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27 June 2011

I'm in the awkward position of being able to briefly interview a potential boss. How to phrase the question?[More:]

I technically have two bosses, although I actually work about 80-90% for one, and much less for the other. My previous lesser boss left a few months ago, and her potential replacement is here interviewing today. (There's only one candidate, oddly. They'll either hire her or they won't. There's no real applicant pool.)

I'll have a few minutes to meet with her and ask questions. My relationship to her position is providing basic support -- calendaring, mostly, but other support as well. My last lesser boss was really pretty awful to work for. It wasn't just me -- lots of other people are scarred by her too.

What I'd like to ask the candidate is how she views, treats, and works with the person who provides support to her, but I'm not sure how to best phrase the question. Best I've come up with is "What would you expect from the person who provides support to you," but I don't like that one very much. Another option is not asking any questions at all, but just chatting.


I only have about an hour, by the way. They didn't tell us until this morning that they'd built time into her schedule for us peons.
Huh. I do and I don't envy you; it's hard to gauge someone's answers when you're still just trying to protect yourself from whatever volley might come next.

You might take this opportunity to split the difference between hardline questions and chatting with the "Tell me about a time when you..." line of questions. It can give a slightly more situational/thoughtful cast to what the person will say, as opposed to, "I am looking for a challenging opportunity where I can grow and work to help my team succeed." It's still pretty standard in interviews, but you can spin it a little more casually or ask about a more specific situation that means more to you.
posted by Madamina 27 June | 11:36
What you want to ask: What kind of quirky ass bullshit can I expect from you?
What you really ask: What are your pet peeves regarding scheduling?
posted by Ardiril 27 June | 11:44
I think any questions you could ask that would get to the heart of what you're worried about would be obvious "trap questions," sort of like asking candidates what their weaknesses are. No one is going to say, "I demand perfection from my subordinates and will browbeat them until they reach perfection!"

Thinking outside the box:

1) Do you or any of your coworkers have any desk puzzles? Maybe you could bring a few in, and ask the candidate to solve them by directing you.

2) Clear the room of all pens, paper, drinks, etc. See if you can get a second team member in the meeting, and make it clear that the other team member will get the candidate anything he/she needs. You might get a better read of how the candidate deals with subordinates by explicitly saying "Here is a subordinate! Go to town!", because even though once the job starts you will be the subordinate, the power dynamic is shifted a little bit in the interview.

posted by Several 27 June | 11:48
"What is your management style? What would be your expectations for support? Can you describe a great support staff relationship you had in the past, and what made that staffer and that relationship so successful?"
posted by Miko 27 June | 12:08
Also, just observe. Ask just about any question that gets them to talk about work and themselves at work, and just listen and observe. It's really not always the words they say that convince you or don't - it's what you can hear between the lines - attitude, approach, confidence, comfort level, degree of attention they pay to you.
posted by Miko 27 June | 12:11
Do you or any of your coworkers have any desk puzzles? Maybe you could bring a few in, and ask the candidate to solve them by directing you.

I *love* that idea. Unfortunately, there are no desk puzzles to be had nearby.
posted by mudpuppie 27 June | 12:24
Thanks, all.

My coworker and I went in as a unit, so I didn't focus on my own position.
posted by mudpuppie 27 June | 14:01
Too late now, but I would ask for a raise.
posted by Ardiril 27 June | 15:35
I was saving that until they actually hire her.
posted by mudpuppie 27 June | 17:02
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