Published On: Wed, Sep 14th, 2011

How to Interview Your Future Boss

This is one of those situations that you need look at as an opportunity rather than something to be intimidated by. Rarely does one get a chance to interview their future boss, so when the opportunity presents itself, you need to make the most of it and do it properly. Essentially it comes down to two things: (a) sizing them up and (b) getting sized up. Whether (a) or (b) is more important depends on how much say you have in the final decision. Obviously the better you do with (a) it’s likely that you’re doing worse with (b) and vice versa. Grilling your potential boss with endless questions is definitely NOT going to make a good impression. Remember, from the moment the interview starts, they will be evaluating whether or not they need to make any resource changes, starting with whether or not to keep you. This evaluation starts right in this first interview.

Obviously, the best approach is one that hits a home run on both objectives. If someone is being interviewed for a management position it is likely they are experienced enough to know what you want to hear. Therefore, you want to avoid those generic and easy to prepare for questions such as: What are your weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is your management style? You’ll just burn clock and get some rehearsed answers that tell you nothing. You’ll also give the impression that you lack creativity. What’s more, you’ll need to give feedback to your current superiors after the interview, so make sure you obtain constructive observations to share. Don’t forget – you need to accomplish (a) AND (b).

Ask questions that demonstrate how they think through problems and how they react to situations. You want to make the interview as conversational as possible rather than a pure question and answer session.

Some tips:

Spend 5 to 10 minutes breaking the ice when you start. This lightens the mood, gives you a chance to show your people skills and also makes them more likely to open up. If you can get along socially for 5 to 10 minutes it is a good sign about your ability to work together in the days, months and even years ahead.

First off, introduce yourself. Tell them about your background and your role. Talk about your department and the challenges and opportunities it faces. This is your 5 minute spiel on yourself. It gives them information about you and allows them to find common ground with you.

Don’t ask stupid questions. Seriously. This is annoying and will also make you look like you’re not the sharpest tool in the box. Think carefully about how YOU would react to each question if you were the one being asked. If in doubt – don’t ask.

Ask them about a time they’ve had an employee that wasn’t meeting their expectations and how they reacted to the situation. Don’t just sit and listen, actively dive into the discussion so you can probe into what happened. Consider how you’d respond to their methods for improving performance. Are they emotional when things are not going their way? Do they stay calm and rational? If you pay close attention to their body language as they respond you’ll get some insight into how they lead.

Ask about what they’re looking for in their next position and what is important to them i.e. what drives them every day? This will give you insight into their motives, how driven they are and whether or not they want to move up in the organization. If they don’t want to move up at some point in time, moving up might prove difficult for you in the future. If you’re career driven, you want to work for someone that is equally as driven, if not more driven. This way, they will push you to  take over their position one day, while they work their way up.

Ask them about their vision for the department / Company and areas they want to focus on and improve. Think about how this lines up with your own personal goals and objectives. It’s important that their plans mesh with what is important to you.

Overall, try to make the interview as relaxed and friendly as possible. When things are relaxed and friendly people drop their guard and are more likely to show you their true selves. Don’t try to test their mettle or give them the hardest interview questions known to man. That’s the job of their boss – in all fairness you’re probably not qualified to make that assessment anyways. They know this, you know this, so why go there?

Good luck!

“To make a long story short, there’s nothing like having a boss walk in.” – Doris Lily


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