Showing up to an interview for a job I do not feel qualified for?
January 27, 2017 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Got a surprise interview. References and experience are extremely lacking. Should I go to it?

I used to work at organization x, for a learning on-the-job type of job that is relatively rare-ish.
Needless to say, I had a horrible time there. I tried extremely hard to be a conscientious worker, but butted heads with the wife of the boss who was passive-aggressive and volatile in response to my mistakes. They never fired me but ultimately stopped calling me for work.

This was 8 months ago.
Just for fun I decided to apply for a similar job at a large health organization. I would earn the triple amount of salary I do now, and it was a full time non-contract position (a unicorn in these days of part-time contract work), so I thought why not? I did not match all of the qualifications - namely having only 1 year of experience when they needed a minimum of 2.

Surprisingly, I was called back for an interview.
For the interview, I need to bring a copy of previous work reports I have done - but I have none (I never got to a point during the other job to be mentored or shown how to write one). From what I understand, this is a large component of the job if they are asking me to show it to them at the interview.
Also, the only contact who can give me a reference for this specific experience is someone I would not want to get a reference from (they also need to get a reference from a direct supervisor, so likeable colleagues won’t do)

The interview is a big deal - I will be getting interviewed by a minimum of 3 people if not more.

Should I cut my losses and not go to the interview?
Should I give it a shot?

I am also worried about another job that I applied to (not as many hours; contract) and if I get it - I might have to interact with these individuals (my interviewees) due to the organization and positions that they are in. I have never felt more of a doofus and disappointed about getting an interview before in my life.
posted by raintree to Work & Money (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused, what's the downside to going?
posted by AFABulous at 7:14 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

You already don't have the job so you got nothing to lose going.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:16 PM on January 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

I've done this about 10 times. Other than my bruised ego, there's been no damage.
posted by miyabo at 7:21 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to write up a dummy version of this report that you could show as a sample of your work? I don't mean try to pass it off as real, just as a full or partial example to show that you'd be able to write it if you got the job.
posted by hazyjane at 7:32 PM on January 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Lots of organisations write job ads and interview processes as "wish lists", not realistic descriptions of the person they will end up hiring. They clearly think you are close enough to their ideal candidate to be worth talking to. Unless you lied on your application, trust them at this stage that they know more about what the job involves than you do.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 7:51 PM on January 27, 2017 [16 favorites]

Write up a sample report like hazyjane suggests.

Don't worry too much about 2 years vs one year. Think about the other qualifications for the job and prepare to speak to your strengths. Let them know you are passionate about the field (assuming that you are) and that you appreciate the opportunity to interview.

If this is a rare type of job, you might have a better chance than you think. But even if they decide the fit isn't right, that doesn't mean they'll think less of you for going to the interview or that it will cause embarrassment or difficulty if you deal with them while working for another company. People go on interviews and usually only one person gets hired at a time, and while it can be stressful for all parties it's nothing to be ashamed of. If you work with them in a different capacity in the future, there's no reason that interaction can't be courteous and professional. I've had some very positive and professional post-interview interactions with people who didn't hire me, or didn't hire me when they first interviewed me.
posted by bunderful at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you made it to the interview round, they already think you're qualified. You have passed that gate. Go to the interview.
posted by Etrigan at 8:00 PM on January 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Imagine you don't get the job, but you get another job that gives you the experience you need, and then one day you are called for an interview for a position like this one. Would't you rather have already been through this interview and know what to expect?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:26 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't sell yourself short. You could very well be the best candidate they've got in the pile.
posted by intermod at 8:38 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've helped my management hire several people (in a different sector). On several occasions, I would have given just about anything for one candidate in the applicant pool half as conscientious as you seem to be, with a similar level of credentials relative to the asking requirements. It's surprisingly hard to get good candidates for a variety of reasons, so, you may not be nearly so bad off as you feel you are!

Also: In my experience a good interview can make up for any number of resume "sins." They probably have some sense of where you're at based on your resume so I wouldn't expect anyone to be shocked about where you're at.

