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How to Spot a Bad Boss During Your Interview

Posted by Heather Huhman

Last Updated June 27, 2016

No matter what, you are likely bound to encounter a fair share of bad bosses throughout your career. They can be detrimental and cause you to flee. In Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report, one out of two professionals said they had quit a job to “get away” from their boss at some point in their career.

The last thing you want to do is accept an offer at a toxic working environment. Fortunately, there are ways to spot a bad boss a mile away.

Look at these five aspects to determine whether or not you’re being interviewed by a bad boss:

1. Word Choice and Tone

Pay close attention to how your interviewers select their words. For example, if they dive into a negative statement but start to backtrack to diffuse the sentiment, they’re trying to hide the fact that they have a negative mindset.

The way they speak and the tone they use creates an energy. Use your intuition and sense how being in their presence makes you feel. If you experience uneasiness and a level of discomfort, identify what factors may be causing that.

A good boss takes an interest in who you are as a person. If you feel like they’re just looking at you as a worker, they won’t treat you any better if you accept a job offer from them. Notice if they don’t engage in informal pleasantries or fail to make an effort to connect with you on a personal level.

2. How They Characterize Others

Anecdotes and stories tend to find their way into interviews. For example, if they’re explaining a work situation or describing a project and speak dismissively about employees, they probably don’t respect them.

Don’t waste time. Instead, dig right into their perspective and test how they perceive themselves in the operation. Ask about the company’s biggest problems and what those causes are. If they play the blame game, they are a poor leader who can’t take responsibility.

3. Level of Enthusiasm

Do you sense enthusiasm and passion from them? Or are they indifferent and disinterested? Granted, every person has a bad day now and then, but good bosses make an effort to leave out their stresses and maintain a level of professionalism.

Measure this by paying attention to your feelings. You should feel a sense of excitement when you consider working for them. But if you feel like the boss hates his or her job and doesn’t care, leave immediately. Chances are, the office is full of disengaged employees who are plagued by low morale.

Ask about turnover if you suspect the company’s recruiting process acts like a revolving door. Pay attention to how the manager interacts with others or how others act when they are around. Bad signs include a hurried, quiet office, uneasiness, and lack of eye contact. If you see a poor employer-employee relationship, find the exit.

4. Friendly Demeanor

This may be surprising, but if the interviewer is incredibly friendly, you may find yourself in a trap. When things feel too good to be true, they usually are.

If you leave recalling how nice and pleasant they are, and that’s the main thing you remember, it could be a bad sign. They’re possibly overcompensating, putting on a good act to lure you in. Trust your gut on this. You will be able to see right through them.

Look for authenticity. Avoid buying the lemon, and continue searching.

5. Body Language

What does bad body language even look like? The way an interviewer moves, sits, stands, and speaks says a lot about them as a person and as a boss.

If they lean back and don’t make much eye contact, they’re disengaged and failing to show you respect. They probably don’t pay their employees much attention or recognize them for their successes.

If they shift a lot and check their watch, they’re insecure. A boss without confidence may feel threatened by you and hold you back from growing.

Also, look for intimidation tactics. For example, if they’re pointing at you, looking down at you, and leaning forward a lot, they may be trying to scare you or test your resilience.

A bad boss uses fear to rule, disrespects their employees, and holds talent back. Be aware of these body language signs.

Don’t sell yourself short and settle for a bad opportunity that will leave you overwhelmed with stress. You have to know your true value and establish what you want and deserve in your career.

Have you ever been interviewed by a bad boss? Share in the comments!

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