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I received a job offer as a full-stack developer from a startup company which I found on Indeed. The job posting had seven required skills. 4/7, I knew. 2/7, I didn't know too well, but during the application process, I was asked technical questions on them, and they were so basic that I managed to figure out the correct answers. 1/7 I don't know, and it has to do with animation development, which I'm not good at (because I lack artistic skills). The job application asked for 1-2 years of work experience (I have one year only).

I got requested for an interview. During the interview, they asked what I like about the software I worked with. I told them what I liked. They asked if I'm a full-stack developer, and I said that I worked both front-end and back-end before (I didn't mention that it was the basics - when people think full-stack, they think advanced, and I'm afraid the employer took my answer as 'yes, I have done full-stack development before'). I asked them if the future employee would be using all seven of the software mentioned on the job posting, and they said yes. They mentioned that the future employee would be the lead web developer.

They asked if I have done any animation and designing work, and I mentioned that I have previously done animation (gave an example which sounded a lot more complex than it actually was). They asked if I used the animation software mentioned on their job posting, and I said no (the issue is, I think they assumed I can learn it, but I won't be able to effectively use this software because I lack artistic skills - I've done animation before, which I mentioned in the interview, but I didn't mention that I wasn't good at it).

This is a startup company with three employees, and I have a feeling they aren't experienced enough to be able to differentiate between a novice and an expert.

HR mentioned they are planning on releasing the software in a couple of months. This position is paid US$58k yearly, which is lower than the average full-stack developer (mentioning this because it might give some insight as to what type of full-stack developer they are looking for). I don't want to risk getting hired, showing up for work and then having the employees find out that I don't know 3/7 of the required software and from those three, I can't work with 1/3 software because I'm not a designer / animator.

Should I email them back and remind them that although I have done animation work in the past, I am not artistic enough to be able to create good graphics and animations?

I do have a job offer. I was offered a job after my interview with them. This offer was sent by email. When I said 'Should I email them back...etc.' what I meant was, 'Should I reply to the job offer email and mention what I said above'.

I am saying that I won't be able to learn the animation software because I lack artistic skills and drawing. Learning how to be artistic is very difficult. I can learn how to use the software, but I definitely won't be able to produce any good design or animation (I struggle just drawing a simple fish; there is no way I can animate one using computer software).

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    Let me tell you a secret: "artistic skill" is about 20% talent and about 80% application of techniques anyone can learn (although not over night, of course). – Philipp Oct 15 '15 at 11:33
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    The application requested 1-2 years of work experience. Obviously they're not expecting a certified professional with 20 years of experience. It sounds like you'll be perfectly fine. I think you're underestimating yourself. – FreeAsInBeer Oct 15 '15 at 12:48
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    You didn't fluff up your resume and/or try to carry yourself as more skilled than you actually are in an interview did you? (I know people who've done this, it usually lands them the job, but a few months later they either leave or are fired because they aren't capable of doing what's asked of them). – SnakeDoc Oct 15 '15 at 18:20
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    When a company lists that many skills in the job posting they shouldn't be expecting to find a candidate who knows them all. They should consider themselves lucky if they find a candidate who already knows half of them and is smart enough to quickly pick up the rest. More realistically a job posting has 0-2 required skills and maybe 10 nice to have skills. – kasperd Oct 16 '15 at 20:22

14 Answers 14

150

Short answer: No.

To start with, you are assuming the employer thinks you are more competent than you actually are. They have, however, tested you and know exactly on what ground you stand. Never try to guess what others are thinking, never.

What if they know you are not exactly what they wanted but valued your character (they will pay extra attention to this as a small startup)?

What if they know you might be under expectations BUT they are willing to go for it as they are paying below the market?

They conducted an interview. It's their responsibility to evaluate the candidate and understand how good she/he will be for a certain role. Heck, they clearly know you have just a year of experience, you can't be an expert - would be unrealistic.

What can you do?

Instead of trying to guess their thoughts, you must assess your own thoughts.

A good professional will always take a job if they know they can do it. It's like an unwritten code of conduct. This doesn't mean you need to know every language, every framework from the ground up; however it means you need to have the ability to pick these things up in case you need it for the job. It concerns me when you say you "hate" animation or "suck" at it. It's obvious you will need to work at it in this role so clearly ask yourself:

"Will I be happy learning animation tools/technologies in order to perform this role?"

