When I first graduated college, I didn’t really know what to look for in a manager. I knew what kind of job I wanted, but I wasn’t thinking about what kind of manager I wanted.
Lucky for me, my first job out of school was a good one, and I had an amazing manager. However, while with that company, I transferred to a different location, and prior to the transfer, I had a phone interview with my new manager. He was a very laid back individual who seemed set on selling himself and the laid back environment I’d be working in. I also recall a few profane words being used during the interview. I didn't think it was professional, but I just assumed it was part of this laid back atmosphere.
It was a good sell, because I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I thought this manager was going to be the best kind. He seemed to relate to me, he was funny, and he seemed to have a “we” attitude toward the job. Fast forward a few years later to another interview at another job. I ran into the same type of attitude, and same “I’m just like you” persona. I needed a job, and had hoped my previous experience was a fluke, so I took it. Unfortunately, my previous experience was repeated. What was that experience?
Both of these managers turned out to be highly insecure, incompetent, and almost always wanted to point the blame for a failure, at someone else. They were paranoid, quick to fly off the handle, and handled any form of stress in a very abusive manner toward their staff. The sad part is, that on a personal level, they were good people. They really did mean well, and they were good people, they were just horrible managers.
This was not completely their fault. Hiring is partially about fit, and I didn't pick up on the signs that these individuals would not be a good fit for me. Unfortunately, these were very tough situations for me, and I wouldn’t want someone else to have to endure what I did.
My HR Guy Perspective
There are a few different things you should be mindful of when interviewing your potential next manager.
1. What's Their Vision – How do they see the department? How does this role fit into the departmental and overall company vision? How does your role compliment theirs? Do they have some idea of how to get you up to speed? These are all questions that should be considered as you are getting to know your potential new boss.
Do they have an idea of what your specific responsibilities will be? Furthermore, do they have a structure in place that will allow you to execute on those responsibilities? If they don’t have some plan in place, you will find yourself struggling to find your rhythm. Your success is dictated by your training/on-boarding, so if your training is horrible, you will probably produce horrible results.
2. Goooooaaaals – What is the goal of the position? This is a big picture question, but you should understand how your position fits into the overall department and organization. Then more specifically, what are your goals? What do they expect you to accomplish within 6 months, and within a year? What are they looking to accomplish for themselves within the next 6 months, and how will your position help them get there. Training gives you a foundation, but goals give you a target. Without a target, you and your manager will have no clear direction, and find your time mainly occupied by putting out fires; being reactive, and never actually moving forward.
3. Draw the Professional Line – It’s nice to have someone you can joke with, but that’s not what your manager is for, especially not during the interview. Being warm, and cordial is totally acceptable, and know that chemistry is important. Do you seem to get along? Does the conversation seem natural? Do you feel generally comfortable speaking with this person? Do they answer your questions completely and welcome additional questions? Do they paint an "everything is great" picture, or are they honest about areas that could improve, without bashing or gossiping? These are all things you can use gauge fit.
If your potential new manager is telling risky jokes, or talking (in-depth) about items that do not pertain to the job, this could be an issue. We all try to break the ice, but ultimately we’re there to gather information. If they are not focused on the task during the interview, they most likely will not be task focused in other aspects of the job. If they don’t respect boundaries (risky jokes) in the interview, they probably don’t have that filter, and it will affect how they act on the job.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it gets you to understand that as you look for and evaluate your job prospects, you should probably be evaluating your potential manager. In human resources we know that most people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Do your homework upfront, and hopefully that won’t be the case for you.