After nearly 10 years as a Professional Resume Writer I’ve heard the horror stories of clients who worked for bad bosses. These folks were good at their jobs but were sabotaged by tyrants, ego-maniacs, yes men…. I’ve heard it all. So how do you diplomatically answer the question in a job interview, “Tell me about your last supervisor?” You don’t want to lie, but then again if you tell the down and dirty truth you could also hurt your chances at a new job. I’ve put together a list of responses you can use at your own risk, along with translations.
1. “She has a colorful personality” really means she flies off the handle and has mood swings.
2. “He valued everyone’s opinion” translates to “he tells his boss you don’t agree with upper management’s decisions”
3. “He’s great with Crisis Communications.” He’s really good at burying dirt so it doesn’t end up in the newspapers.
4. “He’s decisive.” That means he makes a decision and even if it’s a bad one, won’t change his mind or admit he made a bad judgment call leaving the staff and customers to suffer with the results.
5. “She’s very hands-on.” A micro-manager who insists you do everything her way.
6. “Open to Change.” Couldn’t make a decision and kept changing the ways things were done throwing everyone off kilter.
7. “Really Smart.” That’s a sneaky bastard who knows how to manipulate people.
8. “A very agreeable individual.” He talks out of both sides of his mouth, and tells everyone what they want to hear.
See how easy that is? Let the interviewer assume you’re saying good things about your last job, when you know the whole truth. When it comes to the question of “why did you leave your last job?” Here’s a few vague responses.
1. “Not a Good Job Fit” means the boss wanted you to perform tasks that you didn’t agree with and that caused a moral dilemma for you. (i.e. sexual favors, lying to customers, etc.)
2. “Challenging Environment” means the place was a snakepit.
3. “There was no room to move up.” You weren’t in the clique.
4. “The economy caused a slowdown in business.” Well, this is true for most job seekers right now so it doesn’t have to translate into anything.
The bottom line is to choose your words carefully. You don’t have to be explicitly honest. You don’t have to lie either.
I think I've caught myself saying the same thing at times. Thanks for navigating us through the subtext.