You seem to be a fairly young IT professional with one year experience and to me, you sound like you are much less confident than you should be. You also sound unsure about what you would like to do.

Clear these things up, worry about your future and less about theirs.

Good luck.

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    I guess OP's concern might be that he will get fired during the probation period once they discover he really isn't suited for that position, like he suspects. That will be bad for both parties. As for the lists in job descriptions, they are always wishlists for a person who does not exist. They'll get a good-enough in most cases. – Juha Untinen Oct 15 '15 at 9:47
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    This is a good answer (+1) for general "I think an employer believes I am much more skilled than I actually am" situations. But I suspect the asker's real problem is not so much that, as "My employer is a tiny startup who need quality animations within a couple of months, but have no animator, and don't even realise that animators need skills and abilities totally different to the skills and abilities they are hiring" – user568458 Oct 15 '15 at 16:23
  • Being concerned about a future employer's expectations is worrying more about your future than the employer's. I've seen several people that hired in at a level that was too high for their skills and were basically run out of the company after being put on "improvement programs". Some of the people absolutely deserved it but there were a couple that had they hired on at just one level lower then they would have likely been successful. The problem with hiring on, not meeting expectations is where do you get the reference from? What if a 3rd employer knows someone at the current company? – Dunk Oct 15 '15 at 17:29
  • If you are happy with that, underqualified employers may still cause problems in some cases. You should not guess their thoughts, but I guess it's also important that you also don't assume their thoughts at all. Specially, don't consider only your own matters until that makes what you do conflict with this answer I just saw a few days ago. – user23013 Oct 16 '15 at 6:37
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Many, many years ago I got my first real technical job, and it emerged soon after I was hired that they'd mistaken me for a DOS expert (whereas in reality, I'd almost never used a PC before, having almost exclusively used Apple ][s, ZX-80s and -81s, Ataris, etc.). (Yes, this was that long ago.)

When I realized that they'd mistaken me for a DOS expert, I went to my boss to talk about it. I loved her reaction:

Don't worry about it. You will be. Meanwhile, don't lie, just fake it.

You know what? Within a month of hard work, reading everything I could find, etc., I was indeed their resident DOS expert.

If you are eager and willing to work hard and you're interested in the technologies they need that you're weak on, work hard both before and after your start date to come up to speed. You won't be an expert, but at 1-2 years of experience, they shouldn't be expecting one. Startups are all about turning your hand to what's needed, whether you've done it before or not, and not being intimidated by what you don't know.

If you do want to check in with them about this before accepting, arrange a face-to-face meeting, not email or phone. That will let you handle the conversation much more fluidly, and let them press you on details, etc. Be sure to go in with "I'd love to work with you folks" (if that's indeed the case), and the firmest I'd put the weaknesses would be along the lines of "I just want to make sure I'm strong enough on what you need that I'm an asset."

As someone who's regularly had to hire (and sometimes fire) people across my career, I cannot imagine having an issue with someone coming in for that conversation. I'd want to hire them more, not less. If they have a problem with it, and they withdraw the offer, consider it a dodged bullet.

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    I would add to Mr Crowder's answer that from the perspective of someone who is dabbling in various startup business activities, I consider it my responsibility to make sure anyone I employee for work (freelancers at my stage of development, but still) is right for the position. As long as they demonstrate an attitude that fits company culture and are truthful at interview, I would always look to keep on an employee (if possible) if I had failed in some way to assess the suitability of their skillset. Any ethical employer would, in my view. Though I would expect them to make all effort to learn – Just In Time Berlake May 31 '17 at 17:50
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I don't see anywhere that you lied at your interview, you went in underqualified on most of their criteria and they still want to hire you. If it was me and I needed the work I would take the job, anything I couldn't handle I'd let them know. It's pretty unrealistic of them to expect even someone with 2 years experience to be able to hit the ground running on everything.

Personally I think they need someone to tell them what they need and any startup likely to go anywhere would not be expecting you to accomplish the lot without help but rather advise them how to accomplish it and have enough general skills to know what's needed.

It's going to be hard work though, look closely at how much you need the job first. Then again it could be the opportunity to make your career.

23

Short answer: No, because unless you're not willing to learn, you will have them soon.

