Tough Interview Questions - What would your boss say about you?

Following is a tough interview question:

What would your boss say about you?

Similar interview questions:
How did your boss review you on your last performance review? Would your supervisor recommend you for this role? What does your manager think of you?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is effectively asking you for a second-hand reference check. But beware: this question could be used as a TORC (threat of reference check) question. So don't answer it in a way that cannot be verified, since the follow-up question may be: "Do you mind if we check a reference with your boss?" The interviewer is usually reading your face in response to the question. Looks of horror (from candidate's who just lied in answering the question) are all too common. You do not have to provide a reference from your current boss, although you should be willing to provide references from previous bosses. So make sure how you answer this question is verifiable.

The best approach to answering this question:
Get the answer in advance. Ask all former bosses for letters of reference, then bring them with you to the interview. For your current boss, the best way to provide reference of your work without giving away the confidentiality of your job search is to use your more recent performance review. Although you may not want to provide the entire review to your interviewer, you are welcome to quote from the review itself as backing substantiation of what your boss would say about you. This what moves your answer from second hand to a first hand response.

An example of how to best answer this question:
"My prior boss would say that I was the best employee she has ever had. I know that because she has told me that directly and she also said it in the letter of recommmendation that she provided to me. I have a copy of it with me, would you like to read it? As for my current boss, he praised me for my delivery on a major project on my most recent performance review, so I have received high marks from him as well. I have an excerpt from my annual review talking about that project, if you would like a copy?"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Well, I didn't have a lot of interaction with my boss except for when she did my annual review and even then it wasn't very accurate, since she didn't really know me or my work. I think she would say I was competent, but she wasn't very competent herself, so I'm not sure if that's a good endorsement or not."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!