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7 Signs You’re Interviewing With a Bad Boss

Topics: Work Culture
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If you’ve ever worked for a difficult boss, you know just how miserable it can be. Thankfully, there are some signs to look out for during the interview process. They could help you figure out what you’d be getting into if you took the job.

Difficult bosses make everything about work more challenging. Some hover and don’t feel comfortable relinquishing any control. Others are negative, have a temper, or are prone to outbursts.

There are all kinds of bad bosses out there. If you can learn how to spot them during the interview process, you just might save yourself a world of trouble. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

1. They talk about themselves A Lot

There’s nothing quite like a boss who needs to have their ego continuously stroked. If a boss seems more interested in talking about themselves than they are in asking about you, it could be a red flag, according to Sarah Dowzell, COO of Natural HR.

“The best example of the inflated ego I’ve come across was a candidate being told by the hiring manager that he’d looked at his LinkedIn profile, and then he asked why this wasn’t reciprocated,” Dowzell told Fast Company. “This person does not only have an inflated ego, but they’re also needy. Who wants to work for a needy boss?”

2. They don’t listen to you

Good listeners make better employees, and they make better bosses, too. If the person you’re interviewing with gets distracted and stops paying attention to what you’re saying, it could be a bad sign. (It also could indicate that you’re going on and on, so be careful.)

Pay attention to how much attention you’re paid during your interview. If your potential boss loses focus, it could be a sign that they don’t value their employees’ opinions very much.

3. They don’t trust their employees

Gregg Stocker, author of Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral, advises interviewees to ask about a company’s problems, and their causes, during an interview. At Monster, he says that if your potential future boss responds by blaming others, it could be a red flag. It’s not easy to work for a boss who’s always looking over your shoulder. Bosses who don’t trust their employees tend to do that.

4. They’re inconsistent or contradict themselves

Have you ever worked for someone who tells you to do one thing one day and then changes their mind and has you do it entirely differently the next day? It can be really frustrating, not to mention demoralizing and just plain exhausting. If your potential new boss has tendencies toward these behaviors, you might see evidence of them during the interview. Take note if they’re changing their mind or contradicting themselves during your talk.

5. They don’t seem to really get it

Some bosses understand the business better than others. Working for someone who’s out of the loop is never easy.

Things tend to run more smoothly when the person at the helm knows how to plot a course. So, pay attention to your potential new boss’s understanding of the business during your interview. Don’t just assume they’re an expert because they’re the boss.

You want a manager who’s flexible, yes. But, you don’t want one who’s in over their head and just trying to keep up with everything that’s going on.

6. You pick up on some negative emotions

If you’ve ever worked for one who’s unpredictable emotionally, you know how challenging it can be. So, be on the lookout for signs of anger, frustration, fear, or other negative emotional displays during your interview. If the new boss is willing to show you that side of their behavior already, you could be in for a lot worse further down the road.

7. You feel terrible around them

Leaders empower those around them, but bad bosses tend to do just the opposite. They might demand too much of your time while never showing appreciation. Or maybe they shoot down all of your ideas just to feel a little better about themselves and their abilities.

In short, good bosses make you feel good and bad bosses make you feel bad. So, pay attention to how this boss makes you feel during your interview. First impressions can be misleading, but you might also have a knowing sense about this person deep down.

Listen to your instincts. If you walk away from the interview feeling emotionally or mentally drained, or just kind of icky, it’s a bad sign.

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J D & CompanyNora KingJackShirleyIrene Adler Recent comment authors
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There are other kinds – ones who are so politically correct that they refuse to make a decision or give clear direction. You cannot possibly do your job. They don’t answer questions, they don’t help you to actually get anything done. It sucks.

J D & Company
J D & Company

Whenever you hear excessive numbers of clichés it is time to wrap up the interview. In my 34-years of commercial banking, I have ended two interviews prematurely. Those two interviews were conducted in the most negative way, beginning with scheduled interviews that each began over 40-minutes late. The worst was the second interview being a constant interruption of cell-phone calls and “I need to take this” remarks. No thank you, I had seen enough. Remember that an interview is a… Read more »

Nora King
Nora King

I have had interviewers violate every rule that job seekers are told to abide by during the interview. You would think they too could follow these rules out of respect. I had one interview in which the man ate (and even belched) in front of me, during a joint interview my comments were dismissed, in some instances it is sloppy dress. On one occasion I called the interviewer after I received a rejection letter because I wanted feedback. He informed… Read more »


I met one hiring manager that directly told me that he is not convinced about my answers. I decided to cut the interview short, shook hands and left. he definitely did not look like someone I would like to report to.


Wow, an ex-boss of mine could tick EVERY single one of those. Scary! I wish I had listened to my gut when he interviewed me, but at the time I was just too keen to leave my old job as the company was in trouble. A bad boss is NEVER worth staying around for.

Steven Hamlin
Steven Hamlin

At a civil engineering services company in southern California; Before entering the conference room the local VP asked the resident engineer “Does he have proper introduction?”. Then acted as if my resume was an meal he had been anticipating for weeks. When I described a successful period covering multiple jobsites with long hours and different requirements VP’s only focus was that I “got some really good checks”. Switched back and forth from the company needing all of my certifications to… Read more »

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