Learn How to Answer Interview Questions About Bosses

man talking in job interview
••• J.A. Bracchi / Stone / Getty Images

Most job interviews will include a few inquiries about your bosses – both past and future. Common interview questions about supervisors include asking you to describe the best and the worst boss you've worked for, what you expect from a supervisor, how you handle a boss who's wrong, and other questions related to relationships with your superiors.

Answering Questions About Previous Bosses

Above all else, no matter how much you disliked a previous boss, don't say so! In fact, don’t say anything negative about your bosses no matter what your experiences were. Negativity, insults, or defamatory comments about a bad boss serve as a red flag for a hiring manager who may wonder what you will say in the future if you're hired.

You needn’t lie about your previous supervisors. Be truthful but remain positive. Frame your answer so that you shine a light on your professionalism and the insight you developed about the circumstances. The same holds true for the company — if you hated working at a company, keep that information to yourself.

Be Very Careful How You Respond

Why is it important to be mindful of what you say? There are so many reasons to watch your tongue. For example, an old boss might actually be a friend or acquaintance of the interviewer, especially if they're in the same industry. Or he or she may be a client or customer of your prospective company. If you burn that bridge, you’ll probably destroy your chance at getting the job.

If you’re asked about a situation with a boss you didn’t like, take a breath, pause a moment, and prepare your answer in a positive, or at least neutral, manner. At this point, how you deal emotionally with these types of questions may be important. This is not the time to fly off the handle and get upset or go into too many details about how bad your boss was.

Shoulder the Blame and Show Growth

If you think about it, there are always at least two sides to every story. Have you had a conflict with a supervisor? Disagreements about your work? First, realize that nearly all employees have had some kind of difference of opinion with their manager, which is a normal part of a relationship, on the job or off.

Thus, it's totally reasonable to talk about the situation. Convey what you learned and how the problem was resolved. In fact, dissenting opinions can be positive in that they lead to brainstorming and new ideas and solutions that advance the company. Perhaps you could explain how a difference in opinion led to some sort of improvement.

Here's One Approach to Taking Personal Responsibility

Take a look at these examples on how to answer the question while taking on at least some of the responsibility.

I didn’t see eye to eye with my last boss and that led to a breakdown in communication. However, now I realize this was also due to my lack of experience in the industry and I worried that asking questions would be perceived as weak and indicate that I was unable to do the job.

Now I've learned to ask questions immediately if I need further explanation and that it demonstrates my initiative and dedication to getting the job done right.

An answer like that frames a bad situation in a better way and shows you improved yourself as a result. While it’s clear you had a disagreement with your boss, you didn’t cast him or her in a negative light.

Interview Questions and Answers About Bosses

Want more examples? Here are sample interview questions about managers and some of the best answers. Review these questions and answers and choose those that pertain to your previous situations, tailor them to your needs and practice answering those questions.

While we’re on the subject of bosses, it's important to find the one that's right for you when you're considering a new job, especially if you’ve had some terrible bosses in the past. Here's how to find and work for the best boss.