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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Interviewing & Salary Negotiation Articles

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

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  • 07 Jun 2010 4:55 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    Many job hunters have an “Achilles’ heel,” a perceived obstacle that holds them back from feeling 100 per cent confident of their candidacy. For some it’s the lack of the identified degree or certificates; for others, it is their age (too young or too old); for another it is an eclectic or job-hopping history; and for many, simply a lack of confidence!

    There are all-too-real obstacles that are difficult to overcome: termination for cause or a criminal record are examples. Those require the expertise of an experienced career coach or perhaps a specialized service that assists with a re-entry into society. But for most job applicants, these “perceived” obstacles can definitely be managed.

    Here are a few examples of interview scripts that can take the emphasis off a termination and place it where it belongs: on your value as an employee. The worst aspect of being let go is the almost inevitable loss of confidence. Refocus your attention from the reason of your termination to your skills, accomplishments, attributes—the value you offer your next employer—and you will soon be back at work. 

    Downsized, outsized or otherwise set free. If you’ve not been fired, but have had your position declared redundant, or you’ve fallen victim to the indulgences of new management that sees your style as incompatible with its vision, you can customize a version of the following speech.

    “In my last employment, I really enjoyed my job and worked with great people. However, with new management at ABC, who brought new ideas and vision for the business, I and a few other long-time employees found our positions declared unnecessary or our styles incompatible. However, I’m proud of my work while I was with ABC Corporation. I was a very effective supervisor: I eliminated several full-time positions by redistributing tasks; increased productivity by leveraging technology to shorten procedures; and saved the company over $200,000 in one year alone.”

    The idea is to provide a quick overview of the circumstances, and then transition to a place of strength by refocusing on your value as an employee.

    Terminated. Now, this one depends on the why’s of the termination. Here’s a speech to customize if you were terminated without cause.

    “While at ABC Corporation, as Administrative Assistant to the Manager of Communications, I kept her up to date with reports, research, and replies. However, when my longtime manager left for another job, I found that the new manager and I didn’t get along. I did try, but ultimately was let go. Nonetheless, I value the five years I spent there. I learned a lot, taking courses in electronic filing, in business writing, conflict resolution; in fact, I have a full page of courses I participated in and applied in my work. Those applications resulted in great performance reviews, pay increases, added responsibilities like mentoring junior staff and more. My next employer is going to benefit from a very well qualified Administrative Assistant.”

    If you were terminated with cause, i.e. you deserved it, then you will have to admit to your fault, state that you’ve learned from it, and finish off by sharing how you positively impacted the bottom line. Ideally, to overcome this more serious challenge it is critical to network.

  • 23 May 2010 5:31 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    Hmm … sounds like the title of a new soap opera, but there’s no time for television as we continue to prep you for that interview! Listing the pertinent and powerful details is in reference to the T-chart that you created that matched your existing skills, experience, and education to the position’s needs.

    T-chart examples may look like these that follow: An IT Project Manager likely listed major projects she’s worked on, and committees she chaired; an Administrative Assistant listed the number of staff she supports and what skills she uses to support them; and a Sales Account Manager has listed relationship management, major accounts, sales growth and so on.

    Well then, what, you may be thinking, are these pertinent and powerful details? The pertinent will be in relation to what you know of the scope of the position to which you’ve applied. For example, The IT Project Manager applying to a major corporation won’t focus on the fact that her current employer only has smallish projects, she will showcase her abilities as a chair of cross-divisional meetings, and the strategic ideas she brought forth; The Administrative Assistant who is aspiring to an executive assistant role will not highlight the fact that she files documents, but she will definitely share her recreation of a dysfunctional filing system; and the Account Manager who is interviewing to sell technology will stick to his tech-related sales, rather than focusing on the non-related sales of text books. That’s sticking to the pertinent rather than focusing on the less important.

    And what about powerful? Another word for “powerful” is influential. And it is the influential details that you want to pull in. You must sell, not simply tell. Back to our interview threesome!

    The IT Project Manager will now sell her value by explaining how she influenced key players in the meetings she chaired, and how it led to smoother rollouts; she will give specific examples of her strategic ideas and then correlate these to business by providing some context to the money these saved or earned.

    The Administrative Assistant will go on to explain how her filing system minimized the space needed and saved the cost of expanding the filing room, a capital saving of approximately $10K. And our Account Manager will fill out his workplace story of selling technology by adding that he was the only Account Manager of five entrusted with growing this new market on his employer’s behalf.

