Monday, October 29, 2012

The Money Question Can be a Trap

Depending on the situation and considerations about your job skills, market sector and professional level, you might have the opportunity to negotiate and influence your salary and compensation during an interview process. However, if you will be earning union scale, working for an institution, public service or government–related function, there may be little or no flexibility and you'll simply be told what you will earn, end of subject. Likewise, it may be similar if you interview for a position that requires only a single interview before a decision, such as retail or entry–level position. However, whenever it is possible, avoid the money question during the first interview. Here’s why: if you are asked during the first interview before they elaborate on the job role specifics, they may be using money as a screening tool. Never mind that you might be the most qualified applicant, how you answer may prevent you from being moved forward in the hiring process.

The problem is if you say a number too high they may rule you out of further consideration. If you say a number too low you may be cheating yourself. Thoughtlessly suggesting a salary range will almost always result in their locking onto the low end of the scale, not the high end. Their job is to get you at the best (lowest) price and your job is to seek a fair wage in exchange for your work. Throwing numbers around carelessly before either side has conducted their initial due diligence, which is what the first interview is all about, is not a smart strategy for you, the job seeker.

Of course money is an important factor but I suggest it takes a close second place to the importance of the opportunity itself. If you receive the best pay for a bad job, how long will you stay before you start to look all over again? The first interview is a get–to–know–you meeting and an information–gathering exercise to learn more about the job for which you are applying. Plus, they need to learn more about you. I suggest you attempt to deftly sidestep the topic by saying something like, “I’d like to first learn more about the job to determine how much I would ask for, and perhaps you don’t yet know enough about my experience to determine what I am worth”. If that response does not satisfy them and they continue to press for an answer, it is fair to share how much you are currently earning and suggest you do not want to earn any less, again suggesting you’d like to learn more about the job and what will be expected of you. Hopefully you can then use that and subsequent interviews to demonstrate why you are the best choice. Recognize that the better you do during the interview process the more your stock rises, so why talk about money before they know anything about you beyond your resume. Don’t fall victim to expedient and often lazy methods of an interviewer trying to save time whittling down the number of first–round applicants. If you ask about money in a first meeting before they bring it up, you will be perceived as having more interest in the cash than the job; it’s just not professional. Hang in there and hold your fire, be strategic in your thinking, you are playing chess and not checkers; get more info about the position for which you are applying. On average, it is from the point of the second interview that all of this is fair game. Ensure that you have a complete understanding of the compensation package by the end of the interview process and, absolutely, before you accept a job offer.

One more thing: if you are currently working you have some flexibility to attempt to earn the same or better than you are currently earning, although the current sluggish economy favors the company’s position. If you are not working, and depending on the length of time since your last paycheck, most often you have less leverage and are less likely to be in a position to dictate a higher level of compensation. The longer your break in employment may be, you might even have difficulty getting what you previously earned. Hey, I don’t make up the rules but that’s the way it is.

Feel free to discuss this post in the forum (no registration required).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Value of Asking: What and How?

I always stress that, during the interview process, it is a two–way dialogue and as a matter of self–respect and self–interest you have an obligation to ask questions and it is, and should be, an interactive process. Therefore, I’d like to offer some simple advice about an aspect often overlooked. Especially if the process seems to be going too smoothly, you might flatter yourself into thinking they are welcoming you with open arms because you are just that much better than the other candidates for the same job. It may be true, but don’t let the nice words and praise sway you from digging deeper to learn more information, because there could be another reason you are sailing through so effortlessly. Learn more about the reasons the position is open.

What are the circumstances for the open position? Ask them, “What happened to the last employee who occupied this position?” They should be willing to discuss this with you and your next question should be, “How long were they in the position?” You may hear some good information and perhaps they’ll tell you the previous holder of the position was promoted within the company after spending a couple of productive years in the role. On the other hand, if they tell you the last occupant left the company and you also learn they spent less than a year in the position, your obvious follow–up questions are again, what happened and why and additionally ask, “And what about the person before that?” See what a difference those two small questions can make and surely you recognize the importance of this information. What if they tell you the position was vacant for an extended period of time; what are the circumstances for why nobody else has accepted the job?

