Let’s say an employer or hiring manager asks you this as an interview question.
You might take a moment to think about it.
You might smile when you think you have thought of a great answer.
Might take a deep breath and confidently reply:
Well, to be honest, my previous boss was terrible! He was disrespectful and completely unqualified to run the branch… He is a big reason I am here today seeking a new career.
Don’t do this.
That is a very good example of how NOT to answer the interview question, “What do you think about your previous boss?”
Even if you think this might be flattering to the hiring manager, there are a hundred better ways to respond.
Can You Relate?
Chances are, you are going to have a supervisor that you don’t like throughout your career.
It’s just one of those unavoidable facts of life.
Maybe they were too strict, too careless, or you simply didn’t get along.
That’s okay, and it’s completely understandable.
But whatever you do, DO NOT word your response like the above statement.
This type of response will highlight your very worst traits as an employee.
No need to worry.
We got your back.
If you follow the below guidelines, you will be able to navigate through this cryptic question.
Remember, your response gives the hiring manager a fairly accurate picture of the type of employee you will be!
Why Does the Hiring Manager Ask This Question?
With this in mind, it can seem a little confusing why the employer or hiring manager would ask this question.
It really does seem like they are opening the door for you to complain about your previous employer.
It almost sounds like the employer is asking:
- What’s so horrible that you just had to leave?
- What annoyed you most?
- Why didn’t you and your previous boss get along?
This is simply not the case.
If you respond with the above in mind, it will call your character into question.
Your potential employer may become concerned about:
- Your loyalty to the company
- Your ability to work with others
- Your social skills
These are all things the employer will be looking for.
Do not take the opportunity to complain about your previous job and boss.
It opens the door for another applicant to give a better answer.
So if this isn’t really an opportunity to companies about your boss, how can you answer this tricky interview question?
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
This saying holds true to this question, but unfortunately, you have to say something!
Do your best and resist spewing a bunch of complaints about past disagreements you had with your boss.
Believe it or not, this will most likely have a negative impact on your interview.
Most companies have that overly critical employee that states he or she can do a much better job.
Even if you are not this type of person, a negative answer can portray you as such.
That’s one of the last things you want!
You should be able to spin any character traits or performance of your previous boss in a positive light.
If you have nothing nice to say, it is best to stick to the basics:
He was goal-oriented and this helped me focus and crush my sales quotas and deadlines!
She really allowed her employees to use their strengths to accomplish their tasks. She did not micro-manage each position, which helped create a high level of self-confidence for my coworkers and me!
Not only does this mean you won’t be complaining to a potential new employer.
It also frames you as an optimist and go-getter.
This interview question is very similar to “Who Was Your Favorite Manager And Why.”
We recommend you check this out after!
Put It Into Numbers
Hopefully, regardless of how your previous boss performed, there was a certain amount of success that you can quantify.
It is always helpful to use percentages and dollar figures in your interview.
Some possible successes you can consider include:
- Actions you took to cut company costs and by how much
- Large budgets you have managed/overseen
- Took actions to boost company production and by how much
If you do not have any known facts or statistics that you can share in your response, that’s okay.
Simply consider other work-related accomplishments.
This is just another reason why it’s a good idea to think about this answer before your interview.
There might be numbers related to your professional accomplishments that you may not have thought of on the spot!
We would strongly suggest not making them up.
Whatever you do, don’t make up outlandish numbers as this will be a dead giveaway that you are lying!
It’s best to let you real work speak for itself.
This Question Is About You!
No matter your feelings towards your previous employer, there is a right and wrong answer to this question.
A successful candidate will not just answer this question, but use it to their advantage.
This question can be used to highlight your:
- Work ethic
- Personality traits
A clever job seeker will not just consider the above.
They will talk about these qualities that align with the open position.
Although this question involves another person, you should always redirect the conversation.
Use it to discuss why you are the right person for the job!
If you had a great boss prior to the interview, you should have no problem avoiding the pitfalls of this question.
Make sure to keep it professional rather than describe why your boss was your best pal.
You are reading this for a reason.
If it’s to prepare, make sure you prepare a response to any question relating to your previous employer.
YOU GOT THIS!!