How to Smell a Bad Boss in Just One Interview

Asking the right interview questions can help you sniff out the bad bosses no one wants to suffer.

How to Smell a Bad Boss in Just One Interview

Photo Credit:  Keoni Cabral

This is a guest post by Andrew Rondeau. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

You have been invited to attend an interview. You have been waiting a long time for this one. This could be the perfect job. The company has a great brand and future and the vacancy sounds great as well. Good pay, great prospects, great perks. This is the job to die for. You can see yourself in the job and your career finally taking off.

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The big day arrives

You have all the answers ready with all the examples, you look great, are well groomed and your clothes are sharp (that recent shopping trip will be worth it). You are feeling confident and fully prepared.

But are you?

The relationship between managers and direct reports is the number one factor in morale, productivity and retention of high performers. One thing which causes high stress in individuals at work is the management style of their boss. You get use to the pay, the perks and the prospects, but they become very insignificant if your boss is a bad manager.

You do not get used to bad managers, especially very bad ones.

How do you define a ‘bad’ manager?

We all have different definitions for the term ‘bad’. Some may say their managers are bad because ‘I never get any praise’, others may say it’s ‘because you never see them and they don’t communicate’ or because ‘He is so arrogant, always believing he is right and everyone else is wrong’.

Much has been written about the habits or traits of bad managers, but how do you tell if your prospective boss is ‘bad’?

You are just about to be interviewed for the job of your life, but how do you know whether you want to work for the individual (assuming they will be your boss). You have to remember that interviews are a two-way process, as much for the potential employees benefit, as for the employer.

The interview begins

The time for the interview has arrived. The interviewer (the prospective manager), meets you in the glamorous reception 30 minutes late and the handshake is weak and clammy and no apology is forthcoming for them being late.

In silence, they lead you to the interview room which is a few minutes walk from the reception and there is no offer of a drink.

Their business mobile phone goes off. It is a friend, well you assume it is because they has a five-minute conversation about last nights TV, with quite a lot of swearing going on throughout.

You are thinking this is a test, isn’t it? ‘They are seeing how I am going to react’. It’s not, this is how they are.

The interview eventually starts late. Standard questions are fired at you, with no eye contact taking place. They don’t even look at you when you are talking, just look down whilst taking a few notes.

Your gut is telling you something; this is not the job for you. However you decide to give them the benefit of the doubt, as they might just be having a bad day and this isn’t how they really are.

Now it is your turn to ask questions. How are you going to know if they are a great, or at least a good manager? Here are some important questions you need to ask to find out.

6 ways to test your next boss

Ask them what their management style is?

Are they silent? Do they have to think about it? Are they vague? Do they mention words like ‘supportive, approachable or decision maker’?

Ask them when they last took forward an employee suggestion or idea?

Are they struggling in their answer? Is the example worthy of a great manager? Bad managers don’t follow up on employee ideas. If they do provide a worthy answer, it shows they are supportive, approachable and they listen. A great manager removes all obstacles to help their staff do the best job possible.

Ask them when they last praised an employee or team and why?

If they haven’t ever done this then be wary. Bad managers withhold praise. One of the biggest staff motivators is praise from their manager.

Ask them for their opinion on individual development and training?

Have you ever been denied a professional development opportunity, because your own manager said that it would take too much time away from work? Is that why you are thinking of moving roles? Bad managers ignore professional growth needs, whilst great managers support their staff’s development.

Ask them when they asked for feedback on their management style and what were the results?

A good manager will always be looking to improve their performance and style and one of the best ways to do this, is to ask their staff for feedback. If they have asked for this feedback, ask how have they used it to improve their style?

Ask for their views on delegation. How do they delegate? Do they delegate? Do they micro-manage?

Great managers build trust in their staff. A quick and easy way to do this is to delegate pieces of work, which uses and exploits individuals’ strengths, all with the right level of control.


Just remember the interview is two-way. You are interviewing your manager and the company as well as them interviewing you. You can ask any questions you want and if you ask the right ones, you won’t end up working for an incompetent and bad manager and your career won’t suffer.

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Question of the article

Have you ever left an interview saying to yourself “if they don’t call me, I won’t miss anything”?

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