“What Salary Are You Looking For?”– Your Answer Can Be Very Costly!

Posted November 7, 2011 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice

“What Salary Are You Looking For?” the interviewer asks.

“$80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. The offer comes in at $80 thousand, after-all, you told them that number was OK. Why pay you $85 thousand? Perhaps their range on the position would have allowed them to go to $90 thousand in their offer to you, but you’ll never know.

“80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. No offer is made. You didn’t know that the salary range is only up to $70 thousand for this position. You probably would’ve accepted $70 thousand because you really liked, and needed, the job, but you were trying to not undercut your salary by naming too low a number. They chose not to offer you the lower number as they felt you might be insulted or disgruntled in the future because you accepted less money than you were really looking for.

“$80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. No offer is made. This is a higher level position and since you have some good experience, they assumed you were making at least $100 thousand, as were some of the other candidates they were looking at. Because you were 20% less in your expectations than other candidates, they presume that your lack of expectations or past earnings power might be an indicator of less potential than they may have thought. They hire the higher salary person, figuring that their expectations more closely match the demands of the position.

You’re getting the idea – naming expected salary numbers is a sure-fire way to “shoot yourself in the foot” and can possibly cost you thousands or a job offer. Depending on the personality of the hiring authority, you might be forced into giving them a monetary answer – but if you can avoid it by pursuing more strategic answers to the question, do so!

“The most important thing to me is finding the right company to work for, long-term. If you feel I’m the right person for this position, which I hope that you do, then I would want you to offer a salary that you feel is fair for the market and what I’m bringing into your company?” With this response, you challenge the employer to evaluate your value and make you a fair offer. If you name the first number – you’re most likely locked-in. If they name the first number, you might be able to negotiate it to the range you need to be in. If you can’t negotiate it higher, odds are that you were out of the range from the start.

“I am very open to considering an offer that you feel is competitive to the market and fair for my skills”. Similar to the previous answer, just abbreviated.

You can also answer their question with a question. “Is there a range for the position that you have in mind” or “Given the skills that I’m bringing into your company, what salary do you see as being a potential?” This again puts them in the position of showing their cards first. You can reply to their answer with an indication that you’d certainly consider an offer, if made, while still not committing to the exact numbers. If they state a range and it’s a very acceptable range for you, then you could answer that and offer at the higher end of the range would certainly be given serious consideration. If they state numbers that are clearly under your acceptable range, you could reply that you would appreciate their offer, but your expectation ultimately might be above that range.
No matter what you answer, it is always possible that the interviewer will say, “That’s all well and good, but I really need to know a salary that you would accept for the position”. In this case, I would recommend that you side-step again and ask if you can follow-up with them the next day with an answer to that. Ask them if they can give you benefit information and any other incentives to weigh into coming up with an appropriate salary proposal. If they are serious about wanting to offer you the position, then they will gladly give you the requested information and understand that it is better for you to answer the question after having had an opportunity to reflect.
When you call them the next day, be prepared to tell them what you like about the position, what you feel like you’re bringing to the position and name one number that you feel is fair and that you will be happy with. Let them know that if they make you that offer, then you’re prepared to accept the position. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t push for out of a competitive range, but propose what would be on the higher end of a your range.
If you have other ideas of how to respond to the salary expectations question, please add your ideas as COMMENTS to this blog. I’m also glad to answer any questions about this subject that you add as COMMENTS too. Good luck in your next interview and in getting the salary offer you’re looking for!

2nd & 3rd Interviews – Nail It! Don’t Blow It!

Posted May 12, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Consulting, Interview Advice, IT Industry, Job Hunting, Recruiters & Staffing Industry

Tags: , , , , , , ,

You have been on a 1st Interview, maybe even a 2nd interview.  The hiring manager has told you that they are very interested in hiring you – you’re their first choice.   But, before they can extend an offer, they just need you to meet with the top boss – a “blessing interview”.   You’re assured that you’re already going to be hired and that it’s just a routine introduction that nobody has any problems with.    The decision to hire you has already been made.  

Don’t believe it!  Nobody is brought back in for another interview if they have the job 100%.  And no one is put into the interview process if they don’t have some influence on the final decision to hire.  Rather than “blessing interview” it should be called a “veto interview”.  Nobody’s getting hired that doesn’t really connect with the boss on that last meeting.  

In my 21 years in the recruiting industry, I have witnessed quite a few finalists lose the job because they didn’t prepare and take the last interview seriously enough.  No matter how much you may have impressed 10 other people in previous trips to the company, the last meeting with the anyone at the company may well be the most important of all the meetings.  

