I’m too good at interviewing — and get offered jobs I can’t do

A reader writes:

This question may seem like bragging but I don’t intend for it to come across that way so if it’s too annoying I apologize (I understand, believe me).

I’ve been told repeatedly throughout my life that I am a very charismatic person. People are drawn to me at an almost inexplicable level (like, get stopped on the street for conversations with strangers level) and due to this (I assume) I feel very comfortable with strangers and in front of crowds. I do very well in customer service roles and have gravitated towards customer-facing, “people person” type positions.

As you can imagine, I am great at interviewing, in large part because I am not a nervous interviewer and my interviews go very smoothly. Since graduating college in 2014, I have interviewed probably 15-20 places and have been offered jobs at approximately 90-95% of those places. People like me, and I’m very very fortunate.

However, this does pose a problem for me. I “sell” myself into jobs that I have no business being in, and I have been in the awkward position of being in over my head before. This is not to say that I apply for jobs I’m not qualified for just for the rush of getting an offer I don’t deserve, but sometimes the outcome is the same.

In March, I was laid off from my job due to COVID. Once unemployment ran out, I started applying for jobs—roughly eight to 10 places—and interviewed at seven of those places. Five of them turned into job offers. Three of them are at a higher level than I was before, with one of those three being at a management level and pay grade that I do not think is warranted for my experience. Please note, I did not apply for this higher level job but was offered it anyway.

It is flattering, yes. Awkward, also yes. I have little to no experience in management and don’t feel as though I gave any indication that that would be a position I’d consider taking.

I guess what I am asking you is for advice on how to be hired on in a position that doesn’t make me or the interviewer look completely incompetent. In other words, if I’m offered a job that I know is beyond my scope, how do I decline that job and ask to be hired in the job I originally applied for? I don’t want to look like I’m denying the job because I’m lazy or lack confidence in my skills, or worse that I was lying about my skills, but I also don’t want to take the job and make the interviewer doubt themselves if the job is beyond my skill level as I guessed it to be and I fail.

Please tell me I am not alone in thinking this is a problem because I am honestly at the end of my rope.

It’s too bad that you probably don’t want to start a cult, because it sounds like you would be able to do it!

It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a woman because a lot of dudes (not all of them, but a lot) would happily accept this state of affairs as their due and cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence. Women are more likely to be socialized to question it (because they’re more socialized to question themselves).

You’re smart to be wary of accepting jobs that you know are beyond your current abilities. The goal shouldn’t be “get the highest-level job possible, even if it doesn’t suit me” because that’s how you end up struggling or even getting fired. It makes sense to look for jobs that challenge you (if you want that) but that you’re also confident you’ll do well in.

One thing you can do is to ask the person offering you a higher level job to tell you more about the match they see. You could say something like, “I appreciate the offer! Looking at the job description for X, I’d thought that was the right match for my skills and level of experience at this point in my career. Can you tell me more about why you think Y might be the right match instead?”

And then really listen to what they say. If it’s all general — they like you, you seem talented, blah blah — that’ s not very helpful. But if they’re specific — your experience in X is really similar to what they need for Y, they’ve seen people with your background succeed at Y because of Z, they have an intensive support program for high-potential new managers, or so forth — that’s more promising.

If you remain confident that the higher level job isn’t for you, it’s okay to say, “I really appreciate the offer. I’d like to be in a role like Y eventually — but I want to be up-front that I want more experience in Z before I take it on. At this point, I don’t think that leap is the right one for me. But I’m still really interested in the X role if you’d consider me for it.” (Of course, if you don’t want to be in a role like Y eventually, don’t say you do. In that case, I’d say, “I want to be up-front that I’m not really looking for a management role. I’m looking for one that lets me focus on X, which is where my interests and I think my strengths are. Would you be open to considering me for X instead?”)

Is there a risk that they’ll think you lack confidence? Sure. But that’s so much better than taking a job that you don’t think you’d succeed in.

That said, make sure you’re not underestimating your own abilities or shying away from something just because it’s new. New can be doable … depending, of course, on how far away it is from the skills you already have. So make sure you’re really reality-checking your assumptions. Look around at other people who you see filling similar higher-level roles. What are their backgrounds? What are their skill sets? How did they get there? If you can, bounce your sense of what you are and aren’t equipped to do off a mentor or other trusted person in your professional life. Make sure that this isn’t a confidence issue. Good luck!

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. many bells down*

    I like the framing of “you’re looking for a job that suits you.” When I interviewed for my current job one of my interviewers said I was “overqualified”. I didn’t really agree, but also I wasn’t looking to get the job that “maxed out” my qualifications, I was looking to get something that fit what I wanted to be doing right now.

  2. Kimmy Schmidt*

    No real advice, but this is an absolutely fascinating read to me, in the same way that people with the cilantro-soap gene is fascinating. It’s so novel and outside my realm of experience, I never even considered this as a problem before. I don’t mean that in a negative way towards the OP, just as a new learning experience for me!

    OP, I’d be really interested to hear an update on this.

    1. Cobol*

      This happened with me (male) early on, although not to the extent of OP I think (and people aren’t drawn to me, but I’m very comfortable in an interview.) OP is right to want to stop it. Charisma doesn’t keep a job, and she could be setting herself up for shorter stays. More importantly, having a good interview can get you jobs when you’re younger, because very few people have great experience, but being good in an interview does not go as far when you start looking at jobs with 7+ years experience.

    2. Lovecraft Beauty*

      I have a similar problem! Not the general charisma, but I interview fantastically well; if I can get an in-person interview, I will almost certainly be offered the job (out of my limited sample set). But I can’t sustain my interview personality — which is the most-social and friendly version of myself — for more than half a day or so, and it’s exhausting. I’ve run into grief before when employers think they’re getting an extrovert with technical skills and I turn out to be a technical expert who can handle meeting clients but would prefer not to.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Lol SAME. The first week of a new job always leaves me absolutely exhausted, because the stress of being “on” all the time is just… awful.

      2. RB*

        I used to have this problem — the interviewing well problem. But then as I got to the point where I was staying in jobs longer and longer, my interviewing skills got rusty. After being in the last couple of jobs for 10+ years, my interviewing skills are virtually zilch so I no longer have this problem. Now, weirdly, it has gone the other way, to where I get EXTREMELY nervous in interviews and have trouble articulating things that should be easy to articulate. So I don’t think the LW will have this problem forever, unless it is just so embedded in her personality.

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          I think it also helps that OP is in PR. I know that my interviews really went well when I was working in/not far removed from sales. Those skills are definitely atrophying now and I imagine that interviewing will be more challenging in the future.

      3. Kiki*

        Same! I am someone who knows how to be socially apt and charismatic– I can read people well, I can be clever, witty, and fun. Is it my natural personality and something I can maintain for 8 hours a day/ 5 days a week? NOPE.

        1. The Rules Are Made Up*

          I relate to this so hard omg. I too am all those things but I also have a limited social battery and when I hit the wall I HIT it. It also creates problems at work in that I am friendly, witty and sociable but internally have no desire for coworker outings and coworkers think we are way closer “friends” than I see us as. WFH has been a blessing for me because maintaining my charisma and positivity is so much easier to fake via email.

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have this problem though it’s not quite so cut-and-dried in my case. I am really outgoing and naturally talkative, but I have moments where I need quiet, and people get very confused. I work really hard to be very confident about this– “I just need a bit of downtime, I’ll get back to you really soon!”– but man, it’s hard to keep up the “fun” side.

        I’m trying to look at this as an advantage. I’m applying for client service roles where I will need the opportunity to turn it on and up.

        1. The Rules Are Made Up*

          When I learned more about introversion being like this made so much more sense to me. People think of introverts as “shy” but it also means that introverts “recharge” from alone time where as extroverts get their energy being around people. I’m introverted but not shy , I’m good at reading people/being social and fun but at a certain point I run out of social battery and need to go home, take a bath, read, watch Netflix, something solitary, in order to have enough energy to be around people again.

          1. Bridget*

            Yep, same. I *can* be shy (it’s really hard for me to start or jump into conversations with people I don’t know, for instance, and I’m crap at networking, but if someone comes over and talks to me first I’m fine) but I’m very friendly and am usually able to establish a rapport with people. This has been really helpful in my sales career. However, in my previous job, my boss actually offered me a higher position that I turned down because it would be a much higher focus on networking (essentially business-to-business sales, requiring a lot of cold-calling and establishing a client base) and I told her I didn’t feel that my networking skills were good enough for me to succeed in that position. She seemed really surprised—”But you’re so outgoing and friendly!”—and I had to be like “Yeah, when I have to be, but my natural state of being is crocheting in silence wrapped up in a blanket on the couch.”

            Luckily, she took this well and still promoted me later on, to a different position that just built on the skills I already had. :)

            1. The Rules Are Made Up*

              I haatteeee networking and cold calls! I had a temp job once that was all day cold calls and I mostly just pretended to call those people and just said they hung up on me (most of the ones I actually called did hang up so it was a plausible story!) Respect to sales people because I’m not cut out for it lol I’m glad you were able to get a position that fit you better!

              1. Bridget*

                Yeah, I had plenty of issues with that boss, but thankfully I knew she valued my work and thought highly of me. She actually promoted me twice, once without me asking—I had taken on responsibilities simply because I wanted them, and she gave me a raise and title bump for it. I didn’t realize that stuff like that actually happened.

          2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

            I am actually a shy extrovert. I cannot initiate a conversation to save my life. But if someone comes up and starts talking to me, I am completely comfortable holding a conversation and m ight walk away with a friend.

      5. BeenThere*

        This is the bane of my existence. I’m in a technical fields and tends towards introversion. There are plenty of projects I can take on yet I always get given the ones with the people challenges not the technical challenges.

      6. Ealasaid*

        Lovecraft Beauty – Same! Getting interviews takes forever, but if I I actually get in a room with people, I either get the offer or get told that they can’t meet my salary requirements. Literally, my last three interviews were for too-low a salary (publish your rates, employers! It saves everyone time and stress), my previous job, and my current job.

        To be fair, I do have the equivalent of putting “feminist” in your dating profile. I dye my hair bright green and am a bit gender-non-conforming, and have a photo on my website that demonstrates both. I’m sure it weeds out some companies, but that’s worked out okay so far. I always tell myself that I can redye my hair and dress more conventionally if it takes too long to find a gig, but so far (knock wood) I haven’t had to.

      7. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah. My offer rate is >90% if I get an interview. I don’t get interviews for every position, but I get offers. I think my appeal is:
        1) I’m smart and I know it
        2) I’m very direct, and will tell someone if I can or can’t do something.
        3) I’m a very tall white woman, reasonably good looking. But I got my last job on a phone interview, so that made me feel better about it. I do not want to be hired for my looks.
        4) I like people. People are interesting. Lots of things are interesting. There are very few people that I haven’t been able to find shared interests if I try.

        My mom used to say that I’d meet someone, and we’d have swapped life stories within the first 10 minutes. If I could remember names and faces, I’d have gone into politics.

        1. miss chevious*

          Hi, are you me? Because you just described me. :) As a result, I get thought of for things or drawn into things that I shouldn’t accept because they are too far above my experience or I’m stretched too thin.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      It hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve definitely seen people hired into roles that they weren’t the right experience/skill level for. I was hired into my current role, and ~10 people were hired/transferred into the same role within the next year. About half were all transferred out, let go, or escaped to a new job before being let go. Honestly, it was surprising in many ways. On paper, they all looked pretty good, but you had to be competent at 3 separate skill sets, and 1/3 or 2/3 didn’t cut it. The HM assumed they could learn areas they didn’t have actual experience in, but it didn’t all come together for most of them.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I can relate to LW somewhat. I do unnaturally well at interviews, which is truly bizarre because I’m not charismatic in other areas of my life. But early success interviewing led to me being a very confident *at interviewing* which sometimes falsely portrays confidence *at doing the things* I’m being interviewed about. When 90% of candidates are visibly stressed, being really at-ease during an interview can make you appear modest rather than actually, literally, unqualified.

      What I’ve started doing is being really transparent. Without dropping my air of confidence about what I *do* have to offer, I am really clear about where I might fall short. For example, (with a smile) “To be candid, I haven’t used MatLab since college, and wasn’t great at it even back then. *insert nerdy programming joke* Can you tell me more about why you asked? / What kind of MatLab strength were you looking for in a candidate? / What % portion of the job would be MatLab intensive? / Do you have any training available to help employees get up to speed?”

      A lot of times, it turns out employers are actually way more willing to negotiate on areas of my weaknesses because I have other strengths. For example, my current job they were filling out a team of 3. So even though the job posting was for 1 specific roll, as they hired people and determined there interests/abilities, we shifted around job responsibilities to align better. But if I didn’t have that up-front conversation where I made it clear that my dream job did not feature MatLab, I would be so (needlessly) stressed trying to live up to false expectations.

      Of course, I did once have a really weird experience where a hiring manager (man, I think is relevant) called to tell me in a condescending way that I was “strangely good at interviewing…. Like, really very convincing and confident” but that I didn’t get the job. It almost felt like he was accusing me of inflating my experience or lying?? Which was weird, because I went out of my way to explain where I didn’t meet requirements in that interview too. So maybe I’m actually not a very good interviewer after all, lol.

