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I've worked in the IT profession for 12 years and participated in maybe ~40 phone interviews as the interviewer and interviewee. Never have I seen or heard of the interviewer's boss silently listening in to the call and not introducing themselves. This happened for the first time I'm aware recently. In this case, the interviewer made an offhanded joke referring to his boss in the room.

I see the red flags in this, as the subordinates may feel pressure to hold back on any perceived negatives. Their boss also called me personally to ask me to apply, as I had a previous working relationship with him elsewhere. I don't want to ignore red flags, but what would be neutral or positive reasons for this?

Edit: I took @mutt's (obvious in hindsight) advice and asked the boss directly. Turns out I made an assumption that the subordinates were in a conference room. They were at their desks which are located next to the boss. While I question not being in a conference room for guaranteed privacy, it wasn't on the boss and more on the subordinates in that case.

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    I've done this with my boss listening before. It's a little weird, but could to see if the applicant drops their guard with their peer. I've had a female co-worker who interviewed a candidate that was hitting on her the entire time, so having a silent manager listening in and intervening would been helpful. – jcmack Jul 13 '18 at 19:26
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    Could be to evaluate the interviewer without unduly pressuring the interviewee. – cdkMoose Jul 13 '18 at 20:54
  • If the boss personally asked you to apply because he knew you from a previous job, maybe him sitting in on this interview was just an exception, since he knew you? – Steve-O Jul 13 '18 at 23:42
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In general a boss would "listen in" to get the gist of the candidates, but most likely to get the style of the interviewer themselves to know better how they go about interviewing and selecting candidates. I personally would do this to know about the interviewer.

I would also introduce myself and let people know I am listening in, but I have run into a few folks that seem to like to be secretive. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does indicate they are a type of person that keeps secrets vs. sharing alot of info with others. This could be a red flag, but you really should just ask them why they are on there without introducing themselves if you want to know. There is not enough information to assume anything realistic or certain from this simple interaction.

Also, there are some places that require supervision on interviews for internal company political reasons. If the boss must be on the interview but really doesn't plan on saying anything this could be a reason.

Again, when in doubt on something like this your best bet is to be direct and ask. Their response will either throw red flags or ease them which it sounds like that is what you need in this case.

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    Its also within reason that the boss didnt announce so as not to taint the interview by putting added pressure on the interviewee or give them the impression that it was beyond a 1st level screening. It's a little odd but doesnt necessarily equal a red flag. – DanK Jul 14 '18 at 11:55
  • @DanK agreed, another possibility... – mutt Jul 14 '18 at 17:03
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Personally I (technical team lead) would see it fit in the following occasions

  • training/feedback; I have a junior co-worker which starts to do interviews. In such interviews I typically make a very brief introduction like ('i am another colleague') and remain silent for the rest of the interview, and then share my thoughts about how my colleague performed in the interview later; I could imagine that some people may even skip the short introduction completely.

  • schedule. Sometimes my colleague starts without me (i have a tight schedule). Instead of interrupting the interview by introducing myself when it is already ongoing for 20 min, i rather remain silent instead of making the candidate more nervous.

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IMHO, there can be 2 main reasons, neither of is reflection on you.

  1. Subordinate is being shadowed by the boss as part of training / skill confirmation

  2. You mentioned that you are familiar with the boss person, perhaps he didn't want to cut his subordinate from the conversation, that happens a lot when interview parties are familiar

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