The best rule of thumb is, TREAT ALL 2ND INTERIVEWS OR SUBSEQUENT JUST LIKE A FIRST INTERVIEW.   No matter what you are told by the hiring manager, a recruiter, or your friend at the company, don’t let the fact that “you’ve practically hired”, go to your head and have you let your guard down.   Assume there are always at least three equal finalists or that you’re maybe even the underdog.  Prepare for that last meeting, further research the company, prepare interview questions, review your strengths, reasons for change and goals, be ready for whatever they might throw at you.  (see previous blogs for ideas on these subjects).  

It’s also not the time to let your appearance slide.  Dress sharp, shine your shoes, get your hair trimmed or styled if it needs it.   If anything, you need to look more “together” than you did on previous meetings.  

Be ready to tell that individual why you want the job, why you’re excited about the company, how you feel like you can contribute to the organization, and how the opportunity fits into your career progression.   

Also, be sure not to leave the meeting without expressing your appreciation for them taking the time ot meet with you and that you sincerely hope that you’ll be able to together.    And when you get home, get  a thank-you letter or thank-you card in the mail (again see previous blogs on thank-you letters).   Maybe you’re expecting an offer before the thank-you letter would get there.   Well it’s certainly no big deal if they get the thanks and you’re already going to work there.   And it could absolutely be the slight nudge needed to get you the offer if the final decision maker is at all on the fence about the offer.  

Please share your ideas or experiences on “blessing interviews” as comments to this blog.

Age In The Job Market – It’s All In Your Mind

Posted March 12, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Consulting, Interview Advice, IT Industry, Job Hunting, Recruiters & Staffing Industry

Tags: , , , , ,

There’s your physical age and you CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!  Right?  Technically, yes,  when you start networking for a job, sending your resume, and interviewing – you can’t change what age you are.   You can, however, change people’s perceptions about your age or make age a non-factor based on your attitude and how you present yourself.

Saying that you can’t do anything about your physical age isn’t entirely true.  You will feel younger, appear younger and act younger as you enter the job market if you’ve done everything in your lifestyle to preserve your youth or make the best of your biological  age.    A healthy diet and exercise will have a positive impact on the appearance of your body and face.  You will feel healthier and that means you will feel younger and more energetic.  This will come across in your interviews and networking and cause people to not notice or care about your age.

Equally incumbent on the older person in the job market to keep their appearance young and feeling young is to try to either avoid stress or find those healthy activities or strategies that help you to control stress.   If you want to appear young – exercise to reduce stress, not smoke, drink, or take prescription medications that you can avoid.   Job hunting, for many people, is stressful enough – especially if you’re currently facing unemployment.  If you don’t want that stress to play out in making you look old and tired, then combat that stress by being extremely active with family, active in your job hunt, and active with your health.  Seek extra support if you need it  – there are many groups like Businesspersons Between Jobs (BBJ) or groups at your local church that help its’ members maintain balance while looking for a job.

The older person in the job market also must  keep their mind exercised.  How sharp you are in an interview or networking conversation will depend a lot on what you’ve done to keep your mind young.  Physical health certainly has its’  impact on the capabilities of the mind, as does mental health.  How sharp you are in an interview or networking conversation will depend a lot on what you’ve done to keep your mind young.    Read instead of watching TV, stay up on current events, volunteer at your local school – do things that keep you thinking. 

Keep your mind up with the times!  Nothing will “show your age” as much as not keeping current with the trends of your industry.  If you’re a software engineer and haven’t learned the programming languages being used today, then you’ll be seen as an “old programmer”.  If you keep yourself moving with the times, take classes, get certified in demand technologies,  read trade publications, join internet discussion groups, join your local user group, and polish your skills at home, then you will help keep your skills up-to-date, cause you to feel current and confident, and thus validate your worth to those considering you for a position.

Information Technology professionals can not only keep up with most up-to-date technologies to keep their skills and mind young – but they should also learn to leverage the latest technologies to promote their capabilities for networking and to legitimize their reputation in their market specialty or industry.   Blog, tweet, network on LinkedIn, collaborate on open systems technology,  join on-line discussion forums and groups – legitimize your skills in the eyes of peers and potential employers but participating in the market, showing expertise, leaving an on-line or public “footprint”.  Keeping up with the times in this way will make you feel like your with the times, not like it’s passed you by and those most likely to hire you will be able to see evidence of how involved you are. 

