Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at www.noop.nl, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

10 Questions to Ask Your New Manager

03.26.2010
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When I interview people for a job position, I always ask them if they have any questions for me.

But they rarely have. Some candidates even look surprised.

Why?

A job is an economical relationship between you and your manager. What you bring to the table are knowledge, skills, and experience. What your manager offers are a salary, interesting projects, and a great working environment.

Both of you should be asking each other questions!

Here are some questions, off the top of my hat:

  1. What do know about management? What models do you use?
  2. What books and blogs do you read? Which managers are your source of inspiration?
  3. Are your teams self-organizing? How? And how do you add value?
  4. Can you give examples of your teams being happy about what you've done for them?
  5. How have you motivated your team members?
  6. What kind of direction, rules and constraints do you impose on teams?
  7. What kinds of impediments have you removed lately?
  8. How do you develop competence and craftsmanship in the teams?
  9. Am I free to use social tools and networks, like Twitter and Facebook?
  10. Can I have business cards without a job title printed on it?

Can you think of some more?

Trust in a business environment can only be achieved when both parties in an economical relationship ask the right questions, and give satisfying answers.

Never be the only one to answer questions!

You know what? Next time when you don't ask me questions, I'm not even going to hire you.

(picture by Stefan Baudy)

References
Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

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Comments

Dave Sims replied on Fri, 2010/03/26 - 8:28am

Hi Jurgen,

Obviously, every employer-employee situation is different, but what I like to see during the hiring process is:

Besides the obvious job duties, what can I do to help better meet the needs of customers and grow the company?

It's all about the customer. Without the customer, we go home. By serving them well, we can grow, apply more resources to our company's products and services to make them better, and therefore serve our customer even better.

Here's what I know and what I can learn and do. Can we use that knowledge to make customers even more successful?

--
David Sims
Flux Job Scheduler
jobscheduler.com

Rigel Kentaurus replied on Fri, 2010/03/26 - 3:54pm

Those questions sound really aggresive and I would dare to say that they would contribute on th person not being hired. They seem to me as a direct attack on the manager and his abilities. Unless the company came to you and offered the job, none of those sound actually like practical questions.

They might be ok if you are hiring a manager, and you want to know about his managing style. This is not the case. There are better questions to try to figure out how the work environment is. For example, asking "could you describe me what is a normal day workflow here" or "what main challenges in the short term do you consider I will have to solve" is way better than the "how do you as a manager add value to your team".

I wouldn't recommend doing any of the questions here if you want to be hired.

Dan Blanks replied on Sat, 2010/03/27 - 6:03pm

I agree with the post that these questions are way to personal or just downright odd (especially 9 and 10). Many managers will take offense at them. Very risky.

As for this...

"You know what? Next time when you don't ask me questions, I'm not even going to hire you."

Really? No matter how qualified I am to do the job? Really? You would refuse to hire someone if he doesn't fit your exact, precise, you-had-better-read-my-mind-or-you're-outta-here criteria for how he should interview?

Do you really want everyone to be just like you? Or a clone of everyone else you've hired so far?

Not a place I would like to work.

OK, fine. Here are some questions I like to ask an interviewing manager and I do think are appropriate to ask.

-- My research indicates that company (or product) XYZ is your biggest competitor. What is your strategy for beating them in the marketplace?

-- What are your company/product's goals? This could be phrased in terms of market share, profit margin, revenue, etc.

-- Am I working directly for you or someone else? (If the answer is "someone else" and they are "not available" to interview you, that's very bad sign).

-- If I accept this position, what do you expect me to accomplish in the short term and long term?

-- Are there benefits besides a straight salary, and in what form? (For example, cash bonuses (good), stock options (it depends), ESPP, etc.)

 -- Why do you like best about this company?

 -- Is there anything about this company you *don't* like? (Tread carefully, though. This is a better question for employees than managers).

 

Shubhashish Bhowmik replied on Sat, 2010/03/27 - 10:09pm

I agree with you that we rarely ask any questions to the interviewer. But there are other aspect as well.

First Interviewer don't like to answer any questions until or unless you have been selected.

Even when you got selected and when you starts asking these questions, he will simply going to answer 2-3 but for others he will say "I would like you to find the answer off your own".