      1. J*

        I wouldn’t say my interview charisma is quite as powerful as the OP’s, but I have some of the qualities OP and others people mention. I have resting nice face, which means I am ALWAYS the one asked for directions on the street (even though I have the worst sense of direction of almost everyone I’ve ever met), asked for an opinion on a gift, clothing item, or outfit in a store, etc.

        I’m also a “people-oriented” introvert, which means I have people skills and enjoy interacting with others, plus I have performance experience so I can act like an extrovert at work (kindergarten teacher). However, people drain me and I am often craving alone and recharge time. Also, because my default work mode is very bubbly and smiley, it’s a very noticeable difference when I am feeling tired or stressed, because I’m usually so cheery.

        One strategy that has worked for me socially and professionally is to be very explicit up front about my personality- I share that I’m an introvert. I make it a point to mention this early on so that it’s less of a shock when they realize I’m not a genuine extrovert and don’t want to socialize after work every day and need serious hours of alone time to be able to function on Bubbly Mode the rest of the week.

      2. oof*

        People have definitely wrote in to Allison about how their interviewers were baffled that candidates had such good answers, because these interviewers had no idea that candidates prepare and practice for interview questions. The interviewers of course concluded that there’s definitely something wrong with the candidate. So, i guess it’s not that uncommon?

      3. Tidewater 4-1009*

        “It almost felt like he was accusing me of inflating my experience or lying??”

        I had this happen in early jobs where my managers acted like I had deliberately deceived them about what I could do and I had not.

        Years later, when I understood people better, I realized they projected qualities they wanted to see in me, or assumed all women have, and since I didn’t have those qualities they were disappointed. It wasn’t my fault, it was theirs.

        1. nnn*

          Years later, when I understood people better, I realized they projected qualities they wanted to see in me, or assumed all women have, and since I didn’t have those qualities they were disappointed.

          Oooh, THAT’s what that was!

          1. Qwerty*

            I have learned to take really thorough notes in an interview and then reference them when writing up my assessment later. When you like a candidate, the mind seems to just assume that because they were good at A, B, and C that they are also great at D & E even if we never talked about D or E in the interview. Or that my brain made an association between X and Y that wasn’t what the candidate was trying to communicate.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Right? I have, like, zero charisma. I’m 98% sure I have the job I have now because at the time, I worked for a veterinarian, and my interviewers were both cat ladies. Otherwise, I was just a dork in borrowed clothes (all I had were scrubs).

    6. Tuesday*

      Ha! I had exactly the same reaction. How fascinating… there are people like this? I would like to be the OP for a day, just to know what it’s like.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I’m very similar to the way OP describes herself. I’m charismatic and kind of a chameleon, so people of all stripes find me relatable and sympathetic. Sometimes it’s GREAT. I work customer service and most customers respond well to me because they tend to assume I’m on their side. But it’s got some serious drawbacks as well. The random strangers telling me their life stories on public transit isn’t always my favorite, and people assuming I’m on their side when I very much am not can be really uncomfortable.

        And also like OP, I interview really, really well. I actually did get a promotion I wasn’t ready for based on the strength of my interview skills, and I really regret having taken that job. So I’m glad that OP is doing the deep thinking now to make sure the job is the right fit before she accepts. Doing that introspection is a very good thing.

        All good wishes to you, OP!

        1. Tuesday*

          That’s so interesting. Thanks for the perspective. The grass is always greener, and sometimes it’s hard to keep in mind that there are still going to be some weeds. I’m usually pretty terrified in interviews which obviously doesn’t work too well for me – but at least I can be pretty sure if I’m hired, they think I can do the job anyway! My best interview by far was when I knew I was woefully underqualified, and I just left myself behind and acted like I thought the person who was qualified would act. I seemed confident, and the interview went great, and I think people got the impression I was much more qualified than I was. As a side note, I would never apply for a job like that now, but I was inexperienced at the time and thought I should apply for everything on the off chance it would work out.

        2. Mel_05*

          One of my good friends is like this. It can seem like she’s agreeing with everyone or doesn’t have strong opinions because she’s just so pleasant. But that is definitely not the case.

          She used to always ask how I get people to leave me alone – no one would ever come up to me and share their life story – but it’s just something about her personality.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I sometimes joke that instead of Resting B**** Face, I have Resting “Hello Random Stranger, Please Come Over Here and Talk to Me” Face, so I totally feel your friend’s pain!

      2. Barbara Eyiuche*

        Me too. I am completely the opposite of the OP. Apparently no charisma at all. I have always had a hard time getting jobs, even ones where objectively I was the ideal candidate.

      3. Annie*

        I am also similar to OP. It’s almost weird to talk about, but many of her experiences mirror mine. Strangers beam at me on the street, I regularly have to gently disengage acquaintances trying to become closer friends, and I think I’ve gotten almost every job I’ve ever interviewed for. It genuinely brings me great joy to have warm and connective interactions with other humans and I seek that out, which I think makes people feel very close to me.

        I am very aware though of the many facets of privilege that play into this – like for me at least “inexplicable charisma” is part of the story but being white, educated, tall, and attractive are all relevant. Charisma is confident happiness and confident happiness doesn’t just spring into being – it’s reflective of a life of being approved of and having your individuality treasured and encouraged. I am incredibly fortunate and I think my ‘charisma’ is just a reflection of that.

    7. Semprini!*

      That’s what I was thinking – it’s so outside the scope of anything I’ve ever witnessed or heard of or imagined! It’s like if OP wrote in saying “Help, I keep accidentally levitating!”

      1. Ann*

        Same here. I am not one bit charismatic. I have a dear friend who is, and it has always been fascinating to be around her and see what it’s like.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          I have a friend like this too. People just fall over themselves, and sometimes compete with each other, to get to do things for him. It’s kind of a magical power, almost. I’m not sure if he knows.

          1. allathian*

            It’s even more powerful if he doesn’t know, or at least can manage to convincingly pretend he doesn’t know, about his charisma. Half of the charisma evaporates as soon as you let others know you’re aware of it. Or at least, that’s how the charisma of others affects me. I’m bowled over by those who seem unaware of it, but I have a very low tolerance for arrogant charisma. I can’t stand big egos and do my best to avoid such people. It doesn’t always work, and when I feel drawn towards a charismatic person with a big ego, I always hate myself for it.

        2. 1234*

          I’ve had multiple friends and even an old roommate with the same personality as OP. They are great at networking and people just gravitate towards them. I’m also in awe because I simply don’t have that personality.

          One of these people who I mentioned got a job as a leasing agent with no prior experience doing this. She says she went there, pointed out some issues they were having and said “let me help you.” They ended up hiring her and she’s been great at that job! Another one of these people got a job at Cool Magazine because she “made connections” while waiting tables in Large City…

    8. oof*

      as someone who is trying to transition into the communications field, I am dying to do an informational interview with OP! She must be one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever heard of in my professional career.

    9. k*

      Same. The only reason I have a job is because it was a temp position that didn’t interview. If I did interview I guarantee I would not have it.

    10. Mallory Janis Ian*

      This sounds like my mother in law: She’s very charismatic and friendly; people treat her like a best friend shortly after meeting her; she’s one of those “everybody’s-confidant” types. A local caterer offered her a job coming to parties and just mingling to get conversations and the dancing started. If she wanted a job, she’d probably interview just like the OP just because people would rate her favorably based on her confidence, ease, and charm.

      I know it’s a problem for the OP with finding a job that is a good match, but it’s kind of one of those problems that I’d be fascinated to know how it feels to have, Lol.

  3. MK*

    OP are you sure you are not underestimating yourself? I mean, everyone who accepts a promotion or a higher level position is inexperienced for that job. Doing the job is how you become experienced. I say this because it strikes me as unlikely that all these people keep offering you positions you didn’t even apply for solely based on charisma.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      I agree this could totally just be a case of imposter syndrome. But also, it could… not be. I think its really easy to both under-shoot and over-shoot the next “step” in your career. Its common to think of careers as a ladder with well-defined rung spacing, but in reality its more like climbing up a rockslide where you’re never quite sure where to put your foot down.

      Personally, I do best when I’m about 75% confident in a new job. That is, I feel that I am already good at, or could quickly learn, about 75% of the job… and the other 25%, I’m basically scared to death over. I definitely have a touch of imposter syndrome, so in truth its probably more like an 80-90% confidence for “normal confidence level” thing – its kind of a know yourself situation.

      1. a username*

        Yes I agree! I’m cringing knowing how many people are going to say she just has imposter syndrome. That narrative was part of why I floundered in my first job (see below where I mention it) – I was basically shouting ‘I need help! I need to be taught!’ and I kept getting told “Be more confident, you’ve obviously got this because people love you.”

        People loving me didn’t teach me the nitty gritty financial stuff I need to know to succeed, and both the organization and I stalled while I was there because of it.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          Lol, I have literally said before “I am CONFIDENTLY telling you that I don’t know how to do this!” so I feel you. Its true that a lot of times you really do just have to try something and get feedback on it and that’s the only way you’ll learn. But also, sometimes its true that its just too much to learn and you have no idea where to start.

          1. Kiki*

            I love that phrase– I’m definitely going to use it!
            In my field, overconfidence is rampant and how a lot of scandals have come about, so while sometimes I wish I had more of a “fake it til ya make it” mentality, I think it’s better for my industry and the world if I don’t!

        2. Totally Minnie*

          Oh, this hit me straight in the feels. When I got promoted above my ability level, I kept being like “So, the training’s going to start soon, right?” and my managers would say something like “Oh, you’re so funny! You’ve totally got this!” And yeah, I can be funny, but at that moment I was not being funny or self depricating, I was in totally over my head and people were treating it like imposter syndrome. It’s not imposter syndrome if you really don’t know what you’re doing.

        3. orangewater*

          YES. When I express my concern about my ability to be successful in my current role, even to people who normally exercise great judgement, I am told “you got this!”

          I DO NOT HAVE IT. I’m not just being self-depreciating, I’m literally confused!

      2. uncivil servant*

        I have a friend who is very very smart, has a great academic record, is great at self-promotion and did a prestigious internship. Her career really rocketed after the internship, and I think she got promoted a bit too fast. I think hiring managers looked at her current title, plus the other stuff (PhD, internship, a major scholarship a bit like the Rhodes) and said she clearly had potential, so she was hired into ever higher positions.

        To the point where she was a Director with about 18 months cumulative work experience. She is politically savvy and smart and hard-working and she did it. But she decided to leave after a few years for a senior analyst position with a larger organization to try to fill in the gaps before she goes for a directorship again.

    2. PJ*

      This is what I was wondering too. I know you don’t want to be in way over your head, but never mind the interviews themselves, you got interviews from 7 out of 8-10 applications – that’s a huge ratio. They are definitely seeing something in your qualifications.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I have been in a position similar to the LW. People think I’d be amazing at management because of X, Y, and Z, but I know myself well enough to know I’d be terrible at it because of A, B, and C. It isn’t understimation but more knowing myself better than any interviewer can.

      LW, when this has happened to me, I basically run with what Alison said with a touch of adding in that I want position X because I want to develop $skill and gain more time doing $thing so the rejection of higher positions is tied to clear job goals.

    4. Nicotene*

      I hope this doesn’t come across as mean, but if OP is an attractive person, it can be that and not imposter syndrome. There really are studies that show that people who are attractive (or even just TALL!) get offered things more because, most kindly, interviewers attribute other good qualities to attractive people – or less kindly, they want to impress and please attractive people in the hopes of keeping them around to eventually date, or at least look at .

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Adding: If people are nice/likeable then they can appear more attractive. We do adjust our perceptions. I am thinking of younger me, looking at an older person with a wrinkly face. I saw kindness when I saw those wrinkles. I never checked to see if the person was actually kind, I just equated wrinkles with kindness. Because I did not double check myself, I got a few surprises. Some were NOT kind. Once I saw that the person was actually unkind to people, those wrinkles changed. Instead of softening the facial features, I saw a lot of anger in the wrinkles. UGH! I had to scold myself to stop this whole train of thought and deal with facts, deal with what I actually see and hear.

        It is so easy to overlay attributes that are not there.

  4. MaggieB*

    I just accepted a job that is above me. I applied for one and then after my final interview, they told me they wanted me in a different position. I have yet to start it so we shall see how it goes. I figured there must be a reason why they think I’m a good fit for the new one. But wish me luck haha!

  5. Academic Librarian too*

    I have never been offered a job that was at my competency level. Success actually depended on support.
    Here is a list- managing a small museum retail shop.-never managed people, never managed inventory, never sourced product never did an inventory, never produced an open-to-buy. I took advantage of associations, upper management helped me find a mentor in a retired retail business owner, I took responsibility for my errors- I agreed to hire a board members daughter as a cashier- a few no-shows later, fired her over the phone- whoops.
    Brand new to a corporate position- so much knowledge was assumed, atmosphere was toxic only I didn’t know it. Dreaded every day. Second corporate position- sales- lack of training, again toxic environment, watched the clock everyday. Switched careers, became an assistant librarian and was back in school. Good training, challenging curriculum, creative independence. School librarian- crashed professional development on classroom management, curriculum, child development, emergent literacy, learning disabilities, collection development, communication skills, yada yada yada.
    No job that I love felt “easy” or that I could do it. I knew I wanted to try. AND I wouldn’t be bored.

