how to find out if your prospective manager sucks or not

In the comment section of my recent post on managers who won’t manage, a reader asked: What can you ask in job interviews to find out if your prospective manager is someone who can’t or won’t manage?

Such a good question, and possibly one of the most important things you can ask in an interview. Here are some ideas of the types of questions that can help you get a sense of how effective the manager is.

* “How will the success of the person in this position be measured?”
* “What are some of the obstacles the department is currently facing and how are you addressing them?”
* “How would you describe the bar for performance here?”
* “Having seen the impact it can have on the rest of the team when someone isn’t meeting expectations, can you tell me a bit about how you approach it when someone is falling short of that bar?”
* “How would you and other people who work here describe the culture?” (Listen to references to high standards and a constant striving for excellence.)
* “What are some examples of how that plays out?”
* “What kind of person wouldn’t fit in here?”
* “Working from the assumption that everyone has things they’d like to tweak about their manager, what do you think the biggest thing is that the people you manage would like to change about you?”
* “As hard as it is, I think it’s important for managers to transition people out if they’re not the right fit. When is the last time the department fired someone for performance-related reasons?” (Yes, this last one takes balls. But if you set it up right, they’ll get why you’re asking. Just be sure not to seem arrogant or obsessively focused on this in a crazy way.)

Additionally, pay attention to your interactions with other people you come into contact with who work under the manager. Are you impressed with the caliber of those staff? Do people seem happy, motivated, efficient?

Those are some thoughts to start with. What does everyone else think?

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Maven*

    A couple of other thoughts that will depend on the interviewers.

    For HR people, I would want to know what kind of training/development is available for supervisors. How that kind of t/d is implemented and it is measured.

    For the supervisor, along with the already great questions AAM posted, I would ask about the individual’s personal philosophy about management and leadership. I would also like to know how the person came to the job – recruited away (if so, what brought you here) or have been an internally promoted (what resources helped develop you?)

    For the most part, people like to talk about themselves. If you can get the interviewer to talk about him/herself, you can learn a lot.

    Great question!

  2. Anonymous*

    Amazing, thanks so much for posting this! These questions gave me more insight as to what other questions I could ask!

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