Last month I interviewed at a company to work in their internationals parts department. I didn’t have any experience in mechanical parts, but I spoke French, and this was the important part. How many people in my tiny town, or even in the not-so-big city I live in, speak French? The interviewers told me that the person they hired a few months ago didn’t know anything about the field when she came in and had to learn everything the fun way, so I figured mechanical knowledge wasn’t a huge deal. I did about as well as one could in the interview, and the interviewers even told me that they liked me.
Still, I wasn’t expecting to get hired. Maybe it’s because promoting people at random can happen with no ill effect, so why not hiring?
I didn’t get hired. (Obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this.) One of my interviewers called me to tell me about a week ago. The person they hired happened to be a native French speaker with experience in the field. In other words, the perfect person for the job. I wasn’t that surprised when I found out that this person got hired instead of me.
Still, this brings up a very important lesson in the job search. You are never the most qualified person for a job. This is doubly true if you have limited work experience, and it’s particularly true when everyone is looking for a job. As much as I complain about ridiculous qualifications for jobs that are not that hard to do, some employers put those out there because there are people with a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry who speak English, Arabic, and Mandarin Chinese. That’s why they’re the idea candidate. The ideal candidate always exists, and it’s probably not you. Not on paper, at least.
So what are we great but still not quite ideal candidates to do? We rely on the other thing we have going for us: fitting in. It’s great if we can do the work, but doing the work and fitting in with the company’s culture is even better at some places, especially in team environments. No one wants to be that cranky coworker who never says hello to anyone, so show that interviewer that you’re not only qualified, but you’re a great fit.