    1. Code Monkey the SQL*

      That’s an excellent way to frame it: Success depends on support.

      Maybe that’s something you could factor into your decision-making, LW? If you feel you’re going to be offered positions above what your skillset is equipped for, ask about the support for those areas you feel are weaker.

      For me, I don’t do well in high-stress situations. They leave me chewing my nails and contemplating moving to an underground bunker in Bali. So I always ask “what does crunch time look like?” when I interview. It’s been illuminating for sure.

      1. Grapey*

        My problem is if I ask “How do you support employees in their skill development?” I feel like they will hear “I really need my hand held”.

        1. allathian*

          Well, if they’re looking to hire you for a position that’s more demanding than the position you applied to and interviewed for, it’s definitely not a problem. Also, I certainly wouldn’t want to work for an employer who expects new hires to know everything right off the bat with no support. Or for that matter, who expect people to be happy for years in the same role with no room for or expectation of professional development.

        2. Mizzle*

          A similar question could be “in a previous job, we aimed to develop skills via a mix of formal trainings, learning on the job and coaching, with ratios of roughly 10:60:30. How do you approach that here?”

          Maybe this phrasing has less of a risk of being interpreted like asking for handholding.

  6. a username*

    LW, this happens to me! I rarely get to the in person interview stage without it resulting in a job offer, but it means I have to do a lot of self evaluation to determine if I feel I’ll succeed. For my first post-grad “real” job in my field, I was hired as a contractor at a much lower level, and the “real: position opened, and I was pushed to apply by multiple employees even after iterating my lack of experience. They said they could teach me that, but I had ~the personality~. I tried to make it really really clear in the interview “I don’t have the skills to do this, but I am a good learner, here’s exactly the gaps you’d need to help me bridge.” Got hired and was told I was by far and away the best interviewer, and was promptly left to flounder for three years until I navigated my way into a position better aligned with my skills and experience at a different employer, and which I felt I did much more professional growing in.

    I tried in interviews after that pointedly ask, yknow, I perceive my biggest opportunity for growth in this position to be XYZ, can you go into detail about the training / transition for that part of the role? (if they haven’t already detailed it.) Of course that only works when you’re interviewing for the job you applied for.

    It’s definitely a rosy professional challenge to have and I don’t pretend otherwise, but I empathize and know it can be scary when you don’t successfully feel out which leaps to take and which will let you fall. Good luck!

    1. Girl Alex PR*

      Same! I’m in PR, and do well under pressure- including interviews. I can think of only one job interview I had that didn’t result in an offer and I have been employed for over 15 years at various agencies.

      Once, my HUSBAND, who is in a similar field, but not the same exact one, applied for a job using my resume. They were very similarly named and we share a personal desktop at home. He immediately realized the error, reapplied with his own resume, and when someone called offering an interview for the job, I explained that it was an accident, but that my husband had reapplied with his own resume and I felt he’d be an ideal match if they chose to speak with him. A few days later they offered ME the job. Despite the lack of interview, and just my resume and a friendly conversation.

    2. Alexander Graham Yell*

      YES. I have had to have that conversation with multiple employers, including my current one (a consulting role where I have the skills to work well with clients but had none of the background they expect – I’m an English major in a sea of accounting and finance-focused people). Happily, my current one actually gave me the training I needed and I’m feeling like I can succeed. But when people can talk to you they think you naturally understand everything and no matter of saying, “No, I really need you to spell this out for me,” can dissuade some of them.

    3. Mockingjay*

      This was the problem at ExToxicCompany: they hired on personality (Go-getters! Gumption!) rather than skills and experience. (I was laid off so I took the job, even with the red flags.) We ended up with Type A people jockeying for prominence rather than learning the skills and requirements needed to execute a federal contract. A few of us had relevant industry experience and could actually do the work, but three people couldn’t save an entire contract.

      ExToxicCompany is no more.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I definitely agree with this. While ideally, each new job would have some growth opportunities, sometimes there’s just too be a gap.
      I view it like lifting weights. Sure, I’m *confident* and *upbeat* and *positive* that if I really wanted to, in 5 years I could squat 300 pounds. But if I tried to train for that event by walking into the gym tomorrow and putting 300 pounds on my back, I’d be crushed to death… no matter how many adoring fans cheered motivational things at me. Its just too much “improvement opportunity” to overcome at once.
      However, if I made a goal for myself to put 14 pounds on my squat each month, even if sometimes I walked into the gym and wasn’t super confident I’d make that weight increase, it would be in the margin of error to recover from if I aimed too high.

  7. Mill Miker*

    I have a friend like this. He’d bump into a stranger while getting groceries, and next thing you know they’re waiving some certification/training requirements to stick him in a job he’s in no way qualified for. Every time I talk to him he’s doing some new job completely unrelated to whatever he was doing before. It’s led to a lot of interesting stories, but I’m sure his resume is a mess.

    It’s also hard to watch him go through 3 interesting, non-entry level jobs during the span of one of my job searches.

    That said, he never seems very happy with any of this, so good on you OP for trying to put in the extra effort to make sure there’s a match.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My two former workplaces tended to hire people like this. It is a disaster to work with a person placed in a role like this. They end up destroying all of the work and morale of the people who actually know what they are doing and by the time they are found out, have left a field of wreckage that takes years to clean up. In some situations this wreckage is to the company: in other situations it’s to the careers of the people who ended up damaging their careers fleeing for their lives. It is a nightmare.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I think that’s a really valid point… what does it say about an employer that’s willing to hire someone totally unqualified for the position because they “like them”. Most likely you’re not the only unqualified person they have or will hire. So even if you do well in the role, you’ll likely encounter other unqualified people. Not that there aren’t a few unqualified people in most companies, but it may be a red flag that this will be a bigger problem in that particular company and/or department.

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          Yes. Another bad situation where I’ve seen this happen was with a particular leadership position that was set up to fail. The previous incumbent was fired and the position was gapped for a long period of time. Qualified applicants passed because they could figure out that the position’s goals were unattainable with the support given and could see the red flags. So the company tried to fill the position based on charismatic applicants with ‘potential’ (just not the potential to see how bad things would be). OP, if you’re offered unsolicited Director/leadership positions again, definitely look into turnover at that position as well as what support you would be offered.

      2. Smithy*

        This right here is why this type of trend is concerning. A workplace that gets really excited about hiring one person who’s very charismatic but without significant experience will very likely hire other people that way.

        I’m in fundraising and for many nonprofits it’s a job where those roles can represent a variety of assorted fantasties. First, that charisma/being extroverted is the same as being good at the full breadth of the job. The second fantasy being that a new hire can inevitably increase funds brought in. While both of these concepts have an element of truth, an interview where this feels too dominate is just red flags all over.

        I used to have a job at an NGO where the CEO felt like she could teach anyone fundraising provided they had that “certain something”. As a result, a number of my coworkers were people I did not respect and resented – especially when I would inevitably find out how much X made after she’d been hired after sitting next to our CEO on the train.

        1. Code Monkey the SQL*

          This happens at the retail level too.

          I worked for a manager who hired people she “connected with” because, well, retail is an entry-level job, and sometimes that’s the way it is.

          But she “connected with” people who had horrible ex stories, I noticed. Every one of my co-workers seemed to have some awful boyfriend they were well rid of, except when they got back together again. (I was a transfer from another store). It was deflating to find out we’d hired yet another person who had 0 experience with stocking shelves, but plenty in terrible men, because it meant I was going to be doing a lot of the inventory myself for quite a while.

  8. anon for this*

    OP, you should ask how long they expect it to take for you to be fully successful in the role. That will help you suss out whether they have a realistic understanding of your current abilities vs the role being offered.

    Last year I took a senior, expert-level job that was a stretch for me. My boss said it would take at least a year to wrap my arms around all the elements of the position and at least 1-2 more years before I would really be fully successful. That framing was enormously helpful and has also made me more comfortable asking for guidance as I learn, plus seek out training to help develop my skills. If they expected me to be crushing it inside of a year, I would have been a lot more wary about my ability to succeed. But I have a clear plan to success and expect to be here for the long haul.

    1. Miss Moopy*

      I was going to suggest something similar – ask what support they are planning to provide to help you develop into the role.

  9. SG*

    This is giving me uncomfortable flashbacks to my first reception job… gosh, over 5 years ago now. Hired with the assurance I would be trained, they were well aware of my inexperience. I kept being asked to do miscellaneous additional tasks that were never fully explained. I think I scraped along for 6 or so miserable months before they told me it “wasn’t working out”. As demoralising and frustrating as it was, I don’t think I would have mustered the courage to quit.

    1. Academic Librarian too*

      OMG! I was the WORST receptionist. I was put on a desk with a spiral message notebook that had the forms in triplicate. The white original got picked up by the person, the pink copy got filed and the blue stayed in the book.
      I never had the temerity to ask “what is this in regards to?” and so high powered people would berate me for not taking a message. When I got the nerve, I would be told, she knows.

      1. ItalianBunny*

        Lol. That pretty much sums the entirety of my career as a Receiptionist/AA/Office Manager.
        They promise training and guidance and support…then the first day on the job comes and there i am, trying to figure it all out by myself.
        Seems like one of my skills is being able to make it work on my own (or as we say in italian: arrangiarsi.)

  10. Jennifer*

    Alison’s response made me chuckle. Thank you for using your powers for good and not evil, OP.

    It also strikes me that a lot of people are just really bad at interviewing. Far more than I realized before I started coming here. They need to just ask really specific questions about your experience and qualifications instead of just being swept away by your charisma and likability. If they aren’t going to do that, you need to do it for them.

    Ask specific questions about the day to day responsibilities and the challenges that come along with the role.

    1. Goonies for Life*

      And seriously, even the OP’s letter is charming! Speaking of using one’s power for good, the OP may consider a side hustle like coaching folks for job interviews. While the OP may not feel they have the experience for the roles they’re interviewing for, they certainly know how to nail the interviews. Good luck to you, OP.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      My guess is from her email address/signature when she contacted Alison, which was then made anonymous here.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        That’s my guess, too. I wish the whole gender angle were left out, as it comes across quite sexist, but I imagine we’d see people in the comments taking bets on it.

        1. The Vulture*

          It comes across as quite sexist when people see a reference to men’s worrying levels of overconfidence and feel attacked/that that is the REAL sexism.

          Combating sexism requires that we identify the places where men are given more leeway/assumption of skill/potential/higher pay and positions and SAY something to challenge the perception that that creates (men are more likeable/powerful/etc). The effects and insidious assumptions of sexism don’t just go away if we ignore it and never talk about it, just as we can’t wish racism away with “not seeing color”.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a woman because a lot of dudes (not all of them, but a lot) would happily accept this state of affairs as their due and cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence. Women are more likely to be socialized to question it (because they’re more socialized to question themselves).

            You’re implicitly if not explicitly associating charismatic men with incompetence and praising women as being more self aware across the board. I don’t even need to exchange the genders for this to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.

            But hey, your blog, your rules. If that’s not sexism here, culpa mea.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sexism is about an institutional power imbalance and systematic oppression.

              Women are far more likely to be socialized to doubt themselves, even when they shouldn’t. It’s not “women, yay, more self-aware.”

              1. soon to be former fed really*

                This is part of why there is a pay gap also. Women don’t negotiate hard because they downplay what they have to offer. In work, and in dating, men think little of reaching beyond their weight class.

              2. V*

                This is probably taking us off-track but I was also somewhat perturbed by the paragraph. I think it’s not the fact that men are conditioned to question themselves less and to “shoot for the stars” or whatever it is. I think there’s no arguing that. What feels off is that it’s phrased in a way that to me extends that to “many men are selfish and entitled and don’t mind taking what they don’t deserve”. It’s a much more negative sentiment than the more typical and “safe” way the cultural gender divide is usually talked about. “Women care more and are mediators” and all that trite rubbish.

                I’m left wondering whether or not I agree with what I’m subjectively reading into this paragraph (separately from it just being objectively true) and can’t seem to make up my mind. It’s a strange but very interesting position to be in. Thanks for giving me something to ponder Alison! :)

          2. Ralph Wiggum*

            You’re going out of your way to state that men will be unscrupulous in ways that women won’t.

            I think your intention was to say, “Women may struggle with this more,” but it sure sounds like “Men are unscrupulous.”

            1. Ralph Wiggum*

              Think about it this way: If I (as a man) were in the same position as the OP and read the response, it would be incredibly invalidating.

              1. nom de plume*

                No, it wouldn’t. This isn’t about your, or any men’s personal feelings. It’s about systemic imbalances that we see played out all the time.

                1. Kitty*

                  Actually yes, it’s a crappy thing to write about men. Men have feelings and you can respect that without throwing out unfair generalizations while still addressing systemic imbalances against women.

