You decided it was time to move on from your current job, gave your resume a boost and now you have an interview scheduled. You’re going to learn a lot about the company, but did you know you can also pick up on clues to make sure you won't end up working for a less-than-stellar manager.
The right manager can make your working life a lot easier and more enjoyable. This is why it’s useful to try to work out from an interview whether your new boss will be the mentor and leader you’re looking for.
These are our top tips on spotting a good manager from an interview.
listen to their questions to understand their priorities
What a hiring manager wants to know can lend you some significant insights into whether they will be a bad boss. For example, asking about your future goals and how you intend to reach them could show they are already considering your professional development.
Personal branding consultant LaKisha Greenwade, a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, explains that “a great leader/manager is interested in your development and a pipeline of talent for continuous improvement”. She advises that if they don’t have a clear indication of the ways they can support your growth, you should “run away quickly from the dead-end opportunity”.
Meanwhile, if they ask what you like to do at the weekend or on vacation, this could be a sign they “care about you as an individual”, according to career coach and author Terri Tierney Clark. If you value your work-life balance, this is the kind of question you should listen out for.
Tierney Clark adds that you can also work out if they want a potential leader or someone to follow instructions precisely if they ask about times when you took the initiative or if they want to know about your previous responsibilities in great detail respectively. Pay attention to this if you have plans to move into a more supervisory position.
ask them how they like to manage
The most upfront way of establishing whether a manager will be a good leader is to use your questions. If you want to be direct, ask what their preferred management style is. Does it fit with your preferred style? Former editor-in-chief of Lifehacker.com Alan Henry recommends asking about management style and what kind of people work best with them. This way, he says, you’ll avoid “a ton of stress later”.
If you want to be more subtle about it, ask about the manager’s experience. Find out if they’ve had a similar career path to you. If they have, your working relationship could be smoother than if not. According to career columnist Anne Fisher, “it can be hard to communicate with someone who has never stood in your shoes, or who did your current work so long ago that the issues and challenges involved have been lost in the past”.
It’s also important to evaluate the way the hiring manager answers your questions during the interview. Do they do so respectfully and patiently or can you sense boredom and disdain? Author and employee engagement consultant Kevin Sheridan has explained that being a poor communicator is a common trait among bad bosses.
You should therefore carefully evaluate the hiring manager’s communication skills in your interview. If they can provide plenty of clear and concise information and listen closely to what you have to say, this bodes well for a successful working relationship.
pay attention to the unsaid
You also need to focus on the unspoken aspects of an interview. For example, a hiring manager who is stuck to their phone screen while interviewing you - even if they’re carrying out work duties - is someone you might want to avoid working for.
That’s because this is likely reflective of their typical behavior, and a Baylor University study found that bosses who phone snub their employees risk losing trust and engagement in their workforce. You don’t want to end up in a team with co-workers who are disengaged and feel undervalued.
These potential colleagues are another valuable source of information that will help you tell differentiate a good manager from a bad one. Watch how the hiring manager interacts with them - is it friendly or brusque? Founder of corporate consultancy firm IGEOS Valerio Pascotto suggests that you “look for their sensitivity on how they impact others”.
If you can, mention the manager to another member of staff who you’re interviewing with and gauge their reaction. If you think the interview has gone well, you could ask the hiring manager to meet some of the staff members you’d be working with. If they’re reluctant, you should ask yourself why that is. Consider whether they have something to hide, such as a strained relationship with their existing employees.
The fact that one in two US adults have left a job to get away from a manager highlights how important a boss is to job satisfaction. This is why it’s vital to pay close attention during an interview to establish what kind of leader your potential manager is. After all, you don’t want to get a bad boss when it’s already too late.