It happens more often than you think: You apply for a job that sounds like the perfect fit and arrive at the interview ready to sell your skills and expertise. A few minutes into the interview, however, it becomes clear that the position for which you applied is definitely not the position they’re talking about in the interview. How do you handle it?
Determine whether it was intentional
Most big companies have lots of active opportunities in play at the same time. It’s possible that your application got routed to the wrong person, or there was a scheduling mixup. There’s nothing wrong with trying to clarify: “I’m sorry – I applied for X position, but what you’re describing sounds more like Y. Is it possible there’s been a mixup?” If there has been some confusion, being gracious and cheerful about rescheduling for the right interview could put you ahead of the competition.
Maybe the position you originally applied for has been filled, but someone in the HR/recruiting department liked the sound of your resume and decided to bring you in anyway, ‘just in case’. Before you start announcing that you’re in the wrong place, ask a few questions – maybe there’s another position that you’d be perfect for, or maybe they’ll create a position just for you and your unique combination of skills. Stranger things have happened.
Concentrate on making a good impression
You never know: The person interviewing you for the ‘wrong’ job may be in a position of influence, and making on a good impression on him/her, even in an interview that isn’t immediately going anywhere, could turn into a referral to another department or even another organization (“So-and-so from ABC Co. said you had some great skills in healthcare management – would you be interested in speaking to us about a position we have available?”). Your interviewer has probably booked 30-45 minutes to speak to you, and you’re already in the room – spending the time making a good impression may pay dividends later on.
Yes, it’s annoying and disappointing to spend time preparing for a big interview, only to find that there’s been a mistake and it’s going nowhere, but don’t bring that annoyance into the interview room or give the interviewer an earful about how their organization is clearly disorganized and duplicitous. You don’t know what’s happened behind the scenes (everyone makes mistakes), and you don’t know when you’re going to run into your interviewer, or someone else from the organization, in the future. Make your good impression, be cheerful about the mixup, and chalk the time spent up to ‘networking’.
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For more information on navigating your next IT career move, check out our Guide to Finding the Perfect Tech Job.