Should I bother with this job interview?
November 27, 2017 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Two days ago I applied to a job for which I meet about 50% of the qualifications. My resume is 100% honest, but today they emailed me asking for an interview. I accepted a day/time but is this even a good idea? There's no way I can teach myself or fake knowledge of the missing qualifications. They're a startup - is it more normal for them to cast a wider net? Why would they contact me?

Under essential responsibilities:

- Programming (MSSQL and PostgreSQL, R, bash, PowerShell, and C#)
- Familiarity with software versioning and reporting (SVN, SQL, REST and Tableau)

I have heard of all of these things but the only one I have experience with is SQL.

Under education and experience:

- Linux background with at least 2 years hands-on experience working on Unix/Linux terminal

I have zero exposure to Linux and there is no mention of it in my resume, LinkedIn, or anywhere.

- Understanding of biological processes and genomics a plus

lol no. I dropped out of college biology 20 years ago.

Why would they contact me? I can definitely do the other 50% of their "essential duties" (which are primarily business analyst tasks). They are funded entirely by venture capital - does this make a difference? Did they just not read my info? I applied through ZipRecruiter and filled out all their BS fields, plus attached the Word version of my resume.

When they emailed to schedule the interview, they attached a Word doc with a standard employment application that I'm supposed to print and bring with me. It's the same kind of thing you would fill out if you were applying to be a barista. This strikes me as bizarre for this level of employment (job title is Programmer Analyst).

Should I just email back with "I don't want to waste your time, before you go further, are you aware that I don't have X, Y, Z"? Or just take the chance? I am approaching sheer desperation in my job search.
posted by AFABulous to Work & Money (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I mean, you applied for this job, right? So you might as well go into the interview and see what happens. Just be totally honest!
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:46 PM on November 27, 2017 [20 favorites]

If they're a startup they probably have more than one role open. And their hiring processes are probably a lot more loosey goosey than you might be accustomed to. I've been in recruiter roles where (for various reasons) the posted job reqs were not really representative of what was actively being hired for at the time.

Go to the interview and see what's up. Interviewing is a time and resource intensive process, and it's a lot less likely that they will be wasting time than that they do want to talk to you but the posted req doesn't accurately represent what they want to talk about.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:50 PM on November 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Absolutely go. A lot of employers put out job listings that are more aspirational goals than anything else. As long as you're clear about what skills you do and don't actually have, there's no reason in the world not to do the interview.
posted by holborne at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2017 [22 favorites]

If absolutely nothing else, more practice and experience interviewing is a very helpful thing when you’re looking for a job.
posted by primethyme at 2:54 PM on November 27, 2017 [20 favorites]

Give it a shot. They may not really know what they're hiring for and could create more of an analyst type position for you.
posted by metasarah at 2:59 PM on November 27, 2017

What fingersandtoes said. They may have seen your CV and realized you'd be perfect for something else and don't have the time / process to advertise for that as well. I've done this. Applicants come in to interview for one job but leave with a different one.
posted by Gotanda at 3:00 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is there a downside to you attending the interview? I totally get it if you don't want to set yourself up for failure so don't feel obligated to go if you aren't getting good vibes from the situation - job searching is hard and soul-destroying sometimes and if you feel you don't want to deplete your resources on what might be a long shot it's ok to sit this one out.

Having said that, fingersandtoes makes a good point. Maybe if you feel up for it you could go in with the idea of interviewing them, find out what they see in your CV that they like and see if you can build on that either with them or elsewhere.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:01 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Familiarity with software versioning and reporting (SVN, SQL, REST and Tableau)

Don't worry, those 4 things are so unrelated that whomever wrote this req doesn't know what your resume says anyway. So who knows what requirements are for real and what others are just random things the recruiters put in the req.

But, these guys called you up out of the blue and scheduled an on-site interview without first doing a phone screen? To me, that points to an HR dept with incredibly inefficient hiring practices. The word-salad of the req also makes me think that the actual team looking for candidates isn't as involved in the process as they should be.

The only downside to an interview would be a situation where you get in front of the actual hiring manager and get an immediate "lol no not what we want at all". That works the other way too. You might not like the job at all.

I'd suggest asking for a phone call first before going down for an onsite. That saves everyone's time.
posted by sideshow at 3:11 PM on November 27, 2017 [16 favorites]

They posted their dream candidate's qualifications, to appeal to a broad swath of people who qualify for various parts of it, in hopes of getting the most capable employee they can - someone who already knows enough of this stuff to have a solid base and be able to pick up the rest of it. Your resume ticked enough of their boxes for them to investigate you further; this is your chance to see if they tick enough of your boxes in return.

