Job Journey: How to Talk about Compensation

At some point, in most interviews, you will be asked the “money” question.  You might be asked what you are looking for in terms of salary or what you are making now as your total compensation.

Sometimes people are nervous about providing these details for fear of pricing themselves out of the role or not wanting to give away details they can leverage later.

Compensation is a very important part of working and it’s one of the things you need to be very clear about as you start looking at new opportunities.  

It’s worth taking a few minutes to sit down and look what you are actually being paid today.  It’s surprising how many people really don’t know how much they are making.

Take a look at your pay stub.  What are you getting from your employer besides your actual wage?  Do you have overtime, bonuses, awards or perks?  How about benefits?  Are those premiums paid by you or your employer?  How about retirement?  Does your company match what you put in?

While you are looking at pay stubs, you might also want to think back at your earning history over the years as well.  It can helpful to see where your raises happened and when you had greater financial success.  Where you more successful because of  your manager at the time or what was happening in the company overall?  Was it the economy in general that bolstered your uptick in earnings?

Taking some time out to examine your compensation elements and history can provide strong insight into the types of roles you should be looking at next.  You will be totally ready the next time a recruiter calls!


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Job Journey: The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers are looking for verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are.

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared such as inadvertently giving confidential information about the business or inappropriate details about the candidate.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR departments in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references. Only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, a workaround developed. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and therefore, not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

Be nice to people when they leave the organization, regardless of the reason for their departure. Set up at least one coffee date per month with a former manager or colleague. You never know when you are going to need someone who can authentically vouch for your performance at work and verify the stuff that’s on your resume.

There can be an unexpected bonus in all this networking: coffee dates often lead to opportunities in the form of introductions and job leads.

Smile and bring on the double double!

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Job Journey: Nail the Interview with One Question

Picture this: you are at a job interview and things are going really well. The hiring manager leans back in her chair and asks if you have any questions. Bang! Here is your opportunity to cement everything and nail the job.

So, what do you ask?

Hint: Do not begin by asking about the start date. If they really want you, they will have already asked that question.

There are a couple of ways to go. One is to focus on the hiring manager. When did they start with the company? What do they like about the organization? What is the most meaningful part of their work?

You can also dig deeper into the company and it’s culture. What challenges does it face? What sets them apart from their competitors? What is the style of the senior leadership team?

Or you can ask about the role itself. You can ask about the compensation. Careful though. Sometimes employers don’t want to talk about that until quite late in the process. You could ask about whether there is variable compensation and how it’s tied to your performance. The answer to that could be quite insightful. You could also ask for more detail about other other
perks such as savings plans, company discount programs or tuition reimbursement. This one is nice because you could get a follow up question about your future goals around learning.
(so be ready for that).

There are lots of choices. The important thing is to think about it before you get there so that they are ready at hand. You don’t want to end an interview with a blank look and a shrug.

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Job Journey: Pre-Interview Check In

Here’s a cool idea I picked up from one of my clients. Before you go for an interview, in that brief few minutes when you are cooling off in the lobby, use your smartphone to take a picture of yourself.

How do you look?  Are your eyes smiling?  Is there lunch in your teeth?  How about your collar?Zipper

This is not just an exercise in vanity. It’s a way to check what you’re projecting and what the interviewer will see.  It will give you just that little bit more confidence for that so-important first handshake.

“Smeyes” is a video industry term for smiling eyes.  Apparently, if you are modeling for The Bay, this is a key element of how you present. In this new world of empathy and collaboration, it’s a pretty hot item too.

You can practice smeyes at home. Stand in front of the mirror and think of something hilarious. Then force that energy up into your eyes. It’s pretty cool.  You’ll be amazed at what it can do to your relationships with your partner/kids/dog.

So, check your smeyes and your fly and have a great conversation (but don’t take a picture of your fly in the lobby – that might be awkward).

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Job Journey: What to Bring to an Interview

Preparing for an interview is not just about the suit and haircut. You have some options in terms of what you bring with you as well.

