Talked to someone about interviewing today
Talked about that question:
"Describe a time you faced a difficult situation
How you resolved it,
And what you learned about yourself in the process."
"Is it acceptable to say 'please narrow the parameters
And provide degree of difficulty?'"
"No, that's the beauty of the question. It's personal, up to interpretation."
"Can an answer be too personal?"
They said, looking at me sideways, visibly bracing themselves:
"Why, what would you answer?"
So I told them. You know, the usual difficult stuff. Because, you know
The definition of difficult is personal, up to interpretation and I feel
Having survived what I've survived and come out alive--
I can do anything.
Truly. Anything. Whatever they throw at me, it's not a problem.
(There's a term for this. It's called posttraumatic growth.)
"Yes, that--what you've been through--is too personal.
It says a lot about who you are, but
I wouldn't bring it up. Not for your sake
But for the sake of the interviewer.
It might shock them, if they're not prepared for it."
I suspected as much.
But I don't know what to make of it.
On one hand--personal stuff is awkward and unsettling in any context
Not only job interviews. That shit doesn't have anything to do with competence
So don't bring up irrelevant things.
On the other hand--excuse me?
Why do I need to tiptoe around the sensibilities of other people?
You asked me the question-- what were you expecting me to say?
Shit happens. Shit happened to me. I got over it. It wasn't easy, but I did.
I'm not telling you because I want pity, I'm telling you because
It's who I am. How I handled that defines me, gave me new confidence
New awareness about what I'm made of.
So why should I preserve this crystal dome of taboo subjects?
Isn't this the root of the problem? Shit is allowed to happen
Because people don't want to see it happening.
If you don't name it, it doesn't exist
Like those gated communities rich people live in to not see the poor
Tell me again why I'm supposed to protect you from reality?
These experiences aren't relevant to how I'll perform on the job
But they are relevant to who I am.
It's a job interview. They want to get to know you beyond the resume.
I will answer questions about why I'm qualified
I will answer questions about my strengths and weaknesses
I will answer questions about working under deadline pressure
But do not ask me personal questions
And expect answers that aren't shocking, disturbing, intense.
It's not who I am.
If that question comes up, I envision myself: I smile
Tell them I've faced some difficult situations
That I'd rather not talk about. Please ask another question.
I've got a pretty disarming smile.
Practically, it's probably best simply to ask them:
"Difficult in a professional context, or difficult in a personal context?"
That ought to be enough to set a boundary.