Go for it. You've already told them "I don't have x, y, and z" and they weren't put off. Focus on your strengths, and your ability to learn new things.
posted by current resident at 3:17 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Particularly in the tech world, there are a dozen ways to solve a single problem. The flavors of SQL, R, and Tableau could all be different ways to do the same thing. If you need someone to do data visualization, cast a wide net. If you can do one, you can figure out how to do the rest.

I don't think I have ever met 100% of requirements for a job I interviewed for and I have several of these skills in my arsenal.

If you want to quickly check off another box, check out the free, public edition of Tableau
posted by munchingzombie at 3:19 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not a techie and can't speak to that (although there's plenty of good advice already on that front), but as someone who has spent the majority of 2017 job-searching, I will just add: Never turn down a free opportunity to practice your job interview skills.
posted by General Malaise at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

But, these guys called you up out of the blue and scheduled an on-site interview without first doing a phone screen? To me, that points to an HR dept with incredibly inefficient hiring practices.

I think they have about 15-20 employees total. Of the 12 on LinkedIn, no one has an HR title (the person who emailed me is the Director of Finance). I'd be more concerned about a trainwreck-y place with no HR if there weren't women and POC in senior positions.
posted by AFABulous at 3:41 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I worked for a company that ended up changing a job to a more junior position because nobody who applied met the original qualifications. Go.
posted by FencingGal at 3:45 PM on November 27, 2017

Do the interview, but don't be stressed out about your missing qualifications. Be relaxed and confident about who you are and what skills you do have. If asked, be upfront that you don't have experience with X, but you've done similar things with Y and you are interested in learning how to use X.

Worst case, you lost a couple hours, you don't get the job, but you gained interview experience for next time.

Best case, they have a great job that fits you well and everybody is excited.

(My past 4 jobs, at the start of the interviews I said "I have absolutely no idea how to do , but I am excited to learn and use my experience to improve your product". Which was true, and I've since built up a breadth of skills, with the most useful being not-afraid-to-learn-new-things.)
posted by Diddly at 3:51 PM on November 27, 2017

I'm not sure this is a great fit for you, but interviewing is a skill like anything else -- you get better at it and more comfortable with it the more you do it. So I would do the interview for the practice at a minimum.

I would be honest in the interview about where you can contribute and where you may lack the qualifications they asked for. There's still a chance they may want you -- job descriptions will often describe their perfect candidate, but there will be some qualifications listed that aren't absolutely essential.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:03 PM on November 27, 2017

a plus

That means it isn't required. As for the other stuff, you should definitely stay 100% forthright about what you do and don't know.

But if you wanted to impress your interviewers, perhaps you should try to learn the basics of some of it? Software Carpentry covers many of these things and the lessons are excellent. You can tell them you didn't know anything when you applied but since then you've gotten really interested in it and dip your toes in. And if this interview doesn't work out the skills might help you elsewhere.

If I'm remembering properly, you're a bit of an Excel whiz. You can do this.
posted by grouse at 4:56 PM on November 27, 2017

Linux background with at least 2 years hands-on experience

I've heard rules of thumb along the lines of: Ten years means five, five years means two, and two means entry-level.

Basically, are you eager to learn more programming if it's put in front of you? Can you at least say that command lines don't scare you and that you're comfortable finding your own cheat sheets and learning how to use new software and Googling something before you go bug a coworker? Then especially if the other half of the job is BA stuff, they'd probably be happy to have an experienced BA who isn't scared of code and can learn over someone who does know some code and is going to make extremely unhappy noises about having to do BA work. (Me. I am that person. I am allergic to being mistaken for a BA.)

I think you've got a very decent shot if you can just go in as a BA who already knows some SQL and wants to get more hands-on with the software you're around. They would love a person who is already going to know everything they could possibly ask this role to learn, but they're unlikely to find that person at the price they want to pay. Convince them you can become that person and you've probably got a good chance.
posted by Sequence at 5:11 PM on November 27, 2017

I would definitely do it! Emphasize:
  • your teachability
  • your flexibility
  • your curiosity
  • your ease with new things
  • your jill-of-all-trades mindset
Good luck!
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:18 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

If I had an open position on my team, what info you posted would look suspiciously like the job I'm looking to fill. Right down to the genomic background. (I also agree that, while my team uses many of the technologies listed, grouping them together they way they appear is odd since several aren't terribly related.)

