Spot the Bad Boss at the Interview and Avoid a World of Pain

September 16, 2015
quit-your-job

If you can spot the bad boss at interview stage, you can keep your career on track


At some point in our careers we have come into contact with a bad boss. At one end of the spectrum bad bosses can be a part of your workday you can tolerate and work around, but at the other they can and do cause considerable stress which impacts on your life outside work.


In this post we look at ways you can spot the signs that a possible future boss is one you do not want to work for at the interview stage, and avoid a world of pain.


I, We, You

According to John Brubaker, a performance consultant, pronoun usage is a real giveaway that the boss is not one you want to work for. The performance consultant argues that potential bosses who use the word ‘you’ in a negative context are unlikely to be a mentor. The word ‘we’ in the context of the challenges of a team could indicate that this boss will shift blame onto your shoulders. While ones that use the word ‘I’ to describe successes are to be avoided at all costs.


Distracted and Unfocused

While at the interview, if your new boss is reading emails with one eye and looking in your vague direction with another, it is unlikely they are going to be a boss who will develop your career. Even in a frenzied workplace, a future boss should shut down their tech and give you their full attention.


And let’s spin this around, how are they going to decide if you are a good candidate if they don’t actually take the time to interview you properly?


An Overly Keen Interest in your Social Life

Another sign your future bad boss is lurking on the other side of the desk is if they take an overt interest in your personal life. The line here is a fine one, they simply could be trying to build a relationship with you and take an interest in your life. The other side of that line however, is that they are trying to assess if you have ‘too many commitments‘.


Asking illegal questions


Asking about your marital status and if you have any children is one thing, trying to piece together what you do in your own time is quite another.


Good Questions to ask your Future Boss

When you go for an interview a sure sign that the boss may not be all you hoped for is if they fail to give you straight answers, or give generic ones.


Here are some questions to help you make your decision.



  • What is the staff turnover rate? If it is high, this is a good indication that the workplace culture is not the best. This may not be because of your future boss, but it is still a good sign to avoid making a commitment to the place.
  • Ask your future boss what their background is and how long they have been in the role. From their answers, you should be able to determine whether or not you like his or her management style.
  • How did the position you are applying for become vacant? Again, evasive answers or answers that involve the word a ‘bad fit’ are good signs that this is not your best career move.
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