Interviewing for a job you aren't qualified for
May 17, 2017 5:18 AM   Subscribe

I emailed a connection in my network about a job opportunity in his unit. I'm a part-time graduate student in a related program, but I'm only about a third of the way through the program. This connection replied, 'cc'ing the hiring manager, who then asked to set up a time to speak with me. The problem is, I'm not really qualified for this job. How do I respond?

The job posting is asking for a related degree (I don't have one yet, but am on my way towards acquiring it) and 6-8 years of related experience (which I do not have). I have experience in the same environment (healthcare) but in a totally different functional area (going from administrative to technical/analytical). I'm trying to get my foot in the door as I make a career change into this new area, using my related graduate work as the launchpad.

Without being too presumptuous, I think the job is something I could handle, as I tend to pick up work-related and technical skills very quickly. In fact, getting bored easily is the primary reason I am excited about this job--it seems to present numerous opportunities for learning and growing into my future career.

Should I tell the hiring manager upfront (before setting up time to speak with him) about my lack of related experience, or set up the meeting and edge into it once I'm there? I assume he will look at my LinkedIn profile and/or ask the connection about my experience level, but I don't want to come off as concealing the truth. If it matters, I am female, early 30s, and currently working at a job that is way, way below my skill level and paying me easily $20K below my actual market value (so self confidence is probably something I could practice).
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Take the interview. Be honest at the interview and in your resume but don't go out of your way to point out to them why you don't think you qualify, unless you really don't want the job. If it was intensely important to them that they only interviewed people who met 100% of the qualifications, they'd ask for your resume before offering you an interview.

It's also possible they have a different role in mind. And it's also possible that certain qualifications aren't as important to them as others, or that while they'd love to have 6-8 years of experience they know that's going to be hard to find in combination with other things they want.

Interview practice is always a good thing. Prep by preparing yourself to talk about all the strengths you bring to the table - you love being challenged, you learn quickly, you have background in the industry, etc.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 5:30 AM on May 17, 2017 [20 favorites]

I think it really depends on the length of the program. A third of the way through a year long course is very different than a third of the way through a PhD. If it is more like the former than I would go to the interview and just clearly state your expected completion date. If they like you and it is hard to get people in then they will wait the 6-8 months for you to start. It also allows them to plan ahead to ensure there is stuff for you to do and plan your training and initiation into the company. If it is more like the latter and you're two years through a six year slog then I wouldn't bother because they would want you to leave with a masters and start working for them, which could hurt your opportunities for further employment and promotions down the line.

Don't worry about the lack of experience, if anything they might like an eager inexperienced person who is easily trainable especially as it means that they can pay you less and still get quality work from you.
posted by koolkat at 5:55 AM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Interacting regarding a LinkedIn job posting is low-cost for both yourself and the business hiring. The hiring party presumably could see your LinkedIn profile and/or talked to your referring colleague first, so they had the opportunity to not even offer you an interview.

For whatever reason they are willing to interview for the position, among many, dozen, hundreds, who knows how many other people they're bringing in to interview with the position, all with varying levels of underqualifiedness and overqualifiedness.

So, the hiring company decided they'd like to talk to you for 10min/15min/half hour about your skills and future, and if you're comfortable doing so, there's no downside other than you spent 10min/15min/half hour you could have been doing something else.

Do the interview, keeping your expectations low, and as bunderful said it gives you an opportunity to practice/rehearse interview-style interactions with a very low risk level. Look at it as a networking opportunity as opposed to a career-starter. If things go remotely non-horrible, you now have a foot in the door for in a year or two when a position you're qualified for does open up at that company and the hiring personnel hopefully remember you.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:12 AM on May 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

You don't know why they wrote the job description as they did. It's possible that they wrote it on purpose for someone in their department who then took another job, for instance, so they wrote it with higher qualifications than needed. It's possible that they have unrealistic expectations for who they can hire given the work and salary, and as they've continued the search they've come to realize that a promising person with related experience is actually going to be a good hire. It's possible that they think you will be such a good culture fit that they're overlooking the other stuff. It's possible that they have a hire in mind but have to interview an additional three people per HR.

If they want to interview you based on some vaguely realistic understanding of your experience and background, you should go and be truthful.

I was hired for a great job that I was not "qualified" for if you interpreted the job description really strictly - but it turned out that the hiring pool was tiny and that part of the things they'd put in the "must have experience with" section were really "you will learn to do these if needed" things. I went in thinking that I needed to sell myself super hard and talked myself down in the interview, but it turned out I was actually a strong candidate.

