Hire yourself a great first manager
If you are graduating soon – whether it ’s with a bachelor’s or a postgraduate degree – you have probably heard how hard it is to find a job these days. But before you take any opportunity that comes your way, stop and think: Far worse than continuing to look for a while longer is taking a job with a bad boss, who won’t just make you miserable in the short term. In fact, a poor manager can have a seriously negative impact on your career. This is particularly true for your first job after graduation. Without a sense of what your abilities are, a bad boss can make you feel trapped in selfdoubt and erode your self-confidence.
So when job-hunting, don’t just look at title and salary; pay a lot of attention to the person you will report to. I know someone who, as a newly minted MBA, left $10 000 in salary on the table in order to work with a CEO he respected. During the interview, the CEO told him: “I can’t meet your salary requirements yet, but if you work for me, I’ll teach you all I know.” Taking that job turned out to be the right decision: The MBA is now an executive himself.
It’s not all that difficult to determine whether someone will make a good boss. Two approaches work: observing what a person does and asking questions. You should use both. Observe what the person does during the whole hiring process, but especially during the interview. Is he excited and energetic? Happy to meet you and explain what the company is looking for? Does he listen attentively to what you are saying? Does he interrupt or ignore you? After every interaction with your potential new manager, stop judging your own performance and think back to what the manager did. Can you see yourself working for this person? Was the communication between the two of you comfortable and easy? Is this a person you respect? Every candidate is expected to ask questions both in the interview and during the hiring process. Your questions should not have easy yes or no answers. You want to use questions that elicit information that will help you make the decision to accept the job if it’s offered to you. HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES:
1. Is this a new position, or did someone leave? What are they doing now? The answers to these questions can help you understand if there is advancement from this job and if the department is growing.
2. Is there someone you think has been a real star in this job? What made them good at it? Compare the qualities of that person to your own strengths. Are you likely to be a star here? Also, this answer will tell you what qualities the manager values.
3. What are the key priorities of this department, and how can the person in this role help achieve them? This answer will show the attitude of the manager to the department and the open job, as well as what the most important tasks of the job are.
4. How will the person you hire learn to do this job well? Does the manager have a plan or process for bringing new people on? A manager with a plan, however simple, values the people reporting to him.
5. Tell me about the other people on the team. Get a read on the manager’s attitude to team members. Is he insightful? Complimentary? Proud?
Steer clear of asking about benefits or salary. That’s a question for the HR representative. The hiring manager wants a candidate who is interested in the work itself; benefits are secondary. Similarly, don’t ask about promotions. Your potential boss prefers that you want the job that is open now. He doesn’t want people who are thinking about how soon they can leave it.
Your questions during the hiring process say a lot about you, too. Good managers want people who can think – after all, that’s why you went to university, right? If hiring managers don’t want candidates who ask good questions, they are not likely to be good managers. They aren’t likely to be the kind of f irst manager who will help you become the best you can be.
■ Priscilla Claman is president of Career Strategies, Inc, a Boston-based firm offering career coaching to individuals and career management services to organisations.
© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.