Posted by joshua on Nov 3, 2010 in Advice
, Job Search
There are times when things are so bad that any paycheck will do, but for most of us this isn’t one of those times. You are not obligated to accept the first job offer you get. Most companies will give you a day or two to consider their offer, and you should take advantage of that time to consider the particulars of the offer as well as the company itself.
Of course the first thing you’re going to look at is what’s contained in the offer. Is the salary appropriate for the job and sufficient for your needs? If not, is there room to negotiate? Before turning down an offer because it’s too small, give the company the opportunity to sweeten the pot. Is the job the same or similar to the one you interviewed for? Is it something you can envision yourself doing every day for the foreseeable future? Is the job local, and if not are you prepared to relocate? Does the company provide relocation assistance? By and large, this type of evaluation is self evident and happens nearly automatically in a very short period of time.
There’s a second type of evaluation that you want to do as well. You should have prepped for your interview by researching the company, but now it’s time to go back and take a second look. Now you’re looking for signs that the company is healthy and that you’ll fit in well there. For the first part, take a look at the annual report or other publicly available documents. You can find a lot of good information in publications like Standard and Poor’s Register of Corporations or in Dunn & Bradstreet’s directory. Look to see if there have been major shakeups in the company recently and if so, find out why. In short, treat this as though you were considering investing in the company, because in a very real sense you are. The last step is to look at life inside the company. Talk to some current and former employees if you can. Take a look at the goals and vision of the company and be sure that it’s something you can be happy working towards.
Most of us invest a good deal of ourselves into our work and our company. It’s a normal part of self identification. Before you take that job offer, take the time to make sure that this is a company you feel comfortable belonging to.
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 10, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Under the best of circumstances, it can be nerve-wracking to tackle the topic of compensation with a new or prospective employer. You worry that if you don’t negotiate, you’ll end up with the lowest possible salary (true); but if you play hardball, you may not get the job at all (usually untrue, but who knows?).
In this economy, employers are particularly keen to get you to accept the lowest end of whatever range of salary they are prepared to offer. And some employers won’t negotiate at all.
So what to do?
Don’t bring up salary until you get a firm job offer. That isn’t to say that the employer won’t bring it up sooner. But don’t mention it yourself until offered a position. Sometimes, an employer hasn’t even seriously considered salary — they wanted to see who they would hire first. Others are waiting for you to broach the topic, and you will have given the impression that you want the job for the job, and not just for the money.
Of course, this is all unfair — you’re putting in all the time and work of the interview process, and have no clear idea of how much the job pays. I once interviewed for a great job with a great company — and was told at the very end of the process that they really wanted me, but didn’t think I would like the pay. It was half of what I could conceivably live on, and I was forced to turn it down. If I’d known what the job paid from the beginning, I would have politely turned down the interview.
Find out what other people are paid for the same position at similar firms. This research is very easy to do online. In my experience, what websites list as the average salary for various positions is much higher than what employers actually offer. But if you can say “whatpeoplegetpaid.com says the average wage for a widget comptroller is $80,000,” the employer is put in the position of having to offer you something near the higher end of what the firm is willing to pay.
Don’t lie about past salaries. Often, employers ask what you made at your last job, and tack on 5% or 10%. If that total is within their acceptable salary range, that’s what they offer. This might tempt you to lie about your past salary. Don’t. Lying about something that can easily be fact-checked is a great way to end up back in the dole queue.
Don’t use your personal life in salary negotiations. Your prospective employer does not want to hear that your kid needs braces, or that your mortgage is past due. You haven’t even started yet, and you’re already dragging your home life into the office.
When negotiating salary, talk about the professional credentials and skills that will make you valuable to the firm. Make clear that by hiring you at better pay, they will in fact save money, and may just be snatching you away from other prospective employers. Don’t bring your personal life into it.
Got any more advice for negotiating salaries? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jul 30, 2009 in Job Search
You don’t always need a cover letter — in fact, some recruiters request you do not send one.
But the cover letter is the best way to to play up the most important parts of your resume, while including information inappropriate for a resume. The letter also demonstrates your writing ability, and shows you were willing to take a little extra time with your application.
Here are some tips for writing a great cover letter:
Start by introducing yourself. Stick to what relates directly to the job. My name is Joseph Blow, and I have 10 years experience in Advanced Widget Management.