                2. Jackalope*

                  Actually no, it’s not a crappy thing to write this about men. Just as it is helpful for women to know that they are often underconfident and socialized to question themselves, it is helpful for men to know that they are socialized to think of themselves as automatically competent at tasks they undertake whether or not they actually are. If knowing this will help men take some time to thoughtfully consider their actual ability and skill set and whether it is as good of a match for a position as they think it is so they can either (to use this letter’s specific example) take the job in question or turn it down knowing it’s a bad fit, that’s a win for everyone. And helps them not be the sort of men who “cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence”. As nom de plume points out, it’s not sexism to point out an imbalance that exists that causes stress in all sorts of directions (although it has a much more deleterious affect on women).

            2. Jennifer*

              I’m also not surprised that the OP is a woman. This does not at all mean that I think all men are incompetent. However, there are men who never seem to question their abilities when they get offered jobs that are woefully under-qualified for. I just read a memoir by a woman who worked as a journalist for a very popular news network and she met some of the highest paid hosts there and found most of them to be cordial but also arrogant and not very intelligent. Some used their charisma to get their jobs, others had family connections or other connections because of the colleges/universities they attended.

              As Michelle O said: “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

            3. nom de plume*

              How did you get this from what Alison wrote? This is a wild over-interpretation that isn’t in the slightest present in her statement.

              It’s tedious that every time someone points out the ways sexism and problematic gender roles play out in the workplace, men rush to express how threatened and defensive they feel about it. Sexist gender roles that keep women back aren’t something that’s happening TO you, men.

              And calling out sexism isn’t in and of itself sexist.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                And calling out sexism isn’t in and of itself sexist.

                That, and I can’t even tell what the paragraph in question adds to the balance of Alison’s response. OP is a woman writing to a woman for advice that doesn’t intrinsically involve any men. It reads just fine with that paragraph omitted. Why even bring men up?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I bring up lots of things that aren’t strictly relevant to an answer because I think exploring the issues a letter raises is interesting. Your objection is noted.

        2. Overeducated*

          Yeah, I assumed Alison included that aside to head off the commentary. I assumed LW was a man up until then myself, just because pretty much everyone I’ve ever met with this kind of trajectory was male!

  11. hmmm*

    OP I have no doubt you are capable of doing the job for the offer you received

    Something to consider, maybe they were so impressed with your interview that they tweaked the job to best fit your experiences. The job description might have just been a guideline for what they were looking for.

    1. Marthooh*

      But why though? The OP says she has, in fact, gotten in over her head before, and that at least one of her recent offers is at a level she doesn’t think she has the experience to handle. What makes you so sure she’s wrong?

      1. orangewater*

        It makes me feel like we’ve almost gone too far in telling job hunters – especially women – that what they REALLY need is “confidence” and to “fake it till you make it.” We now seem to take for granted that anyone can do anything if they have gumption and the hiring manager believes it’s a good match. But hiring managers are fallible, and sometimes doing the job well requires building on prior experience!

        I don’t know. I don’t want to discount confidence. But I also think it’s a kind of gaslighting when you have genuine concerns and people so blithely and rigorously insist those concerns can’t possibly be true. You MUST have what it takes to do the job if they hired you. Really? Because every hire everywhere has worked out perfectly? Because no manager has ever regretted his choice? Because no employee has taken a job that is a poor fit? Why are we so eager to believe the hiring process is flawless when we know darn well that it’s not?

        And it also feels like this logic just puts the onus right back on the job seeker (especially women) – if anyone can do anything given enough faking-until-making, then clearly you failed not because you had insufficient experience or poor training, but because you lacked sufficient will. It’s never the hiring manager’s mistake and only the employee’s.

        I mean, be confident, but also be realistic.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is part of the problem with interviewing well. OP can’t tell if she is wrong. I do favor questions such as, “I do not do x and y very well and I am concerned that you will need x and y done. I won’t be able to do that right away and I am not sure if I ever will become proficient at it. What do you see that I don’t see?”

        OP, the one thing that I would caution you about is getting too far inside your own head. Reach out for more people and reach out more often. Our own thinking can limit our growth.

        The people you want to talk to are the people who have actually done the work themselves. People who are good at their jobs, many times can figure out if another person would be good at it also. I have trained a lot of people. After watching many people learn a new task, I can tell the difference between nerves and actually not understanding the job. This is an over simplified explanation: A nervous person has shaky hands but makes the correct choices OR stops and asks a question before proceeding. A person who does not understand the job either does not start the job OR bulldozes their way through it saying,”I KNOW WHAT I AM DOING!!!!” Again, this example is an oversimplification as other things also clue me in if the person will learn the job or not.

        I had a real chance to think about this when the tables turned on me and I ended up being that nervous trainee in a new-to-me field. My mentor said, “You will get this, you will be okay!” I asked her how she knew that. She pointed to a couple things. She said, “Number one you are very aware that you do not know what you need to know. This will be very helpful for you. Number two, you are sitting here with a pen and paper. Don’t take this for granted. Many people DO NOT take notes. Notes show an intention of looking back later and reviewing what we discussed. For some people writing reinforces the material. Number three, you stop when you have a question, you do not keep pressing forward and making a bigger mess. You stop when you know you have a problem. This will save you so many problems.”

        The punchline here is don’t be so judgy of your own self that you cut yourself off from opportunities. If you are working with someone who sees HOW to get you over your own hurdles, decide to let them help you over your own hurdles.

        In training, I have noticed a thing that I call a progression in questions.
        Day One: I start on a very low level covering the basics. I get questions on the par with, “What does 2 apples plus 2 apples equal?” I answer the question and show how to find the answer in the future.

        A week or so later the questions have progressed, it’s a little harder: “How do I find the area of a triangle?” Again, I answer the question and show how to find answers in the future.

        Time marches on and I can’t help but notice that the questions are much fewer, but dang! it takes me a minute or so to figure out how to answer the question. I have to laugh. One person I helped train ended up bringing me her most head-banging questions. I got to the point when I saw her walking toward me I knew the question would be a beaut. One time she brought me a question that took me over 45 minutes to figure out. She even accused me of sandbagging, that I already knew the answer and I was just not sharing it. Fortunately, I basically liked this person so I was able to just start laughing. I said, “NO. It’s YOU who do not realize that you have learned this job so well the questions you now ask are ACTUALLY HARD! You have changed and you do not even realize how much you have grown into the job!”

        I did eventually figure out her problem. She processed externally. I process internally. I had to speak my thoughts out loud so she could see that I was indeed working through the problem for her. We got through it. And she was very happy, but I said to her: “That was a tough one. Do you see what we did, how we traced the process through until we found a part that did not make sense? The answer was in the part of the process that did not make sense.” I think she got it. She probably did because she caught on to everything else previously.

        Commit to learning what you need to learn. This will help you so much.

  12. Sara M*

    Hi! Just wanted to say you’re not alone. I have this same issue. (It’s certainly less of a problem than the oppposite situation… but it IS a problem. I got myself into a huge mess once this way and got fired, most deservedly, but I was set up for failure and had no idea.)

    Good job having the self-honesty to notice and ask about this.

    I think Alison nailed the answer. Good luck!

    1. OP - Krystyn*

      Its comforting that it’s not just me! I’ve also taken a position I had no business being in, failing, and being fired. Lesson learned!

      1. Excel-lint*

        Same here, only they wanted to put me on a PIP, at which point I walked. The way it was written made it clear they had no intention of accepting my efforts at improvement; they would have shown me the door and then I would have forevermore been obligated to share that I had once been put on a PIP and let go.

        In hindsight, taking that job was partly a mistake. I was in way over my head and was basically set up to fail. But partly it was a good call, because my previous place fired my whole team a month after I’d left.

        With the way jobs have been for me, I feel like I’m in one of those video games where you have to cross the river by jumping from log to log before they capsize!

  13. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Anyone remember the 80% rule mentioned here before? I vaguely remember reading it (need to meet at least 80% of the qualifications to apply) but am also not quite sure how to quantify it and how fast it holds.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah.
      And based on recent interviews I’ve had, I have to wonder how employers accurately assess candidates. I’m finding they like glib, positive responses. Nothing in-depth and never anything negative- at all. Not even the expression of surprise over an unexpected interview requirement (like a lab practicum no one mentioned to me).

      Thinking that failure to succeed at the job is more due to the employer and their inability to assess skills and not the employee and anything they failed to do.

    2. introverted af*

      In the past I’ve looked at it just based on any listed requirements for the position – not necessarily tasks or duties or preferences, and then just counted it out and figured the percentage. I don’t treat it as a hard and fast rule. If I have done a bunch of the stuff they list for the tasks but don’t necessarily meet their requirements for softer skills (years of experience, degree (to a certain extent, obviously I’m not going to apply for an engineering job if my work is primarily administrative)), I apply. If they have a hard requirement for some kind of software skill or something like that (i.e. ‘expert level proficiency with Adobe Illustrator is a must’) that I don’t have, then I usually won’t apply.

      It’s definitely a balancing act, but I tend to lean towards applying more than not. If I think I can do the job but am maybe a bit underqualified, then I’ll let the hiring company decide if I’m qualified or not. I don’t know exactly what their must-haves are and what’s something that would just be nice to have.

  14. Lizzie L*

    I’ve been in similar situations (also a woman), and I’ve found it really helpful to ask how they onboard new hires and what they do for training. Most recently, I was offered an interview for a management position that, in my field, typically requires 3-5 more years of experience than I currently have. As I began the interview process, I was skeptical that my skills were up to par with what they wanted. But asking about what their expectations would be for me in the first 6-12 months was super helpful, as was asking about what the onboarding process would look like. Once they explained that they had a pretty thorough process for training and mentorship, I was much more confident that I could stretch into the role!

  15. lazy intellectual*

    I’m a little confused how you’re getting jobs you say you’re not qualified for when you’re not applying for them. I can understand this happening sometimes, but it happening this often is interesting!

    I don’t have much advice outside of what Alison said. However, if you’re on the young side (seems like you’re in your mid to late twenties), don’t underestimate your abilities just because of that. You can be more competent and your experience more valuable than you think.

    Side note: This letter provides some interesting insight into how to succeed at job interviews. I’ve always had the opposite problem – I get rejected a lot, including for jobs I’m presumably qualified for.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yes, OP, would be helpful to find out when and how you are figuring out that you aren’t qualified for these jobs? Is it during the interview or once you accept, you realize you’re in over your head?

      1. OP - Krystyn*

        This is not the first time that I have applied and interviewed for one job, only to be offered a completely different job. I don’t think that’s super uncommon.
        However, this is also not the first time I’ve applied for a job at my level, been offered a higher-up job, taken the job because I was flattered, and landed flat on my face because I was not at all qualified. I have to believe this is not a coincidence—I genuinely believe that my charisma “sold” me into a job I couldn’t do.

        1. Sunflower*

          As far as how common it is, it really depends on your industry and types of jobs you’re applying to. I’ve always worked in-house in a support function (ie I work for a consulting firm planning events as opposed to an event agency) so it’s always SUPER unlikely there are multiple positions in my area open.

          It’s unclear how many jobs you’ve had but were you fired/let go from any of these roles where you fell flat on your face? Or is it possible it was just new job bumps and nerves messing with you head?

          This may seem simple so sorry if you’ve done this but have you asked/these interviewers told you why they are offering you a job that isn’t the one you applied to?

          1. OP - Krystyn*

            The job that I took out of flattery and failed at, I was let go. And rightfully so.

            Truth be told, I didn’t ask why they were offering me the particular job before that I was offered and should not have taken — I assumed that the interviewer knew better than I did what they were looking for and how I would fit into the roll. That was mistake #1.

            I know now that asking the questions is the proper way to go. As I am still in offer negotiations for a new position, this is not something that I have done with the new company yet either, but I have already declined the director position that I don’t believe I should take.

  16. NW Mossy*

    OP, in some ways I think you’re ideally positioned to take Alison’s advice without it looking like a confidence issue. You seem to already have a magnetism with others that leaves them with very positive impressions of you, and against that backdrop, a “suitable for me” script is likely to land as an admirable humility rather than self-deprecation.

    I’m not surprised that you’re being steered towards management roles, given what you describe. The work of management is done via relationships – with your reports, your peers, and your upper leadership. Your interviewers are seeing the ease you have in establishing rapport and recognizing it as an asset for a relationship-driven role.

    You don’t say whether or not your charisma is something you like about yourself, so it’s hard to say if you’d be happiest leaning into this skill or downplaying it. I choose the word skill here specifically, though, because it truly is one even if it doesn’t feel that way to you. We sometimes devalue our skills when they feel “too easy,” as if skills can only be earned through great labor. That’s not necessarily true – each of us has some skills that just click with a lot more ease, and we tend to build up our abilities there without even realizing we’re doing it. It’s work, just the tiny-accumulation kind rather than the giant-leap kind.

    1. RecoveringSWO*

      “We sometimes devalue our skills when they feel “too easy,” as if skills can only be earned through great labor. That’s not necessarily true – each of us has some skills that just click with a lot more ease, and we tend to build up our abilities there without even realizing we’re doing it. It’s work, just the tiny-accumulation kind rather than the giant-leap kind.”

