An offer you can’t refuse: Negotiating your salary

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By George Bernocco, CPRW

You got the interview, nailed it and now you’re awaiting a decision from the company. Most likely the call you’re waiting for is from Human Resources offering you the position. The job you applied for may have listed the salary in the posting itself, or it was discussed by the company to you in the interview, or you have no clue what they are going to put on the table. Regardless, you want to show the employer that you are worth more but don’t want to frighten them away. Here are some ideas to help you with this difficult process:

 Interview

It is considered bad practice for you to bring up salary. The employer can bring it up and discuss it with you during the actual interview, but they must have initiated the conversation. This may catch you off guard, because if you have not done your research, you may not have an answer for them so soon. Be prepared that the employer might bring up salary, and have an answer if they do.

 Research

Do you know the average salary in the United States for your career field? How about the median salary in your state? Or even district? Labor departments, federal and state, keep records of this information. Here are a few websites that can help you:

When you have numbers to work with, you can do the math and produce a salary number that isn’t too high or too low. Just remember that average salaries factor in outliers, people who were paid abnormally high and low. Median salaries are what most people in your career field are being paid.

Another way to research how much a company pays its employees is by knowing someone who works for them. Asking an employee can prevent you and the employer from wasting each other’s time if the job isn’t financially beneficial to you. You can also get an idea of the atmosphere of the company, and see if it’s a place you would like to work.

Discussion

When you’re discussing your salary with the potential employer, you should remember the job posting. I would go as far as to say that you create a points system on the posting. Break down the posting by its requirements and preferred knowledge. Add +1 for everything in the posting you have exceeded. Put a 0 next to anything you have met the requirements or preferred knowledge. And then if it comes to it, -1 next to anything which you have not met. Just note this is for your general knowledge as to how much you should be asking for, this is not something you’d want to share in detail with the employer. You would want to highlight anything you’ve added a +1 next to. You should not necessarily discuss with the employer any -1 items as they serve as a reminder to not ask for too much since you haven’t met or exceeded all the requirements. Chances are the employer knows what your “-1’s” are and they used them to adjust your salary.

Prioritize your list with the most important towards the top. Here is an example:

Job Posting                               I Have                                    Points

5 years experience                           10 years experience                                +1

Bachelors in Science                        Masters in Science                                  +1

Basic computer skills                      Basic computer skills                               0

Expertise with MS Excel                  Basic knowledge of MS Excel                  -1

Ask the person who you are negotiating with what the salary is based on. Whatever they mention, you should be prepared to have an answer. If your education (and/or experience) exceeds the minimum requirements, and the employer states that is what the salary is based on, be prepared to remind them how you exceeded the minimum.

Knowledge

When you are armed with knowledge, you can successfully negotiate your salary without disqualifying yourself. Employers do expect new employees to negotiate, and it’s important to feel comfortable in the process. Be realistic as you should only apply for jobs that you know can earn you a profit. There may be times where the employer and you do not reach an agreement. If you cannot reach a mutual agreement with the employer, it may be for the best as you do have financial responsibilities.

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The Skinny on On-Line Applications

By Uri Allen, CPRW

One of the biggest complaints I hear from job seekers is how much they hate/loathe/dread the online application. For those with little to no computer skills, online applications are yet another hurdle they have to overcome in order to stay competitive with today’s job market. My boomers (and some Gen X’ers) complain that the online application is just too impersonal and that if they could only talk to someone…in person. My Gen Y and some of my millennial clients complain that the application process is too long and what’s with those stupid tests they make you take? And did they just ask the same question twice? It seems as though each generation has their own complaints but one thing they can all agree on (for once) is that online job applications are the pits. So why are so many employers using this format? For this blog post, I will delve into the world of online applications and see if there is indeed some method to the madness that has so many frustrated job seekers looking to office space their computers.

