Negotiating with a prospective employer is never easy. Most people don't even attempt to negotiate because they are afraid an offer will be pulled. However, when job seekers chose to negotiate, they often get more than the initial offer. This is especially true when they are willing to walk away from an offer.
A few months ago one of my clients received a job offer, but needed to have relocation costs paid. We worked together to come up with a goal of $6,000. At the last minute, my client changed her mind, and she told the employer that she would need $8,000 to relocate. The manager handling her recruiting said they could not meet that request. My client said she could not accept the offer. She thought it was time to move on. The next day, the company called back with a revised offer that included $6,000 in relocation fees and an ability to work remotely for one month, which let my client avoid paying two rents. If my client had not stuck to her guns, she got most of what she wanted. On the other hand, she did risk losing the job.
More recently, a client who is a manager with a small non-profit received a low ball offer from a large national corporation. She told the recruiter that the offer would have to be significantly increased. The next day the recruiter called with a $10,000 increase. My client compared her current position to what the new employer would ask of her. She also underscored the value she would bring to the employer. She did not ask for a specific amount, but told the recruiter that the offer would need to be improved. Two days went by. My client thought she had pushed things too far. She was wrong. The next day the manager called and increased the offer by another $10,000. She gambled and won.
I'm not recommending that every job seeker should take such drastic steps when negotiating. However, if you feel that an offer is not fair, you might want to consider taking a chance in your negotiation. There are no guarantees. Some companies will decide not to hire you. Others will recognize your value and give you what you're asking. Walking away is a big gamble that, in some cases, can have a bigger payoff.
I was helping a client prepare for an interview recently. Her biggest worry was that she gets so nervous during interviews that she has problems engaging employers. Sometimes her nerves are so bad that they hurt her ability to understand and answer questions. This client has great experience and education. None of that helped her.
I asked what she was thinking about that made her so nervous. She said, “I just want the job so badly, and I’m afraid that they won’t hire me.” At that point, I showed her a different way to play the interview game. Start with your strengths. If you know what makes you a valuable employee, you will have something positive to tell the employer, a way to sell what the employer needs. Most importantly, I practiced interviewing with my client so she understood that she has power in the interview process. She now knows how to ask questions, negotiate salary, and turn down a bad offer.
Interviewing for a new job, especially one that you want, will always bring some feelings of nervousness and anxiety. The challenge is to control them. The best way to do that is to know your strengths and demonstrate how they will help a prospective employer. You feel better during interviews, and you’ll be more likely to get the offer.
Yesterday’s Redeye (Chicago Tribune) featured an interesting article on the growing time between first interviews and the time a job offer is made. In 2010 the average time for the interviewing process was 13 days. Now, according to research by Glassdoor.com, the average time is now 23 days. A client who is senior HR manager told me that this process is a good thing for both companies and applicants because more time is being taken to match the right candidate to the right job. She said companies lose millions when new hires wash out in the first 90 days.
That may be true. However, from the job seeker’s prospective, this increased waiting time sounds maddening. Part of the job search now means being more patient once the interviewing process begins. It also means that while you are interviewing you need to continue looking for other jobs. Just as a company focuses on its needs in evaluating and selecting candidates, job seekers need to give themselves every advantage and opportunity. Don’t wait for an answer that you might not want to hear. Keep applying for jobs and networking. You can always tell employers that you’ve accept a position. It will feel good.
Clients frequently ask about difficult job interview questions. They want to know how to speak the magic words that will turn into a job. Here's the real question: What does the employer need? The better you can understand what the employer is looking for, the more likely you are to get the job. Rather than study canned answers to interview questions, I recommend preparing for an interview this way:
1. Know your strengths. Practice talking about why you are good at what you do. Be able to tell stories that will help an employer see how you have used your strengths on the job.
2. Listen and ask questions to learn what the employer needs. An interview should be more of a discussion than a test. Your challenge is to understand what the employer is looking for and show that you are the solution to the company's problem. I recommend asking this question: What are the three biggest challenges I'll face in this position? After the employer answers this question, demonstrate how you can meet these challenges and be an asset to the company.
It's never easy to get a job. Rather than worry about questions you might not even be asked, figure out what the employer needs and demonstrate why you are good at what you do. If you can do those two things, employers will want to hire you.
