Interviewing Your Manager

A reader emailed me and asked, “how do I interview a manager who will be my superior?”The short answer is the same way you interview peers. However, your feelings about your position or your potential boss’ position (or even someone “higher” than one level above you) will certainly influence how you feel and how you interview.First, recognize that an interview is not about power. It’s about starting the introduction process between you and a candidate. Let’s say that you’re a developer and you’re interviewing a project manager. What kinds of questions might you want to ask that project manager? Here are some questions that don’t arise from power, but do arise from the getting-to-know you position:

  • “How did you start your last project?” if you want to know how much planning/organizing this PM did before starting.
  • “In your most recent project, have you had trouble with people asking for more features in the same amount of time?” (If the PM hasn’t had this experience and you have this all the time, that’s a huge red flag.) “How did you deal with it?” That answer should be a great jumping off point to more conversation.
  • “Have you finished a project recently? What did you do to finish it?” I like to hear about release criteria, retrospectives, a celebration, but maybe your PM has other ideas. Again, this is a jumping off point for more conversation.

The key with interviewing managers is to work on making the conversation collegial, and even in terms of power. If the candidate tries to pull rank, you can be pretty sure the candidate will do that at work, not just in the interview.Candidates are people, even if they are manager candidates.

Labels: interview, manager

2 Replies to “Interviewing Your Manager”

  1. Thanks, Johanna, that was helpful. I guess I need to sit down and figure out what is it exactly I want and don’t want in a manager and then start formulating questions in the way you recommend.

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