“People join organisations, but actually leave managers.”

I’ve read and heard this phrase many times before. Chances are that you have too.

Still, many overlook the importance of taking the time to learn about their future manager.

Why is this so important?

Why make it such a high priority to discover your boss’ personality or the chemistry that you might have?

Isn’t the substance and the work more important than personal connection?”

No. It isn’t.

Your “click” with your future manager can either make you or break you.

So while you’re looking for your dream job, try to self-reflect about what type of colleague would make a “dream manager”. What would be their ideal qualities or characteristics? Be honest with yourself about your working style. Are you really a “team player” or do you excel independently? What type of boss would you enjoy working for?.

I’ve heard many stories, and even seen it with my own eyes. Managers who destroyed good staff. Managers that cause good employees to resign and leave the rest of the team unmotivated. Managers who cared so much for their own teams to the point of helping them seek their next job opportunity, just to get out of that organisation.

There are a couple of reasons why “boss compatibility” is often neglected, especially if you are looking for your first job, or you are in need of one yesterday.

While on a job interview, it’s easy to get into the sales mode and forget that you also have a lot of power in the job market. It’s a two-way street and as a future “dream employee”, we do have the ability to vet them, too. It takes a lot of effort to understand what the job itself requires, or trying to figure out what the atmosphere in the workplace feels like. It’s understandable that we could overlook the need to assess the influence that our potential boss might have on us. At times we can also be afraid of asking some interesting questions. The reality is that interviews are a great opportunity to examine if this new manager will be a good fit and not. And this will be the number one factor that will likely have the most profound impact on your future job satisfaction. Think of workplace happiness, working engagement and overall professional well-being. You land a boss that supports your development, challenges you and also has your back. That’s an ideal story. Get one that takes credit for your work, micromanages you and is constantly barking out orders at you, and that’s another story altogether.

So yes, your future manage, matters as much, if not more, than landing your “dream” job.

Before you accept a new job offer or move forward in a recruiting process, you should try and figure out as much as you can about what kind of boss you’ll be working for. So here’s a combination of eight things you can do before, during, and after you meet with him or her.

It involves becoming ‘the spy’, ‘the scanner’ and ‘the sticker’.

Before (the spy)

Are you ready to become agent 007? Time to level up your Google skills and kick off a research investigation into whatever the internet has to offer. You’ll use this to build up a nice repertoire of questions and conversational topics to follow.

1) Research all about them
Ahead of the interview, do all the research you can on your potential boss. Here are some LifeHack Google Search Tips. My favourite is to google between brackets: “Complete name” + “Organisation name”. This is usually a pretty good way to start. Check out everything posted online from them and to also see reviews or comments from others.. Check out web pages, groups or blogs, social media posts, comments, and anything else that might pop up. If what you find is not work related, what else is there of interest? From all of this, what are you able to determine about their values and/or attitude? Take a good, hard look at their skills, achievements, industry experience and hobbies. How do you feel about them? Be on the lookout for points you have in common.

2) Call your future boss and ask these three questions
Pick up the phone! If they provide a phone number in the job ad, then call it up. . Ask them three things that will help to give you a better idea of the challenge you are stepping into. If calling is not an option (because there is no telephone available, they seem to be busy, or you are too shy for it), then send them an email with these three questions:

  • What are the two or three main challenges for this position?
  • How will success in this role be measured?
  • What can you tell me about the team in relation to this position?

The answers to these three questions are very important as they will:

  • provide you with tangible insider information, which is most likely not going to be mentioned in the job ad.
  • allow you to have a clearer picture on what type of challenges you are really going to be facing.
  • give you the edge in your interview conversation, especially over other candidates. Since you will be more prepared, you will be able to see how your values, skills and experience align with the company, manager and interviewer..
  • highlight problem areas. If there are any warning bells, you can discuss those in person, in an honest, non-judgemental manner, and request more clarity on the issue(s).

During (the scanner)

It’s likely that you will meet your potential new manager for the first time during the interview. It’s very important for you to use this brief moment that you have together, albeit in the same room or during a conference call. It is in your best interests for your glean out of that interaction the most accurate feeling of what it really would be like to work for and with this person. So how can you discreetly, yet effectively, feel out your potential boss during an interview?

3) Assess. Assess. Assess.
If you’ve done your homework correctly, you’ll be able to connect some of the dots within ten minutes of meeting. You already have a lot of information about the person. You’ve researched the company and also have a good idea about the reality of things by the time you meet. You should have also received the answers to your most important questions that you asked in advance. From the moment you step in the building or are in the conference call, until the time you leave of hang-up, it’s your job not only to see if you are actually interested in the job, but also if you like your future boss. What you’ll need to do now is assess.

Assess their communication skills
Can he/she articulate well? Do they express their thoughts clearly? Can they communicate their expectations? Are they doing all the talking or do they ask you questions too and really listen to your replies? Are they just waiting for you to stop talking so that they can continue talking? Do they love the sound of their own voice, so to speak, or are they engaged and engaging?

Assess their body language
When it comes to discussing your goals and ambitions, how do they react what you have to say? Even if you are in a Skype call, you can still judge by their tone of voice, posture, smiles, laughs, head nodding and eye contact and if they ask you to elaborate and tell them more!. You have to do two things at the same time here…but if you can chew gum and walk at the same time, then you are well on your way to being interviewed while also paying close attention to how attentive your future boss is of you and what you have to say.