I agree that you should generate a faux report (and be totally honest about that it's generated for the interview) in order to meet the asking requirements in the most straightforward way possible.
posted by Alterscape at 9:21 PM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Job requirements seem literal but there is a layer of subtext. In this case, the 1-2 yr range is what organizations I've worked for (and have personally hired junior employees for) have listed when we basically want someone who is not completely green to the field and has had a bit of experience and - more importantly - just does not need to be taught how to show up at a job and be a grownup employee. E.g. Know the basic norms of a professional environment like getting in on time every day and doing work and turning it in by the deadlines and attending meetings and wearing pants without giant holes in them. That is, I don't want to have to train someone on How To Do This Job AND How To Have A Job. The difference between one and two years of experience to me as a hiring manager is a negligible difference - not an extreme one - so I hope you'll reframe.

However ill a fit it was for you, you have experience from you previous gig that is yours and no one can take from you - promise you're fine here. Don't let your perception that you don't meet the literal requirement take yourself out of the running for these guys - that's their job and they've decided you're worth meeting. Your job is to rock the interview.

If you want it , this sounds great and a step up, which is what each next job should be - a bit of a reach and out of your comfort zone. It's a good thing, that's how you'll grow. Good luck!
posted by sestaaak at 10:06 PM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

DO IT. I have a family member who had worries about a job interview. She got the job, and was rated best in the nation at that job, last year. Take the leap.
posted by Oyéah at 10:24 PM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another one here who went to a job interview thinking 'this is just for interview experience, I have none of the skills or experience on the 'essential' list.'
Turns out that there were very few applicants and they practically gave me the job on the spot. Learnt what I needed, was promoted within a year and have been there 15 years (spending quite a lot of that time trying to recruit good staff!)
Quality of character, talent, and enthusiasm, are what I always hoped to see in interview candidates and even if you can't demonstrate the specific skills yet, go and be yourself at the interview - you have no idea what good things could come out of it.
Very best of luck.
posted by Heloise9 at 11:26 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

You didn't lie on the resume, right? They have read it, and have decided to meet you. Focus on what you have to offer and what you do know. You have a shot and you have plenty to offer them.
posted by theora55 at 4:41 AM on January 28, 2017

Do it! Honestly I used to consider these kind of interviews "Practice" interviews, because it's always good to have the practice even if you're definitely not getting the job. But I've also found I do well in these interviews because I'm more relaxed, and my attitude comes off as confident and capable instead of the actual 'eh, screw it might as well.'

You can always turn down a job offer if you don't want the job. But don't turn down the interview!
posted by Caravantea at 5:26 AM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dang, I hit send too soon. The other thing I want to add is that if you really, really know that this is not the job for you, but you do well in the interview, there's no shame in saying so to them. You can tell them, 'it looks like you're looking for ABC, and I'm really more of a specialist in XYZ. If you have anything opening in XYZ in the future, please keep me in mind.'

They might have a position better suited to you that they're also trying to fill. (I've had that happen before). And if they really like you, you will be the first called back for an opening you are suited for.
posted by Caravantea at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding everyone who's mentioned the following:

- write a sample report, and be honest that it is. It's likely a way for them to see that you understand the basics of report-writing, as well the quality of your writing aptitude.

- the years of experience is quite a general catch-all requirement.

- if you're called for an interview it's very likely you've made it past the longlist ie you've fulfilled the basic criteria they're looking for.

