by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer
Ask any job seeker or employee about salary negotiations and one of the most popular responses is, “I would negotiate but I don’t know what to say.” Having the right words to say, or write, during a salary negotiation is vital. Communication can make or break discussions and impact your confidence to get paid fairly.
First things first, determine your current worth in the job market. Use Know Your Worth to receive a custom salary estimate based on your title, company, location and experience. Once you have the information, it’s time to advocate for yourself.
Josh Doody, author of Fearless Salary Negotiation, knows how challenging it can be to learn to financially advocate for oneself. He took his first job without negotiating his salary. Once he got hip to the dance, he doubled that salary.
We teamed with Doody to equip job seekers and employees with exactly how to tackle tricky salary negotiation conversations.
Situation #1: Prying During the Prescreen
How should you respond when you’re asked about salary right off the bat? You want to demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic and cooperative, but you don’t want to tip your hand. Doody explains: “It’s a salary negotiation tactic disguised as a gatekeeper-type interview question.”
Recruiter: What’s your current salary?
You: “I’m not really comfortable sharing that information. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company and not what I’m paid at my current job.”
If the interview team doesn’t know your salary, they can’t use it as their starting point. Doody writes, “that’s probably going to mean a higher initial offer for you.”
Recruiter: What’s your expected salary?
You: “I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation.”
Doody points out, “sharing your current salary or your expected salary is not in your best interest. . . They’re interviewing you because you’re a qualified candidate, and they need a qualified candidate. . . They would also like to get a good deal. . They’re not going to stop interviewing you just because you don’t make it easier for them to get a good deal on you.”
If they pass because you won’t acquiesce, that’s a red flag. Doody says, “then they’re extremely motivated to get a bargain…That’s bad news for you even if you get the job.”
One last thing, resist the temptation to tell a white lie when asked for your salary during the prescreening process. If you underestimate what they’re willing to pay, you’re leaving money on the table. If the real answer is that they would compensate someone like you up to $75,000 dollars, and you guess they would pay a salary of only $65,000, you very literally may have just cost yourself $10,000.
If you overestimate and tell them your salary expectation is $85,000, you may set off red flags that cause them to rethink the interview process altogether. This is pretty rare, but you could disqualify yourself by being “too expensive” for them. If your expected salary is well above their budgeted pay range, they may just move on to other candidates with lower salary expectations.
The bottom line is you probably aren’t going to guess what their salary structure looks like, and if you try to guess you may cost yourself a lot of money.
Situation #2: Savvy Counter Offering
After you’ve secured an offer, Doody recommends using this formula:
“The counter offer calculator accounts for four factors—the base salary of your job offer, your minimum acceptable salary (“walk away” number), how badly the company needs you to accept the job offer, and how badly you need the job.”
Use “firm and neutral” language like this:
“Tom offered $50,000 and I would be more comfortable if we could settle on $56,000. I feel that amount reflects the importance and expectations of the position for ACME Corp’s business, and my qualifications and experience as they relate to this particular position.”
Or, if you had a competing offer:
“Thank you so much for the offer. As I mentioned during my interview process, I am speaking with a couple of other companies. If you’re able to move the pay to [insert your number], I’d be eager to accept.”
Doody explains that email is the perfect medium for this message. This way, the hiring manager can share it in a format that clearly makes your case to each person with whom it’s shared. Your case won’t get the same treatment if it’s restated recollections of a conversation.
The hiring manager will likely come back with a figure between your base salary and your counteroffer. For Doody, the distance between these figures represents your “salary negotiation window.” He recommends compartmentalizing this window into increments. In the example above, the window is $6,000, so he recommends devising a response for each possible offer.
If, for example, the offer is $55,000 or above, Doody says it’s a taker.
“If the company comes back with $53,000, then you say ‘If you can do $54,000, I’m on board!’ If they stick with $53,000, then you would say, ‘I understand the best you can do is $53,000 and you can’t come up to $54,000. If you can do $53,000 and offer an extra week of paid vacation each year, then I’m on board.’”
Decide which benefits, like vacation time or flexible working hours, are most important so that you can apply them to bolster the deal. Rank those benefits in your mind and use those in your bargaining.
Extra vacation time
Work from home
If they do not accept your second-priority benefit, you move on to your third-priority benefit. Regardless of whether they accept your final response, then you’re finished; don’t get nit-picky or greedy. You have maximized your base salary and maximized your benefits as well.
Situation #3: Raises & Promotions
Doody explains: “Your primary reason for requesting a raise is that the salary you’re being paid doesn’t reflect your current value to the company. That salary was set some time in the past, so your argument is that you are more valuable now than you were. . . ” You have a fair justification. Now you need the right plan.
Start by mentioning, via email, to your manager that you’d like to discuss compensation in your next private meeting. After that conversation, Doodly advises preparing a strategically constructed, easily sharable salary increase letter.
Suggested Email Script:
“As we discussed, it has been [amount of time] since [“my last significant salary adjustment” OR “since I was hired”], and I would like to revisit my salary now that I’m contributing much more to the company. I’ve been researching salaries for [job title] in [industry] industry, and it looks like the mid-point is around [mid-point from your research]. So I would like to request a raise to [target salary].”
The letter should also highlight your accomplishments and accolades. Doody notes that if your proposal isn’t accepted on the first try, you can work with your manager to create an action plan.
“I would love to work with you to put together a clear action plan and timeline so we can continue this discussion and monitor my progress as I work toward my goal.”
Always remember, your talent is precious, and you deserve to be compensated for it. Learning to foster conversations about compensation is a vital skill that yields rewards.
The rise of 'hybrid jobs' can provide more work opportunities for the right professionals.
By J.T. O'DonnellFounder and CEO, WorkItDaily.com
A recent article on the rise of hybrid jobs caught my attention. It refers to new types of jobs that require non-traditional pairings of skill sets. In particular, when the author discussed the term "purple squirrels," it brought back memories! This term is commonly used in the staffing industry. It refers to people with a rare combination of skill sets. So rare, it takes a ridiculous amount of effort to identify and hire them. If you've ever worked in recruiting, then you've likely dealt with a hiring manager who's asked for the impossible. You know, the one that wants, "a bilingual brain surgeon who will be happy with $10 an hour." When I worked in staffing, I remember cringing when requests for purple squirrels came in. Why? They were hard to find and usually required a lot of money to woo away from their current employers. Which is EXACTLY why every job seeker today should strive to be one!
Want to skip the job search and make recruiters come to you? Strive to be a purple squirrel.
When you brand yourself the right way, you will build a reputation for your unique combination of skills and find recruiters knocking on your doors--or at least asking you to connect on LinkedIn. All it takes is a little research and some keyword optimization and you can improve the chances you get discovered. Here's what to do:
Step 1: Collect attractive job postings.
Find five to 10 job opportunities you are interested in where you feel you're at least a 70 percent or higher match. They should be in the same industry or skill set in order to provide some focus on the content.
Step 2: Create a word cloud.
Copy and paste the text of all the job postings in an online word cloud creator to see which hard and soft skill sets are most common across them. You'll be amazed at which key terms are popular--many of which you might not even have listed on important career tools, i.e., your résumé and LinkedIn profile.
Step 3: Add relevant keywords in strategic places.
Take the top 10 to 12 skill sets and add them to your LinkedIn profile and résumé in strategic places. For example, the terms you put in your LinkedIn headline matter greatly. It's prime real estate--when a recruiter uses a key skill set in their search parameters and you have it in your headline, the chances you'll show up in their search results increases. And the more keywords you have in the headline that match their search, the higher in the results you'll appear.
P.S. When it comes to job security, "brand or BE branded."
Being a purple squirrel is useless if nobody knows it. Branding your unique combination of skills is one of the best ways to ensure you'll be found more frequently. While every job is temporary, you can create job security for yourself in the form of a good personal brand. The more people who understand the problems you solve and the pain you alleviate for your employers, the easier it is for them to imagine you working at their companies.
NOTE from Jeff Morris, Founder of CareerDFW - Do not state you are a "Purple Squirrel". Let your key words and stated skills say it for you. Do not put the words "Purple Squirrel" on a resume, Bio, LinkedIn profile.
by Emily Moore
Odds are, you already know how important networking is. You might have leveraged your network to land a job, procure a new client or even switch careers entirely — or at the very least, you probably know someone who has. But despite the endless benefits of networking, many people still dread the experience.
Often, this is because they simply don’t know what to say. After all, approaching a stranger you know nothing about can be pretty intimidating — what in the world do you talk about?
Well, the next time you find yourself wondering this at an industry mixer, don’t fret. We talked to a handful of career experts to get their recommendations on great questions to ask while networking. Use any of these questions for a quick and painless conversation starter.
1. “What brings you here?”
This light-touch question is a great way to begin a conversation, explains Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact.
“This question shows you are interested in the other person and are not just trying to figure out how they can help you. Their response will give you a sense of what they are working on and what is on the front of their mind. That will lead you to extend the conversation and figure out how you can add value to them,” Tillis Lederman explains. “They will also likely ask you the question in return and give you an opening to share what your current objectives are.”
2. “How did you get involved in the industry/company?”
Once you know a little bit more about somebody’s professional background, ask them how they got their start. It can provide valuable takeaways for you, as well as make you seem more likable.
“Finding out more about their journey leading up to their current role can offer an excellent insight into what you might need to do in order to work in that industry, role or company,” says Lars Herrem, Group Executive Director at recruiting agency Nigel Wright Group. “Demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm is key to creating a lasting impression and making yourself memorable, something which will prove extremely beneficial if you end up reaching out to this person in the future.”
3. “Since you work in the industry, how do you feel about X?”
Asking about a specific, timely event in the industry — whether it’s proposed legislation, a merger, a recent news story, etc. — is a great way to show the person you’re speaking with that you are knowledgeable and thoughtful, both of which are key to being memorable, says career coach Eli Howayeck of Crafted Career Concepts.
“First impressions matter. The best thing you can do, besides being a nice person, is to demonstrate how you think and what you know about the marketplace,” Howayeck explains. “This helps direct the conversation and informs your conversation partner that you likely know what you’re talking about or, at a minimum, pay attention to what is going on in the world and [are] not only focused on yourself and your advancement.”
4. “How would someone get their foot in the door in your company/industry?”
