How To Talk About Your Bad Boss In An Interview

Maybe your boss is a complete slacker who chronically leaves you doing the bulk of the work only to take credit for your efforts. Perhaps your work environment is a toxic nightmare from which you are desperate to escape with your professionalism in tact. These are perfectly legitimate reasons for seeking a new job, but they have to be reformatted before they can be shared with an interview team. When you are discussing your reasons for seeking new employment, speaking negatively about your previous roles will signify a red flag for the interview team. So you have to find a way to frame these unsavory experiences.  

Workplace drama happens. But you don’t want to carry it into a new job, so why bring it into an interview? This is your opportunity to start fresh. Use these steps to refresh and reframe those negative experiences.

Emphasize the Positive  

Rather than focusing on what you are trying to get away from, emphasize what you are hoping to find. So if you had a boss who you found to be unsatisfactory in your previous role, think about what you learned from that experience and what you would like to learn in your next role, both in terms of the position you want and in terms of the leadership style you think would best suit you.

Everything that happens to us professionally, both the good and the bad, presents an opportunity to learn about who we are as professionals. It’s no fun to have a bad boss, but it does present some opportunities for self assessment. So take the time to think this through before you interview. Think about other supervisors whose leadership you admire. Think about your peers who worked for those professionals and what they said about their experiences. Give some thought to how you would like to be managed in the future so that you can speak to that in you interview.

While finger-pointing is an unattractive quality in a interviewee, self-reflectiveness and self-understanding are both very attractive qualities. Exhibit those instead.     

When to Get Specific    

If your previous job was such a poor fit that you are attempting to vacate it after less than a year, or you left before having another job lined up and so you are currently unemployed, then you should explain. If you are in this situation, know that this happens, and it’s not the end of the world.

You want your explanation to be an neat and tidy as possible. You don’t want to use emotional or judgmental language such as “the environment was toxic” or “the boss was overbearing.” You want to cite evidence that would support lack of fit in an emotion-free way; for example, consistent turnover in the department or lack or training for new employees made it difficult to integrate into the culture.  

If you have a good track record of professional longevity in other roles, than a brief stint in a position that turned out to be ill-fitting shouldn’t be too difficult to shake off.  


Many professionals have encountered positions that weren’t the right fit. They have dealt with bad bosses and difficult work environments. Interview teams want to hire candidates who seem like they will bring poise and professionalism to the unit, not drama or tension. So let whatever chaos happened at your old job stay there; you are headed for bigger and better things.