- a good interview can be where you shine. they're looking for quality of character and also how well you think on your feet.

as you prep, it would be a good idea to cast back to all of your work experience as well as extra-curriculars and volunteering, and mine from them aspects and dimensions of work that can be used to answer any gaps you have identified specific to the employment call as well as any general employability ones.

good luck!
posted by cendawanita at 5:54 AM on January 28, 2017

Make sure you prep well ahead of time: learn about the organization and write down some questions. Practice answering the typical questions and really think through them to find your truth. Why are you interested in this job? What are your career goals and how would this position help you achieve them? Focus on your goals and interests and how they align with the new company's goals and find ways to talk about that. Put your best self forward but show genuine curiosity about the org (you're interviewing them, too). You'll do fine.
posted by amanda at 6:32 AM on January 28, 2017

A good rule of thumb I've read is that if you are 80% of the qualifications they list, then you should apply. I've gotten jobs where they asked for all kinds of specific requirements I didn't have but in the interview they felt I was a good cultural fit. I would try to alleviate some of your insecurities by creating some sample materials as suggested above.
posted by dozo at 7:09 AM on January 28, 2017

Do it.

Be pleasant, professional, confident (ie do not talk yourself down, self-deprecate, joke or apologize about your experience.) By all means create or find a writing sample that shows you can write clearly, even if it's not exactly the kind of report you think they do. Wear decent clothes and shoes, don't chew gum or be late. Research the role and the org and be enthusiastic about it. Don't ask questions you could have found the answer to online; but do ask questions that reflect the research you have done. Not weird random ones - stuff that is related directly to the job.*

(*I've interviewed so, so many junior professionals and it is often so frustrating -- it's like the jobs are there for the taking if they'd just do the minimum to be professional and enthusiastic and likable, and when they don't, it's like ahhhhhh why are you shooting yourself in the foot?! I had one guy, after an overall promising interview, sabotage it by starting to insist that he wanted to share his Myers-Briggs results with us. Don't do stuff like that.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another vote for "they read your resume and called you. Let them decide what they're looking for."

Stated another way, don't disqualify yourself for them, that's their job. You're not at the deciding phase until you start talking offer. Be careful not to misrepresent your skills, but it's often not strictly "a person who knows X" they're looking for. A person who knows Y might also know a bit about X. Maybe it's just the kind of person who can learn X, and you showed that in another way.

Ask questions about what the job would entail every day though; you wouldn't want to get, say, a developer job and then be frantically cramming programming for dummies for 8 more hours every night and feeling like a failure. Unless they told you that was expected and ok for a while.
posted by ctmf at 11:04 AM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Everyone's pretty well covered why you should go, so I'd just like to share my experience with writing a job posting. It's actually pretty hard to come up with a reasonable list of qualifications for a job. So it just ended up being a bunch of us sitting in a meeting like "I don't know, I guess it would be nice if they had x y and z?" Never preemptively disqualify yourself based on job posting requirements - there's a decent chance they were arrived at arbitrarily.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The standard response for this is: never rule yourself out of a job you want, i.e., that's their decision.
posted by she's not there at 11:30 AM on January 28, 2017

Also, practice some phrasing for how to describe your experiences at your old job that don't sound grumpy or angry. The boss' wife was not passive-aggressive and volatile; she was micromanaging to a set of standards that were not communicated clearly. Or whatever.
posted by CathyG at 12:24 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have been offered and taken a job for which I was incredibly poorly qualified for on paper. They just liked me in the interview, thought the experience I did have would be useful and decided I could do it I guess. Turns out they were right!
posted by emilyw at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree. Do a mock-up of the report. The difference between one or two years of experience is negligible. Instead of focusing on how you don't fit their needs, focus on how you might help them to be more successful and what you can bring - ideas, enthusiasm, being a team player.

You can always figure out the references later. Find a former employee at your old job or person with whom you worked closely elsewhere. In the US, at least, references are such a mixed bag, they are often waived, or, at least, viewed as not a deal-breaker.

Good luck!
posted by dancing_angel at 11:36 PM on January 28, 2017

I'm interviewing, and a friend just told me she would hire far more for personality fit then what the resume said. Go and charm them! You never know. And if nothing else, you'll hone your interviewing skills. Go you.
posted by soakimbo at 8:23 PM on January 29, 2017

« Older Which anime do I only vaguely remember?   |   Trying to find a tire traction device for a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.