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Hi, My Name Is: The Girl You Don’t Want To Hire

girl you don't want to hire

Once upon a time I was fired from a nanny job for being “too quiet.” The couple whose kids I was caring for actually told me that I “had seemed more outgoing during the interview.” It didn’t matter that I was attentive to the children and scrubbed the house like Mr. Clean – the parents had an idea of what they thought a nanny should be like, and I wasn’t it.

How easy it was for me to blame the loss of the job on myself! I decided that it was a flaw that I was myself and not somebody else. I became convinced that the only way I’d ever make it in life was if I could change who I was. After all, being fired from that job was only the beginning. From that point onward I noticed a pattern as I applied for jobs: None of them wanted me, but an idea.

I dare you to find a listing for a position that demands traits like, “honest,”  “punctual,” “attentive,” or “respectful.” I can assure you they won’t be there. Instead you’ll find a list like, “people-person,” “team player,” and “go-getter.”

Obviously I’m not referring to highly specialized positions which need a great deal of schooling and experience. Someone can’t just become a CEO because they’re attentive. Nonetheless there is a huge difference between requiring that an applicant for a therapist position have a Psy.D. and requiring that an applicant for a dish washing job be the star of a party. I’m not exaggerating. One summer while I was home from college I applied for a part-time dish washing stint. I was turned down because of the score I received on the restaurant’s “personality assessment.”

The fact of the matter is, our society has become very superficial (hellooo, Photoshop) and the workplace is no different. Most companies are looking for an idea of the perfect person rather than a skilled worker who may or may not be steeped in charisma.

We’ve already covered the idea of embracing your talents rather than attempting to be perfect. But what happens when someone else who happens to control your paycheck can’t embrace that?

Honestly, a good part of it is out of your control. You can’t demand that someone else change his or her opinion. You also can’t “fake it till you make it” and play along by acting the way they want you to during the interview, because once you are hired you cannot maintain a false personality or you’ll end up like me getting fired from my nanny job. Not to mention it’s more than a wee bit dishonest.

Here are a few approaches that have helped me:

Completely ignore the parts of the job description that don’t fit you, instead, play up the parts that do.

If you have the required M.A. in literature but none of the personality traits they threw at you, that’s OK. What’s great about sending in a cover letter is that you can carry on (eloquently, of course) about your passion for literature and experience interning for a local paper without once being forced to admit that you’re not as vivacious as Lois Lane. Be careful, though – you don’t want to mislead your potential employer. If they directly ask one of those awkward questions like, “How do you feel about confronting a coworker who is doing something wrong?” then you’ll need to gently explain that that’s not your particular forte, but you, of course, are willing to work on it.

Compose your answers beforehand.

Lists of generic interview questions like this one are easy to find with a simple Google search. Going over a list will enable you to consider how you would answer the question if asked. Now, I personally find that I’m easily overwhelmed when preparing for an interview, so it helps to limit the preparation. In other words, don’t demand too much of yourself – pick a few questions that you’ve heard before or that you suspect you might be asked and think about your answer. You don’t need to memorize a word-for-word response! It’ll help if you can find a willing friend to play the part of the interviewer for some practice.

Do not discuss traits in great lengths that your potential employer may not find desirable.

Instead, think of a positive way to explain your own personality. How not to do this: After I experienced rejection multiple times because of not having the “right” personality, I became a little rebellious. In interviews, for example, I would boldly announce that I was shy and did not like to work with new people. While it’s true that employers should be more open-minded, that was pretty much a fail-safe way to not get hired.

I’ve since learned to explain that I am a very friendly person. That’s 100% true, but I take care not to mention that “friendly” is nowhere near the same thing as “outgoing and comfortable with confrontation.”

You know what? It isn’t fair that you, I, or anyone should have to tweak a personality or hide little pieces of themselves in order to succeed. You are unique and talented whether or not you possess every personality trait on that listing or not. But I don’t think that the way to prove your potential is by rising up in rebellion or being obnoxious in an interview (like yours truly).

Perhaps if we present ourselves professionally and kindly we’ll get the jobs we want – perhaps not. But I’m pretty sure that one day a whole lot of narrow-minded CEOs are going to wake up and realize that their employees are a beautiful variety of persons and personalities, which is just the way it should be. Then, who knows? Maybe those job listings will start to look a little bit different. Just in time for the next generation of twenty-somethings.

Have you ever been let go from a position because of your personality?