What do you think of your former employer?

Along with “What are your weaknesses?”, “What do you think of your former boss?” is a difficult question that few people know how to answer. This is when preparation comes in handy. Dedicate some times before your interview to practicing these questions. Don’t stumble over your words trying to think of an answer. You know these questions are coming, so just plan ahead. Recruiters aren’t trying to trick you with difficult questions; they are gathering a lot of information about you in a short amount of time.

Follow these guidelines when you’re asked to speak about your former employer:

1. Don’t lie.

Be respectful, but be honest. Sometimes people simply don’t get along or cannot work well with a specific person or personality. This is the time to be real with the interviewer, but don’t speak ill of your former boss. Keep it short and sweet. It is even acceptable to state that while your personalities didn’t click, you have respect for the role and the person in that role. If there was a legitimate conflict, highlight the resolution and describe how you listened to your former boss.

2. Sandwich the negative with positives.

Surely there had to be something positive about your experience. Try to remember something that you enjoyed or appreciated about your time with your previous employer. Consider how the challenges of your previous position strengthened your work ethic. Think about the ways that you took a difficult situation and made the best of it. There are polite ways to allude to a negative situation, but you don’t have to be crude.
You could describe your previous work situation as challenging in ways that you weren’t expecting. While you don’t have to go into detail or a lengthy answer, show that you have coping skills in tense situations.

3. What are your goals?

If your previous employment didn’t work out- whatever the reason- ask yourself what it is you are seeking now? Take your past experiences and apply them to your future. Did you learn something about yourself during your employment that has given you more confidence to pursue your professional goals? Be specific about these goals so that a prospective employer sees that you can take a negative situation and not become a victim. If you can remain goal-orientated while not getting along with a supervisor then you are showing that you can be positive in any situation.

It is never easy speaking about a situation from the past where tension was a theme in a professional dynamic. If you are asked to give an example, stick to the facts. Keep the emotions out of your details. Remember to focus more on the tasks of the job, the skills you gained and what you feel you learned from that time rather than what you feel your past employer did inefficiently. Your story is important enough to be heard, but be selective and brief when describing your former employer. Your diplomacy will make a lasting impression on the hiring manager.