The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

How to Answer an Interview Question about Salary Expectations (Infographic)

“What kind of salary are you looking for?” An unskillful answer to an interview question about salary expectations – your salary requirements, desired salary, etc. – can cost you a lot of money – or cost you a job offer.

Naming a figure is risky. It your number is too high, the employer can’t afford you. Too low, you hurt your credibility. Even if your number is right on, you limit your freedom to negotiate.

Follow the arrows in the diagram to see how to reply to the interviewer’s questions (in purple) with your smart answers (in green).

Practice your answers out loud – several times, preferably with a friend or an interview coach – before your next job interview. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Informational Interview: It’s Not a Thing!

You’ve heard people say informational interviews are a great thing. Problem is, they aren’t a thing.

Well, not a single thing, anyway. There are at least three different types of informationals. Each is a different animal, with different strategies to get the most benefit from them.

And benefits they have. For example, it has been estimated that one in 12 informational interviews results in a job, making it the most powerful form of job search networking. It has a much higher success rate than applying to job openings online, where the odds are more like one in 200.

What are these three different types of informational interviews? I’ll call them the Career Exploration Informational, the Company Insider Conversation and the Hiring Manager Meeting.

In this and the next two posts I’ll explore each type individually, and then in the fourth post I’ll share some crucial tips for success that are common to three types.

The Career Exploration Informational Interview

This type of interview focuses on the interviewee’s occupation.

If you’re not sure what kind of job you want to do, it’s time for some research. Read up on various occupations online, then talk to people who are working in an occupation you’re considering. This isn’t just for students any more. With the average person changing careers five to seven times, this kind of informational can help a person of any age get a better sense of whether that new career idea is really a good fit.

The discussion is likely to focus on questions like these:

  • Why did you decide to enter this field?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • On which activities do you spend the largest amount of time?
  • Is your job typical of this occupation, or unusual?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What do you like least?
  • What advice do you have for me if I decide to enter this career?
  • What other resources should I look into?

That last question is especially important! If your contact recommends a website, publication, training program, organization or – better yet – someone else to talk to, you now have next steps to pursue in your career exploration. Promise to follow up: “Thank you so much! I’ll follow up on your suggestions and let you know how it went.” That way you can continue the relationship with an occasional emailed update, and because you said you would follow up, your contact won’t be surprised. They’ll see you as keeping your promise.

Connecting on LinkedIn can help keep the two of you on each other’s radar screens and provide additional opportunities to interact. (Remember to check Notifications on the menu bar, preferably daily.)

In the best case scenario, an ongoing mentor-mentee relationship may develop.

This type of informational interview may be the easiest to get, especially if you’re a student but even if you aren’t. Having an introduction from a mutual acquaintance always helps – and LinkedIn can be very helpful here – or having something in common, such as being fellow alumni. If there’s no special connection, just ask anyway. You’d be surprised how many people will say yes. It’s flattering to be seen as an expert, and the interview is a chance to “give back” and make a difference for someone.

In the next post we’ll explore a very different animal, the Company Insider Conversation: how to land such meetings, and how to navigate them in a way that’s comfortable for both parties, builds  relationships, and paves the way for opportunities.

Got the Job Offer? Don’t Blow It Now!

In the interview process, accepting the job offer may seem like the easy part. But mishandling this crucial moment can cost you thousands in lost salary – or even the job.

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
– Tony Robbins

This post is part one of a three-part series based on chapter 17 of my new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview.

The Big Moment at the End of the Interviews

The moment when you’re offered a job can be a mini-whirlwind of excitement joy, relief, nervousness, you name it. You may be tempted to scream “YES!” – quickly, before they can change their mind!

Many a job seeker has done exactly that, only to think later, “I sure wish I had thought about … (negotiating the starting date, the salary, leaving early on Tuesdays? the potential offer from that other company?) … before I said yes.”

Do yourself a favor. Have a plan for handling this important turning point in your career.

