How to Spot a Bad Boss While Job Searching

woman frustrated at work

Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley for FlexJobs
Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley for FlexJobs
During a job search, it’s easy to get caught up in focusing on all of the tangible aspects you’re looking for in your new position. You probably have a detailed list of what you’re willing to accept and what won’t meet your needs, from compensation to benefits.
But have you considered some of the aspects of a new job that aren’t on paper? What about the type of boss that you require for your next position? Or, perhaps a better way to phrase that, is the kind of boss you wouldn’t be willing to have in your next job. Realistically, your boss will enormously impact your life both personally and professionally. And they can affect your future career growth for years to come, so it’s worth watching for red flags during your job search process.

Identifying a Bad Boss

Sometimes, there will be vibrant red flags you can’t ignore. But more often, the signs of a poor manager are more subtle. Look for signals throughout the hiring process to identify concerns at each step.

Before the Interview

Before meeting your boss, consider all of the ways that you can potentially interact with them. Look up employee reviews and research the manager on LinkedIn. You can learn a lot from a LinkedIn profile. How long do their direct reports tend to stay? Is there a lot of turnover? What about the manager’s posts and comments?
Ideally, you’ll want to discover a well-spoken industry professional. Do they convey a tone of arrogance or appear to have less-than-professional interactions with anyone who reports to them? That should cause you to consider everything more closely. Even if the different relationships are not apparent, an experienced leader will be mindful of their image as it reflects on the company and the team.
Have you had any email exchanges with them? Are they professional and welcoming or impersonal? Is their language appropriately friendly or overly friendly and crossing personal boundaries? Perhaps it actually has nothing to do with their communication style. Maybe they’re simply disorganized and don’t follow through when they said they would. Those are different sorts of red flags that should go up. Even though an unorganized boss might be a genuinely lovely person, working for them can be challenging. You’ll be relying on them to get your own duties completed.

During the Interview

Your interview is the best opportunity to analyze your prospective boss. For starters, they should show up on time and work to create a good impression.
While interviewing, managers shouldn’t be answering texts or taking phone calls. Honestly, that’s disrespectful regardless of title or position. Instead, they should be devoting all of their attention to you, determining if you’ll be an excellent fit for the team. A distracted boss might be a sign that they lack time management and will be unable to provide you with the kind of job and career support you need to thrive.
A rude or condescending manager shouldn’t warrant any more of your energy, but what about one that’s negative about the company or their own role? Maybe they view it as being open and honest. However, if they’re jokingly talking about all of the challenges, it’s likely that the work environment will quickly drag you down. Consider how they answer when you ask about opportunities for career growth. If they’re vague in their responses, it could mean that they lack drive and vision. Or, perhaps they’re not genuinely dialed into the company’s mission.

After the Interview

After you’ve finished your interview, did you feel like you just ended up having a fantastic conversation full of possibilities? Or, does your gut tell you that something’s amiss? If so, listen to that feeling! If it was an in-person interview, don’t be in a rush to get out to the parking lot. Instead, walk a little slower through the hallways observing the office’s vibe. Does the atmosphere seem light, with colleagues laughing and talking with each other? Or is it like a tomb, with everyone sitting silently at their desks? Seeing how the office functions can speak volumes about how your prospective boss is as a manager.
If you’ve finished up a remote interview, ensure that you’ve got some time to decompress and analyze the experience. Was the manager clear and concise in the following steps, or did they seem unsure? In a remote work environment, communication and direction must be organized, prompt, and transparent. Did they leave you with a feeling of warmth or business as usual? Although harder to gauge remotely, their body language should still be open. Consider aspects like the tone of their voice and warmth portrayed with open arms and eye contact. How did their technical skills seem? You’ll be relying on them for leadership, so that will be a challenge if they struggle with digital literacy.
How soon after the interview did the manager reach out to offer you the job? If it was almost instantly, that’s a huge compliment. But it can also mean that they didn’t take the time to talk with your references or truly analyze if you’re the best fit for the position.

Finding a Great Boss

One of the best ways to prevent yourself from ending up with a bad boss is to define what your ideal manager would be. Indeed, it would be best if you could grow professionally and work with various personalities. So, you shouldn’t be seeking to only work with one very particular type of manager. However, you should have a reasonably good idea of what kind of environment you need to thrive in.
Do you excel with clearly defined tasks and many check-ins, or do you need space to be creative? Can you roll with someone highly creative but maybe unorganized and forgetful? Would a manager who hosts weekly office challenges and silly themes excite you or cause you to dread coming in? Would boisterous praise and blending of the lines between the team’s personal and professional lives cause you to beam or cringe?
Considering what’s worked well for you in the past and what hasn’t can help you analyze interactions with a prospective boss to determine if they’ll be an excellent fit. Regardless of whether your role will be remote, in person, or a bit of both, your boss will be a huge determining factor in whether you enjoy your job.
This article originally appeared on FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.

What’s your no. 1 sign of a bad boss? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!