The ultimate objective of networking is often to get a new job, but coming out and asking somebody you just met to help you get one can be pretty off-putting. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t approach the topic at all — you just have to do so delicately.
This question “is a subtle way to ask about opportunities without coming right out and saying, ‘Do you know if they are hiring?’” says career coach Madelyn Mackie. “If you are lucky, they will ask you if you are interested and then provide you with a business card to follow-up with them after the event.”
Even if they aren’t able to help you out directly, though, you will likely gain some valuable insight that will help you in your job search process.
5. “Based on your journey, what do you wish someone would have told you earlier in your career?”
This is a great question to ask if you’re speaking with somebody who is more senior than you are. It allows them to impart the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years with you, as well as appeals to their ego.
“People are way more comfortable sharing their wisdom than they are sharing their contacts, and both can be very valuable,” Howayeck says. “Seeking to learn from others honors them and shows that you’re invested in growth. It also shows deference and can endear the person to you and deepen the connection.”
6. “How do you spend your time outside of work?”
At its heart, networking is all about forming connections with others, so don’t be afraid to veer towards lighthearted chitchat. Questions like this one help people open up, and make it clear that you don’t expect the interaction to be purely transactional.
“This kind of question lowers the stakes and also gives the other person a chance to discuss what they’re passionate about,” Howayeck explains. “It also shows that you are actually interested in them as a person, and not just what they do and how it could help you.”
Who knows? You may even bond over a shared interest or activity!
7. “What’s the best way for me to get in touch/follow up with you?”
Ask this question, and you’re guaranteed to avoid one of the biggest mistakes that novice networkers make, according to career coach Nikki Bruno: “Beginning networkers often make the mistake of giving away a stack of business cards but gathering none. The only way to ensure that you’ll be able to follow up with new contacts is to get their information; it keeps you in the driver’s seat.”
“Note that this question is intentionally different from ‘May I have your card?’” Bruno adds. “Asking to stay in touch or to follow someone shows that you view him/her as a human being, not as a mere contact.”
After months of unemployment, one of my career coaching clients desperately needed a new job, but she wanted to make sure it was in a field she loved. So, we re-did her resume and LinkedIn profile, wrote a cover letter, talked about potential transferable skills, and reviewed the descriptions of jobs she was interested in.
There was just one problem: After two months, she still hadn’t applied to anything. When we talked about why she wasn’t applying, we realized that she was chasing perfection and it was paralyzing her search.
Don’t get me wrong—you should do your very best when applying to a job. But if you try to be absolutely flawless, you’ll probably get in your own way.
At a certain point, you need to accept that what you’ve put together is good enough. If you don’t, then the whole effort was pointless. After all, it’s hard to get a job if you don’t actually apply.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the job will no longer be available. In the beginning, my client listed 10 specific jobs she wanted to apply to. By the time she was ready to hit “submit,” most of the positions on her list had already been taken down or filled.
Finally, wasting too much time making everything “perfect” subtracts from the time you need to spend on a very crucial part of the job search: networking. Instead of agonizing over every detail, you could be attending events, reaching out to contacts, or meeting someone for an informational coffee. These activities will get you much further than an award-winning LinkedIn headline, trust me.
If you’re like my client and can’t help but let your perfectionist tendencies get in the way, here are some bad job search habits you need to be aware of and cut out of your process—now.
1. You Only Apply to Jobs You’re the Perfect Fit For
Here’s the cold, hard truth about job descriptions: Hiring managers are describing their dream candidate—one they know they’re unlikely to find. Because the chances of that person existing and just happening to apply for this specific opportunity are pretty small.
So why do hiring managers do this? It’s more beneficial for them to create a wish list and hope someone who’s 90% there applies than to list the bare minimum and end up with a candidate who’s missing several crucial skills or qualities.
Of course there will be roles you won’t come close to being qualified for. If it’s a nursing role and you never went to nursing school, or it’s a software engineering job and you don’t know how to write a lick of code, or it’s a management position that requires 10 to 15 years of experience and you’re in year one of your first job, it’s not going to happen, so don’t even bother applying.
But otherwise, if you can fulfill a majority of the requirements—say 75% of them, give or take—or you fulfill the most important requirements, you should still try. You may be surprised to find that you have some transferable skills that technically apply to that other 25%. Or that some of the skills you’re lacking may not be a priority to the hiring manager. Or even that the hiring manager values passion over skill set (which can often be taught).
Worst case? You don’t get a callback. That’s not such a horrible outcome.
2. You Sweat the Small Stuff Way Too Much
There’s a lot of advice out there about addressing your cover letter that can be scary to anyone who considers themself super detail-oriented.
And it usually leads a perfectionist down a rabbit hole desperate to find the name of the exact person they’re contacting, a feat that can often take hours (if not be impossible), depending on how niche the role or company is.
But the only rule you really need to live by is this: Don’t start with “To Whom It May Concern.” Or “Dear Sir or Madam” for that matter.
Sure, you want to put some effort into finding the person. But a few minutes tops. Ultimately, it’s only a few words on the paper, and while they’re important, the more important words come after it.
In your cover letter and everywhere else on your application, that’s the stuff you should spend time on—the substance. Like, say, making sure that you’re highlighting how your experience will help you with certain role responsibilities (oh, hello, transferable skills!) and that your passion for the company and position is clear. At the end of the day, proving why you’re a great fit is 10 times more important than nailing a salutation.
3. You Quadruple Check for Typos
You should spell- and grammar-check your application—of course you should. You want to spell the hiring manager’s name right and your name right, and not mess up “its” versus “it’s” (is that just my pet peeve?).
But perfectionists tend to get a little wild when it comes to proofing their materials, spending way too long looking them over for any sign of error.
Here’s the thing. Recruiters spend six seconds looking at your resume. Yes, seconds. Not minutes.
Given that, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll catch minor typos (unless they have super skimming vision). And even if they do, most people understand that all humans—even job candidates!—make mistakes sometimes.
And if you do happen to spot a mistake on your application and it’s driving you nuts, you can always follow up once you realize it—yes, really!
The point is, you don’t want to let your fear of typos stop you from sending in your materials at all. So trust your proofreading skills. If you’ve gone through everything with a careful eye at least once, you’re probably just fine.
4. You Ask Too Many People to Review Your Materials
Your partner. Your coach. Five friends. Heck, let’s ask the Starbucks barista, too!
Having another set of eyes on your materials is incredibly helpful, especially if you’ve been looking at them for way too long and need a fresh perspective. Someone else can catch errors you may have missed and tell you if something is confusing or feels irrelevant to the job.
But when you ask too many people for their input, you waste a lot of time waiting for them to get back to you, and risk losing your chance to throw your hat in the ring.
And many times you end up with too many (often conflicting) viewpoints. Because each person has different life and work experiences—and different context about your life—that can lead to them giving you advice that’s colored by their particular point of view. And trust me—you do not need three, four, or nine different perspectives on this. You’ll never satisfy everyone, and you’ll start to lose who you are in the process.
Stick to two outside opinions, max, and make them people you truly trust and respect. When you find yourself looking for a third person to chime in, just send in the application instead.
You need to believe that you’re a solid applicant and that you’re capable of putting together top-notch materials. (Because you are.) Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time second guessing yourself.
The job search is already tedious enough. Don’t spend more time on it than you need to, and definitely don’t let the need to be perfect hold you back. So, please, for the love of job seekers and kittens everywhere, hit submit and move on with your life. (Oh, and good luck!)
Abby is a writer, career coach, and health educator living in Portland, Maine. When she’s not trying to make the world a happier and healthier place, you can find her cuddling with her cats, hunting down the city's best coffee and grilled cheese, or dipping her toes in the Atlantic.
Question: After multiple interviews, a well-known company made me a job offer that I refused. The offer was good, considerably more than I earn now. But the deal was unacceptable because, from one meeting to the next, the team showed me the company is undisciplined, disorganized and incapable of conducting business with someone they want to hire. And they recruited me! I didn’t go to them looking for a job! This of course tells me they are not worth doing business with, period.
I’m writing to you because I’ve concluded that I should have cut the meetings off sooner. I was so focused on performing at my best that I didn’t calculate the problems that now appear so obvious to me. Can you poll your readers and ask them what signals during interviews tip them off that a company is not worth working for?
Nick Corcodilos: Don’t feel bad. In the throes of the evaluation process, a candidate is understandably trying so hard to impress that he or she dismisses signals that suggest it’s time to walk away. Nonetheless, there are indeed signals you should be looking for early in the process. You should not wait until after you’ve invested many hours and loads of effort to calculate whether an employer is worth it!
6 reasons to reject an employer
San Francisco recruiter Ken Hansell posted this story on LinkedIn, from a job candidate who rejected a job offer and declined to negotiate further. Like you, this candidate probably waited too long to tell the employer to take a hike.
I declined the offer… I’m staying where I am. The recruiter called me and asked why? This is one of the top companies. What’s the counter offer? Me: No counter offer.
1. I had six rounds of interviews.
2. I was grilled with questions but nobody took the time to explain what the job is like and did not even ask if I have any questions.
3. Lots of questions did not make sense – like why I am leaving my employer. I was not, your recruiter approached me and convinced me to come for your interview. Where I see myself in 5 years. They could not tell me where they see their company in 6 months.
4. The hiring process is too long, too disorganized.
5. The offer took too long.
6. The interviewers did not compare notes because during the six rounds of interviews they were asking the same questions. This should not look like an interrogation. They also looked tired and stressed.
If you want to hire talent, fix your basics. Treat candidates as people, not as applicants.
This job candidate has outlined six clear signs that showed the company was not worthy of consideration. All these signs are important, but the third one is key: The interviewers behaved as if the candidate is chasing the company when, in fact, the company is recruiting the candidate.
Who’s recruiting whom?
This critical distinction is lost on most people. Applying for jobs you have sought out is one thing. But when a company finds you, pursues you, solicits you, and convinces you to come talk about a job — then the calculus changes entirely.
As you and the candidate in the LinkedIn story both noted, you were not looking for a job, so asking you why you wanted to leave your old job is not just presumptuous and rude — it reveals a totally misguided approach to hiring.
When you are recruited, an employer should do three things:
These are not unrealistic asks. Some employers do it right. (See Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.)
