Yesterday morning my 13-year-old daughter was nervous because as some cockamamie part of her Chicago Park District summer camp, she had a mock interview with some unnamed "important people." We had to type up her "résumé." She had to practice her handshake. She had to rehearse an elevator speech about herself and her aims in life. And she had to prepare for some interview questions.
One of which she knew was going to be, "What are your weaknesses?"
A colleague of mine once stunned his new boss by refusing to fill out his own self-performance review, on account of his shortcomings were so hidden and hideous that he would be goddamned if he would explain them to the boss. A professional speaker I know refuses to read speaker evaluations, because this deep into his career, he knows he can't please everyone: "I don't read them, whether good or bad, and don't care to be tempted. It's a personal priority for me—something I do quite seriously to keep unproductive negativity out of my head."
I've always resented corporations' various ways of "scientifically" measuring our intellects and our personalities and finding us wanting, as cogs.
I've also been surprised at our willingness to submit ourselves to these tests. Wouldn't we be amused to hear that a record producer first required Stevie to take the Wonderlic? And yet we eagerly fill out the DISC personality test for the HR dicks, and we pretend to actually be intrigued about the findings. Gee wilickers, I'm 40 years old, and I never knew I was a results-oriented introverted appraiser!
We are infinite souls. We are standers on the shoulders of all our wise and unwise ancestors. We are creatures of nature or God or love. We are the most advanced animals on Earth, and the most unknowable. But Briggs-Meyers can plainly see we're not an empathetic tertiary team player, so we're not right for the Customer Complaints Hotline.
The idea that a magnificent 13-year-old girl—still evolving, still learning, still capable of anything (as the rest of us ought to feel we are, too)—ought to spend five precious minutes contemplating credible, acceptable "weaknesses" to confess to some asshole "interviewer." No.
At best, it'll teach her earlier than I'd like her to know, how to be a Real American Bullshitter with a Passion for Performance. (She's already learning enough of that in school. Yesterday I asked if teachers would object to her starting the school year with a henna tattoo. "Naw," she said. "You can always get the teachers by calling it 'cultural.'")
At worst, it'll turn her into another lemming who walks into a business interview fully rehearsed to do what no actual businessperson would ever do at the outset of a negotiation: Acknowledge that she is an incomplete skill set who ought to be grateful for whatever the company sees fit to give her, and whatever work the company in its wisdom finds for her to do.
I told Scout to tell them she was confused by the question, and ask the "important people" what they meant, exactly, by "weaknesses."
"Oh nothing," they might say. "We just wanted to make you admit you had some."
Postscript: She came home last night ebullient, because she nailed the elevator speech and did well in the interview. "Did they ask you about your weaknesses?" I asked. "No, they didn't," she said. The interviewer must have forgotten. Well, nobody's perfect.