College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

Career Corner
What to Tell Interviewers When You Bailed Because of Your Boss

Bonnie Lowe -- You're at a job interview. You're doing great, answering questions left and right. You're enthusiastic, upbeat, confident. Then they ask, "Why did you leave your last job?"

An image of your former boss, red-faced and screaming, pops into your head. He was such a jerk! You desperately want to vent your frustrations and tell them why you HAD to quit, but you hesitate, thinking... is honesty the best policy in THIS situation?

Have you ever heard that saying, "Discretion is the better part of valor?" It applies here.

There's no better way to present yourself as a whiner than to complain about a former boss or job. Even if you left a job because your boss was an egomaniac who took credit for all of your hard work, verbally abused you in front of others, and poisoned the plant on your desk, don't say anything bad about him/her during an interview.

If you do, the interviewer may think you have a problem with authority or can't get along with others. After all, they don't know you. And as authority figures, they may more easily identify with your maligned former boss than with you.

It's best not to count on them believing YOUR side of the story, even if it IS the truth.

So instead of saying "My boss was an incompetent idiot," consider one of the following responses, whichever fits your particular situation best. Remember to stay positive and enthusiastic.

1. "My manager and I both agreed that my advancement opportunities were limited there and obtaining another position was the best option for me and my career goals."

Be prepared for a possible follow-up question such as "What ARE your career goals?"

2. "I wanted more challenging assignments."

This is a nice way of saying you were bored out of your mind. Prepare to follow it up with a statement that links your desire for challenges with a specific aspect of the position for which you are applying.

3. "I'm looking for an organization that supports teamwork."

This could trigger the "Can you expand on that?" question, so be sure to have a response planned, such as "All of the incentives were individually based. I think it's more important to reward the entire team for its contributions."

4. "My career goals have changed."

This is a great response if you are going into a new field. However, companies want people who can hit the ground running, so be prepared to explain how your past experiences make you a good candidate for this new job.

As you can see, there are various ways to explain why you left without complaining about your boss. Whatever you say should be a variation on the truth.

After answering the question, ask one yourself about the position for which you are applying to steer the conversation back to that.

Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System. She offers valuable information for job seekers at her site,, and publishes a free ezine, "Career-Life Times" which you can sign up for at

© 2006 Bonnie Lowe

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.