3 Ways To Spot A Bad Boss In An Interview

Originally posted on Forbes.

You don’t like your job.

But is it really the job, or the boss?

The truth of the matter is this: people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.  It’s wild to consider that 70% of people who are currently employed are looking for a new job, 50% of workers report leaving their job simply due to a boss they didn’t like.

This means that who you work for is one of the most important factors you should consider when entering the interview process. As a career coach, I have worked with many clients who think they want to completely leave their line of work, when really what they need isn’t a new job or career path… it’s just a new work environment or manager who better supports them.

In order to ensure you land a job with a boss that doesn’t make you run for the hills, here are three tips to guide you through the interview process.

1. Get clear on what kind of boss you want to work for.

You need to know what you want in order to make sure you get it.  This sounds like common sense, but I cannot tell you how many job seekers haven’t spent the time to put a pen to paper and really get clear on who they want to work for. When you begin the interview process for a new role, spend some time considering what has worked well for you in the past — and what hasn’t. If you perform well with strong supervision and you tend to have lots of questions, you may want a manager that is more hands-on.  On the contrary, if you thrive with the freedom to create, you may want a more removed manager who is easily approachable if you have the need for occasional creative collaboration.

I suggest that my clients make a list of their managers, past and present, and define what they liked and didn’t like about their relationship. Did you feel respected, appreciated or challenged?  Did you notice yourself wanting more freedom in your schedule, or often seeking additional guidance on how to execute your role? We often learn what we want when something feels like it’s missing for us. This list will help you better understand what you want when it comes time to find your ideal boss.

New to the workforce? That is totally okay!  You can use the relationships that you have today to help you understand what leadership style works for you. Reflect on what professors you most respect or enjoyed interacting with, or what friends you can easily plan trips or have constructive conversations with.  Use these relationships to guide you to have an understanding of what you need.

2. Ask strategic questions during the interview.

Once you’re in the interview room, chances are you will be meeting with your future boss. During the interview process, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on answering questions “correctly” and making a good impression, so much so that you can’t observe what’s actually happening around you.

The majority of interviewers will leave time at the end for you to ask questions. Don’t let this opportunity slip by.  Especially since most hiring managers say that not getting any interview questions is one of their biggest pet peeves. Show you’re engaged in the opportunity by using this time to ask questions and take note of their demeanor.

Ask questions that indirectly outline their leadership style and how you will interact in the role.  This could look like asking:

  • If I was wildly successful in this role, what would be happening at the company because of me, in the next 6-12 months?
  • What would my day-to-day look like in this job?
  • How does the team work together?

These questions guide you towards understanding how involved your boss is, and how their presence will be integrated into your day-to-day. This is a great way of asking for this information without being too blunt right out of the gates.

Once you leave the interview, take a moment to quickly jot down how you felt about your interaction with them. Immediate reflection is a way to connect to your intuition and show you whether this person was someone you would want to talk to every day.  Trust yourself. Make a decision if this manager is right for you before the job offer comes in so you don’t get completely distracted by the salary and perks.

The WHAT of what you do is just as important as HOW you’re doing it.

3. Meet your potential colleagues. 

Gather insight from beyond the interview room, and connect with your future colleagues. Take the time to professionally connect online through sources like LinkedIn, particularly if you notice that someone has an association with you, be it growing up in the same town, or having attended the same college.  This provides an opening for you to have a warmer networking meeting or conversation in person. If you don’t have any association with anyone in the company, explore attending industry networking functions or events where you know there will be people from the organization, or similar ones, present.

Chances are if they dislike the corporate culture, it will find its way into your conversations. You can authentically generate a dialog that answers the same questions you would ask in an interview.  A great opening line could look like this:

  • “I am really looking for an opportunity to learn more about [insert field of work]. What have you found the most helpful in growing your career?”
  • “What part of your job at [COMPANY] is most enjoyable for you?”

This really comes down to knowing what you want and being bold.  Take control of your job hunting process and seek out the manager that you want to work with every day.


Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.

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