In 1713 Reginald Gibbon Von Eckstein IV, founder of Harvard Business School, revolutionized employment (and, perhaps, the entire world) when he came up with the most widely-used question ever to be asked in a job interview: “What would you say are your weaknesses?”
I suspect that for a time it was a valuable tool. People were taken off-guard and responded initially with honesty and candor, which allowed employers to make wise decisions.
“Well, I tend to be a little lazy,” they said.
“Uh, well, I guess I would say that I have a hard time taking orders from my superiors,” they said.
“I steal money,” they said.
And, just in case you need a history lesson here, all this honesty led to a dramatic unemployment rate, which eventually brought about The Great Depression.
It wasn’t until a young man named Vincent Giovanni Carillo—or Vinnie, as people called him—came up with the only response to combat the Question That Nearly Ruined The Country.
Young Vinnie, with empty pockets and worn-out shoes, sat in an interview in the local steel mill, hoping for the only job available in the entire county contemplating this question that had just been asked of him. Sure, he could answer honestly that his weakness was heavy drinking and robbing old ladies, but he understood that this would surely cost him his one and only chance.
In a moment of quiet brilliance and without realizing what he was about to do, he felt his lips moving to release these simple words:
“Well, uh, I guess I would say that my greatest weakness is that I’m too dedicated. I work too hard and I care too much. I follow-through with too much accuracy, you know? I tend to care more about enriching my boss than making sure I get appropriate pay raises and stuff like that.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of our country’s economic recovery. To this day, employers are still asking that question; and to this day, would-be employees are still reporting that they struggle from time to time with the overwhelming urge to work overtime without reporting the hours.
Even though Vinnie Carillo changed the course of history and made it possible for your ancestors to get jobs, gain educations, and afford SUVs, the country lost touch with recognizing and acknowledging their weaknesses.
All this, of course, leads me to tell you about my new house. (Also an opportunity to tell you that I struggle sometimes with logical segues.)
The woman who owned our home before us was an interior decorator by trade. After visiting countless out-dated and occasionally ghastly homes during our house-hunt, we walked through the doors of this house and literally heard the heavens open and the angels sing. It. Was. Beautiful.
The woman has great style, and we benefitted directly from her taste in crown molding and plush carpet. Every detail was to be admired and adored, it seemed, when we left the house and committed to making an offer.
It wasn’t until we moved into the empty house that I began to notice an odd and somewhat disturbing trend throughout the home—decorative light switch plates.
I’m done now. You can open your eyes again. There are a few others, but I think I’ve made my point—know your weaknesses, people. Know. Your. Weaknesses.
But don’t ever reveal them in a job interview. The economy is suffering as it is.