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A company was hiring several developers. Among them a embedded software developer position with some very strict requirements (like 10+ years of experience with C) that I in no way qualify for (I'm a web developer, but embedded programming has been a hobby of mine for years)

I applied for a web developer position at the company, and was called in for an interview.

At the interview the guy interviewing me starts talking about embedded programming, and I start wondering if maybe I put it on my application as a "hobby" and that's why he mentions it.

So we discussed embedded programming for almost an hour - then he tells me they'll get back to me.

Very confused I went home and checked my application - but there is no mention of embedded programming.

2 days later I receive an offer for a embedded developer position with a salary way above the range mentioned for the web-developer position.

Though it's quite likely that they mixed my application up with someone elses, could accepting the offer (for a position I didn't apply for) land me in any trouble?

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    There's a critical piece of information missing from your question: Are you currently employed?? This could be a great learning opportunity, or it could not work out (doing embedded development well is indeed hard). If you currently have a job in which you can continue, you need to weigh the risk carefully and probably seek a discussion with your potential manager before accepting. But if you are on the street looking for work, then succeed or fail, at least you'll get payed to learn interesting things (about technology... or at least careers) for a time. – Chris Stratton Dec 29 '18 at 17:49
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    @NonnyMoose To be fair, that assumption may be a bit of a stretch iff they can't even work out which role they're interviewing for. – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 29 '18 at 17:59
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    Was it explicitly discussed in your interview that your only experience was as a hobby? – stannius Dec 30 '18 at 13:11
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    @IanKemp If that's the only problem that company has, trust me, you learn to live with it and take it over the alternative any day. There are no perfect companies. – Mast Dec 31 '18 at 7:25
  • @NonnyMoose "Assuming their interviews are competent" That is by no means a safe assumption, even if they did intentionally switch the position they were interviewing the OP for. – jpmc26 Jan 1 at 1:36

14 Answers 14

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Entering into a working relationship is an act of mutual trust. An interview builds upon information in a CV, but it does not replace it. If you are about to enter into a working relationship based on a mixed up CV, you have one option:

Come clean. All cards on table.

And if you are at all in doubt about this, you've failed to view the situation from their side. Had it been your company, would you prefer for a candidate to correct a mistake like this before you trust him your money and your project? Or would you be fine with him knowingly entering into a working relationship based on a mistake?

I suspect you field this question because you are looking for someone to deter you from this obvious truth. Don't fall into that trap. You know what's right.

The outcome of this? I expect a bunch of goodwill, a good stomach feeling and most likely the chance to keep the embedded position or at least a good shot at growing into it from the web development position that you surely will be offered.

The outcome of not doing it? The birth of a very nasty imposter syndrome. 6 months down the line, when low level allocation bugs have crept in and people begin to take notice of instability, do you want to be the guy that fails a code review, exposing the ugly truth you knew all along? Do you want to skate around your web development background going forward? Fake experience you don't have? Believe me, things only get worse from here.

Do the right thing. Stop thinking twice.

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    +1 For taking the perspective of "gut feeling" and a potential creeping imposter syndrome. Any doubt about the position doesn't just disappear with time. – AnotherGuy Dec 29 '18 at 21:45
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    It's worth noting that if you put your hand up and say "are you certain that this is the position you want to hire me for?", the job won't go away. If they want you today, they'll still want you tomorrow. – Richard Dec 30 '18 at 0:22
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    I think you don't quite understand what "imposter syndrome" is. It is the feeling of being inadequate, when you are completely capable of doing the job. The feeling of not being as good as others when you actually are. – gnasher729 Dec 30 '18 at 0:38
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    This is the right approach, but there's also a the question of what's the right way to tell the employer you thought you're interested, but though you were interviewing for the other role. – David Ehrmann Dec 30 '18 at 6:50
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    I like the advice in the first half, not the vague predictions in the second. Richard in comments highlights why this advice is right (also why you can ask for more salary; a "we're not going to hire you because you asked" would red-flag a toxic psychology from your would-be boss). To Ehrmann's point, the right way to go about this is something like "I want to make sure that there has not been a mix-up because I am excited to work for Job B, and we interviewed about it, but I originally applied for Job A, so I just want to make sure you didn't mix me up with someone else. Can you confirm?" – CR Drost Dec 31 '18 at 14:21
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Assuming this is the US and you did not falsify the information you provided, worst they can practically do is to fire you for incompetence if you lack the skills required. Chances are if you put embedded programming on your resume and they saw that, with a position possibly matching it they have likely been trying to fill for some time, they tried to see if you could qualify. And seems like they were satisfied at the interview so they extended you the position.

