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What to Look for in a Boss

A common interview question will ask you about your boss. Tread carefully with your answer, because it will reveal more about you than your boss.

"Tell me about your current boss."

When this topic comes up in a job interview, it’s really about you. If an interviewer asks about your boss or to describe your ideal boss, it’s an insight into you and how you relate to others.

With this tactic, the interviewer is trying to determine the job seeker’s personal leadership style, to find out if it aligns with the organization’s culture. It’s also a way to discover if the interviewee is promotable and if he or she thinks about how to be an ideal leader.

It’s been said that the most common reason for someone to leave a job is because of the people they work with. Often people who are happy in their role would rather work under different leadership. But if you are leaving your job because you cannot get along with your boss, resist the urge to say something negative. Don’t accuse your boss of major personality flaws, either.

Instead, focus on what you learned from your boss. Everyone has strengths and can teach you through their own personal style, even if it isn’t your favorite. Your response should be short, direct, cover four to five traits, and should take no more than two minutes to answer.

Think about your personal history with multiple leaders and what works best for you. Consider the following traits in a leader:

  • Showing personal interest in their direct reports

  • Knowing each team member’s strengths and weaknesses

  • Listening to what team members have to say

  • Giving praise and recognition when appropriate

  • Having an open door policy and being approachable

  • Being open to discussing any workplace situation without fearing the reaction

  • Providing timely, and honest feedback

Those are some traits that reflect an idea boss, and the strengths that you share will show what you value in yourself and others.

Since interviews are a two-way street, when you get the opportunity to ask questions, make sure you ask questions such as, “Tell me what you like best about your job” and “What’s your management style?” Pay attention to non-verbal cues since this gives important insights into the boss’ personality.

Remember, even if the question is about someone else, how you answer will highlight your experience and leadership strengths.

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