    He’ll add that this was in recognition of his advanced tech knowledge, gained through a related certificate that he pursued because of a passion for tech-related gizmos! He could complete the story by sharing how much he earned for his company in his first year of tech sales and what market share percentage that represents. He now has his interviewer SOLD on the fact that he can absolutely fit into this advanced tech company.

    Show how what you did correlates to profits through performance and productivity. That’s how to sell rather than tell. Back to your T-chart, to fill it out with details both pertinent and powerful.

  • 09 May 2010 5:17 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    How often have you agonized over the questions that interviewers might ask? Or wished you possessed a crystal ball to know these in advance? A well-written job posting offers crystal clear insight! And an internet search of typical job duties can take the place of a skimpy job ad. A job posting or job description offer hints of what an interviewer is likely to ask, leading you to develop effective T-chart info.

    If you’ve not heard this term before, the T-chart is a graphic organizer often used for pros and cons. From the job searcher’s point of view it lists the job requirements on one side, and your related experience, skills, and education in response. Let’s work through a few job posting requirements to illustrate. A Human Resource ad might require “the development and execution of a diversity education strategy.” Prepare to chat about your participation in a project that through learning events, training sessions, and awareness campaigns improved employees’ perceptions of diversity. Further build your winning interview answer by explaining how you developed and implemented regular surveys to track progress and source opportunities for further improvement.

    Many ads require team players. Simply saying that you are a team player is futile. Jot down the school-based teams, or committees in which you have participated over the years. Ideally your background includes work-related committees, but if not, pull in the Home and School Association or Little League Planning Committee. Add the specific contributions you made — sub-committee work, brainstorming to problem solve, sharing your expertise in bookkeeping, writing a monthly newsletter — and you’ve added valuable context, thereby proving your teamwork.

    And what about the typical ad that cites a need for “strong communication skills?” How does one prove that? If you’ve created PowerPoint presentations and delivered these to a committee, that’s a start. Add how you conducted self-study to improve the content of these for further impact. Maybe you joined the Health & Safety Committee because you feel the need to voice your concern about the hazards you see at work. Add in how your championing of one specific concern led to positive change, and you’ve proven influential communication. Perhaps you wrote up a business case or two to influence management decisions? Add in how you won management support, and you’re well on your way to proving strong communication skills.

    Here’s another oft-mentioned requirement: “able to handle multiple priorities in a fast-paced environment.” Is there a better way to prove it than to simply restate it? You bet there is! Relate details of your typical working day, week, or end-of-month to illustrate in concrete terms how many priorities you handle and how fast-paced the environment is.

    For example, “I support three management staff by maintaining their many project files; by scheduling multiple daily meetings on their online calendars; by creating correspondence using Word templates — by the way, I created these templates after I noticed certain repeat patterns; by ensuring that they know which meetings are coming up, what info they need to have prepared, and conducting preliminary research for them to make the task easier; and also by keeping up-to-date expense accounts and budget entries in excel spreadsheets, again on templates that I created complete with advanced features that automate results.

    Some days whiz by in a blur! But I love being busy!” You’ve not only proven that you sure know how to handle a lot of stuff, but also that you have advanced computer skills, are very well organized, love the pace, and are obviously a great support person to senior staff. 

    How do you prepare for possible questions that deal with skills or experience that you don’t have? No experience using an Access database, for example? Share how at each of your last three employs you learned a new, unique-to-that-employer database and how you became so skilled that you subsequently taught new hires how to navigate it. Learning yet another new database then becomes a given.

    Once you’ve created this T-chart, take it along to your interview! Preparation demonstrates so much more than a desire to land an offer. It shows that you are a serious contender, focused, organized, and, by extension, a valuable potential employee!

  • 11 Apr 2010 7:39 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    While musing on this topic, my mind wandered back in time to weekly staff meetings where, round-table style, 21 staff shared the previous week’s trials and successes. One staff never missed her turn. Long winded, she also saturated her delivery with “umms...”

    After a 15-minute rundown, and after an endless and distracting number of “umms,” I was ready to tear my hair out! Which, umm, brings us to this blog topic.

    Communication takes many forms. There is the written word, body language, style, and of course, the spoken word. From the perspective of the interview, once you’ve established a great first impression with your appearance, the spoken word either confirms or brings into question your suitability as the ideal candidate for the job.

    If you are unable to express your value in an articulate and confident fashion, you are unlikely to beat out the other interviewees in the competition for an offer. Remember, the interviewer's aim is to eliminate all but one. Confidence is communicated through a good understanding of one’s skills and accomplishments in relation to the needs of the position applied to, and also through the ability to converse in a pleasant manner.