Don’t take a bat to your computer just yet!
office-space-fax

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME

OK so let’s face it…it’s an employers market out there. With an abundance of job seekers looking for work, employers are often overwhelmed with the amount of applicants they receive when they post a position. For a single job posting, employers on average receive about 250 applications. An article on ere.net went on to post these staggering statistics:

Although it varies with the company and the job, on average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening. Finding a position opening late can’t help your chances because the first resume is received within 200 seconds after a position is posted. If you post your resume online on a major job site like Monster so that a recruiter can find it, you are facing stiff competition because 427,000other resumes are posted on Monster alone each and every week (BeHiring).

It’s no wonder with numbers like that, employers needed a way to effectively manage the responses they were getting. With the job market being in the toilet for so long, job seekers find themselves in dire straits and begin to apply for ANY job, even if they were not qualified for it which drove up the number of resumes a potential employer needed to weed out. This weeding out process was costing employers to spend a great deal of time sifting through resumes to find qualified candidates (time=money) and thus, Applicant Tracking Systems come into the picture. These tracking systems (i.e. online applications) allow employers to filter out erroneous applicants and applicants that don’t meet qualifications set by the employer.  This, above everything else, is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest driving factor in the reason why so many employers are turning to online applications.

Some others boil down to simply convenience. Online applications allow employers to gather LOTS of information and the new applicant tracking systems allow this information to be organized and cataloged alot easier than paper applications. Online applications also level the playing field and give everyone the same starting advantage (so to speak…not so much for those less computer savvy). Whereas in the past an application might be rejected because of messy handwriting, these online processes allow job seekers to neatly and completely fill out applications. Those little red asterisks tell you exactly what you need to fill out and what you might have missed which can be a huge PLUS for job seekers who tend to miss or overlook things on an application.  These tracking systems can also accept resumes and aggregate assessment test results and keep everything in an orderly fashion so that an employer can pull up the information at the drop of a dime. So while it does seem like an impossible inconvenience, there are some pluses for job seekers and some ways that you can make your online application process easier and more effective.

1) Become computer savvy. These days there is really very little excuse for not knowing how to use a computer. They are such an integral part of our society, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage if you don’t learn how to use one. Visit your local CTWorks or One Stop center and take some computer classes so that you don’t take yourself out of the running for your dream job because you lacked the computer skills to apply for one.

2) Have (and use) a plain text version of your resume when pasting into the text box of your application. Fancy formatting is great if you are attaching it but all that does is jumble up and make your resume look weird when you are trying to paste it into a text box. The folks over at Dummies created this great tutorial that will walk you through the process of converting your resume to plain text. Use a plain text version when pasting to avoid any formatting weirdness.

3) Meet the qualifications of the job posting. If the job posting says the position requires advanced Excel but your computer skills don’t extend far beyond playing Farmville on your iPad, you would fare better to find a position that didn’t include a skill you lack. It’s a waste of time for both you and the employer to apply to positions that you do not meet the requirements for. With such an abundance of job seekers, there are plenty out there that will meet the requirements and all you are doing is setting yourself up for rejection by applying to jobs that you are not qualified for.

4) Fill out all of the required fields. With real information. I was shocked when I heard that someone had recommended that job seekers skirt around filling out their birthdays and social security numbers by inserting all 0’s in to the fields. This is a sure fire way to raise some red flags and get your application tagged for the garbage pile. Employers use this information to perform background and criminal checks, so it’s important that a potential employer isn’t confusing you with someone else with a less savory background. Many employers also use secure sites so your information is less likely to be compromised. For some tips on safe online usage, another one of our CTCG bloggers Erica created a great infographic about staying safe online.

5) Treat it like a paper application. Proofread everything, make sure that all of the information is correct and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Online applications hold the same weight as paper applications are a legal documents so be sure to be honest on the application as well. If an employer finds out you fibbed on the online app, you could be terminated from your position. When attaching cover letters and resumes, treat them as you would if you were handing them to an employer…tailor the cover letter and resume to the position, highlighting how your skills and abilities are a good match to the posting and make sure these are error free.

While the above tips can’t guarantee 100% that your resume won’t end up in the black hole abyss of the internet, they can at least make the process a lot less painful and awful. If you have any tips to share about navigating the world of online applications, leave a comment!

