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I am a mobile software developer that's applying for a Mobile Engineering Manager position at a new company. During my initial phone screening with the company's technical recruiter they were using phrases like "if we decide to move forward", etc. until at some point I must have said the right phrase, because their tone and phrasing changed to affirm that indeed they do want to move forward with the interview process. Moreover, they let me know about the other candidate they're considering for the position. My competition was previously a director of mobile engineering at a previous company. While I do have some management experience leading a smaller team of developers, and personally feel I am a good fit for this particular role, I would not describe myself as "director-tier". Still, I must have some qualities that set me apart from the other candidate, as they wouldn't proceed further with the interview process otherwise.

How can I best demonstrate my value in the interview process against candidates with significantly higher positions in their resumes?

Items of note:

  • I quit my job a little over a year ago, and have spent that time learning the technologies this company uses. I can do full-stack development using their tools. (Though programming is not the primary focus of the role, being able to make technical decisions with principal developers is important.)
  • My prior company was about the same size as this late-stage startup when I joined them. I've been part of a rapid-growth startup and seen what does and doesn't work in many aspects.
  • This is for the head manager across both iOS and Android in a company where mobile is the primary focus, not web. It is not a low-level position, thus I feel the experience of a director role would be immensely valuable.
  • I have an opinionated view on how to be an effective manager, and that view is more focused on supporting the team under me, and less about prioritizing the needs of the company. I've been trying to broaden this perspective and take a more balanced approach, as leading a large department, rather than a feature team, is outside of my experience. (Scrum is the devil!)
  • Director, in this field, likely means that they were the head manager of separate iOS and Android teams. So, my concern is in demonstrating value against a manager that has lead larger teams at a higher viewpoint than feature development.
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  • “Supporting the team under me”, when done right, will improve the work of the team and that way benefit the company. There are limits to that.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 12 at 17:24
  • If this is a manager position, and your competition is a "director level" you actually have the advantage not the disadvantage. Most companies are more willing to hire a less experienced manager (who is less expensive) that may need a little growth and training, instead of a director level person who is going to have higher expectations and be overqualified (and overpaid) for the position. That being said - some great answers below that say focus on what you can control and frame why you're a great fit for the role. Feb 16 at 14:03

3 Answers 3

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How can I best demonstrate my value in the interview process ?

By being yourself and presenting your strengths as they are. Research the company as much so you can tailor your responses somewhat to their specific needs and demonstrate that you care about this.

against candidates with significantly higher positions

That's largely irrelevant. The other candidates are what they are and there is little you can do or say to change this. If you think that you are lacking a bit of management experience for the role, create a plan how to deal with it and discuss it during the interview.

Interviewing is not a test, it's to determine who is the best fit for the specific role (in terms of tech skills, soft skills, culture, comp, relocation, career step, etc). Sometimes that's you but often it's someone else. Sometimes it's no one from the current list and the employer has to kick off another round.

Not getting the job or an offer is disappointing, but often it's the best outcome: Hiring someone who is not a good fit just makes everyone miserable.

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How can I best demonstrate my value in the interview process against candidates with significantly higher positions in their resumes?

  • Remember that they are not looking for a Director. They are looking for a Manager.
  • Don't worry about the competition. Focus on the only part you can present - you.
  • Show them why your skills, your knowledge, your background, makes you the ideal Manager in their company

You likely have one thing going against you - you haven't worked in more than a year. So be ready to talk about that, why you did it, and why that isn't a problem.

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Joe said it very well:

Don't worry about the competition. Focus on the only part you can present - you.

You don't know how well the other candidate did. Maybe they half-assed the preparation. Or, maybe they leveraged their greater experience as a manager and the conversation turned to an in-depth analysis of challenges the company is currently facing.

Lets assume you're both capable and well-prepared. Consider the position of the company: A choice between two qualified candidates with different backgrounds is a zero-sum game. Hiring one skillset means not hiring the other.

You do what you can. Either you're clearly the most qualified candidate, or you're clearly not. Surprisingly often, the decision comes down to factors outside of your control:

  • Rapport: Whose personality fits the current team better? Who made the better impression?
  • Roadmap and succession planning: Are they looking for someone to grow into the position as teams expand, offering stability during a period of rapid growth? Or are they looking for someone who can be punted into a director position in the near term?
  • Organizational need: What skillset do the founders (or C-levels) of the company lack? If the CTO is sucked into operational decisions, they might be really glad to add someone with your technical background. If they feel like they're light on change management or best practices, that director-level experience will be more attractive.

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