How to Recognize a Bad Boss During a Job Interview

One of the most important pieces of job-searching advice I ever received was from the book What Color is Your Parachute?. In the job interview chapter, Richard Bolles taught me that “while the interviewer is trying to decide if they like you, at the same time, you’re deciding if you like them and want to work there.” As a young inexperienced twenty-something, I didn’t realize that the interview was a two-sided conversation until I read it in this book. Now I understand that when I go to a job interview, I’m not only trying to decide if I want to work at that company, I’m also attempting to figure out if I will get along with the person who is interviewing me. Although you won’t know what it’s really like to work for your potential boss until you have the job, it’s important to recognize who the person really is when you first meet them. How do you do this? A recent Harvard Business Review article breaks it down like this.

  1. Know what you are looking for. Like finding the perfect mate, you have to know what you want in your ideal boss. Ask yourself what you are looking for in a direct manager. Visualize the boss-employer relationship. Do you want a mentor? Or someone who will let you take on projects with little supervision? Once you know what you are looking for in a boss, you will be better able to identify it.
  2. Trust your instincts. Listen to what your gut is telling you. If you’re getting a bad vibe from the person and are already imagining the problems that may occur, the job isn’t for you.
  3. Ask questions, but tread lightly. Don’t ask too-direct or probing questions because this could make the hiring manager detect hesitancy on your part. Plus, chances of you getting an honest answer are slim.
  4. Do your homework. Find out as much as possible about your potential manager. Google search them, read their LinkedIn profile, and browse their Twitter feed. If you come across anyone who has worked under them, reach out and ask what their experience was like working for that manager.
  5. Meet the colleagues. Ask if you can perform informational interviews about the company with your future colleagues. If you’re offered the position, ask to spend a half-day at the organization before committing. You’ll get a feel for the day-to-day atmosphere and how your potential boss shapes it all.
  6. Pay attention. Notice how the manager treats you throughout the entire interview process. Don’t ignore red flags and think that things will get better.

To learn more about this topic, read Good Boss, Bad Boss.

Have you ever been in a job interview, but had a bad vibe from your potential boss? Let us know in the comments below!