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

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.

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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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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