I've only been at my current job for 5 months but my manager is just awful. I have an interview with a recruiter on Friday and I want to practice talking about it without going into detail about his awfulness.

Here are some of the reasons I've come up with for leaving:

  • There has been a huge amount of turnover in the time I've been there (seriously, two accountants/month have left including the Controller and the Assistant Controller) and I'd prefer to work in a place that's more stable.
  • I want to relocate (the interview with the recruiter is in the city I'd like to relocate to.)
  • There's not really enough room for me to grow; I really only have work around month-end close and want to be somewhere I can be productive the whole month instead of half the month.
  • Money! (We've already talked about this a bit--the company I'm working for is paying below market rate for my position.)

If she asks about abysmal manager specifically, I was planning to say something like:

  • Unfortunately, it's just not a great fit; while he is a skilled accountant, it's hit and miss whether he'll actually answer questions I have which can inhibit my productivity. We have very different styles of interaction in the workplace.

Any input on this? My manager is extremely harsh, says a lot of things he just shouldn't and expects us to work unpaid overtime all the time. I know that there have been 3 complaints to HR about him in the time I've been there not including mine and two of them have come from his fellow managers so I'm not alone in being challenged by him and am having a really hard time practicing sounding fairly neutral about this.

Thank you in advance!

UPDATE: I really appreciate the professional advice everyone offered. I didn't talk about the awful manager at all and nailed the interview--the recruiters I interviewed with have already presented me to a couple of their clients and I have an interview independent of the recruiters as well.

  • Where are you located? Your boss expecting you to work unpaid overtime is most likely illegal if you in the United States and have over certain number of employees in your company, per Fair Labor Act
    – Anthony
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 3:23
  • I'm in the US. The expectation of unpaid overtime was one of the things I reported to HR which they didn't address.
    – Alex K
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 3:34
  • If the recruiter is a third-party recruiter, you can probably feel more comfortable going into detail about things like this. They will probably tell you not to do so in an actual interview with a potential employer, but there's no reason for the recruiter not to know what you're looking for and why. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 4:44
  • Thanks, Carson! I'll keep that in mind--I may go there if we have good rapport.
    – Alex K
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 4:53
  • @Joe Strazzere: Because less money than you want is still way better than no money at all? Though really, I don't think the OP should make a big point of wanting money. Concentrate on the 2nd & 3rd points - want to relocate, and realized that you're over-qualified for the current job. Don't mention manager problems at all.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 0:16

4 Answers 4


I would concentrate on putting across this message: "I joined firm X, but I only learned afterwards that it wasn't what I was really looking for. I did try to make it work, but it was not to be." Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone out there has joined a firm that didn't quite turn out to be what they expected - and if you are the kind of guy who recovers from a setback by picking himself off the ground, dusting himself off and trying again, that's hardly a quality most people will have a problem with.

Yes, I would avoid, like the plague, mentioning anything about your old boss, HR complaints or general deficiencies, no matter how justified - or immoral/illegal - they are. (As the saying goes, if you cannot say anything nice, it is better not to say anything at all.) At best, the interviewing HR / line manager could start thinking "Is this going to be a conversation about me, next time, if we hire this guy?" - or, worse, you may well be seen as a troublemaker.

If asked about your current work environment, just smile as charmingly as you can manage, and say "It's interesting" (and be prepared to say at least one interesting thing about it), and leave it at that. Nobody is going to interrogate you about your boss, unless you give them cause to do so.

Focus on what they can offer you (and conversely, what you can offer them.) Google them. Call up the company and do the Jason Bourne thing: Sometimes, you can learn a whole lot about a firm by pretending to be a potential customer and making some inquiries. By the time you've finished, you should feel sufficiently prepared to answer any potential motivation you have for moving firms, without having to worry about mentioning your current boss. Not only will this preparation put your mind at ease, it will also help to impress the people who interview you.

In the end, focus on where you want to be, rather than on where you are. As well as drawing focus away from things you don't want to discuss (like your old boss), it will also help you to prevent making the same mistake again (and winding up in a job you end up hating), because you didn't focus on where you were going. Many of us have done that, too...

Last but not least, try to avoid talking about money until it comes to an offer. If they ask you what you are earning during the interview, be prepared to give them a well-researched market rate in response to that question. It will stop you looking silly in the interview - and it will also mean that if the market rate really isn't what you're looking for, you can start to be truly honest with yourself about whether you need to be changing your career at the same time, too. :)

Good luck!


It's almost certain in any interview they won't ask you to give any specifics regarding your current work situation, so the one question you should prepare yourself for is, "Why are you looking for a new job?" Well, you've already listed reasons completely independent of your current work why you're interested, like that you want to relocate, and you're interested in expanding your experience. So give those, and leave the rest out.

If really pressed, don't dive into detail, as that's bound to get you started on your current job, and being negative simply reflects badly. The interviewers don't know your situation, and what they want to see is enthusiasm for the potential job. Just say something along the lines of, "I'm looking for a better fit," and leave it at that.

  • 2
    Thank you, Kai! Leaving the input about my manager out was helpful--I've been so caught up in the situation that it's been hard to think of solutions like that.
    – Alex K
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 3:36

An important rule in job interviews is never badmouth your current employer.

  • It makes you look like a complainer and someone who doesn't get along with people in general and authority figures in particular.
  • It makes you look desperate to leave, which puts you into a bad negotiation position.

In fact there is little reason to talk about your current employer at all. The topic of this conversation is you and your future employer, after all. If the topic "why do you want to leave" comes up, point out the advantages of the new job, not the downsides of your current job.


Stick only to positives / things that cannot put you in a negative light. You mentioned a few:

  • Want to move to city X
  • I like to keep busy, but they have a very unpredictable workload
  • I'm looking for something more in line with market average for my skill (or better)

Avoid saying anything about your current manager. No matter how awful your manager is, and how stellar an employee you are, if you say anything negative about current / past managers (even as diplomatically as possible (e.g.: "it's not a good fit / he's very skilled but we have different styles/ etc) what they will hear coming out of your mouth is, "I'm probably a malcontent who is difficult to manage." At least, that's what I would hear if I was sitting on your interview panel.

Why? Because managing humans is hard, and not everyone is good at it (most aren't). And as important as your technical skills are, I'm very anxious about your interpersonal skills, and I'm looking for someone who will adapt to any management style. And no matter how horrible your current boss is, if you say the least, littlest bad thing about him, I'm going to worry that I am only getting one side of the story. And I don't know you, and I'm going to be worried (unfairly or no) that maybe you're just difficult.

For me that's not a deal-breaker, but I am more likely to hire the person who doesn't complain about their previous boss.

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