      This is very insightful and something I needed to hear. I think it goes along with a general theme here, that professional communication (and/or a certain amount of social skills) is a job requirement, just like competently filing your TPS reports. Thanks, NW Mossy!

    2. OP - Krystyn*

      I agree with this being so insightful and important for me to read at this moment. I truly appreciate you taking the time to comment.
      My charisma is something I do like about myself, but is also why I worry about taking a management role. Perhaps its from being a person that people are drawn to, but I enjoy being the person who is friends with everyone. That doesn’t exactly lend itself to management if I am not the kind of person who can turn off the friendship to be leader and disciplinarian when necessary.
      That being said, I think it is important for me to recognize the fact that my charisma is a skill of mine and could be attributed to some really amazing jobs in the future, even though I hadn’t considered them for myself.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        “I enjoy being the person who is friends with everyone. That doesn’t exactly lend itself to management if I am not the kind of person who can turn off the friendship to be leader and disciplinarian when necessary.”

        This is a really good thing to know and understand about yourself before you take on a management role. The primary thing I did not expect about becoming a manager is how lonely that job can be sometimes. You go from the coworker who’s friends with everybody to the boss who can be friendly but not really a friend, so it can feel like being on the outside of relationships a lot of the time. It’s important to know if that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Can you find a place in your head, where you can see yourself being concerned enough that a person would lose their job that you would actually take action and talk to the person?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      This is a very good point about how good managers use soft skills to manage. But you still often need the experience too. The best managers I’ve worked with have both sets though.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think it should read “it’s a good thing” rather than “it’s too bad”…

      1. CastIrony*

        Agreed. This joke is TOO FAR for 2020! If you watched the end of the first presidential debate in the US, you’d know why.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I love mischief as much as the next soul, but too many cults have ended in drinking the spiked kool aid for me to joke about them.

        1. Jennifer*

          People joke about many things that are dark as a way to cope with difficult circumstances. If that’s not your humor – fine, but why dictate what other people should be able to joke about?

          1. Tuesday*

            Yes, and the joke relies on the premise that obviously she doesn’t want to start a cult. It’s absurd to think that she would because cults are so terrible. The joke wouldn’t be funny if it were a real possibility, and because of that, the joke reinforces the idea that cults are awful.

    2. MC*

      I’m replying to myself here. I agree that talking about sexism is important, but it cost zero cents to not joke about cults. I’ve seen too many people on TikTok talk about escaping cults (one is too many!) for me to be okay with cult jokes.

      1. Seriously*

        Good point. We know how hilarious the Manson Family was. And poisoned Kool Aid. The stuff of comedy.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Since cult indoctrination depends on convincing people to take their nonsense seriously, it seems to me that jokes can be a helpful “vaccine” against it.

      1. allathian*

        An essential one, I would say. You can’t inspire unthinking devotion unless you have charisma and plenty of it. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and their ilk couldn’t have done what they did without the charisma to sway large crowds. The same thing applies to cult leaders, albeit on a much smaller scale. The point is that personal charisma can be used for good or evil.

  17. Ren*

    This doesn’t totally make sense. I am very good at getting jobs after interviewing, as well, and I am often contacted about jobs for which I know I’m not qualified (sometimes at very high salaries, which my current salary is fairly low) and then others for which I just worry that I’m not qualified. I just accepted a job offer that I worry about, in fact. And I’m also a woman.

    What doesn’t make sense is personality has nothing to do with applying and getting an interview (unless the employer or HR already knows you). If you were not mostly qualified, they wouldn’t offer you an interview to begin with. With my new job offer, I applied thinking I wouldn’t get a response. There were 2 or 3 “requirements” I didn’t meet, but I also met some of the preferences. They ended up contacting me that Monday (applied on a weekend), and I could tell I was their top choice (in fact, I doubt they interviewed anyone else). I believe they zeroed in on two things that ultimately got me that job, despite the requirements—neither being personality.

    This has also happened before, ie I was sought out on LinkedIn by an HR person and invited to apply for a job that paid double my salary, and I was the only candidate (had this confirmed). Definitely did not meet the requirements for that job. The job turned out to be fine, but the work culture was not for me and I went back to my old/current job.

    I know that, for me, I am in a hot industry that makes it a lot easier to get noticed and get jobs. Not sure if that might be a factor for this letter writer. It really is never about personality or charisma in my case—I am certainly not charismatic. And when I am contacted for jobs I 100% know I can’t do, I just admit that I lack whatever skills they require that I lack and see what the response is.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      [W]hen I am contacted for jobs I 100% know I can’t do, I just admit that I lack whatever skills they require that I lack and see what the response is.

      I get those a lot–probably 90% of my LinkedIn messages have resulted in a “WTF?” moment from me, and I do the same; I’m amazed how often I get a response back that ¾ of the job’s requirements are barely “nice to haves.” Of course, that means either the first email was a lie, or the reply is a lie, and why would I want to find out which it is?

    2. OP - Krystyn*

      My resume certainly speaks for itself, and I am qualified for jobs that I apply for. Key term there being apply for. The jobs that I apply for and interview for are well within my wheelhouse.
      As I stated below, I live and work in a city where my industry is not prevalent, and therefore does not attract a ton of industry-specific candidates. So I have always attributed my high application to interview ration to being one of the industry-specific candidates that has chosen to make my city my home.
      The job offer being way higher than I believe my experience qualifies me for is a different issue — its also not the first time this has happened.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        If you’re applying to be Teapot Design Analyst II, and you’re comfortable and confident in doing a normal Teapot Design Analyst II’s role and responsibilities, and the employer is coming back and offering you a Director of Teapot Design with appropriate pay and responsibilities, I would have a candid discussion with the hiring manager about where your experience is, your skills, their expectations, etc.

        But, at the end of the day, if their expectations are sane and they want to pay you a Director of Teapot Design’s salary to grow into that role, there’s a very good case to be made for thanking your lucky stars and taking the job. In those dimensions, Alison’s advice is prescient.

        It could be that they see your potential and think you’d be even more valuable coaching up a half-dozen others than being just a standout yourself.

        1. Just a Thought*

          Except OP has already indicated that she has failed a couple of times. She needs and wants more experience/training and is asking how to get it.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Except OP has already indicated that she has failed a couple of times.

            Hence the candid discussion. But just because it didn’t work last time doesn’t mean it can’t work the next time.

  18. Georgina Fredrika*

    ” Once unemployment ran out, I started applying for jobs—roughly eight to 10 places—and interviewed at seven of those places”

    What? That’s an amazing track record, and it’s happening BEFORE you get into the interview/charisma. I am guessing it has something to do with a niche industry (I could be one of the top applicants everywhere I apply but b/c of the industry, I know I won’t hear back from 4/5 because they simply get 50 resumes and don’t sift through them all) but maybe that’s a sign that it’s not totally… charisma at work

    1. OP - Krystyn*

      This is really a good point; while I don’t consider myself to be in a niche industry, I have done well for myself as far as building a resume that speaks for itself. I also live in an area where an “artsy / glamorous” industry, such as media/PR/communications, doesn’t have as many companies and therefore has less of an industry specific candidate pool.

  19. Elle by the sea*

    That’s so interesting, especially the fact that different people react differently in that situation.

    I’ve had similar experiences myself. Although I’ve been told I’m charismatic, I’m neither particularly like nor comfortable in front of crowds. But I guess I’m a bit like the “dudes” Alison mentioned, even though I’m a women. Because I enjoy this type of challenge. I’ve always been in schools and jobs that were way above my experience level and beyond my capabilities. I don’t think I have ever felt competent in anything, but feeling like I’m the least smart person in the room makes me feel alive. I struggle and work hard to get to the level the job requires and that’s a wonderful feeling.

    1. OP - Krystyn*

      My dad always said to me “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” (I am aware that he did not coin this phrase).
      Even though that’s the mindset that I try to have, its undoubtedly nerve-wracking to willingly take on positions where you have no option but to sink or swim. I truly admire your attitude!

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I admire your attitude, because it shows humility and self-awareness, which I rarely see with people who have got used to popularity. And by the way, your dad sounds great.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Having said that, however, I do suspect that it’s just a case of imposter syndrome that you need to overcome or embrace and turn it into your advantage. A job you feel unqualified for might get you out of your comfort zone and take you to new heights. It’s important to constantly learn new things and improve your skill set on the job, at least to me. But people do differ on this.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        As I go along in life I have become more and more grateful for the people who are smarter than me, OP. But something I have seen over and over, sometimes all that is needed is a well-framed question with good timing.

        I was in a meeting for my department one time. We had recurring problem ABC. Because the problem came up randomly it was really hard to nail down a solution. Our boss said something along the lines of “We know the grass is green and the sky is blue.” I said, “Are we sure the sky is blue?” My coworkers shrunk down in their chairs they were so embarrassed for me because my question was that basic. Finally, a tiny voice slowly says, “Well. No, we’re not sure. Because here’s what happened yesterday when ABC happened to me [insert story].” With that the boss said, “OMG, you guys can’t be handling this. You’re not authorized. NO wonder you’re having difficulty. The next time you see A or you see B, come get me right away. I will handle it.”
        Sometimes a well-thought out question is all that is needed.

  20. OP - Krystyn*

    Hi everyone! OP here.
    I’ve only recently begun reading this blog, but I am blown away at how thoughtful all the commenters are! Thank you all for taking the time to respond.
    Here are a few more details to add to my question, to help answer some of the questions I see in the comments:

    1.) I applied for a communications associate position at a well-established, small-to-medium sized media company in my city. The position had no direct reports. From what I understood of the wanted ad, the job was mainly focusing on customer outreach, public relations, social media, that kind of thing. All things that I consider myself to be great at. The day after the interview, I followed up with the person who interviewed me and was told that they were working on an offer. Later that same day, I was contacted by the VP of Communications (he was also in my interview but said almost nothing to me—I thought he was just observing). He offered me the position of Communications Director (ahhhhh!). This position has about 5 direct reports, and also takes on the responsibility of not only managing the team but also delegating projects, customer service management, and handling the bulk of the “big picture” projects from the company’s larger clients. Total dream job but sounds waaaayyyy more advanced than I would be comfortable taking on based on my previous work history. The offer came out of the blue for me as my management experience begins and ends with managing a drive in movie theater in my hometown when I was 16.

    2.) I truly had not considered that perhaps I am qualified for this position, but suffering from a lack of confidence. However, I can see how I might thrive in a director position based on my “people-person” personality. It’s truly not something I had considered for myself.

    3.) Of the 7 jobs I interviewed for, I got 5 job offers. 2 of them were similar to positions I had been in before (both in the PR/communications realm). Of the 3 that were at a higher level, 2 were at a manageably higher level, and I purposefully applied and interviewed for those positions. The position this question is in reference to is a company for which I’d absolutely love to work, but not sure I’m ready for the job they offered me.

    I’ll try to respond to comments in turn as well.

    Thank you all so much, again, for all the advice!

    1. Lance*

      Regarding the director role, or similar: I think that ultimately depends on you. It could be worth really diving down and questioning yourself on how you might manage people or projects (helpful if you have before, to any degree); especially if that’s a type of role you might like in the future (even if you may choose not to now), it can be worth thinking about regardless.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Thanks for the additional information. In your shoes, I’d be super frank with the VP about why you have hesitation about taking the Director role. Let him know that it is a role you’d love to have in the future, but don’t feel that you are well placed to take now. There might be a chance that you could be hired into a role that is geared to develop your skills into what the Director role would need over time. One of my friends did this and it worked for her and in 5 years (and tons of valuable training and professional development later) she was in her dream job (and still is!)

    3. Sunflower*

      I’d start with asking how many levels of difference there are between job titles because they vary from place to place and about the main differences in the roles. For example, a director at my friends non-profit is a job you can get with 3-5 years experience. At my firm, you’d need at least 15.

      When you’re reading job descriptions and applying for them, are you only looking at titles or at years experience needed? Most jobs will list a years experience and may flex a bit but they aren’t going to hire someone with 4 years experience for a job that they want 10. Sometimes I’ll see jobs that look right and then discover once I get to that part that I’m either greatly over or underqualified. I’ve seen Manager jobs that are entry level and Associate jobs that want 10 years experience!

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      “Communications Director” with no real experience of management before?

      … but then a Communications Director would have “about 5 direct reports”? Would any of those people also have their own reports, so that you would ultimately (directly or indirectly) oversee about 20-1oo people, or would you be a Director of 5 people and handling the other stuff personally? (In which case I had a similar role with the title of “Supervisor”…!)

      Maybe it’s a UK/US thing, but here in the UK a ‘Director’ of such-and-such would typically be someone with 15-20 plus years of experience, or else an actual (financially registered, with fiduciary obligations) director on the board of the company. There’s no way someone applying to be a “communications associate” here could somehow ‘accidentally’ end up being a “Director” of the company…

      1. Roeslein*

        I think it’s industry dependent. I’m no longer in the UK but still working for a UK company, and “director” in my industry is typically around the 10-years mark. The title is also more about client / business development responsibilities than number of reports.

