Answer interview questions without criticizing management

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Mar 23

Interview questions offer you an opportunity to go boldly…where you shouldn’t. One of those places you shouldn’t go is criticizing management as a reason for leaving your current job. As much as you may want to answer that interview question by criticizing management, even if it is the truth, there is no upside to criticizing managers.

Even though we leave a position 75% of the time because of our manager, there is just no percentage in criticizing managers or management during the interview. Companies, especially big companies, never make mistakes. As a result, you can’t criticize them. I wish that was snark, but it isn’t. I’ve been burned by simply saying my previous manager was too remote (1000 miles away) and rarely talked to me about my work (or anything else).

Even if your manager is a jerk, you can’t criticize the manager in an interview as a reason for wanting to leave your current employer. Instead of criticizing management, try these techniques instead:

Answer the interview question based on your development

Hiring managers look for people who want to continue building their career. As a result, if your current employer can’t provide the right positions for your next career steps, that is a legitimate answer to a “why did you leave” question. Even if your current company has a position that is right for you, your jerk manager would never help you into that position anyway.

Answer the interview question based on the work you want to do

Corporations reorganize themselves all the time. The possibility that you are now working on something remote from what you were hired to do is high. As a result, it is easy to say that, although you started working on what you wanted to do, you are now not. And if the position you are interviewing for gets you back to working on what you want to do, that is a good reason for wanting to leave your current employer.

Answer the interview question based on the skills you need

Not all companies can offer the training you need to increase your job skills. Nor can they always offer on-the-job work opportunities to help build your skills. Yet, you need particular skills to perform well in a position. Going after those needed job skills in a new position makes perfect sense. While easily understood if you were a programmer and wanted to learn some new programming language, it also applies to a person who wants to become a manager or needs more responsibility to move into a position they want.

All interview questions are only about your job skills, your motivation and your ability to fit in with your potential manager and team. By using these approaches to answer “why you want to leave” questions, you sidestep the “criticize management” trap that can take you out of a potential job.

What are your best answers to why you want to leave a position?

  • […] Boss 49% said a major negative regarding job interviewees was how critical they were of their former bosses. This is not only poor judgment but an indication that the applicant may be a complainer at the […]

  • Johanne says:

    Excellent post. Even Donald Trump discouraged criticizing your previous boss in one of the episodes in “The Apprentice”.

    • Scot says:

      And it is so easy to criticize a former boss! “He’s not that into you” will not become a way to justify leaving a job despite the fact that some 75% of the people leave their position because of their current manager.

  • Dan Erwin says:

    So, never, never burn a bridge. You will need it when you least expect, and it’s really not helpful to your reputation.

    Great analysis, Scott. I’ll plagiarize.

    • Scot says:

      Yup, bridges are bad to burn in this environment. The more people understand that the way to find jobs is to have effective professional networks, the less opportunity for burning bridges. Thanks, Dan!

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