Repeatedly when I have listened to someone that feels like the job market has been discriminating against them for their age, I can review their job history and their skills and I will see someone that gave up on moving forward a decade or more ago and has taken no initiative to be current.  Their skills are old, they’ve given up, it’s no wonder that employers aren’t enthused to hire them.   I’m even surprised sometimes when if I find out their real age, that I’ve often guessed that they were actually older than they really were.  Staying still just lets the years’ pile on. 

 I have also met individuals who are biologically old – that act and feel young.  They fit in with their peers of all ages and are confident in themselves as well as their skills.  When they are interviewed  – age isn’t an issue.   Even if your resume “gives away” your age – you’ll still get interviews if you’ve been using the technologies that companies are looking for.  I’m not saying their isn’t age bias – but it’s up to you to make it their loss to not consider you and to prove any stereotypes they might have as wrong.  Most often – they’ll look right through the issue altogether. 

Great luck with your job hunt and please add your suggestions or comments on this issue as a comment to this blog.

Two Words That Gets Job Offers – “Positive Attitude”

Posted March 5, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Consulting, Interview Advice, IT Industry, Job Hunting, Phone Interview, Recruiters & Staffing Industry

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Your positive attitude is more important in a job interview than your education, your experience, your salary requirements or any other component that makes up the package of you, as the job seeker.   And my experience is that when highly qualified and skilled individuals find it hard to get a new position, it’s because they are projecting a negative attitude. 

WRONG – “How long would I have to wait to be promoted into a manager position with your company?”

RIGHT – “I’m looking for a company where, as I prove myself capable, I can take on increasing responsibility and, if the opportunity exists and I’ve earned it,  I can move towards a leadership role.”

“Wrong” is asking what the company can do for him, “Right” is telling the company that you expect to earn responsibility and that promotion will be something that you earn, not an entitlement. 

WRONG – “My manager and I really have different viewpoints on how to run the department and I’m really interested in finding a position with a company that let me have more input in the decisions.”

RIGHT – “As I would successfully learn the business and how the organization operates, I’d hope to be able to identify opportunities to improve processes or save the company money and bring those ideas to you.”

“Wrong” is telling us that his opinion isn’t very respected where he is currently and that he wants a manager that will listen to him and accept his ideas.  Whether his fault or not, it certainly opens him to being labeled as a “know it all”.   “Right” makes it clear that he intends to bring his ideas to the manager once he really understands what is going on.  He doesn’t elude at all to not being listened to in his current environment. 

WRONG – “What benefits would I receive in this position?”    “Is parking provided?”  “How large an office or cubicle would I have?” 

RIGHT – “I appreciate that you’re offering to answer my questions about benefits, but right now my focus is on making sure to find the right company to which I can contribute and grow professionally.   If we both feel like this is a good match, I’m sure that we can make the overall compensation package work.”

“Wrong” wants to know what’s in it for her.  “Right” is looking for the best fit for her and for the company and feels like incidentals of specific benefit information or comfort issues of parking and whether her cubicle has a window are not a priority.  If there are any important issues she needs to evaluate about these type of issues, then she’ll ask AFTER she has a job offer. 

WRONG – “My current company is not growing and my boss is never going anywhere so there is not way for me to move up in the organization.”

RIGHT – “I’m looking for a company that is growing and expanding so that more opportunities exist for career progression”.

“Wrong” Is complaining about the stagnant environment that he’s coming from.  “Right” is making the same implication, but in a more positive way as she is stating what she is looking for in a new environment, not what Is lacking in her current environment.  Being positive is often just a matter of looking towards a better future rather than the past. 

Beyond phraseology and looking forward, not back, a lot of being positive is also going to come from your eyes, posture, hands and expressions.  Positive people LOOK positive.  They make eye contact, they smile, they lean forward slightly when making a point, they use their hands for some expression and keep them away from their face. 

Positive people listen very intently to what the interviewer is saying and provide positive feedback throughout.  Making sure to not be fake or use false flattery, a polished positive person will respond in a way that projects their enthusiasm and interest.  Follow-up questions that probe deeper into what the interviewer saying shows your listening and positive as well as draws on what the interviewer is saying to present something further about yourself. 

“I like that you are promoting a team environment, I work very well with others.”

“That’s very interesting that your company is acquisition oriented as I’m certainly looking for an organization that is growing and will have opportunities for career progression.”

Even the questions that you ask can reflect a more positive tone:

WRONG – “What didn’t you like about the person that you let go from this position?”

RIGHT – “What are the most important attributes for the person you want to hire to possess?”

WRONG – “What are the downsides to working for your department?”

RIGHT – “If you could improve one thing in your department in the next year, what would it be?”

WRONG – “Do you have much turnover in this company?”

