Being diplomatic towards current job during an interview
November 22, 2016 4:31 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to leave my current job because of my boss. How do I handle discussing this kind of thing when I'm asked about why I am leaving during a job interview?

I'll try to keep this brief.

After a little over two years at my current job I'm looking to leave because my supervisor is incompetent. This isn't the first time I've worked for someone who isn't stellar at their job, but this is the first time I find myself doing the job I was contracted for, as well as half of my boss' job, for $15,000 less per year than he makes. He and I are almost the same age and it looks like if I stay I will probably be putting up with this for 30 years - so.....I've decided to leave. I don't really want to go into anymore detail about it than that.

My question is - how do I talk about why I am leaving during job interviews? Previously I've gone job-hunting as a result of moving or finishing a college degree or something of that nature. These are reasons that are easily explained.

I know its bad form to complain about your boss during an interview but it truly is the main reason why I want to leave. Is there a way I can phrase this without making it sound like I'm difficult to work with?

Thank you.
posted by ajax287 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of good suggestions for this on google, including askamanager's take.
posted by bunderful at 4:39 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

My husband left a job in which the founder was a legitimate psychopath and his middle managers were all terrified toadies. I believe his line when he was interviewing was "i learned a lot and we did a lot of great work but ultimately I just felt it was a poor culture fit." I think at this point everyone knows what that really means but everyone also knows that the fact that you've phrased it that way also means you are a professional who doesn't go around badmouthing bosses or companies.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:42 PM on November 22, 2016 [13 favorites]

You're not running from your old job, you're running to your new one.

"Why are you leaving your current job?"
"Because I'm really excited about the work your company is doing, especially [insert language here that shows you have done your resesrch]."
posted by Etrigan at 4:47 PM on November 22, 2016 [16 favorites]

He and I are almost the same age and it looks like if I stay I will probably be putting up with this for 30 years - so.....I've decided to leave.

"There isn't any room for advancement at my current company"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:30 PM on November 22, 2016 [12 favorites]

It's perfectly okay to move on to a new job after two years, if only because you're looking for a new challenge.

It sounds like you'd like to vent about how crappy your current boss is, etc. This is perfectly understandable - but don't bring it up during a job interview. You want to come off as a person who is looking forward to a neat new job. Not as a person who is trying to escape from a crappy boss.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:43 PM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's also ok to say that due to the structure and/or size of your current place, there isn't room for advancement there, and you're ambitious to take on new challenges. (Based on what you've said here, it sounds like this could be true, but obviously don't use it if it doesn't make sense at your company.)

(it's always best to say positive things about New Job rather than negatives about Old Job but they may insist on more detail.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:23 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I'm ready for a change, and I'm really interested in [thing that new org does]."

Complaining about past bosses in interviews can be an instant deal breaker. Don't do it, not even a little.
posted by smoke at 6:23 PM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

You never know who knows who. Even when you think you know who knows who, you can never know the true extent of it. I'm not necessarily talking about people who are secretly pals – it's much more Occam's Razor than that. Businesses have to earn money. People make money by working with each other. A great deal depends on what level you're at – a sociopathic boss can be a nightmare and genuinely toxic for their managees. But that same sociopathic boss, when negotiating with a salesperson, a client, a partner... doesn't have the same power or influence. This is why, even if/when everyone around the table knows a problematic person involved, you talk about the processes, communication, opportunities, etc. You don't want to look like someone who will have or cause issues with others.

The ONLY exception is when everyone really does know each other and there's a toxic apple you worked with directly and had some org-level influence on, where if you don't say "their management leaves much to be desired, I raised alerts on X processes and proposed Y solutions, unfortunately there wasn't follow-through" you'll come across as unaware at best, potentially toxic yourself at worst. But. First off, notice there's no critique of the person, but a statement of facts/events behind your evaluation that their management was lacking. Second, that would only happen if you were implicated in the management decisions made, and everyone at the table knows the problem person has torpedoed their career (i.e. negotiating with them isn't something anyone wants to do). Metaphorically put, you've been in a situation where stuff exploded and everyone saw who set the charge and lit it. So if you don't say "yeah, I saw that and raised warnings" you could give the impression you're hiding something about your relationship with the saboteur. But that's really very rare and would require genuinely bad financial and image consequences (the exploding part). Just wanted to put that out there since having an exception can help shed light on the rule.

The AskAManager article linked by bunderful is very good.
posted by fraula at 2:36 AM on November 23, 2016

Same thing just happened to me. I picked parts of the new job that were different from my old one and said I really wanted a chance to develop and use those new skills, and those opportunities weren't available at my old workplace (essentially a version of "looking for new challenges.") I could have mentioned that I was also doing my boss's job and the office was constantly in state of "emergency" to to his poor management skills, but I didn't. Because at an interview, there's a 50/50 chance that that'll come off as me casting blame for my own inability to be a functional employee. In addition, as others have said, it's a small world. I've walked into interviews and only after being asked why I was leaving did I find out that the hiring manager knows/knew my current boss.

Just don't mention it at all. I would even stay away from the "not a good fit" answer, because it might leave them wondering which of you was the bad fit. Two years is plenty of time to be looking for new challenges. Nobody's going to seriously question that.
posted by GorgeousPorridge at 5:01 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

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