Weird Interview Questions

(and what makes them not weird)

By George Bernocco, CPRW

question-exclamation-262x300

I was excited, but extremely nervous. I had just graduated, finished working for the school system and I had an interview for a full time position. I remember that my car had to be dropped off in the shop the day before, so I had to get a ride to the interview. I also remember walking in to the building the day of the interview and talking to the secretary. One of the persons interviewing me walked out, greeted me pleasantly and walked me back outside. We went to an adjacent building where his supervisor and he would interview me. I sat down, feeling like I should have a blindfold on and a cigarette in my mouth. I felt as though I was going to be read my last rights. I was gripping my legs to try to work my way through the nervousness.

The interview started, and the questions at the beginning were traditional interview questions; who am I, what can I bring to the organization. The lead supervisor, we’ll say her name is Jessica, was very bubbly. Every answer I gave was followed by her enthusiasm about how good my answer was. The nerves went down as the interview progressed. As I let my guard down, I was suddenly struck with a question from Jessica. The question almost knocked the wind out of me, not because of its content but because of the context. The interview was smooth sailing, and now this? The first thing I said after she asked was “Are you serious?” Jessica very firmly said she was and she was awaiting my answer. I laughed nervously, rummaged through my memory to find the answer and finally came up with something and it was as follows:

A man walks up to a pirate who has a peg for a leg, a hook for a hand and an eye patch. The man asks the pirate: “How did you lose your leg?” The pirate responds: “It was a bad storm out at sea and I fell overboard. A shark attacked me and I was able to fight it off but it took my leg with him.” The man is intrigued and asks: “So how did you lose your hand?” The pirate responds: “We were stranded at sea and my crew started a mutiny. I was able to fight them off but they took my hand with them.” The man is even more amazed and finally asks: “How did you lose your eye?” The pirate responds: “Bird poop.” The man replies: “Bird poop?!?” The pirate answers: “Yes, it was my first day with hook.”

pirate

As I was telling the joke, Jessica and her subordinate laughed. Jessica reported that most people she had asked to tell a joke in the interview usually responded: “I don’t know one.” For me though, the interview continued as normal. I don’t remember too much after the fact, but I did get the call a few weeks later. I started work on my birthday, and worked at the job for over two years before I moved on.

It has always struck me as to why I was asked to tell a joke in the dead center of an interview that otherwise seemed normal. Was Jessica being funny, or malicious? Was it a test in which I passed?  What was the point? As I progressed more into my career of employment services, I soon figured it out. The question was a stress question, probably one of the worst ones I’ve come across just merely by its unexpected nature. Stress questions are designed to throw you off your game, get you out of your element and see how you react.

Interviewers who throw stress questions have read the “Interview Playbook” and know people they interview are going to be expecting the same old questions. They don’t want to see a staged act, they want to see improvisation. They want to know what it’s like when you have to think on your feet, and believe me they are watching you struggle for an answer. The question itself may have very little to do with the job and it’s very hard to prepare for them at the interview. As long as you understand why they are asking the question, you can proceed to the answer and demonstrate (rather than tell) the employer you are able to think on your feet. They are called stress questions for a reason, and they are designed to get your heart racing and lose your momentum.

Some interviewers may want to give you false scenarios in which they assume something on your behalf just to see how you will react and respond. Other interviewers may make false assumptions based on your experience or education, and see how you correct them. Just remember that the idea behind the question is to get you off your interview game. Remember the interview is designed to sell yourself, and it’s almost guaranteed they asked the same or similar questions to everyone they interviewed. As long as you remember why you are perfect for the job, you can move forward with the interview and not be hung up on a question.

Here are some other stress interview questions:

  • If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

  • See this pen I am holding? Sell it to me.

  • What interests you least about this job?

  • Tell me about the last time you made an embarrassing mistake.

  • If you had to fill this room wall to wall with basketballs, how would you do it?

  • How would you react if I said I thought you were giving a poor interview today?

  • Why are manhole covers round?

