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Ask Slashdot: Interviewing Your Boss? 219

First time accepted submitter Uzuri writes "I'm soon going to have the experience of interviewing an individual to be my direct supervisor. I have in mind several things to ask already, especially since I also have the strange position of working as a technical person in a non-technical office and want to be able to be certain that the interviewee understands exactly what that means without coming off as hostile or condescending. What sort of questions would you ask/have you asked the person who was to be your boss? What sort of tells would you look for? What's out of bounds?"
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Ask Slashdot: Interviewing Your Boss?

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  • Who's the boss? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rla3rd ( 596810 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @03:57PM (#42278367)
    Ask him who's the boss? If he says you, give him a big thumbs up!
  • by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Thursday December 13, 2012 @03:58PM (#42278395)
    Give them an example of situations and ask how they would react. I would choose the biggest mistake that I've made at my current job, and the biggest accomplishment. Their reaction will tell them if you want to work with them supervising you or not. You needn't tell them that this is what you personally did, but you know what an appropriate response to the situation should be and can contrast it to what the actual response was at the time.
  • you are crazy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by datapharmer ( 1099455 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:00PM (#42278431) Homepage
    Don't hire your boss, find a different job! The idea that someone is qualified to hire their own superior is so asinine that it could only come out of a corporate red-tape nightmare so awful it is doomed to an epic fail. If the company had any idea about how to manage whatsoever then they would either have someone higher-up the ladder do the hiring or move someone qualified up from within. Run! Run now! Run fast!
  • by ibsteve2u ( 1184603 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:01PM (#42278455)
    Do you evaluate performance based upon specific goals - that is, lines of code/subroutines/class modules/interfaces/boards/prototypes/thingamabobs built, or something more ethereal, like how well I kiss ass?
  • Re:It depends... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:04PM (#42278513) Journal

    You don't want that.

    Sure, sounds like it'd be fun, sleeping with the boss and all. At least until you break up.

  • Re:Ask him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:13PM (#42278667) Homepage Journal
    Very good, mod parent up. Body language is very important. Does he/she keep his/her hands visible, and what "story" do the hands tell ? Do you get to look the interviewee straight into the eyes, and as often as you want ? Deduct points for every time you hear "Honestly..." or "Frankly...", for you may be sure that after these words you are going to hear the exact opposite of what they mean.
  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:14PM (#42278673) Journal

    Reject any management candidate who has job-hopping in their history. If they spent less than 2 years or so in their last three positions and the companies they worked for are still around, odds are good there's a reason behind all that shuffling, and it indicates that said manager never really got to know his or her team that well.

  • Re:you are crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JonniLuv ( 864539 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:15PM (#42278707)

    Don't hire your boss, find a different job! The idea that someone is qualified to hire their own superior is so asinine that it could only come out of a corporate red-tape nightmare so awful it is doomed to an epic fail. If the company had any idea about how to manage whatsoever then they would either have someone higher-up the ladder do the hiring or move someone qualified up from within. Run! Run now! Run fast!

    In converse, I'd say if you aren't qualified to interview a potential future manager, you have some serious deficiencies in life skills. This practice is against the status-quo of corporate red tape practices. Also in direct contradiction to your statement, I'd say that always having people higher up the ladder do the interviewing is one of the causes of hiring bad managers, and having direct reports participate in the process is part of a good solution the problem.

  • by hellkyng ( 1920978 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:19PM (#42278785)

    A similar strategy I use a lot of times is ask them a question they don't know the answer to. The purpose of the questions isn't to make them look bad, but to gauge their reaction. For example in some interviews I've asked "Can you define and explain the purpose of ASLR and DEP?" for a technical interview. The answer I'm looking for in this case is "I don't know, but I'll find out." But I've gotten people who got flustered, confused, and worst totally lied.

    Its an interesting strategy I think to find someone with an open mind who can be honest with themselves. You also want to be prepared to provide the answer, and let them know "I didn't expect you to know that, its something you would learn or blah blah blah." Either way the reaction to tough questions is the most valuable tool I have as interviewer I think.

  • Re:Who's the boss? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shawnhcorey ( 1315781 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:23PM (#42278843) Homepage
    Bruce [] (who else?)
  • by DrewBeavis ( 686624 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:26PM (#42278889)
    In my previous position, I wasn't on the committee, per se, but gave an operational tour to each candidate and tried to explain what we did and our job functions. One candidate didn't seem to pay much attention and was eliminated because he wanted too much money. Another candidate thought he knew more than I did about our operations since he had glanced at our website and walked around the building before the interview. The third candidate was able to understand what I was saying to him and asked good questions about what we did. This casual back and forth was helpful in assessing his demeanor and grasp of technology. He was a manager, so he wasn't actively managing servers and such, but knew what I was talking about and not just buzzwords. I was able to recommend him to the committee and I left his department seven years later with a good reference. Things that stand out to me about people, especially managers: proper dress, profanity during the conversation, excessive sarcasm, and any hints of poor anger management. I may be old school, but I want a manager that doesn't yell or swear at me during our interactions and isn't sarcastic.
  • Re:Ask him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Synerg1y ( 2169962 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:27PM (#42278915)
    Managers should manage, coders should write code. A manager should get the jist of what's going on beneath him/her, but not partake in it. Also, the obvious question comes to mind that I haven't seen yet... why not promote yourself?

    Let's think about this, if you're good enough to hire your own boss, you're good enough to be that guy, well betas excluded.

