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Being overqualified and unmanageable for that job or position you are interviewing for


I have had one too many interviews where I was an ideal fit for the job technology-wise, but not so much what the interviewer, usually a director, technical manager, VP or CTO, was looking for, team-wise. Not because I'm not a team player. Not because I'm not a great guy, friendly or easy to work with. Heck, I am very even tempered and truly believe in a constructive team environment. No, they didn't like me because I had too much expertise, not only in technology but in overall experience, and specifically in managing and dealing with people. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here. Facts are facts. My real resume is about 14 pages long. I have a very wide breadth of knowledge and experience that I've worked hard over the last 20 years to have.

In an interview, I can come off as too confident. I come off very relaxed, because I am. I don't fear interviewers or speaking in front of audiences and I respect people, not positions. By this I mean, you could put the president of the United States in front of me and it wouldn't make me timid in the least, especially if I was not a fan. This ability to stay relaxed and actually enjoy an interview can be taken very negatively. It can come off as aloof or disinterested, because if I really cared, why wouldn't I be on the edge of my seat, biting my nails or saying please, please, please. I just don't work that way. I'm not cocky, I'm confident. I know the value I bring to the table. I know this, because I work very hard every single day. I know this, because I wake up every single morning and ask myself, what can I do today to make me a better person? But I also have to remember that people cannot read my mind and do not know me. I have to put myself in their shoes and I have to try and understand what they're "really" looking for when it comes to their perfect hire. 99% of the time they're looking for someone who is diplomatic, who listens, who takes direction without bitching and who is positive. I don't care how technical you are, if you don't have these qualities and it shows, you just won't get the job.

Unfortunately for some, including myself, interviewers are also looking for someone who is not smarter than they are or at least someone who doesn't trump their experience. If you do, then you're creating a job security fear or a work rivalry fear in the mind of the interviewer. This was and still is a very important lesson I've learned that gets thrown in my face every time I don't keep tabs on myself. Self awareness, honesty with oneself and the constant practice of introspection are all key.

An example: 99% of people in this world act out of fear or some gradation there of. In order to best understand people, you have to understand their fears, their insecurities and somehow get a glimpse into their self-esteem. If someone has a low self-esteem, it is very likely they are emotionally sensitive. If they are sensitive to what others say, that joke you just told could be a serious turn-off to them because they are in no state of mind to "hear" the joke. They put everything you say in the context of "Is this person saying something that might be infringing on my insecurities?". In other words, when you are insecure, you are always looking at what people say in the context of, is this an insult to me.

Another example: Ones standards are a reflection of what is going on inside their head. And since we cannot read peoples minds, we have to infer as best we can from what we can see. In some cases, it is pretty easy to see what kind of standards people have because they wear it on the outside. The body we have and the way we carry ourselves is a reflection of our physical standards. If you're overweight, you smell, you look disheveled, if you dress poorly, if you're not self-aware of how you look when going into an interview than you're telling the other people around you that you lack a good physical standard by which you live your life. Believe me, you are telling them quite a bit more than this but let's stay on point. If the person interviewing you looks like this, then you need to understand, they lack a good physical standard or it is an extremely low priority for them. That being the case, you can probably surmise that it might be best not to talk about the fact that you workout or run a lot because that will most likely be a turn off to them. When you talk about this, you are just reminding them what they are not and don't have time to be or at least haven't made time for and believe me, they will not want you around on a daily basis making them feel bad.

I urge you to size up your interviewer immediately upon entering the interview.

Here are some tips.

1) Don't give them an excuse.

Make sure you have shaved, you're wearing business attire, you've showered, you are fresh, not hung over or tired or god knows what else.

2) Get a feel for the personality types that are interviewing you.

I was recently in an interview with 2 interviewers one of which was a director and the other the technical manager, bot of which I had way more depth of experience than. This was readily apparent early on in the interview. The technical manager was a very nice guy, timid and more of a home programmer type than Enterprise level i.e. a crank the code out and don't worry about anything else.

I was a perfect fit for the position. Technically and from a managerial perspective had a much more extensive knowledge base to work from. However, I made the mistake of over-selling myself.

This is a problem when you have guys that have been with the company for years and don't want to be out-shined by someone coming in, especially in a smaller environment where it would be extremely obvious that someone knows more than you. They want to stay in control and that is extremely hard to do when its obvious you know more than they do. People will start to lose respect for them and they know it. Knowledge and experience is power.

Because of this and because of their fear that you will outshine them, they will chalk it up to you not being "manageable". Even though you can get 400% more work done then anyone there and they don't have to pay you a dime more money than what was originally offered, your expertise and experience will be your downfall. And to restate that a slightly different way, the way you project your expertise will be your downfall. You could be the world's foremost expert on something and if you are perceived as non-threatening you may just win the battle. Do not allow absolute visibility into all you have to offer, it will behoove you in the end. Sometimes transparency is a bad thing.

3) Don't feel so comfortable in an interview that you believe you can be fully transparent. 

The less information you have to give in order to get the job the better.

4) Don't talk about your personal hobbies and what you do in your free time. 

For example, I am a runner. 99% of people either don't care about running or flat out hate it. For me to talk about running and be excited about it is just showing them that I have other things to occupy of distract my time away from getting work done.

To talk about a number of things you have going on in your personal life will be seen as possibly spreading yourself way too thin which can also be a huge turn off.  Telling them you your kids little league coach, you run and also teach fitness classes, you are a writer and write books, you have your own soap business on the side are all things you do not want to talk about.

5) Don't project yourself as being more than the position needs you to be!

People don't want a go getter for positions under Vice President, they want someone they can "handle", someone they can "manage" and someone who will do what they command. They want you to make there life easy for them, nothing more. It doesn't matter if you would be a great fir for the company and their bottom line, what matters is that you are easily manageable by the person who is interviewing you. If you cannot get past him, nothing else matters.

6) Know your role

This may sound obvious but if you are a god interviewing for a position of peon, don't put your god face on in the interview. Isn't it obvious that they won't want you? They will wonder why you are interviewing in the first place. They will think that you might just be hard up and two seconds after they hire you, someone else will offer you a better position and you will leave. On the same note, if you are applying for peon, your resume must be written in such a way to project your experience as aligned with being a peon.

7) Do not intimidate them

Most of you probably don't even know you're doing it. Most of you think that you're just trying to show the interviewer your "value" but I guarantee some of you take it too far. I know I did. Stick to the needs of the job at hand. Do not go off on tangents that could serve to harm the impression someone has of you. Sometimes the enemy of good is better. Don't volunteer more information just because "you" think it sounds great. More information means more opportunity to turn someone off especially if you're already qualified enough for a position. Do not oversell yourself and do not project your experience in such a way as to say "Hey, look at me, I'm awesome and you don't compare.".



** Check back for more on this.

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