General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Did I say too much?

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I had a job interview today (yeah, finally!).  It was going lovely..the interviewer knew some people I knew from a job years ago, he was impressed with my background and experience, and even a few of the questions were from left field, I handled them well, until..  I left my last job in August under extremely acrimonious terms.  Long story short, I walked out after 13 years of jumping through every flaming hoop my incompetent boss had for me, and she finally pushed me too far.  I tried to handle it professionally previously but the situation became unbearable (and many wondered what took me so long to walk out.)  I have, when questioned by people who know me well from this place, never ever said a word against the place, just bean dipped with the excuse I was burned out, but a lot of people sort of put some things together (not the final straw but what may have led up to it.)  I do know for a fact she has bad mouthed me, lied about me to the point of slander that I could legally sue her on.  I still talk to someone who works there, and while I have refused to talk about it, she has told me a few things and has said that she has refuted some of the lies.  So, the interviewer asked me what would my boss say about me and my abilities if they were to call for a reference.  I was brief but honest as to why I had left (I have proof of shenanigans that cannot be refuted by her if necessary to save my character) and I told him honestly she probably would have nothing nice to say, and would go as far as to disparage my character (I gave him the truth as to what she is telling people.)  I also told him in my professional references were people I worked with through my job, but did not work there, but are willing to vouch for my character and ethics.  He seemed to shut down a little after that exchange. 

Should I have told him the truth, or should I have said I didn't know what she would say and let the chips fall where they may?  I don't want it to seem like I was making a preemptive strike to try and whitewash anything that, in his mind could be true, but I am angry that after being disgustingly loyal for 13 years, this woman wants to smear me all over the place.  And darn it, we had a great interview going until then (his questions were absolutely awesome !) :(

One constant I've always heard is never say anything negative about your former employers so, yes, I think you should've worded it differently.  You could've said something like, "I would hope my boss would detail my stellar 13-year experience spent not only jumping through flaming hoops on one leg but also while balancing teacups on my nose."

Don't beat yourself up about it as the interview is done and over.  It's hard to respond positively or neutrally when caught off-guard about something that's negative.  I, in an interview, was once (not ethically, I think) asked about a former coworker from my (at the time) current company who interviewing company was looking to hire.  FC had last left me with a very bad taste in my mouth by flying off the handle at me about something that was none of my doing and, even though I calmly fixed the situation, never apologized to me or thanked me for fixing it.  I really refused to ever speak to her again (for non-professional reasons) for the rest of the time she was at my current company so when the question came up about her, I was a little thrown by being questioned about her and, while I answered as diplomatically as I could, I still said more than I should have (she had been notorious at current company for getting nothing done as no one was paying attention to her so I'd said, "She requires micromanagement" and left it at that).  I shouldn't have said it, but, frankly, I always knew I said it as revenge for the way she had treated me (which I always knew was wrong to say -- true, but wrong -- but said it anyway).  And, no, I never did go work for that other company (they couldn't offer me enough money to cover the huge additional commuting I'd have to do).

Sorry, but I think yes.  In my experience (as a HR professional in my previous life), this isn't a question asking you about your specific boss - it's asking you how you are perceived by your superiors - so things like 'I think they would say I work hard but maybe sometimes go into too much detail on a project' etc - it's another way of asking you about your strengths and weaknesses.

My DH is going through a similar thing with his work, having been bullied consistently for the past few years and the company still trying to make out it's his problem and not a problem with his work and I know he finds it really hard to separate the people from the work if that makes sense - so I think he would answer the same way if asked that question.

Hopefully the interviewer will see that your qualities make you an excellent employee and your honesty should be valued.


ty guys.  I didn't go off and rip her (and we had already covered why I had left a few questions earlier and my job duties) but it threw me when he asked "What would your boss say about you and you abilities  if we were to call?" I was just honest and said unfortunately I did not leave on amicable terms and she would probably only say what dates I worked and if she would hire me back (no) but that she was also telling people I was a thief and a horrible employee.  It just slipped out in the moment because too many people are telling me, even 8 months later, that she still is saying how horrible of a person I am.  BTW, I will know if they call because I do still talk to a woman who is still there, and she will tell me what is said. 

I had a hard time with that, too - I got laid off from a job (they reduced the department by three, and the three that got the axe were all high performers, in business school, and the manager was insecure about having no degree and being mostly incompetent). They asked if I'd get a good review from my previous supervisor, and what I said (after the first time, which I pretty much said what you said) was "My previous supervisor and I had a difference of opinion about work styles. However, every manager I've worked for before her would tell you that I'm hardworking, a self starter, frequently mentor others without losing focus on my own priorities, and never say no to learning a new skill." Seemed to work.


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