      2. Overeducated*

        This really varies based on the size of the hiring organization within the US. Some places have a lot of different levels – e.g. mine goes: assistant, specialist, supervisory specialist, manager, deputy, associate director, then director, with someone having 5 direct reports likely being at a supervisory specialist or manager level. “Director” is the head of the organization, and “associate director” is the highest-level department/division head. But smaller organizations don’t need so many layers, and at the smallest level a director can oversee an entire department of front-line people while reporting directly to the top of the organization. I think the transition from contributor to manager is a big one regardless though!

    5. NoSleepTillHippo*

      I think I’m a lot like you in the charisma department. I’m also one of those people who generally gets offered a job if I make it to an in-person interview (though, probably due to the types of jobs I apply for, I’ve never been offered a higher-level job instead). And like you, I know my personality helps me excel at the sort of customer-relations-type jobs out there. (Ironically, I’m also exhausted by all the personal interaction – I often characterize myself as a ‘charismatic introvert,’ haha.)

      All this to say: I’ve been fortunate enough to manage a small team before (service desk for a tech company), and I found that those skills/traits also served me really well as a manager. It’s a different application of the skill set, for sure – it might be worth thinking through what you like best about the jobs you’ve had before. Was it meeting new people every day? Solving people’s problems and leaving them in a good mood? Telling people all about the wonderful thing you’re selling and piquing their interest? etc. Those answers might help you get a sense of what skills and interests you already have that may or may not translate well into management.

      Personally, I LOVED managing my team because it meant I was applying my people skills with people I already knew, in service of improving their quality of life at work, solving problems and completing projects as a team. I’d never been in management before and didn’t have any supervisory experience, but I had tons of other experience that translated well. (Not to mention I avidly follow this blog, which definitely helped!) I’m still close with a couple of my direct reports from that job, and they’ve told me outright I was the best boss they’ve ever had. (I know it sounds braggy but I swear to you those were their exact words.)

      All this to say: just because you don’t have the experience doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have the skills. Sounds like you might! But if you think it through and still feel like you’re not ready, there’s absolutely no shame in being honest about that. I think most reasonable people would find that admirable. Best of luck, whatever you choose!

    6. LilyP*

      For what it’s worth, I think the difference between a talented individual contributor and a team/department leader *is* much more about somewhat subjective stuff like temperament, interpersonal skills, vision, or good judgement than about hard job skills. Like, a communications director doesn’t need to write social media posts that are four times better than the ones written by a communications associate, or know about secret social media SEO tricks or something. They need to have good ideas, build strong relationships with other teams, follow up and push work forward, sell a vision to executives, etc. Obviously those are skill you will improve on with practice, but it’s not crazy for someone to see in an interview that you have great interpersonal/communication skills, good judgement and drive and want you for the job for those factors alone — those absolutely are some of the most important qualities in a director, and they’re not ones that necessarily scale linearly with years of experience.

      You should definitely talk about their expectations in more detail if you’re thinking about taking it, but they might not be nuts.

    7. Dagny*

      Throwing this out there: if you are very, very smart, or have a skill that is lacking in communications/PR (math ability, etc.), this makes sense. People who do communications/PR are really all over the board – you get some people who are straight-up brilliant and others who are kind of flaky and go into “social media” because they think it’s easy and it’s what they do all day. I personally know a few people in the former category who are running their own very successful businesses by 30.

  21. Exhausted Trope*

    OP, this is very similar to my interviewing experiences. I can interview really well and show a great deal of confidence. Plus, I’m charismatic when I want to be. (I’m an ambivert.) When I secured my last position, my manager threw me to the wolves thinking that I could do well with no training. It was a nightmare and I resigned pretty fast. She just refused to train me and kept claiming that I swore I could do the job during my interview. I did but not without training. I was told that I got the position because everyone loved me. It’s such a double-edged sword.

    1. OP - Krystyn*

      I empathize with this so much. I’ve certainly been in a position before where I was drowning but told that according to my previous work history, I should be able to swim. Its extremely demoralizing–hence why I am hesitating now!

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a woman because a lot of dudes (not all of them, but a lot) would happily accept this state of affairs as their due and cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence.

    Heh, I didn’t really read any particular gender in to this letter, but if I’d read this and then been magically asked “what’s the gender of the OP?” I’d have almost certainly said male!

    So I had to reflect on why I thought this, and I identified:

    – Being assumed to be more competent in “factual” fields than what was stated. Generally because of the male ‘knowing more things’ bias I suppose.
    – I’ve never known women, only men, being described as things like ‘magnetic’, ‘charismatic’, a ‘certain je ne sais quoi’, etc.

    Btw, I too get stopped on the street for conversations with strangers. I doubt that is a “magnetic”, “charismatic” level of interaction in itself. I am in line in the supermarket and people always seem to talk to me — why? Probably because they are more bored by waiting in line than by a potentially interesting stranger. Or I’m the only person they’ve talked to all day and I look approachable. Or I look like a ‘local’ because of the way I comport myself in my own town, so they ask me for directions and so on.

    I’d be impressed if people were stopping OP on the street to ask their opinions of Cartesian dualism, the current state of [such and such political situation] or the merits of this or that economic and fiscal policy, or similar. I suspect they are actually just asking “where is the library, please”?!

    1. OP - Krystyn*

      Though I have, indeed, been stopped by strangers who ask me where the library is, that’s not what I consider a conversation. I very purposefully used the word conversation to describe my run-ins with strangers on the street who talk to me because I know what constitutes a conversation.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            To be clear, what I meant was I am a bit of a ‘thinker’ and so on myself, but sadly the extent of my interactions in public are things like “where is the library”, in the absence of anything more profound!

    2. Grapey*

      “I’ve never known women, only men, being described as things like ‘magnetic’, ‘charismatic’, a ‘certain je ne sais quoi’, etc.”

      I have only when they are extremely conventionally attractive.

    3. Blackcat*

      I exude “helpful stranger” apparently. Which I suppose is fair–I will help strangers! What baffles me most is that I also apparently exude “helpful multilingual stranger.” I could not look more an English-only speaker (my brother did an ancestry thing and we are like 95% British/Scottish/Irish genetically, a rather impressive percentage given the length of time our family has been in the US), but people regularly come up to me and ask me for help in other languages. Spanish is not a problem, and I can muddle through several romance languages and even a bit of Haitian Creole (there’s a large Haitian population near me), but I am entirely useless with any Asian language.

      I also interview really well, but I’ve always attributed that in part to a lot of time doing theater and my time teaching. I think fast on my feet and can *pretend to me* very friendly and interested in what’s being said to me.

      I don’t really think these two things are related in my case, though.

  23. anon73*

    I can understand not wanting to accept a job that is above your realm of experience, so I like what Alison is suggesting – make them answer WHY they think you’d be good for a higher level position, because if it’s mostly based on general personality traits, you could be setting yourself up for failure. But just make sure you’re not selling yourself short. Maybe they’re seeing something in you that you aren’t seeing in yourself, and if they’re willing to give you the opportunity. If it’s something that appeals to you, I say go for it!

  24. Mbarr*

    Such an interesting situation (and thanks OP for your updates in the comments above)!

    I feel your pain – I’ve interviewed my way into many roles I’m not qualified for… But I’ve assured my new workplaces, “I’m a super fast learner!” which is true, and I’ve always thrived.

    … Thrived until my most recent job. I definitely got hired into a role I’m not qualified for and was floundering in. I tried getting mentoring. I attended online LinkedIn training sessions. I asked so many questions… But the job was just too technical for me to follow.

    Thankfully Lady Luck was on my side and I got re-org’d into a new team where the work is (somewhat) more manageable. I’m also making a conscious effort to remind myself that this industry/company has a very high learning curve, so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

    Fingers crossed for you OP!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      “I’ve interviewed my way into many roles I’m not qualified for”

      I’m really curious how you do this. Because I have 25+ years of progressive experience in my field (also communications LOL!), and I still cannot talk my way into director levels I am definitely qualified for based on prior experience industries, and education. But I am not an outgoing person, and not always the best in face-2-face interviews, though I’m comfortable when I get to know people. Plus, now Age.
      So, it’s baffling to me how one can just talk their way into jobs.

      1. Mbarr*

        I should clarify that the jobs I apply for are somewhat tech related jobs… E.g. I got a job administering Salesforce, even though I’d never used Salesforce before (the IT department did the heavy lifting of administration, but I submitted requirements, troubleshooted, etc.).

        Same thing with my previous role in Finance and working with SAP… I’d never worked in Finance, nor did I use SAP before, yet somehow to got hired on to help a project team launch SAP throughout a multinational company. I learned fast, and helped with the transition.

      2. Mbarr*

        Also, most of my interviews are a result of personal referrals, so I get to skip the queue of resumes, which reaaaaally helps.

  25. Silly Goose*

    OP, I too, interview very well. I haven’t done a lot, because thankfully I havent had to. However, to illustrate, I had the weird experience of starting a job having never met anyone in the entire company… Just one phone interview and one phone salary negotiation. I was leaving someplace toxic – so don’t judge.

    I kept saying things like, “I have no experience in Teapot Design, is that going to be an issue?” Only to be told that, no, they have Teapot Engineer Specialists and anything I needed to know I would get training for. Go figure.

    I think one thing that happens is people go “this person is easy to get along with and has most of the skills” and as has been pointed out elsewhere on AAM, skills can be taught more easily. So I just try to be really clear where I do and don’t have experience.

    I think it has actually helped me in interviews because there’s no guessing where my skills are… I will clearly say I do NOT know Z, so when I say I’m pretty confident with Y, they know I’m probably not just blowing steam. I almost feel like I spend my interview saying I’m looking for fit so if you want (list of things) I’m not the person to hire – on repeat. Yet I have been offered every job I have ever interviewed fo.

  26. Silvermoonlight*

    OP, I am a communications professional at a Fortune 100 company who was just promoted to Senior Manager on Monday. I have spent my entire career (11 years so far) in communications/public relations. I hope my experience/insight can be helpful for you.

    1) Titles vary widely in comms, esp in in-house roles vs agency roles. When I was at PR agencies, I saw VPs get hired into in-house comms positions at Director level. Yet their pay was higher.

    2) In 2015, I was offered a Global Comms Manager role at a tech start-up. I felt the title was a bit inflated for my experience, but in keeping with the inflated titles you often see at start-ups (25yo CEOs?). I quit that job and landed at a Fortune 100 company, taking a title cut down to Senior Specialist–but with substantially more pay. It would be another two years before I earned the Manager title again, and I had to work much harder for it because it was at my current Fortune 100 company.

    3) At my current company, ages vary widely for the exact same title. I’ve seen 35yo Senior Managers and 48yo Senior Managers. Salary ranges are also very wide for the same title, some $20-30K, which explains why people can stay in the same title and yet keep earning more money every year.

    4) You say this offer for Director comes from a SMB media company, which supports my “start-up” observation that titles are often inflated at smaller companies. It’s often to help cover the many, many hats you will need to wear. In larger companies, there are enough staff to fill the gaps (usually), but in smaller ones, everyone has to be a jack/jill of all trades. Keep that in mind–you wouldn’t be able to grow into this role. You’ll have to come prepared.

    5) If my calculation is correct, you’re probably around 28. At this age, you might not be at the level where jobs require you to do projects/tests/presentations as part of the interview process. So walking in with dynamic charisma and good preparation is probably all you need to do well in an interview. This is even more true for smaller companies that might be scrambling for good talent–they might make the interview process easier than it should be so as not to scare off talent. Whereas larger companies, esp established/Fortune 500 companies, can afford to have more difficult interviews because they get enough candidates to be picky. Think of the interview process at Google vs. a tech start-up no one’s heard of.

    1. Sunflower*

      Thanks for this comment! This sounds veryyyyyy much like my experience as well working in events but you put the thoughts together much better than I could have. Esp regarding the titles- I was a coordinator at a law firm making more money than my friend, a director at a non-profit. When she started looking in the for-profit world, she refused to take a title step down and as expected, never found a job. It can definitely be confusing and frustrating as a job seeker so I’ve needed to really read through postings and descriptions as well as do some recon on the company.

      1. Silvermoonlight*

        You’re welcome, I’m glad it was helpful! I long ago gave up judging a job posting solely on its title but rather immediately skip down to the years of experience required. In my experience, that is the best empirical measure for whether a job is a good fit (though of course not the only measure).

        And yes, titles definitely aren’t indicative of salaries. The VP from the PR agency I mentioned got a major pay boost for taking a title cut to Director at Pandora.

      2. Overeducated*

        That’s so funny to me – I’ve seen the title/salary/experience mismatch across employers in my field as well (not comms), and I’d definitely take a title step down for a salary increase. I’m all about the money!

  27. MissDisplaced*

    I mean, wow! You really are the proverbial purple unicorn aren’t you? I find this so interesting as I’m probably the polar opposite. It must be nice in many ways to be so confident and comfortably outgoing. But I totally get the downside too (there always is). I have to ask this, although it’s not really relevant to your job question: Do you consider yourself, or do others consider you to be exceptionally good looking? Is that part of why people are drawn to you? Not that you aren’t also smart and kind and capable, but well, let’s be honest, people are ‘pulled in’ by exceptionally good looks. It’s human nature and I just wondered if it factors in at all.