Mention the position for which you are applying. Forgetting this is a common error. Chances are excellent that the recruiter is working to fill several jobs. I am writing about the Senior Widget Manager position advertised on EmploymentCrossing.com.
Grab the reader’s attention. Cover letters are dull. If there is anything that sets you apart from other applicants (and which applies directly to the position), mention it right off the bat. Don’t bury the lede. I am the author of the best-selling book How to Manage Widgets.
Sell your qualifications. Don’t just recap your resume — the recruiter already has it. Imagine if had only three sentences to convince and attractive person to go out on a date with you. Now translate that to convincing a recruiter to hire you. I will use my training, plus years of technical and management experience at some of the best firms in the widget industry, to help make your firm the top-rated manufacturer of small-to-medium-sized widgets.
Be specific about the position. Read the job description carefully, and refer directly to the specific qualifications listed. I am fluent in Microsoft Widgetware, but I have plenty of experience with WidgetPro, the software used by your team.
Assume you will be contacted. I have attached a copy of my resume, and you may find samples of my work at widgetmanagerblog.com. I look forward to having the opportunity to speak to you about my qualifications in person.
Make sure your name, address, and contact information are on your cover letter. Yes, all that is on your resume. Be redundant. Make it easy to contact you.
Only list your salary history or your salary requirements if you are specifically asked to do so. Let the firm get to know you, and get excited about you, before the topic of filthy lucre is raised. If you do list your past salaries, don’t lie.
Grammar, punctuation and sentence structure must be perfect. If you can’t write, find a friend who can.
Use the same paper and print quality you would use on a resume. Don’t go cheap — you’re trying to impress people.
Got any more advice? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jul 23, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Your resume gives the very first — and if not done properly, last — impression a prospective employer will get of you, as both a person and as an employee.
Here are some resume mistakes — don’t make them!
DON’T include every job you ever had on your resume. Once, long ago, I was interviewed for a position as assistant to a film producer. Being young and naive, I listed on my resume every job I had held since I started working at 16 — including that first job, with McDonalds. My reasoning was, I wanted to show I had been constantly employed since I was a teenager.
Instead, the producer saw the McDonalds job, and spent the rest of the “interview” making fun of me. I didn’t get the position.
Not every employer is as much of a jerk as that guy. But prospective employers are only interested in jobs you have held that are related to the position for which they are hiring. Personalize your resume to your industry or career — and if that leaves gaps, be ready to explain them. For instance, I have a two-year gap in my career as a web designer and writer. I was teaching high school. I don’t include that on my resume, but when employers ask what I did for those two years my answer is ready.
DON’T make your resume a laundry list of job duties and skills. Don’t list every responsibility you had at a particular job. No employer wants to search through a long list of skills and experience, hoping to find what he or she needs. Distill each position down to a list of the three-to-five most important responsibilities. You’ll have a chance to discuss the job in greater detail at the interview.
DON’T list your skills and certifications at the bottom of the resume, or on the back. Make a concise list of your skills, especially computer skills, and put them at the top of your resume, right after “Objectives.” The key word here is “concise” — you can go into greater detail at the interview. A resume is a brief précis of your career, not a lengthy autobiography.
Do you have a resume mistake to share? Let us know in the comments!
Read How to Put Together a Resume — Part 1
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 10, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Everybody wants to find employment. Well, almost everybody.
But how many people worry about their employability? How much do you do to make yourself attractive to employers?
Here are some examples:
Be open to new careers. Your experience may be valuable to a firm in a different field. Don’t trap yourself within one industry — you can always return to it later, especially if the skill sets are similar.
Be relocatable. If you’re willing to move to another part of town, another town, another state, or even another country, guess what? The field of available jobs just grew exponentially. Some companies will even pay to move you. This is harder if you have a family. But if you can do it, then be brave and take the plunge. Apply for jobs in places you think you might like to live, and let recruiters know you can relocate. And if someone calls about a job in some place of which you have never heard, listen to the offer. It might lead you to a great new life!
Clean up your web presence. It’s not that companies look for reasons not to hire you. It’s that they have so many applicants, they can afford to be selective. So if you are putting things on web sites and social networks that would be perfectly appropriate in your personal life, but might make an employer nervous — take them down. Of course it’s not fair. Do you want a job, or not?
Take classes. No matter what your career, you should always keep your skill set fresh. Take classes, attend workshops, and go to conventions. It’s fun, it’s great for networking, and it impresses employers. It is also expensive, so choose carefully.