Most of the time the experience requirements and such are arbitrary and even put there by recruiters just filling out a form and putting in semi-arbitrary numbers. Once past an interview it does not really matter. I would take it as a sign of good luck and take it, and dedicate some of my free time to catch up to speed if that seems like would be an issue.


As far as them not explicitly telling you this, the HR might have passed your resume to the team knowing it is a hard to fill role, with both sides assuming the other side told you about considering you for a different position.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Dec 31 '18 at 23:29
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The fact that it says "10+ years experience of C" in the job advert doesn't necessarily mean that is what you really need, or what the company expects to get.

The key fact is that the interviewer spent an hour discussing embedded programming with you and presumably liked what he/she heard. There would be no sense in continuing the discussion for an hour if it was obvious within 10 minutes that you were not suitable for the job.

Whatever you have learned from your practical hobby experience might be a lot more valuable to the company than a computer science graduate with a head full of theory but not much else.

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    Indeed. The likely case is that they think they've identified someone junior with an interest who can grow to become someone who can provide meaningful assistance. And the unlikely case is that the company is just careless, in which case they deserve whatever they get. So the issue to the asker is to figure out what the cost to them of the experiment is - which largely comes down to if there is an existing job or alternate possibility they'd have to give up to try it. – Chris Stratton Dec 29 '18 at 19:55
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    Based on a recent conversation with a person that hires such people, finding capable embedded programmers can be very difficult. The vast majority of programmers are web developers, and many of the applicants for embedded programming positions know only about web development. In the OP's case, It sounds like this company feels they lucked into finding someone with some actual knowledge of, and more importantly, an interest in embedded programming. – hatchet - Reinstate Monica Dec 31 '18 at 20:39
  • +1 Programmers tend to treat listed requirements as obligatory. HR people usually treat everything as "a starting point to a discussion". I can't count how many times I've rejected an offer stating "requires master degree" only to be called back by the recruiter with "it's not a hard requirement" or "your experience makes up for this". People who write job offers are not programmers. – Agent_L Jan 2 at 8:55
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In brief :

  1. Embeded programming is your hobby this is every recruiters dream to engage an employee who considers work as hobby

  2. Employers employ based on their needs! They think you are a perfect fit for the offered position. It is quite rare if they have mistaken you with someone else.

I believe it is a good opportunity for you, don’t miss it!

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I can't believe this hasn't been suggested yet:

Pick up the phone and call your main point of contact at the company (hiring manager or recruiter) to discuss.

Or email.

It's really that simple. Now that the offer is in your hands, the company should be very accommodating and more open to discussing the job details back to you. If they really are hiring you for embedded work, this is your chance to ask clarifying question about the position and how strong of experience they really need. Be fully transparent about your trepidation and work experience. Either one of two things will come across in the follow up conversations:

  • They speak with assurances. They will tell you something positive and possibly mention a mentoring aspect to the job. Yay - they want to invest in you.

OR

  • They speak as if you are expendable. They aren't forthcoming or speak of excitement to hire you. They use phrases like, "we think we can take a chance on you." or "it's up to you." Walk away if this is the case.

Honestly, I would never accept a offer for an engineering role until I've looped back with the hiring manager. This is your chance to interview them before you make a huge career decision.

