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Interviewing your Next Manager

Q. I have a colleague who is interviewing for a management job in our group. We need to interview her and external candidates too. She has been a terrible colleague; she has seniority and acts like she already is a bad manager. She doesn’t pull her own weight and is always late. What can we ask her in the interviews to make sure she doesn’t get the job? And if she does, how can we make sure she doesn’t end up retaliating for interview questions she doesn’t like?

A. Participating in the interview process to hire your next manager is a significant responsibility and you and your colleagues want to take this involvement seriously. Current management has given you the opportunity to provide input for the type of manager you believe will be most effective for you and the organization; they are looking for your professional behavior in running a fair process.

In an effective interview process, each person or group has a different focus on the candidate's experience and style. Consider meeting with human resources or the person coordinating the interview schedule to review the areas each person or group will look at most closely to ensure a full picture of each candidate. Use the job description for the role to develop a list of questions you want to ask all the candidates, not just your colleague.

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Asking behavioral interview questions, the type of questions where people give concrete examples of how they have responded in different situations will help to evaluate your colleague's perceptions of how she acts on the job. You can begin questions with, "Tell me about a time you …” and focus on the highest priorities you see for getting the best manager possible. She won’t be able to give examples that don’t match with your experiences with her. Be sure to ask the same questions of the other candidates, which will give you the same data to make comparisons.

Keep your questions on point, and conversational. Even if you have an adversarial role with her now, make sure it doesn’t enter your part of the interview process. Don’t use this opportunity to educate your colleague about your frustrations with her performance. It is not the right place, and could taint the entire process as “unfair."

You’ll be documenting her responses and reviewing answers and examples with the full interview team. Using your colleague's information, you’ll be able to discuss the challenges you see her responses provide to getting the best performance from the group under her leadership.