Answering Questions About A Previous Manager During An Interview

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When you are in a job interview, keeping things positive and professional is important. This is especially true when you are talking about past employers. Even if you had a terrible experience at a previous employer, a job interview is not the time to delve into it. Here are three important things to remember when you are asked about a former manager during a job interview:

Use the Answer to Show Off A Recommendation From Your Former Manager

Answering a question about a former manager is a great time for you to insert a recommendation from them. For best effect, put the recommendation in a context where it is your former manager in relaying it. For example:

“My last manager was Shelly Preston. She was the VP of Sales at Consolidated Widgets. She and I worked very well together. She always said that my follow-through was better than anybody she had ever met, and so I became her go to person for many projects. I always appreciated having that opportunity to take on new tasks and responsibilities, and I grew a great deal under her mentorship.”

Use Your Answer to Draw Parallels with the Company You Are Interviewing For

If you have been able to determine your potential new supervisor’s leadership style, and if that is a style that would work well for you, you can use this question as an opportunity to draw parallels to show why you will thrive with them. For example:

“I know you mentioned that you like to take an active role in projects and will provide a lot of good direction. My supervisor Ken Smith, the Director of Facilities, was very similar, and we worked well together. I find that is a management style that really allows me to thrive, so I’m excited about this opportunity.”

Never, Ever, Speak Badly of a Former Manager

Not a fan of your former boss? While you generally want to be truthful during your interview, you also don’t want to get negative. Talking ill of a former manager is bad on two fronts: first, it can raise doubts in terms of how you get along with other people, especially those in positions higher than you. It doesn’t matter if your former manager was fully in the wrong, it is going to sound like you were unable to work professionally with someone, which is going to reflect badly on you. Second, they are going to imagine you saying the same thing about them in a future interview. If you don’t have anything great to say, a simple “We worked together well on a professional basis and I accomplished (blank)” is a good enough answer.

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