  • Why did you switch majors from Graphic Design to Computer Engineering? Is it because you found it boring?

  • If your neighbor’s dog was barking at 3am and woke you up, what would you do?

  • How nervous are you during this interview?

Does anyone else have any weird interview questions they’ve experienced? Please share in the comment section.

It’s not your experience, it’s your ringback tone…

……….Imagine you have to make over 50 phone calls today, calling applicants to try and schedule an interview.  Most people don’t pick up, so you have to leave a voicemail.  You’re sitting there, halfway through the pile that feels like it will never end, and now… you have to listen to 3 minutes of reggaeton with the same bass thuds of every reggaeton song you’ve ever heard.  Ringback tones!  Now in a bad mood, you still leave a message instead of just hanging up like you want to.  Then you call the next applicant.  No answer.  Howling songs of how “my woman/dog/goldfish” took off and other country music standards that just… aren’t anything similar to what you would choose to listen to.  That’s it.  Missing a standard ring, you just hang up, choosing this as a simple screening method…………..

 woman-frustrated-on-phone-md-14080438

In previous positions, I had to contact hundreds of people at least once monthly.  Overall, I listened to a lot of reggaeton and country.  Even classical music grew irritating, and I know I sound absurd right now, but if there is one thing that is a simple fix in a job search, it is not spending money on a ringback tone.  What you enjoy may not be what a hiring manager enjoys, and it’s best to keep it professional.

…This is all coming from the girl that had a sketch from the Jerky Boys as her voicemail message until a hiring manager told me he thought it was, “Hilarious, but wildly inappropriate if giving my number out to employers.”  Ooops.  When do we really ever call our own voicemail?  I don’t think I even remembered I had that message set up, but needless to say, I changed it as soon as I left.

Let’s ditch the ringback tones and silly voicemails.  Keep it simple, and there’s no chance you’ll get screened out for this reason alone.

Email Addresses are also a cause for concern.  I grew up with thinking the internet was a place I could download and print out coloring books in elementary school.  I’ve been using it since I was a kid, which also means I have had more email addresses I can count.  “heyugoonies” was one that stuck around for years.  I liked the Goonies, so why not?  “SlurringElvis” was another, which I think I have MSN random-generators to thank.  But when I began to seriously job search, I knew these email addresses were embarrassing.  I told employers I didn’t have one.  I felt like it was better to lie as opposed to being remembered as “heyugoonies.”  Ugh.  When I got home, I quickly made a simple one based on my real name, and updated all applications.

If you have a common name, you may have to get creative or add “jobs” to the end of the username, or use your initials instead of full first or last name.  Personal email addresses can be anything your heart desires, but create a new account for job search.  The benefits of this are two fold; you have a professional email address that doesn’t raise any red flags, and any invitations from employers won’t be hidden from all the cat forwards Aunt Jo sends you.

I’m not spam, I’m fabulous.

Don’t let these easy changes hold you back from your next great opportunity!

Not too little, not too much: Attaching documents to your application

By George Bernocco, CPRW

paperwork

The job posting was designed to identify those who can read through and understand the job. The first part requires an ability to pay attention to detail. Words they use, required versus preferred, job description details and much more. I advise most people to go line by line, identify words the posting uses more than once.

The second part of the job posting is designed to test your ability to follow instructions. Usually the ad gives directions to those interested in applying for the position. These instructions are so important to the job application process because you must assume it is a test. If you fail to follow the instructions, your resume along with anything else you sent them will be put in a “Do Not Interview” pile. Here is how to secure yourself in the “Interview” pile:

 Always Send a Cover Letter

If the application just asks for your resume, it means your resume and cover letter. If the application states “Cover Letter Optional”, assume it is mandatory. With the vast amount of applications a company will receive, the easiest way for employers to weed out those not to interview is take out the ones who did not send a cover letter. Cover letters are standard and expected, even if the job application makes no reference to them. They are your first means of dialogue with the potential employer.