Detailed answer:

It seems that you lack confidence in your ability to fit for the job. There are some facts that you need to have in mind:

  • An employer almost never expects you to master all the skills on the job request, especially when he requires one or two years of experience. It's up to him to know what are the most important ones, and what you might learn latter. And for a full-stack developer, the artistic part is often not the most important one.
  • The "required experience" is often higher than the real required experience. If you want somebody with three years of experience, you will say 3-6 years of experience required, not 0-3. They said 1-2 years, you have one, it's a perfect match. (Personal note: I started a job with 1.5 years of experience, on the job offer 3 to 6 years were "required".)
  • You're applying to a startup. It is more important to be able to be correct in a wide area than to be a specialist in one area as required by big companies. They don't expect you to be a "specialist" in so many topics.
  • You are allowed to fail. If you truly end up not being a good fit for the job, you'll have learn many skills and some knowledge about yourself. Failing in a job is different from failing your career. Most start-up ends up failing, and you're joining one, so you'd better be prepared for this option.

Finally, I'd like to end up with a famous quote that I've found here and there in the web from Richard Branson:

Richard Branson answer

Knowing all that, if you still think you are not a right fit for the position, you might talk to your future colleagues, don't let this apprehension worry you too much.

22

No

As someone who's never had all the required experience for any of my jobs, don't even think about it. The best positions are ones you're slightly under qualified for, that's how you get qualified. Just be prepared to give a chunk of your weekends/evenings to side projects and blogs around what you're doing at work.

Start up's are rarely looking for someone who can do the work straight off anyway, they're looking for people to grow into the work (esp for 60k a year).

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    I don't know where you are geographically but 60k/yr is very low pay for a midlevel employee at a startup. Even one with only half a dozen employees and offering lots of equity (which is statistically speaking worthless at that stage). – dodgethesteamroller Oct 15 '15 at 21:51
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I smell a fish.

I'm not sure your location but $58k for a software developer is dirt cheap in any U.S. metro. They're basically hiring you for free, why should they care how well you do? I know your situation seems peculiar, but all that is going on here is very, very simple: you are really, really cheap. I'm a bit frustrated by the other answers since they're about how to navigate a common situation with a respected position and firm, i.e. they're addressing the fact that no one has the perfect qualifications and this is how people grow, or they're about how to handle the startup grind where ambition and "fit" outweighs skill.

But releasing a product in two months with someone who needs at least that much time to write the first line of code? This isn't about impostor syndrome. This isn't about them creating a position you can grow in. This isn't about their enthusiasm for an ambitious hire despite the skill match. If the company were Google or Facebook or a fintech or adtech firm, or a startup backed by ex-Googlers or Facebookers or Peter Thiel, it would be about all of those things. This is about whether these people have ever really released anything in their life.

So what is going through their head? Well, evaluating a startup is really hard if you lack business experience and have never been in this position. Many people (not all, this is just one career track) work at a major tech firm and get those connections and education before embarking on it.

That being said in my opinion, and from my experience, the position could very well keep you on a good career path. Can you live reasonably comfortably on $58k and save at least some money? (Hint: in NYC, Boston, the Bay, etc., the answer is "no.") Then even if your founders are total frauds you will learn a lot of crazy stuff trying to hold together a startup for them, ranging from business and product and project management and holding a team together to technologies you didn't even know existed. Another career track is to use those tech chops to get your dream job at a major tech firm. There's a rude dip in salary in the beginning but investing in skills is more important.

On a tangent, just going to throw the idea out there: consider negotiating hard. Depends a lot on what you think their pay capabilities are. It's possible to snag much more equity but that's funny money so don't overvalue it, although it may have the auxiliary benefit of promoting your social rank in the team, and get a lawyer if the equity is important to you. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they're clearly in love with you, as their willingness to take such an incomplete skill match indicates. They'd love for you to think that makes you the desperate one, but see through it: they are. Your bit would go something like, "I'll have huge expectations to learn all these knew technologies. I'm extremely adept at doing this and given the burden and how hard it is to find someone capable of this, with the ambition it takes to join a startup, I'd like to significantly reconsider my pay package before starting." (Double tangent: Don't really worry about changing your mind. Hiring involves drama. The more drama the better for you.)

