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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Interviewing & Salary Negotiation Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 28 Mar 2011 6:54 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    Point seven of my Ten Steps to Interview Preparation is to “practice aloud with answers to predictable questions.” After all, as the adage says, “practice makes perfect.” Some of you may be thinking, “Why bother?” Consider this: although networking or a great resume can land you an interview, it is your interview skills that land you a job offer. Furthermore, it is not always the most qualified candidate who lands the job offer; it is the candidate who interviews best.

    How does one practice, then? And which questions? Have you tried practicing aloud? I have, and let me share that the first time I practice, I ramble, digress, sound silly, and wouldn’t impress the most forgiving audience. Even I can’t believe how bad I sound!

    Depending on the job to which you are applying, you will have a sense of which topics will be addressed. Obviously a customer service rep will be asked about related service skills, dealing with difficult situations or handling belligerent clients. The IT help desk candidate will be asked about solving perplexing software issues, communicating his or her work in plain English with non-IT clients, and continuing professional development to stay current. The engineer may face questions about sourcing appropriate-to-the-job products, solving complex mathematical equations; and the lawyer, about researching and writing, meeting critical deadlines, and still bringing in revenues!

    Write down perhaps five topics that are listed on every job posting that you’re applying to, and these will give you a great start to preparing for any job interview. Now, you’re ready to begin!

    Brainstorm first, on paper, noting a few examples and stories that demonstrate your dedication and ability to solve those problems that are inherent in your position. Solving problems are the key to being of value to your employer. Read a few answers suggested in interview coaching books. These may give you additional ideas that you hadn’t considered, and will throw in those key words and phrases that will impress the interviewer, and solidify you as a top-notch candidate.

    Now, practice an actual voiced delivery, not once, but a few times on day one. On day two, read over your notes, practice again, not once but twice. And by day three or four, you will be sounding coherent, logical, and persuasive. After all, no actor stepped onto a stage without first learning lines, and practicing them until he or she could deliver them in a way that sounded quite natural. It is only then that an actor is persuasive and believable.

    In a sense, when interviewing, you are on stage, presenting to a group of people who hold the key to your dream job, or to great financial rewards, or to plainly putting food on the table. Your delivery either persuades them, or dissuades them; it either lands you a job offer, or cancels out your candidacy Practice makes perfect … go practice!

  • 17 Mar 2011 7:12 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of interviewees like hearing “What are your salary requirements?” If they could respond with what they were actually thinking, it would probably sound something like this: “Anything!!” (If needing a job ASAP.)  “The most you can possibly give me.” (If I could only figure out what that is!) “I have no clue.” (Probably the most common internal response!)

    There are entire books written on how to negotiate salary, but I want to give you highlights of two of the most important. The first is education. You can’t even begin to bargain if you don’t know what the going salary is for people in your position and location. So how do you find out what that is? Like anything else, online!

    Google your job function + average pay; find job ads that list the salary offered; visit payscale.com to search according to function and geographic area. Of course, it never hurts to ask around. Conducting informational interviews or asking industry friends what the average salary is can only help. Whether in-person, online, or both, research as many sources as possible. You’ll end up with a more accurate profile instead of one number that could be at the very high or very low end of the range.

    The other rule of thumb – if at all possible, avoid naming a number first! The key is to make them want to hire you so much that they’ll do whatever they can to get you what you want. This is tricky, because interviewees understandably don’t want to appear difficult. While there’s always a risk, in my experience, it’s small. Reduce it even further (and gain more bargaining power), by responding as respectfully as possible.

    Turning it around – while at the same time reminding the interviewer that you are interested in the position and don’t want to talk money yet – is a great way to deflect this question. One example is:  “I’d love to hear more about the position and what it entails before I can give an accurate answer.” When conducting your research, don’t forget about benefits and perks. Even if you can’t get the association to budge on pay, they may be able to sweeten the pot with extras!

  • 14 Feb 2011 4:12 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    You’ve had your interview, which you think went well. The recruiter said that management wants a new recruit in place within two weeks, and that you’d receive a call, either way. Two weeks later, you are still waiting. All that waiting seems to demand action; after all, we are often urged to be pro-active.