 Send Salary Requirements Only When Asked

Not all job postings require you to submit your salary requirements. If you submit them without asking, it can easily disqualify you because it is too high or even too low for the employer. When they ask, you should incorporate the salary requirements into a fourth paragraph of your cover letter. Be aware that some employers may feel the answer “Negotiable” is not a real answer to their question. If you are really unsure what to write, do your research into your field and go by the median salary in your career.

 Watch Out for Scams

Identity thieves can easily make a posting look real and request personal information. You should always be cautious about who you are sending your information to. Call the places to confirm they are an actual employer. Always be wary if they ask for your social security card and/or birth certificate in the first stages of the application process.

 Attach Anything an Online Application Asks For

Online applications within a website usually allow you to upload all different types of documents. They could be transcripts, reference letters, reference names, or certifications. The website might list some of these as optional, but your best bet is to complete the application as much as possible. The closer you are to 100% completed, the more likely they will contact you for an interview. You should try to prepare these materials ahead of time as online applications can have a time limit to complete. Do not send every document you have if the job posting does not mention them and the job application has no place to upload them. Assume you can submit this later on when they ask for it. Employers are overwhelmed with the amount of applications as it is which is why they only request certain documents at certain stages of the application process.

Standing Tall

or How I learned to stop slouching and power pose my way into self-confidence

By Uri Allen, CPRW

 superman

I want you, for a moment, to think of the most powerful, brave and courageous superhero you know. Close your eyes for a moment and envision the character. Pay attention to their stance, their posture, their pose. Perhaps they have their hands on their hips, standing up straight, chin held high. Maybe they are flexing their muscles. How much of their image of strength and heroism is portrayed by their body language? What does their body language say about them?  Body language is one of the most integral parts of how we as humans communicate to one another. How we sit, stand, look and gesture can say so much more than words can and when you are “ing-ing” (job searchING, interviewING, networkING), your body language can convey messages to potential employers and colleagues, such as your level of confidence…or lack there of.  But did you also realize that your body language can also convey messages to your own brain? Researchers have been studying the various ways our body language affects the biological processes in the body and brain and evidence has been suggesting that “power posing” actually has some real effect on the way the brain responds to stressful situations, including things like interviewing. According to Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap, researchers who conducted a study on power posing concluded that:

“…results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications. (Carney, Cuddy, Yap 2010)”

So, what exactly is “Power Posing” you might be asking yourself. Power posing is exactly what it sounds like…standing or sitting in a powerful pose. Think Superman or Wonder Woman.  Assuming a powerful stance can, according to the study, increase feelings of power and confidence by preparing your brain and physiological systems to get ready for a stressful situation.  This can be wildly helpful for someone who is a nervous or not-so confident interviewee. By triggering the brain to be prepared for a stressful situation and simulating feelings of power and confidence, the nervous interviewee can begin to overcome feelings of apprehension, nervousness and lack of confidence, all of which could be problematic during the interview process.

I’ve actually used power posing myself and have found that it really shifted the way I felt both physically and mentally. Some time ago, I had an interview for a promotional opportunity for a position that I had really wanted (I’ll save you the suspense…I didn’t get the position) so I was incredibly nervous. and in fact, it was the first time in years that I was nervous for an interview. After all, I taught other people how to interview! But nevertheless, I was a nervous wreck. I had been hearing a lot about this power posing theory so I decided that I had nothing to lose but my nerves by trying it out so I went into the bathroom before my interview and closed the stall door behind me and power posed for a good 3 minutes. I held these poses and concentrated on wanting to exude the confidence these poses represented in my interview. I focused on feeling powerful and brave. Soon my nerves were replaced with confidence and I was able to have a fantastic interview. So while I didn’t get the job I learned something valuable that day…I learned how to overcome my nerves with a simple (and fun) technique.

I’ve recommended power posing to my clients in the past and many have used the technique to prepare for interviews or job fairs and have said that they have seen a change in the way they approach situations that have made them nervous in the past. Next time you are faced with a situation that sends your nerves into overdrive, try power posing! Strike a powerful pose for a few minutes when you need that extra boost or do it every day to grow those feelings of confidence and power! Have you tried power posing? If so, let us know how it worked for you!