Asses their relationship with the team
Is your future boss a team player? Have they helped their existing team to progress? If their work or staff is mentioned during the interview, how do they talk about them? Do they praise and compliment their staff or the organisation in general? Do they give credit where credit is due? For example: “Yes, our new website is fantastic and is connected to our CRM, too. Sarah did a great job on that. She really went the extra mile. Thanks for noticing. I will let her know.”

Asses their understanding of the organisation and the industry
During the interview itself, observe on how well-versed they are when they talk about their expertise, the organisation as a whole and its place within the industry. Do they seem confident in what they are saying? Do they go into detail? What happens if you pick a topic and direct a deep dive conversation. Can he/she withhold a thorough interrogation?

4) Ask hypothetical open questions

What NOT to do:
Manager: So, do you have any questions for me?
You: Well, most of them you have already answered, but I do have one additional burning question: “What is your management style?”Please don’t go there. You’ll have someone rambling on and on for ages and you’ll never be able to wrap your head what they were trying to piece together.

Consider doing THIS instead:
Ask open hypothetical questions that could give you valuable insights that you can interpret.This is an excellent way to reveal much more about a person than through more transactional questions and answers. These can also lower some barriers and provide openness for the person to provide you with valuable context. If you ask the right questions and listen very closely, you’ll be able to determine if there is a fit between the two of you after all.

After (the sticker)

Post-interview, you might think that it’s time to kick-back and relax while you wait to hear from the hiring manager. Yet, there are still some important things you could do that could boost your prospects of getting the job. My advice? Follow-up until they say yes (or no).

5) Follow up
When invited for a job interview, it means that you’re a serious candidate for the job. It is very important to take the time to follow-up after each single job interview. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this and don’t take advantage of such an opportunity to make a lasting impression. Along with expressing appreciation, your thank you letter, email, or call is a great opportunity to:

  • Highlight your relevant skills or experience that are fit for the job.
  • Show your enthusiasm for the position.
  • Mention important details that didn’t come up during the interview.
  • Clean up any mistakes and providing clarity on things that came out poorly.

6)Contact people that know your future boss
To get a better understanding of who this person is, you can also find a few people who used to work with them. Reach out to them. Either through email or LinkedIn.

You can go with something like:

“Hey I am considering working for this organisation and under the management of [Name]. Since I saw that you worked with him/her at [Company] during [Time], I was wondering if you would have some time to talk about your experience. I am interested in learning more about how he/she works and manages people.”

What do others say about them, especially former employees? How about colleagues, present or former? Is there a pattern that shows up in the answers?

7) Talk to the future boss’s boss
Pursuing this option could mean your a gambling guy or gal – this one is risky, but it could pay off!
If all of the other options discussed above fail and you still have no clue who you’ll be working for, then consider this option. Reach out to the person above your future boss and just try to have an open and friendly conversation.

First, go through the proper channels.

Ask the Hiring Manager if it’s okay and the best time to reach the person. Keep it brief, polite and professional because in one way or another, your boss’s boss is your boss, too! Caveat: keep in mind that offices are petri dishes for chatty-cathy’s and gossip.

The last thing you need is to have word spread in the office that a candidate is running what could be seen as “background checks” on staff – and that person (you) hasn’t even been hired yet!

8) Have at least two dates before you get married.
Would you marry someone after having a one hour date? Depending on the type of work you do, you might be able to suggest to to your potential boss that you could work together on a specific problem ora specific deliverable, so you both can get to see each other in action You can offer to do it for free, at an arranged special fee, or on the basis of a freelance project. With this option, you’ll gain more from the insights that you’ll get, than from the money you may or not may be charging.

So…what’s your gut feeling?

Unless you have the magic job seeker’s crystal ball to predict the future, it’s impossible to know exactly who’s sitting across the desk from you after only one or two job interviews.

Your future working relationship will be influenced by many factors. The way you both approach your work, the way you think about problems or arrive at decisions, and also how you relate to other people.

All the bonuses, bumps and bruises, positives and negatives through your day-to-day interactions will only become visible once you are there working, dancing the “office tango”.

Yet, doing these things before, during and after you meet for your interview will provide you with vital hints and clues about what reality could look like for you if you work there. In the end, what you need to know that you did all you could within your reach to minimise risk and get to that level of “security” of being able to say:

“Yup. This is it. I want to work here with them.”

And still, after all of this, things can go wrong. When you consider the amount of time, commitment and emotional effort you’ll be investing in your next job, putting this “boss compatibility” in the highest priority is a small price to pay for the benefit of career potential. No one wants to end up in workplace hell, paralysed by over-analysing or operating on action-reaction mode. Management compatibility factors in your instincts as well as firm research that equal what your work life could look like.

Good luck being a spy, a scanner and a sticker.

To your success!

Mr. Cover Letter.

Looking for a job is time consuming and frustrating.

Mr. Cover Letter has everything you need to clarify your story and value, engage with hiring managers and get shortlisted and land a great job faster.

If you are actively looking for a job or about to start doing so, consider using one of my tools, joining a workshop or engaging in coaching.

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