So how do you handle job interview questions about your current or former boss – especially when the boss is one of the reasons you are looking for work?
The astute job interviewer knows that a wrong move here will kiss your hopes of landing this job goodbye. That’s because employers know that if you had problems with the previous or current boss, who’s to say what the real problem is – your boss or you?
They don’t have time to mess around with that question so rather than try to dig deeper they may just go with a safer pick or show some allegiance to their peer.
So here are some typical boss-related questions you might get and how to respond to them.
Have you ever found it hard working for a previous boss?
I’ve written many times before about keeping all of your answers positive and upbeat, but some questions are phrased in such a way that you may feel the best answer is to go negative. Don’t fall for it!
Of course if you can truly say you have never found it hard to work for anyone then that’s your answer. But that would be pretty rare for most people so here are a couple ways you could respond:
“I’ve been a hygienist for 10 years and so it goes without saying that most people in that span of time are going to find things in others that can be improved. However, if I were running the practice, I am certain there are things my employees would not necessarily like. The important thing is that both of us are able to have conversations and that respect, listening, and professionalism will lead the way.”
Rather than going into why it’s been hard, this type of a response allows you to share a very practical framework for handling disagreements with a boss. It’s non-threatening and even gives them the impression that you care more about handling the situation professionally than simply getting your point across.
Who’s been the best and worst employer to work for?
This a totally unfair question. They want you to name names – are you kidding me? Absolutely, positively refuse! If you get this question, you may even want to chalk it up as a red flag for working for this employer – seriously!
However, it’s also possible it’s a trick question to see if you will start talking about people negatively. If you fall for it and start bashing or criticizing then they know you are the wrong person to hire.
But you also don’t want to shake you head and refuse to give them any answer, so the best way to respond is to share with them your ethics about talking about people. So you could share something like this.
“So far my career has had lots of successes and great experiences. I could certainly rank my employers from best to worst for you, and give you reasons why, but I really value the ethic of keeping conversations about employers and co-workers positive so I think I will just stick with the positive things and even what I learned from each of them, if that’s okay.”
They shouldn’t argue with that – it’s your value and ethic. If they do, politely decline and walk out!
Share an experience where you disagreed with your employer over how something should be done.
Here again is an opportunity to get really nasty about an instance where you know for a fact your boss was either wrong, unethical, or even doing something illegal. Don’t go there!
They need to see you are diplomatic, but they don’t need to hear about the worst of the worst. I would instead go with something very small and show how you handled it:
“My employer wanted to make a small change in how we made patients feel welcome that I felt was good, but was missing an important piece that conflicted. I told them I agreed that it’s important to make patients feel welcome and that I also had an additional thought. We discussed it and came up with a great third option we both felt good about.”
The above has the three elements of a great way to share experiences. First, describe the problem, next talk about the action, and third give them the resolution or how it ended.
Tell me one thing your current employer could improve that would make you stay.
Again, this is an opportunity to either let loose or play it safe. And, again, my advice is to play it safe. It might seem to some that employers are looking to see if this is a weakness that parallels one of their own. But it’s really a test to learn more about your relationship with your boss.
So I will say the same thing again, keep it positive and go big picture with them. It’s important to address the question, but you want to re-focus it on how you see the world instead of the minutia.
“I very seldom, if ever, base big career decisions on one factor. There are things everyone can improve on, even myself. But my job search is more about my career objectives and so I wouldn’t ever want my employer to feel that for me to stay there were certain conditions they had to change.”
There are lots of variations of questions you could potentially face regarding your employer in an interview – these are only a sample of some of the common ones. Just keep your responses positive, simple, and big picture or vague and you’ll come out of a fairly tough or awkward question in a great position to land the job.