    “What if I called to inquire? Would that help show my interest?” wonders the impatient job hunter. So what is the best way to handle all that silent waiting? It all depends. There are many approaches; a few are listed below. Depending on a person’s character, strength of verbal communications, rapport established with the interview team, indications given about how soon a decision will be made or when the chosen candidate will ideally be starting, a candidate may elect to wait patiently, or to follow up.

    At the end of the interview, ask “May I give you a call to follow up on the selection process?” Most people feel comfortable sending (and receiving) two, perhaps three, follow-up emails. After that it starts to feel desperate, which is a job offer deal-breaker. If you elect to communicate via email rather than phone, stop after two or three.

    Keep track of who you call or email, what was said, who you’ve not yet reached, to make sure that you don’t feel foolish for having forgotten, and that you don’t overdo the attempt to solicit a reply. If it is outside your comfort zone to follow up, you might choose to say so. “I apologize for adding yet another email to your Inbox. I am compelled to write, though, as I am just so sure that I have precisely the skills, attitude and experience to succeed in the position of (insert).”

    Instead of an email try a postcard or short hand-written note, snail-mailed. Sometimes choosing “the road less traveled,” so to speak, is enough to spark a reply.

    Call, but rather than leaving a message, keep calling until you reach a real live person. Best bet for getting through to the hiring manager is to call very early, or quite late in the day, when it is less likely that his or her calls are being screened.

    Send a last-ditch letter. Be frank. Tell the person that they indicated a decision would be made by this time, and that whether it’s positive news or not, you would like to know. It is a sad truth that not all interviewers, recruiters, or HR personnel follow through on their promise to call either way.  Although everyone deserves the courtesy of knowing, it’s also true that lots of folks have trouble delivering bad news.

    One last idea:  Never give up. Even if you didn’t land that job, send an email two months or so down the road, thanking them again for a great interview, sharing that, although you are exploring a few possibilities you are still available.

    Suggest that if they know of a suitable position, in their company or another, you would be very grateful for a referral or more information. And continue to stay in touch with professional, non-demanding messages. Silence is relative, and possible reactions vary according to many variables. Ultimately it is up to each job hunter to determine what tactics he or she is comfortable using.

  • 12 Feb 2011 4:13 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    Conventional Wisdom: Don't Talk Salary Before You Have an Offer. This kind of information and advice, depending on industry and specific situations, may not always be relevant. In some ways, the recession changed some things about salary negotiations. Here is what I have seen that you may want to note as an executive job seeker trying to negotiate your best deal:

    1. You May Need to Deal with Salary Issues Up Front. I realize that it would be nice to let salary and compensation discussion happen at the end of the deal. That would be great. But you may want to be ready to cover some very heavy compensation discussions early. Or you may be eliminated. 

    2. Just Because You Have a Starting Number Doesn't Mean it's an Ending Number. What I have seen is that if a recruiter introduces you, they may start with a number. The company may ask you to give them a range or an idea. Do not be afraid to do this. In this environment, don't get eliminated up front.

      Prove your value throughout the interview process. Don't be too arrogant about money. Many competitors of yours will take less. Get the secrets of negotiating your best deal by practicing your approach. One client admitted this: "Before I talked to you guys and got more tactics in my favor, I was hyper-focused on salary. That matters. But the overall deal matters more." Exactly right.

      If you understand your value, then focus on that throughout the interview process. Don't turn down a $134,000 job because it pays you 9% less than you want. Examine the entire value and realize that you will more than make it up as you progress and the company realizes it can't do without you. They will eventually pay up. At least that's the attitude you need to have in negotiations.

    3. Negotiating Begins with the Resume or Phone Screen. In fact, don't let your guard down. Negotiations start with your level of preparation...even before you contact the company.

    What's the bottom line? It's up to you to uniquely prove your value proposition throughout the entire interview process. Do not step on a salary land mine by pushing a high range immediately. That does not mean you have to leave money on the compensation table. Market your value and the company or organization may just up their offer for you in any economic environment.

  • 06 Jan 2011 5:02 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    While interviewing people for my book, I Want a Job in an Association, Now What??, I’ve asked many what advice they’d give to someone interviewing with an association after having worked in philanthropic non-profits or corporations. The same few answers came up over and over again. 

