External feedback and performance reviews can only go so far in helping you discover your shortcomings, set improvement goals, and build on your strengths. Sometimes, you also need to take a hard, honest look at your performance and ask, "Would I hire myself for this job?" Knowing yourself, your skills, and your experience — and knowing the job (since you're already doing it) — you're well positioned to ask, "Am I the best, practical choice for the job I have or could my organization do better?"
For this strategy to work, you have to ask yourself the tough questions and answer them truthfully. Although those questions will vary from job to job, here are some that might work for you. If nothing else, they will give you an idea of the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself if you're serious about excelling in your work.
#1: Technology changes everyday. Can you list three examples of things you're doing to keep your technical knowledge current?
#2: Your boss has a family emergency that's going to keep him or her out of the office for a week. Your boss can call only one person to keep things running until he or she returns. Are you the one who gets that phone call? If so, why? If not, why not?
#3: What specific steps have you taken over the past six months to either increase the performance of the bottom 20 percent of your staff or to move them to positions where they can be successful?
#4: When was the last time you talked with the account reps for your three largest vendors?
#5: What specific steps have you taken over the past six months to keep your star performers on board and motivated?
#6: If your group services internal clients, what do they think of the work your department is doing? Are you guessing or have you actually asked them in the last 30 days?
#7: If you suddenly get sick, do you have a subordinate you could trust to keep things moving until you get back?
#8: When was the last time you checked on the financial stability of the outsourcing firms you use?
#9: Do you know which of your department's projects is furthest behind schedule? Do you know why?
#10: Consider your direct reports. Does each of them know what your top three priorities are for them?
#11: Consider your boss. When was the last time he or she asked you to take over a special project? If it's been more than six months, why do you think that is?
#12: Can you list three things you're doing to help HR with recruitment or retention?
#13: Personal networking is important for you and your organization. What professional associations do you belong to, and how active are you in them?
A continuing process
For this self-interview to be worth the time you spend on it, you must not only ask tough questions but also make the necessary improvements. On the other hand, the only person who knows the results of this interview is you. If you're relentless in uncovering and correcting your own management weaknesses, you'll find it much easier to land the next job down the line.