A little backstory: I am currently employed under a manager, who doesn't prefer to delegate tasks or share information on projects, such as what exactly to do, until when it needs to be done,... I don't think he is doing this on purpose, as I have talked to him, and the problem was fixed for a bit, but after a while it returns to the old ways.

He seems to always be absent on meetings, and rather than telling me for something to be done, he says "Hey, could you please do X thing if possible?". I don't mind him asking like that, but for me it feels like he is not too assertive in his role, and fails to give all the specifics to the project (I know this is usually not the case, but he doesn't provide the basics for it, and then does them behind my back, only informing me after he has done them).

Anyway, I am currently searching for a new job, the real reason being the manager. How should I hande the interview when they ask me the reason for quitting? Should I say anything about my manager, who is also my reference? They will check my references for sure, since there aren't that many. I don't want to lie in the interview, but also want the reference, since my performance reviews have always been very positive, and a positive reference can go a long way.

So to summarize; how should I talk about my reason for quitting, when I want to be truthful and transparent in the interview, while also not shedding a bad light on my current manager/employer.


3 Answers 3


What to say in interview about bad manager who is also a reference

Don't say anything bad and don't list them as a reference.

how should I talk about my reason for quitting, when I want to be truthful and transparent in the interview, while also not shedding a bad light on my current manager/employer.

Simply describe it in a way that sounds neutral and that you are seeking employment elsewhere. Something to the effect of, "I want to go to a place where I can focus my skills on X and this seems like a good place." vs "My manager doesn't let me do anything at all. He's bad, I don't like him."

Going to a new place is already telling your previous employer you don't want them. They might not care and your new place might not care about your previous employer either. However, depending on industry and location, they may all know each other to some degree. And it may be that your manager may someday seek employment where you are right now.

However, I never been to a interview where I had to say why I am leaving. Instead they ask me about what I worked on, what sort of challenges I faced, and what I did to resolve it. Challenges meaning roadblocks at the technical level not interpersonal skills or soft skills.

  • I've been asked once, but they were happy with the generic "I want to go back to using X technology" answer. Generally I tend to give the answer at the end of "tell us a bit about yourself", where I mention I'm currently looking for a job that will let me focus a bit more on their specific area, and then they just don't ask anything more.
    – V N
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 14:38

TL;DR You never say you have a bad manager, you say, you have a manager, which whom, you have differences in professional capacity.

You don't need to lie. You don't need to get into the specifics, either. Choose a middle ground, that balances both the sides.

You could clearly state something along the line, that, the project management approach which was taken up, was not aligned with your expectations, and then, you can explain about your expectations. Also, mention that you had discussions on this topic but no visible outcome was attained. That will clear up things that you're not ranting, you actually know the problem and attempted to solve it.

You don't absolutely need to criticize your existing manager to prove your point, just state your expected approaches and mention "we had differences". Mention a couple of cases, where having the difference had a negative effect on your work / deliverable. This should get the message / picture across to your prospective employer.

  • 2
    And make sure you have other reasons to provide the interviewer for why you want to change jobs - in particular, why you want that specific job
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 7:49
  • @HorusKol Absolutely, goes without saying... Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 7:51

It is never a good idea to bad mouth a previous employer, it doesn't sit well with most prospective employers. Rather put the focus on what you stand to gain and what you can add by joining the company.

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