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3 Ways to Recognize a Terrible Potential Boss in an Interview

Have you ever been so psyched for a landing a job interview at a promising employer, only to be completely turned off to the opportunity thanks to the behavior of your potential boss? It happens more often than candidates like to admit, which is why it's important to be able to recognize a bad boss when you meet one. Here's how.

Have you ever been so psyched for a landing a job interview at a promising employer, only to be completely turned off to the opportunity thanks to the behavior of your potential boss? It happens more often than candidates like to admit, which is why it’s important to be able to recognize a bad boss when you meet one. Here’s how.

terrible boss - interview tips

(Photo Credit: Andreas/Flickr)

Terrible bosses are, well, terrible. If you’ve ever had one before, you surely never want another one … ever, ever again. They can make your life a living hell, not to mention do a number on your self-confidence. As a professional who probably has great aspirations for his or her career, you’ll want to do everything in your power to steer clear of micro-managing, self-centered, disrespectful bosses who are only out for themselves. Here are three ways you can sniff out a bad seed during the interview stage and save yourself from a dead-end job, thanks to your awful (potential) boss.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

1. Late for the interview and doesn’t care – Yes, we’re all busy and have a million things to do in a day, however, if your potential boss is 1) late to the interview and 2) unapologetic for his tardiness, then chances are he’s not going to care to give you the time of day once you sign your life away and accept the job. A good boss is considerate of other people’s time and understands that time is money – it simply can’t be wasted – regardless of who you are or aren’t in the organization. Strike one.

2. Fails to acknowledge you or anyone, really – Ha! Check this guy out. Not only was your potential boss tardy to the interview, but he also sat down without acknowledging you or anyone else in the room. What’s the deal? First things first, don’t take it personally – it’s probably him, not you. Second, take this as a sign that he couldn’t care less about you or anyone else, or that he’s so self-absorbed that he is only concerned about his (and only his) schedule. Strike two for Mr. Inconsiderate Tardy Man.

3. Boasts about life’s accomplishments – If the interviewer reverts to, “Hey guys, why don’t we talk about how awesome I am,” then you’ll know that Terrible Boss is, in fact, terrible at “bossery.” People who are self-absorbed and constantly talking about themselves are usually toxic and make for terrible leaders. The best thing you can do at this point is to try and bring the conversation back to the job opportunity or the company’s goals. If your attempts to steer the conversation back to the job, then all you can do is let the rest of the interview play out. At least you know you gave it your best shot, but, unfortunately, Mr. Boss just struck out. Game over. The good news is, he actually did you a really big favor by being terrible and helped you dodge a bullet in your career.

At any job interview, it’s best to be fully prepared and put your best foot forward. Be sure to spruce up on your interview skills (here and here), so that you can land your dream job like a boss (a non-terrible one, of course).

Tell Us What You Think

Have you had a similar encounter with a terrible boss during a job interview and ended up taking the job? Let us know how your experience turned out and how you’re holding up. Share your story with our community on Twitter.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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9 Comments on "3 Ways to Recognize a Terrible Potential Boss in an Interview"

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I did have a terrible interview with a bad boss and still took the job under duress. I didn’t have other offers at the time and was under time constraints. I had asked him for some time to decide, he didn’t seem right to me – very abrasive and I really wasn’t sure about the job title, which was not at my skill level. His comments on how much time I was taking were rude and he took the opportunity to tell me how many other people he had lined up for the position. “Thank you for the opportunity, but… Read more »

Why does this “negative” boss have to be a man? Seems sexist


When I went for an interview I asked my potential new boss ” What type of manager are you” She said she never had anyone ask her that and it through her for a loop. As I have had many horrible bosses in the past and I thought it was a fair question. I did get hired, she is excellent and I could not have asked for a better boss.


Friend works for a movie theatre company in knoxville tn ….i.t. director/manager always hires people who he feels would make good drinking buddies rather than good workers….really sad

Thanks Anthony! How honorable you have admitted you were a terrible boss and bless your heart. Trust all well now. How can one have an ounce of compassion or acknowledgement for the worst, shitty and unhuman trashy bosses no matter what level they are in when they display the obvious, common-sense unprofessional behaviors which are utmost immature to the core such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, exlcusion, gossip and dirty looks with any yelling, voice-raising or belittling or acting condescending in any way when doing something or asking a question. The worst of worst who is the unhuman enemy and with… Read more »
Sarah J Thenas
Good Morning. Being told day five at new position you have not progressed as expected and new employees with no experience are quicker on the job. I learned very quickly I stepped into a poorly micro managed management position The culture is not encourage, develop and empower. The person has created Avery damaged staff by intimidation The supervisors except for one act the same way toward employees. I manage the supervisors and manage of this dept. the overall bad manager has instructed supervisors to report to her and detail any errors , petty, not important to his overloaded position. This… Read more »

An interviewer who snaps at you while you are one minute into talking, shows that he is disrespectful. Imagine how disrespectful he will be after he becomes your boss.

Stacy Carpenter

All who had to work with terrible bosses, please share your experience with jobseekers in their community Help them to avoid bad choice.

Anthony Gold
Excellent points Leah. I’ve had my fair share of terrible bosses over my career. And, regrettably, I used to be one of those terrible bosses. Not that I would show up late for interviews or brag about my accomplishments, but I certainly did not spend nearly enough time appreciating the hard work and passionate energy expended by each contributor. Now when I help people preparing for job interviews, I remind them that interviewing is a two-way street and that you are there because the company believes you have what they need. So, besides being prepared and confident in the way… Read more »
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