How to Spot a Good Boss Before You Start a Job

September 29, 2014

We were thrilled by the overwhelming response to our post, “How to Spot a Bad Boss Before You Start a Job.” It’s always exciting to see such an outpouring of comments and shares, and it just speaks to how potent a toxin a bad boss can be on your career. But let’s take the time to flip things around:

A good boss, like a good teacher or mentor, can make all the difference in how you see your job. A good boss can turn a paycheque into a career, into a passion and a vocation. They can make work fun and engaging, and they make it into a team sport. Good bosses are not concerned with micromanaging their employees. They’re more interested in leading than in being a “boss” in the sense that they care more about their team delivering results than what each individual is doing at any given moment. They’re clear about expectations and responsibilities for their employees. They take accountability for their own mistakes.

If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you hopefully know what it’s like to work for a Good Boss. But, similar to the question we posed about Bad Bosses, how can you spot a Good Boss at the interview stage and after, before you start a new opportunity? Here are a few questions to ask yourself about a workplace and prospective boss:

1. How do the employees seem when you come in for the interview?

This is a question of the vibe and tenor of the office. When you come in for an interview, observe how the other employees respond. You can tell you’re in a “Good Boss” situation if the employees make eye contact and say hello, if they introduce themselves. Is the office clean and does it look like a place you’d like to spend time in? What does the dress code look like? Is it a place where people can express themselves? (within the limits of professionalism of course). This is a gut thing—these little environmental factors can tip you off to whether this is a place you want to work or not. Also, pay attention to how the Boss interacts with other members of the team as you’re going through the office. Do they relate to them as people (asking them how their weekend was, etc.), or is the environment strained?

2. In the Interview, are they engaged?

During the interview, a Good Boss will be attentive and engaged. They won’t be distracted or checking their phone. They’ll have done some advance planning for the interview, and their questions will be both direct and relevant to the actual job. A Good Boss who fosters a positive work environment will try to build rapport with the candidates they’re interviewing as well. This is about more than small talk. In the peripheral questions they have for you on either side of the meat of the interview, they’ll give you a sense that they’re actually engaged with your professional and personal development.

3. Do they let you meet with other members of the team you’ll be working with?

A Good Boss is collaborative, and values the input of their team. To that end, they’ll want to make sure they have internal buy-in for a new hire. At the Sole Contributor level and above, you should have some interaction during the interview process with the other people you’ll be working with. Ideally, your potential peers will have a chance to interview you directly – they’re the ones that understand the team’s accountabilities better than anyone. A Good Boss won’t unilaterally make hiring decisions – unless they’re very confident about your candidacy for the job.

4. Have you asked them questions about their management style?

There’s a really important tip our recruiters give to candidates going in for interviews, and it’s this: when an interviewer asks whether you have any questions at the end of an interview, always have at least one question. If you don’t, you won’t seem interested in the job or moving the process forward. This also happens to be a great time to assess the interviewer’s leadership style and see if they’re going to be a good boss. A few questions that are worth asking: how often do you have meetings? How do you assess performance and responsibilities? How would you describe your management style? How do you work collaboratively with other teams within the organization? (For example if you’re in Procurement, how do you collaborate with Supply Planning?) Being really engaged in this way shows that you’re interested in the role and accountable, and allows you to see whether the Boss’s management style works for you.

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the boss they work with. But when you’re actively interviewing, it’s important to keep these things in mind because a Good Boss can have such a positive influence on your life.

So, are there any other tips we didn’t mention? Does anyone have any particular traits they look for in a supervisor?

And, as before, tell us your stories of Good Bosses and how to spot them with the hashtag #GoodBoss!



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