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I've experienced future managers acting professionally and courteously while trying to recruit me, then turning out to be abrasive and unprofessional after joining. I gather this is quite common.

How can I improve my judgement, and better discern how managers will behave before I join a company?

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marked as duplicate by ReallyTiredOfThisGame, gnat, jcmeloni, CMW, ChrisF Jan 24 at 21:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Do the answers there not work ofr here? That is really the test and my answer for this would be the same as that... this is the same question... sorry. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 23 at 23:10
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Its all intertwined... how do you seperate the flour from the cake after you bake it? You cant. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 24 at 15:25
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@blazerr your note suggests that you might be interested in this answer at MSO: Someone flagged my question as already answered, but it's not –  gnat Jan 24 at 17:07

8 Answers 8

I modified this answer of mine slightly to meet what you are looking for.


How can I improve my judgement, and better discern how managers will behave before I join a company?

You probably shouldn't directly ask this question during an interview. You can, however:

  • Ask what favorite/least favorite things about their job are. People who have to really think about what their favorite parts are but jump immediately to least favorite items can be telling. You can also ask deeper questions about each answer for follow-up which should be natural, give you your answer, and get honest feedback. Make sure to ask both together - this means you are much more likely get honest negative feedback. If you just ask "what do you dislike about your job" it comes across much differently. "Oh, so it sounds like John Doe is a good manager?"
  • Probe deeper with non-managers. People you will be working with will be more likely to give you the honest truth. Even moreso in casual environments, so if you are walking around on a tour or transitioning between interviews, use this time to ask these questions as people tend to be less aware of "gotta sell my company!" in informal environments during an interview. Focus on the casual times.
  • Ask about things which the answers naturally give you insight on this. Questions like, "what sort of things does manager X do to facilitate employee engagement?" are perfect. People will answer in such a way which helps you realize if people enjoy working. There are a lot of questions you can ask like this, and following up on them will get you your answer.
    • "We don't really do anything, but honestly it's a great company to work for and I enjoy it". "Yeah? So you like your manager then?"
    • "We do all sorts of those I guess." "hmm... so you must like working for John Doe then?"
  • Write out questions in advance. This seems like a no-brainer but most don't seem to do this. If you want to comprehensively determine information about the company you are interviewing with having a list of questions is really beneficial.
  • Ask about collaboration/teamwork. Simple questions like, "what are some challenges your teams face?" can go a long way to opening people up. People like to complain about coworkers and phrasing a question like this can have some really revealing answers. As with before, just make sure to followup on whatever answer you get. Even asking a question like, "do your teams ever do events outside work for fun?" will give you great insight, even if you ultimately don't care about the answer either way, because it's nearly impossible to answer a question like that without having some conversation about how well everyone enjoys working together.
  • Pay attention to overall mood/atmosphere. You can use this to either frame interesting questions or just be aware of it.
  • Ask, "you've been spending time trying to convince me to work here. But if you had to convince me not to work here, what would you say?". If you feel comfortable with your interviewers, this can definitely be an interesting question.
  • Glassdoor/LinkedIn. Both are easy to get some insight, be careful putting too much trust in them though. People are much more likely to say, "X sucks!" than "X is a wonderfully normal place to work, everyone generally enjoys their jobs and have no significant complaints." Look for trends here, not so much individual data points.

Basically, with some pre-determined questions intending to ask about the issue indirectly and a few follow-up questions, you can get someone in a place where they are talking quite candidly and openly about how well they enjoy working for the manager.

The keys are finding non-managers, asking questions with good followup, and getting them in "non-interview" environments, whether lunch during the interview, coffee outside it, Linked-In, or some other environment.

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Love the second to last bullet point. That is the best. –  Barry Franklin Jan 23 at 18:50
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Really, really good answer. You have social smartness. Why can't I have more friends like you ? :) –  Radu Murzea Jan 23 at 21:07
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This is though provoking, insightful, directly applicable and very helpful advice. Thank you! –  blazerr Jan 23 at 22:13
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@kuldeep.kamboj an interview is a mutual thing. You're interviewing them at the same time as they interview you. If they dodge your questions and give consistently poor answers to them then you can make the same decision about them that they'd probably make about you if you did the same in response to their questions. –  RobM Jan 24 at 15:26

There are not many ways this will be possible. I can't think of any probing interview questions where someone would offer that kind of information.

Questions at interview like "What do you like about working here?" and "If there was one thing about <company> you could change, what would it be?" may give you some indications but it's a long shot.

