4 reasons for NOT saying at an interview that you’re a Perfectionist

PerfectionistI can say with certainty that I am not a perfectionist. Today, for instance, I’m wearing brown shoes, olive-green pants, a black belt, a blue striped shirt, and a Mackintosh plaid tie. And, oh, my socks don’t match. I attribute this imperfection to my upbringing in a chaotic household, where no one really knew how to dress.

My colleague won’t mind me telling you that she prepares her room the night before her workshops. She puts aside exactly three Starbursts, a cup of lukewarm water, two paper towels, and enough sharpened pencils for twenty attendees. Not only that; she reviews her presentations before every workshop. Is she a perfectionist? Quite possibly.

If you claim perfectionism as a strength at an interview, you’re likely to lose the job before the interview’s over. Here are four reasons why:

1. Interviewers have heard this claim far to often and it insults their intelligence. Someone I once interviewed answered my question, “What is your greatest strength?” with a smug look on his face, that he was a perfectionist. I immediately thought he was a con man.

2. A perfectionist is someone who has a difficult time finishing projects or assignments because she thinks it must be perfect,which is a tough bill to fill. I knew a person who would prolong delivering something as simple as a PowerPoint presentation because the thought of handing it in imperfect terrified her.

3. A perfectionist is most likely going to irritate those around him because he will expect perfection from them. CBS Money Watch repeats“It also messes up the people around you, because perfectionists lose perspective as they get more and more mired in details.”

perfect woman4. An astute interviewer realizes that there are negative ramifications that accompany perfectionism. Psychology Today states,  “A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders.”

Those who consider themselves to be perfectionist are so concerned about being successful that they’re more focused on not failing. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Bad news for perfectionists abound when Wikipedia also claims there’re serious psychological ramifications associated with it: “Researchers have begun to investigate the role of perfectionism in various mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and personality disorders.” Yikes. This makes me glad that my ties rest in my drawer at work like a nest of snakes, instead of hanging neatly on a tie rack at home.

However, there seems to be some contradiction when Wikipedia describes perfectionists as perfectly sane people who simply excel: “Exceptionally talented individuals who excel in their field sometimes show signs of perfectionism. High-achieving athletes, scientists, and artists often show signs of perfectionism.”  This makes sense. I suppose that if I were to be operated on, I would want a perfectionist as my surgeon.

I’m certainly not a perfectionist, and it hasn’t hurt my performance–my performance reviews consistently garner “Very Good”–but I wonder what it would be like if my clothing were perfectly matched. I’m sure I’d suffer some malady. One thing is for certain, it’s better to choose a different strength to give at an interview.


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