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The five questions you should ask to find out if you’ll like your future boss

Any questions? <em>(Photo: Getty)</em>
Any questions? (Photo: Getty)

You’ve reached the end of the job interview and everything’s gone swimmingly so far. The interviewer, your potential boss, gathers their papers, looks at you and asks: “Have you got any questions for me?”

It’s a good look to have questions at the ready: it suggests engagement, curiosity, that you’ve done your research on the company, and that you’re sincerely interested in the role.

Just as much as your potential employer is sussing you out, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to find out if you’d actually like to work for them. As the saying goes, people leave managers, not companies.

“I would rather take an imperfect job for an awesome boss–because an awesome boss is going to accelerate me–rather than the perfect job for a boss that’s not going to take any interest in me,” US-based executive coach Emily Bermes told FastCompany.

“Go after the better boss every single time because it will completely change the trajectory of your career.”

Here are the six questions you should ask to find out whether you’ll like your potential boss or not:

1. “How would you describe your management style?”

Think about leaders you’ve liked and haven’t liked in the past, and the kind of management style they had. You also need to think about how you like to work: are you a one-man team, or do you prefer collaborating with a team? If your interviewee seems like they could be a micro-manager and you prefer to work solo, it could be possible that your styles could clash.

Other ways to reframe this are: “Tell me about the employees that you most love leading,” “What type of team do you like to run?” or “When you don’t work well with someone, what are some of the reasons for it?” If you’re feeling up for more through research, you could ask the recruiting manager or other people who report to the boss what their leadership style is like.

2. “How do you help with onboarding?”

Different companies will have different expectations of new hires when they join, depending on the seniority of the role and the company itself: they might expect you to hit the ground running from the get-go, or they might allow for a few months for you to get your bearings.

Find out how much support you’ll receive and what the learning curve will be like, and whether you’ll be well-placed to succeed in the role. It’s just as much in your interest to find out as it is theirs, since companies lose time, money and resources when new recruits find it’s the wrong role for them.

3. “How do you give feedback?”

This is particularly pertinent for those earlier in their career who are specifically seeking out roles where they will be challenged to grow and guided by a great manager. For such a professional, a role where they are largely left to their own devices may not be ideal, where it may be the perfect gig for someone who prefers working independently.

Is giving feedback an ingrained part of the company culture? Or will you have to go out of your way to initiate those conversations? You may already have a sense of how they give feedback by gauging how your potential employer has navigated the interview process – for example, whether they’re responsive to emails or prepared for the interview.

4. “What hours do you typically keep?”

This will help you determine what the work/life balance your potential department or team subscribes to and if it’s a kind of work culture that is attractive to you. It’s a good sign if your employer asks you questions of your life beyond work. “Does your boss have any respect for–or even acknowledge–the fact that you have a life outside of work?” Bermes pointed out.

It’s also a good idea to take this opportunity to ask about the modes of communication they prefer, such as email or Slack.

5. “How do you support diversity and inclusion?”

This question may be more significant for women and minorities to get a sense of how you’ll be supported by your boss and in the organisation more broadly. You could ask outright about the number of women in leadership roles, for example, or if the company has initiatives to support women into landing these positions. And how are these values lived on a day-to-day level?

However, at the end of the day, it’s very important to trust your gut instinct. Even though they may give all the right answers, something could just feel off.

“People can say all the right things in all the right ways, and intuitively you just may not trust them, or you might feel creeped out by them,” said Bermes.

“If people make you uncomfortable when they’re on their absolute best behaviour, I would be leery. The older I get, the more I’ve learned not to ignore that stuff.”

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