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I think the extent of your trouble may be getting sacked without notice in the first month. Potentially.

It's impossible to tell what this employer has in mind about you, perhaps they are keen on you because you were keen on embedded programming, who knows? So what I would do is ask them for an additional meet with the hiring manager, preferably face-to-face. And clarify this with them. Better come out honest than otherwise.

If it was a mistake they will potentially offer you the webdev position, and if it wasn't - even better, and you get so much more credit going forward.

6

There are not that many highly qualified embedded developers around. And lots of highly qualified desktop / mobile / server developers may not be interested in an embedded development job.

So it seems that what you showed in your interview was enough to convince them that you can do the job - or at least that you are the best candidate for an embedded development job that they are going to find.

If you are OK with doing embedded development for a much higher rate than your normal web development jobs, then go for it. Be prepared to do your best during the working day and lookup things you are missing in the evening, but that phase will be over soon, and the higher salary will stay.

Maybe you shouldn't mention in the company what happened, but then it is quite possible that the guy looking for a web developer saw your hobbies, and knew that someone else in the company is in dire need for an embedded developer, and passed you on knowing that he can find another web developer any time.

If you are smart and think you are up to it, then go for it. It's not as if you have no experience; you have experience with embedded development, and with development in general.

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I saw a very similar situation play out live. (see below)

I would advise honesty, and that imply not lying by omission.

Lying about experience is pointless: it's stressful, and you'll be found out eventually anyway. There's no way it'll end well. On the contrary, honesty brings out good will and starts you up on the right foot to build a long-lasting relationship with your employer. It doesn't even matter if you don't plan to stay there for long: a happy employer is one you can use for references, one you can come back to in a couple years, etc...

Instead, be pro-active and contact HR. Then, depending on which of the job you want:

  • Embedded: mention that you are excited about the position, though surprised that a senior position was offered to someone with no professional, only hobby, experience. If hired for the role, mention your lack of experience again with your boss on the first day. They may simply have decided to take on a junior-level developer rather than keep waiting for the hypothetical senior who never comes; you can be trained on the job as long as they are aware of your level of experience.
  • Web: mention that you are honored about the position, however you applied for a web development position and have no prior experience doing embedded. Suggest shifting to a web development role.

In either case, you now have a foot in the door, it's time to make the best of it.


Story time.

Not 4 months ago, we had two newcomers starting, a senior and a junior. We helped them configure their environments, and after a day or two noticed the junior seemed quite uncomfortable. My boss talked to him and realized there had been a mistake: my boss had been brought in for the interview so assumed it was for a C++ position, when in fact HR had been scrambling to fill in for a sick interviewer for a Java position. The junior didn't feel like he could do a good job in C++, my boss apologized for the mix-up, and he was moved to a Java team.

  • Your story is very confusing. If your boss interviewed him for a C++ position, and he wasn't very good at it, how did he pass the interview? – gnasher729 Dec 30 '18 at 14:15
  • @gnasher729: It may very well be that my boss was called for a language-agnostic session. The interview is split into multiple hour-long sessions (3 or 4 now?), each with a specific focus and a different pair of interviewers. The goal is to obtain a fair assessment of the candidate, so we explore multiple angles and get the opinion of multiple persons... and well, for a junior position, the focus is more on eagerness to learn than on actual technical skill; right out of university few candidates know much about C++, we expect to train them on the job. – Matthieu M. Dec 30 '18 at 14:26
  • I'm curious why you suggest contacting HR at this point, rather than the hiring manager? By all means make sure to clear up any possible misunderstandings as early as possible, but by the time you have you have an offer in hand, the people to talk about the actual work you would be doing should not be the HR silo. – Henning Makholm Dec 30 '18 at 15:52
  • @HenningMakholm: It's not clear to me what you mean by hiring manager; in my experience, I didn't have any direct line of contact with anyone but HR before actually starting, and therefore I'd reach to those contacts first, starting with whoever sent the offer papers. – Matthieu M. Dec 30 '18 at 16:12
  • @MatthieuM.: The hiring manager is the manager who has a position to fill, and who has the final say about whom to hire. Usually that person would be one to three steps directly above you in the chain of command if you're hired. HR is there to support hiring managers with the minutiae of recruiting, but by the time an actual offer is made, I would expect to be in direct communication with the hiring manager already. – Henning Makholm Dec 30 '18 at 16:24
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Honesty is definitely the best policy but first you need to realise there is often a big disconnect between what an advert says, what HR described and what the Hiring Manager really wants!

