Smith Brain Trust / November 22, 2022

How to Pick the Right New Team and Avoid Joining One With a Bad Boss

How to Pick the Right New Team and Avoid Joining One With a Bad Boss

So you’ve made it to the final round interview for a new job. Just as you conduct due diligence with any other big step to determine if it’s the best fit, the same should be true when interviewing for a new job, says Rachel Loock, writing in USA Today. As excited as you may be about the opportunity, remember you are interviewing the company and the team you’ll be working with as much as they are interviewing you. Researching the company and the key players, through the company’s web site, LinkedIn, and online news articles and databases is a great start, says Loock.

While online sources can be helpful, the best source of information about a new team and boss is through conversations with current and former employees, she says. Along with understanding the company’s mission and values, you’ll also want to get a handle on the culture. Ideally, you’ve had the chance to discuss team culture and dynamics and the boss’ management style through conversations with your professional or alumni connections, outside of the formal interview process. If this isn’t possible, ask about the culture during the interview process.

Loock recommends probing to see if the team you’ll be working with is a good fit—and that includes the boss. Understanding how employees work together and your new boss’s management style prior to accepting the offer is critical to ensuring the work environment aligns with your personality and values.  If the team culture is a mismatch and or the boss is a tyrant, you may be job hunting again before long. Her are her tips:

Know Yourself

Before reaching the final interview stage, figure out what cultural factors are important to you. Reflect on positive experiences with teams you’ve been on in the past and strong working relationships with current or previous bosses. For example, do you prefer working in a highly collaborative environment? Do you like to work within the broad outlines of a project and determine how to execute it, or do you want more detailed guidance? Is recognition for a job well done important to you? Self-awareness about your preferences and past successful (and unsuccessful) working relationships can help to inform what will work best for you in a new role.

Ask the Right Questions

Asking the following questions during the interview process can help you assess if the team and boss will be a good fit.

For the team:

  • How does the team work together?
  • How is performance feedback provided?
  • How is conflict resolved?
  • What do you like about the team culture?

For the potential boss:

  • Who are the people I will be working with most closely?
  • How is work/life balance encouraged/supported?
  • What does success look like for this job in the first 6 months?
  • What’s your management/working style?
  • Why is this position being filled?
  • How many hours a week do you expect your top performers to put in?
  • What has been the staff turnover rate in the last 2-3 years?
  • What traits do you value most in your direct reports?
  • How often do you and your team socialize outside of work?

Body language of the interviewer(s) may also provide additional clues about the team dynamics. Evaluating cultural fit can be subjective and difficult to quantify. One person’s dream team and culture may be a nightmare for another. In addition to asking the questions above as appropriate, here are a few red flags to be aware of that might indicate a less than ideal fit.

Red Flag Warning

  • Indirect/vague answers to questions posed.
  • Inconsistent/different answers from team members as compared to the boss or HR.
  • Supervisor position (for the role you’re interviewing for) is vacant.
  • High turnover.

Bottom line: Do your research through every means available to you before and during the interview process to ensure your new team and new boss are the right fit.

Rachel Loock is a career and leadership coach with the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

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