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    Just wanted to point out that $58k isn't really considered dirt cheap here in Pittsburgh, especially for entry-level. It's certainly the lower end of the spectrum, but there are plenty of people making less than that here. but it's also super cheap to live here. – Alex Kibler Oct 16 '15 at 18:28
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    $58K is not dirt cheap for an entry level programmer across a broad swath of the US midwest and south. It's perhaps a bit less than average, but not much. – David Hammen Oct 17 '15 at 11:16
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    I'm in Austin. I've just stopped working for an indie games company at <$34k as lead programmer, and am moving to a job that pays $85k for mid-level. $58k for a startup indie really ain't bad for the games industry at least. But they also can't be choosy at that rate: anyone who cares about money will leave gaming and get a job coding actuarial databases for ten times any wage they could offer. – Dewi Morgan Oct 19 '15 at 0:49
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I think primarily you're suffering from Impostor Syndrome. Do you know for certain that you're going to be called on to animate stuff a lot? Or did the company just add that requirement hoping they'd find someone to synergize with another employee? As long as you didn't out and out lie on your resume, I don't see why you need to remind them of stuff they more or less already know.

The other part of this is, how quickly can you pick up these skills? My experience in software development is that every job requires me to go out and learn something new, and it's not always the hiring person's job to ensure that I knew this stuff in advance. Sometimes requirements change, sometimes bringing in a consultant makes one realize there's a better way of meeting demands, and so on. My philosophy is that a good dev never says "I can't do that", they figure out how it needs to be done and then figure out the technical stuff on their own if need be.

  • As a supplement to your answer, when I interview for positions where I know 80% of the required stuff (in the OP's case, how to do animation but not necessarily having experience with a specific tool/software package), I ask them how soon they expect me to be able to pick it up. You'd be surprised at their expectations-- one company was willing to give me 3 months to transfer my skills from one javascript library to another. As long as you have the desire to learn and their expectations aren't too high, you should take the job if you think you'll like it. – ps2goat Oct 15 '15 at 17:03
  • +1 for your last sentence. More experienced developers know more technical details up to a point IME, but what they really know better than the younger/less experienced is how to learn new things quickly. Learning is a skill in itself that develops through experience, in other words. – dodgethesteamroller Oct 15 '15 at 21:53
5

Yes, I would mail/call them, but with caution. Try to see it from their perspective, what if you led a startup, would you want an honest e-mail or a surprise?

It's their call to hire you based on the information from the interview. I notice that you have a few "might've sounded better than it was". While thats normal to some extend, You give the impression you did it a bit too much.

Some options may come out of it:

  • They retract their offer
  • They appreciate the honesty and nothing changed
  • They appreciate the honesty and reduce the offer

If you don't mail them and accept the offer, then there's a chance it'll go the way you fear. Things go bad, you waste your time, their time, you don't get a good referal...

Though I'd call/e-mail them, I wouldn't say/send as much as the topic says. I'd keep it a lot shorter. Keep in mind that you are very careful here, it might just as well be they do know your skillset and decided you're still worth it, then you're badmouthing yourself.

Good day,
Regarding the interview and job offer we had recently, I'm having the feeling I gave the impression that I master all 7 required skills.
Since your company is a startup, I want to be honest and be sure we're on the same page to avoid painful situations.
I master x,y,z to a professional extend, a,b,c are a work in progress but improving. Q is something I have minimal experience with as my graphic skills aren't those of a designer.

  • +1 Personally, I would not write an email, but rather call them. It's a 3 person startup company. Hiring employees in that early state is a so important move, that your honesty will very likely be appreciated. – s1lv3r Oct 15 '15 at 12:49
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    @s1lv3r: Even better, I'd go and see them in person. – T.J. Crowder Oct 15 '15 at 14:23
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Yes, you should definitely mail them about that.

This is a startup company with 3 employees

As this is a very young startup, the pace at which the work is done would be huge and learning all the software(required for a full stack dev) on the go is out of question. And you don't want to be a millstone for them.

Generally, companies ask for more than they actually want, in the job advertisements and postings. So, they might be okay with you not knowing some technologies they had on their postings.

So, just send an honest mail to the HR(in this case to the one who took your interview or to any of the founders) about the technologies which you absolutely have no idea about. And trust yourself for a learn-on-the-go for technologies in which you have a novice level experience.

