Skills Beyond What We Were Looking For

I went for an interview to work as an engineer for an NGO in India through a UK charity. This was entry level with no previous experience necessary.

These interships are donor funded with two beneficiaries in mind. The students and graduates who need a help getting that initial experience in international projects and the partner who are in need of the technical persons. This is why none of the roles require prior experience. How does one describe, best candidate? Dependent on which side is prioritiesed the selection criteria is very different. Comparing between an enthuthiastic, qualified but unproven candidate and someone who has previous sucessful overseas project. The first presents a risk to the partner and the second does not fulfill that requirement for initial experience. It is impossible to know which the interviewer will deem as more in keeping with the donors intentions.

The interview was a pleasent affair but I left feeling i hadn't promoted my practical nature well enough. In the end I did not get the internship and the the response I received is reproduced below.
I hope that this e-mail finds you well. It was really nice to meet you last week but I'm afraid that I don't have the best news for you, unfortunately the place at XXXXXX has been offered to somebody else.
At the interview you came across as a really intelligent guy who knew more about development issues than anybody else that we interviewed on the day. The only reason that you were unsuccessful was that you were simply beaten out by an applicant that had mechanical design skills that went far beyond what we were looking for. Again I am sorry we were unable to offer you a place.
Once again this was an entry level, with no prior experience necessary. I can understand why a recruiter would take the higher valuer, more experienced person in possesion of skills beyond what was necessary for the role. However that does little to abate the frustration of trying to get the first step on the ladder.
It had frustrated me the section I had the most control over, my own education surrounding international development was deemed less important than demonstratable mechanical design skill. Given the random distribution of assignments at University I was never placed on a project that allowed me to demonstrate such abilities and any learning now would require funds and resources I no longer had access to. Let me reiterate I am educated and capable of it. I am looking for oportunities to place that into practice.
Now I don't know the background of the sucessful candidate. I hope the design skills were developed in the UK. He may have been greatly in need of a broader perspective, something this internship would have granted him. Using the metric of benefit to the candidate, Was his gain of global perspective, greater than my need of real project experience. Or were we using the benefit to the partner metric, his lack of internation development knowledge is easily suplimented by non-technical staff at the partner NGO so his shortcoming represented less risk. Nevertheless for me the first experience problem remains.

This is a good one, actually

Hey Razi, I am sorry you did not get the internship! And yet, this does actually not look like a bad process at all (though I fully appreciate that you are not happy with its outcome). It is looking like somebody actually sat down and wrote you a personalized answer, telling you exactly why you dod not get the gig. That is a very British thing, in continental Europe you normally would get much more impersonal responses, the main one being “we regret we will only be getting in touch with successful candidates.”

I really like your analysis of the recruiter’s dilemma. It’s almost inevitable that recruiters will try to kill several birds with one stone, so one candidate will excel at something, another at something else and it is impossible to say, a priori, where the interviewer will go.

In doubt

In the latest analysis of edgeryders making a living and filling in job applications, there’s this idea prevalent that recruitment processes are most often deemed to be ill-suited in matching skills with needs, often idiosyncratic, and those in the community having experience with applications aren’t seeing any value in the process.

Is this valid in your case or the lesson you’ve learned paints a different picture, maybe extend a point at the UK level, based on Alberto’s comment? Do you think we’re missing something? Would be great to read your thoughts really (we’re having a conversation here), it would be a pitty to generalize when some experiences can be rewarding, even if unsuccessful maybe in the long run?