    Assuming you really don’t have any impostor syndrome, and you fully understand and trust where you’re at regarding your own abilities, preferences and career goals, I think Alison’s advice about quizzing the hiring manager about “why” they feel you should be at a higher level is good. You are right to be somewhat wary of taking on too much too soon, especially when it comes to managing other people and teams. Or also, it may be you just have a preference for being an individual contributor rather than management for the time being — and there is nothing wrong with wanting less hassle and responsibility of management, even if you are capable of doing much more. Being an IC often means more creativity and hands-on work, which is the appeal for a lot of people.

    That said, I also think it’s good to challenge oneself into progressively harder or more challenging stretch roles. The key is when you feel ready to take it on. I get from your letter that you really do have a good assessment of where you’re at on your career trajectory and you should probably trust that instinct. I hope you find the right fit that maybe allows you to do a little of both! I also hope you find a great manager who understands this and can challenge you to grow, but at a pace you’re more comfortable with. Best of luck!

    1. Silly Goose*

      FWIW, I get comfortably chatty when I’m nervous, which seems to make me charismatic for an interviewee. See my above comment on getting a job offer without having met people. It could be OP is good looking… But it could also be charisma.

      Speaking of which, I know someone who met Bill Clinton. Didn’t like him before or after, but expressed that he has so much charisma you couldn’t help wanting to shake his hand. So it appears as if this might be some kind of super rare trait that really exists.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I met Steve Jobs once. While I wouldn’t say he was a bad looking guy (back in the day), he was what I would call magnetic and intense, but also sharp and funny. Same with Bill C. Many thought him a good looking fellow at one time. I would say the same with Trump even. In the 80’s he was considered quite the playboy (ok dating myself with that one). Maybe people also remember the looks though? IDK? I’ll always remember Steve Jobs as that dark haired guy, and not how he looked when he became ill.

        Nothing wrong with being blessed with good looks anyway. But I seem to remember some kind of study that showed good looking people got more and/or better job offers which is why I’m asking. Obviously, OP is getting past the initial screening based on resume skills, but I wondered if looks played any factor in often being offered higher level than what was initially applied for.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        I didn’t mean the good looking thing to be weird, but I’ve seen some studies that did indicate good looking people tended to get more and much better job offers. Whereas better qualified but older or not so good looking or poc were passed over.

    2. Nicotene*

      Weirdly also, it’s my friends who have a *certain* look – not even my most objectively attractive friends!! – that I see this happening to. It’s very odd. I have a friend I honestly had to stop going out with because every time we sat down someone was asking to buy her a drink. Every time she went to the bathroom they would slide over to me and ask me for her number!! (Felt great). She was statuesque and well put together, clearly put in effort in terms of her hair/makeup/nails/clothes and she had a sort of a light, summer-y look to her that was apparently irresistible – but honestly, she was not my best looking friend, nor thinnest, nor even bustiest. I guess it’s like models, they say those girls aren’t always the best looking but rather they have a certain look.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I do know what you mean! Attractive but maybe not Supermodel quality.
        Because I guess exceptionally attractive model-good looks are just too intimidating/sexy, but attractive better than average, yet somehow not too attractive is somehow seen as more approachable?

        Attractive + Smart + Extroverted = Opportunity Knocks Far More Often!

        Even when I was younger and definitely more attractive than now, I still never had jobs just fall into my lap, or been offered above and beyond what I’d applied for. It’s more like I fought tooth and nail to get where I’ve gotten to. So, I’ve read these responses with some interest, trying to figure out just what it is they “do” that they’re offered all these great opportunities all the time.

  28. AnotherLibrarian*

    I sympathize OP. I seem to be weirdly good at phone screens. Like 90% of them lead to in-person interview offers and while I appreciate that, it has led me to feel like I am wasting people’s time when I realize during the in-person (usually day long as I am in higher ed) that the position would be a horrible fit for me. I’d had to pull out of several pools, because of this. You are not doing anything wrong! But I do think Alison has some great advice about just finding out what they want. In my current job, which has been a reach for me, I spent a lot of time talking with my boss before accepting the position to be certain that I could do most of the work, even though it would be my first management job and I was going to be running a department.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I have 25+ years in graphic design, managing a teams of designers, digital communications and communications at global companies. I get lots of calls and phone screens and often move to the next level. Then when they see me. Well, lets just say age discrimination is a real thing. I’m sure I’m not the only one this happens to.

      I think they’re thrown off because I only graduated in 2013 with my M.A.

  29. Tidewater 4-1009*

    When I was young and very clueless, more than once I found myself in a job I was poorly suited for and it was a nightmare each time that led to being yelled at and fired.
    I was so naive/inexperienced/clueless I didn’t understand what had happened and put it together later in life. The jobs were entry level in trades or restaurants and the employers made assumptions about me that weren’t true, and I hadn’t realized it.

    Now I’m looking for a job in a field where I’ve had one job and didn’t know until I was laid off that it wasn’t a high-level job. Most of the postings want skills and experience I don’t have. I want to continue in this field because I enjoy it.

    I’m being *very* careful not to accidentally talk my way into a job above my abilities. There are plenty of opportunities for that, too. Ads for consultants to come in and take charge of a client’s product line, with promises of prestige, etc. Anyone who talks a good game will get hired. We’ve all seen these people. For me that would be nightmare of stress and unrealistic expectations.

    I’m applying only for jobs I sincerely think I can do. I took a class for the most common skill and I’m comfortable with it, though I know it will be a lot more complex in real life.

    I think I blew an interview last winter because of being too hesitant – it’s a balance between being confident in your skills and experience, and not letting a not-so-competent employer project their needs on you. Especially as women – men often project all their needs on us. I’m sure you’ve noticed that, OP. They do that with work too. “Oh good, we hired Tidewater and she’ll solve all our problems, she’s a superhero who can do anything!”
    That’s what they’re looking for, but that’s not what we are.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, try to determine if they have unrealistic expectations. Being agreeable and charming makes it more likely they’ll think you’re a superhero who can save them. Alison’s script about the management position helps determine this.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      “Oh good, we hired Tidewater and she’ll solve all our problems, she’s a superhero who can do anything!”

      Oh boy, was I ever in those shoes once at a startup. And the owner was just so horrible too. I made $60k (same salary as my previous job) and he thought that was too much, so he used it constantly to bully and tear down how I wasn’t living up to that salary. Nothing was ever right. What a nightmare.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I worked for one of those too! It was always something with her. She’s the most destructive and evil person I’ve ever known.

  30. ro*

    For what it’s worth, I am similar – I think there’s only one or two jobs where I haven’t gotten an offer after interviewing (my issue is a bit of an irregular work history, so getting to the interview is a challenge). And similarly, it’s sometimes beyond what I’m comfortable with. However, I also know that I am the kind of person who thrives in sink-or-swim situations (which is not the net positive you might think — this is basically because I built up horrible procrastination habits and am emotionally very flat for various non-work reasons so, extreme stress is one of the few things that keeps me motivated; it’s likely you are much better adjusted and can have a happier, more sustainable working life than I)

    However, is it possible you’re selling yourself short? Maybe they expect to be training you up into the role or they see something particular about your experience that you don’t? Also, for what its worth, I really admire people who have a good sense of their strengths and preferences – it’s not at all easy to discern!

  31. CRM*

    I feel your pain OP, this happened to me too. I had industry experience that was rare for my region, and that plus my good interviewing skills landed me a position that I thought would be a doable challenge. It turned out the person I had replaced was a subject matter expert who was 20 years into her career. I was absolutely NOT at that level. Luckily for me, there were other things going on that prompted me to start job searching again soon after I started (there was some serious toxicity on that team), so I left well before anyone realized that I was not experienced enough for the role. I doubt I would have done very well if I had stayed, they may have even fired me. I am now really skeptical of applying for any “stretch” jobs.

    Anyways, I think Alison’s advice and the advice from the comments is good. Best of luck!!

    1. Nicotene*

      This is a great question for OP to ask in future situations: How much experience did the prior person have in the role? (and ff there’s a gap, how does the company anticipate that playing out?) I suppose if it’s a newly created role there may be more flexibility anyway.

  32. Gregorio*

    OP, please provide some of those interview superpowers to me because I’m horrible at interviews, I’m the opposite, strike out rate is probably 99.9999999%.

    1. Nicotene*

      I suspect this is one of the reason OP is able to succeed: most people are really terrible at interviews. They get nervous and clammy and wilt under pressure. Not all, but most people are not at their best. Kinda like how some kids are just naturally good test takers!!

      1. Paris Geller*

        I’ve never thought of it that way, but yeah, I was a great test-taker in school, even if I wasn’t particularly good at the subject. I can’t say that I could waltz an A in a test in a subject I had no knowledge in, but I seemed to intuitively grasp the “language” of tests and correct answers, but I get nervous and clammy in interviews like you mentioned. I too would like some of the OP’s interview superpowers, but it’s important to remember that both interviewing well and test-taking well are different skills that in the end don’t actually necessarily demonstrate mastery of a subject or a job.

  33. Usagi*

    I’m so glad this was asked! I’m in the same boat, my wife (I’m a man) frequently comments on how I’m able to talk my way into anything, most of the time without really meaning to (e.g., I get along so well with our server that they offer us free dessert). I’ve run into the same thing with job interviews, and like the LW I have found myself in roles where I was in over my head. I’ve learned since then, and am very honest about what I am capable of with the interviewer/hiring manager/whoever is offering me a position. Thankfully in most cases this comes off as very positive, as in they see me as more self aware and are appreciative I didn’t put them into a bad situation by hiring someone incompetent. All of Alison’s advice is awesome! Thank you both for bringing up this topic, as this ability (?) is useful and at times amusing, it has definitely gotten me into trouble in the past — honestly, to make things appear worse (but the end result was okay?) even though I was in over my head I still managed to talk my way into trainings and mentorships that then led to me eventually being successful in that role… it was a very “fake it till you make it” situation. It was extremely stressful, though, so I never want to do that again.

  34. Jane Austin Texas*

    I’m going to have to politely disagree with the advice given! It’s your interviewers responsibility to evaluate your skills against the job at hand and decide whether or not someone can perform the essential functions of the position… *even if* you’re not strictly qualified! And if the interviewer thinks you’re qualified and you’re interested in/think you would be successful in the role, well, I would tell you to take the leap. Sometimes a leap of faith can lead to great opportunities and I would not tell you to pass those up just because you’re not strictly qualified on paper. Nobody is 100% qualified for every job!

    So go forth with your bad self, but know this about yourself and your presence, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to be sure the job is a match on your end, too. Good luck!!

    1. Usagi*

      I don’t disagree with your sentiment; sometimes the interviewer might know something you don’t, or see potential in you, or something like that. I think the risk here though is that you’ll end up in a role that’s way over your head, you fail miserably, get terminated… and now you need to look for a job with that on your “record.” When a potential employer is calling for references, your (at this point former) employer isn’t going to tell them, “well, our interviewer thought they could do the job, but I guess they were wrong, that’s our bad,” they’re going to say, “[employee] accepted a job they couldn’t handle.” At best this looks like you didn’t do well in that context, and at worst it makes you look like you have bad judgement and had no business taking that role.

      Again, totally don’t disagree with your sentiment! I think there’s a balance between knowing what you’re capable of, and, as you said, taking a leap of faith.

      1. Jane Austin Texas*

        For sure, you shouldn’t be taking, like, a VP job, and there’s discretion that needs to be exercised by both parties in a situation like this.

        BUT (1) there’s no reason to think that you’re automatically unqualified (2) the time to take risks is when you’re young (I think OP mentioned this, or maybe I’m reading this in), (3) leaving a job for a bad fit isn’t the end of the world and it happens to a lot of people.

        And, of course, this is all predicated on your personal risk tolerance. I’m just saying, don’t dismiss this out of hand.

        Full disclosure: I somehow talked myself into a director-level job from an assistant-level job when I was too young to know better. Then my manager left and the new manager promoted me over my far more senior peer colleague. The first 18 months of that job were *ridiculously* hard, but I had opportunities that nobody else my age had and I was able parlay that experience into a great career. I know that’s not everyone, and it certainly could have gone the other way, but my manager took a risk with me, too, and was invested in my success. Risks can be positive!!

  35. soon to be former fed really*

    Some people are good at interviewing, some at test taking. The problems is, both have serious limitations in evaluating complex human beings. There are perfectly good candidates who simply do not interview well, and very knowledgeable people who simply do not test well. These norms work against those not part of the majority culture, and work to perpetuate disparities in the workplace and society at large. It’s a problem that I don’t think will ever be solved.

    As far OP is concerned, never take a job that you don’t think is a good fit, even if you were able to talk yourself into getting an offer. Perhaps you should be more discerning during the entire job hunting process.

  36. Petty editor*

    Fellow femme-identifying people, please learn that a 75% qualification *does* qualify you for the job. You are meant to stretch skills and adapt to new expectations to advance in your career, not be at 100% functionality from day one. Think about mastery 6 months out, excellence after more than a year. This is how men are raised in society to expect their advancement to go, and how the workplace treats them.

