We received an email from a past client asking us some advice around an upcoming interview. They had a specific question that went like this, “If I am asked about my previous employer, what should I say?”
Now, due to extensive conversations with this client around job history and background, we were fully aware of the issues this client had with their previous employer, or more so direct boss.
Well, employers are aware of this saying too. Hence, it is very common to be asked questions around your previous employer and the style of your ex boss because your potential employer wants to know how you worked with them? What management style you prefer? Will you fit into the culture and their style? They are not asking for the fun of it! Therefore, when you draft your responses to the above questions, think long and hard about how you present your answers, especially if you did NOT get along with your boss.
Of course your interviewer wants to know the ‘good stuff’ however trash talking your ex employer/boss will NOT do you any favours. Think about it! You’ve spent x number of years working for an employer. You did your job, they paid you and now you’re sitting here telling Employer A how Employer B was the worst company you’ve ever worked for and they didn’t appreciate you?! Where’s the loyalty? All you’ve done is show your potential employer that you have no issues airing your dirty laundry (whether they are valid or not, is irrelevant) and if your trash talk one employer, what’s stopping you doing it to another?
Work places are a complex and dynamic environment. At times, there very well may be employment issues you experience. However, HOW you handle these issues speaks miles of your professionalism and professional courtesy. Therefore, when you get asked about your ex employer, answer the question that will demonstrate your values and how you can fit into the business.
- What are they looking for? You’ve done your research so you know the culture of the business somewhat, and what they do and what they are trying to achieve, right? If they present like a traditional, corporate company, focused on high outcomes; explain how you had high accountability and reported to your Manager weekly with a weekly update on targets, backed up with metrics, work in progress and a weekly forecast. If they are more of a start up business; perhaps a more innovative and autonomous approach will appeal to the likes of this rapidly growing and dynamic business. We’re not saying to make up stories, however focus on the aspects that will relate to the business.
- Show them what you’ve learned. If you didn’t get along with your ex boss, explain these differences as a challenge you tackled and overcame. Turn a negative into a positive. Instead of saying, “my ex boss was a controlling, micro managing Dictator”, say “I found my ex boss’s style quite unique to what I was used to and out of my comfort zone however, it allowed me to grow into this style and really adapt my skill set to focus on daily accountability, big data evidence and consistent reporting to demonstrate results.”
- Tell them how you can contribute. No matter good or bad, every experience should add to your toolbox of skills. Listen to what your interviewer is saying! If they keep mentioning new development and growth as the big ticket item on the 2014 agenda, focus on your skills that support new development like; adaptability, calculated risk taker, analysis and data and REMEMBER, have a library of go-to achievements to call upon to BACK UP YOUR RESPONSES. This shouldn’t be too hard since you’ve done your research. Be prepared!
Winning Edge Resume has an ‘Interview Intervention’ service that supports job seekers and professionals in preparing for interviews. This service is suitable for candidates who have been long term unemployed, professionals seeking a career change, or anyone wishing to brush up on their interview skills.
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