Terrific advice below from Paul Kedrosky. I can't tell you how important it is to ask the person hiring you for references on their work style. It seems like this is a lesson that everyone has to learn once. After you've been miserable at a job, you'll never fail to ask for references again.
Btw - no one is going to tell you the prospective boss is mean or a bad person. They will make some allusions to that stuff. You need to be on your game and probe with a lot of questions. You're going to need to read between the lines.
The Case for Asking Your Employer for References: "
A friend of mine is looking at a life-changing job offer. It would require relocation, sectoral change, a personal clock frequency increase, and, of course new people. There are plenty of reason to take the offer, including lots of independence, challenges, and, it doesn’t hurt, buckets of money.
So, he’s taking the job right? Well, he’s not sure. Not, however, because he’s some nervous sort, afraid of taking risks, etc. It’s because of the people — because it’s a small group, and a few meetings, calls, and emails have only given him a limited sense of what it would be like dealing with them day after day.
He asked me what I thought he should do. I said, “Ask them for references”. Yes, ask his prospective new boss co-workers for references. It’s sort of surprising that you don’t hear about the idea more often, but I’m actually a fan of reverse references. You really sometimes need an independent sense of what employers are like, and one way to get there is via their references.