How do you answer the interview question, "How would your boss describe you?" or even more specifically, "What negative comment would your boss say about you?"
If you have recently graduated, the question might be, "What negative comment would your professor say about you?"
- Many people think this is some sort of trick question.
- They answer by saying, “Nothing, my last boss loved me and I was an all-star!”
- Unfortunately, that is not the correct answer.
The interviewer does not want an unrealistically positive response when they ask, "How would your boss describe you?"
How not to answer
Sometimes, it is every bit as helpful, in knowing how to respond to this basic interview question, is understanding how you should not answer.
Here are two ways you don't want to answer when asked, "How would your former boss describe you?"
1. Don't try to come across as perfect
We all had insecurities as kids, but as you grow up, you should be aware of your faults.
This is called maturity.
If you respond as if you have no faults, you may come off as either arrogant or - at the other end of the spectrum - insecure.
Neither will help you land that dream job.
There is no such thing as the perfect employee, and that's okay.
2. Don't be afraid of the truth
The most important thing in answering, "What negative comment would your boss or professor say about you?" is this:
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be strategic with your honesty.
More on that when we give two sample answers to this basic interview question.
In spite of the negative spin, you can actually turn this into a positive question!
You do this by stating a negative trait, unrelated to the position you are applying for, and explain how you are already working to improve this.
How to answer this basic interview question
So, you've already gotten through a couple of interview questions.
- The recruiter asked you, "Tell me about yourself," and you knew exactly what to say.
- They asked, "Why do you want to work here?" and you passed with flying colors.
But now you're hit with a question that feels like a fastball: "How would your boss describe you?"
Or maybe the hiring recruiter added a curve by asking, "What negative comment would your boss say about you?"
Keep reading to discover a few helpful tips to keep in mind.
1. Check the job description
This question is geared toward catching red flags.
If you mention any negative traits that are needed to be successful in the position you are interviewing at, you probably won’t get hired!
If you state a weakness that does not affect the position, you win in two ways.
- First, you were honest.
- Second, there are no immediate red flags.
So, always check the job description in order to avoid making unnecessary snafus as you answer this interview question.
2. Remain optimistic about coworkers
Another mistake to avoid is throwing previous coworkers under the bus!
The unfortunate part is that a scenario you describe could very well be 100% someone else’s fault.
In spite of this, you will look like a whiner if you narrate some negative situation that leaves former coworkers in a negative light.
Coworkers should only be brought up in a positive light in interviews.
This shows you work well with others.
3. Speak positively about managers/supervisors
By the way, this goes for managers and supervisors as well.
A common cliché from employees is, “My supervisor has no idea what they are doing!”
The recruiter might see this kind of statement as a definite red flag.
If you state this in an interview, you will come across as a “know it all."
And, to be honest, nobody wants to hire that type of person.
(For more tips, check out Preparing For A Job Interview – What To Bring, What To Wear, & More.)
Two sample answers
As promised above, we want to provide a couple of sample responses to give you an idea of exactly what we're talking about.
Now, the recruiter might not use the exact wording of, "What negative comment would your boss or professor say about you?"
Their wording might vary slightly.
Likewise, your response will vary depending on your work experience.
If you are an employee with previous paid work experience, the question would go something like this:
Hiring manager: "What negative comment would your boss say about you?"
Sample answer from an employee with work experience:
“Growing up and even into adulthood, I was terrified of public speaking!
I have since joined the Chamber of Commerce and have been making a point to speak with as many people as possible.
I have learned that as long as I practice and prepare, public speaking is not as terrifying as it once was.”
You'll notice a couple of things about the above answer:
- It does not put anyone else in a negative light.
- It demonstrates motivation and a proactive approach.
If you have recently graduated from college, your question and answer would differ slightly, as follows:
Hiring manager: “What negative comment would your professor say about you?”
Sample answer from a recent graduate with little or no work experience:
“One of my professors commented to me that I should focus my attention on school, instead of always being so active in extracurricular activities.
This wasn’t because my grades were hurting; I received an A in this class, however, there were times that I would arrive late, rushing from work to class.
After he made his comment, I adjusted my work schedule to make sure I was never late again.”
This response shows that the prospective employee:
- Is a good student (got an A in this class).
- Takes suggestions and input seriously.
(Read more on How To Answer The 16 Most Common Interview Questions.)
Bonus tip: Think positively about negative questions
Let's face it, negative questions prove a challenge during an interview.
Even the bravest job hunter out there can get a little shaky when asked, "What negative comment would your boss or professor say about you?"
We all wish there was a “phone a friend” option when it comes to certain interview questions, but unfortunately, you are stuck with what you get.
Don’t let these questions get in the way of you landing the job!
When faced with a difficult/negative question, think about what is really being asked.
Most of the time, they are looking for critical thinking and well-worded responses that aren't simply worthless banter.
Believe in yourself!
Believe that you are qualified for the job and you shouldn’t have a problem with these types of negative questions.
Closing: Get help in your job search
Our professionally managed job search program is aimed to help you land your dream job.
Contact us today if you are looking for a job and need a bit of help with the heavy lifting.