How to Avoid Getting Hired by a Jerk

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How to Avoid Getting Hired by a Jerk

Most of us have, at least once, worked for a Class-A jerk. Maybe you’ve just quit working for one. Maybe you’re working for one now. In any event, you don’t want your next job to have that sort of boss…but how do you know beforehand?

It’d be nice if we could look at a person in an interview and immediately be able to assess what kind of boss he or she would be. But people are seldom 100% upfront when we meet them–that’s the premise the entire online dating industry is based on. And the reality is, you’re going to be on your best behavior during the interview, too…it’s human nature.

Having said that, everyone pays the price for working with a bad boss: morale and productivity drop, and suspicious absences become the norm. Even the BOSS of a bad boss is impacted: the manager of a bad manager can end up spending an excess of time just resolving conflicts and smoothing ruffled feathers.

Horrible bosses are a fact of life, and you simply can’t know for certain. But there are ways to be informed before you accept a job. Here are three key steps you can take before you accept a position.

Learn all you can about the job

It’s exciting to start a new job, but keep in mind that the new job will be an old job in a matter of weeks. Before you begin, be sure you understand not only what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, but also what kind of career path you can expect within the company. This isn’t just a matter of what you can contribute to the company, as important as that may be; interviews are also the time to figure out how much the company and/or your boss will contribute to your career growth and personal development.

During the interview process, be sure to probe for details on how your own personal and professional objectives fit in with those of the company. Ask what you can expect in terms of continuing education, compensation, company travel, future opportunities, and the like. Make sure these types of questions aren’t dismissed or evaded: it’s crucial that your own expectations and objectives fit with those of the company and the person you will be working for.

Learn all you can about the company

Research the company online before you even submit a resume. Check the obvious places, like the company’s website and their social media sites. But don’t stop there: feedback sites like Glassdoor can give you a feel for what current and former employees have to say about the company.

Of course, there is an inherent bias to online reviews: typically, the only people who write them either really love or really hate a company, whether it’s justified or not. All the same, if half the reviews are negative and the rest are so-so, it’s a pretty good sign the company is not all it should be.

Search the news, too: bad press could be a red flag, as well. An unflattering article here or there might not represent the entire company, but a pattern of bad press could mean trouble. Look for patterns: high turnover, slipping stock prices, trouble with government watchdogs, and so on.

Learn all you can about the employees

It’s easy to do a quick check on a company’s employees just by following links to social media. There’s no need to dig into everybody’s past: you can learn a lot by simply clicking a few LinkedIn profiles. How long to people stay at the company? Do they follow and share information from the company? Is there anything in their profile that feels negative about your potential employer?

Another trick is to simply observe: show up for you interview a few minutes early (good advice in general). But while you’re sitting in the lobby, take care to notice the people and activity around you. Watch the ways employees interact. What’s the energy level? Are people friendly or perfunctory? If you witness behavior or overhear conversations that make you uncomfortable, take note: that can be very revealing and tell you a lot about what the working environment will be like.

Overall, the thing you don’t want to do is give in to fear of being rejected. Being accepted isn’t nearly as important as finding a good fit. Remember, the interview is a two-way street: it’s not just a matter of a company deciding if they want you, it’s also about YOU deciding if you want to work for THEM.

With that in mind, ask questions about your would-be boss as a person, as well as a boss. Someone who is in the office 11+ hours a day could indicate the level of expected input from you. By the same token, many managers are passionate about a hobby, which could show a good understanding of work/life balance.

Above all, keep in mind that a bad boss might not be a deal-breaker: putting up with an annoying manager for a couple years might be worth it if it could potentially open the door to greater professional growth and advancement. Only you can make that call. So be sure to consider the good and the bad,  and make an informed choice for you and your future.