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5 Things to Watch out for about Your Potential Boss in a Job Interview

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5 Things to Watch out for about Your Potential Boss in a Job Interview

When interviewing for a new job, there are lots of things to think about. One is how you perceive your potential boss. This is important because all the research shows that people quit their jobs most often due to bad relationships with their managers—not because of the work.  The most critical relationship you will have at work is with your boss. If you don’t have a good relationship with him or her, it will make your work difficult.

Assessing your ability to get on with your potential boss is referred to in HR and Recruitment as “Cultural Fit.” As you may only get to meet your prospective new boss once during the job interview process, it’s very important to find out as much as you can about how they work, think and what is important to them. It’s a tall order, but by asking some key questions, and observing their behavior, you can learn a lot.

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Do some research.

The first step you can take before the job interview begins is to check for references to your boss online. Are they mentioned anywhere? If so, what is said about them, and what have they said? The more senior they are, the more likely you will find information about them and their professional experience online. This may help you to learn where they have worked, how long they have been in their current role, if they were promoted,  and comments they have made about their company or industry. All of this should will help provide a picture of the type of person your potential boss is, and how they communicate.

In every interview you have, try to find out the answers to the following questions about your potential boss.

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5 Questions to Help You Find out More about Your Potential Boss

1. What is their communication style?

This will likely become clear when you talk to them. One thing to find out is whether they speak slowly or quickly. That will help you to pace your speech to match theirs. If they are a slow talker, and you speak very fast, your style might overwhelm them and that could be seen as a problem. Do they use their hands, or sit still? If you use your hands a lot, you might see them looking at your hands because it’s a different style to theirs. Place your hands in your lap if this is the case. Observe whether they stand up, sit down or fidget when talking.  If your potential boss is walking around, pacing or sitting above you on the desk when asking you questions, this will give you some insight into how they will talk to you in future.

You can also ask the manager what their communication style is directly, or by asking “How do you like to receive communications from your team?” If he says by email only, or in person, then you will know how he expects you to give updates on your work or ask questions. Find out what makes your potential boss happy when it comes to communication and you’ll be able to think about changes you will have to make to adapt to their style.

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2. What is their leadership style?

Ask this question of your potential boss directly. He will have an answer. It might be that he is a  “hands-on” or “hands-off” manager. A hands-on manager is one who typically likes to be very involved in what their team members are doing, sometimes being over-bearing or micro-managing. If that doesn’t bother you, that’s great, but if you like autonomy, a hands-on manager is likely not the best fit for you to be able to do your best. A hands-off  manager will leave you to do your job, which is great if you are disciplined, know your work and are a self-starter, but sometimes this style can be too hands-off, to the point where the boss is not available, or willing to help you. If you need some guidance, or prefer it, a hands-off style might not be your best fit.

3. Are they well respected by leadership?

You are most likely to get an answer to this from your potential team members, but also from the other managers and leaders in the company. If at all possible, you should meet with at least one person from outside the team. If they say things to indicate the boss is doing a good or great job, or has achieved a lot, that’s a good sign. Any negative talk about the potential boss or team members is a warning sign that the group might not be respected by other parts of the organization. That’s important because a team that is not well-liked is often under pressure to deliver more, faster and with less resources. Keep your ears open for negative, neutral and positive comments. Look at body language as well. Someone might not say bad things about your potential boss, but by tensing up, crossing arms, or being vague, they can give you signs that all is not well.

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4. Do they have a favorite team member?

Never ask this question, but try to figure out whether or not the boss has favorites. You can often tell this by the way they talk about their team members. They might mention someone again and again as having achieved great things, which will be a clue that that person is well respected and relied on. If you get the sense that this is the case, then make sure you spend time with that person in interviews, to find out more about the boss’s style. They likely know him or her best and can tell you how the boss likes things done. Also, it’s important to know how you feel about working with this person. Will you clash, or get on well? Clearly their style is one that the manager likes, so ask yourself how that might affect you if you are very different from this team member.

5. What do they expect of you?

It’s very important to understand what you will be expected to accomplish in your new job, before you accept it. Ask your potential boss “What do you expect me to achieve in the first three, six and twelve months in this role?” If his answers seem unrealistic, or you are not sure you are able or willing to do what is expected, you will know that before joining the organization and can make the best decision for your self.

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While the questions above are a guide, they are important things to find out to help you make the best decision about whether your potential boss, the organization and the team would be a good “cultural fit” for you where you can thrive. 

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