RIGHT – “What do you think are the reasons that employees like working for your company?”

Practice being positive for your interviews.  It will help get you the best jobs at the best companies.  And if you find it works there, try it in your relationships and life outside of work.  Being positive improves life at work and life in general. 

Please add your ideas, questions and suggestions on this topic as comments to this blog.

No Time to Ramble – Sticking to the Point in Interviews

Posted February 26, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Consulting, Interview Advice, IT Industry, Job Hunting, Phone Interview

Tags: , , , , , , ,
  1. Answer
  2. Support
  3. STOP!
  4. Pause
  5. Ask a question back or field another question
  6. Return to Step 1

It’s a simple process, but one that far too many people find difficult in an interview.  Knowing how to properly respond to an interview question in a succinct manner and then quit talking is one of the most important and most often overlooked interviewing skills.  I have conducted hundreds of interviews where the person I’m interviewing doesn’t answer my questions, rambles off on to other tangents, doesn’t back up their point, and basically talks and talks but doesn’t say anything that is going to help them get the job.

Almost all questions can be responded to with a “Yes”, “No”, or something in between like “sometimes”, “usually” and “seldom”.   Whether the answer to the questions is positive or negative – don’t dance around it!  Answer the question directly, honestly and up-front. 

“No, I haven’t had any experience in programming with C#, however, I have had 3 years experience with VB.NET and am confident that with some extra effort studying the syntax differences, that I can keep the learning curve short and get up to speed on C#.”

Answered the questions directly – supported the answer – and stopped!  The technique of answering the question up front first and then backing it up with your explanation is especially important when the answer is negative.  As in the example above, you won’t be accused of “dancing around the answer” or avoiding an honest response.   “No, I don’t have any experience with that, but….”, is a much better way to answer than to “hem and haw” for two minutes and leaving them guessing as to whether you really answered the question or not. 

In most circumstances, after you have directly answered the questions, your explanation or support of your response should comprise somewhere between one and three sentences, similar to a well constructed paragraph that you learned to write in Middle School. 

“Yes, I have had some experience in leading projects.  In the last two projects that I was on, at GE and Citigroup, I functioned as the team leader.  At GE, I had three developers on the project and assigned their work, helped them with issues and reviewed their code.  At Citigroup I had those same responsibilities, and was also responsible for doing the first round interviews and resume screening when we were staffing the project.”

I’m sure that I could go on and on describing what I did as a leader and there’s probably some interesting, to me, side stories too – but the best strategy is to directly answer, support the answer, and stop.   If they want more information about your leadership skills, they can ask for more information and you can provide additional detail on what they ask for.  In this way they get the information they want, not a lot of extraneous detail that they may or may not have been looking for.

If the questions seems really big and you are sure that a lot more detail is warranted, try to break it down and keep yourself on track by following the above formula and then, after your pause, ask for feedback. 

They say, “Tell me about your career”.

Don’t take license to write them a book – save it for your memoirs.  Try this:

“I graduated from the University of Chicago with a Computer Science degree and spent the first five years of my career on a Java development team at Sears.  I resigned from Sears to work for a consulting company and branched into WebSphere Portal development and received some training and experience in portal architecture and design.  I was recruited by Deloitte and have now been there three years in management consulting as part of the Integration Services Team.”

Pause….   “Would you like more detail about any of my experience in particular”. 

To keep from rambling on and on about my career, I provide a focused view of the highlights and check for feedback as to what the interviewer wants to know more about”. 

If your tendency isn’t to ramble too long, but instead no t provide enough information and the interviewer has to  “drag information out of you”, then these same techniques apply to you.  Force yourself to answer the questions directly and backup your answers.   Almost every answer deserves one to three sentences support and if it’s not natural for you to provide explanations, then you need to practice doing so before you interview. 

Good luck on your interview and please add your questions or suggestions as comments to this blog.

Win Your Case – Get the Job! Validating Your Skills In An Interview

Posted February 16, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Interview Advice, IT Industry, Job Hunting

Tags: , , , , , ,

“I have very strong leadership skills.”

“I am confident in my technical skills.”

“I finish my projects on time and under budget”

All great claims and nice to assert in an interview, but whether the person interviewing you believes any of it, is questionable.  One of the biggest mistakes that interviewers make is not providing any support to their claims.  If you were having to prove your capabilities in court, you’d have evidence  to back up your claims or you’d never win your case. 

Evidence in the case of hiring you for a job comes in the form of examples, description of particular project situations, anecdotal evidence, third-party testimony, citing of your performance review, and quantitative citation.  When you make a claim in an interview and then back it up with supporting evidence – the hiring authority is much more likely to remember you and connect the attribute or experience in question to you as they progress in the decision making process.  

