Hire your­self a great first man­ager

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT - PRISCILLA CLA­MAN

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.

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