This is the second post in my "Interview Mistake" series. The first post can be found here.

Me: “So I see you’ve been at XYZ company for about 6 months now. Why are you thinking about leaving?”
Candidate: “Oh, because my boss is an idiot. This guy has no idea what he’s doing.”

Literally insulting past co-workers is too immature for most candidates. More often, candidates might put a spotlight on others failures.

Me: “How did you decide which project was more important?”
Candidate: “My leadership didn't know how to prioritize. They could never decide what was important. They changed their minds every few days.

Other candidates try to raise themselves up by putting others down.

Me: "And what role did you play on that task?"
Candidate: "Honesty, I played all the roles. My co-workers rely heavily on me because I'm by far the best engineer. They don't have the strongest development skills. They'd be lost without me.

What Are You Saying To Your Interviewer When You Complain?

The person interviewing you doesn’t know your current and past co-workers. When you say “my boss”, they picture your future boss at their company. When you say “my peer”, they’re picturing the nice woman on your future team. It’s human nature to imagine the familiar.

Now put yourselves in the shoes of a hiring manager. Are you more likely to want to hire someone if they say that they love their boss and strive to make them successful? Or perhaps if they say that their boss is an idiot?

Are you personally more excited to work with someone who might say nice things about you, or someone who might complain behind your back?

You have biases about your current team, but your future manager has their own biases about who you might be. If you complain about your current boss, your future boss will assume you'll continue to do the same. If you complain about your current team members, there's no reason to believe that you'll stop in your new role.

What Should You Do Instead?

  1. At all times speak well regarding past co-workers competence.

Your past co-workers are not interviewing for this role. You are not competing with them. There is absolutely no advantage in making them look bad.

You do not look smarter by insisting your past co-workers were less smart. You can only look smart if you explain things clearly, have great examples, and have technically accurate explanations.

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