"I Didn't Mean to Apply Here": The Art of Not Selling Yourself
“I didn’t mean to apply here” probably isn’t something you should say during an interview.
For me it was true. I didn’t mean to apply to a web development company. I was looking for an arts-related communications internship.
Where I meant to apply was Art Week Des Moines. When I reached out to see if Art Week had a communications internship, my resume went to David, the founder of Art Week and (little to my knowledge) the president of a web development company named Visionary Services, Inc. When I interviewed I was frank. I told them I didn’t have any background in web development and had little confidence in my one semester of design. My resume echoed these statements and appeared void of anything valuable to offer them. This “self-deprivation tactic” goes against most things I was taught about interviewing. As a public relations student, I’m confident I can show most anyone how I can bring value to their company. That’s what interviews are intended for. I dejectedly told a close friend after my interview, “If they hire me, it’s only because of my personality.”
Within five minutes of the interview, staff members began to poke, prod and tease one another. It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable enough to join in, and by the end of my half hour, we were all laughing together. My interviewers had graciously explained their roles to me and asked if I might be interested in anything. I listed back the roles that piqued my interest, then we parted ways. As I was leaving, my hands were too full to avoid awkward handshakes, and I discovered the collar of my blazer had been turned the entire time. My faux pas embarrassed me so much I didn’t send a thank you note and all but vowed to never go back.
I waited for a follow-up rejection email. One week passed. One and a half weeks. After two weeks, an email finally popped into my inbox. I braced myself for another rejection email and was shocked to see an offer waiting for me.
“We were very impressed with your communication and personality – we think you would fit in with our team really well.”
I was equally surprised and encouraged by this statement. While I may not have been the perfect candidate on paper, the Visionary team cared to look beyond my skill set contributions and look at my personality contributions.
My past several weeks working at Visionary continues this theme. On my first day I was greeted by friendly faces genuinely excited for me to join for the summer. After I filled out paperwork, my manager introduced me to every single employee. He knew how long they worked for the company, their quips, and had the perfect anecdotes to describe their personality.
Through this experience I learned that I didn’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not. A good employer isn’t looking for someone to sell themselves; they’re looking for someone whose character fits their company.