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Letters to a Young Manager

Three Things, #120
LTYM > Communication

Dear Adam,
You asked about good interview questions to ask for IT positions. There are a number of infamous examples, like the Microsoft riddles [1] and Google brain-teasers [2]. These focus on problem solving skills and the ability to imagine all the angles.

For IT Manager positions the focus is more on people skills, which I wrote you about in other letters. It seems the more senior the IT position, the less technical the important questions. Perhaps the most important of these is about the ability to fill the "Chief Translator" role, being able to describe the technical issues in business terms and the business issues in technical terms.

The hardest thing for technical people to learn is how to find the bottom line [3]. You can't be an effective IT manager if you're not good at this.

Rather than about good interview questions, here is a lesson in good interview answers: I once served on a search committee for a nonprofit board of directors. One of the candidates did something with grace and agility that has stayed with me. He applied the "rule of three". For each question we asked, he answered with three summary points, then elaborated on each a bit, and recapped the three at the end. It was a great technique and he got the job. He showed good "bottom-lining" skills that are so important when speaking with senior managers who don't need or want all the details.

By the way, it's also a good approach for presentations and talking strategy.
Best regards,

[1] See
[2] See
[3] See my Blog post


If you can't bottom-line your message, you have no message

Discussion Questions:

1) How would you go about determining the top three things to say?
2) How and why is an interview like a strategy discussion?
3) Venture capitalists talk about hiring the management team rather than the product. Why?

For Further Reading:

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