As a thirty-something, I’m no stranger to the interview process; the firm handshake, positive body language, a cleverly worded aside that shows you’ve done your research on the post but aren’t some crazed stalker. And now I join this years flood of new graduates to do it all over again, having just completed my second degree.
During a recent interview I was asked the question that has the potential to reduce even the most hardy applicant to a quivering mass of sweat and tears – “Tell me what you think your weaknesses are?”. It seemed no matter how many strengths I possessed, my answer here had the potential to sink the whole ship. Deciding as with most things in life that honesty is the best policy, I carefully balanced some truthful negatives with positive ways I could improve and felt my heart sink when I received the all too familiar platitude, “Thank you for being honest”. Perhaps I gave too much away, maybe my other answers weren’t up to scratch. I ran through all the familiar scenarios for the rest of the day but couldn’t get this response out of my head. I was told someone would be in touch the following day and heard nothing. So I got to thinking, how much had the panel really appreciated my veracity?
Deciding to do some truth digging of my own (and perhaps seeking catharsis) I compiled my own list of questions for some Gung-ho individuals who agreed to open the lid on what really goes on in the minds of interviewers. All showed a preference for honesty over tact; a representative for a University Student Association stressed the importance of the ability to speak one’s mind, especially in their volunteers whose job it is to provide a voice for the future generation. Understandable, but what of those seeking paid employment, lucky enough to be considered by some of the biggest companies and corporations active in the world today. It’s hard to believe that these potential candidates, eager to please, nay, impress, wouldn’t at least be tempted to exercise some savvy under pressure. An acting Head of Account Management for a multinational Internet corporation identified a former applicant with a knack for being evasive when faced with some competency based questions. Although my source confessed her dubiety over her suitability, pressure from above saw her securing the role, only to leave the position a month later.
So is it worth our carefully worded efforts? Might fortune favour the brave in the long term? Why should we strive to be a part of something that, if we were being honest with ourselves, never mind the panel, might give us a bigger headache than the job-hunt itself. To my mind, the most progressive interviewers take the time to find out what lies beneath skills and experience. Many people find themselves spending more time with their colleagues than they do their family and friends, so finding that perfect fit to join a professional kin must take into account the personality behind the mask. A former manager for a major Coffee house chain found that questions relating to which music or animal the candidate identified with told her far more about character traits than the standard “Tell me about a time when…” line of enquiry.
As for me, I’d like to stand up for all the proverbial tortoises who can take comfort in the fact that hasty hares don’t necessarily come first in the race towards employment.
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