Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sometimes I Care Too Much.

Every once in a while, I think about interviewing for a job, but then I read articles like this, and I realize that I will be asked questions about "my greatest weakness." I'm from the Millennial Generation, so I've always been told that I'm perfect. How am I supposed to answer this?

This question is actually frightening even to people who were brought up with a healthy sense of shame and inferiority. The correct answer requires that you remember the purpose of interviews.

The main purpose of interviews is to see you in person so you can prove that you are a human and not a golden retriever with a resume, a computer designed to shotgun resumes to HR departments or pregnant. (Just kidding, of course it is illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, which has totally NEVER happened to me.)

The second purpose of an interview is to determine whether you are a complete sociopath whose toxicity will poison the entire workforce. To test your sociopath level, interviewers ask questions designed to see how well you "fit within the work environment," which is HR-speak for, "how much of a pain in our ass are you going to be?" Every worker is a pain to HR, because every worker has feelings and opinions and wants to be paid and have benefits. This is all part of the job. What isn't part of the job is having to field 100 emails a day about why your cubicle neighbor's fern is an affront to your cultural value system. Interview questions are designed to determine whether you are a flexible, team-player or a rigid, obstructionist bag of mixed nuts.

I'm always a fan of honesty, because nothing feels worse than starting a job and realizing you are a horrible fit. Sometimes you just need a paycheck, but chances are, if you try to tell the interviewers what they want to hear, you will come off as manipulative and phony. The problem is that you don't want to overdo it and spend 20 minutes listing everything you have ever done wrong since childhood and end up rocking in a fetal position. Pick one thing, then refocus on your strengths.

But what should you pick? Since I don't want to come off as unhelpful, here's a great list of what people usually say so that you can refrain from sounding like you spend your days reading those hack "career advice" articles on major websites. (I'm pretty sure they are written by computers because golden retrievers would never write something so pointless.):

  1. I'm a perfectionist. (I will delay every task, including which toilet paper to buy.)
  2. I care too much. (I will cry daily.)
  3. I work too hard. (I will constantly make mistakes.)
  4. I'm too accommodating. (I will one day be convicted of something that includes the word "abetting.") 
  5. I'm too ethical. (I will have a sanctimonious problem with everything you ask me to do and inevitably file a lawsuit.)
Just to compare, here's a list of what most people's greatest weakness really are:
  1. I'm lazy. (I will make you feel superior and accomplished.)
  2. I steal office supplies. (I will be the most invisible employee you have.)
  3. I'm habitually late. (I will make your mornings exciting.)
  4. I skip work. (I will reduce your energy bills because my lights and computer will be off.)
  5. I'm a gossip. (I will tell you who is stealing office supplies, coming in late and skipping work.)
See? We all belong on the Island of Misfit Employees, but most of our weakness are common and manageable. When you answer, you just need to sound human and affable. If you earnestly want the job, follow your instincts. If you really don't want the job, keep reading.

Personally, I think the best generic answer to this question is, "My biggest weakness is that I'm not very good at talking about myself. I think it is a weakness that a lot of people share, which is what makes interviewing so difficult. I'm much better at..." and then start talking about how you sell widgets like a boss. Chances are, it is true and there is an added bonus that you sound humble and understanding, as opposed to conceited and arrogant. Who wants to hire someone that is an expert on...themselves? 

Of course, now that I've shared my answer, everyone will use it and I'll have to go back to the old-standby that "I care too much," when, ironically, most of the time I don't care at all. 

What's the deal? Are you going to change the style of your photos, or not? 

I don't know. If you have an opinion, feel free to share. Happy Leap Day!

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