For some more information on Power Posing:

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/10/business/bolt-success-power-posing/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323608504579022942032641408.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html (Awesome TED talks about power posing with Amy Cuddy, one of the researchers from the study mentioned)

Winning Cover Letter Strategies

By Erica Tew, CPRW

Most people are unsure of how to write an effective cover letter, but there are a few easy tips that can assure you’re submitting a great marketing tool that will complement your resume.

General “Rules”

The two rules of thumb I typically use when crafting a cover letter go hand in hand.  Avoid overusing the personal pronoun “I” and be employer-oriented.  If you reference yourself in every other line, chances are, you are not telling the employer what you can offer them and how you would be able to help them succeed.  Avoiding “I” in cover letters also strengthens the overall writing, which is an added bonus.

Contact Information

Your contact information header should mirror your resume’s header.  This small detail adds a level of professionalism and makes your documents appear like matching stationery.

Addressee

Get the hiring manager’s name, position title, and company address so your documents don’t get left behind while someone runs around trying to find “To Whom It May Concern” or the dreaded “Dear Sir or Madam.”  If you don’t know where to find this information, CT’s Job and Career Connection company search  can provide the names of company owners, human resources managers, or any person that typically has an influence in the hiring decisions.  You can also try to call the company and speak with a receptionist or administrative assistant to see if they can provide you with a name and title for the hiring manager.

First Paragraph

There are few opportunities to be bold.  If you don’t grab their attention right away, your cover letter may be overlooked.  Use the first line to say what you have to offer.  Talk about the industry.  Your resume’s profile statement may already have a very marketable opening line, so this can be reworded if needed.

If there is a specific opening, state the job title you are applying for in the first or second line.  This could be formatted in bold if you want to ensure its visibility.  Add where you found this position as well, whether it was online, in a newspaper, or from a referral.  For example,

“As a Retail Manager with a proven record of developing and implementing sales initiatives that increase company profit, I would like to discuss my contributions if hired as a Regional Sales Manager for ABC Industries.”

Attention-grabbing (provides overall value of developing and implementing profit-increasing initiatives,) employer-oriented (contributions to the company and position,) and stating the job title (in bold.)

If you were referred by someone to apply, state their name and position title in this section, and reference your attached resume.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph is where you can state more specifically how your experience or accomplishments could be an asset to the company to which you are applying.  For convenience, many employers prefer bulleted lists, as they are easier to read while quickly scanning.  If you choose to use a bulleted list, preface the list with a statement that introduces the list as skills, qualifications, or past achievements.  3-5 bullet points would be best.  Adding too many bullets will make your cover letter seem crowded very fast.  Make use of formatting enhancements such as bolding and h e a d l i n e    s p a c i n g to ensure visibility and white space for maximum readability.

Based on research, state something you know about the company that you find impressive, exciting, or appealing, to show you not only want the job, but are knowledgeable about the company culture as well.  You can practice your Google-fu skills to find the employer and get this information.  An example for introduce a bulleted list using these techniques-

“In NewsWeekly you stated there is a need to expand your mobile department.  My experience in content management and programming languages can help your company achieve its goals.  A brief overview of my industry knowledge and qualifications follow:”

Third Paragraph/Closing

In this last paragraph, make an effective call to action.  Stating that you will call the employer is an assertive way to close.  If that feels too bold, you can say the employer may call you and provide a cell phone or email address in the paragraph.  For example,

“Should you find my qualifications of interest, please contact me at 555-555-5555 or by email at johnsmith@someemail.com.”

Always thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration, and if mailing, be sure to hand-write your signature.

You will always have to personalize each cover letter- don’t use generic templates.  Some of these tips with research may give you the winning edge to land your next interview!

As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the Comments section below. 😀

What do you think?