When you are recruited, an employer who fails to treat you as an honored guest reveals a profound ignorance of how the world works. That’s simply disrespectful. It’s the sign of an uncouth, uncultured, stupid organization that’s bound to fail — one you’d be wasting your time with. (See Stupid Recruiters: How employers waste your time.)
Blind recruiting is spam
I’ll repeat that: When a company — whether its manager, its recruiter or its headhunter — comes to you and suggests it is interested in you, it should treat you with special respect and deference.
Blind solicitations are not recruiting; they’re spam. The trouble is, most people don’t understand this. They allow companies that recruit them to treat them like beggars. Don’t. You’ll save a lot of time if you separate employers you pursue from those that come to you.
This is not to say other employers can get away with not treating you respectfully. But when a company or recruiter solicits you, expect to be treated well — or walk away if you’re made to feel like somebody who applied for a job.
What the 6 signs really tell you
The six signs above tell you that an employer is wasting your time. Here’s why.
By — Nick Corcodilos
Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.
This is the information you need in order to make your case before you go into a salary negotiation.
BY GWEN MORAN
Even as the job market breaks records, wage growth has remained sluggish in the U.S.–and employers don’t seem too anxious to change their penny-pinching ways. Two-thirds of employers reported retention as a top concern in PayScale’s “2019 Compensation Best Practices Report,” up 7% from 2018. But of the 81% that are planning base pay increases, slightly more than two-thirds are estimating an increase of 3% or less.
So if you’re seeking a higher number on your paycheck, it’s likely up to you to make it happen. Before you go into a salary negotiation for a new job or a bump in pay for the position you already have, here is the information you should seek out to make your case.
START WITH SALARY GUIDES
Annual salary guides and compensation reports like those from PayScale, Randstad, Robert Half, and others may give you some insight into general salary trends. You can get a sense of how respondents say they’re budgeting for salary increases, what their main concerns are about compensation, and how they’re thinking about salaries in general.
In addition, sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com can also give insight into specific companies and their compensation practices. The general information you find on the internet can be a helpful starting point, says Lydia Frank, PayScale‘s vice president of content strategy. “It’s a good idea to get your information from a variety of sources,” she says.
CONSIDER GEOGRAPHIC DIFFERENCES
PayScale’s research found that, over time, some U.S. metro areas led in compensation growth while others lagged. For example, the PayScale Index for the fourth quarter of 2018 found San Francisco having the largest year-over-year wage growth at 4.9%. Los Angeles, Boston, and New York were tied for 7th place with 2% year-over-year growth. The Nashville metro area came in at No. 32 with -0.7% growth.
If you’re in a growing sector in a high wage-growth city, this could be a promising indicator for compensation negotiations. But when you factor in inflation, wage growth generally isn’t much to write home about. “Mostly we have less spending power in our paychecks, even if it’s a higher number than we did in 2006, because inflation has eaten away some of those increases. I think that’s a nuance that gets missed,” Frank says.
UNDERSTAND YOUR EDGE
Jim Link, chief human resources officer (CHRO) at Randstad North America, says one thing that stood out to him when reviewing the Randstad U.S. “2019 Salary Guide,” was the rise in importance of some positions that hadn’t seen much of a base pay increase in the past, especially in manufacturing and logistics sectors. Even assemblers and programmable controllers, where a relatively small degree of technical skill is needed, are seeing average raises in the 5% range.
“To me, that’s a good sign for our economy, but it’s also fascinating to me that it’s taken this long for those positions to really flex their muscle in our economy. It’s about time and a little overdue, in my mind,” he says.
This year, Randstad’s research found more marked salary jumps in some specializations and skill intersections, which may offer a salary negotiation advantage, too. For example, engineering coupled with project management experience and information technology (IT) pros with healthcare experience got bigger pay increases than their counterparts who didn’t specialize, he says.
PRICE YOUR JOB PROPERLY
Frank encourages people who feel like they’ve taken on more responsibility to check in with human resources. Ask to look at the job description that is being used for your current job. If you’re performing additional tasks, especially those that are typically done by someone in a higher-level job, that can be a great negotiating tool.
“Sometimes, HR doesn’t understand how the job has evolved, and the manager doesn’t necessarily know they’re supposed to alert HR to that,” she says. Frank believes most HR departments will be open to this conversation so they can write more accurate job descriptions in the future.
CONSULT THOSE IN THE KNOW
Whether you’re seeking information for your current job or a new one, seek out colleagues who formerly worked for the company or champions within the company who have supervisory responsibilities. They may be able to provide insight into compensation levels or expectations, Link says. More important, they may be able to give you insight into how the company thinks about pay. For example, they may help you see whether the company is more open to investing in benefits or performance-based compensation than base salary increases.
YOUR OWN PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
Of course, be prepared to show the results you’ve generated and the value you’ve contributed, Link says. Whether you’re negotiating for more pay in your current company or proving your worth to a prospective employer, walk in with a list of how you’ve gone above and beyond in your job, the skills you have added, and how you’ve helped make a difference in the company’s performance. “Never forget that the best information you have is about your own performance,” he says. Show that you’re a team member worth adding or retaining, and you may be rewarded with additional compensation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Certainly feels like an absurd interview question, but managers are trying to suss out your critical thinking, creativity, and ability to work under pressure. So here’s how to answer.
BY JARED LINDZON
What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer? How would you describe the color yellow to a blind person? How many square feet of pizza is eaten in the U.S. each year?
The questions may sound absurd, but they’ve all been asked in professional interviews, and may have even been the most consequential test of the entire hiring process.
That’s because employers know that candidates can list skills like critical thinking, creativity, and ability to work under pressure on their resume, but the best way to test their abilities is often through seemingly absurd and unexpected questions. Furthermore, in an age where candidates can research, anticipate, and prepare for likely interview questions, the unexpected and unrehearsed responses often prove the most revealing.
“These kinds of questions allow us to dive deeper into a candidate’s thought process and kind of gauge their personality,” said Michael Pearce, a health care recruiter with Addison Group.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAME?
Pearce says that when evaluating candidates he typically asks them to name their favorite board game, explaining that their response often reveals more about their personality and professional strengths than their resume.
“For example, if a candidate chose Risk, it highlights to me that they’re methodical and strategy focused and would best fit into a role that requires those skill sets,” he says.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH?
When recruiters ask open-ended questions, Pearce says, there’s often no wrong answer, but warns that a more specific question could suggest the they’re looking for something precise. For example, Pearce says one client requested that he ask each candidate how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“They were specifically looking for people to be as descriptive as possible,” he says, adding that the role required strong communication skills. “They’re looking to see if the candidate included a step-by-step process as if they’re explaining it to someone that’s never heard of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BREAKFAST FOOD AND WHY?
Glassdoor’s senior director of corporate communications, Scott Dobroski, similarly makes a distinction between two different oddball question categories. He explains that the open ended questions are often intended to test creativity and critical thinking, while more quantitative questions are designed to test how the candidate solves problems under pressure.
In either case, however, Dobroski says that hiring managers are often more interested in the thought process behind the answer than the answer itself.
“It could be ‘what’s your favorite breakfast food and why?’ and someone might say ‘Cheerios, because it’s the breakfast of champions,’ and explain how they’re a champion in the workplace,” he says. “It’s the open ended questions where you’re given the opportunity to take something quirky and relate it to the workplace and who you are as an employee and what you bring that’s different from competitors.”
Dobroski adds that it also reveals something about the candidate’s personality, which can help determine whether they’d fit with the company’s culture.
HOW MANY PENCILS COULD YOU FIT INTO THIS ROOM?
Quantitative questions are similarly intended to evoke a detailed explanation, but attempt to reveal how the candidate approaches challenges under pressure rather than something about their personality. One example employers could ask is how many pencils they could fit in the interview room.
“What they’re looking for is not a one-word response, but thinking out loud on how you would get to a solution or a conclusion, because that’s what we do all day when we’re working,” says Dobroski. “We’re faced with planned and unplanned challenges, and problem solving is an asset in every job.”
He explains that when faced with a quantitative question candidates should do their best to think out loud, feel free to ask questions, and even request more time to think it over before responding.
“You want to ask questions to get to the best answer,” he says. “Like ‘Are they standard sized pencils?’ ‘What’s the thickness of the pencil?’ Do I have anything at my disposal to chop up the pencil before?'”
IF YOU WERE A NEW ADDITION TO THE CRAYON BOX, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
When it comes to odd interview questions there’s often little candidates can do to anticipate them, and that’s okay, explains author and job search expert for The Balance Careers, Alison Doyle.
“Don’t even try, because you can’t anticipate them,” she says, explaining that there are other ways to prepare. “What you might think about is if you’re asked something off the wall, what’s the best way to respond.”
Doyle explains that instead of trying to practice answers to wacky questions, candidates should instead practice how they would approach them in more general terms.
“Stay calm, think about it a little bit, and remember that you can ask questions if you need to,” she says. “Try and be creative, like if they ask, ‘Iif you’re a new addition to a crayon box, which color would you be and why?’ they’re looking at how you answer more than the answer itself.”
When asked an odd question in a job interview Doyle says it’s far more important for candidates to remain composed and demonstrate an ability to defend their answer than it is to arrive at the “right” answer. After all, responses can be as absurd as the questions themselves, as long as there’s also an equal amount of thought and purpose behind them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist born, raised and residing in Toronto, covering technology, entrepreneurship, entertainment and more for a wide variety of publications in Canada, the United States and around the world. When he's not playing with gadgets, interviewing entrepreneurs or traveling to music festivals and tech conferences you can usually find him diligently practicing his third-person bio writing skills.
Many professionals will probably recognize this situation: You go to a meeting or an event and, assuming that everyone there already knows you, or that you're playing a minor role, you introduce yourself with your first name — or not at all.
No big deal, right?
Wrong. "I see it happen all the time, and it's terrible," bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch tells CNBC Make It. "Your identity is an important piece of information for context in any business situation."
Welch, a career coach, says it drives her crazy when people fail to say their full names during an introduction. But worse, this blunder could be hindering your professional advancement. "Not stating your full name at the beginning of a business encounter essentially announces, 'I don't matter,' or 'I lack confidence' — or both."
Welch says that a failed introduction is not just "first-impression poison," but "it can be a career killer, because who wants to listen to a person who doesn't believe in themselves?"
