My Greatest Weakness is Kryptonite…

8 Sep

Well my phone interview was this morning and I’m here blogging so you know that I neither died of embarrassment nor succumbed to a tasteful stress attack. 

Who's stressed? I work better with my hands in front of my face, thank you very much

I woke up three and a half hours ahead of time to practice, prepare, and perspire. I had a notepad, a pen, a back-up pen, and a pencil (can’t be too careful). I had my resume, a glass of water, and my trusty dog all within reach.

Who knows if anything will come of it? I would loooooooooooove this internship but I got the impression that there are a lot of other people trying for the two (count ‘em, TWO) spots. I’m trying to maintain an emotional position somewhere between hoping against hope and mature realism. We’ll see.

So before the phone call to end all phone calls, I did a lot of research on interviews. My experience is sadly limited so I picked through the internet and interrogated my gainfully employed, gotta-hate-them friends.  Job interviews are interesting, aren’t they? There are social expectations and commonly accepted rules just like any other cultural ritual–bowing, waltzing, texting. When they ask you to “tell me about yourself,” you should not respond with any actual personal details. Instead, you should efficiently brag about where you’ve worked and what you’ve done–things that you will have to repeat later, when you’re asked about your experience and skills. Anyone will tell you to never lie on your resume or in interviews because it’ll come back to haunt you. But you’d also be called a fool by most people (assuming that I’m not the only one who uses the word “fool”) for telling the absolute truth.

“Why are you interested in this job?”  

“I need money and society expects me to get it through professional labor.”

The most bizarre question, to my way of thinking, is “What is your greatest weakness?” I was told over and over, by friends and helpful internet articles, to expect this question so you know that it has successfully spread across the masses. But unless you’re Superman, there’s probably no clear-cut, knee-jerk answer. (Besides, Superman wouldn’t just go around blabbing about his greatest weakness, now would he?)

 Just what is being asked here? You’re supposed to explain your professional weaknesses–that means no mentioning your commitment phobia or tendency to overeat–but nobody is really expecting to hear any deal-breakers. Instead, the typical thing to do is pull out some handy quotations and recite “weaknesses” instead of weaknesses. “Weaknesses” are fake, aw-shucks flaws that make you look like a hard worker and don’t diminish your attractiveness. Based on my flawless research, I’ve concluded that the most popular “weaknesses” are:

  1. Perfectionism  i.e “Sometimes I obsess over making sure every detail is right. I’m only satisfied with my work if I’ve double-checked everything and I spend extra time making sure any project I contribute to is flawless.
  2. Workaholism  i.e “My work is an important part of my life and I’ve been known to devote an unbalanced amount of time to it.”
  3. Eager-to-Please-ism  i.e “It’s hard for me to say no, which means that I end up with a lot on my plate because I want to be as useful as possible.”

People revert to “weaknesses” because nobody wants to sabotage their own opportunity and it seems unnatural to tell a perfect stranger (a perfect stranger who’s judging you) about your faults. The real problem here is this question. I vote for scrapping it because it’s a doomed fishing expedition–you’re not going to come away with anything significant. But if the beaurocratic world simply cannot carry on without inquiring about potential employees weaknesses, then perhaps we could make it an even trade? Like, you mention a professional area in which you’re less than perfect and then I’ll do the same. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You could even bond over a shared hatred for new technology with your possible future boss.  There would be laughter, groans of sympathy, familiarity. This is my dream.

That’s probably my greatest weakness–I dream too big.

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One Response to “My Greatest Weakness is Kryptonite…”

  1. Nigel G. Mitchell May 16, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Yeah, I agree this is a silly question. It’s just there to try to trick you into telling them why you’re a bad employee. Basically, it’s an idiot detector, trying to get someone to say, “Well, I steal a lot. I’m lazy. I tend to punch people who I disagree with.” They should just replace it with: “Tell me why I shouldn’t hire you for this job.”

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