You need to find out if the person who interviewed you is the Hiring Manager. If so, then it's quite likely that they're struggling to fill the role and think you can, at the very minimum, grow into it.

So pick up the phone, speak to HR and tell them that you are delighted to have been offered this position even though you applied for a different one and you just wanted to double check they understood the situation. Don't be bashful or apologetic though - you spent an hour impressing a hiring manager on a subject that wasn't expected to be your main focus!

"I'm really excited to be offered this role, I think I can do a great job for you and the interview seemed to go well but I just want to double check with you as the job I was offered wasn't the one I applied for. I don't have a problem with that but just wanted to double check it's all OK at your end."

3

So we discussed embedded programming for almost an hour - then he tells me they'll get back to me.

Always assume that if an interviewer talks to you for an hour, that they are evaluating your fitness in the area they are talking about. If they write 10+ years of C experience but came (after a 1h interview in that direction) to the conclusion that you other professional experience plus your hobby skills are enough, it should be - I do something like this (placing people on different jobs than they applied to) quite regularly in technical interviews.

For me there are three scenarios:

  • an mix-up of the application but not the offer (which could be lucky if you want to get into such a kind of job)

  • an mix-up of the offer (that would be the only bad thing)

  • no mix-up at all, but the company has two "placeholder positions" which cover the interesting range and enable some pre-sorting (sometimes my employer does it in this way)

Anyway, the best is to contact the HR by phone - you assert that everything is in order regarding the decision, but you want to confirm. Something like "I would just like to confirm that the job you would like to place me on is ...;"

EDIT: The only thing you should be careful for if the job has a function in a regulated process (Aircraft, Medical devices etc....).

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I don't think you should go for it.

I'm saying this because it could make your own life miserable. Doing something as a hobby is completely different than doing it under pressure at workplace. Pay is much higher in embedded programming field because it's way more complicated than web development.

Think about what you would like to do in the future before deciding.

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    I don't buy your point on pay being higher because of complexity. It might simply be a matter of demand and supply. In my country at least, Cobol programmers for example can make pretty much more money than webdevs because there's pretty much less people willing to build a career on this language. I have no knowledge on embedded programming but can easily assume a similar situation. – Laurent S. Dec 29 '18 at 19:58
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    @LaurentS. the price of everything in a free market is a "matter of demand and supply". He's saying that complexity of the job lowers the supply enough to explain the pay discrepancy in this case. I think your example is probably flawed. If Cobol programmers make a lot more than web devs but don't actually require more skill, then a web dev can easily train in Cobol and get the job. Cobol programming is probably harder than you think (I've heard it's very hard to maintain Cobol). – Chan-Ho Suh Dec 30 '18 at 1:17
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    @Chan-HoSuh COBOL wasn't difficult when I took a two week course many many years ago, and now with many years of experience in other languages I'd get a book, read through it, and have no problems maintaining COBOL software. – gnasher729 Dec 30 '18 at 14:24
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    @gnasher729 I suspect COBOL would be a bit like C, in that you can learn the syntax over a two week course and it seems easy, but when you try to make useful software all the rough edges become apparent and the language takes a lot of discipline to use correctly. Modern languages let you write better software with less experience. – James Hollis Dec 30 '18 at 15:38
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    @Chan-HoSuh Yes, we can learn a new modern language quite easily. No problem there. And we can learn an old language, say COBOL, which is much simpler. But it will hurt somewhat you need to write simple things in cryptic ways. But you will need to read code - and there is the problem. The COBOL programmer did not know the concepts of the modern languages - so he uses concepts we no longer use. We can write new code with the concepts we have. He did not have them - and we need to forget them. That's the hard part. – Volker Siegel Jan 2 at 15:30
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[It is at least better than some company that hire you for the (right?) position then assign tasks among your (hobbies?) as well...;)]

