The Importance of Straight Talk

I saw an interview with Ashton B. Carter, the outgoing Secretary of Defense, in yesterday’s New York Times.  He was asked, “How do you hire?”  He responded, “Integrity is extremely important to me.  In an interview, I’m watching for evasiveness, for not answering the question.  It’s important that someone be straight with you.  If they’re not being straight, you can’t really gauge them.  Somebody who is evading you in the interview is also someone who evades issues.”

This is great career advice.  When I used to hire people, I was always leery of folks who seemed to be trying to figure out what I wanted to hear and then parrot it back to me.  That’s what Mr. Carter means when he says that it’s important to be straight with the person interviewing you.

Tell him or her what you think.  In some cases, this may mean that you won’t get the job.  But that’s OK.  If you’re being straight in an interview and don’t get hired, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to work there anyway.  Being in a work situation where you always have to weigh what you say is very stressful.

I remember interviewing for a job and being turned down.  The feedback was that I had “too high a need for self determination.”  Damn right I do!  I don’t want to work in a place that isn’t going to allow me to do what I think is best in a manner that I think is best.  I’m willing to follow the rules, but I don’t want to be so rule bound that I have little flexibility or opprotunity to be creative.

In that case, straight talk saved me — and the company — some heartache.

The point here?  Say what you mean and mean what you say — even in interviews; especially in interviews.  If there’s ot a good fit in the interview, there won’t be one on the job.

Your career mentor,


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