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How I got a job I Was Unqualified For

working at coffee shop

working at coffee shop

You see a job description online that jazzes you up. You read through the job ad, and you think, “I’d love to apply for that,” but you’re hesitant, because you can’t check all the boxes they’re asking for. Maybe you have an opportunity to interview for a job that you don’t feel qualified for, and you’re careful not to get your hopes up, because you know that likely every other candidate is more qualified than you, so what chance do you have anyway?

Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? I’ve been there.

Early in my career, I was working at a cafe in a large industrial park, where I’d see the same customer faces each day as they came in for their morning coffee. I’d remember their orders each morning. I wouldn’t always remember their names, but I’d know that was the guy with the “grande double decaf americano with extra room.”

My plan was to work at the cafe until I finished college, where I was getting my diploma in Business Administration. While I was at college, I stayed late one night helping a fellow classmate with economics homework. Because I had been helpful to him and “saved his butt,” he asked if I wanted to apply for a job where he worked. He said he would gladly refer me.

I was excited! My first question: Where do you work?

“Abebooks,” he said (Which unbeknownst to me was about to be acquired by Amazon).

“Sure!” I said without giving it anymore thought, “That sounds amazing! Send me the job description.”

When I got home, I excitedly checked my email. I saw this description, and I almost fell out of my chair. I realized immediately that I was not even the slightest bit qualified for this job. The only thing it had in common with me was that people would be in that office, and I talk to people at the cafe.

I wondered how my classmate even thought that I’d stand a chance here. Then I figured he was probably just being nice, even though nothing would likely come of it.

Some of the responsibilities as I read down the page included things that I didn’t even understand, like:

“Support seller acquisition campaigns and account management”

“Knowledge of SQL and/or HTML”

“Experience in Sales and Account Management”

“Associate or Bachelor Degree in Business or related field preferred”

These were just a few of the bullet points that made me think to myself, “Should I even bother with this? The other candidates surely all have more experience than I do.”

As I actively tried not to get my hopes up, I started thinking about a process to prepare for this interview that would make me different. I’d already said yes. Even if no job came of it, I knew I had to at least try. I had to pinch myself because this job paid more than I had ever been paid before. The company was prestigious and had won many awards. Looking at my background, it looked completely out of my league.

How did I do this? Decoding the process now, I attribute 3 key things to why they chose me out of what later I found out was a pool of 7 shortlisted other qualified candidates.

1. A Referral Goes a Long Way

I know now that a lot of companies give quite a high preference to referred candidates, even if the candidate doesn’t check all the boxes right away. If they’re a referral they’re more likely to get invited in for an interview. I had some courses from school that made me sound smart, and I would highlight my people skills and cross my fingers.

Before I handed in my resume, I figured if there was ever a time to invest in getting it to be as close to perfect as possible, it was now. I had a professional resume writer help me with it (actually I had three). You might not always have time for this, but it gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to finally hit “Send.”

One of the resume writers said to me, “What makes you think you’re going to get an interview for this job?” Long story short, the resume (along with my classmate’s good word) was compelling enough to have them interview me.

2. Likeability is Underrated

I learned later that being likeable is actually more important than skills, education, or experience. At the time, I think it was a highly contributing factor. It may have been the one thing that got me the job. It’s hard to tell but I have a feeling it was big. I can’t explain getting hired any other way.

It may sound unfair or even unprofessional to hire someone that you like over someone who is more skilled or experienced, but sometimes human nature trumps logic. This was confirmed when I came across a study in the Harvard business review. It proved that people might say that they’d choose the more skilled person over the more likeable candidate; however, in practice, when it comes right down to it, they don’t.

Quoted from the HBR review:

“Generally speaking, a little extra likability goes a longer way than a little extra competence in making someone desirable to work with.”

3. The Questions YOU Ask Are Everything

At the very beginning (before they had a chance to go “stream of consciousness” with their questions), I asked them what the top priorities would be for someone entering the role in the first three months on the job. This was a strategic move. I wanted to find out in their words what exactly they wanted from their new hire. I was looking for anything other than the gibberish on the job description. My thought was that once I knew this, I could position myself as a better candidate as I answered questions throughout.

The truth is the answer wasn’t super helpful, but it was good enough. They said, “The successful candidate will spend the first three months training, learning our systems, tools, and procedures.”

This information helped me enough that I talked about my love for learning new things. It gave me a focus that I knew was desirable to them. I made a point to talk about examples and stories of learning new software programs and new concepts, and how I loved putting time and effort into learning, because it always paid off in the end. I talked about techniques I used for learning, and I captivated them with some things I’d learned that were interesting. People also like people that are interesting and can share interesting, entertaining and new info.