What I'll say is this: Repeating what others have said already, job descriptions are ideal candidates. I have yet to interview anyone who met every single "requirement" in a job description. It's meant to solicit a wider variety of applicants who might have experience in one but not another, but if needed the experience in A would make picking up B a breeze. I'm also not going to (in my case, have HR) call you back if I don't think you are qualified. Without seeing the entire posting and your resume, it's impossible to say how much you might actually be qualified for this position beyond what you think you are.

Go. Be honest and up front about what you know and don't know, but show eagerness to learn. I'd much rather have someone who is up front about their lack of Linux background but wants to learn, over someone who faked their way through the interview and ends up not knowing what a shell prompt is. The worst that can happen is you don't get the job, and you learn a little bit about what they're looking for in the process.

Don't sell yourself short. I started at my current organization applying for a job (in IT) which I felt I wasn't qualified for but I did it anyway. They called me back later that same day, eagerly wanting to know when I could start. I've been there for over 20 years now so I guess I didn't botch it :)

Good luck!
posted by SquidLips at 5:30 PM on November 27, 2017

With job hunting, never say "no" for them -- make them say it. If they decide you are underqualified, that's fine, but there's no advantage to saying it for them.

We just hired someone who is inexperienced and underqualified, but seemed eager in the right ways. Everyone says the right things about being willing to learn, but this guy had actual plans and strategies for learning -- he was able to talk about how he would pick up the skills, not just that he was willing to do so.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:39 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Time for two Lois McMaster Bujold quotes!

“Aim high. You may still miss the target, but at least you won't shoot your foot off.”

“The world is made by the people who show up for the job.”

:) Knock 'em dead, and if it's not the right job, it's not. There's nothing to lose. You never know what an interview will do for your network down the road.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:06 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you should go but I kind of disagree with those who are like, "let them figure out if they want you!" You should go to the interview with an eye to figuring out whether this is a job (and company/organization) where you can be successful. Some startup teams are so flaky about hiring that they'll put people in positions that make no sense (and then get mad when it doesn't work out). You don't want to end up in that position (although if you're currently unemployed, maybe any work is better than none).

Go in with your eyes open, and interview them as hard as they interview you.
posted by mskyle at 6:42 PM on November 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Just be aware that you might be wasting your time. I'm wondering if they mooshed a few somewhat distinct skillsets together and haven't found anyone who has strong skills in all areas, so they're talking to a variety of candidates. While you're a 10/10 in business analyst skills and maybe a 2 out of 10 in programming, they may also be interviewing someone who is a 10 in programming and a 2 as an analyst, and then maybe someone who is, like, a 4 or 5 in both. It may come down to what is most important to the position and/or what they can most easily augment. Just one possibility! I'd focus on what they need you to actually do and how you've done that thing (without using R or C#), and on your ability to self-teach. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 7:52 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

With that few employees, that list of skills may have been put together by several people who don't know what they are - "We need to write an ad for a new person, what should we ask for?" and everyone just threw in what they remember being used in some past project. Do some research on the company and their project. You want to be able to figure out what they want, tell them you can make it happen whether or not you have the skills listed.
posted by 445supermag at 8:40 PM on November 27, 2017

I'd go - but having gone though months of interviewing with a few similar scenarios to the one you describe, I think your level of skepticism is really wise and healthy.
posted by soakimbo at 8:47 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

If half of the job is business analysis, it's entirely likely that it's a business analysis job. Startups are their own universe, but in most other universes, business analysts are expected to be technical enough to understand at a high level what is being and needs to be done technically, but not necessarily to do it themselves. If there's any question why you're there, talk about the business analysis piece first, your familiarity with the technical stuff second, and your willingness to be flexible and learn third.
posted by cnc at 10:42 PM on November 27, 2017

They may have a need for actually 2 individuals - a business analyst and a bioinformatics programmer. But, they may not have enough money (or work) to hire both. So, someone at the company said, well let's see if we can get somebody who has some extra skills that we need too and put all the skills in one job description. You can ask questions during the interview to see if the job will be mostly business analytics or bioinformatics.

It could also be that the person they are replacing came in with one set of skills, and then pitched in on the fly and learned the other set. This is fairly common for small biotech companies, in my experience.
posted by bluefly at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2017

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