Illustration: Ashley Siebels
While you’re likely to find out what kind of leader your boss is after your first few days in the office, it doesn’t help to discover their managing style isn’t compatible with you after you started. If only you could know these things beforehand … oh wait, you can! Here are five indicators to look out for during your interview and offer process before accepting a position.
We can’t guarantee you’ll peg your boss perfectly — not everything can be revealed before you show up to the office and see for yourself — but you’ll hopefully discover enough to know if saying yes to that offer is really a good choice.
1. Ask about the team dynamic in your interview
You’ll likely meet with your potential boss in at least one round of the interview process. If so, ask them about the team dynamic and how they would describe company culture. You can even ask how they fit into and shape this dynamic. If for some reason you won’t get the chance to meet your boss in person during the interview stages, ask your interviewer the same questions, keeping the focus on your boss. For example, asking, “How does my boss fit into and shape the team dynamic?”
2. Pay attention to how the boss communicates via email
If you’ve had any opportunity to communicate with your boss over email, keep a close eye on not only what they say, but the tone you’re picking up from these emails. For example, if your boss sends an email reading only “Send your portfolio over by the deadline,” you might get the impression that this boss will be straightforward, impersonal, strict or even a hard ass. If your boss sends the same request as “It would be so amazing if you could send your fabulous portfolio. Looking forward to it!!!”, you can infer they are more casual, chatty and outwardly friendly.
Also, tune in to the frequency of these emails in your back-and-forth with this potential boss, and how quickly the boss responds to you. Let’s say the boss said they’d get back to you within 24 hours and it’s been multiple days, you could gather that your boss isn’t on top of things. Or you might notice that this person is sending multiple emails in the same thread. If you’re the type of person who prefers everything neatly packaged in one message, your dynamic probably won’t be compatible. Though these are all simply first impressions, using these indicators (and focusing on how you naturally respond to them) could tell you a lot about how you’ll get along with this person.
3. Ask your potential boss straight up about his or her managing style
Though asking your potential boss such a direct question might seem awkward, the question isn’t inappropriate. You’re simply asking for a clearer picture of how this person makes decisions, and how you’ll be involved in that process. Pay attention to your potential boss’s response, but also whether you think it’s sincere. Everyone would like to say that they lead their teams by making efforts to collaborate and involve everyone, but that’s not always necessarily what happens. If what you’re hearing seems genuine, that could help you understand this person that much more.
4. If possible, seek perspectives of those who have worked with the potential boss before
Depending on your industry, you could be connected enough that you know someone who knows someone who knows your potential boss. Take advantage of LinkedIn and see if your connections overlap with this person. If they do, reach out to the shared contact. If you know the contact well, ask them frankly about this person, and hopefully, they’ll be honest. If you don’t know the contact well, you could say something like “Hi X, we met at Y and I saw you worked with Z before. How was that experience?” The key is to get any sort of read on how this person feels about your potential boss. Though it’s just one opinion, you gotta take what you can get.
5. Google this person and read any interviews and articles focused on him or her
Maybe your potential boss hasn’t been featured anywhere, but maybe they have. It also never hurts to do some organic background research anyway. Whatever you find, see if any other sources can back it up.
At the end of the day, you won’t know for sure what you could be getting into until you show up at the office. That said, do as much research as you can before you accept the job. This extra research could make all the difference.