Candidates: Ask Questions of Your Interviewers

I spoke with a colleague this morning, who’s considering taking on a test management position. He wanted to take advantage of his time to ask questions of his interviewers, because the previous two managers were not successful in the position. Here are the questions he’s decided to ask:

  • What is your management style? (When he listens for this, he’ll listen for acknowledgement that his future manager has thought about management styles. This is a hypothetical question, unless he checks the answers with a peer manager.)
  • How will I be judged/evaluated? (If your hiring manager hasn’t analyzed the job and developed concrete actions for you to take as a new hire, this is a great way to start the conversation.)
  • How do you organize the work? (Everyone organizes. Some people have opaque organizations, some have transparent organizations 🙂
  • What are your expectations? (Especially for a test manager or a support manager, understanding the expectations of your manager is a Very Good Idea. Are you supposed to find all the defects? (Impossible.) Are you supposed to close each incident within 24 hours? (Impossible.)
  • Tell me about a time when there was a disagreement between you and your staff (one or many). What happened? (Here’s a chance to hear how interventionist your manager is and if there’s a lot of conflict among the staff. Some managers bury conflict: “We have no conflict.” Some resolve it all themselves, the managers look like a bunch of 3-year-olds. Some encourage discussion and then everyone’s supposed to have the same public face. Discover what causes conflict, and how it’s handled.
  • What do you think the differences are between managing a testing group and managing a programming group? (Especially if the test manager reports to a manager who’s from the development arena, this is a critical question. If the manager says, “I haven’t thought about it,” you have an opportunity to learn from each other. If the manager says, “No difference,” I would run away.
  • What do you do when a bug is found? (Some managers go directly to blame instead of fixing and considering corrective action.)
  • When is the last time you wanted to change something in your group. What happened? (Frequently, test managers are supposed to drive change, but no one else thinks they need to change. Oops. Use this question to see what else has changed and how.)
  • Has there been anything you have wanted to drive change about? What happened? (Managers need to change things every so often, to be effective. This is a check to make sure your potential manager is intentional about changing things.)

Take the time to think of questions that make sense for your role and the context of the organization. Make sure you ask your questions in a behavior-description way, wherever possible. Whatever you do, make sure you avoid leading questions (“You give regular feedback to your employees, right?”) Leading questions tell the person how to answer the question, and you want to know what the manager really does and doesn’t do.

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