This was first pointed out to her 10 years ago, when bestselling author and financial advisor Suze Orman scolded her for making this mistake during a speech. Welch says that after she left the stage, Orman grabbed her and said, "You didn't say your name!"
Welch protested that she had been introduced, but Orman said it didn't matter. "Even when you think people know who you are, say your name — both first and last. Own your name and you own the room."
She took Orman's advice to heart. Recently, Welch spent a day coaching MBA students. The event included a Q & A, and Welch says she "watched person after person take the mic and say, 'Hi, umm, my question is blah blah...'" As each student came forward, she sat there thinking, "Who is going to hire you if you can't even introduce yourself properly?"
"Please take this advice about your name," she says. "I promise you'll see an impact on you and everyone in the room right away — and eventually on your career."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You scan a job posting and everything looks normal (responsibilities and requirements, check, lots of jargon related to your field, check), until you come across the following: Please submit a resume and letter of intent.
Huh. That’s a phrase you’ve never seen before: “letter of intent.” Do they mean like a cover letter, but in a different, slightly confusing way?
Well, yes and no. There are plenty of similarities between the two, and also several differences. Here’s what you need to know about letters of intent.
What Is a Letter of Intent?
To play off the name, a letter of intent is about stating your intentions to work for a particular company. There may be a specific role you (or the employer) has in mind, but more often you’re interested in tossing your name into the hat for any opportunities an organization may offer.
“In my experience, I’ve seen an intent letter used usually when there’s not a specific job that a candidate is interested in applying for,” says Kaila Kea, a career coach on The Muse. So you’d probably write one if you’re submitting a general application to an organization you’re a major fan of that isn’t necessarily hiring for your dream job just yet.
How Does a Letter of Intent Differ From a Cover Letter?
It can be easy to confuse a cover letter with a letter of intent. In her experience working with job seekers, Kea differentiates them this way: “Intent letters tend to be a bit more company focused—you’re talking a little more about the employer than the specific job.” They’re also more general in terms of how you talk about your skill set.
“On the flip side of that, the cover letter can be more job-focused, a little more position-oriented, because there’s a specific job that’s posted that you want to speak to,” she adds.
As a result, each type of letter requires a different approach.
For example, says Kea, with a cover letter you might say, “I’m highly interested in a product manager role at [Company] for the following reasons,” while with a letter of intent you’re more likely to say something along the lines of, “I’m highly interested in a managerial role at [Company] for the following reasons.”
Going broader “gives you more wiggle room into what the employer may align you with in terms of roles,” says Kea. Rather than pigeonhole yourself into one path, you allow the hiring manager to slot you into the best-fit scenario.
Letters of intent can also present themselves in situations outside the application process—for example, if you want to follow up after a job fair or a networking event. “Again, there may not be a specific role listed that you’re interested in or that you can apply for at that time,” Kea says, but emailing a letter of intent is a great way to express interest in working for their organization one day.
Why Do Companies Ask for Letters of Intent?
Companies ask for letters of intent mainly when they’re as torn about what they’re looking for as you might be.
“In some cases, employers might have several jobs posted at once for one department or for one specific project,” says Kea. They may ask for a letter of intent because they’re not entirely sure what kind of person they need to fill the gaps in those departments. Maybe they’ll end up hiring two senior-level managers, or they may be just as satisfied with one mid-level exec and one entry-level employee—depending on which people wow them in the application process.
Letters of intent are also frequently used to hire for contractors or freelancers who aren’t your standard W2 employees, because if, for example, a contract falls through, companies can easily line up the next qualified candidate for the job.
Put simply, a hiring manager most likely wants to widen their candidate pool, so they’re looking for anyone and everyone who shows an eagerness and passion for the company.
The type of letter can also vary across sectors. “In my experience, the more established organizations [and] private companies typically go with a cover letter,” says Kea, while letters of intent might present themselves at startups or nonprofits that are more mission-focused and growing at a greater rate.
“So from a candidate perspective, if you’re asked to submit a letter of intent, that may mean that the company is newer, that they’re trying to source talent in a different way, whereas the cover letter [is] more of a classic go-to,” she explains.
How Do You Go About Writing a Letter of Intent?
First off, you want to express plenty of interest in the company itself. “A lot of people get really wrapped up [in saying] ‘I’m the perfect person for this job, I want this job, I’m great for this job, hire me for this job,’” says Kea. “And there’s nothing wrong with that…but one of the things that makes an intent letter so successful is really showing that you identify with the company’s mission, their values, their goals.”
Letters of intent can also be more current. For example, rather than talk broadly about the company, you may mention something about them in the news or a recent update to their product. You want to include “anything that would grab the attention of the employer and also show that you’re keeping up with what’s happening with that organization or in your industry,” she says. (Of course, you could also reference something current in a cover letter, too, if that’s how you want to grab the reader’s attention to start off.)
And, as with a great opening line to a cover letter, “it helps to capture their interest and encourage them to keep reading; that’s of course the goal,” she adds.
If you’re struggling to come up with something specific about the company to discuss, then talk about something that’s engaging about yourself, says Kea. What makes you stand out? What unique skills, experiences, or passions do you bring to the table? And how do these align with what the company needs, given what you know about them?
Overall, you want to make it general enough that you’re showing interest in the company as a whole, “but also specific enough so that the employer walks away with at least one key takeaway from you and your skill set and what you can bring to this organization,” she says.
Let’s go back to the product manager versus managerial role explanation above. If you were to write a cover letter, says Kea, you’d probably try to speak to a particular product manager position. So you would focus your letter on why you’d be good at that job—the experiences you have working on a product’s lifecycle, managing vendor relationships, and collaborating across teams, to name a few examples. You’d also want to make sure you’re addressing specific points in the job description.
But if you were writing a letter of intent, you’d instead want to focus on how you’d be great for a managerial role—whether it’s as a product manager or something else entirely. In this case, rather than mention your product manager experience, you might talk about how you led a team, managed expectations, or coordinated logistics for meetings. You’re referencing specific skills, sure—and your resume is highlighting both sets of skills—but you’re tailoring your letter to what the hiring manager may be looking for.
A Sample Letter of Intent
Let’s say you’re an experienced designer and product manager looking to join a startup in some capacity. You do some digging to figure out who to address your letter to (please, please don’t use “To Whom It May Concern”), and discover that the head of the product department is named Caroline Coffman.
You might send her the following:
Dear Caroline Coffman,
When I was 10, my brother fainted while waiting to ride a rollercoaster at Six Flags. It was an incredibly hot day, and we’d been in line for an hour.
I don’t remember anything else about that day—what other rides we took, what we ate, even who exactly we were with—but I distinctly remember the feeling of wanting to know why. Why did this happen? Why did we have to wait in such long lines? Why hasn’t anyone come up with a solution to the problem of overcrowded amusement parks?
It’s for this reason that I’m thrilled to apply to work on the product and design team at Rydes. Not only does your mission of revolutionizing and adding efficiency to theme parks spark my curiosity and eagerness to fix things, it also reminds me of the bigger picture: that you should leave an amusement park, or any family outing for that matter, with fonder memories than your sibling passing out. Your latest product update featured in Forbes around waiting times on lines especially spoke to me and further encouraged me to write this letter.
A little bit about me: I majored in design and applied arts because I wanted to be self-sufficient in how I solved problems, and because I enjoyed working with my hands as well as my mind. I took on a role as associate UX designer at a small startup because I was fascinated with making websites that were seamless and free of obstacles, then shifted to a product manager position at a larger company because I realized how much I liked collaborating across departments and working with various experts to brainstorm ideas and solutions. To me, the most rewarding part of my day is helping my team members be productive, feel motivated, and achieve their goals. With this experience and skill set, I’m ready to leap back into the startup world and work for a company whose ambitions align with my own.
I want to thank you for considering me to join this fantastic team of innovators and creatives, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Now that you know the difference between a cover letter and a letter of intent, go tell your friends this new fun fact! And maybe consider this new form of applying the next time you set your eyes on your dream company.
by Debby Carreau - @debbycarreau
Most of us prepare for job interviews the same way: Research the company, Google "how to answer common interview questions," practice answering them out loud and then hope for the best. But rarely do we think about how we present ourselves to our potential future employers.
Body language is a large indicator of your confidence and comfort level in any given situation, and it can make or break your chances of landing the job. Here are six common body language mistakes to avoid in your next interview:
1. Not optimizing eye contact
One of the most important skills to master for a job interview is maintaining appropriate eye contact. In a 2018 CareerBuilder report, 67 percent of the 2,500 hiring managers surveyed said that failure to make eye contact was the top body language mistake job seekers make. (Another study, dating as far back as 1979, found that people who sustain extended eye contact are more likely to be perceived as intelligent and credible.)
"Express warmth by smiling often and avoid making shifty eye movements."
That's not to say you should be intensely staring down at your interviewer the entire time. Start the contact when you first meet them at the initial handshake. Express warmth by smiling often and avoid making shifty eye movements.
2. Poor posture
No slouching — always keep a strong, straight back. Lean forward slightly from time to time to show interest.
A strong posture will not only make you look more confidence, it can also help you feel more confident and perform better in your interview. Studies have shown that individuals who sit up straighter are more likely to view themselves as having strong leadership skills, whereas those with hunched postures have higher risks of feeling easily stressed.
Fake it 'til you make it, right?
3. Smiling too much (or not enough)
Succeeding isn't as simple as just smiling. Smiling at the beginning and end of your interview — but not as much in between — will make you seem more approachable and likable. It's all about balance. Do what feels natural and don't overthink it. A simple trick is to try and match the energy or demeanor of your interviewer.
Too much fidgeting will make you look anxious and nervous, which might cause your interviewer to question your assertiveness and interpersonal warmth. Avoid the temptation to fidget your fingers or, even worse, nearby objects!
By embracing stillness, you can display the persona of a confident and capable leader. If you have a hard time doing this, practice answering questions while keeping as still as possible in front of a mirror.
5. Not dressing for the job
From your clothes and accessories down to your shoes (and even the way you style your hair!), what you wear is an extension of your body language.
"When in doubt, go for shades of blue or black."
The little details matter, so put plenty of thought into how you want to appear on the day of your interview. Are your shoes polished? Did you shower that morning? Are the colors you chose to wear too bold, or just bold enough, for the job you want? When in doubt, go for shades of blue or black, but steer clear of anything too bright or boring, like orange and brown.
