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What to Ask During Your Interview to Reveal More About Your Boss

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interview questions

You’ve heard it before. “People join a company but leave their boss.”

It may be conventional wisdom, but maybe it’s time to buck the convention. With savvy interviewing skills, you can increase your chances of avoiding that clichéd outcome and find a manager with “staying power.”

OK, predicting the potential of a relationship after one conversation is no easy feat, unless you’re a speed-dating world champion. So to make the most of your interview, arm yourself with these five questions for your boss-to-be, and see if you’re really meant to happily share that office kitchenette.

1. How and when do you give feedback to employees?

If she only talks about the annual performance review process, it may be a red flag that the lines of communication for honest, constructive feedback aren’t open. Let’s face it: we all can get better at what we do. Would you rather start getting better immediately, or first hear about your “development opportunities” in December?

As a side benefit, this question shows your ambition and interest in career growth.

2. What are the other team members like?

Sure, it’s nice to know whether you’ll be gaining some happy hour friends in the deal, but listen to the way the manager talks about your prospective teammates. Is he speaking with pride, respect and maybe even genuine affection? That’s the sign of a boss who likes being a boss, not just someone who unwittingly found himself managing others because it was the only way to ascend the corporate ladder.

It’s even better if he suggests you meet some of your future peers — and be sure to take him up on the offer!

3. What qualities make people on your team successful?

Of course, this gives you a chance to describe how you have all of said qualities in spades, but also use this chance to read between the lines. The first adjectives you hear are likely things your future manager personally appreciates the most. Do his values sync with yours?

4. How often do you interact with the people who work for you?

The answer may range from multiple hours a day to the occasional one-on-one meeting. There’s no right answer, but there is a right answer for you.

Are you a free-range employee who enjoys autonomy and some distance? Or are you more of an elbow-rubber who values close interaction and frequent recognition? Be sure the answer you hear can give you the kind of work environment you enjoy.

5. Why did you join this company, and what’s kept you here?

This sounds like you’re just trying to better understand the company, which is worthwhile on its own. But tune into the subtext, too. You aren’t fishing for the resume rundown — you can get that from LinkedIn. You want the personal story.

What motivates your boss? Does she sound upbeat? Simply put, does it sound like she likes her job? It’s tough for an unhappy employee to be a great manager, so consider yourself warned if her answer sounds flat or uninspired.

Finally, ask yourself some questions, too. What could you learn from this person? Were you energized by the conversation? Did it feel like you two connected? How many times did you laugh? Are you looking forward to talking with this person again?

This is the time to listen to your gut. Of course, you’re not looking for a date or to add a new friend to your Facebook feed, but “work chemistry” with your boss matters — a lot. (Click to Tweet!)

After all, it may mean the difference between staying and going.

Laura Garrett is a certified career coach and partner at Ondecision, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping individuals uncover their personal preferences in the name of more authentic career planning. Stay connected to Laura’s work on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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  • McGrue

    Good stuff. Wish I’d asked a few of my former bosses these questions.

    • Ondecision, Inc.

      Thanks, McGrue! There’s always next time….

  • Katie

    As a hiring person, I absolutely judge candidates on the the thoughtfulness of their questions and whether they are using that time to evaluate if this workplace is a good fit. This is a great guide.

    • Ondecision, Inc.

      So glad you think so, Katie! It’s so much more productive — for both sides of the table — if a candidate asks sincere, relevant questions.

  • RightFit

    Indeed! I agree with the article and Katie…no matter how much you may need the job, the interview is your opportunity to evaluate the company, team and especially your potential new boss.

    • Ondecision, Inc.

      Agreed, RightFit. Interviewing is a two-way street. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Lucila

    As a mentor these questions can help me focus on the way I am manage myself as I lead my team. These tips will keep me sharp. Thanks for the article!

    • Ondecision, Inc.

      Thanks, Lucila. I really like the notion that these questions can be useful even beyond an interview setting.

  • Kim

    I will share these questions with my clients. Thanks for sharing on this topic.

    • Ondecision, Inc.

      Thanks, Kim. I hope they’ll agree that they’re worthwhile.

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