It's all about the boss, baby!

Research has consistently shown that employees leave managers not companies.  Yet when employees search for work they spend a lot more time researching and examining the organization they are interested in joining rather than the manager for whom they might work.  This doesn’t make sense.  If your manager is the main reason that you may not like or even leave your job, then surely they should also be researched too.

How can I possibly do that, you ask.  Well, in this era of social networking, it’s a lot easier than you might think.  Your potential manager will probably have an online profile that you can locate and most likely will have a version of his/her CV posted on LinkedIn.  Of coruse, it’s likely to be the best version of themselves but there are red flags that you can look for.  If this person is endorsed and/or recommended by current and past colleagues, this could be a good sign.  If they have moved jobs a lot, it may not be such a good sign.  Through the intricate web that is now LinkedIn you may also find that someone who has previously worked for this person so you can get direct feedback about them. 

In addition, you may also find more information online related to their activities outside of work.  Is s/he a soccer coach, run for charity, or involved in local neighborhood activities?  Whilst some of these things may not scream good manager or bad manager, it starts to paint a picture of the person who may soon control a lot of your work life.  For those of you who may find this akin to ‘snooping’, remember, this is public information and any good recruiter will also search your online profile in just the same way.

Of course, you also have the opportunity to talk directly with your potential manager.  And, whilst I don’t recommend asking “how would your direct reports rate your management skills?”, there are other questions that can be asked.  Examples include:

·         With such a globally dispersed/diverse/large department, how do you ensure that there is good communication across the team?   Communication methods can vary but what you really want to hear is that there is regular communication.

·         I love the department’s strategy/annual goals, how did you create it?  Hopefully, with a lot of input from team members & buy-in from the rest of the organization.

·         As we’ve previously discussed, I would have some learning needs in this role.  How would the organization support my development?  Hopefully, the manager will want to support your development quickly and perhaps offer some ideas on how this can be achieved.

Meeting for a coffee or lunch can also help you build a sense of the individual’s personality and management style as people are often more relaxed when out of a more formal office environment.  It’s even better if other work colleagues can join you as you can see how they interact with one another.  I also recommend meeting separately with the manager’s other direct reports.  Again, it’s hard to ask them directly about the management skills of their boss but a more indirect approach, addressing team communication and development opportunities, etc., can be just as informative.

So, although it is not easy, it is possible to gain insight into what type of manager you may be working for soon.  They may be the reason you love or hate your next job, so good luck with your manager search!