6. A weak handshake
Your handshake is the first and last impression you will make in a job interview. According to a study from the Beckman Institute, a strong handshake can both diminish the impact of a negative impression and make a positive interaction even better.
Another tip: at the end of your interview, ensure a strong handshake accompanied by strong eye contact and a few kind words. It can be as simple as: "Thank you for taking the time to meet with me [interviewer's name]. I really look forward to hearing back from you."
Debby Carreau is an entrepreneur, author and founder of Inspired HR. She has been recognized as one of Canada's Top 25 HR Professionals and is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, among many others. She is a board member for FinDev Canada, Young Presidents Organization and Elevation Group. Follow her on Twitter @DebbyCarreau .
Job seekers, take note — the next time you head in for an interview, it may not be the typical question-and-answer format you’re used to. More and more companies are implementing creative interview strategies that go beyond the surface and dig deep into your skills, personality and behavior. Case in point: the job simulation.
A job simulation is any task that is designed to give you an accurate preview of what the role you are interviewing for entails on a day-to-day basis. Job simulations are becoming increasingly popular among employers, as they help companies more accurately predict whether or not candidates would be successful if hired.
“For us, it’s all about being efficient and making the right hire, the first time,” says Jeff Rizzo, Founder & CEO of product review sites RIZKNOWS and The Slumber Yard, who implements job simulations in his companies’ hiring processes. “We’ve been burned in the past when we hired candidates that interviewed well, but weren’t nearly skilled enough when it came time to actually produce work. We are looking for fit, of course, but the simulator serves as our final test of acumen.”
Job Simulation Formats
Job simulations can take many different forms, such as in-person assignments, online exams, take-home assignments, role-playing, presentations or even virtual simulations. Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, described some of the more common job simulation formats in depth:
In-basket exercises: “Here, the candidate is required to complete certain tasks such as responding to emails, taking phone calls and handling grievances within a set amount of time. Often, these exercises are best for administrative and managerial positions.”
Situational judgment tests: “The candidate is presented with a work-related scenario and is asked to use their judgment to provide a solution that can amicably resolve the situation at hand. These tests lend themselves well to positions such as customer service and supervisory roles.”
Work sample tests: “These, typically hands-on tests, require the candidate to complete certain activities that are similar to actual tasks they would perform on the job. Examples include writing code, take-home assignments, collaborating with others to design a website or completing an onsite construction task.”
Role-playing: “Role-playing is probably the most common of all job simulation formats. These exercises help to evaluate a candidate’s ability to navigate interpersonal challenges in a work environment.”
This is far from a complete list, though. Because job simulations mimic the tasks of actual jobs, the possibilities are virtually endless.
Tips for Acing a Job Simulation
So, what should you do if you find out a job simulation will be a part of your job interview? First things first, you’ll want to do some research into what exactly it might entail. Turn to Glassdoor’s interview reviews section and look up the company you’ll be interviewing with to see if any other previous candidates have described what the interview process involves.
You can also “research types of simulation exercises by talking to employees in similar roles or work environments [or] reviewing industry journals,” points out Diana Brush, Associate Director or Employer Relations at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. And of course, you can ask the recruiter to provide some insight — odds are, they will be happy to share some basic information.
Once you know a bit more about what to expect, it’s time to brush up on your abilities.
“Review your knowledge, skills and abilities for the position being assessed to identify your strengths and weaknesses,” then “practice and then demonstrate the task/issue that will be assessed,” Brush says. “Record yourself performing the task and ask co-workers to observe and provide constructive feedback.”
No matter your specific field — software engineering, consulting, sales, finance, etc. — a quick online search should reveal plenty of practice assessments.
And finally, try to relax.
“Candidates should always come off as calm and collected,” Rizzo says. “[Simulations] aren’t always about judging skill — most of the time they’re looking to measure intangibles such as critical thinking ability and emotional intelligence.”
Job Simulations: Beneficial for Employers & Candidates Alike
If you’ve never faced one before, a job simulation can be intimidating. But just remember: job simulations aren’t just for the employer’s benefit — they’re also for yours.
“Job simulations enable self-selection where, after being immersed in the actual job environment, a candidate can determine whether the job is the right fit earlier on in the process,” Chancey says. “Candidates who stick to the process and are hired are more likely to stay with the company longer, report higher levels of job satisfaction and demonstrate greater productivity.”
by ERICA LAMBERG
It can open your eyes to different keywords you could be using, formatting styles, or make you realize you have a lot of extra content.
If your pal or co-worker is looking for some help revising or updating their resume, the benefits could be more than just helping them polish their resume. By getting your creative juices flowing, your proofreading skills sharpened and getting your head back in a job-circuit mentality, you may become inspired to re-craft or update your own resume.
Here, experts share why it’s not only nice to help a friend but why it may help boost your own resume success.
You remember your own accolades
When helping a friend build and improve their resume, you may be inspired to improve your own resume.
“It always inspires me to improve my own resume because it makes me think of experiences I had not highlighted in the past, and it helps me remember programming or events I had not considered putting in my resume but are absolutely beneficial,” says Jen Fry, a resume expert.
You can reframe your own experiences
If you’ve worked in a particular sector for a long time, your resume may have tunnel vision.
“By reviewing a friend’s resume, particularly a friend who works in a different field, you can see how other people prioritize and talk about their skills,” says career coach Meg Duffy.
Your resume can get a structure re-boot
Helping friends in their job search is always a great way to develop your job-seeking skills since you can get their perspective and see how they go about it, while also engaging in discussions when you provide them with advice, says Valerie Streif, with Pramp, a mock interview platform for job seeking developers, software engineers, data scientists, and product managers . When you see how someone else formats and structures their resume, you can get an idea of how to improve your own.
“It can open your eyes to different keywords you could be using, formatting styles, or make you realize you have a lot of extra content on your resume that doesn’t need to be there,” says Streif.
Your benefits can go beyond a resume
Through brainstorming resumes with a friend, it can spawn peer-to-peer interview practice which is also an excellent way to boost skills, says Streif.
“Because working with another person is going to give you a chance to see their strengths and weaknesses, and their feedback on your performance gives you an idea what you need to work on before your real interview interaction,” Streif continues. “Sometimes, we don’t realize the little body language signals we give off to the interviewer, so having a chance to ‘check this’ is valuable.”
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
by Zulie Rane
Everyone has participated in an “informal conversation” when looking for jobs. It’s kind of an awkward halfway house, where the potential employer wants to get to know you as a person, but doesn’t want to commit to giving you an interview just yet.
It’s hard to know how to approach these — do you wear relaxed clothes? Should you go full suit? Do you bring a reference?
There’s no reason not to treat it like a full-blown interview in certain ways. Chances are, your future employer will make up their mind during this “chat” on whether or not they can see you working together.
Here are three ways to make the most out of your next informal chat.
1. Be prepared for anything.
This is more than just a scouts motto — it’s applicable to every facet of life. At this casual meet-up, you should be prepared for everything from just getting a coffee, to a full-blown interview scenario.
While you may not want to wear black tie, you should look presentable. Make sure your clothing is stain-free, and at least neat if not smart.
Make sure you have interview materials ready, should they ask for them. At a real interview, I start by getting my resume, cover letter, and references out. During informal chats, I tend to keep them in my bag to bring them out if asked for.
There’s nothing worse than showing up to these informal conversations, being asked for my resume, but not having it. Surprise them by being prepared for any situation.
2. Take advantage of the situation.
This is your chance to ask more relaxed questions than you might feel comfortable asking at an official interview. Ask what the employees do for fun, ask about your interviewer’s hobbies.
It’s also a good opportunity for them to start seeing you as a real person rather than just a job applicant.
You can also bring a notepad to take notes with. This might be a bit off-putting at a job interview where you should be fully focused on the questions you’re being asked.
However, at a casual conversation, you’re both still at the information-gathering stage and it’s totally acceptable to write down important tidbits — which will be useful should you make it to the next stage of interviews!
3. Remember it’s a two-way street.
While you may see the informal chat as a way for them to suss out your employability, it’s also a way to tell if this job is a place where you want to work.
For example, at a recent informal chat I asked what my interviewer was doing that weekend. She told me that she and her team needed to finish a project and would be at the office.
An informal conversation is the ideal place to find out if they’re the right match for you, and it’s often an overlooked opportunity. Here, you can be frank about your expectations for company culture, working habits, and employee events without worrying you’re in the wrong setting for it.
You get a much better feel for the personality of the person interviewing you than you would at a more formal job interview, and it can be really telling if they’re someone you get along with or not.
Now you know the three tenets of the informal chat! Next time a prospective employer asks you for a casual conversation, you’ll be prepared.
The informal interview has both benefits — like the fact that it shows your potential future employer wants to take the time to get to know you — as well as pitfalls — being difficult to navigate.
As long as you show up ready to get to know them and show them your best side, you can handle it.
Almost everyone has had this experience: You hear that your friend got a great new job, and they didn't even have to apply — they were contacted by a headhunter.
"It's completely human to get a twinge of envy when you hear a friend is being recruited," says bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch. It's easy to hear that it's happening for others and wonder, "Why aren't headhunters calling me?"
Welch tells CNBC Make It that if you find yourself pondering this dilemma, there are four simple steps you should take to increase your chances of catching a recruiter's eye:
1. Update your LinkedIn profile
Welch says it's absolutely imperative that you have a stellar LinkedIn profile.
"In fact, it needs to be so complete and descriptive that it achieves 'all-star' status on the site," she says. "Don't worry if you don't know what that means, LinkedIn will guide you there with tips."
In addition to building your "all-star" profile, Welch says you need to make it known to recruiters that you're interested in being looked at. You can do this by going to the jobs menu on the platform and clicking the box that indicates you're "open to offers."
"Have no fear about your current employer," she emphasizes. "This selection is private."
2. Boost your industry profile
Headhunters often go after professionals whose work is seen and known in their industry. That's why, Welch says, it's important that you raise your profile, not just by attending conferences or networking, but also by pitching yourself to speak on panels. That way, you're able to bring greater awareness to the expertise you have to offer.
Additionally, she says, you should also "write for or get quoted in industry publications — or better yet, do both."
