Should Subordinates Interview Potential Bosses?

Don't make the hiring process harder then it needs to be. Diversify.

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Suzanne Lucas

I just had an all day interview with eight individuals for a director position. I was interviewed by people I would be directly supervising. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Is this the new direction that interviewing is taking--for subordinate staff to have a say in who will be their immediate supervisor? Or do you think this is more of a way for senior management to include subordinate staff and let them feel like they have input [in] a decision which they may not?

This is confusing to me. As a senior manager who also does hiring, I would never allow a subordinate staff member, or even a peer, for that matter, be part of the interview process.

I'm not sure I'd want to work for you.

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(Although, in writing that, I think I've pretty much ensured that will never happen. Shoot. Burned a bridge I've never even been on.)

I like having subordinates involved in the hiring process. While they should not have the final decision, their input can be invaluable. After all, they are the ones who are going to have to put up with the new boss.

Now, if the subordinates are really a bunch of losers, then yeah, keep them out of the interview. But, if you've got quality people, letting them talk to the candidates can be helpful. They know what they do better then you do, and they can ask and answer questions regarding the true work of the department. Plus, you don't want to lose your quality employees, and if you hire someone they hate, you will.

[See how to stop the office bully.]

I can, however, see why someone might find it a little uncomfortable to be interviewed by direct reports. If the direct reports don't like the candidate, but the hiring manager does, the new person can start a job with their employees already resenting him. There can be a fine line.

The reason for my strong response is that you wouldn't want a peer to interview candidates either. Unless you work in a vacuum, this seems like the picture of micro-management. Are you willing to accept input from peers and subordinates in your other decisions? You should be.

Hiring is one of the most difficult decisions managers have to make. Insisting that you get no outside input just throws up red flags everywhere. Your peers can be exceedingly valuable resources in the hiring process. Interviewing is not an easy task (and HR definitely fails to train people to do it properly). Take input where you can get it.

Peers can help determine how a candidate will fit into the department and company as a whole, focus on things that are not your strengths, provide input on a potential career path for the candidate, and a whole host of other things. Plus, they might just ask a question that you forgot or didn't think to ask. Peers also frequently are potential clients of your employees. Hiring people they like will make you look good.

If you are the sole interviewer, or even if your management chain interviews the person, you are more likely to miss things. Don't make the hiring process harder then it needs to be. You play to your strengths, let others play to theirs.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.