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What is a skip level interview and when should you have them?

If you're a business manager or owner, then at some point you’ll likely be confronted with the opportunity to conduct a skip level interview. But what is a skip level interview, when should you have one, and what should be addressed during one?

Let’s take a few minutes to cover what these interviews are and when they can be helpful in your decision-making process.

What is the purpose of a skip level interview?

A skip level interview is a meeting between an employee and their manager's manager. The purpose of this type of interview is to improve communication and feedback between different levels of management. This type of interview can also help to identify problems that may be occurring at lower levels of the organization. By speaking with employees who are directly affected by managerial decisions, upper-level managers can gain a better understanding of the issues facing the organization.

Additionally, skip level interviews provide employees with an opportunity to voice their concerns and make suggestions for improvement. In many organizations, these types of interviews are conducted on a regular basis in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that everyone has a chance to be heard.

Skip level interviews are a powerful tool that can help organizations identify potential problems and areas for improvement. By speaking directly with employees who are two or more levels below the manager being interviewed, skip level interviews provide a valuable perspective that can be missed in traditional one-on-one interviews.

When is a skip level interview appropriate?

A skip level meeting is a meeting between an employee and their manager's manager. This type of meeting can be useful in a variety of situations. For example, if an employee has concerns about their direct manager that they feel they can't raise with them directly, a skip level meeting can provide an opportunity to air those concerns. Similarly, if an employee feels they are being passed over for opportunities or not receiving adequate feedback, a skip level meeting can be a way to get their voice heard.

In general, a skip level meeting is appropriate when there is a need for communication that transcends the normal chain of command. By bypassing the direct manager, employees and managers can communicate more freely and openly, leading to better understanding and cooperation.

On top of this, these meetings can also be helpful in sharing information or ideas between different levels of an organization. When used effectively, skip level meetings can be a valuable tool for improving communication and collaboration within a company and across departments and chains of command.

What questions should you ask during a skip level interview?

Asking the right questions is key to any successful interview, and skip level interviews are no exception. When meeting with someone who is one or more levels above you in the organization, it's important to ask questions that will help you gain insights into their role, their priorities, and the challenges they're facing. Here are a few examples of questions that can help you make the most of a skip level interview:

  • What are the biggest challenges you're facing in your role right now?

  • What are your top priorities for the team/ department?

  • What do you see as our biggest strengths as an organization?

  • How do you see our team/ department progressing in the next year or two?

Asking these types of questions will help you get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities your manager is facing, and how your team can best support them. In addition, it shows that you're interested in the organization's success and are willing to think beyond your own immediate role. So next time you're scheduled for a skip level interview, use these questions as a starting point to ensure a productive and insightful conversation.

That being said, if you’re the upper manager in this situation, your questions will need to come from a slightly different perspective.

In a skip level interview, the upper manager is looking to get an accurate pulse on how the lower level employee is feeling. This type of interview can be beneficial because it allows the manager to hear feedback directly from the employees, without interference from the middle management.

When conducting a skip level interview, the manager should ask questions about job satisfaction, engagement levels, motivation, and anything else that would give insight into how the employee is feeling. By taking the time to listen to what the employees have to say, the manager can make changes that improve morale and increase productivity.

How long should a skip level interview last?

A skip level interview is typically shorter than regular performance reviews, lasting 15-20 minutes. However, the purpose of a skip level interview is not simply to provide feedback - it's also an opportunity for leaders to get to know their direct reports' strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. Skip level interviews can be conducted quarterly or annually, depending on the needs of the organization. When done regularly, they can help to improve communication and understanding between employees and their managers.


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