I am invited for an HR interview. and the interviewer asked me to prepare myself for the below question:

Prepare yourself to give examples of your highlights & lowlights at work

i am wondering, what does highlights & lowlights in this context mean?

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This is an interesting question, because it involves a little misdirection.

The basic term is highlight and lowlight is an extension of that.

highlight n
2. An especially significant or interesting detail or event.
TFD Online

The term is originally from painting, meaning a bright spot in a darker area—in other words, an area of "high light." From Etymonline:

1650s, originally of paintings, "the brightest part of a subject," from high (adj.) + light (n.).

It came to mean something interesting or significant in a figurative sense before being adopted as a literal denotation.

Then, since we had a term for something, the obvious opposite presented itself: lowlight. This term has been figurative for quite a while (Etymonline has no entry for it), but some sources are coming to accept it in its own right:

lowlight n
an unenjoyable or unpleasant part of an event
TFD Online

What the interviewer is almost certainly interested in is a narrative about your successes and failures on the job: what you did well and what you could have done better.

  • Compare "rule out" - a reference to a now dead practice of drawing a straight line through some item in a list to eliminate it - and the new term 'rule in' which makes no sense at all in the context of the original metaphor but has come to mean to opposite of 'eliminate'. – JeremyC Feb 23 at 22:55

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