In “the upper reaches of the meritocracy,” young college graduates are trying to be “perfect avatars of success,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. He urges employers “bias hiring decisions against perfectionists” with “a high talent for social conformity” and no personality.
They got 3.8 grade-point averages in high school and college. They served in the cliché leadership positions on campus. They got all the perfect consultant/investment bank internships. During off-hours they distributed bed nets in Zambia and dug wells in Peru.
. . . Students who get straight As have an ability to prudentially master their passions so they can achieve proficiency across a range of subjects. But you probably want employees who are relentlessly dedicated to one subject. In school, those people often got As in subjects they were passionate about but got Bs in subjects that did not arouse their imagination.
Brooks wants employers to reward job applicants who’ve done something unfashionable, such as going to a Christian college to explore their values.
“If the interviewee can’t immediately come up with an episode, there may be a problem here,” advises Brooks.
My first reaction: Now overachievers will have to come up with an unfashionable thing — but not too unfashionable — in addition to grades, leadership, internships and Peruvian well-digging. I recommend competing in an obscure sport, performing a medieval musical instrument or any activity that can’t be verified by the prospective employer.
Traditionally, job applicants admit to perfectionism when asked for their faults. If that’s out of fashion, they’ll need a new fault. Perhaps, inability to lie with conviction would be a good one. “I tell the truth, even if it hurts me. Let me tell you about the time . . . “