You Don’t Have To Be Perfect

By Joe Stein

We have discussed in these pages, many times, how you have to interview well to obtain the position you are seeking.  There is still a lot of competition for most jobs, and your best effort is needed to determine who is selected.  What is not required by the Hiring Manager, however, is perfection.

The search for “perfection” is probably what creates so much stress amongst job seekers…this goal that is unobtainable.  It causes us to obsess over every possible interview scenario.  By doing this, you run the risk of being overcome with nerves, or (perhaps just as damaging) sounding robotic and impersonal in your overly prepared responses.

As a job seeker, we falsely think an employer will be hiring the “perfect” candidate.  Of course, an employer may have this very high standard in theory (even though we really know no one is perfect), but the reality is they will hire someone who is the “best” candidate, not the “perfect” one.  Once you become comfortable with this concept, you will probably find yourself a bit more relaxed and more conversational during the interview.

If you need further proof that perfection is not the standard, think about a question that I almost guarantee you will be asked during your interview.  Which one?  The classic, “What is your biggest weakness?”, or the more modern, “What is an area of development?”  By asking this question, an interviewer is tipping their hand that they know you are not perfect and have some need areas or flaws.

So, with this knowledge you should now feel empowered and relieved.   Why is this so important?  Let’s examine why:

 -  Your relaxation will make it a conversation.  A job interview should be a mutual conversation.  You will learn more about the organization when you are relaxed because your listening skills will be enhanced in this situation.  Your Interviewer will also probably enjoy the interview more when it moves away from the traditional Q&A.

 -  You will come across as more confident.  As noted above, your tone will be conversational.  You will appear more natural and display a greater level of knowledge and expertise.  All of these are very advantageous traits for you as a candidate.  Since many Job Seekers now supply memorized “canned” answers like a robot, most Interviewers will appreciate someone with the confidence to be conversational.

 -  You can better answer the inevitable “weakness” question.  By removing the baggage of perfection, you can provide a more credible answer than the typical, “I work too hard” that causes every Interviewer to groan when hearing (besides, how would an employer view that as a weakness?).  You can now provide a legitimate development item that will show you have a self-effacing trait that most companies desire.  Just make sure your answer is not too fundamental to employment, like “I have trouble getting to work on time” or something that is essential to the position, such as a weakness with MS Office when you are seeking an Administrative position.

 -  Eliminating the need for “perfection” allows you to avoid the over inflation of your answers.  We constantly feel the need to be better than what we are at any particular moment.  We have the view that we can’t possibly be good enough, since every employer wants everything.  This may cause us to exaggerate and (even worse) fabricate our answers.  There are so many reasons why this is important.  Starting with it is very hard to remember when you fabricate or exaggerate, so you can easily get tripped up when the Interviewer starts “fact checking”.  In my experience as an Interviewer, it is generally fairly easy to tell when most people (unless you are an actor or perhaps a habitual liar) are spinning a tale, as they become less comfortable and overall more difficult to understand as they tell their “story”.

 -  Most Interviewers want a candidate that has faced adversity and is self-effacing.  Any job is a series of challenges, and success is usually defined by overcoming what is in front of you.  So, by sharing what you would have done differently in a situation and what you have learned, you are analytically communicating traits that are coveted by most companies.

Many Job Seekers have the false belief that they must be “perfect” during his or her interview.  The reality is having this unrealistic standard can cause you to be so stressed over the interview that you fail to give your best effort.  A prospective employer is going to hire the best candidate (assuming the best meets their minimum requirements), but not a “perfect” one.  Take it from someone who has literally hired thousands of people over the course of my career, never did I think any person was “perfect” and a sure superstar in the role.  The key is to be the best that you can be.  When you are working to this standard, you will still do all the necessary preparation but without the unrealistic expectations placed on top of you.

As always, best of luck in your job search!

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJOBS.com readers.  It is not meant to provide advice with request to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.