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5 questions you must ask your future boss
Sunder Ramachandran
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February 02, 2007

'People don't leave organisations; they leave their bosses.' This is an old cliche. According to a survey by, almost 71 per cent of employees look for new jobs because of problems with their bosses. A recent Gallup survey of over 1,000,000 employees found that, if a company was losing good people, the biggest reason was their immediate supervisors.

What makes it ironical is that, more often than not, it is your future boss who ends up taking your final interview. And while they try and understand the way you fit in with their teams, it is your responsibility to understand their management style as well. So, when you get an opportunity to turn the tables on them, here are some questions you must ask.

What are your key expectations from team members?

Often, as an answer to this question, most supervisors start by describing traits demonstrated by their favourite employees in the team. This can be a great clue to understanding what it is going to take to get into your boss's good books. If your boss-to-be says he wants team members to take initiative and perform independently, you know he is not going to micromanage and breathe down your neck everyday. If he says that they expect team members to 'go the extra mile' and work hard, you will spoil your impression by trying to sneak out of office early every day.

What does it take to succeed in a role like this?

This question will help you achieve two things. First, it will help you understand the standards your boss expects you to meet. Second, you will come across as someone who is keen on succeeding. You must also ask how success is measures in the team as it depends on a boss's managerial style. For instance, if it's a sales oriented position, will you be rewarded only for exceeding sales, or are there rewards for customer satisfaction, teamwork etc? Try and get specific answers from the employer, as this will be an indication of where you should focus your energies if you intend to take up the job.

Could you tell me more about the composition of the current team?

What you are really asking your boss-to-be is to describe the people in his team. This is a great question to check his or her people skills. You will find out if he or she invests enough time in knowing the team well. Watch out for what is said. Is there pride when he or she speaks about the team? Does the boss know a lot about the team members? Often, a good boss will take pride when describing his or her team, and this will reflect in the tone and enthusiasm. You don't want to work for someone who hardly bothers to connect with you as a person.

What is your personal management style?

Ideally, you would want to know the boss's problem-solving approach and the way he or she manages people and resources. Does the boss have a hands-on approach or prefer to delegate responsibilities? He or she may like to take charge and be in control all the time, or may trust the team completely and simply supervise. This is important to know or you may mistake the boss's enthusiasm to help you as interference with your work.

What has your experience with the company been like so far?

This is a tricky question, as almost every boss will try and give you a positive response. You need to watch out for body language, tone and overall attitude while they describe their experience. If they show indifference or give you a lukewarm response, it is an indication that what they say is just an attempt to get you into the organisation. If they have a smile on their faces and enjoy describing their experience, you shouldn't have any hesitation about working for them.

Even a great job can turn into a bad experience if you don't get along with the person you work for. Asking the right questions at the interview will save you from nasty surprises later.

Sunder Ramachandran is Managing Partner at W.C.H Solutions, a Training Solutions Organisation. He can be reached at

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