How You Answer This Revealing Question Can Determine Your Future

best boss

Fast Company has a video series entitled, “What is the most revealing question you asked in an interview?” This month’s feature is with restaurant consultant and Food Network star Kenny Lao. Lao asks candidates to tell him about your previous boss and his or her management style. It’s a great question to determine fit. It’s also a loaded question and how you answer it and the conversation that follows with the interviewer can determine if you get the job offer or not.

One of the hardest things for interviewers, recruiters, hiring managers and job-seekers is determining fit. Fit means the candidate has the skills to perform a job, and the drive to use those skills effectively. It also means he or she is  suited to the organization and its culture.

Great boss or horrible boss is not an answer

Even if you are interviewing for your first professional job, you’ve had summer jobs, an internship and other experiences you can draw upon to understand how you work best, are best managed and what you want from your manager. Do you need a boss who provides a lot of direction or do you like to figure things out on your own? Is your work style planful; you get your work done ahead of deadlines and your boss had a last minute style of working that drove you crazy? Are you a punctual person and your boss was late for every meeting? Did your boss think aloud which made you uncertain what your priorities were? Do you want a boss to manage your work or mentor you?

What are you really being asked?

Here you are sitting in front of your future boss and you’re being asked to describe your ideal boss.  Should you decide to answer the question directly, start by sharing two or three of your boss’s strengths before you mention a shortcoming. No matter how inept your boss may be, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Avoid sharing any major character flaws or other personality shortcomings about current or past bosses. Now is not the time to air dirty laundry. Besides this is about you.

There is another way to answer the question.

Future boss/interviewer: Tell me about your last boss.
You: With my summer jobs and internship, I haven’t had a lot of experience with bosses and different management styles. But, I know I do my best when my input and ideas are treated with respect and I was given credit, what was expected of me was clearly communicated, and that if I was stuck or something was preventing me from doing my job the barriers were removed.

Interviews are two-way conversations. It’s fair for you to ask about their management style. Come prepared with questions that will help you figure out if he or she will be a good boss for you and the company a good fit. For example, you can ask:
▪ Describe the company’s management style.
▪ Are there accepted rules and practices for getting work done?
▪ Can team members voice an opinion openly without a negative consequence?
▪ Describe the company’s management style.

In the unlikely event the manager is offended by your questions; then, you have to ask yourself, do I really want to work for this person? For this company? It’s best to find out who you will be working for during the interview not after you’ve taken the job and find yourself unhappy because it’s not a good fit.


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