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 view negativity as a reflection on you, more than a problem boss in the past.
You don't need to lie about your previous supervisors. Be truthful, but frame your comments in a positive light. Provide answers that exhibit professionalism and insights about the circumstances you're describing. The same holds true if you hated working at a previous 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 one, you don't know who the human resource manager knows. 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 a positive, or at least neutral, answer. How you deal emotionally with these types of questions is equally important. This is not the time to fly off the handle and get upset, or to go into too many details about how bad your boss was.
Shoulder the Blame and Show Growth
There are 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 or off the job.
It's reasonable to talk about these types of situations as a way to convey what you learned and how the problem was resolved. In fact, dissenting opinions can be positive in that they lead to brainstorming new ideas and solutions that advance the company. Perhaps you could explain how a difference in opinion led to some sort of improvement.
Sample Approaches to Taking Personal Responsibility
Take a look at these examples on how to answer the question about former bosses, while also shouldering 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 an indication that I was unable to do the job.
Now I've learned to ask questions immediately if I need further explanation and that by doing so it demonstrates my initiative and dedication to getting the job done right.
An answer like that frames a bad situation in an improved manner, and shows you've learned something that makes you a better employee 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 of questions related to bosses? Here are sample interview questions about managers along with some of the best answers. Review these questions and answers, choosing those that pertain to your previous situations, and then tailor them to your needs. Be sure to practice answering them before your interview.
- Who was your best boss and who was the worst?
- Describe your ideal boss
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
- How would your supervisor describe you?
- How do you handle it if the boss is wrong?
- What was it like working with your supervisor?
- What do you expect from a supervisor?
- What is the biggest criticism you received from your boss?
- More questions about supervisors
While we’re on the subject of bosses, it's important to find the one that's right for you when considering a new job, especially if you’ve had terrible bosses in the past. Here's how to find and work for the best boss.