5 Tips for Picking a Great Boss and Why it Matters

It's lucky to find a good boss but there is more than luck to doing it.

learn more about Shan-lyn Ma

By Shan-lyn Ma • Jun 6, 2014 Originally published Jun 6, 2014

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The adage is true. You join the company, but you quit your boss.

The biggest influence on how I currently run Zola, my own startup, is the knowledge I gained working with great leaders during my time at Gilt Groupe, a high-growth tech startup. A range of great leaders there taught me about leadership and management styles. Here are the five most important tips on how to seek a great boss you need to know, before and after your first day on the job:

Related: This Simple Strategy Will Make You the Top Candidate for Any Job

1. The interview process is a two-way street. Be picky during the interview process. You'll get more respect by taking your job hunt as seriously as an employer takes its interview and vetting process. When you're getting close to a job offer, ask your would-be boss for contact information for people they've managed. You'll get great insight into who they are as a boss, their management style and what it's like to work for them.

2. Study THEIR resumes. Study the resumes of any potential team member when applying to a job. By exploring a team's background you may discover a history of success and achievement at companies with high standards, ensuring that your aggressive pursuit of the job is justified.

3. Explore mentors and coaches. While at Gilt, I was fortunate to have occasional meetings with founder and chairman Kevin Ryan. Though he wasn't my direct manager at the time, Kevin coached me on key areas of improvement. Years later, knowing we worked well together and that I thrived under his management style, I jumped at the opportunity to join Kevin's team. Reach out to mentors to expand your network. You may one day work directly for one of them.

Related: The Strategy Behind Weird Interview Questions

4. Volunteer for cross-functional projects. Expose yourself to a range of new management styles by volunteering for projects outside of your immediate team. By helping on projects important to different teams and initiatives within the company, you learn what kind of team and manager you work best with. In turn, this will help you become a more versatile manager.

5. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask your potential boss about their management style. Learning how they communicate with their team members is valuable, especially early at a new job. Asking early can help you form a clear hypothesis based on their responses. You will determine whether that information is accurate as you meet others in the organization, further along in the interview process.

A company's business model, culture, track record, business growth or risk potential are all obvious variables to examine when applying to a new job. The tips I've listed above, however, tend to fly under the radar.

Once you land a great boss, thank your lucky stars, work hard, and commit yourself to learning as much as possible from them.

Related: How Not to Embarrass Yourself During a Skype Interview (Infographic)

Shan-lyn Ma
Shan-Lyn Ma is a Founder and CEO of Zola, the startup that’s re-inventing the wedding registry online for modern couples. Previously, she was Chief Product Officer of Chloe + Isabel and prior to that, the General Manager of Gilt Taste. Shan-Lyn joined Gilt Groupe in 2008, when she started as the first Product Lead tasked with defining and evolving the core Gilt.com experience.

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