Interview Tips: You’re a 10 in Everything

Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci, 1976 Olympics, Montreal

One of my least favorite interview questions goes something like this:

On a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself on [insert personal attribute here].

This is a bad question because while some quantities – speed, weight, temperature, earthquake magnitude – do have an agreed-upon scale of measurement, personal attributes like, say, leadership, do not.

Person A might give himself a 10 in leadership, while a third party might say, “Oh, I know that guy. He’s a 3.”

You might be tempted to answer like this: “I consider myself a good leader, better than most, but I’m humbled by the challenges of leadership, and I’m always learning something new, so I’ll give myself an 8.”

Absent any information about how that number is going to be used, I’d say that’s a pretty good answer. It’s honest and reflective.

BUT — the question itself is so misguided that I don’t expect someone asking it to use the answer in an intelligent way. I expect the asker of “rate yourself” questions to take the answers at face value, write them down and then do one of two things, maybe both:

  1. Compare the answers to some meaningless threshold. Ooh, we really need someone who’s at least a 9 in leadership.
  2. Compare the answers with the answers of other candidates. Candidate A is an 8, Candidate B is an 9 and Candidate C is a 10. Advantage, Candidate C.

Just play it safe and give yourself a 10 on everything.

The only reason I can come up with to give yourself less than a 10 on any attribute is the remote possibility that the interviewer could discount a candidate giving all 10s as being lacking in self-awareness, but no one asking me “rate yourself” questions has ever struck me as being that subtle.

  1 comment for “Interview Tips: You’re a 10 in Everything

  1. codynet
    17 Oct 2013 at 8:40 am

    Gotta throw in a 6 or a 7 in there.

    I just hope they ask me to rate myself on setting the clock on the oven… I could throw in a 6 or 7 there.

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