3. Maintain a mature online presence
Outside of LinkedIn, Welch says you want to be sure that your other social media accounts "demonstrate a vibrant, mature presence." You want to show "that you care about trends and events in your industry, and you have intelligent, constructive views about them."
Doing this, she says, will show that "you're part of the conversation."
"I'm not saying you have to eliminate the cute dog pics, but your social feeds should be curated as if a headhunter is looking at them, and when she does, she's thinking, 'Here's a smart grown-up.'"
4. Contact a headhunter directly
If you're really interested in making a connection with a headhunter, Welch says "there's no reason not to contact them by email, with a concise, persuasive letter about your skills and career interests — and of course a link to your profile on LinkedIn or elsewhere."
She warns, though, that recruiters usually don't like to be contacted by phone. In order to avoid seeming desperate, she says you should "keep all communication digital until they call you."
"Being headhunted is not just for top execs or superstars anymore," Welch says. "Plenty of companies are looking for talent. Use these four strategies to make sure you're on their radar."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at email@example.com.
Knowing where to find inside information about a potential employer can mean the difference between getting a job from a great company and heading down the wrong path.
By Sarah K. White
It’s tempting to jump on the first job offer you get, but the last thing you want to do is find yourself working for a company that doesn’t align with your goals or values. But it’s difficult to get a full picture of a company’s culture and working environment in a few short interviews and one tour of the office building.
“Before starting your research, take some time to think about what you want and need — both from and beyond the job — to be successful and truly engaged at work. Think about the core values and principles you hope guide that company, the type of work you’d like to do there, and the kinds of people who create and preserve the culture itself,” says Kathleen Pai, vice president of HR at Ultimate Software.
Whether you are at the beginning of your job search or preparing for an interview, being armed with as much knowledge as possible about a potential employer is in your best interest. Not only will it help you formulate more insightful questions, it will boost your confidence as well.
Glassdoor offers reviews of companies based on user-submitted feedback, or as Glassdoor calls it: "employee-generated" content. Glassdoor also offers information about salaries (provided anonymously) and potential interview questions. You can find information on employee benefits and company culture, and you can read reviews from current and past employees.
“I suggest looking at Glassdoor reviews and researching the management team. What do they talk about and publish? Look for signs that tell you whether the organization values bottom-up ideas or if the culture is directive from the top," says Adriana Roche, vice president of people and places at Segment.
While every employee’s experience will be different, you should be able to get a strong sense for how the business operates. Companies will even advertise jobs on Glassdoor, so if you stumble on a company that looks like a good fit, you can instantly see what openings they have.
Like Glassdoor, Indeed has thousands of company reviews that are submitted from current and past employees. Unlike Glassdoor, Indeed is first and foremost a job aggregator, with listings from practically every job site out there. Reviews, however, are not aggregated from outside sources and are hosted solely on Indeed.com.
“While pay and job security remain essential, factors such as trust, open communication, professional development, and company reputation play an increasingly important role in influencing employees’ long-term happiness and commitment to the workplace. Consider what you’re looking for in a company and use that to steer your research,” says Pai.
Indeed is a useful resource if you’re in the process of looking for jobs and want to know what you’re getting into before you apply. You might quickly recognize the job isn’t a good fit by looking at the reviews and salary data. Or, you might feel the company culture doesn’t align with what you’re looking for in your next job, saving both you and the recruiter some time.
LinkedIn is more than a networking site; it’s a resource for job seekers to research companies and potential co-workers and a place where recruiters find talent. LinkedIn doesn't provide user-based company reviews like Glassdoor or Indeed, but it’s a great way to see whether you have any current connections working at the company who might be able to give you insight into what it’s like to work there, or to establish a new connection — as long as you are upfront about your intentions.
“Don't have any connections? Go to Linkedin and search your second-degree connections. Don't be afraid to message that person, let them know about your mutual connection and active interest in the company, and then ask for 15 minutes of their time to ask a few questions. Be sure to have questions prepared as you never know how different employees may influence the outcome of the hiring process,” says Heather Doshay, senior vice president of people and places at Rainforest QA.
CareerBliss features over 3.5 million job postings, 4 million salaries and 700,000 company reviews, according to its website. It’s a one-stop shop to find open jobs, determine a fair salary and read employee reviews on the company. It’s been around since 2008, with a focus on helping users “find happiness in the workplace” and in their careers. It’s easy to forget in your job search that it’s not just about finding a job — it’s finding a place where you can thrive.
“Interviewing is a two-way street, and research is beneficial to the interviewer in two ways. Not only does this help the candidate impress the company with their knowledge, but also for the candidate to determine if the company is a good match for their career goals,” says Doshay.
CareerBliss also offers a unique feature that will allow you to compare jobs side by side, using a proprietary “Bliss Score.” A company’s Bliss Score is determined through several factors, including job satisfaction, pay scale and overall employee happiness. If you’re looking for the right cultural fit, it’s a great way to stack up the competition.
You’d be hard pressed to find any business, small or large, without some type of social media presence. And you can learn a lot about a business by looking at its social media pages to see what leaders in the organization post and share.
“Most companies these days have more than just websites; they keep a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Crunchbase, etc. These sites highlight recent press about the company, new product releases, and highlight the company culture, says Doshay.
Head to popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see what content the organization posts and shares. If they have a YouTube channel, watch a few videos to get insight into the products, services or software the company offers. And while Crunchbase isn’t your typical social media platform, it’s a valuable resource in your company research. It was originally set up to offer information on startups, but it’s grown to include information on public and private companies around the world.
Fairygodboss is specifically targeted to women in the workplace, offering “job reviews for women, by women.” Women often have more to consider going into a new company — especially in the male-dominated tech industry. Fairygodboss focuses on offering women reviews that reflect salary practices, maternity and pregnancy benefits, work-life balance and career advice.
“Trusted, third-party review sites such as Fairygodboss and The Muse can provide valuable insights on a company’s culture, leadership, business trajectory, and more — offering candid reviews from current employees about what it’s like to work there, and even video walkthroughs on day-to-day responsibilities for various roles,” says Pai.
There are even discussion boards where women can connect to share experiences and ask for career advice. For women working in male-dominated fields, or in potentially toxic work environments, it’s a safe place to reach out and find a position with a company that better represents its female workers.
The Muse is a valuable career resource where you can find information about a company and see open job listings at the organization. For example, HP’s profile on The Muse includes photos, mission statements, headquarter locations, videos about the corporate culture, key employees at the organization and open jobs. You can also find links to the organization’s social media pages and explore content from HP about working at the company.
“Websites like The Muse allow you to see how community members such as customers, partners, investors and current employees are describing the company you’re researching,” says Tim Falls, director of developer relations at DigitalOcean.
The Muse also offers advice for job seekers as well as the opportunity to connect with coaches or to take courses. You can have your resume reviewed, partake in a 30-minute career Q&A, learn more about job search strategy or get advice on how to improve your LinkedIn profile. It’s a one-stop shop for job seekers looking to do their homework before applying for a job.
If you’re researching a company and the only resources you can find are from the organization itself, with little insight from past or current employees, you might want to branch out to get another perspective. At Quora, you can ask questions on nearly any topic and people will reach out to share their knowledge, perspectives, opinions and ideas. It’s a great way to gain an outside perspective on working for a company or in a specific field or job title. If you aren’t comfortable posting a question yourself, you can search to see if anyone else has asked it before and read those responses instead.
“To gaze through a different lens, you can often find questions and answers around, ‘what is it like to work at [insert company here]?,’ on sites like Quora — and because the perspectives presented in such communities tend to be less filtered and more raw, it’s possible to gain an otherwise overlooked view into the employee experience,”Falls says.
Compared with single-page resumes, two-page resumes increase the amount of time recruiters spend reviewing the applicant, and can ultimately improve the candidate’s likelihood of getting hired.
Until you’ve reached the mid-point of your career, or unless you’re in a unique industry like academia or medicine, your resume should always be one-page long, right?
Despite the long-held convention, a recent study has found that two-page resumes are actually preferred by recruiters, no matter the candidate’s experience level. The study, conducted by resume writing service ResumeGo, found that compared with single-page resumes, two-page resumes increase the amount of time recruiters spend reviewing the applicant, and can ultimately improve the candidate’s likelihood of getting hired.
ResumeGo asked 482 recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals to screen nearly 8,000 resumes in a hiring simulation, over 5,000 of which used at least part of a second page. The study concluded that recruiters were 2.3 times as likely to prefer two-page resumes, scoring their ability to “summarize the candidate’s work experiences and overall credentials” higher by an average of 21%. Furthermore, when it came time to make a final decision, participants spent an average of more than four minutes reviewing two-page resumes, compared with less than two and a half minutes on those that were confined to one.
“We were pretty surprised ourselves,” says Peter Yang, the CEO of ResumeGo. Yang says that after seeing candidates whittle their resumes down to a single page by increasing the margins, reducing the font size and even removing some potentially relevant information, he decided to test the conventional wisdom that forbids page two. “I think that belief wasn’t actually grounded in any scientific data or research, and I’m not sure how it came about,” he says.
Yang adds that if a resume doesn’t require two pages, job seekers shouldn’t take his study to suggest they need to add more information just for the sake of reaching the second page. “It would come across as unnatural,” he says. “It would seem clear to the reader that you’re just adding in fluff.”
The study ultimately found that employers were 2.9 times more likely to prefer a two-page resume when hiring for managerial positions, 2.6 times as likely to prefer them for mid-level positions, and 1.4 times as likely to prefer a two-page resume for entry-level job openings.
DON’T GO OVER THE CLIFF
Similar research conducted by AI-driven resume optimization and job search platform TalentWorks found that interview rates slowly increase along with word count, until sharply dropping around the 600 mark.
“For almost everyone, your hireability drops off a cliff if your resume is too long,” saysTalentWorks CEO Kushal Chakrabarti. Despite the sharp decline in interview rates for those that go overboard, reaching the 600-word target would still necessitate a second page; especially a resume page that’s been formatted to not appear cluttered.
Some industries, however, expect their applicants to go well beyond the 600-word threshold. “Longer is better if you’re an academic, industrial scientist, college professor, school teacher, or social service worker,” says Chakrabarti, adding that some industries also punish longer resumes more harshly than others. “For example, in business, long resumes were a whopping 72% less hireable than those in the sweet spot [of 600 words].”