This opens up a whole new area for investigation. Be especially cautious if they seek to avoid the discussion. Of course there could very well be a good explanation, but you definitely need to know what the reasons are surrounding the opportunity, which would affect both you and the company for which you are considering working. It doesn’t mean every job should be easy with lots of career development opportunities, although that is the wish of most people. An environment of shared risk and mutual respect is the solid foundation of any business arrangement. In the bigger picture both you and the company benefit when you can make a better–informed decision. You might need a job, but under what circumstances? Don’t lose your focus and rush the process just to save time, otherwise you could find yourself right back where you started, looking for yet another job.
Feel free to discuss this post in the forum (no registration required).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

(Online) Social Networking is Not the Answer

Occasionally I’ve read advice and articles from supposed experts suggesting, in order to find more job opportunities, to engage in or increase your social networking activities. This is some of the dumbest and least effective advice I’ve heard. Somebody actually wrote that thinking they are offering up a solution. No doubt, with the job market as flat and competitive as it is, folks are craving any bit of help they can find. But really, is there anyone who is not living in a cave who isn’t already doing some form of social networking? So yet another website, portal or domain might find a hidden golden nugget of a job listing? How is a social networking site such as LinkedIn going to get you a job? Using this logic, I suppose if I send a friend request to an unknown senior manager working for XYZ Company, they’ll read my message or resume, think I am swell and voila, they’ll hire me, eh. In what alternate universe does this happen? Gee, I had no idea it could be this simple. According to those who actually think they are making a useful contribution with this kind of empty–headed advice, they are suggesting that more time spent digging around online will make your job hunting efforts more fruitful.

Social networking can and does work but it has nothing to do with being on someone’s friends list or being online. You have to invest more than some keystrokes to be effective, especially if you want better results than the countless others who are also online doing the same thing and competing for the same jobs. Perhaps the problem here to which I am referring is the new definition of what social networking is and what it isn’t. Let’s step back for a moment. What most people think of as social networking – isn’t. Sitting alone and interacting electronically is not a social activity – hey, you’re sitting alone and looking at a lighted screen for God’s sake! Please don’t confuse trading messages with someone over a technical medium with real social activity.

No matter what mind–numbing garbage someone might suggest about what you can accomplish online, real social networking was – and is, face–to–face, person–to–person. It is being physically in the presence of others; meeting, building relationships. It involves observation and adaptation in an environment where you are physically participating, in real time. It is the spontaneous action and reaction to words and events; it is the art of communication developing both verbal and body language; it is nuances, personality, tone of voice. This, ladies and gentlemen, is real social networking and it takes real effort. Digital / technical social networking is no substitute. Emails and text messaging are one dimensional, becoming a crutch for the shy and fearful and a handicap for the able. You can’t learn to swim watching videos or talking about it. Whether you enter slowly or jump right in, you’ve got to get into the water. Indeed, exploit technology to research and plan and then get out there and meet people, make appointments, shake hands, attend alumni, professional or trade association gatherings. This is what social networking was, is and will be.

The more you are in the physical presence and actively participating with others, the better your chances are to find work. Anything else is just idle activity, like watching a dog chase its tail; lots of activity but not getting anywhere. Conducting correspondence with key strokes in your pajamas is not social activity. Indeed it might be interactive but it is not action oriented. Obviously there is quite a difference between what is virtual and what is real but, for some, the clear lines of separation begin to blur.

So don’t rely so much on technology and, instead, rely on yourself. Get out there, go ahead, feel a little nervous, break a sweat, and so on – you’ll get used to it and be better and develop more confidence as a result. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone might tell you “no”, or you might experience some rejection. Welcome to real life. The payoff is worthwhile and later, after you succeed, you can post the news about your new job and share it on Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever you virtually meet online.
Feel free to discuss this post in the forum (no registration required).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Welcome to my blog

If you’re looking for a job, interested in making a job change or just plain curious about better navigating the bureaucracy involved with the interview process, then you’re in the right place for straight talk and commentary. Here you’ll find advice you can use. Everywhere I look I see watered down, generic vanilla pabulum, meant for the herd mentality. Whether it is on media sites or the blogosphere, there is no shortage of empty commentary, most of which rings hollow and doesn’t do much to provide you with truly impactful advice. Indeed there are some who have a helpful perspective grounded in experience. But far too many are quite removed and out of touch with real people struggling to find their way in the current difficult jobs market.

Many people are frustrated and they imagine that there must be more they can do than only submit to a process that refers them to a website, send an electronic version of their resume down a virtual black hole and await the privilege of a reply – most likely in electronic form. Well, there are alternatives and there are ways to help yourself in the process of which you are a physical part.

The current state of affairs is frustrating not only to job seekers but also to conscientious company folks in management and HR ranks. They also recognize there is something not quite right in the state of affairs. Unfortunately I don’t see much, if any, critique out there of the devolution of human interaction in the hiring and screening process.

And what about the hiring process if you are selected to participate? Most people, as a matter of course, have very little understanding of the hiring process in both how to present oneself and also navigating the obstacle course that is the hiring process. And why should you, we spend most of our time working and not interviewing.

But there is hope and help, although you have to do more than the rest of those who are also competing for the same opportunities. Here – is where you start to gain an advantage for yourself.

Feel free to discuss this post in the forum (no registration required).