Last year at one of the Startup Circle meetups, a woman asked me what my superpower was. She apparently was asking everybody the same question. I was taken aback by the question. Never considered it before.

     A search reveals that “What’s your superpower” is a standard surprise question in an employment interview. Normal HR jargon. I was unfamiliar with it because as a freelancer/contractor I’ve rarely ever interacted with HR departments.

Employers use these questions to assess how quickly you can adapt to situations you didn’t prepare for. While it’s important to prepare for your interview, employers also like to hear answers that feel authentic and less rehearsed. A question like “What would your superpower be?” provides them with an opportunity to hear an answer that isn’t too formulaic and is unique to you.”

     And this article then gives a list of ten superpowers you could mention. Most of them are sci-fi/comic book superpowers.

     My superpower was not on the list. I thought about it for a second and said, “I can read real fast. I can read all of a company’s corporate literature and reach in and find a clear and shining exemplar of the company that nobody else has noticed.” 

     I  talked to former Atomica employee Wendy at the meetup. Oh, Atomica, I said, they were interested in my ideas at first but then nothing happend.  She said that the explanation for the company’s disinterest in me was that the company was on thin ice, broke, no money for contractors. Huh, I thought they were the only US-based analog chip fab. Nope, she said, several competitors. I must have been reading only Atomica’s PR.

I’d talked to the Atomica  CEO at a previous meetup and explained what I’d seen in Atomica’s website. Subsequently  the CEO told the marketing director that I’d made several “good catches.” But when I talked to  the marketing guy, he was completely uninterested in whatever those good catches were. Didn’t want to talk about that aspect. He wanted to get publicity at some websites important in Atomica’s industry.

Making a clearer presentation of Atomica’s strengths was nowhere on his wish list. He did not consider the website to be an important part of the company’s marketing plan.

     “A man who does not read has no advantage over a man who cannot read.”

— not Mark Twain, Google informs me.

     This is one of the things I can offer to companies. I’m an expert reader. I can see what you’re saying–and what you’re NOT saying. It’s no chore for me to read the websites of 70 competitors because I’m so fast at it.

     My crusade is to make technical topics easy to read. The companies shrug because “Nobody reads this stuff.” Okay, but if they DO read it, what do they learn?