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Job Journey: Negotiating Vacation

As you get higher on the food chain, compensation packages have more and more elements: vacation, bonus, education, work from home, pension plans, parking and more.

One of the first things to consider is vacation.  It should be pretty straightforward but it is not always so.

If you have been with a company for a long time, you may be entitled to four, five or six weeks of vacation per year and maybe you can even carry it over into the next year.

You might be able to secure that in a new role if you are moving to a very similar organization ie hospital to hospital or between divisions of a global entity.

If you are starting from scratch in a company, you will be looking at something between two and four weeks to start.

Yes, there are still companies that start everyone at two weeks. That can be tough pill to swallow when you are negotiating an offer and you are already quite smitten with the opportunity and the people.

In these cases, there may be no flexibility, even if they really, really want you.  If the supervisor has been with the company for ten years and just earned a third week of vacation and then you show up with three weeks in your first year, it can make for a pretty tense environment.

The other piece of vacation is understanding when you are actually able to take the vacation you fought for.  One of my clients has a policy that you have to accrue all of your vacation before you can take any of it.  This means no paid vacation for a year.  That’s a long time.

Other companies are quick to provide four weeks but require that one of the weeks be used between Christmas and the New Year.  In reality, you have only three weeks where you can actually choose to be off.

It’s important to keep these things in mind in the early stages of interviewing.  Asking about vacation policies and practices can be easily dealt with towards the end of a first interview and should definitely be covered in a second interview.

You don’t want to discover that a company has tiny, rigid vacations after that all-important last interview.  It can be heartbreaking and stressful.  Get it on the table early and respectfully.

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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: 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: Interview No-Nos

Interviews are stressful and sometimes we blurt out things without knowing how they will be interpreted by the hiring manager.

Here’s what interviewers don’t want to hear:

I want this to be the last job of my career.

Even though your intention is to totally commit to this role, that’s not what the interviewer hears. They hear that you are looking for place to park for the next couple of years until you retire.

I will take this job until the right job comes along.

This is fine to think but not to say. No one wants to hear that a place on their team is not the most appealing thing since sliced bread.

My objective is to have your job.

Telling the hiring manager you want kick them out of their office is not the best way to display your ambition. Talking about wanting to lead a team or run a project is a better way to do this.

I’d like to work from home.

What the interviewer hears is that you don’t feel like this job is worth getting dressed and commuting for every morning. If the position is not advertised as “remote”, then its not and the expectation is that you will be in the office with everyone else. You can ask if work from home programs are available but that’s about as far as you can go.

Hiring is about finding the right person for the role. Part of this is assessing skills and experience and part of is assessing the risks the person presents. Make sure your answers do not lead them to consider risks that are not there. Practice your interview responses with this in mind.

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Job Journey: Skype Interview Tips

Skype interviews are becoming more and more common. I find myself using them more and more. They are not the same as meeting someone in person but they allow me to experience how the person presents, their energy and hand gestures – basically everything except their sweaty palms.

Preparing for a Skype interview is pretty similar to a face to face interview. You still have to read up on the company and the role. You still have to practice talking about your experience.

And you still need to get a haircut. Just because the conversation is on Skype rather than in person does not make it casual in any way. You need to be just as professional as you would if you were going to a hiring manager’s office.

Before the conversation starts, decide where you are going to take the call. I get really nauseous if I have to watch as you move your phone all around  while you find a good spot to prop your phone or iPad.

Also, before the call, reverse the camera so you can see what the interviewer is going to see. Check for laundry, lingerie, questionable magazines, travel souvenirs or any other distractions. Put the cat in another room. You want to make sure that the interviewer is paying attention only to you.

During the call, if you are going to take notes (which is fine) tell the interviewer.  It is awkward if you keep looking down and they don’t know why.

Also, try to remember to look up periodically. The temptation is to look only at their image at the bottom of your screen. When you focus on the top frame of your screen, it feels more like you are making eye contact.

Make a couple of practice calls with friends to get ready. Pull up a chair and get comfy, because Skpe is here to stay.

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