I completely failed my first interview. They asked me, ‘What are your strengths?’ It’s an obvious question and it definitely shouldn’t have felt like the curveball it did.
‘It’s going to sound stupid’, I said falteringly, ‘but I’m really good at reading and writing.’
The interviewer was kind and said nice things about the importance of literacy. Then she asked me where my suit came from and shortly ended the interview. It was no surprise a few days later when I got the rejection letter through. The bigger surprise on reflection was how on earth I had got the interview* (let alone decided to apply) for a job as a fashion buyer…..
In the intervening years I’ve learned to tease out what ‘being really good at reading and writing’ actually means. It means having an eye and an ear for details and patterns – which in turn translates into being fascinated by (and pretty handy with) excel, databases and numbers. It means having a deep level of curiosity and compassion for people – which in turn means I ask questions and listen to the stories people tell about themselves. It means I have the ability to help them hear some of the underlying notes in their stories that they weren’t even aware they could play.
*but this is why I’m pretty brilliant at helping people craft CVs and write personal statements!