If you feel the passion for doing the job and undertaking the responsibility it is fine. If you feel like allocating some your free time preparing for and catching up with potential scenarios you will face later at your job then better. (It is still your hobby, isn't it?)

Go strong way and accept their occasional web development as well, but tell them at the first place. Don't let it continue as their mistake, make it clear like this:

Thank you for evaluating my capabilities in embedded field as a fit for your current position available in embedded engineering, I am happy to accept the position as well as being able to undertake some tasks in web development which I originally filed application for....

Anyway, if it is left unclear, it might make troubles (may be not for you, but for them perhaps).

  • I wish I were an employer. I would definitely hire such person. This diverse capacity makes what I invented the term team-glue for and is invaluable to organizations who understand and can utilize it.... – F.I.V Dec 30 '18 at 8:06
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Interviewing is like dating.

You start out dreaming of who your perfect match might be. Then you see who's really out there and things change.

I've been a web developer. I've been an embedded developer. I've done well in both. I didn't start out with anything close to what was asked for in the job posting. In fact after decades at this I still haven't found a job that didn't ask for more than I had. When I did the embedded developer thing I hadn't even touched a PIC32 yet. Passion about the subject is so much more important than what you can do now. If you can sincerely show that it doesn't surprise me at all that they are interested in you.

Understand that people hiring you for a job are human and are prone to dream of better than they are going to get. You're judging them based on what they thought when they dreamed up the position. Not what they learned after interviewing candidates.

Your concerns are valid and do you credit. But don't exclude yourself from the job because they asked for more than you have. If you really think they made a mistake then offer an updated resume targeted to the embedded developer job. This gives them a chance to realize if it is a mistake and if not can be seen as you simply covering your interviewers butt in case anyone else wonders about this.

Far more importantly is you need to interview the company before accepting the offer. You're justifiably nervous. You want to know you'll do well. Go talk to them again and take a hard look at who they are, what they're asking you to do, and be sure you're ready for it. Odds are good that you are. But you'll be in hell if you accept the job before you're sure.

0

The company that hired you put those regulations in place to filter out those who are incapable of that position. IF the company, at some point, finds out that you do not have the experience that was required, they may fire you.

HOWEVER, if you prove that you are capable of that job without the "requirements", they will likely keep you anyway, as opposed to going through the hassle of hiring another developer.

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    He's passed an interview. Once you are interviewed and get a job offer, it doesn't matter what your CV says unless you have been lying - which OP didn't. – gnasher729 Dec 30 '18 at 0:34
  • @gnasher729 - Continuing here abridged is dishonesty ; that indeed could matter to one of them, if not both, eventually. – Mazura Dec 30 '18 at 5:52
  • @Mazura Absolutely not. He put in a CV saying he's a web developer, and does embedded programming as a hobby. The company decided that his hobby experience was actually good enough to give him a job. Your CV gets you through the door, the interview gets you the job. – gnasher729 Dec 30 '18 at 14:18
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    @gnasher729: He says he didn't mention the embedded hobby in his application. Perhaps he mentioned something peripheral like C experience, which made the subject come up in the interview, and then the interviewer pounced on that? (I agree that there is no dishonesty, though for the OP's own peace of mind he should reach out and be sure everyone is on the same page nevertheless). – Henning Makholm Dec 30 '18 at 16:28

protected by Jane S Dec 31 '18 at 23:29

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