    I've turned the opportunity down once (to become the boss), and I felt like I had a slew of good reasons, but I'll always wonder what if till it comes up again anyways. But... if somebody asked me to hire my own boss, I'd recommend myself and if not, I'd find another place to work. Under no circumstance do I want to hire then train a person who's going to be making more than me and telling me what to do, that has "not ends well" written all over it. Most management types are POS anyways.
  • by clawsoon ( 748629 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:28PM (#42278929)
    If a candidate finds technical questions threatening or condescending, you probably don't want them as your boss. You want someone who's okay with the fact that you have more technical knowledge than they do, but is still able to speak (and listen) intelligently about technical subjects.
  • Re:Ask him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2012 @04:44PM (#42279179)

    In answer to your question about "why not promote yourself", allow me to quote your own post

    Managers should manage, coders should write code

    Some people are comfortable and enjoy managing, others are comfortable and enjoy clacking on a computer.... myself being very much in the latter category. I absolutely can't stand the thought of managing a team and having to deal with interpersonal people problems and office politics, whereas instead I could just do what I love instead.

    For some people, the ultimate goal of your work at a location isn't "make as much money as humanly possible", but instead "Enjoy what you do". There literally was an opportunity for me to apply for a management position. I didn't even slightly think about putting in my resume for it.

    Why would I want to do a job where I'm going to be miserable? If I can currently feed, clothe, and shelter myself quite comfortably, what incentive do I have to be miserable for almost all of my waking hours for the next 3 or 4 decades, with the only payoff being able to feed, clothe, and shelter myself slightly fancier?

    Sorry, I'd rather not spend the best years of my life deliberately making myself miserable.

  • Re:Ask him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2012 @05:04PM (#42279571)

    I hear that bullshit about "honestly" and "frankly" all the time and most everyone believes it. I say the same words as filler speech to invoke attention at the beginning of a statement or to add a bit of dramatization. It certainly doesn't mean I'm lying. Honestly, when I'm lying, I won't say that shit because of the connotation it has on it. I'll also look you straight in the eyes.

  • Re:Ask him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Thursday December 13, 2012 @05:45PM (#42280215) Journal

    Body language is very important.

    Aaaggh! This is what I hate so about interviewing. All my education, training, and experience means less than a highly subjective and unreliable measure such as body language. In those kinds of interviews, it's annoying to discover you've been wasting your time talking with someone who doesn't care what you're talking about because they don't know jack about technology. All they've been doing is judging your mannerisms, seeing how old you look, and listening for any hints about your family situation that they're not supposed to consider when making a hiring decision.

    You rely on body language, and you will get stuck with the bullshit artists. There are more bullshit artists than there are competent engineers. Think you can tell the different between these two kinds of people? If you don't know the field, you haven't got a chance. Take people who are weak on math and hazy about the odds and rules of poker but who think they're great at reading body language, and see how far they get.

  • Re:Ask him (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cammi ( 1956130 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @06:06PM (#42280545)
    One word... family. Almost a decade ago, I was interviewing people to be my supervisor. We ended up with a person who did not fit ... and he ended up leaving last year. After that, I applied for the position and got it. I didn't do it because of the position, I do not care much for managing. But I did it because of two reasons: 1. Who know's what the next person/wildcard would be. I could not take that chance. 2. Pay raise. At the time, my family was growing, so I needed income to keep pace (I know, I know, plan before having kids, but as any parent knows, life does not work that way). I am not miserable, as not only do I have my programming duties, but I have managing duties as well.
  • Re:Ask him (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 9jack9 ( 607686 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @07:00PM (#42281441)

    There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions

    1. Can you do the job?
    2. Will you love the job?
    3. Can we tolerate working with you?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2012 @07:35PM (#42281909)

    Proper dress? Seriously? That's first on your list?

    We are not talking about what he might wear to the office day-to-day. It's what he's wearing when he knows he's on display. Doesn't have to be a suit, but it shouldn't be excessively out-of-place. If so, he probably lacks the ability to notice other things, like when his "unique style" is actually scaring people. Had this happen once, a hardcore ex-military type "motivated" my team. I, being ex-military too, recognized it as a motivation speech, but about half my peers thought he was furious.

    Casual fucking cussing is fine by me.

    It's fine by me too, but it's not fine during an interview. Nor is it fine when meeting the bride and groom at a wedding, nor a funeral, and not in a dozen or more other situations. Knowing when to let one's hair down is just as important as the ability to do so. If he cusses at an interview, he lacks the ability to know how it will be received. Do you really want a lifelong pal that you've known for fifteen minutes? Ditch him.

    The only real question is the 'Anger management' one. Which you will never get to during an interview anyhow.

    You would be surprised. Perhaps you haven't been in enough interviews. Had one where the driving/parking behaviours of "someone else" obviously was still on his mind (and lips). Had a few that talked over your questions, and after having the questions repeated in completion got irritated that we were asking the same stuff. Some people can manage themselves, some can't.

    Also note: Sarcasm. You do want a boss with a sense of humor and low tolerance for incompetence (assuming you are competent). Otherwise the god damn care bear will have you surrounded by air thieves.

    A sense of humor manifests itself in many ways. Effective sarcasm requires shared experiences with the audience. Personally I don't think we've moved in the same circles enough to even know what you mean by that last sentence. A person getting interviewed is likely in the same boat.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.