“Unfortunately, we didn’t find that your responses were a perfect fit for this project”
– Chris, WikiHow
The idea of perfection
As I long as I can remember, I’ve never been burdened with the idea that perfection should be the goal in any of my creative pursuits. I don’t recall ever hearing my coaches, teachers, friends, or even my parents stressing perfection as the end all be all for any project I undertook. Yes, working hard and setting benchmarks for your self is vital to evaluating your own progress and development. But this idea that perfection is achievable never crossed my mind. So why is it that I keep encountering this notion of perfection in the working world? Why do employers use it to discount employee prospects, for example?
“Perfect is the enemy of the good” is a proverb commonly attributed to Voltaire, the 18th century enlightenment writer and philosopher. The message one can infer is that striving for “perfection” can ultimately do harm to what is actually achievable in the real world. This is especially true in halls of the Congress where the practice of politics remains the art of compromise.
What does it mean to be perfect?
But what is perfection? It is one’s perception, which defines the very word. The irony, however, is that once a creation has achieved perfection in the eye of the creator, it remains a subjective phenomenon, and by definition becomes imperfect.
And now we come to why I’ve written today’s post. I applied for a freelance writing/editing position at Wikihow. Wikihow is a directory featuring a multitude of “how to” articles. I enjoy writing and figured it would be something appropriate for my professional skill-set and possibly could lead to additional work. When I submitted myself as a candidate, I had to pass a test. It was a series of questions that required you to become familiar very quickly with how Wikihow produces its content for the general public. I spent about an hour on the test and submitted my results. I figured I did satisfactory given it was my first encounter with Wikihow. I wasn’t familiar with its practice and manner in producing content. I heard back within 24 hours. I received an obtusely written response saying in effect that more testing would not be pursued with me. I wanted clarification and was emailed the definitive quote, which I put at the top of this blog post.
Now to be fair, Wikihow has a methodology in how it produces content. But telling me I wasn’t a “perfect” fit irritated me. It was something akin to feeling like Romney Wordsworth in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode, “The Obsolete Man.” Serling’s depiction of a Orwellian future where the state determines your function in society made me feel like not being “perfect” was the same thing. This notion that if you don’t fulfill the needs of your employer you therefore have no value is a feeling most certainly shared by the six million plus long-term unemployed in the U.S. today. We know the American economy is still in a precarious state and those who fall in the over 50 demographic are having the most difficult time securing new employment.
To be perfect in a competitive world
The fact that employers can search for perfection doesn’t help one who feels less than perfect. In today’s job market, you can’t compete with perfection. If a job candidate has exactly what the employer is looking for, and you’re missing any specific criteria, are you going to get the job? Employers literally receive hundreds of resumes for one posted job and can be as selective as they want. Perfection is not some ideal. It’s a reality perpetuated by the competitive world in which we live.
When the competitive world in which you live keeps telling you that there’s a level of perfection and you don’t qualify, in a word, it sucks. Perhaps those of you reading this now think you are perfect. You have exactly what an employer is looking for. If so, this post is certainly not meant for you. It’s meant for the rest of us. I believe to approximate perfection is the most realistic achievement possible for humankind.