  • Do bring a pen and notebook to make notes or jot down questions or the names of the people you are meeting.
  • Don’t bring coffee or gum.  Ditch them in the lobby.   Fresh breath is good. Chewing gum is bad.
  • Do bring several copies of your resume.  You never know when it might come in handy.  You also look super smooth if one of the panel members has forgotten to bring it.  
  • Don’t bring your phone.  Unless it is muted.  Totally muted.  Don’t forget your watch and iPad. Silence anything you bring into the interview.
  • Do bring the job description.  Highlight the things that are well aligned that you want to emphasize.  Also note anything that’s concerning or not clear.
  • Don’t bring or share confidential information from past or current employers even if it provides great examples of what you can do.  That makes people super nervous.  If you do that to your current employer, you might do it to them too.
  • Do bring a tissue.  Kleenex is fine.  An actual cloth handkerchief is better.
  • Don’t bring strong smells.  Go easy on the cologne/aftershave.  The smell of clean laundry is ideal.  If your interviewer can’t see for the tears because they are allergic to your perfume, you are not making the best impression.  (Although, the handkerchief would come in handy here…)

So gear up and get ready for a great conversation.

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Job Journey: What to do Between Interviews

Most hiring decisions take more than one interview. In fact, it’s not uncommon for there to be three or four interviews. Then there are the references, background checks and the offer discussions. All in all, a process that takes weeks and sometimes, months.

It’s a pretty stressful time. You lie in bed at night wondering what’s happening. When you have a bad day at work, you toy with the idea of quitting because you feel like that new job is just around the corner. Or you worry about taking on a new project because you might not be there to see it through.

Ignore all of these temptations. You don’t have the job until you sign an offer and until then, it should be business as usual. Keep doing your thing and making people happy.

Interviewing is stressful and can be distracting but it is important to stay focused on your day job. When you leave, you want it to be on your terms. You don’t want to have problems putting together references because you suddenly became a “performance problem”.

The other thing is to be careful about who you tell. Most of us have one or two friendlies at work. It can be okay to confide in them but only if you can really trust that they won’t share it with anyone else. And if you choose to share what’s happening with them, don’t do it in the office. Go out for coffee, meet after work or go for a walk. It’s too awkward to have that kind of discussion in and amongst your boss and team. People make assumptions and then gossip about those assumptions. Imagine if you hear from someone in another work group that you were not considered for the new project because they heard you were leaving.

Your partner and your outside-work friends are the best people to share your progress and help you decide what to wear. Your mentors are excellent for this too. They can give you more context, help you lay out the strategy for the next steps or just help you de-stress.

Be patient and try having some warm milk before bed.

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Job Journey: The Other Thank You Note

It’s pretty common practice to send a note after an interview. You want to show respect for the time that the hiring manager invested as well as demonstrate that you are professional and thoughtful.

But what happens when you are moving through the interview process and other people are involved?

Perhaps an internal talent acquisition person set up the meeting with the hiring manager. Perhaps you are working with a head hunter who coordinated everything.

Thanking them is important but what’s really important is to get back to that person after the interview to let them know how it went from your point of view.

First of all, it confirms that the meeting took place. Often, interviews are set up days ahead and the person doing the coordination is not in daily contact with either party. When they get an email or a voice mail saying every worked out and it was a great meeting, that will definitely be a positive thing.

The second important thing is that it provides an opportunity to reinforce why you are a good fit for the role. You can briefly outline what you learned from the hiring manager and how well it aligns with your skills/experience/objectives.

When that debrief conversation with the hiring manager happens, your advocate is fully prepared to share your positive thoughts and armed with specifics about the conversation. They are ideally positioned to reinforce your strengths.

This also helps them be prepared to bring up any concerns that surfaced in the interview. For example, if the hiring manager asked you about a skill or activity that you did not know what required or how you feel about moving to Moscow, you can let the coordinator know.

In the hiring process, the more people aligned around the cause, the better. Keep communicating and keep everyone in the loop. It will pay off in the end.

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