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What do you think of your previous boss?

This question may seem like an opportunity to give your opinion about a previous boss, but it really tests your discretion. The old saying “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” applies here. If your boss was wonderful, explain that in detail. If your boss was a dud, find some positive quality or lesson you learned from observing the boss. Saying bad things about an old boss doesn’t make them look bad, it makes you look like a negative person.

Even if you loved your boss, don’t just give that opinion. Use this opportunity to discuss how your relationship with your boss impacted your career.

Great Boss:
“I can’t say enough good about my last boss. She ran the department well, and I think she got the maximum performance from the group. One of her greatest strengths was her ability to communicate. That’s one thing I took away from that experience – keep in touch, keep it short, don’t hesitate to ask questions or share information.”

Horrible Boss:
“My last boss had to be the biggest jerk on the planet. He loved to stand in the middle of the department and yell at people about anything and everything. I’m glad I’m no longer in that environment.”

That’s the negative version, here’s the positive version of an answer involving the same boss.

Be Nice:
“My last boss taught me that treating people well, in the long run, leads to better overall performance and a happier work environment.”

It doesn’t sound like the same boss, but it is. A bad boss can teach something by offering a counter example. There’s no reason to tell the interviewer you learned what not to do.

So-So:
“My last boss wasn’t the best or worst boss I’ve had. She was in the middle – a little overbearing, but she knew the job and dragged people to the finish line when projects were due.”

The same so-so boss can be explained in much more positive, and for this question productive, terms.

So-So Better:
“My last boss wasn’t the best boss I’ve had, but she had one quality I admired a lot. She was a great motivator, especially when it was crunch time. Sometime I hear her voice in my head pushing me to greater achievements.”

It’s all a matter of perspective, and how you spin the answer. Remember, the goal is to give a positive impression of yourself, not a negative or even positive impression of a former boss. One woman had a great answer due to circumstances. “I liked her so much I hope to follow her here. I look forward to working with her again.”

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