You can avoid working for a terrible manager by asking the right questions.
The job interview isn’t just about selling yourself as the best candidate for the job—it’s also your chance to suss out who you’d be working for, and whether they might be a terrible manager. Considering that that nearly half of all workershave left a job because of their boss, you’ll want to know what to look for during the interview, and what to ask. Here’s a look at some common red flags that can help you identify a potentially bad supervisor:
- They’re negative: Workers respond well to leaders that are calm and deliberate in their decision-making, rather than someone who lacks the discipline to keep their negative attitudes in check when talking to employees. Think twice about a potential boss who trashes competitors, other applicants, direct reports, or complains about their boss or the company during a formal job interview.
- They seem self-absorbed: From the employer’s perspective, a job interview is meant to determine whether you’re both qualified for the position and if you’ll fit in with the team. If the hiring manager only asks you a few perfunctory questions, and frequently redirects conversation back to their own accomplishments, that’s a sign that their ego will be one of the hazards you’ll have to deal with if you get the job.
- They’re inconsistent when describing the role: If the initial interview is done by a recruiter, it’s fine if they don’t know the ins-and-outs of the job. However, if your potential supervisor is inconsistent in how they describe the role or can’t articulate why it’s needed during the job interview, consider that a red flag. In that case, it could be a sign that the hiring manager is unorganized, or that they don’t understand why they’re hiring (especially if the new role was thrust upon them by their boss).
- They’re late: This isn’t always a sign of a bad boss, of course, as people can be late for all sorts of reasons—especially if it’s just a few minutes. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respect your time, either. If they don’t apologize for being late, or they’re late again, that suggests either double-standards or unprofessionalism are tolerated in the workplace.
Questions to ask a potential boss
While the job interview is meant to determine whether you’re a good fit with the employer, it’s also an opportunity to understand how a boss works by asking them a few questions (tread lightly, however, as asking too many questions can suggest that you’re hesitant or unenthusiastic about the job). Some good questions to ask include:
- What would an average day be like in this role?
- If I were to get the job, what would the onboarding and training process look like?
- What are the performance expectations for this position?
Informational questions like these will help you determine whether the hiring manager has a strong operational understanding of what the role will be, and if the expectations are reasonable.
Questions related to their people skills include:
- How would the team describe your management style?
- Do you have one-on-one meetings with direct reports?
- Could you tell me a bit about the team?
These questions should give you a sense of the hiring manager’s people skills. If the potential supervisor’s answers are about making their own life easier, rather than a common company goal, that could be a sign of unclear or wayward priorities. These questions will also help you determine whether a manager is invested in the career growth of individual members of their team.
Questions about the inner workings of your potential team can include:
- How does your team acknowledge or celebrate success?
- Can you tell me what you like most about working here?
Questions like these will help you figure out whether the team’s morale is good, and if the supervisor rewards success, rather than just pointing out failure. And you’ll also get a sense of the manager’s feelings about the company. After all, it’s hard for most people to fake enthusiasm—if a potential boss isn’t happy at the company, why would you be?
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