Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Interview

Management Competency

As I get older, weaker and wiser some things have become clear to me out of the fog of reality. One of those things is that many of the people that I have worked 'for' (supervisors, managers, directors, etc...) were anything but competent. In fact, many of them screwed up the organization that they worked for more than they helped it earn money or stay solvent.

As I became more confident of myself and my abilities, it sort of dawned on me that many of the questions that I was asked in job interviews were asinine. They were obviously created by some idiot legal / psychology team to try and find the ideal job applicant based on bizarre questions concerning my personality. (If you were a tree what would you be?).

Since I know from experience just how incompetent some of these managers that interview me are, I have developed a list of interview questions of my own. I get to spring these at the end of the interview when they ask the final question which is always "do you have any questions?" At that point I pull out my list and start asking. Needless to say, I have not gotten many job offers lately but that is OK, since I don't want to work for some moron that can't answer these.

The Manager Interview:

What is your Degree and from what School? Good to know if degreed from the school of hard knocks or just went through the motions to get a sheep skin.

Follow up: Are you doing any continuing education? Real question shows if they are moving forward, trying to learn more and advance or if they are just dead wood taking up space.

What is your tenure at this job and what did they do previously? Lets you know if they have come up through the ranks and really understand the job or if they were appointed by someone as a favor or are someone's second cousin.

Free word association. Hummer or VW Beetle? The question if obvious to all but management. One shows practicality, frugalness, and outgoing personality. The other shows brute force, fear, intimidation. Who would you want to work for?

What is the turnover ratio in your division? A question that any manager should know, but many have to think about it and or don't want to talk about it.

What is your favorite TV show? Trick question. Those that watch television are influenced by television and television lies to folks. I don't want to work for a manager whose favorite show is Friends or Survivor.

What Is Your Worst Trait? I am so tired of being asked this question in interviews that it is fun to see how management answers it. Since they like to consider themselves as infallible and are always worried about getting the company sued, they never want to answer it and then have it used against them later on down the road.

What is your idea of a 'Team Building' exercise, and what have you done recently to promote one? Again, this is something that makes folks cringe unless they are actually doing it. The best are things outside the office, such as team sports or seminars, etc. Office parties are the worst, since those are basically charades in office dress. No team building in the office shows malaise and deadwood. The manager isn't thinking pro-actively.

How long do you plan on being here and what are your carrier goals? Some managers will say they are going to sit still until they retire. Not a very dynamic work environment and they will be adverse to anything that rocks the boat.

What is your favorite way to pass the time / what is your hobby? Beware the person that has no hobby or passion for anything outside the office. They have given into the dark side and their job is their life and they will make it yours as well.

If publicly traded, ask what the NYSE or NASDAQ stock ticker is and where you might be able to get a hard copy of the last annual report. If they don't know this, then they really don't know their company, nor do they care.

Ask them the difference between Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. If they don't know, then they don't know the nuts and bolts of how the automated office works. They are figureheads that have little knowledge of what is going on.

Is there an office procedure manual and how often / when was it last updated? Big management no-no if they don't know this. The correct answer is that is should be updated continuously and there should always be one person assigned to it and there needs to be a process where ALL employees get updates and are instructed what has been changed.

Free word association - Vacation or Money. What would you rather have right now? Everyone wants vacation. If they want money, they are not good planners and are living beyond their means. Everyone wants to get out of the office and have a life unto themselves. Those that don't, have problems.

Ask them what their favorite search engine is. If they don't know, bad answer. It is the basic way you find information in the computer age. If they can't find information, they rely on others to get it for them. Google and MSN searches are most likely. Yahoo is also up there, Ask Jeeves and DogPile shows some forward thinking and knowledge of the net.

Ask them if they know the definition of the 'Peter Principle'. This is sort of extra credit and could get you into trouble, but will show you if the manager is competent, a people person and has a sense of humor. The Peter Principle is an axiom in business that states; "In any given organization, every employee will rise to the level of their own incompetence." It basically means that every one will get promoted until they get into a job that they are totally clueless about.

Ask them what the one thing that they would like to do that would make their office/organization run better, but that they have been unable to do / implement. This is dual question, because it will show the failings of the organizational structure and the honestly of the manager. (Follow up; what are they doing to get around this?)

Ask them how fast they can touch type. If it is less than 40 wpm (or they don't know), then they have no hands on experience doing any job, or are a hold over from the days of secretaries. It is very likely that they are incompetent.

Ask them what is more important, assigned parking or a corner office. The answer is 'neither'. These are nothing but ego boosters for those that live for such things. The right answer would be assigned parking for employee of the month or having a corner break room to promote moral.

Free word association: Stoking the fire or greasing the wheels. Managers NEVER stock the fire, the paycheck does that. Their only job is to grease the wheels and make it easier for others to do their jobs. If the wheels are rusted, it does not matter how much heat is under the boiler.