How to Choose Your New Boss

Yesterday’s post dealt with maximizing your earning power at your job by knowing the items you could potentially negotiate. Today, I’ll go over the important factors you should consider when choosing your employer and new boss. People DO choose their boss, though many think the boss chooses them. In reality, you decide where you’ll work. You decide if you’ll seek other employment. You hold the keys…at least figuratively!

When you choose your new boss, consider these factors:

1. Work–How much and how does it roll?
No matter which boss you choose or where you go to work, there will almost never be enough people to complete every process. Ask questions to determine if your new boss is results based or just looking for someone to perform busy work. How does your prospective new boss assign work, assign those juicy new projects, reward performance, and grant time off? Do others in the department look haggard and directionless or do they look sharp and refreshed? Does the department have a crisp and fresh feeling or does it reek of neglect and de-motivation?

2. Management Type–Winnie the Pooh or Attila the Hun?
Ask your prospective new boss to describe his or her style of management. Ask about his or her management and business philosophy. If all you get for answers are business school buzzwords and corporate blather, you can bet that what he or she calls management is chaotic, inefficient, and full of inequities. If possible, get additional input from co-workers, vendors, customers, or others in your professional network. Keep everything informal (hint: meet off site) and watch how they respond as much as you listen to what they say. You can gather some keen insights into office morale.

3. Values And Goals–What are the key targets we’re trying to hit around here anyway?
Ask about values and goals to determine if your prospective new boss is a rising star or someone sinking deeper into frustration and bitterness. Does he or she radiate creativity and forward thinking? Does he or she seem “in the loop?” Does he or she smile a lot? Is everything deadly serious or is there some levity and lightness to his or her approach? A depressed boss on the downswing will pull you down, make your life miserable, and may limit your advancement. His or her undoing could become YOUR undoing.

4. Ask Non-Traditional Questions–Can the boss hit a curve-ball?
Go ahead and toss him or her a few curves by asking open ended questions such as “What makes a good employee?” or “What did you learn from your biggest mistake?” or “What characteristics did you admire in your first boss?” If your prospective boss offers a rote, canned, by-the-numbers response, bet on a rote, top-down manager. Bleh! My suggestion: Choose to keep your job search alive.

5. Turnover–Is this place a revolving door?
Ask your prospective boss about employee turnover. Why did people leave? Was their departure their choice? Where did they take new jobs? Did they move up in the company? Why are you seeking to fill this position from outside the organization? If turnover is high, what does it says about the company, not to mention the boss? Keep asking “why was that?” or “what caused that to happen?” even if it seems uncomfortable. Better to get a few uncomfortable answers now than find out 6 months later that you made the wrong choice.

6. Follow-Up Questions–What am I NOT asking that I should?
If the initial response to a question is too slick or sidesteps like a spooked horse, follow up with a pointed, more direct question. Don’t be afraid! Ask! If you do need more information, or if something isn’t clear, ask for clarification. “Tell me more about…” or “Are you saying that…” are good examples. Nail things down NOW to avoid unpleasant surprises about your duties or about what is expected in the future. One good question to ask: “What about this company’s corporate culture makes it stand out from its competitors?”

7. Get It In Writing–Can I get your signature on that?
Be sure you get all the details of the job offer in writing. All of it. Everything you can. You don’t want to be accused of not understanding “the way things work around here” in the future. Include the basics, starting with the offer’s compensation package, duties, hours, location, supervisor, and job title. Expand that to include limits of responsibility, what is required for advancement, reimbursement for company expenses, use of company assets, etc.

8. The Details–Can we get a little more specific?
When you finally DO have a job offer in hand, be sure to ask about vacation, health coverage, education allowance, stock options, bonuses and relocation expenses, if applicable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. This is your livelihood we’re talking about!

9. Negotiate Your Starting Salary–What do YOU think I’m worth?
Notice that this step is two removed from the job offer. You want your new boss to really, really want you to come to work. If you’ve reached this point, you’ve already established your value to the company, now turn up the heat a little, but do your homework. You don’t want to undersell yourself or price yourself out of the market. Calculate the average salary for candidates with your educational background and experience. Then negotiate by telling you prospective new boss what sets you apart and why you deserve the upper end of that range.

10. Agree To A Deadline-Can I have your answer by the day after yesterday?
Your prospective new boss will want an answer on the job offer as quickly as possible, but if you have another offer in hand, or expect to receive one soon, allow yourself time to carefully consider both. A few days isn’t unreasonable, but don’t overdo it, or the prospective employer will think you’re not sincerely interested in the company, not serious about the job, or just playing him like a cheap fiddle. And always say thank you and then resign gracefully from your current job.

Finally, follow Your Instincts–What does your gut instinct tell you?
After you’ve examined all the hard numbers, you’re left with intangibles such as corporate culture and personal “fit” with the company. Decide what you want, what is important to YOU and then follow your instincts. Make sure you don’t ever, EVER take a job only for the money. I’ve done this before and regretted it.

[tags]new boss, boss, negotiate, employer, job, choose new boss[/tags]

About the author

Ron has written 1086 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a partner in a national building materials company.

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