Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Different Perspective & the Job Market

As most people are well aware, we who live in the great Northwest face a very tight job market. The unemployment rate here is higher than most anywhere else in the nation.

For the past year, I've been traveling to interviews in Oregon, Washington and California for jobs in the field of social services. It's bad enough that each stop features hordes of applicants who desperately need a good paying job with benefits, but it's even harder for a person like me -- a person with a slightly different perspective than the average Joe or Jane.

Here's but one example. A lot of the interviews for jobs with the State of Oregon's DHS are group interviews. (It's kind of ironic that so many people desire to join the ranks of hated government employees!) One question that has been asked at almost every interview I've participated in is: Tell us why you are the best person for this job.

To a person, every other applicant provides a laundry list of their finest attributes. They declare that no one else will work as hard as they do or be as cheerful as they are. Often, I think that the first person to speak should list every positive characteristic that they can think of and then each subsequent applicant could save the rest of us a lot of time by simply saying, "Ditto".

When this question is asked of me, I provide a completely different sort of answer. As a Taoist, I feel it would be presumptuous to make any sort of declaration that I am indeed the best person for the job. How would I know that?

Unlike the other applicants, I don't view the interview process as a competition. It is my hope that each interview panel is looking for the individual THEY feel would best fit in both with their supervisory style and the members of their assembled team. Since I don't know what supervisory style is utilized and I don't have any way of knowing the current dynamics of the team, there's no way in the world I can know if I'm the best choice.

My answer to the question always seems to catch quite a few people off-guard. I'm sure some of the panelists most likely take my response as either a lack of self-confidence or a strategy to sidestep the question. And I'm sure I've "lost" a job offer or two because of it.

In the end, however, I firmly believe a person must be true unto themselves. I could easily play the game and provide the kind of glib answer they're looking for, but to do so, would violate one of my Taoist principles.

I'm ever hopeful that one of these days I'll attend one of these group interviews and the panel will welcome someone who doesn't fall prey to convention and will see the value of a person standing up for one's principles.


  1. I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes at a job interview I believe they don't want the truth, but are testing me to see if I know the "ideal" answer for their question.

    I wonder when ambition and knowledge were replaced by cognation and facade.

    ~~> Jay

  2. -
    Stand for the truth and Truth stands for you. Then you are free. "Play the game" and you are enslaved ...'in the tangled web we weave et cetera.'

  3. I took part in a group job interview last week. It was like an audition. The folks that dazzled the panel the most would come back in the afternoon for individual interviews.

    I didn't make the cut, despite the fact I had more direct experience than the other 6 combined. The person with the second most direct experience didn't make the cut either.

    Ironically, the person with the LEAST experience (two brief college internships but NO professional experience) DID make the cut.

    In this particular case, having experience in the field seemed to be a fatal liability. It leads me to think that the supervisors weren't interested in hiring anyone who might challenge their "expertise".


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