A NEW STANDARD FOR A NEW GENERATION
It’s hard to say exactly when two-page resumes became socially acceptable or even preferable, but experts point to a number of trends that have slowly made them the norm. For example, despite the stereotype, many younger and entry-level employees actually have more of a story to tell on their resumes than their parents and grandparents did when they entered the workforce: enough to necessitate a second page.
“With more recent graduates, compared to 10 years ago, there’s more of a focus on internships while they’re in school, they’re doing study abroad programs, working part time, volunteering, or working on a political campaign,” said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. “Perhaps recruiters want to know more about these experiences that they’re having because there’s more opportunities [outside of academia] now.”
On the other side of the hiring equation, the way in which resumes are evaluated today is dramatically different than in previous generations, explains Salemi. Applicant tracking systems have automated much of the initial vetting phase, and there’s an inherent advantage in giving keyword-searching robots a little extra text to scour.
The incorporation of this technology also means that recruiters rarely handle printed resumes before the interview stage. While printing and reviewing a second, physical page may have once been considered a nuisance, scrolling down a digital page hardly requires any additional effort.”With everything being online it’s just a matter of scrolling down and looking for those keywords,” says Salemi.
THE TOP OF THE FIRST PAGE IS STILL MOST IMPORTANT
Though the ResumeGo study suggests that job seekers at all levels can now feel comfortable using a second resume page it’s important to keep the most relevant information front and center.
According to that study recruiters will spend an average of 2 minutes, 24 seconds reviewing one-page resumes and 4 minutes, 5 seconds reviewing two-page resumes, but only when they’ve narrowed their decision down to their final contenders. An oft-quoted 2012 study conducted by Ladders, Inc. found that hiring managers only spend an average of 6 seconds deciding whether to give a resume further consideration, and a follow-up study recently updated that time to 7.4 seconds.
“Six seconds, or 7.4 seconds, is just that initial glance, where I’m looking for where they went to school, what degree they have, what they’ve been doing most recently, how long they’ve been there, are they employed right now; there’s about six pieces of information we’re checking out,” explained Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert at professional resume writing service TopResume. In 2012 Augustine served as a career management expert and spokesperson for Ladders, where she contributed to that foundational research. “As soon as they get it down to a manageable number [of resumes] where they feel comfortable that the remaining resumes are all worth a closer look, that’s when you spend a bit more time with each.”
According to Augustine resumes are now subject to a keyword review by an applicant tracking system, a 7.4 second initial glance by a hiring manager as well as a more in depth review. As a result, user-friendly formatting is still important, second-pages are permissible, and the top-third of the first page is still the most important section of the document.
“The top of the first page of your resume has to be a snapshot of everything you really need a recruiter or hiring manager to see and know about you,” she says. “You have to get them interested enough to continue reading to page two.” For example, Augustine says after a few years in the workforce education should be pushed to the bottom of the resume, with any recent certifications or degrees listed in a “career highlights” or “professional summary” section at the very top. Key requirements listed in the job posting should also be addressed as early as possible, with the rest of the resume providing a more detailed narrative, adds Augustine.
“The resume is no longer merely a timeline of your professional and educational experience; recruiters want to be able to read your resume like a story,” she says. “Like a good book you’ve got to hook them in at the beginning if you expect them to get to the end.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist born, raised and residing in Toronto, covering technology, entrepreneurship, entertainment and more for a wide variety of publications in Canada, the United States and around the world. When he's not playing with gadgets, interviewing entrepreneurs or traveling to music festivals and tech conferences you can usually find him diligently practicing his third-person bio writing skills.
it is possible to deal with that letdown in a way that presents you in the best way possible — and set yourself up for opportunities.
by KAT BOOGAARD
We’re all familiar with that period of torture after you submit a job application and are forced to wait (sigh, for what feels like ages) for any sort of response.
In the end, the waiting is all worth it if you land the job of your dreams. But, if things don’t go according to plan and you’re eventually met with rejection? There’s no doubt about it—that stings.
Here’s the thing: dealing with rejection is never going to be fun. You’re never going to hope that you get turned down for something. However, it is possible to deal with that letdown in a way that presents you in the best way possible—and hopefully sets you up for even better opportunities in the future.
Here’s how to handle job search rejection with grace:
1. Don’t respond immediately.
If you’re being rejected face-to-face (ouch), then you obviously have no choice but to respond immediately. In those circumstances—regardless of what your insides are screaming—simply thank them for the opportunity and get out of there.
But, if you’ve received a job rejection via email, the smartest thing you can do is take some time before replying. This gives you the time you need to cool off, get your emotions in check, and avoid firing off a heated reply that looks something like, “Thanks for wasting my time!”
You can go ahead and type out a reply right now if you feel like you need to get your thoughts on paper—just don’t send it. Come back to it later when you have a clearer head so you can ensure you don’t send a note that you’ll regret.
2. Start with a “thank you.”
Huh? They just gave you a sucker punch to the ego? Why on earth would you thank them for that? I get that this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. It’s not only a professional and polite way to start your response, it’s also well-deserved.
Despite the fact that you didn’t end up with the position, that employer still sunk time and resources into your candidacy—whether it was just in reviewing your resume or in putting you through multiple interviews.
So, start your response off with something like, “Thank you so much for letting me know, and for the opportunity.” Trust me, it goes a long way when it comes to bolstering your reputation.
3. Ask for feedback.
Rejection hurts, but it can also be an incredibly enlightening learning experience if you’re open to it.
After you thank the employer for their time and consideration, ask if they have any feedback about how you could improve moving forward. Let them know that you’re still actively continuing your job search and would value any insights they have about how you could be an even more impressive candidate.
Be aware that not everybody will be willing to fulfill this request—some companies actually have policies against it. If you get some helpful feedback in return, that’s great. But, if not, even asking shows that you’re someone who’s not only willing to accept disappointments, but learn and grow from them.
4. Resist the urge to trash talk that employer.
When we think about responding to rejection, we often only think about what happens in the heat of the moment and what we say directly to that employer. However, it’s not just what you say when you’re in earshot that matters.
I get that you might want to vent about your disappointment, but resist the temptation to talk poorly about that employer or about how they “strung you along.” You never know who in your network is connected or how the things you say might make it back to the wrong person. If and when someone prompts you to find out if you landed that specific job, keep things vague by saying something like, “I didn’t land that role, but it was a great experience as I continue looking for new opportunities.”
Here’s the hard truth: rejection is always going to sting. But, how you react to it will make all of the difference—especially as you continue your job search. Use these four tips to respond to rejection as positively as possible, and you’ll move on from that letdown with your reputation (and your professional bridges) intact.
This article was originally published on FlexJobs.
NOTE: from Jeff Morris - Founder of CareerDFW - If you were the finalist (the last 2 or 3 people) - Put a reminder in your calendar to contact them again in 60 days. Maybe they hired someone who does not "FIT" or maybe they can not do the job. If you made it to the finals before, they like you, they just happen to select the other person. Let them know you are still in a job search and you really enjoyed meeting the people you interviewed with. Are there any new opportunites that may have come up in the past couple of months with the company?
Treat your anxiety as an ally not an enemy.
by Katharine Brooks Ed.D
I've never met anyone who doesn't get nervous before an important job interview. With so much riding on your performance it’s not surprising that you would experience some anxiety about everything in the process-- from not wearing the right outfit, or not answering questions “perfectly," to looking foolish, or perhaps the worst fear, not getting the job offer.
Feeling stressed or anxious about an important interview is just a sign that you want to do well. Your anxiety can actually motivate you to be better prepared, provide you with energy and keep you alert during the process. But, anxiety can also keep you from doing your best by distracting you or weakening your memory, so here are 10 quick tips for calming your anxiety and maybe even taking advantage of it:
1. Be careful what you eat or drink prior to an interview. It probably goes without saying, but avoid caffeine before the interview. It's also never a good idea to have an alcoholic drink before an interview, even if you think it will “relax” you. Eat something light before your interview so your stomach isn't growling or you get light-headed. A heavy meal can make you tired, so eat moderately. (And make sure you check a mirror for any leftover spinach!)
2. Don’t “force” yourself to calm down. Forcing yourself to calm down will just increase your stress.
3. Control what you can by preparing for the interview. You can’t always control what you will be asked or what will happen in the interview, but you can control how you prepare for it. Use your anxiety to motivate yourself to prepare. Research the organization, practice responses to interview questions, practice your handshake, practice telling powerful stories about your skills, etc. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are about your potential employer, the better you are likely to perform in the interview. If possible, do a mock interview beforehand. If you’re in college, many career centers offer mock interviews. Otherwise, give some typical interview questions to a friend and have them “interview” you. Also, if you’re traveling to the interview, make sure you know where you’re going and allow plenty of time to get there. Don’t rush in at the last minute—allow for possible traffic delays or late flights. Here's what the Senior VP for People Operations at Google has to say about preparing for an interview.
4. Write down your spinning thoughts. Make a list of everything that’s popping into your head. Writing can be one of the most therapeutic and helpful tasks you can do to reduce your anxiety generally, beyond just at job interviews. Dr. James Pennebaker’s research at The University of Texas at Austin has demonstrated the healing value of writing.
5. Question your thoughts. Ask yourself: “Is this true?” Remember, just because you feel it doesn’t make it true. Can you dispute your emotional thoughts with logic? Try changing your thinking to change your mind. The Australian Centre for Clinical Interventions provides a great worksheet on “Unhelpful Thinking Styles.” See if any of these unhelpful thoughts might be raising your anxiety.
6. Breathe. When you’re anxious, your breathing is shallow. Try breathing in for a count of 4, hold for 2, and breathe out for a count of 4. Do this for a minute or two. You can usually practice breathing anywhere (like the waiting area before your interview); no one will likely notice it. Try taking a few minutes to sit and breathe calmly in your car after you park at the interview site. If you find that breathing techniques help you, Dr. Andrew Weil offers several breathing exercises to try.
7. Try Sighing. Sometimes it can be hard to breathe deeply when you’re stressed, so try sighing instead. Take a breath and let it out like a sigh. You’ll probably feel your shoulders relax (tension around the neck and shoulders is a common response to anxiety).