Another thing that I think contributed was that at the time Abebooks didn’t have a way for customers to provide feedback on their site for whether or not books were received on time and in good condition. I said, “I notice that you don’t have a way for customers to provide feedback on your site at the moment. For such a large site with so many customers, I would think something like that would be beneficial.”

I brought up this gap in their business, and I noticed the interview panel glance over at each other and smile. The gentleman on the end, who was one of the Department Managers, looked over at the Director (who was seated in the middle) and said, “Do you want to take this one?” She laughed as she started telling me how they’re excited to launch their feedback feature. After long and hard hours of working on it, the release date was less than six months away! She talked excitedly about how it worked on a star rating system, which is what you see if you go to their site today.

Sometimes it’s not about what they have in place; it’s about what they don’t have in place yet (and who notices).

The takeaways from my story include:

  • Being qualified isn’t everything
  • People will more likely hire who they like vs. who is the most skilled or the smartest
  • If you can get referred, that’s even better
  • Be strategic with when and what you ask

Try out these ideas at your next interview, and keep the doors open. Unlikely things do happen, even if they seem impossible. When that opportunity came up, I had no idea how I was going to approach it. All I knew was that there was something inside of me that was nagging me (perhaps it was my dad’s voice). “Just say yes,” he would say, “and then figure out how to do it later.”

I may have hated this advice when I was younger, but I will admit that it was not the worst advice my dad ever gave me.

Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job! She’s been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Download her Free Guide: How to Nail an Interview You’re Unqualified For.

How to Deal With a Difficult Coworker

How_to_deal_with_a_difficult_coworker

No matter how hard you try — or how much of a people person you are — there is one coworker with whom you simply don’t gel. As the word “coworker” implies, you work with this person, so it’s hard to avoid him or her in meetings, on e-mail chains or even at the water cooler. Unfortunately, you can’t spend your entire workday planning how to avoid this person, either.

So, what’re you to do? Dealing with a difficult coworker takes patience and finesse, but we’ve made all of that a bit easier with the following five tips. If you need an added incentive, friendly office relations are one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier at work, too.

In other words, it’s time to get to work — at least, on smoothing things over with your least favorite colleague.

Figure out Your Move First

No matter how nice and amenable you are, your coworker has done something to ruffle your feathers. It might be tempting to lay all of your feelings out right away in order to get them off your chest, but workplace wisdom says to slow down.

Give yourself a few hours or days to compose yourself and gather your thoughts on the situation that has caused you so much stress. Observe your coworker with others and try to figure out who this person is — and why. What is it about the two of you that isn’t working? With a bit of perspective, you might be able to better understand him or her.

Do Something, Though

So much workplace angst devolves into passive aggression, which is hardly ever a solution to your problem. You’re going to have to take some sort of action in order to deal with your problem, though there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.

Consider both personalities involved, and you’ll have a better idea of how your problem will reach a solution. You might want to involve a boss or another coworker to mediate a discussion, or perhaps you could suggest a coffee session in which you both try to smooth things over. No matter what you choose, make sure you actually do it. The post-conversation relief and positive relations will be worth the pre-conversation stress.

difficult_coworker_coffee

Look for the Positives

It might be hard to see past your office enemy’s, well, enemy exterior. But, dig deep: Is there anything you can appreciate about him or her? Perhaps she does work hard, or he can put together a killer PowerPoint presentation. You can even look for the positives while you discuss your problems, as prescribed above. A good and true point could help you see your coworker’s side, thus improving relations between you.

This is also a good tactic if the mediation techniques above don’t work or if it’s too soon in the game to sit down and talk about your issues with someone. See the good and — try to, at least — forget the bad. Maybe a great sales record will speak louder than your colleague chews in the break room.

Keep It to Yourself

You probably have other friends at work, and it has to be so tempting to fill them in on all of the reasons why someone is your least favorite colleague. There are good and bad things about venting — permanent damage to relationships falls into the latter category.

In the heat of the moment, you might not care whether or not you remain cordial with your colleague, so you could feel inclined to vent away. Beware that your words can get back to the person about whom you’re talking, and everyone in the conversation — including your work friends who are listening to your story second-hand — could be looped into the drama and discomfort.

Make a Move

Finally, if you’ve made the above efforts and more and still can’t get along with your coworker, it might be time to do something a bit more permanent. Talk to your boss about opportunities within other departments or even in other branches. You might even be able to scoop up a job within your same department without as much communication or contact with the person causing you so much grief.

You spend at least 40 hours a week at work — it’s time to make it a more pleasant experience. By rising above it all, talking it out and hopefully smoothing things over with your coworker, you’ll feel that much better about being at the office. Now, to work on speeding up the clock to make Friday come faster…

About the Author

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

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