In the recruitment industry or market we recognize two distinct cycles, employee-driven and company- driven market trends. Put simply, when the economy is doing well it is more employee driven. In other words, as it was before 2008, when there were, in many respects, more jobs than there were qualified employees to fill them. This meant that companies had to offer more and employees could negotiate for better conditions. However, as it is now, it is the opposite and there are more applicants than there are good jobs. This means companies have the upper hand; they can dictate terms to people resulting in lower salaries and less favorable terms. It’s nothing complex, but simply an issue of supply and demand as it relates to the employment market. With this in mind, what you may have been able to negotiate for yourself a few years ago, the last time you interviewed for a job, might not necessarily be possible this or the next time around. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but don’t let your ego be bruised if you don’t get your way – after all, there is a new normal that a lot of folks are already experiencing, even if you have not yet done so.
Regardless, whatever deal you may or may not be able to negotiate for yourself, many people after the fact complain of how they were cheated or treated poorly and got a less than optimal deal. Part of the problem is many people don’t have strong negotiating skills. In order to negotiate one must have a measure of soft skills, abilities that are suffering a steep decline in the last 20 years, as a result of increased online social networking. I am an expert in the hiring process and the negotiations required therein; if anyone wants to avail themselves of a crash course you should get my book, which is easily found on Amazon, but that’s up to you. Other “experts”, whose primary advice focuses on and preaches the virtues of more social networking, miss the point completely. In reality, they have nothing substantive to offer; resume advice and more online activity is mere window dressing.
However, today I want to suggest the most rudimentary and the simplest way to get the best possible deal for yourself when you interview and receive a job offer, even if you possess no ability to negotiate and regardless of whether it is for a good job or that which will suffice until you find a better one. In fact, it is so simple that I feel as though I am insulting the intelligence of many people, though too many fail to do what should be automatic, reflexive and instinctive.
Conduct pre-interview due diligence
Many fail to do the most basic research about a company or job they seek. Easy access to the internet means you have no excuse not to be acquainted with most any organization you may consider working for. Look at their website or search for press releases and new items that can provide you with both positive and negative info with which you can make an informed decision. Career biographies of key company personalities are also readily available with just a bit of effort. Furthermore, you should anticipate one of the most basic questions most interviewees encounter, “What do you know about our company?”, and/or, “why are you interested in working for us?” Even if you manage to get through the process without this knowledge do you have any clue about what and with whom you are trying to join?
Be an active interview participant
During the interview process many people are passengers and do little more than hide behind their resume, smile and nod on cue to appear engaged when, in reality, they are just hoping to get through the interview with their fingers crossed. I recognize interviewing sucks, nobody likes to interview. But the interview process directly affects you in a very personal manner and the old adage that suggests, “the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask”, applies in this case.
Read the job offer (all of it)
Most people do not read their job offer. Yeah, they read the parts about their job title description of their responsibilities, how much they will get paid, their company benefits – you know, the important stuff. But they fail to read the equally important fine print. For example: many companies who know they call the shots in this so-called economic recovery are flexing their muscles taking full advantage. I don’t fault them for it even if some things they do may be questionable – but I do fault people who fail to review any deal to which they apply their signature without thorough review. If you need a glaring example, here’s one: there is a very large international company, which has in the fine print of their employment contracts a passage that states that by signing the agreement you waive any right to litigate against them. Imagine, all the labor laws meant to protect you mean nothing if you willingly sign away your rights, but how would you know if you don’t read your contract – all of it. I have read articles in this regard but you won’t find many and I am sure the reason has nothing to do with media outlets owned by large corporations.
So perhaps you can imagine my lack of sympathy for many who fail to do what is the most basic of responsibilities in their own self-interest, when pursuing and interviewing for any job. If you fail to do what I have described above – which does not require a lot of effort, then you have no right to blame anyone else for what you willingly, albeit unwittingly, agreed to. Shared risk and mutual respect is what should be the basis of any contract between parties, and anything less is simple negligence on the part of whoever fails to pay attention when it matters most.
For those who think there is an increasingly un-level playing field of late there are two schools of thought; one is that companies, at a time which is more advantageous to them are just seeking the best deal they can for their bottom line (profitability). Others suggest we are drifting towards a techno-feudalism or new age of serfdom, lorded over by large corporate structures, which regard employees as an expendable and easily replaced commodity. Frankly, I can find some evidence of both, but this is a subject for another day. No matter the situation or the cause, all you can do is try to influence your individual situation as best you can – you are powerless only if you choose to be.
During any process of negotiation, almost no one gets everything they want and there are always trade-offs, resulting in compromises of varying degrees. Anyone who expects to get everything they want on their own terms, when they want it, is either childish or delusional. During the current economic cycle, it is true that companies have the upper hand, although you are a victim if you willingly relinquish your role in the process.