A reader writes:
I was recently asked in an interview, “What do you look for in a manager?”
My honest answer is “consistency.” My last boss was fine – but she was renowned for changing her mind. I challenged her about it at times. She admitted that sometimes she changed her mind because she hadn’t thought things through. Other times it was because situations changed. Other times she denied saying one thing and was now saying something else. She had many good points but was frustrating.
But this is not something to talk about in an interview. I can deal with a crabby boss, a moody boss, a lovely boss, someone who delegates and someone who micromanages. But I do like a bit of consistency.
In any event, in the interview I talked about wanting a boss who was supportive, who delegated work and who communicated. So – sorry to ramble – but what should I have answered in the interview?
Well, it depends. If you want to be sure you don’t end up working for a boss like that again, then I’d be honest. Don’t go overboard of course, but if you really don’t want to be in that situation again, it’s fine to say something like, “I’ve found I work well with a lot of different management styles, but one thing I’ve found challenging is someone who reverses their own decisions a lot. Obviously, sometimes situations change and there’s nothing that can be done about that, but otherwise I like to make decisions by thinking through a situation and considering pros and cons, so that I feel confident in the decision and can stick to it, and I like to work with people who work that way too.”
By being forthright about it, you’ll screen out jobs where you might find yourself with exactly the sort of boss you don’t want. In other words, don’t focus on giving the answers that will get you a job offer, any job offer — focus on giving the answers that will get you a job you’ll like.
But, on the other hand, if the reality is that this is more of a nice-to-have than a must-have for you, and you’d want the job even if you knew your boss would be as inconsistent as your old one, then I think the way you answered was fine. It really comes down to how important this is to you.