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Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Person Who Will Be Supervising You

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Never pass up the opportunity to ask relevant questions when your company gives you a chance to participate in the hiring process for a new supervisor. Many organizations engage current employees in the final selection. This is especially true when there are two superbly qualified candidates, and the best way to determine the final choice is to involve the people the candidate will supervise. Choose well-thought-out questions so you don't waste the opportunity to learn more about your future supervisor.

Performance Expectations

You might wonder what your future supervisor wants from you. Some supervisors are clear about their expectations for each project, while others might take a more low-key approach. Ask questions such as, "Knowing the type of work that we do, have you given thought to what our performance standards will be?" and "How do you communicate what your performance expectations are for the people in your department?" Questions like these shed light on whether that candidate has given thought to your job or how she can help you sustain high performance ratings.

Thoughts on Teamwork

Many supervisors like team-oriented departments that foster collaborative working relationships among employees. Others like to see whether employees have what it takes to work independently. Ask a future supervisor what she thinks about teamwork, and when it's necessary. Also, ask about her method for creating teams. You could ask, "Do you create work groups based on level of expertise -- say, a mix of employees with deep expertise and new employees who could learn from more experienced workers?"

Job Evaluations

Once you understand what your future supervisor's performance expectations will be, probe a little deeper and ask how she typically evaluates the employees who report to her. Ask her if she conducts regular or formal performance appraisals, and if so, how often. You might also probe into her specific techniques for assessing employees by asking something like, "Are you in favor of SMART goals for outlining an employee's professional development plans?" If you've been through performance appraisals that seemed useless, ask a supervisor candidate what she believes is the best way to measure job performance.

Leadership Style

What you probably want to know more than anything else is if your future supervisor will be standing over your shoulder all the time. However, posing a question like that would likely come across in a negative way. Instead, you could ask, "Are you a hands-on supervisor, or do you encourage your employees to be resourceful, such as talking through solutions to problems with my co-workers before coming to you for help?" or "What types of communication do you prefer to use to inform your employees about staff changes or changes to work processes?"


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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