A customary question in a job interview is, “What are your weaknesses?” The customary answer is, “Sometimes I take on too much work,” “I try too hard,” or some variation thereof. I’ve said this myself. I’ve had others say it to me. It’s part of the game of interviewing for a job. You’re trying to present yourself as supremely competent and confident (a deception, in other words). The interviewer is trying to get behind the façade. You turn the tables by presenting a defect as a feature. (“If you hire me, I’ll work so hard that you’ll have to order me to go home.”)
Trying too hard is a weakness, but maybe not in the way you think. I’ve seen lots of people who “do too much.” They take on projects when they shouldn’t. They go off and work on their own instead working with a team. They shoot too high and fall short. They reveal character flaws: pride, a desire to control, neediness.
I understand all that, but recently I learned something else about trying too hard—from a basketball coach. The coach is Bob Huggins of West Virginia. He was complaining about players who “do too much.” They dive for a loose ball and get out of position. They take a bad shot instead of passing. They’re too aggressive on defense. Huggins said that these players are selfish. Then he said this: “People who try to do too much are taking the easy way out.”
I’d never thought about it that way, but it seems right. It’s easier to do it yourself than to work with others. It’s easier to say “yes” to extra work than to have discomfort that saying “no” would bring. It’s easier to keep control than to do things someone else’s way.
The honest answer to the job interview question might be, “Sometimes I take the easy way out.”