Have great references. Employers love nothing better than to be able to speak to another professional within their industry, who is willing to speak enthusiatically about a possible hire. It’s better than any resume, cover letter, or even letter of recommendation. Of course, if you want an employer to love you and talk about your great work, you have to be lovable and do great work. Or have something on him or her for blackmail puposes.
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 3, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Did you know that neckties were invented by Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War? Neither did I. But at least now we know who to blame.
The most common necktie knot, and the only one I know, is the “Four-in-Hand.” Sure, James Bond uses the Windsor, but the simple Four-in-Hand has worked great for me since high school graduation.
Here, for the benefit of our male readers and Annie Lennox, is how you tie a necktie:
1. Place the tie around the collar the right way visible (i.e. the seams and label not visible). The relative length of the narrow and wide ends can be adjusted with practice so that the tie is the desired length. A good starting guide is to have the wide end 30 cm or 12 inches lower than the narrow end.
2. Place the wide end of the tie across the front of the narrow end about 12 cm or 5 inches from the collar.
3. Fold the wide end behind the narrow end and loop the same (wide) end over the front.
4. Put the wide end through the back of the large loop (which is around the neck).
5. Push through the same (wide) end through the smaller loop (around the tie) and pull it through carefully. Be careful to make sure that the wide end does not begin to fold near the forming knot and straighten it if this occurs.
6. Pull the larger end until the shape of the knot is what you want.
7. Pull the thin end carefully, to move the knot closer to your collar.
8. Make small adjustments until you are happy with the knot.
There. Now that your airway is properly restricted, it’s time for that interview! And don’t feel too put upon, boys — at least we don’t have to wear heels.
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 1, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
About a year ago, I was contacted by an entertainment lawyer who was looking to hire a writer. This guy was a genuine bigwig — hundreds of celebrity photos all over his office, and a video player on infinite loop in the front office with his many interviews on cable news shows, talking about the latest legal problems of Lindsay Lohan and other celebs.
I put on my suit, printed out the writing samples he had requested, and schlepped across town to his Beverly Hills office. There was already another applicant waiting when I arrived. I filled out the usual paperwork and handed over a copy of my resume.
At about the precise time of my interview, the lawyer arrived at his office. After a few minutes, he called in the other applicant.
Fifty-six seconds later, the other applicant came back out, looking confused. He left, and I was called in.
The lawyer told me sit down, and asked me some basic questions about my background. I started to give the usual interview answers, designed to emphasize my skills — but he cut me off. He just wanted the basic facts. So that’s what I gave him.
After a few more basic questions (did I have a car? was I insured?), he told me my resume was going on the pile, and if he decided to call me back, would the next Wednesday afternoon be a good time for another interview? “Yes,” I lied. He shook my hand and I left.
Fifty-six seconds had passed.
No, I would not have gone to the second interview if I had been invited (I wasn’t). This individual did not respect me, or my time. What kind of a nightmare would it have been to work for him?
What was he even trying to accomplish? He wanted to briefly meet each applicant before arranging an interview — why? Was he trying to avoid a certain ethnic group? Perhaps if he had warned me the first interview would be very brief, I would not have been offended.
In another, less heinous example, a Internet firm down by the airport called me in to interview with the HR person and the manager who would be my superior. I had an excellent conversation, for about half an hour, with the HR rep. Then she went off to find the manager.
Fifteen minutes later, deeply embarrassed, she returned to tell me that the manager was on a call that went long, and he couldn’t see me. Maybe I could come back the next week. “That would be fine,” I lied, with a smile plastered to my face.
A few days later, they gave the job to someone who interviewed before I did. That’s okay — I wouldn’t have gone back.
I have worked for people who, I assure you, would never treat a job applicant this way. In fact, I like to think that these arrogant and unprofessional employers are in the minority. But I have worked for people who had no respect for their own employees — and you do not want to work for these people.
As a manager, you do not want to be one of these people, either. No matter what your yearly income, title, or level of responsibility, you are not above the rules of common decency. A job applicant’s time is as valuable as your own. And even if you don’t accept that, then look at it this way — you are mistreating people who might be highly skilled workers who can make you a lot of money.
There are only two circumstances under which is permissible to treat people poorly and take advantage of their need for employment: never, and never ever. Act accordingly — it’s the ethical and professional thing to do.