    Show your flexibility: Often, association employees need to wear several hats, and you may need to take on duties that have nothing to do with your job. One person even told me, “even though I’m the executive director of a small professional state association, I need to be able to do a presentation in front of my members one day and take out the office trash the next.” Be prepared to give examples that speak to your willingness to pitch in where needed.

    Research EVERYTHING:  Of course, the job is a must, but also look into the association you’re interviewing with and the overall industry/profession it focuses on (i.e. healthcare). Learn about their mission and history as well as their current challenges. 

    Know that members are of the utmost importance: Members are the bread and butter of professional associations and keeping them happy is the number one priority. Anything you can say in the interview that shows how you can add value to the members will give you an edge. This can include experience in the same industry, examples of your strong customer service skills, or even a passion for the profession the members work in.

    Remember, some experts recommend that you spend 10-15 hours preparing for each interview. Keeping the above tips in mind will help you maximize this time!

  • 20 Dec 2010 5:14 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    From time to time we hear of a new “bad” interview question that someone came up with. One of my clients reported being asked “If you were an animal, what would you be?” Completely taken aback, he unfortunately replied, “a crocodile.” Given that he didn’t receive an offer, I imagine that the company didn’t value the animal’s predatory nature! But every once in a while we hear of great questions, too.

    Recently I came across these two: "How will you add value to this company?" and "How are you involved in professional development?"   Beautifully phrased, appropriately positioned questions. Here’s why I feel that these are truly key. When asked how he will add value, the candidate is afforded an opportunity to expound on the value he demonstrated in past employs by talking about how past employers benefited from his pertinent-to-the-job skills.

    The candidate would build his reply by drawing correlations to the position and company at hand. A strategically crafted response would incorporate credentials, key words and phrases and appropriate jargon, and knowledge of the company applied to, while sharing actual examples of accomplishments that solved problems, demonstrated critical thinking, saved money, showcased a good fit ... the list is endless!

    By inquiring about professional development, the candidate’s commitment to her field of choice, passion for the work, desire for self-improvement, and openness to change is clear. A well-prepared candidate will share examples of how she incorporated new knowledge into the work place, and especially the tangible benefits these changes realized.

    When you enjoy what you do, you eagerly look for ways to advance your knowledge, or places to connect with like-minded colleagues, all of which can and should lead to business-improving strategies at work. After all, development is key in business: without change, in the form of improvements or innovation, business stagnates.

    There are many similar questions that tend to skirt the issues or are oblique in meaning. These two questions clearly and purposefully nail the issues behind hiring: value added hires that fit the company and make sense for future growth. If your interviewer doesn’t ask these questions, look for ways to incorporate the answers to stand out as the top-shelf candidate!

  • 08 Dec 2010 5:35 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    When you are asked to “Tell me about yourself” during an interview, your response can make or break the interview.  You are being requested to introduce yourself, provide your relevant skills and experience, and validate your candidacy.  Your response to “Tell me about yourself” is your first, and sometimes, your only opportunity to sell yourself. 

    If you do not gain the hiring manager’s interest and respect with your response, the rest of the interview may become irrelevant. Unfortunately, many job seekers are unconfident, unprepared, and unfocused and miss this opportunity.  For job seekers over 40, there is even more pressure to make a strong introduction and impression because you may have additional concerns about competition from younger candidates, age discrimination, and higher salary expectations.

    Common mistakes to avoid when answering, “Tell me about yourself:” 

    Giving general rather than specific information: Because you have a broad background and wealth of experience, particularly if you are over 40, you assume that you will impress the hiring manager with a long list of your skills and accomplishments.  Instead, your response will seem vague and irrelevant and the hiring manager may assume that you do not understand the position or that you are unqualified.

    Citing employers, industry knowledge, and experience that are out of date: You will create the impression that you are out of date and will not be able to learn new skills or adapt to new environments.

    Saying that you have little knowledge of or little use for new technologies:  Again, you will be perceived as someone who is out of date and unwilling to learn and adapt to change.

