Ray White, global chief performance officer for social media consulting firm ICUC-Dentsu Aegis Network, took a job working for a boss who turned out to have an addiction to prescription medication and went “off the deep end” during an important client meeting. When he interviewed for the position, White said he “noticed her rambling and random comments but thought she was just really smart.”
He had another boss who was discouraged from visiting a remote office because the whole team threatened to quit if he showed up. When White interviewed for that job he thought this individual was a “strong leader” because he was “commanding” and “talked about how great he was.”
White is not the only person to have misjudged a potential boss. Candidates can, however, avoid bad decisions if they are attentive to potential red flags during the interview process. He suggests paying careful attention to how a prospective boss treats his team? Great insight can be gleaned from how someone treats the people below them.
He also notes that “good bosses are interested in their people both personally and professionally.” An interviewer who doesn’t spend the majority of time trying to learn about you isn’t likely to be the kind of boss your is going care much about your career, he adds.
Career coach Larry Goldsmith points out that everyone values different things in a boss. “Identifying a good boss has more to do with the preparation of the job-seeker than the personality of the impending employer.”
He advises job-seekers to spend time defining their criteria for a good boss. One should not go into an interview without understanding their own working and learning style. This will allow a job candidate to ask the right questions to explore how well he or she and the potential boss will work together.
Talent management consultant Jim Ice suggests that job candidates be wary of interviewers who are unprepared. If they don’t bother to familiarize themselves with your background, ask questions they should already know the answers to from your résumé or “be winging it” without having a meaningful agenda for the interview, they are unlikely to treat you any differently once you’re employed.
Karin Hurt, author of “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss,” warns against managers who “multitask” or “stick to the script” during the interview. “If they’re too busy to take the interview seriously, expect even less attention once you get the job,” she said. This could be a sign that the role is not really valued, that they really don’t appreciate talent or that they are just jerks. She adds that “if the hiring manager has nothing but scripted questions with no follow-up, he or she probably lacks creativity, tenacity, or is overly bound in bureaucracy, so don’t expect them to support any new or creative ideas that you might have.”
Michele Mavi, director of internal recruiting, training and content development at Atrium Staffing, offers the following four questions to ask to evaluate a prospective boss:
- Was the person previously in the role promoted? People who have had bad experiences with bosses don’t usually get promoted.
- How long was the last person in the role? If the person previously in the role was there for several years before moving on, chances are they enjoyed the job.
- Ask the team for input. Hopefully your interview will consist of meeting other members of the team. That will be your opportunity to ask about the best personality match for the role as well as a description of the hiring manager’s leadership and management style. “What is not said may be as important as what is said,” she notes.
- Do your research. If you really have doubts, try to find the person who just left the role on LinkedIn and ask them to give you their perspective. You can also search for people who have held that role in the past and look at how long they’ve stayed in the position.
Once you have the answers to those questions, Mavi advises, “Go with your gut.”
The single most important determinant of whether an individual will like a job and be successful is probably the quality of their boss. No matter how good the company or the job description, if your boss does not care about you and treats you as just another functionary performing assigned tasks, you will probably end up regretting your decision to take the job. So when it comes to a potential new boss, be on the lookout for warning signs and trust your instincts.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com