests that cover essential skills and abilities.
For supervisory roles, our recommended test battery is as follows:
- Logical reasoning: to test for natural abilities that result in effective problem solving and decision making.
- Numerical reasoning: to ensure candidates can interpret data and use their understanding to improve working processes.
- Time management: this test will give assurance that shortlisted candidates can fulfill their duties on time whilst implementing a productive workflow.
- Leadership: use this to test for leadership capability and the many skills involved in it, including communication, people skills, delegation, conflict resolution, and accountability.
For more information on how to hire a supervisor, visit our dedicated supervisor test page.