How to Research a Manager Before a Job Interview

by Guest Author, Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Studies show that a competent boss is linked to higher employee job satisfaction, success, promotions and work-life balance. Yet many job seekers don’t see the job interview process as a prime opportunity to evaluate whether a prospective manager is right for them.

Unless you scope out the manager beforehand, you may miss important clues about their management style, expectations and capabilities. These elements can have a significant impact on your career, well-being and ability to work together.

Here’s how to research a manager before an interview and what you can learn.

Management Style

When evaluating your ability to work effectively with a future manager, you need to consider their personality, management philosophy and whether their management style will allow you to flourish and grow.

A prospective manager’s profile on LinkedIn may offer some initial clues. For instance, if they have received or given recommendations to direct reports, this could be a sign they have a people-oriented style that emphasizes relationships as opposed to tasks. Also, the management experts they follow, and the posts and articles they share, can reveal who they admire and aspire to emulate.

While it’s okay to come right out and ask, “What’s your management style?” during an interview, most micromanagers don’t know that they’re micromanaging, explained Tom Goettl, president of technical recruiting firm Konik Network. You’ll have to find that out for yourself.

Asking current and former employees about a manager’s personality and workflow is the best way to uncover their actual management style, how they treat team members, and why a position is vacant.

Also, if the company has publicly committed to a people-first or innovative culture, see how the manager’s style and philosophy compares. Major discrepancies between a company’s stated values and a manager’s behaviors and practices should be viewed as a red flag.

Pressures, Priorities and Hot Buttons

Knowing the types of initiatives that a manager is tasked with overseeing can help you anticipate the challenges they’re facing, the types of questions you may be asked during the interview, and the type of hire the company ultimately wants.

The Dice Technologist Sentiment Report found that 9 percent of technologists are concerned about finding a job that matches their skillset, while 8 percent are concerned about keeping their skills up to date. Knowing the types of projects and tech stack you’d be working on can ensure that your job-hunting efforts are focused on well-suited opportunities.

Most job postings list required and desired technical skills, but they don’t explain how the technology is being used, Goettl said. Conducting word-of-mouth research into these areas can help you decide if an opportunity is right for you. You can also use that research to determine which of your personal and professional stories to tell during the job interview, as you’ll have an idea of the manager’s “hot button” issues and technical challenges.

Searching for a hiring manager’s name on GitHub or technical forums and reading the comments they’ve made can give you some insight into their unique staffing challenges as well as their technical interests and needs, advised Chris Russell, managing director of RecTech Media. Many managers have a blog or personal website, and you can learn a lot from their “about me” section or reading recent blog posts.

Of course, you can simply Google the hiring manager’s name or steal a page from the recruiter’s playbook by using a Boolean search to scope out a hiring manager online including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram. Also, make sure to check Glassdoor, where you may find questions from other job seekers who have been interviewed by a specific hiring manager.

Passions and Interests

Researching the hiring manager’s personal side on social media can reveal common interests or hobbies and provide a common ground to discuss during the interview. In fact, a recent survey showed that having a good relationship with your boss is more important than high salary when it comes to making “stay or go” decisions.

“Bringing up mutual connections, interests or other ‘safe topics’ that you discover about a hiring manager on social media shows that you’re curious and helps you connect,” explained Jen Fitzke, lead recruiter for Konik Network.

However, you want to avoid controversial topics like religion or politics or being too personal, like mentioning someone’s children or other family members, she warned.

For instance, strategically mentioning a mutually shared passion for baseball, long-distance running or gaming when answering “tell me about yourself” interview questions can help you establish a bond and separate yourself from other candidates.

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About the author: Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a business and careers writer based in Southern California. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry and has been writing blog posts, sample resumes and providing sage career advice since 2006.

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