Why should you mail them honestly?

Because this is a startup, and you would be one of it's core members, so you don't want to be dishonest with them. And startups generally don't have employment bonds, and they can even fire you for performing so bad, especially as the product launch is around the corner. So, that wouldn't be really good for your future.

3

It is a startup company.

Such companies initially may not afford good enough salary to hire a skilled, successful, competent developer with the right education. Unpaid overtime is likely in a small team. Mundane tasks like dubbing as system administrator are probable. More risks of losing the job if the company fails. There are reasons why startups may not look like the best places to work for many candidates.

And not necessarily lots of freedom for initiative, maybe they want to keep control on the development process and guide everything strictly the way they envision. And not necessary lots of chances for promotion, maybe they plan just to hire somebody more competent if they business will start growing. And maybe they just want the prototype that is scheduled to be rewritten later in another programming language.

As a result, they may tolerate less skilled developer. Maybe they expect that you will learn while working. Many developers progress over they carrier.

Hence, my advice - take the job, but be ready to do the given tasks even if it would require significant effort. Only refuse this proposal if you think that they will require something you will never manage after a few hours of unpaid overtime. Be ready for this overtime, for sure.

2

Yes. Remind them you are not very good at the animation side of things.

If you don't have a job now, then a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. So you get fired... stings a little, but you were looking for a job when got that one. Offer to do contract work for 3/7 that you started until they get replacement. Or something.

They may be hiring you because they liked your personality, maybe once you start, they will see you totally rock at 3/7 things, and they will get someone else who is good at the graphics but sucks at rest and you will team up

2

TL;DR - The company is happy with you, the remaining question is whether or not you are happy with the job. If you don't know whether you are or not, feel free to phone them and ask to discuss the role further.


Recruitment is a two-way street - it is about the company finding someone they want, and it's also about you finding a job and company that you want.

The recruitment listing had a lot of required skills. You didn't meet all of them. This is fine - no-one ever does.

The next stage was the interview - this is where both sides can go into more depth in order to discover whether the fit is good or not. You had concerns about the 7 skills, so asked about it. You got the response that "yes, you will need to perform all 7 of those skills".

The company was satisfied with you, and offered you the job. You don't need to phone them up and remind them that you lack experience in animation, they've already judged that your experience is sufficient.

What I don't know is whether you want the job or not. Possibly you don't either?

  • If you definitely want the job, and accept that you'll have to do some animation, then go for it!
  • If you don't want the job because there's too much animation, then reject it.
  • If you're unsure because you don't know to a sufficient degree how much animation is involved, phone and ask! Or email and ask for a phone discussion to discuss the role further.
  • Or, if you really want the job but only if there's no animation, contact them and say "I'd take the job if you were able to remove the animation responsibilities from it."
  • +1 for "no one ever does". So many job postings require HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Java, SQL Server, php, mySQL, IIS and Apache admin, neurosurgery and pilot the space shuttle. I think the OPs worst case analysis would be he doesn't learn all the tools in time and they let hime go. In the mean time, he gets paid (not a lot!), he maybe learns some new skills, and gets more experience. If it goes south, just decide whether to put it on the resume or not and move on. – Nolo Problemo Oct 16 '15 at 18:18
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Do not accept the offer. You do not need to explain why, but you can if you want to.

It is obvious the job is not for you. It does not matter if the employer thinks they want to hire you. You know you do not want to do animation, they will want you to do animation-this is not a good match.

There are plenty of jobs out there, find one you will feel comfortable in. Even if you find out you are lacking some skills (and they still want to hire you), you will be much happier if the skills you are learning on the job are the skills you really want to develop.

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    If the OP is still concerned that he oversold himself a quick phone call would be a better option than just giving up – teambob Oct 16 '15 at 3:47
1

Brutal answer:

Go for it.

This is a very small startup (3ppl), and they don't have much money (offering $58K for a full-stack developer with extra skills?)

The company won't get to the first round of funding, no matter how great you are at the job. So take the job, get the experience, and ride it for as long as possible. When it hits the iceberg, you'll have (say) three months working as a full-stack developer in a startup company. The company failure won't be down to you, so you won't be tainted. You can move on, and you won't be making $58K in the next job, it will be much more.

protected by Jane S Oct 15 '15 at 21:06

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