    Bragging about your former status or accomplishments: There is a fine line between confidently providing evidence and examples of your qualifications and boasting.  If you go too far, the hiring manager may perceive it as egotism or one-upmanship and that you will not be content with the position for which you are interviewing.

    Best practices for answering, “Tell Me about Yourself:”

    Understand and respond to the hiring manager’s needs (not yours):  A hiring manager’s main concern is to hire the person who can solve his /her current business needs: the need for additional staff, specific industry or functional knowledge, defined skill set, and / or appropriate attitude.  In answering the question, “Tell me about yourself,” you must position yourself immediately as the person who can meet the hiring manager’s business needs. 

    You are selling yourself as the solution to his/her problem.  Prior to the interview, use both formal research and any anecdotal information you can gather to gain an understanding of the business needs the hiring manager is seeking to fill. 

    Evaluate your knowledge, experience, and skills and extract those that are most relevant. Emphasize the qualifications you offer that best translate as solutions to the hiring manager needs when answering “Tell me about yourself” and as themes throughout the interview. 

    Dissect the position description: The position description for which you are being interviewed contains critical information about the specific knowledge, skills, and credentials the hiring manager is seeking. 

    Carefully analyze each one of these and list the specific experience, accomplishments, and training you offer that meet the requirements of the position. Develop examples of your accomplishments that illustrate how you can fulfill the key qualifications described in the position. Again, the hiring manager has a need and you are the solution to that need. 

    Use the same language: Be sure to use the same language used in the position description. 

    For example, if you have expertise in corporate training, and the position description asks for someone who can conduct organizational learning, use the words organizational learning rather than corporate training during the interview. If you speak the same language, it will be easier for the hiring manager to see you as part of that culture and as one of his staff. 

    Craft your answer ahead of time: Develop your script prior to the interview. Open with a broad statement of your experience, skills, and credentials, emphasizing those that support how you can provide solutions to the hiring manager’s needs.  

    Include an overview of your work history, focusing on your most relevant experience and usually not going back more than 15 years, unless your earlier experience is key to the hiring manager’s needs. 

    Briefly describe your roles, responsibilities, key accomplishments, and why you made job transitions. Focus on your strengths that are the most critical to the position and the business needs. 

    Finally, describe how you would use your experience and strengths in that position, which will enable the hiring manager to envision you in that role.

    Practice your delivery: Once you have written your script, practice delivering it. 

    Ideally, use a career coach or colleague who understands your background and the requirements of the position. Ask for feedback as to how clear and persuasive you are. If you do not have a coach or colleague to assist you, practice in a small, quiet space where you can really hear your response.  Revise your script, as needed. Practice again.

    If you demonstrate that you understand the hiring manager’s needs, provide the solutions to those needs, and speak his /her language, and you deliver your sales pitch convincingly, you will set yourself up for interview success when answering, “Tell me about yourself.”

  • 22 Nov 2010 8:42 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    I recall watching a series of delightful fairy tales, cleverly written with double entendres to amuse viewers of all ages. In a superbly acted version of Cinderella, the step-mother pressured her daughters to “Try to sound intelligent,” to which one of the hapless step-sisters responded, “What do you mean by intelligent?”

    I have to admit that there was a time when I, not yet armed with the knowledge I now possess, often replied that I had no questions at all at the end of the interview. Such a wasted opportunity to “sound intelligent!” If you are serious about landing a job offer, you should come up with some interview questions that inspire confidence in your intelligence!

    Possible questions can pop into your mind during the interview, but I prefer not leaving such an important aspect of demonstrating my fit with the company and the position to chance. Now, I prepare insightful questions that demonstrate my thinking process, that show I have conducted research and have given this opportunity considerable and deliberate thought. Along with questions that evolve from research, you can prepare a few general questions, always sticking to ones that you are comfortable asking. 

    You can then pick and choose the questions that feel right based upon the mood of the interview and the interactions that have preceded. Here are a few such general questions: What kind of training, orientation or onboarding processes do you have? What types of qualities have you identified as being ideal for the position, the team, and the organization? What is the rate of retention in this department? (i.e., how many people have left, what is the turnover rate, is staff unhappy!?) What is the greatest challenge the company faces today or in the near future? In what way is this position critical to the company’s success? 