    Which brings us to those words that infiltrate our speech especially when we are nervous or under pressure: umm, you know, err, aah, and like. These are called crutch words, word whiskers, silence fillers. These filler words muddle your message as they break its flow. And when used to excess, these words can become excruciatingly annoying, akin to nails scraping a chalkboard. The listener may indeed focus on the frequency of repetition rather than on your message. How, though, to rid oneself of this habit? Here are a few ideas:

    --Embrace the silence. Likely your interviewer won’t mind a pause during which he or she can catch up on taking notes. Few interviewers complain that candidates speak too slowly with too many pauses!

    --Become aware of how often you insert these words. For example, have a friend count your word whiskers over a 15-minute conversation; or video-tape or record yourself delivering a few answers to typical interview questions. This tactic will heighten your awareness.

    --Snap yourself out of it. With a new awareness of your habit, wear an elastic band on your wrist, and gently snap it each time you find yourself using your favorite crutch word.

    --Learn from the best. Watch videos of great orators and note the pace of their speech patterns.

    --Join Toastmasters or a similar group. Practice is key, and regular, formalized practice will not only eliminate word crutches, it will undoubtedly improve your conversational ability overall.

    Perhaps the best advice for the interview setting is to demonstrate your enthusiasm. When we are excited about something, we rarely rely on those “ums” and “ahs.” But demonstrating engagement requires that the candidate know him or herself very well, and know how to communicate his or her value in terms that ring true with the interviewer...a topic for another day!

  • 31 Mar 2010 8:46 PM | Anonymous

    By Lee E. Miller

    Davia Temin, President of Temin & Co. and former head of Corporate Marketing for General Electric Capital Service, remembers the exact moment she realized “almost everything is negotiable if you see it that way.” When she got out of business school, she accepted her first job as Assistant to the Director of Development at the Columbia Business School without really negotiating. She saw the offer as a choice, not a negotiation--you either took the job or you didn’t. It never crossed her mind that she could negotiate the offer.

    While working at Columbia, however, she saw something that changed her view of the world. She had always assumed that, when you applied to business school, if you didn’t get in, you went to another business school or did something else. A few students, however, when they were rejected, sought out the Director of Admissions and asked what they could do to change her mind.

    To Davia’s amazement, the Director did not simply send them away. She told them if they took four semesters of Advanced Calculus and Statistics and got an A in each, she would admit them. A handful of students actually did and were admitted. At that point Davia realized that "way more things were negotiable than she had previously thought." So she decided to learn how to negotiate.

    When asked, many women will tell you they don’t like to negotiate or are not good at it. They often believe that to be a good negotiator, they have to be tough, be aggressive, employ negotiating tricks and try to outsmart their opponent. So when they have to negotiate, that is what they try to do. It usually doesn’t work. Many women are simply not comfortable with that style of negotiating, preferring a more collaborative negotiating style. Because many women have not learned that there are other successful negotiating styles other than the competitive negotiating style, they either avoid negotiating or think they do not have an aptitude for it.

    Instead, to be successful, women need to employ a negotiating style that makes them feel comfortable. How you negotiate needs to reflect who you are. You have to be authentic when you negotiate; otherwise, you lose all credibility. People see right through you if you try to be something you are not.

    Tone is very important for women when they negotiate. While some women can be effective with a competitive negotiating style, it has to not only reflect who they are, but also be delivered with the right tone. One successful investment banker that we interviewed described it this way: “For a man to take a tough position he needs to use a tough tone to be believable. For women it is just the opposite: The tougher the position, the softer the tone should be.” If you are soft-spoken, you can be a soft-spoken negotiator and still take forceful positions. You can disagree politely but firmly. You can provide your reasons for seeing things differently. You can offer alternatives.

    Ultimately, however, you have to be resolute rather than give in to something that is contrary to your interests, although you need to be flexible in how you satisfy those interests. This is what we call being “quietly, confidently firm.” It is very powerful. If you are quietly, confidently firm, when you do raise your voice, even just a little, people will notice. They will know that you are serious. Even successful women, who have a competitive negotiating style, often soften their approach by using humor and ensuring that their positions are delivered in the right tone.

    Esther Novak, CEO of Vanguard Communication, a multicultural marketing firm, believes that to negotiate successfully as a woman, credibility is the key. To gain that credibility, according to Esther, one needs to “be smarter, better and firmer” in your negotiating, but always with the right tone.

