Interviews: Can we All Be a Little More Honest?

I’ve spent plenty of time on both sides of the interview table, and if there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s the implicit agreement that we will put a sugary spin on everything. The employer will pretend the job is perfect, and the potential employee will pretend he is perfect. Then we will both go home and try to read between the lines.

A Lifehacker article explains how to spot a bad boss through his use of pronouns. The catch: every pronoun is connected to a different negative trait.

There are scores of articles that give (usually bad) advice for employers to help them spot problematic employees.

What a waste of time!

I can’t help thinking, “This could all be avoided if we’d agree to be a little more honest with each other.”

Go ahead—tell me my average work week will be 60 hours. Don’t gloss over that–be honest, and let me decide if I can handle that. We will both be happier in the long run.

On the other side of the coin, employees need to stop answering that their biggest weakness is that “I’m a perfectionist. I’m just too freakin’ perfect, and I have to tone down my perfectionism so that average people can keep up.” 

As a manger, I can’t remember ONCE receiving a truly honest answer to the question about weaknesses. The worst answer I ever got was “I’m probably not tall enough to see over the teller line.” It was the low point of an otherwise wonderful interview.

I did hire her, by the way, but it was her lapse into honestly that won me over. At the beginning of the interview, she admitted that she has 8 children, and that several companies had not wanted to hire her because of it. She explained that her oldest kids babysit her youngest, so she doesn’t have to worry about missing work. In the end, her honesty benefited her: she was turned down by the companies that were not family-friendly, and hired by the one that was.

My biggest flaw is NOT that I am a perfectionist. I am a perfectionist, but for most employers that’s a good thing. 

My biggest flaw is NOT that I have no sense of direction and drive like I’m on fire. Unless you are my neighbor’s mailbox, you probably don’t care about that.

What is my biggest flaw? There are so many, it’s hard to choose. I could list them all here (and I will if you care enough to send me an email), but in a world that expects a BS answer, I’d be unfavorably compared to someone whose “biggest flaw” is that they “care too much about their work”. 

So, here’s my true, but not-very-useful answer: “I’m too honest”.



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