8. Assume the super-hero posture: it’s a power-pose and the opposite of anxiety. Stand tall and place your hands on your hips with your elbows jutting out, like you’re standing on top of world and observing everything in your domain. Take some deep breaths. Remember, you’re in charge of the world. (Just be careful where you do this...) Watch this TED talk by Ann Cuddy to learn about how your posture affects your mood.
9. Practice self-compassion. Focus on these words: Wisdom. Strength. Warmth. Nonjudgment. Repeat them to yourself while you breathe. Try not to critique yourself as you go through the process. Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to a good friend. One of my favorite resources for reducing anxiety and increasing self-compassion is Dr. Christopher Germer's book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion.
10. Get outside of yourself. Anxiety causes us to become very self-centered and self-focused. Make a point of focusing on others and being empathic. Greet the receptionist at the interview site. Ask your interviewer how their day is going. Pay attention when someone tells you their name, and make an effort to remember it. Smile. Engage with others.
You will likely always experience a certain amount of anxiety at an interview, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But if it is debilitating or keeps you from moving forward in the job search, seek professional help. There are many treatments for anxiety and it doesn’t need to be an excuse for not doing well at an interview—in fact, as you now realize, there are ways to take advantage of it and use it to improve your interview performance.
Businesses have to figure this out regularly. We should be doing it too.
BY LYDIA DISHMAN
There’s no shortage of advice on how to tackle the tricky business of salary and fee negotiations. What to say, and more importantly, what not to say during these conversations can make or break your chances to get the number you want. But how exactly do you calculate your worth?
The good news for jobseekers is that private employers in states and cities across the U.S. are banned from asking candidates about their salary history in order to set their pay for a new job. Candidates are free to come up with a fair number on their own that doesn’t tie them to their previous wages. But this doesn’t apply to freelancers and business owners.
The first step is to recognize that this exercise is no different than what businesses have to do in order to remain viable. “All companies take their time when calculating their value in the market,” says Soulaima Gourani, a lecturer, corporate consultant, and author. “They know how much they are worth,” she says and that information helps them survive under unsettled conditions of the slow economic recovery, as well as if they have to apply for a loan or sell the company.” Similarly, Gourani thinks that we should simply ask ourselves what our worth is in terms of yearly salary, hourly wage, or client fees.
One way to accomplish this is to look over your own work history. John Crossman, CEO of the real estate firm Crossman & Company, says it is easy to overestimate yourself if you’ve had a number of years under your belt. “I simply reviewed what I had consistently made working as a broker for several years and averaged it,” he explains, “I felt like it gave me a healthy baseline.”
Another good place for jobseekers to start is to do market research. Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, says, “I researched the salary for my most recent role by looking on Salary.com and PayScale to see if they had any salary data for roles similar to my title.” Augustine says that she uses these sites to customize a pay range based on her years of experience, education level, and employer size.
Before she recently got promoted, Jill Gugino Pante, director of the Career Services Center at the University of Delaware, used LinkedIn’s growing salary survey, as well as NACE, which is an industry-specific publication. “Using general sites can help,” Pante asserts, “but also identifying any industry-specific sites that report salary data can be key.” Recent grads with little to no full-time career experience may want to tap the Career Services Center at their alma mater. “Most universities and colleges report salary data on major and degree,” Pante says.
However, in Augustine’s case, she was interviewing for an unconventional position and struggled to uncover enough intel online to aid her negotiation. So she turned to her network. “I am fortunate to have cultivated many great relationships with others who work in a similar capacity for other companies and in similar industries,” Augustine says. “These conversations were crucial in helping me develop a salary range for my new role so that I could confidently prepare with insider’s knowledge before walking into the interview room.”
Pante says she employed a similar strategy by asking previous managers and coworkers to share their salary history. “I took into account when they started and how often they moved positions and organizations,” she adds.
Then Pante looked at her job description and identified how much time she would spend on tasks inside and outside her regular responsibilities. “This helped me figure out the impact I was making on the organization above and beyond what I was hired to do,” she says. Finally, Pante looked at her organization’s HR website for the salary ranges of the position she wanted to be in.
While it’s all pretty straightforward for jobseekers, it can be more challenging for freelancers because of all the factors they have to weigh in order to come up with a fee for their work. This means that many of them undercharge, according to the Freelancers Union.
Some do it because they believe their fees should match what they made per hour at their 9-to-5 job, and/or they don’t have the confidence to price what they’re worth. Others underestimate how long a project will take. For most, the conversation around value is just too awkward, so they’ll take what they can get without negotiating.
Alison Grasso, a freelance film and video editor, says that commercial editing rates are by the day and you’d be booked for a determined period of time. “I typically do a project rate and just make sure any important or necessary deadlines are clearly indicated and that I am able to meet them,” she says.
However, as her freelance work is a side hustle to her full-time staff position in commercial editorial, she’s able to tap into industry intel, which gives her an idea of what things cost on a large scale, and what brands often pay for the work that she does in the context of a commercial production. “In that way,” she explains, “I have a somewhat concrete notion of what my time is worth based on what people regularly pay for it.” If she’s working with a smaller client, Grasso realizes that their budget may not be as large and she adjusts accordingly.
As for getting over the hump of awkwardness during fee negotiation, Grasso says that she presents links to relevant work to potential clients so they can see exactly what she can do, and also what she intends to do for them.
FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
Pricing services is a next-level discussion, according to Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer and founder of Talent Think Innovations. And one that requires some serious prep. “In the beginning, my learning curve was really trial by fire,” she recalls. People were asking for her services before she had a chance to research and set pricing models for them. This led to many instances of misalignment between her offerings and what she was charging.
This is when Truitt tapped her network. “I started to share my frustrations with my entrepreneurial coworkers and some mentors who had been in business longer than I had.” These inner-circle conversations yielded advice about what she needed to consider to set prices.
Truitt also looked up her competitors’ baseline pricing and looked at blogs or forums that gave her the considerations she needed to adjust her strategy. “Other times, I was completely blind and had to devise my own criteria based on what I knew so far,” she admits.
Although she doesn’t make it a habit, Truitt has learned that there is a trick to justifying fees. “There are industries and certain types of companies that will gravitate towards you when you have demonstrated that you possess a strong body of knowledge, skills, and experience alongside the proposed services,” she explains. Clients in the education, healthcare, and any government sectors value seeing her resume alongside a scope of work as a way of justifying her fee. “That said, it is very rare that I get this request from potential clients,” Truitt points out.
For anyone trying to calculate their worth in dollars, Gourani suggests above all to align the core of who we are with the life skills we’ve acquired. “If we stay true to our values and remain immune to other people’s opinions of us, we can price ourselves more efficiently,” she says. “Before you can negotiate your worth, you need to focus on the best you have to offer and let that shine through.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.
If you have a LinkedIn account, you have a brand statement. But does it make you easily discoverable and motivate others to connect?
by Mel Carson
Founder and Principal Strategist at Delightful Communications
If you’re reading this, you likely already have a personal branding statement: If you have a LinkedIn account, for instance, you have a branding statement. But, is yours the kind of summary that makes you easily discoverable and motivates others to reach out and connect?
Maybe yes, but maybe no.
A strong personal branding statement is connected to your professional purpose, or the reason you do what you do. While your professional purpose serves as an internal compass, pointing your passion in the right direction, a personal branding statement is above all your calling card.
It’s the first impression of you that you offer on paper and the thing on which many will base their “Do I engage or not?” decision.
So, yes, your branding statement is a big deal. It’s a living statement about you, your passions and your capabilities and should therefore be written with thought and care. But, honestly, for all that’s riding on crafting a strong branding statement, it’s not that hard to do.
Here are five quick ways to make sure yours stands out in a crowd.
Move beyond your professional purpose.
Do you have a professional purpose? A statement that describes the why behind your work? If you don’t, that’s step one. A personal branding statement combines your purpose with some relevant data about your professional world to accurately describe who you are, what you do and why you do it. To gather that data, take a few minutes to free-write about the following:
> Your education experience
> Your work experience
> What you love about what you do
> What you find hard about what you do
> Where you want to be in three years
Here's the formula: purpose + data = personal branding statement.
Pull out the mission.
This is your opportunity to be bold and clear about what direction you want your career to go in. Look at all the information you’ve written down and use it to flesh out a mission -- this should be a powerful sentence or phrase that tells people who you are.
Your mission sentence can be helpful for two reasons: It serves as a personal reminder to you and carries with it an element of accountability, but also helps prospective employers or clients quickly assess if you’d be a good match or not.
Identify your value.
Within your personal branding statement, identify your professional value.
A subjective term, this "value" could be described in the following ways: your experience, industry expertise, noteworthy clients, education level and personal passion.
At this juncture, I would encourage you to take a moment and empathize with prospective clients, customers and employers. What would be a strong value indicator in your field of work? What are they looking for? Don’t be fictitious, of course (an immediate career killer); but do be choosy. Include points of value geared toward both your professional career goals and your industry niche.
Sounds simple, right? Be real, be you, but it's it one of the hardest things to do. Writing about ourselves is uncomfortable. It’s difficult to find the right balance between not saying enough and saying too much. Here are a couple of pieces of advice I would offer toward the goal of being real:
Avoid the fluff and stay away from fancy claims you can’t back up. They will bite back.
Stay away from buzzwords. (Here’s a list of words to avoid in your LinkedIn profile.) They will do the opposite of what you intended.
Be self-aware and write a statement that accurately reflects your experience, passions and capabilities. Simplicity is OK. Short statements are, too.
Here’s an example of my own personal branding statement broken down: “Focusing on helping businesses and individuals achieve success through enduring social media, digital PR and personal branding strategies …”
Next, I put the customer (my target audience) first and mention my fields of expertise: “My 18 years of online advertising industry experience and seven years at Microsoft as digital marketing evangelist, enable me to provide counsel to my clients that is truly relevant, robust and real-time.”
Notice that I make sure to draw attention to my seven years at Microsoft (a value indicator) and state my mission: “Always striving to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of digital media and technology, I aim to improve my clients’ competitive position through partnership, tenacity and accountability.”
I continue on about my mission, but also describe my aim for achieving clarity, using my own words without sounding over-stated.
Revisit the statement on a quarterly basis.
Your personal branding statement should grow with you. As you rise in your career and work with new, interesting clients, take on new projects or learn a valuable skill, your personal branding statement should reflect those changes. I would encourage you to revisit it every three months or so to double-check that your purpose, mission and values still ring true in the present day.