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 Jun 30, 2009 in Careers
Yes, this seems like the worst possible time to ask for a raise — and of course, it’s also the time when you need a raise the most.
If it’s been some multiple of six months since you started at your company, or if you have done some very valuable work recently, then you are fully entitled to ask for more money. The worse your boss can do is say “no.” (I’ve worked for at least one company that had a habit of firing anyone who asked for a raise. You don’t want to work for that kind of employer anyway.)
Some workers don’t ever ask for raises, under the assumption the company won’t give them one. But increases in compensation are your right. Some bosses are perfectly happy to give raises, but won’t do it until they are asked.
Take the risk. You might get more money.
Put together your case for a raise. You’re not simply asking for more money, you’re selling yourself as an employee who deserves more compensation. Make a written list of your accomplishments. Have some ideas for improving your work in the future. But never compare yourself favorably to other employees — I do way more work than Barry, and he’s always late. Sell the positives about yourself, but don’t drag in the negatives of others.
Be confident. If you’re unsure you deserve a raise, then why should your boss believe it any more than you do?
Talk to your boss in private. Never discuss compensation in front of others; and never talk about your pay to anyone but your superior or human resources. I once had my boss’ boss tell me I made more money than my immediate superior — this was meant to convince me I didn’t need a raise. Instead, I was (1) appalled that my boss made less than I did and (2) appalled that this guy would tell me about it.
Don’t demand a specific dollar figure. And certainly don’t make ultimata — I’ll quit of you don’t pay me $65,000. If your boss wants to give you a raise, let him or her come up with an amount. If it’s not enough, then you can try negotiating. But never threaten, even if you do plan to quit if the money’s not enough.
If you get a raise, show your appreciation. Hardly anyone celebrates a raise by giving their boss flowers, or a card, or an edible fruit bouquet. Bosses like to feel appreciated, especially if he or she had to go to bat with upper management to approve your raise. Show that you’re thankful. (Your boss may not want other employees to know you got a raise. If so, then keep your gesture of appreciation low key.)
Got any advice for employees seeking more money? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 8, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Don’t lie on your resume.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: don’t lie or mislead during the interview process. Besides the fact that it’s wrong, you’ll always be in the precarious position of fearing you’ll be found out.
(And, a note to employers: don’t lie or mislead during the interview process. It’s actually worse when you do it, as you’re in the position of power. Also, you’re the deep pocket in the case of a lawsuit.)
Everyone words their resume so as to magnify their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. That’s not lying — it’s marketing. But every single fact on your resume must be correct.
Here are some common resume lies:
Lying about your education: After all, who checks with your college to confirm your degree? Employers do. All the time. And when you’re caught, your employer will take it very seriously. Usually, this lie gets people fired — even if they’ve been with a firm for years.
Don’t mislead about training either. If you finished a course, you can list it. But if you haven’t used the skills from the course since you took it ten years ago, be prepared to explain why it’s on your resume at all. (A good answer: you’ve maintained a familiarity with the topic.)
Fudging your age: Employers aren’t allowed to ask your age (except to confirm you’re old enough to work). But some people like to play with dates in order to appear younger (if they’re old) or older (if they’re young). I graduated college in 1994; and I rarely mention that I graduated high school in 1984. This makes me appear younger, which has been beneficial. But it’s not a lie. No one ever asks me when I graduated high school — if they did, I would tell the truth.
But don’t change dates — for your college graduation, or for previous employment. It’s the kind of silly, tiny lie that can get you canned when you’re caught. And it’s very important not to alter employment dates to cover up a period of unemployment or a job you don’t want to list. Employers do check with your previous firms. Lying will lose you a job offer.
Lying about salaries: Sure, you want to try to get as much filthy lucre as you can from your new employer. But don’t lie to do it — your previous employers will confirm salaries. If you want to make more money, sell your interviewer on why you’re worth it. But don’t lie about facts that can be easily confirmed.
Inflating your job title: Otherwise truthful people have been known to fudge a title, for the simple reason that they were in fact performing that position for their former employer. If that’s the case, then tell the truth — you were assistant regional manager, but in fact performed all the functions of regional manager without the title or salary. This is impressive. Lying is not.
Claiming skills you don’t possess: If you have used Photoshop to resize images, that does not make you a “Photoshop Expert.” If you took one year of college Japanese, you are not “Fluent in Japanese.” If you have a familiarity with something, then say “familiar with….” But don’t claim expertise unless you are a stone cold expert. Every HR manager has faced the horror of bringing on a new hire, and learning on day one that the person can’t really take dictation, write PHP or speak Tagalog. This person will be FIRED.
Posted by Erik Even on May 28, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
Interviewers love to throw difficult questions at applicants. Some people just like to see you squirm.
But it’s mostly a way to see how prepared you are; it’s also an attempt to get an unrehearsed answer.
The solution? Rehearse your answer.
What kinds of people do you have difficulty working with?
First, don’t point out that the interviewer ended a sentence with a preposition — that won’t go over well. But absolutely do not get drawn into the trap of complaining about people with whom you have worked. The interviewer will sympathize, laugh at your stories, and then not hire you.
Instead, tell the interviewer that you have had issues working with people who don’t communicate well, such as a manager who doesn’t take the time to keep in touch with people outside his or her group. Explain that by going out of your way to initiate contact with this person, and showing genuine interest in his or her issues, you brought this manager around and established a great relationship.
Now you sound like a problem solver with great people skills.
Why do you want this job?
This is a difficult question because the usual, true answers — I’m unemployed and need to pay the rent; I hate my current job; this job pays more; I need to move closer to my boy/girlfriend — are not what the interviewer wants to hear.
What they do want to hear is, why do you want this particular job? And any good answer will specifically address both the position and the company. This position represents the best next step for me in my career. I have researched a number of companies, and this company will offer me the best opportunities. I believe in what you’re working to accomplish, and I want to be part of that.
Sounds like you’re sucking up? News flash — that’s what a job interview is.
What kind of salary are you looking for?
It’s a perfectly reasonable question, and it’s grueling. Say something too low, and you either lose the job or get paid less than you’re worth. Mention too high a figure, and you’re out of the running.
Here’s the trick — turn it back around. I’m afraid I’ll need more information about the precise title and responsibilities. What is the budgeted salary range? Ahah! Got ‘em!
I’m looking at your resume, and don’t you think you’re overqualified?
Worst. Question. Ever. Fortunately, there is an answer, if you haven’t already been asked why you want the job, because the answer is the same. Focus on the position itself, and that you would find it enjoyable and meaningful. Talk about the company, and how much you want to be part of it. Tell the interviewer that unlike less-experienced hires, you will hit the ground running and bring added value to the firm.