Hiring processes are weird once you see them from the inside.
posted by Frowner at 6:18 AM on May 17, 2017 [13 favorites]

Do the interview, Don't lie, Let them decide if you're qualified.
posted by gregr at 6:53 AM on May 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Completely ignore what they are asking for, especially years of experience. When I first graduated from my masters program, I applied for tonnes of jobs that wanted minimum 5 years experience even though I had a cumulative total of one year experience in co-ops at that point. Why? Well, how the hell do you get experience if you can't apply for anything? The job I eventually got from that search asked for 5-8 years experience in the financial services industry, I had none and I still did just fine (and even terrific, I think) at it.

Instead, look at the descriptions of duties and ask yourself, can I do these things with reasonable on-the-job training and socialization? From what you've said the answer to that is yes. I don't think they would even interview you if they thought the answer was no. Do the interview, be honest, but don't talk yourself down. So many women are socialized to do this and it is one (though certainly not all) of the reasons our wages are lower than similarly qualified men.
posted by Kurichina at 7:14 AM on May 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

First, do not exclude yourself from an opportunity so go to the meeting; second, it would be better to view it as an informational interview where there is low risk, low cost; third, your friend's ocial capital is being spent on you, it would be polite to go to show that you appreciate that act and fourth, be honest about your situation but DO NOT downplay your skills, expertise or capabilities. View it in this sense, the manager has a problem and you are the solution, which is a great outcome for both of you. Do not invite opportunities to re-think that formula.

In essence, do not make it difficult for people to give you money.
posted by jadepearl at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just got a job I am not qualified for, because I walked into my boss' office and said I wanted it. I'm struggling for sure, this is a position I have a lot of interest and passion for but not very much training/knowledge/experience. But so far, so good.

There's really no reason not to at least meet the hiring manager for this. At the most, the biggest loss will be a few hours of your time.
posted by Fig at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Minimum requirements" are almost always just a wish list. Nthing what others say about not lying about your abilities, but be honest about what you could bring to the job. They wouldn't be interviewing you if the minimum requirements were the real minimum requirements.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Did they set this up only on the basis of the friend/email? Have they seen your resume?

If they've seen your resume, then they know you're not experienced. You can assume that a lot of the interview conversation will be about what you would bring to the job despite your lack of ticking the boxes. So be prepared for that discussion, but it would take a lot of grace to be able to initiate that topic without looking either like a smarmy salesman or unhealthily defensive. I would assume that they'll bring it up, and have some ideas prepared.

If they haven't seen your resume, then now would be a good time to send it to them. It's important that they know who they're interviewing. But you don't need to be apologetic about it, just send them the document and tell them you're excited to talk with them.

OR, they're not really interviewing you for the job, this is an informational interview where you discuss the company and what they're hiring for and what they need and what you can offer, and you bring them a copy of your resume and discuss it, and maybe there's another role they'd see you in, or whatever.

Maybe ping your friend and see if they'll tell you if the hiring manager is aware that you haven't graduated yet?
posted by aimedwander at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2017

Minimum requirements are often suggestions or wishlists, not actual qualifications. It's possible you will get there and the job won't be right for you. It's also possible that you're more than qualified and they will be thrilled to have you, and you just have to have the confidence in yourself they need to see to trust you. There's also a chance that hey see you as an opportunity to fill job X while only paying you for job x. So if you do great and they do make you the offer, make sure that you keep your eye on how it will help your market value, so you don't find yourself underpaid again.
posted by Mchelly at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2017

Take the interview. Then let them decide you're not qualified; don't do it for them.
posted by willpie at 7:01 PM on May 17, 2017

As someone who gets stuck doing recruiting for my company - definitely, you should feel free to ignore the "experience required" parts of the job description. Some hiring managers are sticklers for it - but if that's the case, you won't get an offer for an interview after they've seen your resume. If they want to talk to you, they think it's possible you can do the job.

Jobs don't require experience. Jobs require certain activities and often certain soft skills; the people who write job descriptions try to guess what kind and how much experience will bring a person who has those skills. The real issue is can you do this job, not "have you done enough jobs in the past that are like this that we can expect you to be able to do all parts of this job, including the ones we didn't list?"

If you think you can do the job, say so. If they hedge about your lack of experience, tell them you'll at least bring a fresh perspective, not bogged down by industry cliches. Tell them you can do Tasks XYZ, and are eager to learn Systems ABC. Tell them enough about Systems ABC that they can tell you do understand how those would be part of the job and you'd just need to review the basics.

Absolutely never, ever even think "I don't have the experience necessary for this job." You may not have the skills necessary, and some of those may only be acquired through practice. You may not have the industry knowledge necessary. But "experience" is a nebulous, null-content label.

We had a joke, in one of my groups - "Does he have 6 years of experience, or 6 months that he's repeated 12 times?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:12 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

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