It's Not All About You: How to Interview Your Potential Boss

Before you accept a new job offer you need to find out what kind of boss you'll be working for. Here's how.

You are ready to accept a new job. Or so you think.

You've done everything the experts recommended to do before your interview or before accepting that new position. You've researched salary range, advancement opportunities, structure, and future direction of the organization. It sounds like you have done a thorough job and found out as much about the important aspects of the new job as you can.

Not so fast. How much do you know about your new boss? More than any other aspect of your job, your direct supervisor has the power to make or break you. Research has shown most people that leave their jobs, don't leave the organization, they leave the person that they directly reported to. If this person is the biggest indicator of how successful you will be in your new work, shouldn't you know as much as you can about him or her?

They could be the dream boss, encouraging, supporting, mentoring, and doing everything in their power to help you become successful. Or they could be the boss from hell, taking credit for the work you do and doing everything in their power to make your life horrible. Most job seekers are so anxious to please during the interview and land the job that they totally overlook using the interview process as an opportunity to question their potential new boss. Before you accept that new job, here's how to find out as much about the person that can make or break your work life.

Research prior to the interview

1. Do research online before showing up.

Find out as much about the person as you can from social media. Check out everything posted online from them and about them from others. If their work or staff is mentioned, how do they talk about them? Do they praise and compliment their staff or the organization? If they don't post specifically about their work, what other things do they post about? Do they appear to be mainly critical? Do they offer anything positive or supportive to others? Do they appear to be happy? From their posts, what are you able to determine about their values? How involved are they in contributing to their community?

What do others say about them, especially former employees? How about colleagues, present or former? Is there a tone that may show up consistently in the posts? What about their interests and hobbies? Are they a social person? Do you have any interests in common?

2. Talk to people within the company.

Is there any way that you could talk to the last person that held the position you are applying for? Will the organization let you know where they went, if they left the organization? They may not be able to provide you with this information, even if they wish to, due to confidentiality. Do you know anyone in the organization that you could ask questions? Do you have any contacts in the organization, outside of work, that your potential boss is heavily involved in? Often this may not be possible, but think about it as this can provide a rich source of information about the person.

Arrive early for the interview and try to chat up the receptionist. This requires some finesse and subtlety, but administrative staff are often an excellent source of valuable inside information. There may be a chatty and eager staff member to talk with and you could gain valuable insight.

3. Ask questions during the interview.

Prior to and during the interview, your potential new boss will be trying to find out as much about you as they can. This could likely include researching you online as well as asking a lot of questions during the interview. You should have an opportunity at the end of the interview to ask questions.

Most people will ask questions about the position they are applying for, opportunities for advancement and future plans of the company. Few will ask the types of probing questions of their potential new boss that you have been subjected to. Since there will likely be more than just your possible new boss interviewing you, it would be better to ask to set up a time you can meet with just him or her.

There is a risk in this. You may be viewed as being overly assertive, pushy or demanding and be seen as a threat or trouble maker by your potential new employer and not be considered for the job. If they are that insecure, you should ask yourself if you really want to be working with them. It may be better to find this out before you accept a job offer.

Asking the right questions

If they agree to meet with you privately, be prepared to ask them the same probing questions that you were asked in the interview. Be sensitive but firm and be careful not to come across as demanding or pushy. Some good questions to ask are:

  • What type of person do you like to work with?
  • What is your least favorite type of person you like to work with?
  • Describe a problem that you had with one of your staff. How did you go about resolving it?
  • Describe a time when you had to discipline one of your staff.
  • Can you describe a situation where you felt you were caught between management and your staff? How did you deal with this?
  • If I talked to your staff, what would they tell me about you?
  • What is the best attribute you can imagine your staff would say about you? What is the worst?

Negative signs to watch out for:

  • Defensive body language such as crossed arms.
  • Stalling or attempting to avoid answering questions.
  • Blaming others and not acknowledging the part they played in a situation.
  • No acknowledgment of their own feelings or the feelings of others.
  • Avoiding eye contact.

Positive signs:

  • Openness and awareness of their feelings and the feelings of others.
  • Ability to see things from others point of view.
  • Acknowledging that they may have made mistakes and are not perfect.
  • Ability to see the larger picture in situations encountered.
  • Ability to laugh at themselves.
  • An example of having the employees' back in a difficult situation.

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, speaker and internationally published author of The Other Kind of Smart, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success. You can follow him on Twitter at @Theeiguy.

[Image: Flickr user Angelo Juan Ramos]

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1 Comments

  • Great article - one I will keep in my job folder forever. Over the years, with my warm and accepting nature, I learned this the hard way. Get as much info as you can before taking any job - freelance or other. It's amazing what a little Googling can do to help narrow the focus.