While enjoying a celebratory glass of wine with a client who just landed a new position, it struck me that I’ve never yet blogged about one of my my favorite tactics for the newly-employed: asking your new boss for an “entrance interview” shortly after being hired!

As most of you likely know, many companies engage in the practice of “exit interviewing” when an employee decides to leave the organization.  In these meetings, a representative from HR usually asks a series of questions to see why the person is choosing to leave and what the company could have done better to retain them.  For example, after conducting a quick Google search, I found a number of sample “exit interview forms” on various HR resource websites that recommended the company rep ask questions like “What are your primary reasons for leaving?” and “What did you find most frustrating about your job?” and “Is there anything the company could have done to prevent you from leaving?”

Does this practice strike anybody else but me as slightly absurd?

To me, an organization needs to be communicating with its employees constantly to figure out what key issues or policies might be contributing to chronic worker dissatisfaction.  Better yet, I think a lot of these issues could be short-circuited right up front if a manager were to sit down with a new employee and talk through some of the work style and communication factors that so often lead to conflict — and cause higher-than-normal attrition rates.  Since I hold out little hope that most managers will proactively make a point of doing this, however, I suggest to all of my newly-transitioned clients that they “empower themselves” and ask to hold such meetings themselves, ideally within the first two weeks of starting the new job.

Essentially, the new employee should simply request a 30-minute meeting with their supervisor to discuss how they can best work together and function most efficiently, going forward.  Upon securing the meeting, the individual in question can then prompt dialogue around a series of questions which might include the following:

•  What are the unwritten rules I should know about working here at XYZ Company?
•  What attitudes or behaviors tend to lead to success in this company’s (or workgroup’s) culture?
•  What types of personality traits or behaviors are publicly frowned upon in the organization?
•  What are your own personal preferences in terms of communication?  For example, when I have a question or issue, is it best to e-mail you, call you, or stop by your office?
•  How often should I check in with you about the status of my work/projects?
•  What pet peeves do you have?  What behaviors should I try hard to avoid, lest I drive you nuts?
•  What characteristics do you value most in your most successful team members?
•  How do you tend to act if/when you get stressed?  And what can I do in these situations to help you?
•  Would you mind if we touched base like this every 90 days or so to make sure I’m on the right track and doing everything I can to meet your expectations?

By initiating this kind of conversation with your next boss, you’ll be demonstrating a profound amount of emotional intelligence and likely identify many hidden “land mines” that you’ll now be able to avoid, having surfaced them.  Maybe your new boss will tell you he hates it when people don’t update him daily on their status…or when they ask too many questions…or when they e-mail, versus just stopping by his office.  Or maybe she’ll tell you there’s nothing she hates more than having “whiners” on her team.  Whatever the case may be, you’ll be in a far better position to maneuver effectively within the organization, politically, if you don’t have to learn these lessons the hard way!

So give it shot.  The next time you’re hired, ask whether the boss would open to holding a quick “entrance interview” to discuss how you can best support him/her and to help you navigate the new company culture in effective fashion.  From my standpoint, any halfway-intelligent manager would welcome the chance to hold such a meeting and would appreciate the proactivity and consideration such a request would demonstrate!