    Perhaps you are hesitant to ask questions. In this case you can add intelligent comments. For example: I am impressed with what I am hearing about the company. In particular what has really captured my attention is (fill in the details and explain why). I really like the small town atmosphere at (insert name). It is exactly what I am looking for (and go on to explain why). I am absolutely pumped by the large scale of this enterprise. It is exactly what I am looking for (and go on to explain why). That major upcoming project intrigues me. It sounds like my past experience in (insert) is closely aligned. In that project my role was... (and go on to explain).

    Remember that the interview must be more of a conversation. Take charge of your end of carrying the conversation with words that sound “intelligent”!

  • 18 Aug 2010 6:07 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    You might be surprised to learn that many recruiters grumble that too many interview candidates spend far too little time preparing for this very important event. Considering that a career move hangs in the balance, you might wonder why this is so. Perhaps applicants feel less-than-confident, and hence that they are wasting time in preparing? But if you’ve received an invite to an interview then you should take this as a vote of confidence: the company has seen something in your qualifications that is of great interest.

    After all, few employers interview more than five or so potentials for any given opening. You owe it to yourself to put in more than an hour or two in preparation.

    One way to prepare is to research the company thoroughly; the other is to know yourself thoroughly. Today let’s chat about researching the company.Visit the company’s website, follow the links to press releases, brochures, client testimonials, and product information. Find out what challenges the company is battling, review the mission statement, absorb the corporate culture, discover who the major competitors are, and so on.

    If the company has no website, visit your local library to find info in local news. (The business librarian can help if you are at a loss.) You might even choose to continue your research by finding someone who works there. Posting a question on, for example, Facebook, LinkedIn, or another internet networking site is a wonderful resource for this purpose.

    Your goal in this research is to find topics which will allow you to meet the interviewers on common ground, issues which will allow you to showcase how your skills would be useful, business links that you may be able to use in choosing impactful references, and mostly to simply show real interest and enthusiasm.  

    (Now, to step back, ideally you should have already researched the companies for which you would enjoy working, aligning your ethics, interests, working style and more to determine that there is a good fit between you and the company. And, having identified a list of employers - the number could be five if you are limited to a small geographic area, or even 50 if your search is nation-wide - you will already have been targeting your job search to these close-to-ideal employers.)

    There is a boundary to keep: stick to corporate knowledge and don’t cross the line to personal knowledge. What you do not want to do is feel too familiar with the interviewer. The interview, although best approached as a conversation rather than an inquisition, remains a formal process. Don’t offend your interviewer by behaving in an inappropriately chummy manner, or mentioning personal info that you learned about him or her in your research. You don’t want to come across as overly nosy, or even worse. (There have been chats on career-practitioner sites that alluded to overly resourceful researchers who learned far too personal details, spooking their interviewers!)

    Remember, it is the candidate who interviews best that often gets the job offer (and not necessarily the best qualified candidate). This is one of the steps to a great interview. Your main focus in accumulating research information is to leverage what you learn to self-promote, to prove that you are the best candidate. That, after all, is your interview goal.

  • 19 Jul 2010 7:07 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    This blog entry departs from building interview skills. Its topic, dealing with a rude interviewer, resulted, unfortunately, from recent client complaints! Rude recruiters are unexpected; after all, we expect people in professional positions to behave, well, professionally! However, this brings home the fact that people are imperfect and subjective. Even some adults have yet to learn how to keep their negative emotions in check; others seem to get away with ongoing poor behavior; and yet others aren’t ashamed to share their dislike of another person, in this case the hapless interviewee.

    How then, does someone in this position respond? If the company is one in which you’ve no real interest, i.e., it’s not on your list of top 20 employers, you have nothing to lose. I’d still recommend carrying on to the best of your ability, so as not to burn any bridges; one never knows what routes one’s life will take! And if you really want to work for this company, and it’s unlikely you’d have much to do with the rude member of the interview team, carry on, stay above the petty rudeness, finish your interview with strength, honor, and resolve. Be the bigger person, if only for your own conscience.

    Although these rude adults would benefit from being called on their behavior, it is not the interviewee’s place to do so.

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