My thanks to a reader for reinforcing my point last week about the need for humility to take a backseat when one is searching for a meaningful and impactful career. She shared that according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, our objective is to make the world a dwelling place for the Divine (dirah b’tachtonim). Consequently, humility is not an end in itself but for the purpose of revelation of the Divine in the world. This spiritual aim requires a person not to be of utter lowliness in character but of pride.
With this in mind, if we are to bring G-dliness into each sphere of our life, including the workplace, then we need to have more pride when talking up our achievements. This means impressing potential future employers at an interview, securing a job that enables us to bring the Divine into the workplace on a regular basis, and utilizes our G-d-given talents. We must also continue to speak up on the job and collaborate so that our presence, and by extension, Hashem’s presence, continue to be felt in our environment.
Another reader suggested that Har Sinai’s (potentially misplaced) humility may have arisen from an incorrect assumption that she was answering the common interview question “What’s your greatest weakness?” or “What makes you unique?” rather than: “Why are you the best person for this role?” Perhaps she could have modified her “being smallest” pitch with the help of a Career Advisor (thanks for the plug!) or even by watching a few YouTube clips about interview techniques. Here’s a possible alternate response:
“I may not be the tallest or widest of Your candidates, but I’m certainly the easiest to climb: Moshe will make it up and down very quickly and easily. Also, as a small mountain without much decor, the Jews will feel closest to Your shechina (Divine Presence) as it descends on me, and will be undistracted by my superficial features.”
Or (since we’re already anthropomorphizing) something more tongue in cheek like: “Should You need to lift a mountain over their heads, I’ll be the easiest one to hold.” This type of response shows the interviewer that you’ve considered some of the challenges they face, and demonstrates how you can uniquely help them meet a challenge.
The one strength of Har Sinai’s response as portrayed in the Midrash is that she references the other candidates. Reminding your interviewer in a subtle way that they’re free to choose is a psychological strategy that has powerful persuasive powers. This is the “but you are free” (BYAF) principle, and it explicitly reminds the person that s/he is free to hire whomever they like. The goal of an interview is to “convert” the interviewers. A study of over 22,000 people, found that when the BYAF technique was used, [sales] conversion rates doubled! Reminding your interviewer that they have the freedom to decide (even though they obviously already know this) is just a simple reminder that stacks the deck in your favor. So, consider closing your next interview like this:
“I’d love to work with you, and I really enjoyed meeting you, regardless of who you decide to hire.”