If it is a well known company you may be able to find details online. In the UK we have Glassdoor. It is a website where ex-employees rate the company and can anonymously comment. I am unsure if such a site exists in the US though.

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Glassdoor.com seems to work for a lot of countries. –  Fredrik Jan 23 at 15:30
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It always redirects me to the UK site due to my location, I never looked beyond that. I just seen that it actually has a huge US presence. Again, it's a good source for employee opinion on a workplace :) –  James Jan 23 at 15:42

Some companies agree to introduce you to your future-to-be superviser and/or coworkers. Given that most of those people probably don't hold a management position, you can ask them. Usually you'll get a truthful answer, since they have no bias on your hire or no hire.

Be careful though how you phrase your question and, obviously, make sure the manager is not within ear-shot in that moment. Asking it like "Did the manager ever get accused of sexual harrasment ?" will probably make the other person become defensive and you'll get nowhere.

Searching for online reviews of that company on sites like Glassdoor may also work, although personally I wouldn't trust those answers very much (unless there's a high number of reviews saying the same thing). I imagine a lot of people go there and trash the company when something horrible happened to them just a few hours/days earlier. It's therefore an extremely biased and often exagerated opinion. When it comes to super-positive reviews, I believe the same principle applies.

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How can I improve my judgement, and better discern how managers will behave before I join a company?

Whenever I interview for a position, I request that I talk not only with my potential boss, but also my potential peers, and a sample of those reporting to me.

Occasionally, I'll also try to chat with someone who is a peer of my potential boss, in another cross-dependent department. I've even spoken with my bosses boss.

When I talk with my bosses peers and direct reports, I'll ask what it's like to work for/with this manager. I'll ask about management style, etc.

That gives me a more well-rounded picture of what I might be getting into.

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You can ask around if you have connection to people who have worked there, but rarely is that an option.

It think it's important to pay attention to the manager's behavior during the interview process. Interviews should be looked at more than just some necessary evil. They're important.

  1. Does the manager make the interview on time or does it seem like he's running from one fire to another? Everyone gets busy, but I'd like a manger who can block out a few minutes to hire the right person.
  2. Similar to #1, but has the interview getting rescheduled or required such a narrow time-frame? Between 5-6PM on a Friday is not a good sign.
  3. Interview Preparation - I've had interviews with people who read my resume for the first time during the interview. Very poor planning, don't put importance on filling this position or maybe I was a bad candidate.
  4. Self-proclaimed greatness. I'm always leery of people who manage to put into every conversation how much of a perfectionist they are or how organized, etc. These people usually aren't.
  5. Inappropriate Questions or Comments - Even if you swear, throw caution to the wind and ask people about race, gender, or personal religious issues in your normal life, have enough professionalism and sense to fake it for an hour during my interview.
  6. Interview Interruption - Emergencies happen, but a manager that has all their people thinking everything is important isn't doing his job or possibly is a micro-manager who surrounded himself with people who can't do anything on their own. It's all bad.
  7. They can't explain how they do things or don't know how their staff feels. I've asked in interviews some things people disliked at the company and they had no reply. What do you do when employees underperform? How often do you give feedback? They may not like the answer but they should know.

About all of these missteps have happened to me, but I don't think they were by managers I really liked. It's a narrow slice of time, but even if a manager can be on his best behavior for an hour deserves some credit.

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One subtle way to feel this out is to ask "what qualities do people have who perform well in this role?" and the inverse, "what qualities do people have that struggle in this role?" Signify that you're interested in the personality traits, not the qualifications. The answers should give you a good idea of what the manager values in his/her employees and how it matches what you'd expect.

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Abrasive and unprofessional people frequently think of themselves as "developing and demanding excellence", or "not suffering fools gladly", or some such. So watch out for a combination of those sentiments with general lack of empathy.

I've never tried this in an interview, but in general if you can get someone talking about other people's mistakes you can get an idea what they really think of them. It doesn't necessarily follow that they'll treat people badly just because they think badly of them, but it's not a great sign if they're saying, "I had to clear up that mess" rather than "we had a problem, but we managed to deal with it".

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How do you get a sense of how a girl will treat you before you've gone on a date with her?

Well, you could analyze her, observe her, ask her friends... but the best way is to just try it out and see how it feels.

You're not really under any obligation to stay with a company for any amount of time after joining if you don't like it. If you were, it would also be reasonable to assume that a company is under an obligation not to fire you if you are lazy or incompetent.

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this is an interesting side note, but it does not answer the question asked –  gnat Jan 24 at 17:11

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