In my opinoin , there must be one question that should be included, which I asked the interviewer quite often, like what are my weak areas in which i can work upon. Some gives you a generic answer like work on fundamentals and other gave a specifc answer like you shouldn't be dominative in your discussions, since they will get impacted in the "camaradire"

Alessandro Santini replied on Sun, 2010/03/28 - 9:01am

If I heard such questions during an interview, the candidate would not have a chance.

Only question 8 is kind of realistic but it is a topic that is generally handled at a corporate-HR level.

Are you REALLY asking a manager if you can use Facebook? Or if you can have your badge-of-honour title on the business card? What blogs is he/she reading?

You cannot be serious. No, really, you cannot.

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Sun, 2010/03/28 - 1:13pm

It's really a good sign if an organization lets you use Twitter and Facebook, etc., for communication with the broader community. Definitely a question worth asking, in my humble opinion. The others too...

Jan Kotek replied on Sun, 2010/03/28 - 2:07pm

Those are REALLY stupid questions. Why should I ask:
"Can you give examples of your teams being happy about what you've done for them?". What possible information does it give to me, as candidate?
Some betteer questions
    1) Can I see source code I will be working on
    2) Had recently any developer left and why?
    3) How good are unit tests?
    4) What are basic code metrics?
    5) How my office looks, do I get window?
    6) Is working from home supported?
    7) Who is doing QA and testing
    8) Are you using SVN, automatic builds, JIRA...
    9) What is project lifecycle and livetime
    10) How code review and acceptance is done?

Alessandro Santini replied on Sun, 2010/03/28 - 4:44pm in response to: Geertjan Wielenga

Geertjan,

sounds like most people forget the concept of "fair use". There are very few companies that nowadays do not let their employees use the internet as a whole. No company hiring people with 3rd-level education would do that - in a field where research is the key and the internet is very often the battleground.

There a few exceptions, of course - asking if I can use twitter or facebook while working in a company dealing with the defense industry, would be nothing but stupid. Another important aspect is *what* is being broadcasted using Twitter or Facebook - there are countless cases where intellectual properties have been unintentionally disclosed using e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc (not to mention the far too stupid "I hate my boss" cases).

Most of the questions portray a person with a big ego, with limited capability of working in a team where methodologies and organization do not match the candidate's view of the world. In fewer words, a prima donna.

And I would definitely discard a genius with prima donna syndrome for a talented person that can nicely integrate with the team and work in harmony.

Alessandro Santini replied on Sun, 2010/03/28 - 4:49pm in response to: Jan Kotek

I totally side with you, Jan. Far smarter questions.

I would also add:

How can I develop my skills? Besides on-the-job training, does the company give sabbatical hours during the week? Do you finance further education? etc.

Victor Tsoukanov replied on Mon, 2010/03/29 - 6:37am

I think main thing that should be clarified is "how happy will you feel yourself on the new job". With provided questions you will not be able to find it out. I think in the middle of you list you will get very angry person right near you. People do not like to be judged. I think the most important thing that should be clarified is what they are waiting from you and try to compare it with your expectations to avoid disappointment in the future.

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Tue, 2010/03/30 - 5:27am in response to: Alessandro Santini

It's probably a question of cultural differences. To me, who is Dutch, just like the author of the article, the questions portray a person who wants to be treated as an adult, as a free thinking individual within an organization of other individuals, working together for a common purpose.

Sunil Verma replied on Sat, 2010/04/03 - 12:11pm in response to: Jan Kotek

These questions make perfect sense. Thanks
Sunil

Andrew Gilmartin replied on Sat, 2010/04/17 - 9:42am

While the tone of the questions is off, the goals are good. How often have you seen a skilled employee frustrated by poor management and/or poor process? Basic, factual questions about project management and team management can be asked of the hiring manager. Whereas, questions of a more qualitative nature should be asked when talking with the team. With that said, wait until you have been given an offer and ask the questions as part of your final assessment.

Carla Brian replied on Fri, 2012/04/27 - 11:54pm

This is so true. Thanks for sharing this one. I hope this will inspire many readers. - Joe Aldeguer

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