You’re on a job interview, and the hiring manager says: “Tell me what you dislike the most about your current (or previous) manager.” While you might be tempted to vent, a job interview isn’t the time or place. Here's the best way to answer.

Share story

You’re on a job interview, and the hiring manager says: “Tell me what you dislike the most about your current (or previous) manager.” Uh-oh. How should you respond? Do you tell the truth about how much you detest your boss?

Some hiring managers purposely ask job candidates about the worst aspects of working for a boss or employer. Heads up: This is a trick question designed to see if you’ll bad-mouth them.

Answering can be difficult, especially if you’re leaving an unhappy work environment or you really do work for a terrible boss. While you might be tempted to let loose and vent, a job interview isn’t the time or place; save your angry tirade for a confidential discussion with your best friend.

Let’s say a hiring manager asks you to explain the three things you disliked the most in a previous job. You might be thinking: My boss was a jerk who wasn’t supportive of my career development; my work assignments were boring and pure drudgery; and I was severely underpaid with no opportunity for a pay raise.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Don’t say this out loud. Instead, turn your answer into positive comments by saying something like: “I’m looking for a job where I have a boss who is supportive of my career development, who will give me projects and assignments that are challenging so I can improve my skills, and where I have opportunities to earn pay raises based on my work performance.”

If a hiring manager puts further pressure on you to explain negative aspects of a job, boss or employer and it makes you feel uncomfortable, simply say something such as: “I’d rather not focus on the negative attributes. No job or manager is perfect. I prefer to see situations as learning opportunities.”

When you desperately want the job and are frustrated with your current manager, it can be tempting to vent. However, negative comments are unappealing to hiring managers, because it makes them to wonder if you’ll speak badly about them or the company one day. So don’t bad-mouth past jobs or bosses, and focus on the positive aspects that you look forward to in the new job.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.