Two things led to the creation of this post:
1. Last week I blogged about the connection between the manager and how someone feels about his or her job. Bren and Rosa added to my thoughts in posts of their own. We all agree:
A great manager makes our work experience better.
A lousy manager can make our work experience poor, and potentially unbearable.
2. I have been interviewing happy managers for an article I am working on for Worthwhile Magazine. While talking to these great folks, I could not help but think that their employees are lucky - they all seemed to be a blast to work with.
So then I started thinking....
How does one impact whether they work for a great or lousy manager? Is it just a luck of the draw?
While you will never know for sure, you can better the odds that your new manager will be a good one.
By being an artful interviewer.
Most people let the company own the interview process. They assume that the company is in the power seat and do very little in the way of screening the company and hiring manager. I have interviewed hundreds (maybe thousands) of folks and have seen very few interview me back.
A couple examples are fresh in my mind because I am helping a company find a VP of Sales and Marketing.
- One candidate was so good, he/she ran the interview. I was impressed. He/she made sure he/she got the information he/she needed.
- Another candidate did a great job and had a balanced approach. Asking good questions and sharing pertinent information.
- The rest of the candidates were smart and talented, but did not bother to interview us back. At this level (at any level) I expect more.
So, what questions should you ask? Here are a few examples. Each job and situation might call for different questions:
1. Always ask the hiring manager: What do you like best/least about your job? What are your career aspirations? How do you tend to manage people? What are your hot buttons? What stresses you out? Do you have fun at work? Of which accomplishment are you most proud? What is turnover like in the department? Why do people leave the department? Describe the work culture. What type of person is most likely to succeed/fail? How many people have you promoted? How did you get into management? What do you like most about managing people? (not all at once, mind you, sprinkle the questions into the conversation, or perhaps over several conversations)
2. Ask people OTHER THAN the hiring manager: What’s it like to work for the _____(the hiring manager)? Does he or she enjoy his or her work? Describe what it is like to work in the department. What do you like most/least about working here? Why have people left the company? What type of person is most likely to succeed/fail in this department? Do you have fun at work?
3. You will also want to ask about the company. Describe how the company is doing relative to its goals. What changes and new products are planned (they won’t always tell you this)? Who are the company’s competitors? What challenges does the company face in the near future? What kind of reputation does the company have in the marketplace? Who are the target customers?
4. Ask about the job. Over the next year, what would a home run look like? How have past incumbents struggled/succeeded? How has this job changed recently and are there more changes needed? How will you measure the success of the person who hold this job? Describe a typical day/week.
In this VP recruiting process, I was positioned as an external, somewhat objective, person who knew the hiring managers, peers and direct reports very well. I expected to be asked what it was like to work for the company president and CEO. But not everyone bothered to ask! I thought the question was important enough that when someone did not ask me this, I asked him or her, “don’t you want to know what it is like to work for ____?”
As a candidate, you need to come across as pleasant and cooperative, but this does not mean you should let the company run things. In fact, you will often get very high marks for asking well thought out questions. Personally, when someone does not bother to ask good questions, I am disappointed at their lack of preparedness and professionalism.
If you are looking for a job, I understand that, if choices are few, you may not be in a position to be picky about who you work for. But to the extent possible, try to get a read on the hiring manager and factor this into your decision making process.
Go get em!