Hate my boss, not paid enough. How do I phrase that in an interview?
January 26, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I want a new job. Why? Because my second-level manager is a jerkoff and because I don't get paid enough. How do I spin this in a future interview?

I've been eating shit at this company for a total of 10 years now. I would have left earlier, but I was not in a position to do so, but I am now. My position with the company pays below the industry average for a person with my years of experience, and my evaluations have all been at least above average or good.

Recently, I was working on the job my boss' boss (we'll call him Dick) hired me for on Project Alpha when Dick brought me in to "help out" half time on Project Beta. Project Beta is in sad shape and half time is turning into full time, and I still have my Project Alpha responsibilities. So I'm doing more work for the same money.

I can't take it any more. I'm about to activate my network and start looking for a job. The truth is I could work on Project Beta for a few years to come, and the work is interesting. The Beta job uses skills I'm weak in, so it's good to strengthen them. I like everybody else at the company, my immediate Project Alpha boss Matt is the best, and the Project Beta team are great people. I just hate working for Dick.

Invariably I will be asked in a future interview, "Why do you want to leave your present company?" I was thinking of saying something like "I've plateaued in terms of career advancement at my current company", but I'm worried that that will seem like bullshit when I describe the work I'm doing on Project Beta. I work in a small industry, and anyone interviewing me will realize that there is much more work to do on Project Beta.

I've been reading employment-related websites, looking at AskMe, and talking to friends that are managers, but I thought I would poll the hive mind for advice for my specific case. Help me spin my situation to a potential future hiring manager.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"Why do you want to leave your present company?" should be interpreted as asking "Why do you want to work for this company?" rather than "Tell me about the things you don't like in your life right now."

Job interviews aren't therapy sessions. It's a lot cheaper to see a therapist if that's what you need.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:16 AM on January 26, 2014 [53 favorites]

Oceanjess for the win. It should never be about the shortcomings of someone or somewhere else.
posted by Gungho at 7:17 AM on January 26, 2014

Skill aquisition is not role advancement. "I've plateaued in terms of career advancement at my current company" is a fine answer if you're looking for a job where you can get a promotion.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:18 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

What about something like, "working on Project Beta, I've learned so much, and it has made me excited to work on more new challenges, so after 10 years with Company, I'm ready to take on the awesome new work at PotentialNewCompany."

And yeah, never, ever badmouth a current/old boss in a job interview. First, it makes you look like a cranky, negative person, even when in reality, the situation is completely not your fault. And second of all, you never know who is best friends with the person/company you're ragging on. There is no upside and a ton of potential downside to saying anything negative about anyone else in a job interview.
posted by decathecting at 7:20 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

"While I find the work fascinating and interesting, the early successes I've had on Project Beta have made me realize that Project Alpha was a solid foundation and that my ability to translate those skills to success on Project Beta is pretty cool. I've come to realize I'm actually a skilled widget maker, and maybe there are other opportunities that I am shortchanging myself by not exploring.

My coworkers are excellent, I've definitely been blessed with interesting work and a talented team, and if I stay in my current role I am most assuredly going to find success. But I find myself at a crossroads in my career, and after 10 years I think I'm ready to start seeing whether I can redefine success on my own terms."
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:20 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't say what industry you're in, but where I work (web development) a resume that shows 10 years in one job raises questions of the opposite sort than you're worried about - are you too set in your ways to learn new skills & adapt to a different business culture? Not saying it's fair, or even reasonable, but it's there.
posted by mr vino at 7:28 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be completely blunt, I don't see how your situation is any different than the typical "aspect A of my job sucks; how do I interview around it?" A lot of the standard lines about "I want to work with a larger team and your company is blah blah blah" or "I want more complex challenges and I saw that your company is pioneering F and G" would be absolutely appropriate in your situation. (The other suggestions in this thread are brilliant, by the way.) It's a pretty straightforward problem, which might be hard to see now, as your question, to me, reads as very emotionally charged.

The best thing you can do is take a good step back and let a lot of this negativity go before you go to any interview; certainly use the bad experience with Dick to fuel your ambition to move on and to better things, but don't let it destroy a good opportunity. Honestly, we can sit here all day and throw scripts at you, but if your headspace is stuck in perpetual "DICK RAGE!" mode, then it's not going to help you.

So, my bottom-line advice: vent your heart out in your car or in an e-mail you never send, but, after that, let it go and bring none of it into the interview. Negativity in an interview raises more questions about you than it does about where you're coming from. Don't let Dick win like that.
posted by coast99 at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oceanjesse is right. Your only answer is, "I'm working on two challenging projects and I have tons of awesome experience, but truth to tell, THIS position and THIS company are the only things that could possibly turn my head enough to even think about leaving."

NEVER smack talk your current boss or postion. Never, never, never.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:54 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you are " excited for new opportunities and a chance to apply your skills in a different situation and company "
posted by rmless at 8:39 AM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm looking for a positive team environment where I'll be able to contribute more. I'm ambitious to achieve enhanced rewards.
posted by Segundus at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2014

You've got an excellent talking point, being in your company for 10 years. It's time to spread your wings and try your skills in a new environment, and though these 10 years have been marvelous, you're worried about getting stale in just one company.
posted by xingcat at 9:04 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been in your position. In my experience, it's best to say something pleasant but vague about your current job, then talk about how you're looking for a new challenge, and why you're so excited about the prospective employer.


"I've loved my time at [current] company and accomplished a lot here. But I'm just ready for a new challenge, and I'm excited about [prospective employer] because [x, y, and z]."

That's all you need to say. I've never been probed further after saying something like that.
posted by lunasol at 9:37 AM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Despite the turmoil at your company, just remember that it's better to be running toward something than away. So focus your energy on forward movement and don't forget that you are interviewing the company for a better fit for you as much as they are looking for a new body. If you keep these things at the forefront of your mind, it should be easy to talk about your qualifications and desires and minimize whatever faults your last company has. Your new company really doesn't care much about those issues. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 10:02 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd like to reinforce what amanda said; the reason to look for a new job is because of the situation at your current job, however which new job you go for depends entirely on the new job. Definitely make this a positive move towards a new position rather than away from the old one, rather than jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

And yes, the new company doesn't care about your current position; avoid any kind of bad-mouthing of them in your interview.
posted by DancingYear at 1:54 PM on January 26, 2014

Concentrate on the positive aspects of your opportunities, not the negative aspects of the past. Not just in the interview, always. You're far more likely to land in a good spot if you're running towards something great, than if you're running away from something painful.
posted by grudgebgon at 3:44 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Never bitch out your old job in an interview. Never ever. Very unprofessional and immediate red flag. No one cares, and despite the question, no one wants to know. A polite, short lie, such as "I've been interested in this company for a long time"; "I was looking for a change after ten years". etc is enough.

Never be negative about your previous employer, especially your previous manager/team.
posted by smoke at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Thanks everybody for your input. I think that oceanjesse' response was the best, it really just grabbed me. I would also mark coast99's as best, yes my situation is typical, but I was having trouble figuring how to describe my situation because I was mad. This post helped a lot.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:30 PM on January 26, 2014

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