  • 28 Mar 2010 8:48 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    While your appearance influences 55 percent of a first impression, your voice will account for a further 38 percent.  And although you needn’t think that an interview is doomed if you make a squeaking sound when you first begin to speak (after all, interview jitters are common to all), certainly some people could benefit from considering their day-to-day vocal practices.  

    What exactly is it about a voice that can be off-putting? Common speech afflictions include an overly nasal or whiny tone, a tone that is so flat and monotone that it might put one to sleep, or rapid-fire delivery that is difficult to follow. Perhaps the most annoying speech habit is that popular raised inflection that makes every sentence sound like a question, and the speaker sound, unfortunately, less than sure of him or herself.

    Be pro-active: ask friends and family for honest input, or record yourself speaking. If you are landing interviews, but receive no offers, ask for post-interview feedback (not every recruiter will be willing, but you will find some). Ask specifically if there were any issues that you need to address.

    Here are a few worthwhile vocal exercises. Practiced over time, these will make an unobtrusive entrance into your everyday speech. For monotone speakers, practice speaking in an exaggerated sing-song fashion. For those who speak too quickly, practice speaking very slowly. Successful orators speak quite slowly, deliberately, at only 110 or so words per minute. Command your interview audience by emulating this pattern. Improve your overall delivery by exaggerating the length of the vowels a little bit, pausing more often in association with natural phrasing. If you recognize that you speak with the questioning inflection or other off-putting tone, you may wish to find a vocal coach to help you break this habit. Another idea would be to join a Toastmaster group for practice and support.

    Here’s the thing: when one is nervous, annoying habits can reintroduce themselves, and the best of intentions can fly out the door. Rehearsing with exaggerated emphasis can ingrain practices so that in moments of high excitement, those bad habits will not overtake your delivery. Perhaps the most irritating vocal habit of all is the “you knows” and the “umm’s” and “ah’s” that periodically slip into many of our conversations. These crutch words, when used in excess, jar the delivery, and depending on the position, can seriously hamper your bid for the position.  

  • 15 Mar 2010 8:50 PM | Anonymous

    By Stephanie Clark

    Preinterview syndromes include anticipation and elation; post interview syndromes, confusion and deflation! And it’s no small wonder! Sometimes the questions are confounding; panel members appear to have drifted off; job descriptions hardly resemble the job postings; and those promises of benefits and pensions, once explained in detail, are in the distant future and only scratch the surface of true value. And the balance of power can leave a candidate feeling like a dinosaur trapped in a bog— at the mercy of predators, unable to make a good move.

    I’m glad that you are here. Someone once said that “ignorance is bliss,” but not when it comes to interviews! Ignorance means defeat; knowledge leads to victory. This blog will walk you through strategies that attract rather than distract your interviewers, and will lead you to landing a job offer.  

    Most job applicants are aware that when they prepare for an interview, first impressions count, but few consider to what degree. Research shows that visual impressions count for 55% of first impressions! This means that appearance accounts for over half of your first impression. Appearance covers a lot of ground—hairstyle, grooming, clothing, body language—there’s a lot involved here. Articles on interviews will suggest a haircut, that deodorant is a good idea, and that your clothes be clean and shoes polished. However, if you are to apply strategy, you must go beyond this.

    Paint a picture that matches expectations. If you have been told that you appear quite young, seek out advice on how to add a few years to your appearance. A pair of glasses (even non-prescription if you don’t need them) might be in order; a subdued suit for either gender; clothing that doesn’t portray you as even younger than you are. Conversely, if you are considered on the “mature” side, a stylish pair of frames, modern hairstyle, and a trendy suit will go a long way to dispelling a perception of stodgy and inflexible.

    Don’t lose your chances to a bad first impression. Seize this opportunity to dispel possible misconceptions with strategized perceptions. You’re off to a good start.

  • 14 Mar 2010 8:55 PM | Anonymous

    By Lee E. Miller

    Early in their careers, most individuals don’t think they have much of an opportunity to negotiate. After all, they don’t have that much experience. However, at every point in your career, you probably have a much greater ability to negotiate than you think. You limit yourself by what you think you can do.

    The truth is, when it comes to negotiating, as in every aspect of your life, there are no limits except those you place on yourself. When it comes to negotiating, if someone is talking to you, it is because you have something that they value. In this case, that something is you. There are, however, right ways and wrong ways to go about negotiating.

