(MoneyWatch) At a certain point in most job interviews, you'll be asked why you're interested in leaving your current company. Sometimes, the answer is right at your fingertips. But what if you and your boss are like oil and water? Botching this explanation can amount to
"Don't trash the boss to save yourself, either, because it suggests two things: One, you didn't learn anything because it was all his or her fault; and two, you'd trash them (the interviewer or boss) if hired and something goes wrong," said Carol Quinn, author of "Don't Hire Anyone Without Me!." Plus, since they work in the same industry, it's likely that your current boss and potential future one may know, and even respect, each other.
Here are some better ways to explain that the main reason you're leaving your company is because your boss is a nightmare:
Make it about business. Reveal that you're leaving your company because of a shortcoming there, but don't make it personal, said Cheryl Palmer, founder of Call to Career, a career coaching firm. For instance, say you want to learn new skills and are ready for fresh challenges. "You want to give the interviewer a positive reason for wanting to leave your current organization, not a negative on. Avoid overly personal thoughts," she said. Saying your boss is a bullying jerk is definitely making it personal.
Stay positive -- and slightly vague. Tell the interviewer that your prospective employer's team seems like a better fit. That insinuates, but in an honest and positive way, that your current team doesn't have the same qualities. "Say, 'I'm really excited about working for your organization because I read your mission statement, and I feel that it is a great match between what your organization is focused on and what I see as my personal mission,'" suggests Palmer. If your personal mission is to be on a team that encourages collaboration, respect and creativity, the interviewer can easily read between the lines and see how your current boss falls short. Now, if you just came out and said, "My boss never listens to my ideas," that may sound like an attack, which never plays well.
Keep whatever you say short. Remember that this is only one question in a larger interview, and it only requires a single, concise answer. "Someone who tries too hard to explain their side of the story ends up drawing more attention to themselves. And the more they talk, the more they dig a hole for themselves!" Quinn said. Answer the question in a positive, impersonal way, and move on to the next one.