The interview process will be riddled with different types of questions – meaning that the person asking the question may be interested in more than just your answer being right or wrong, in their opinion. They may focus not necessarily on the words you say, but how you say them. An interviewer may also focus on your reaction to the question or how quickly you give a response.
Typically during the application process, you’ll be asked to provide references from your current or previous employers. You also might be asked to evaluate your current or former bosses, which can be a tricky question to answer. So what is the right way to discuss your superiors, good or bad?
First, it’s important to recognize why a potential employer would ask about your current or former boss. Well, there are a couple reasons. They most likely want to get an idea for how well you work with others and how well you take direction from your superiors.
Your answer will also give them insight as to how you like to be managed and whether you will be a fit within the culture of their company. Some people like to be closely monitored, while others feel they work best when their manager gives them space. Depending on what type of supervisor your role will have, the type of leadership style you thrive under may play into whether you are hired.
Be Positive, Always
Most of us have had bad bosses before, and it can be frustrating and even demotivating. But when an interviewer asks you about your experience with an old boss, you need to try and put a positive spin on it. Yes, I know, this can be hard. But one of the worst approaches you can take in answering this question is to speak unkindly about your superior. Negativity will always give out bad vibes, and it’s no different in an interview. The interviewer may assume that you are part of the reason that you had a bad relationship with your boss.
Instead, try and turn your manager’s shortcomings into a positive. Explain how you were able to grow professionally and personally under their guidance, even if it was difficult. For example, you might say something like, “My manager was a bit of a micromanager, but because we all had a lot on our plates, he/she wanted to be sure I was on top of all my tasks. Because of that, I learned to become very detail oriented and how to manage multiple tasks at once.”
It’s important to know what to leave out when asked about your former superiors. You don’t want your criticism of your former superiors, especially if your performance was sub-par under them, to be taken as an excuse for your shortcomings. You would rather discuss how you may have had differences or disagreed with their leadership style, but you were able to put those things aside in order to accomplish your goals and help the company or the team.
As a military veteran you may explain how poor leadership helped you actually become a better leader by avoiding the same mistakes.
Display Your Strengths
This one goes hand-in-hand with giving a positive response. If you had a great relationship with a superior, explain what traits they had and how they helped you in your career development. The military is a great place to gain leadership training. Explain how your great leaders were able to influence you and the people around you. Explain what made them a great leader and cite examples of their leadership.
It’s also great to give examples of times when you displayed leadership. One thing to focus on is how you were able to provide leadership to different types of people. Not everyone responds to the same type of leadership, so showing that you were able to adapt to the needs of your people will make you stand out in an interview.
Bottom line, when asked about your former superiors it is imperative that you approach your answer with positivity. Show how you were able to grow from a situation, whether it was good or bad. If you are going to highlight the shortcomings of your leaders, always be sure to end on a positive note.