It’s Over: When Your Last Job Ended Poorly

By George Bernocco, CPRW

boss yellingA common question people bring to me is that they have difficulty selling themselves because their confidence was shaken. Most recently, by their previous employer terminating them, or even tormenting them. The reasons these job seekers bring to me can vary from unfair treatment, they couldn’t stand the work, unreasonable requests from the employer and making a mistake. Whatever the reason may be, you are looking for a new opportunity and you are stuck on what you should disclose to your new potential employer about your last job. I have a few pieces of advice about how to handle this delicate scenario.

It’s not you, it’s me.

No matter how bad things ended, it is best to not go into why you hated your last job at an interview or with anyone you network with. Whether it was the work you had to do, your bosses, coworkers or people you served that drove you away, keeping the emotional aspect out is important. This may be difficult in the middle of the interview or networking event when you are asked the question: “Why did you leave your last job?” So what do you say if you can’t tell the story about your boss being a complete jerk? Let’s step back and look at the larger picture. Employers are well aware people look for jobs, and then move on to look for other jobs. Very few people stick to a one job career, especially in this economy. So why do people transition to new careers, whether willingly or unwillingly? The most general and simple response is that the last job was not a good fit. Now why it wasn’t a good fit varies from person to person, whether it was career goals to disagreeing with the company’s policies and procedures. My advice to you, when asked about what happened at your last job, is to start off about how the company was not a good fit. From this point on, several things can happen:

  1. The interviewer will push for more information about what specifically happened.
  2. The interviewer will ask why it wasn’t a good fit, and from your answer try to determine if the company you are interviewing for IS a good fit for you.
  3. The interviewer will understand and move on to the next question.
  4. The interviewer will push you to bad mouth your last employer.

Number three is ideal, but more than likely number one and two are the most common. If number four occurs, you may want to reconsider working for a company that encourages bad mouthing an employer. If you are asked to give more information, you should keep things general and focus on what you want for your career. A great way to answer is to mention how you are looking for an opportunity that is a better fit, and go into how the position you’re interviewing for is that opportunity. This may come off as avoiding the question the interviewer is asking, but in reality they are looking to disqualify you immediately if you start bad mouthing your last job.

Why can’t we be friends?

Job seekers often make the mistake that professional references are supervisors. They forget about coworkers or even clients they’ve served that can vouch for the work they’ve done. Employers sometimes do want to call your most recent supervisor. Do not make the mistake that they will call them every time. Employers need to verify that you’ve worked at the company you listed on their legal document (job application). To do this, most of the time they contact human resources. Human resources usually states three simple facts to your potential employer:

  1. Date of hire.
  2. Last day of work.
  3. If you are eligible to be rehired.

If you are curious as to what your last employer would tell an employer, I advise you contact your last employer’s human resources department and ask. Some jobs do request if they contact your previous employer on their application. Answering “No” may be problematic in that you may be viewed as you have something to hide. Just remember that when they ask the question, this does not mean references. Usually they will ask for references on a different section of the application, or a different sheet of paper. When you cannot use anybody from your previous employer (coworkers, clients, supervisors), you should utilize other professional references from different employers or volunteer work. You may also use personal references that can attest to your personal attributes.

Letting go is the hardest part.

Your resume is a marketing tool to get you in for the interview. You don’t have to put your entire employment history on this document. Usually you are supposed to put relevant employment history, or any jobs you want them to consider as important, on a resume. The resume is not a life story, and I’ve critiqued my fair share with reasons why the person was let go. Some fast facts as to why to never include separation reasons on your resume:

  1. Putting why you were let go can disqualify you from any jobs.
  2. The conversation about how your last job ended should be at the interview.
  3. It wastes space.

If you choose not to include your job entirely on your resume, that is within your right. There are problems with that, however. You might end up with a large gap in your employment history, and employers will want to know what you have been doing. Just remember that the resume and job application are two separate items. The job application might ask for your most recent employers, in which it is a legal document where you sign it to verify it to be true. Just remember: Resume is a marketing tool, job application is a legal document. Read through the job application carefully, as they may only be asking for employment history you wish to be considered relevant.