A good job search should focus on why you are good at your job. Many of the clients who work with me on interview skills focus too much on what they don’t have. They worry that an interviewer will ask a question that they will not be able to answer. Here’s another way to approach interviewing: Focus on your strengths.
No employer will ever hire you for what you don’t know or can’t do. They want to know why you will do a good job. The best way to impress an employer is to play up your strengths. To define your strengths, start with your resume. Use the margin to note key words that will make you an asset to the employer. Look at your achievements and think about how each of those examples reflects a strength. What makes you good at what you do? That’s the key question to answer.
As the job market gets better, employers will find it harder to get the talent they want, which means it’s a great time to negotiate for a better salary or other compensation. The website Payscale.com has some great resources that will help you negotiate. If you’re involved in a job search or in a position where you will have to negotiate salary, take some time and consider the great advice given by the experts on this page.
One of my clients is making a career change. He was a senior manager, but is now looking for a lower pressure role. We were practicing interviewing skills, and he talked about problem solving, leadership, and communication skills. The problem was that he never gave any idea about how he would use those skills in the job he was applying for. I recommended that he take about ten note-cards, put a soft skill on top of each one, and then list 3-5 examples of how he used those skills. After that, he should practice telling stories without worrying about saying the same thing each time. Good interview answers should be clear and concise. They also need to be substantial if you want potential employers to recognize that you can do the job.
Clients often come to me to help with interview preparation. In almost every case, they express anxiety about the process. This is true of young people starting their career and senior level professionals. What’s behind this concern? Practice. We do our jobs every day and are confident we can do them. Depending on how long we have been with an employer and how long it takes to find a job, a person could go on just a few interviews over span of years or decades. Confident professionals are often terrified to go on job interviews.
Interviewing is a skill, and, like any skill, it takes practice. Imagine if you played golf or pool or bowling (individual sports). If you played that sport on a regular basis, you would know your level of skill. We are anxious when we interview because we do it so infrequently. If you were a good golfer, but hadn’t picked up your clubs for ten years, you would approach the first tee with anxiety. The same principle holds true in interviewing.
What can you do to be calmer? First, practice your skills. Focus on building a dialogue with the interviewer and demonstrating your strengths. Another cause of anxiety at job interviews is the mistaken belief that a job interview is like a test. Applicants are so worried about how they word an answer and giving the “best” answer that qualified people make themselves sound like they can’t do the job. Listen to what the interviewer is saying, and engage in a conversation. That will help calm things down. The most important thing you can do to be calm at an interview is to know your strengths and present them in a way that makes the employer want to hire you.
Interviewing is never easy. But, if you practice the right way, it can be less stressful.
One of my clients, we’ll call him Nate, recently interviewed for a managerial position. He said the company owner was charming throughout the interview. An employee politely interrupted the interview to ask a question that sounded important. The owner order her out of his office, slammed the door shut, and told Nate, “Some people don’t know how to behave.”
Does this mean Nate should not take a job with this company? Not necessarily. He should so with some caution. I recommended that he do a little background research on the company owner. Has anyone written anything about him online or social media? He should also ask to talk to employees before accepting an offer. Talking to them might give him a better idea of what it would be like to work for this person.
Pay attention to such cues when you are interviewing. Taking a job with a bad boss usually is a path to unhappiness. Such bosses also tend to be misers when it comes to pay.
One of my friends runs a small business. He is currently looking for someone he can rely on to manage the business when he is out of the office. He showed me two resumes and asked me which candidate was superior. I chose the candidate who claimed to have had a similar position for five years. My friend laughed and said he did the same thing, which seemed to make sense until he interviewed both candidates.
The candidate with more experience gave canned answers and often contradicted himself. When my friend asked him what accomplishment made him proudest, he talked about being trained to work as a manager. The other candidate had less experience, but she listened to what my friend was saying and answered his questions in a manner that sounded sincere and honest. She said she was proudest of her ability to take on extra responsibility. My friend was impressed by the kind of detail she used and the level of passion she showed. He felt that she really wanted to work for him. The candidate with more experience just wanted a new job that paid more. Guess who got the job? The person with less experience who presented herself as somebody who could do the job and wanted to do it.
Beware of scripting answers when you prepare for a job interview. Good managers see through this trick. Know your strengths and be able to sell them in your normal speaking voice. Show why you want to do the job and why you’ll do it well.
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