“Do you have leadership experience?”

“Yes, I have led up to 5 people on 2 different projects over a 3 year period at both ABC Inc. and ZYX Corporation.  My leadership experience includes assigning day-to-day tasks, mentoring, overseeing work progress, and participating in the hiring and review process.”

Having backed up my claim to have leadership skills with specific information on what kind of skills I have, where I used them, and in quantifying how many people for how long, I am providing evidence that supports my claim that gives me credibility in the viewpoint of the interviewer.

“How technical are you?”

“I am quite confident in my technical skills, in fact in my last review at ABC Inc., my manager rated my technical skills as “Excellent” and reported that I was one of the strongest in the department in terms of technical capabilities.   My strongest technical skills are in Java, with almost 10 years of experience, and Oracle database programming, with over 6 years experience”.

You can’t take your written review into the interview or your boss to speak for you on an interview (might be a little awkward), but you can cite what your boss has said or reported about you. 

“How are you at meeting project deadlines?”

“I take responsibility for my project deadlines.  For example, at my current employer I was on a project to release new functionality for a Business Intelligence Dashboard that the CFO of the company wanted in place before they had to do the year-ends.   some of the requirements weren’t finalized until five days before the deadline but I worked clear through the weekend and found some other code blocks that we could use to reduce development time, thus making the deadline.  My manager pointed out the extra effort that was put in to the CFO and I he came and thanked me personally.”

Don’t just throw it out there  – make it real!  Almost every question asked in an interview needs a direct answer with back up explanation – the evidence.  Keep it the point, don’t get off on tangents, but tell the story, share the facts, explain the reasons that what you’re saying is true.  If you believe it and support it – they’ll believe too AND HIRE YOU!

If you have any questions or suggestions on this topic, please feel free to add a comment to this blog post.

Reality Show – Recruiters Work for … Themselves

Posted January 22, 2010 by duncanmassey
Categories: Career Advice, Consulting, IT Industry, Job Hunting, Recruiters & Staffing Industry

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pick your Reality Show: 

  1. “Recruiters I talk to are not positive and don’t call me back with any jobs.  They seem too busy to talk with me.  They don’t follow-up.  I’ll never find a job working through them.”
  2. “Recruiters won’t leave me alone!  I always am getting messages and e-mails from recruiters.  Whether I’m looking for another job or not, I can always count on be approached for this opportunity or that.” 

Why these two different realities?  Did # 2 just find the golden ticket?

 The reality is that both are true – depending on what your skills and capabilities are.  Recruiters, whether they are staffing for direct-hire positions, contracting / consulting positions, or a combination of the two, contract-to-hire, are paid for and driven by the demands of their clients.   Of course some will find their experience somewhere in-between. 

 Facts are that:  Clients pay the fees… clients pay the bill rates…  recruiters cost the clients money…  clients  aren’t going to pay extra money to find skills they can easily find themselves, are common, or are outdated.  The reality is, recruiters need to find the most in-demand skills held by the professionals whom are in the shortest supply to be able to justify the value of their services to their client. 

 On top of that, most recruiters are only paid if they actually get someone hired, so they have to work a lot of different positions at a number of different clients to set up as many good matches as they can with the outcome of filling some of those jobs with some of those candidates.  There is absolutely no way they will get everyone placed that they work with or fill every job they work on.  It’s unrealistic to expect one recruiter to find a job in the short run, unless your skills are very high demand and the recruiter has a solid book of related business ready-to-go. 

 The reality is that even the best recruiters realistically have to spend their time with people they are going to have the best chance of placing. 

 The best recruiters are still sensitive to the entire market in which they serve and frequently can be a helpful resource, even for those they can’t place.  The best recruiters are conscientious of their public image and reputation and will provide help to the degree it’s practical, but just like any other professional – their business depends on working smart and there’s only so much they can be expected to do for someone that they are highly unlikely to place.   Remember, they aren’t hired to find you a job (those are called employment agencies) they are hired by companies to find talent.  

 If you’re looking to move up in any field, have employment security, and have the “headhunters” and the opportunities looking for you – then do everything you can to keep your skills up to where they will be the most in-demand.  If you’re in the technology field – don’t make the mistake of sticking with outdated  technology because you’re comfortable – if you get laid off, you’ll find job hunting hard.  Choose opportunities and learning situations that will keep you ahead of the field – you can be 25 or 55 and still be working with new technologies.

 If you have any suggestions or comments to add to this topic, please add the comments below.


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