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What do I ask a person who's job it will be to tell me what to do?
March 3, 2012 2:00 AM   Subscribe

I have the chance to interview people who are likely to be my manager. What should I ask?

(Asked anonymously, as it wouldn't be too hard for a candidate to connect my real and user name.)

My company is hiring to fill a position where a portion of the job will be managing my project list. I am very cool with this and have actually been asking for someone to fill this role for a while, so I can focus on my technical work.

A bit about me: I work remotely overseas for a firm in the US, primarily as a client facing technical resource with some project management thrown in. I am very independent and know our product very well. I've been with the company a number of years and am well respected and liked (from what I can tell) by my colleagues, both in the US and abroad.

A bit about my company: We do software that is customized for clients. We have around 100 people.

My biggest problem:
I've been struggling for a while with too much work and the lack of a buffer between me and requests for my time from multiple sources. My current manager is aware of this, but due to the time difference, it makes much more sense for me to manage my own involvement in projects, then to have them do it. It is very tough for me to do this and do a very good job on my technical work. One of the roles of the new person will be to manage the requests and resources. I, of course, need this, but also do not want to be in a position when I am being micro-managed. I know how to do my job, and primarily need help vetting and managing requests for my time.

So, based on this context, what are some good question to ask candidates for this position? Keep in mind that my opinion will have some sway in the hiring decision, so I really want to make sure I ask questions that will give me a good sense of what the candidate would be like to work for on a day-to-day basis. Searching on-line brings mostly questions regarding what to ask your potential boss when *you* are interviewing, which though helpful, are not completely on the nose within this context.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Take them to lunch, see how they treat the waitress.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:58 AM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would give them a managing scenario and ask them to tell how they would handle it. You should be able to get a sense of their attention to detail and control over those below them. It wouldn't be totally accurate, but it should give a sense of what they think their management style is.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:46 AM on March 3, 2012


Ask about their experience working in your kind of geographical and time zone set-up cause it's not for everyone.

Ask them about their exeprience managing competent, experienced individuals who work with minimal supervision. How they worked out when they needed to get involved or not and how they managed to find that balance.

Ask them how they liked doing each of these things and what they liked about it. It would concern me if they can't find anything they enjoyed because it would be difficult to do the role you describe well if you didn't enjoy these two scenarios. Likewise I'd be concerned if they had no experience with either one of these scenarios.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:08 AM on March 3, 2012


"What does getting mad look like for you?"
posted by Etrigan at 6:09 AM on March 3, 2012


If it applies to your position: Ask how they handle estimation requests of the form 'How long would it take the technical team to do X', when the act of answering the question itself requires time that could be spent elsewhere. The requester just wants what they perceive as a simple question answered, yet answering it will pull you away from your work. How will the new person handle this?
posted by true at 7:14 AM on March 3, 2012


Ask what are the traits of successful employees who have worked under him. That may give you a clue as to what he values in an employee and whether you'd be a good fit with him.
posted by ccl6yl at 9:54 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ask them about a time when they received unpleasant feedback about an employee and how they handled it.

In that type of setup gossip runs rampant and I have had the experience of having bosses who believed everything other people told them about my performance without bothering to verify it. You want a boss who will think for themselves rather than just believe whatever story they hear first.
posted by winna at 9:57 AM on March 3, 2012


It's difficult to find a good mix of people, even more difficult to find a fit with a boss. In software, like other technical fields, communication is complex and so very essential. I experienced this same exact challenge years ago. We hired the wrong person. He was an errand boy lacking technical depth, communicated top-down only.

My suggestion: I've not done this and you may want to check with HR for 'fairness.' Test for soft-skills by discussing some version of the prisoner's dilmma.
posted by uhom at 10:17 AM on March 3, 2012


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