“What’s Your Biggest Weakness?” –”None of Your Damn Business. What’s Yours?”

I recently declined to continue interviewing with a stupid little start-up, for several reasons listed below. At least the hiring manager or recruiter or whoever they are had the idea to ask why I didn’t want their money. I responded in these exact words, as follows.

Feedback: any company that thinks it’s appropriate to ask a person what their “biggest weakness” is clearly lacks respect for other peoples’ privacy, dignity and society’s basic social norms. The only answer to this question you deserve is: none of your damn business. What’s yours?  Such a question is completely inappropriate and absolutely insulting coming from a company; it is only appropriate for a person’s innermost private circle of relationships and is paramount to asking about a person’s medical or sexual history.

Furthermore, I don’t have have time, nor do I feel respected by, the idea of sitting through two or three rounds of interviews, including a lengthy phone call when I said “I have only a few minutes”, plus a “trial run” with a fake phone call in addition to test a person’s responses before they have even been trained. Extremely few companies for extremely few positions are that important or deserve such effort, and [your company] isn’t one of them. If a company like [your company] thinks it’s that much of a big deal, it’s clearly too self-absorbed and will likely treat applicants and people working for them as if we are desperate. And we are not.

The job market is excellent for job seekers right now, and nobody with a real life and self-respect is going to jump through these hoops for a little start-up that’s thinks it’s so hot. Even when the job market isn’t ideal for job-seekers, the strongest candidates still have more self-respect than to bend over and beg. They are willing to tough it out and use their intelligence for the right opportunity.

Forget the Cover Letter. Make a Standards Letter.

To the Managers,

Thank you for your interest in hiring me. In lieu of the dime-a-dozen insincere cover letter, I present to you my Standards Letter in my search for employment that is befitting of my time I will never get back, my labor expended with the devotion of my whole mind and heart, and the very breath of my living lungs. This is what you need to know about me.

A person’s time and energy is more precious than money, and indeed, cannot be bought by money alone. Because of the high turnover and dissatisfaction rates in our field of work, in addition to several of my own difficult experiences, I request of you the follow before I accept an interview with you:

1. Our interview will be thoroughly two-ways. If you put your feet up, I’ll put my feet up. If you take a call during our interview, I’ll make a call and tell you it’s “important”. It will not be a case of you interviewing me only. There will be only two of us –you, and me. Any other ratio is unequal. I will ask of you the very same kinds of questions you ask of me. If you ask me what my “weakness” is, I will ask you what your “weakness” is. This will be a two-way street. I will ask you what you don’t like about being a manager at your company. I will ask you to give me examples of certain situations and what you would do in them. I will ask you if you possess a strong accurate understanding of workers’ rights (and what brings them dissatisfaction and pride in their work), CPR protocol or anything else relevant that you really should know but might not. I will expect as much sincerity from you as you expect from me.

2. If you want me to sign contracts, I will have you sign contracts. In fact, I’ll have you sign contracts, regardless. Because you are probably a tax-paying employer with legal papers and work agreements for me to sign, I will hand to you a contract where you will agree to conduct yourselves in transparency, honesty, timely support, clear standards and expectations, compassionate and encouraging feedback and absolutely clear communication. I will not accept aggressive or clique-like behavior. These are systemic issues in our field, and they end with me.

3. Most importantly, I will interview my potential colleagues. It matters tremendously who I will be working with. I will ask them what they do and don’t like about working here. I will encourage them to honesty, clearly letting them know why I am asking. If I get the sense that my potential colleagues are truly satisfied with working at their company (and it is theirs as much as it is yours), then I will know that your company is a worthy place to work.