Don’t be discouraged as most people are not at one job the rest of their lives. Moving on to a different job could be a great opportunity for you to grow professionally. It can be difficult to accept what you have lost, or there may be feelings still surrounding the departure. Just remember that you can pick up the pieces and move forward. Focusing on your career goals is a way to start the process into your new employment opportunity. Focusing on what you want, and not what happened, will get you into the grove again.

iheartmynewjob

Fresh Dressed Like A Million Bucks

Mastering the art of dressing for the job you want

By Uri Allen, CPRW

 dress

Have you ever heard the saying “You should dress for the job you want, not the job you have”?

I want to first start off by saying, this blog post does not advocate wearing a cape to your next interview but there is evidence that shows a direct correlation between what we wear and how these choices impact how people perceive us. And this perception is more than clothing-deep. What we choose to wear  is a big part of how people size us up. Depending on what someone chooses to wear, people can make all sorts of first impression assumptions about things from their socio-economic status to their cultural roots to their level of business professionalism. So while you may have that winning hand-shake and perfectly polished résumé, if you come to a job interview at an accounting firm dressing more like you are going to a nightclub in Miami during spring break, you’re going to have a bad time. I’m surprised at how many people just don’t get the concept of looking the part. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you have to look the part. Here are a few tips to keep you looking sharp and avoid any potential outfit blunders during the job search and interview process.

When clients ask me what they should be wearing to an interview, I often ask them, “Well, what is the culture like? What is a normal day to day look for the company?” If they are unsure, I direct them back to doing some research on the company. Figure out what the cooperate culture is, stop by for a visit, ask people who you may know that already work for the company and use that information as your guideline. Once you figure out the baseline for appropriate dress for the company, a good rule of thumb is to always dress one step above the baseline during an interview. So for instance, a construction worker may, on the job, wear tee-shirt and jeans. So an appropriate one-level up for an interview would be jeans and a nice collared shirt with a tie or a sweater or blouse for the ladies. If the baseline is business casual ala polo shirts and khakis, nice pants and a button down and tie for guys and nice pants and a dressy shirt for a woman. The only exception would be if the dress is business and in that case you would dress business. So in a nutshell:

If Casual, Business Casual

If Business Casual, Business

If Business, Business

Don’t wear clothes that are too tight, too small, too sloppy, too big, too revealing or otherwise. You don’t want to be referred to as “the guy in the really tight sweater” or “the girl in the REALLY SHORT miniskirt” after your interview. You want the interviewer to notice your skills, not your cleavage and beer belly. When was the last time you saw someone with their muffin top hanging out of their too-tight clothing and thought to yourself, “well, there goes a professional”.  Yea, I’m going to guess…never. On the other end of the spectrum, clothes that are ill-fitting or too big most of the time look sloppy so if your interviewing outfit is now too big, it might be time to get a new one. Try your outfit on before the interview and make sure it fits. Think of Goldilocks…just right!

Another thing to remember is you are going to an interview, not Ibiza. What you might wear to the club probably isn’t appropriate to wear to an interview no matter how fancy it is. Leave the flashy nail polish colors and snake-skin shoes at home. Those sparkly pumps might look boss in backlight but in the office of your potential boss, they are probably more distracting than anything else. Also, leave any noisy accessories at home…the watch that beeps every hour on the hour or the chunky bracelet that jingles can all be incredibly distracting during an interview. Remember, you want the employer focused on you, not your accessories. Cover up any tattoos the best you can if they aren’t a widely accepted part of the corporate culture. Some places are totally cool with your ink but if you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution and cover-up that tattoo. Try to avoid any super-bright colors or loud patterns as those can also be distracting. Muted hues, pastels, neutral colors are always a safe bet.

Interviewers are like cats…easily distracted by things like shiny objects and noises. If you even think that it can be distracting, save it for something other than your interview. Use common sense and if you really can’t figure out what to wear, websites like Pinterest and their professional dress boards can keep you in the loop of what to wear in an interview. If you need access to clothing for an interview, organizations like Dress for Success can help (and organizations like these are not just for the ladies anymore!). Remember, non-verbal communication is a huge part of making a great first impression. Don’t let poor clothing choices say anything bad about you.