    • It is not all about money. The most important thing that you can negotiate early on in your career is not money. It is the chance to learn new skills. What you learn in your first few jobs are the skills that will enable you to get better jobs and more money in the future. You can negotiate about whom you are going to work with, what projects you will be assigned to and what training you will receive. Sometimes if the company doesn’t have a formal tuition reimbursement program, you can negotiate about getting the company to pay for additional education.

    • Be prepared. The more you know about the job market, and about your prospective employer, the better you will negotiate. Information is readily available on the Internet, at the library, from professional associations and through networking. Proper preparation enables you to know what is possible and to get what you want.  If the salary that a company offers is low, you will have the information necessary to show them that they need to reconsider because they are below market.  

    • Don’t act like you are negotiating. While you want to negotiate the best possible deal, you should do so in a way that doesn't look like you are negotiating. Remember, the employer is trying to recruit you, particularly after they have decided you are the person they want to hire. Let them. Tell them what your concerns are. Ask for the things you want nicely without ever suggesting that you won’t accept the job if you don’t get them. “Would it be possible…” or “Could you…” or ‘Other companies I have been talking to have offered, is it possible….” are non-threatening ways for you to ask. Throughout the process, and especially when you are asking for something, let them know how excited you are about the opportunity and how much you want the job.
    Understanding these principles will allow you to effectively negotiate the best possible terms in your new job. Once you are hired, do a good job and continually seek out new challenges. As you take on added responsibilities and learn new skills, there will be lots of opportunities to negotiate further improvements.
  • 23 Feb 2010 9:10 PM | Anonymous

    By Lee E. Miller

    In the early 1980s, the country was in the midst of a major recession--unemployment was in the double digits, and so was inflation. Yet I was able to negotiate a fifty percent salary increase when I took a job with a new firm in Washington, DC. Although I would like to be able to say that my success was due to my extraordinary skill as a negotiator, it wasn’t.

    I was still in my twenties at the time; this was the first time I ever really had to negotiate about my own compensation and, in hindsight, I made a lot of mistakes. The things I did do right though, were to negotiate with the right employer, at the right time and I was able to convince them that I was the right candidate for the job. Then and only then did we seriously talk about money.

    Especially in a tight job market, most individuals don’t think they have the ability to negotiate salary. Regardless of the state of the economy, if you are able to get a job offer, you probably are in a better position to negotiate than you think. When it comes to negotiating, as in every aspect of your life, you limit yourself by what you think you can do. If someone wants to hire you, it is because you offer something that they value.

    As a result, you are in a position to negotiate for additional money, benefits and opportunities. There are, however, right and wrong ways to go about it. Here are some tips to help you negotiate better even when the job market is weak.

    • Take the time to learn how to negotiate, Negotiating is something you can learn. Like good writing and math, negotiating skills have to be learned. Take a class, attend a seminar or read a book on the topic. The ability to negotiate effectively will help you throughout your working career, not only when are negotiating about compensation.

      Every day at work you negotiate about deadlines, to get resources, about time off and to get assignments that will propel your career forward and enable to earn more money. Ultimately, your career success depends on your ability to effectively negotiate. Time spent learning how to negotiate is time well spent and will pay dividends throughout your career.

    • Get a potential employer to “fall in love” with you before you talk about money. The time to be asking for things is after an employer has already decided to hire you. Focus on what is important to the employer and what you can do for them. In tough times making or saving money is always important. So is your ability to make your prospective boss look good. Employers want to hire people who bring value and they are willing to pay what is necessary to hire them. Once the employer has decided to make you an offer, then, and only then, should you start discussing the terms of employment. Until that time, whenever the subject comes up, talk about the job.

      Be enthusiastic about wanting the job. Show that you really want to work there. Ask for the job. No one wants to hire a person who is only looking for a paycheck. If asked what you are looking for in terms of compensation, say something like “I am sure that if I am the right person for the job and the job is right for me, something that is fair will be worked out.” Then ask some questions about the job. You will look good to the employer and defer the conversation until a time that is more appropriate.

    • The only difference between being employed and being unemployed is your self-confidence. You are same person when you are unemployed as you were when you were working. You have the same skills and same experience. The value you can bring to an employer doesn’t change just because you don’t have a job. The only difference is your confidence. If you exhibit confidence you can not only negotiate effectively, it will help also you land the job you want.

      Competition for your services will also make you seem more valuable in the eyes of a prospective employer. Talking with several prospective employers at the same time will not only increase your confidence but will enhance your bargaining leverage
    Once you are hired, do a good job and continually seek out new challenges. As you take on added responsibilities and learn new skills, there will be opportunities to negotiate further improvements.
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