A reader writes:
After submitting my resume and cover letter to the president and director of a major company for an executive assistant opportunity, I was contacted for a phone interview. I aced the phone interview and was invited for a face-to-face.
Since I really wanted this position, I made sure to study the company and position requirements, and brush up on my interview skills. One of the major requirements was being comfortable with PowerPoint. I am a part of a women’s development committee, where we teach woman life skills and provide information on certain areas of the workforce. Since I’ve been in administrative roles for the past 7 years, I teach a class every third Saturday. I introduce my Call Log Management Guide via PowerPoint to the group I work with. It’s a basic guide I developed that helped me deal with busy phone lines.
I printed out my presentation, and even went as far to craft a 30/60/90 day plan specific to the role and their overall needs. I arrived to the interview 20 minutes early and well dressed, ready to make a great impression. As the director escorted me to his office I immediately noticed the laid back atmosphere and attire of the employees and felt overdressed.
I interviewed with the president and director of the company. The interview went great and they continuously tell me that are extremely impressed with my background and my poise. I present them my presentation and explain that I am very comfortable with using Microsoft Office Suite. Once again, they talked about how impressed they were with me, but this time, the president expressed his concern by saying that he thought this role would be difficult to motivate someone as organized and proactive as me. He even said that he wanted to pass my resume along to another company for a paralegal role, which is something I have no interest in. I was really disappointed about this, but I tried my best to stress to him that I understood his concerns and assured him that I wouldn’t have applied to this position if I wasn’t willing to stay with the company for years to come.
After all of this, I was afraid to give my 30/60/90 day plan, as I thought it would be too much. I was getting the vibe that they thought I was overqualified for the position (a situation I’ve never been in). I reasoned that I hadn’t spent hours trying to create this two page document for nothing, so at the end of the interview, I handed them both a copy and asked that they read it when they had time. I noticed the shocked look the director snuck to the president, who was too busy with his mouth open reading the plan.
I left with a feeling that maybe I had done too much. It was only my intention to showcase my skills, and I feel as though it drove them away! They wanted someone who knew PowerPoint, and I bought them a presentation I created; they also wanted someone who’d be the “go to” person, and I exhibited that I could be that person. I guess in this case giving them what they wanted was a bad thing. Or was it too much preparation?
It might have been too much preparation for them and this company, but that doesn’t mean it was too much preparation in general. To the contrary, tons of employers out there would love this kind of thing.
What this tells you is that there’s a culture mismatch between you and them — and that’s hugely valuable information for you to have. Remember, you don’t want to go into an interview already convinced that you want the job; you want to use the interview to gather information that will help you decide whether you want the job or not. Because your goal here shouldn’t be just to get a job offer — it should be to get a job offer from an employer where you’ll be happy, feel like you belong, and excel at the work.
So rather than trying to second-guess who they might want you to be, the best thing you can do when job-searching is to be who you actually are. (Within reason, of course.) That way, you’ll screen out the places that aren’t the right fit for you — the places where you’ll never feel quite at home or where you’ll feel outright mismatched, and the places that will want you to be something different than what you are. And you’ll attract the places that do want what you’re offering.
It sounds like this one might not have. That’s not a failure on your part — that’s the interview process working the way it’s supposed to and identifying bad matches as well as good ones.