I had the recent misfortune of needing to interview some job candidates where I work. The misfortune aspect of it comes in for several reasons, some of them are: I don’t really enjoy talking to people I don’t know. I don’t like having to pass judgement on other people, especially on such flimsy evidence as a job interview provides. And even, I don’t like feeling responsible for someone not getting a job that they need or want, whether it’s because I didn’t vote for them, I didn’t lobby for them strongly enough, or I just liked someone else better.
Let me just say a little more about the first reason I gave… Sometimes, of course, I do enjoy talking to people I don’t know; it’s just most of the time that I don’t. Mostly it’s due to my own insecurity. I’m afraid I’ll be wasting the other person’s time, either by not being useful enough or not being entertaining enough or just not having anything to say that meets their needs, whatever those needs may be. I try to tailor my banter to my audience, yet with someone I don’t know I don’t know how to do so. Probably I do this tailoring due to some inner need to be liked. I want to be funny, I want to be insightful, and I want to be informative; that’s why I write this blog. But I’m never sure I’m any of those things, or when I am sure, I’m never really sure that anyone else will also perceive it. After all, the line between “funny, insightful, and informative,” and “annoying, stupid, and obvious” is often wide enough to completely cover both sides of whatever it was I just said.
But enough about my insecurities and back to the subjects of my interviews.
Kind of thankfully, but mostly not, even in this downturned economy, we didn’t have a lot of applicants. (Or at least not a lot that made it through to me from HR.) The “kind of thankfully” part is just that at least I only had a few interviews to do, not dozens. A couple of applicants stood out to me though, not so much for what they said but for what they wouldn’t say. I asked God about it and she told me that they were just trying to follow the advice of real estate agents all over the country who encourage people to paint all their walls beige. She said what they were trying to do was to not offend, to not give me a reason to reject them. What they did do was go out of their way to not have strong opinions on anything, to not express dislike for something, perhaps in fear of dissing something that I like, but also to not express a particular liking for anything. When I’d ask questions like “what are the strengths and weaknesses of different scripting languages?” they’d answer something like “different languages can be good for different things, some of them are a better fit for certain kinds of problems than others.” Well, yeah, that was kind of the point of my question. I’m trying to find out if they can see how to map problems to the different available tools, and when they do if they can justify their choices. I’m not trying to find out if they like the same ones I do, although I’m not against finding that out.
So what it really came down to, is that while they weren’t giving me specific things to dislike about them (other than general wishy-washiness) they also weren’t giving me anything that I could like about them. They didn’t seem to understand that if they were a good fit for the job that they needed to show it, and if they were a bad fit than it would be better for everyone involved, including them, for us to figure that out.
So sure, when you’re selling something, be it yourself or your house, you should maybe avoid covering it in swastikas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show a little color. By being too bland you may avoid offending anyone, but you also won’t inspire passion in anyone. And we all want to feel a little passion.