How to Pick the Right Boss

So you've finally got an interview with your potential new boss. Chances are, all your energy is focused on trying to get the job… and the paycheck! But as you walk into the interview, consider asking yourself, "Is this the right boss for me?"

It may sound like an indulgence to even ask such a question in these unstable economic times, but Nicole Williams, career expert and author of Girl On Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, says that actively picking the right boss for you is more closely tied to career success and income than you may realize.

I stopped by her beautiful Manhattan apartment (this gal is clearly doing something right!) to get her tips for picking the right boss for you and your future…and most importantly, how to spot the boss from hell!


Like you, I initially thought that the real prize was doing what you love and having a paycheck to show for it. But after speaking with Nicole, I realized that both career growth and future earnings really do depend on who you work for!

"Your boss is tied to how much experience you're going to get, how much mentorship you're going to get and how much money you're going to make! It is one of the most important decisions you can make in your career."


CLUE #1- Eye contact

One of the biggest red flags of a bad boss is eye contact. If she doesn't look you in the eye or pay attention to what you're saying in the interview, chances are she is not interested in you, has not invested in this interview or doesn't really care about what you can bring to her organization.

Using a Blackberry, computer, phone or simply being anywhere other than right there with you is disrespectful and that is a quality that will manifest in her ongoing management style.

CLUE #2- Signs of life?

Many of us have had bosses with no life outside of work who expect the same of us. To avoid working for a workaholic who doesn't support a balanced lifestyle, look for signs of interests other than work.

Start by looking around the office. Are there photos of family members on his desk? Are there clues that he has hobbies, perhaps a baseball in the cabinet?

If his office is devoid of any personality and is a shrine to mounds of papers, you can assume you're going to be encouraged to go down a similar path.

CLUE #3- Question the questions

In a job interview, the TYPE of questions your potential new boss is asking reveals more about her than anything else: her priorities, values, idea of your position and what type of person she is.

Is she just asking standard questions like, "Where did you go to school?" or "Can you describe your last job?" If so, it reveals that she doesn't have much of an understanding of your job or hasn't even taken the time to read your resume.

If your potential boss is not asking about your passions or what you enjoy, Nicole believes this shows that she doesn't care now and likely never will. Remember: thoughtful questions = thoughtful boss

CLUE #4- "You're just like me"

As a woman interviewing for a job, you may hear a female boss say these seemingly encouraging words: "I see myself in you."

While at first this may look like a good sign she will be invested in your growth and development, it can quickly work against you. When a boss sees a strong similarity between herself and you, Nicole warns that she will often have far higher expectations of you than of other employees. She will also be more deeply affected and personally disappointed the moment you make a mistake.

CLUE #5- "Let's be BFFs!"

While a little bit of female bonding during the interview is a good thing, Nicole says to steer clear of the boss who tries to be your new best friend. The boss who is disclosing entirely too much personal information about herself during the interview may be looking for a therapist instead of an employee!

If she says, "Let's hang out," you should be mindful that she may be an emotionally needy boss- which could become emotionally very draining, not to mention a productivity zapper. While it's nice to be liked, your professional competence should be the reason you're hired, so you can spend your time shining at your chosen job, not worrying about managing a rocky relationship.

Who you spend 40, 50, 60 hours of the week with will have a major impact on your success and happiness. Remember, even a dream job is no match for a nightmare boss!

I'd love to know what signs you look for when trying to spot a good or bad boss. Are there any nightmare stories we can learn from?

Follow me on Twitter @kathryneisman