Class of 2018
Which Harry Potter Character Do You Most Resemble?
By Jack Minton
This question was posed to me by a potential employer, one of the myriad unwinnable questions recent graduates will encounter in their enduring job search. A good answer requires you to first identify what kind of person does this employer look for, and which Harry Potter character would they most want to hire?
Harry was the obvious first thought; his superior integrity, mighty moral fiber, legendary courage, and above-average practical abilities would make him a strong candidate at any nonmagic company hiring recent graduates. However, these skills are mostly intangible, and Harry’s recklessly high risk tolerance would be a problem, as companies highlight their valorous moments, but are really practitioners of discretion.
Hermione came to mind next; she is analytically brilliant, highly motivated, pragmatic,and boasts a sensational academic record. But can she work well in groups and respect authority? Employers look for independent, self-sufficient candidates, but are reluctant to bring in people who have demonstrated an aversion to group work.
Finally, Ron must be considered. He is fiercely loyal, hungry to prove himself, and extremely personable. But he lacks initiative, has limited problem-solving abilities, and exhibits a fixed mindset, rather than the more desirable growth mindset.
Left with a difficult decision, my options were to choose one of these flawed protagonists, splice up their attributes and offer my preference for a hybrid possessing all their top traits, or go outside of the box and choose an auxiliary character like Neville Longbottom or an antagonist like Draco Malfoy. Each option has drawbacks, and this speaks to the paradox of the job search. An ideal candidate has demonstrated leadership abilities, but can obediently follow orders; has a keen mind for innovation and ingenuity, but a pragmatic approach to problem solving that is not overly ambitious; showcases an unrivaled devotion to work, while living an interesting robust life and possessing strong interpersonal social skills; oozes confidence and assertiveness, but is driven by a deeply-rooted humility.
There is no perfect applicant because what we consider our strongest assets can be spun as our vices, and traits we are told to mute often end up being desired features. Employers have set a standard so high that even our magical heroes fail to measure up. The answer I have found is that recent graduates should strive to be the best, most wholesome applicant they can be, and not strive for perfection. This is not the classic cliché or platitude implying that everyone’s best self is good enough, because as we know, often it’s not for these employers. Rather, it is a warning against overcorrection and insincerity. Strong applicants acknowledge their weaknesses, and turn them into strengths, rather than denying the existence of flaws.
The job search seems impersonal and statistics driven. But behind every number is a name, and behind every name is a story. If you have made it past the initial screening and received an interview offer, your number has become a name. It is through absurdist questions about fictional characters in a magical world where your name can come alive to an employer as a story.
So, embrace the unanswerable questions, and play the unwinnable games. Always remember that your fellow applicants are in an equally untenable position, and those asking the questions are aware of the undue challenge that has been imposed. You may reject the premise of the question, and give an answer under a newly defined scope. You can demonstrate your awareness of the conundrum, and go forth unafraid with a heartfelt answer. These are never the questions that will eliminate you from contention, but could be the difference-makers that get you hired.
And, for the record: I chose Hermione.