In many ways, moving ahead in your career depends on your boss: the person who can motivate you, advise you, challenge you, or (in worst cases) make your life miserable.
If you've never had a boss who made you miserable, consider yourself lucky. And if you want to land a great job with a likable boss, you need to know something about that person before your first day. To do that, start with the interview and ask questions to determine whether this is someone you'd want to work for. Here are three examples:
What words would you use to describe the people who report to you?
- What you want to hear: A quick answer with positive-sounding words like creative, smart, friendly, or talented. The quickness of the answer indicates a good grasp of how well the boss knows the individuals and their qualities. The words, meanwhile, speak more about the boss’s attitude toward them.
- What you don't want to hear: A long pause. Or worse, phrases like diligent, serious, and hard-working. These indicate the boss is more interested in getting the job done than in the people who get it done.
If you had a problem with something I did, how would you tell me?
- What you want to hear: A thoughtful answer that reveals a calm process, like: "I'd explain what the problem is and why it's a problem, and ask how it happened. Then, I'd ask for your ideas on how we can solve the problem and avoid it in the future."
- What you don't want to hear: An abrupt response such as, "I’d email you about it," or a dismissive statement about not letting it happen again (without offering solutions on how to avoid it). Mistakes happen, and they're often the best lessons for improving your skills. A boss who doesn't recognize that shouldn't be managing people.
Within my first three months on the job, what are some of the things you'll be expecting to see from me?
- What you want to hear: Reasonable expectations for a new hire. He wants to see that you're quickly learning the role, working well with your coworkers, showing interest in learning new skills even beyond what's needed for your job, and that you can be trusted to get the job done.
- What you don't want to hear: A curt statement such as "I just need someone to fill the job," or expectations that go beyond what anyone could accomplish during the first few months after starting a new job.
Savvy employers know that training and developing good managers is vital to helping employees grow with the company. If you can get a sense of your potential boss' personality and managing style, you'll get a good sense of how the company operates.
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