Posted by Erik Even on May 27, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
If you’re like me, an oxygen-breathing hominid, then searching for a new job while you are still employed causes you a lot of stress. It shouldn’t — especially in this economy, workers need a job in which they can feel secure. Many of today’s job searchers aren’t looking for a better wage or title. They want greater job security.
But certain mistakes can reduce your current job security, or even get you fired. While employers should take an employee’s job search in stride, most don’t. And many managers will fire you if they find out you’re looking, even if you’re only passively searching.
So keep your job search secret at work. And here are some things you should not do.
Don’t discuss your job search with your “friends” at work — even the trustworthy ones. Remember the young woman who admitted an affair with her boss to a co-worker “friend?” What was her name? Monica Lebowski? Feel free to discuss your job search with your work buddies — after you get a new job.
Don’t conduct your job search on your computer at work. As I’ve mentioned before, your employer has the legal right to monitor everything you do on your work computer, even if it’s personal business or your personal web email. Conduct your job search at home.
Don’t mention your job search on social networking sites. Believe it or not, some employers actually know that Facebook and LinkedIn exist. Use these sites to network — but get a hold of possible job contacts via your personal email, from home.
Don’t talk to your current employer’s clients or competitors. I know, this can make it very hard to find a new job. But there’s a very good chance these people will contact your boss and report that you are job hunting. You can never know who your boss hung out with at the national convention last year.
Don’t go to job fairs. There’s too a high chance that one of your boss’ friends, or someone representing your own company, will see you there.
Be careful where you post your updated resume. It’s okay to have the latest version of your resume on LinkedIn or a resume hosting site. But you don’t want your boss to see your resume on Craigslist or some other classified ad site — it implies you are actively looking.
Don’t forget to ask anyone you interview with to PLEASE not call your current employer. I’ve never personally known a potential employer to call a current employer without express permission. But mistakes happen, so make sure the recruiter or potential employer understands they should not call your boss. Provide three alternate references, at least one a former supervisor.
Posted by Erik Even on May 25, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Some people hate networking. I should know, I’m one of them.
But if you’re not getting out there in the world and meeting people in your profession, then you are doing direct harm to your career. There are reasons that professionals in your field attend conventions and conferences, join organizations, take classes and exchange information online. They are keeping their skill set updated, learning about trends in their own field, and meeting their next employer.
If you are “between opportunities” right now, and diligently sending out resumes every day, then those resumes are competing against the resumes of people who have actually met the employer, who handed their resume over in person, who have made an indelible impression on the person doing the hiring. Whereas you are nothing but a list of qualifications on a piece of paper.
If you’re unemployed right now, the best thing you can do to find a new job is to network. However, you may not have the financial resources to take classes, attend conventions, or go to school reunions. That’s why it’s vital to do your networking when you’re gainfully employed.
Even if you don’t enjoy it, networking may get you your next job, or help you avoid unemployment in the first place!
Posted by Erik Even on Apr 15, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
From my favorite US Bureau, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — some basic advice for the many, many, many people looking for work.
They’re your tax dollars — take advantage!
Job Interview Tips
An interview gives you the opportunity to showcase your qualifications to an employer, so it pays to be well prepared. The following information provides some helpful hints.
- Learn about the organization.
- Have a specific job or jobs in mind.
- Review your qualifications for the job.
- Be ready to briefly describe your experience, showing how it relates it the job.
- Be ready to answer broad questions, such as “Why should I hire you?” “Why do you want this job?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
- Practice an interview with a friend or relative.
- Be well groomed.
- Dress appropriately.
- Do not chew gum or smoke.
- Be early.
- Learn the name of your interviewer and greet him or her with a firm handshake.
- Use good manners with everyone you meet.
- Relax and answer each question concisely.
- Use proper English—avoid slang.
- Be cooperative and enthusiastic.
- Use body language to show interest—use eye contact and don’t slouch.
- Ask questions about the position and the organization, but avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on the company Web site.
- Also avoid asking questions about salary and benefits unless a job offer is made.
- Thank the interviewer when you leave and shake hands.
- Send a short thank you note.
Information to bring to an interview:
- Social Security card.
- Government-issued identification (driver’s license).
- Resume or application. Although not all employers require a resume, you should be able to furnish the interviewer information about your education, training, and previous employment.
- References. Employers typically require three references. Get permission before using anyone as a reference. Make sure that they will give you a good reference. Try to avoid using relatives as references.
- Transcripts. Employers may require an official copy of transcripts to verify grades, coursework, dates of attendance, and highest grade completed or degree awarded.