    I wish for all of us to have the confidence of a mediocre white cis man.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I’ll have the confidence of a mediocre white cis man if and only if I’m given the same leeway to fail without serious repercussions like one, thank you very much.

      It’s all well and good to advocate for stretch opportunities, but I’m the one who has to bear the consequences of being expected to be closer to 100% from day one.

  37. orangewater*

    This is so hard!

    I also have the good fortune of interviewing well. It can be quite hard for me to get called in for an interview because my work history tells kind of a weird story – but if I can get in the door, I have a good shot. It’s a nice problem to have, don’t get me wrong!

    But I recently took a new job that I’m struggling with quite a lot, and I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. It seems clear that I really should have been hired into a lower-level role, which was in fact the role I inquired about in the first place. It was my new manager who said I had the chops for the higher-level job, and frankly she…just wasn’t correct. But I took the job because I trusted her on this.

    When you google around about this kind of thing, you get many (many, many) admonitory articles telling you not to have imposter syndrome and to be more sure of yourself. Which…okay, yes, that’s a real problem in some situations. But I also think it is absolutely within the realm of possibility that some hiring managers sit across the table from an affable candidate who was at least good enough to pass the initial screening, and are so relieved to find someone they LIKE that they tell themselves that any wrinkles can be ironed out. And that’s not always true, sometimes you legitimately need some other kind of prior experience than what you have.

    In retrospect, if I could go back to my interview, I’d push harder for details on HOW, exactly, they would propose to help me bridge the gap in my experience. It turns out, what they had in mind was me attending meetings and just sort of…asking the right questions to pick it all up. Not a super great plan honestly.

  38. Robin Ellacott*

    Kudos to OP for self-awareness! A lot of people would just buy into the positive reactions without parsing it out.

    I think questions are your friend here – ask what specific qualities other people who succeeded in that role had and so on, and match their list with your own knowledge of yourself.

    Interestingly we hired someone who interviewed REALLY well who did not have that self knowledge, and while she is okay she is nothing like the interview suggested. The work we do is unique so we can’t hire for experience and look for general qualities like organizational skills and ability to learn.

    We walked out of the interview saying “geez, hopefully her colleagues aren’t intimidated by her.” She was (and is!) very confident of her abilities and would definitely say she is one of the best in her department when she is in the lower third at best because she over-functions, works slowly, and is blind to context. Despite feedback I think she can’t see the gaps and is always a little surprised she isn’t running the place yet. She recently asked for a meeting with the CEO to talk about how she felt the organization should change direction.

    (She also turned out to have a lot of very unusual beliefs about aliens, the Illuminati, and – sadly – COVID, which was another surprise.)

    So I can imagine someone interviewing so well they blow everyone away, and respect the OP’s interest in balancing that with making sure it’s realistic.

  39. AnonToday*

    I have the OP’s problem too… I don’t think of myself as particularly charismatic, and I’m not gorgeous either. But I interview really well. I’m a good speaker, I prepare well, and I’m articulate and know my stuff… in theory.

    Unfortunately I have ADHD, and until this was diagnosed my ability to function productively in a job was much lower than my ability to sound as if I could. I had the knowledge and sometimes the experience, but taking it from theory to practice was not a done deal. At one point I got trapped in a job that I was not competent to do for several years (it was an economic downturn and I couldn’t afford to quit without another job lined up – and nobody was hiring locally). I ended up on a PIP and resigned when it became clear that if I didn’t I’d be dismissed for incompetence (which in my relatively small profession would have been the end of my career).

    It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life and led to a period when I refused to apply for anything that would stretch me, in case I crashed and burned again.

    I’m now in a much better place, much more informed about my brain and how it works, and working to manage my executive function so I can actually do stuff. And I have a new, responsible job which I am desperate not to screw up. But not wanting to appear more capable than I am is a real concern.

  40. blue*

    Yes.

    I have had some of the same experience. As someone who reads like a confident “fancy white lady” – I could probably charm myself into any number of positions. It isn’t right. We need different ways of hiring!

    1. AnonToday*

      As the person in the comment just above you, I probably should have mentioned that yes, I undoubtedly benefit from “fancy white lady privilege” also. And I attended a prestigious university which has probably swayed people in the past, never mind that the skills required to do well there were nothing like the skills needed in the workplace. (My current job did not want to know where I went to school. I’m seeing this more and more.)

  41. Ceallach*

    I could have written this letter! (35yr female) I’ve never interviewed for a job and not been offered it. And I’ve interviewed for a lot of jobs because I end up in jobs I don’t like but have sold myself into…. not a bad problem to have but it does require some serious soul searching as to what I actually WANT to do and would excel at, rather than what I can do.

  42. Morning Flowers*

    OP, I’ve had a *similar* (but ultimately different) experience that might be insightful for you. I have autism, which wasn’t diagnosed yet when I was in college. More importantly for the context of my experience, my *whole family* had undiagnosed autism, so 95% of the preferences, coping mechanisms, behaviors, etc. that most autistic people (especially autistic women) are socialized to repress or have to apologize for, *I’d* been socialized to be confident and forthright about, because to my family they were normal. Combine this with my very high intelligence, frankly ferocious academic ability, and unabashed curiosity … well, in an academic environment, I had a very similar problem to yours. My professors were falling over themselves wanting to encourage me to become a professor, professors I had never had were trying to get me to change majors to their department, I got recommended for awards and accomplishments I *really* didn’t deserve, you name it.

    And I knew, knew, knew I could not be a professor, could not have a career in academia, could not do the things they wanted to me do — even when, at times, they explicitly and specifically thought they saw I had the ability to do them, and told me so. I knew what I could and couldn’t cope with, what skills I could and couldn’t develop, and the life they were describing sounded like misery to me. Doing what they wanted would’ve been setting myself up to fail and suffer badly along the way.

    What worked for me in the academic sphere might not translate neatly to the workplace, of course, but my solution was to be very forthright about the problems I saw. “I’m glad you liked the presentation, Dr. So-And-So, but I actually hate public speaking and really wouldn’t want to do it again — look, my hands are shaking!” The paradox I discovered is that people will usually not think worse of you for not having a skill, or a passion, or an anything, if you treat it forthrightly and with confidence. (The occasional person who really wants to convince you you *can* do Whatever-It-Is will either brush this off as false humility or try to pile faux-feminism-guilt on you — I had a female professor do this to the point I nearly had to ask her to stop contacting me — but that’s on them, not on you. You own you; let them own them.)

  43. Terrible@usernames*

    OP – Krystyn — One thing I hope you also recognize; your strengths aren’t just in charisma when you’re in front of someone. You seem incredibly self aware, thoughtful, and come across as deeply competent. You’re a strong writer. Literally based on seeing what you’re writing here, I want to hire you – and into a totally different field! – because you intrinsically come across as someone who is smart, eager to learn, and will get stuff done.

    I’m not saying you are / aren’t qualified for this director role… but your strengths aren’t just in being good at your job and being personable. I’m sure you’ll have a very successful career, and wish you all the best – like many others have said, don’t sell yourself short, or just put it down to charisma and being good at a “hard” skillset.

  44. Silvermoonlight*

    You’re welcome, I’m glad it was helpful! I long ago gave up judging a job posting solely on its title but rather immediately skip down to the years of experience required. In my experience, that is the best empirical measure for whether a job is a good fit (though of course not the only measure).

    And yes, titles definitely aren’t indicative of salaries. The VP from the PR agency I mentioned got a major pay boost for taking a title cut to Director at Pandora.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A person can be “old to commenting here” and STILL do this. BTDT. sigh. I think people figure it out. Sometimes Alison moves the comment up for us.

  45. knead me seymour*

    This was interesting to read because I feel like I have the inverse problem–I’m not very charismatic and don’t sell myself very well, and when I get a job I’m often the second or third person selected, but I’m super competent and always get glowing reviews from managers once I’m actually in the job.

    I think it might be a kind of Dunning-Kruger thing, where I always try to be really up-front about my own abilities but end up under-selling myself as a result, because some less qualified applicants will have fewer reservations about their own skills. But I’m also not great at making a good first impression generally, which isn’t helpful for interviews.

  46. Dog lady*

    This is me exactly. I have received quite literally every job I have ever interviewed for. I’ve crashed and burned twice because I applied for jobs that were way too hard.

    I really like this advice.

  47. Alice's Rabbit*

    For a moment, I had to stop and make sure I hadn’t written this myself and forgotten about it, because I have a similar problem. So far, I have yet to interview for a job without it turning into an offer. And yes, more than once, it’s been an offer for a “better” job than the one I applied for, but not a position I was interested in. The first time that happened, I probably didn’t handle it all that well, being young and inexperienced. I just turned down the offer entirely.
    Now, however, my advice would be similar to Alison’s. Turn up the charm again, thank them for the opportunity, but express that you’re really excited about the job you applied for, and if it’s still available, you would greatly appreciate the chance to show them what you can do in that position.

  48. Margue*

    I agree with Allison’s advice – to be optimistic but realistic in a sense! I’d welcome advice from the charismatic people on here though as I see the opposite problem – an Ivy League educated boyfriend who has experience in numerous highly sought after fields who may as well be invisible! He isn’t super introverted or quiet, but is always overlooked and passed over and interviews positively only to never hear back…OP, how do you do it?!

  49. PersephoneUnderground*

    Funny Alison mentioned a cult- I thought you might be great in politics! We need more women in US politics generally, and charisma definitely helps in that line. Couple that with a realistic view of your own competence, openness to feedback, and comfort with the public, and that’s not a bad start! Ever considered running for local office or state-level representative? Those are generally part-time (or short sessions at the state level) so you can continue your normal job around them if it’s flexible. If that sounds awful to you, ok, but so many women don’t even think about politics as a prospect (I know I never considered it until a few years ago) so I wanted to float the idea. If you’re on the progressive side Emily’s List does great 101 training sessions. I’m sure there are other resources like that across the spectrum.

  50. CoachingCoaching*

    I hired a guy that knocked the interview out of the park, great personality, outgoing, talked up his skills and how much he could do. We were beyond excited to offer him a position. He started and moped around the office, never smiled, never talked to anyone, and suddenly was incapable of everything he said he could do. We’ve taken the past 2-years to get him to 75% of the person we hired and continue to craft him forward to 100%. (Our HR Department does not allow us to fire unless an egregious offense).

    My suggestion is if you feel incapable, then don’t take the offer. But if you think you have it in you to learn, then try. You may fly and succeed. Don’t be afraid to fail.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s weird. So what’s the story w/him? Was he all talk or he just doesn’t like the job / wasn’t what he thought it would be? Lazy? Personal issues? All the above?

      1. CoachingCoaching*

        He’s all talk. And while my boss and I have been trying to coach him forward and really get him to fulfill the role, he complains to everyone who will listen about how underappreciated he is. He has actually talked people into telling our CFO how wonderful he is. And then when our CFO gave him a task, he failed to deliver and became very whiny. He even went as far as to blame the fact that he failed in producing a report on the fact that I was on a 2-hour conference call. A report that he had 5 days to produce, mind you.

  51. B Wayne*

    I am grumpy, don’t like most people, work better alone and I got laid off. All that charisma and charm and ability to talk the birds out of the trees and you still got laid off. Didn’t seem to help much.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s the case with many people B Wayne! OP isn’t in control of financial woes caused by a pandemic.

  52. TMP*

    Could it be that the lw is selling herself short? While she does not seem to lack confidence perhaps she is not seeing how her skills really DO meet the higher qualifications that the company making the offer is looking for.

  53. RebeccaRay*

    “A lot of dudes (not all of them, but a lot) would happily accept this state of affairs as their due and cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence” made me laugh out loud. I can close my eyes and picture 100 of those dudes.

  54. Elizabeth West*

    It’s too bad that you probably don’t want to start a cult, because it sounds like you would be able to do it!

    This made me laugh because I immediately thought of Klaus in The Umbrella Academy, with his song lyrics cult, and that time he said, “What I am is sexy trash!” :’D

    But seriously, I think Alison’s advice to ask about why they’re considering her for the higher-level job is a good strategy. Often it’s hard to get that kind of information up front—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked even the “magic” question and gotten shrugs and “I dunno.”
    But OP, you’re getting an option not only for more info regarding the job offer, but also insight into what jobs are the best fit for you, including ones you might not have considered before.

  55. Tooti Frooti*

    Can we be honest for a minute? “I’m so good at interviewing I get offered every job I interview for” probably means “I am extremely good-looking.” I’m sure the letter writer is also smart, talented and well-spoken. But there are a lot of smart, talented and well-spoken people in the world. Most of them don’t get this kind of response when they interview for jobs. There’s a 99% chance this is happening because of her appearance. I’m not laying any blame or criticism on the letter writer, just acknowledging the way the world works.

    I guarantee that if the letter writer weighed 400 pounds, was a hunchback and had cystic acne, no matter how smart, talented and well-spoken they were, they would not be offered these jobs. Lookism is real. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you or kidding themselves.

Comments are closed.