Buy Time to Think

When you receive the offer, chances are that one of the following will be true for you:

  • Certain aspects of the offer – maybe salary, the start date or the work schedule – could be better, and you have no reason to think the employer won’t negotiate.
  • You have been interviewing elsewhere and may be close to an offer from another company.
  • You’re not entirely sure this job is the right one. You have questions in your mind, such as:

Is this company financially stable? Any chance of layoffs in the next year or two?
Is this the right company culture for me?
Is there anything about the work schedule, the commute or the working conditions that’s going to get old fast?
What effect would this job have on my long-term career path?
Can I live on this salary?
Will I need to relocate? Will my family and I be happy in the new place?
Can I afford to wait for a better opportunity?

If so, I suggest you give an answer like this:

“This is a very exciting offer! I so appreciate it! Of course, it’s a very important decision, so I’d like to give it some careful thought. How soon do you need my answer?”

If you plan to negotiate, ask for a meeting:

“Is there a time tomorrow when we could meet to discuss the details of the offer?”

Whether you agree on giving an answer by Thursday, or meeting tomorrow at 1 pm to discuss details, immediately send an email confirming what has been agreed.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm

We’ve all heard that it’s important to get a written offer letter (and to make sure all the details are as agreed). But that’s not the only point that needs to be confirmed in writing.

Opportunities have been lost because both parties were not clear about the next steps. “We didn’t hear back from you (within the timeframe we assumed you understood), so we had to move on.” Whether you’re asking for time to think, for an answer to a question, or for an opportunity to discuss (negotiate) details of the offer, make sure the next step is confirmed in writing.

Keep a pleasant tone about it. You’re simply being thorough and professional for the benefit of all concerned.

Next Up: Will You Negotiate?

Did you know that most employers expect some negotiation when they make an offer? If you’ve never negotiated your salary, benefits or other aspects of a job offer, stay tuned for the next two posts in this series. Or get my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, on sale now from Emerald Career Publishing.

Turn a “No, thanks” Interview into a “Yes!” Later

You had a job interview but you didn’t get the job. Just forget about it, right?

Not completely. I found a surprising fact in a CareerBuilder study from last year: 54% of employers re-engage with past candidates who were not offered the job. I take that to mean they consider them later for another opening – or even for the same one.

I’ve seen this happen. One job seeker I coached, let’s call him Steve, was disappointed by an interview rejection involving an instructional designer position. Three weeks later he received a call from the company. The candidate they had selected had accepted the job but backed out at the last minute to accept another offer elsewhere. Was Steve still interested? He was! He started two weeks later in this job, and it was a major leap forward in his career.

This isn’t the only scenario. In other cases there may be additional positions that open up in the coming weeks or months. So when you hear “no,” think of it as “not right now.”

Here’s how to keep yourself open to opportunities post-interview:

  • Be gracious after being turned down. Send a nice letter to the recruiter and hiring manager thanking them for having considered you and stating that you hope there’s an opportunity to work together in the future. Maybe mention that you hope to see them at a certain industry event coming up. Very few people send such a letter, so you will stand out and be remembered.
  • If there was a good rapport, you might invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn and/or Twitter.
  • Keep your eyes open for future opportunities with this company, whether full-time or consulting.

For more tips about interviewing, read my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview or contact me to see if one-on-one interview coaching could help you get your new job faster.

What are your job interview selling points? (Podcast)

To really stand out in a job interview, you need to know your the top 5 (or top 3 or whatever) “selling points” – the qualities or facts that will make the interviewer’s eyes light up – and to proactively emphasize them right from the start.

In a new podcast on CareerCloud, I discussed how to identify your unique selling points and make them work for you, powerfully. Listen now.

 

“Tell me about a difficult person you had to work with.” Most Common Interview Questions, #6

Interview questions about “a difficult person” are job search land mines. Watch your step!

This post is an excerpt from Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, available from Amazon as a softcover or eBook.

How should you answer this tricky interview question?

Sometimes the question is phrased a little differently: “Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like, or who didn’t like you.”

However the question is asked, don’t project an image of yourself as someone who dislikes or is disliked by others. Reframe it as a situation where it was a challenge to work effectively with someone.

This question requires you to say something negative about a co-worker, which is generally a no-no in interviews. So be tactful by not giving any information that could identify who this person is.

Take an emotionally neutral tone. Resist the urge to kvetch, even if the interviewer encourages it by offering you sympathy.

Avoid characterizing the co-worker in judgmental terms like “Nothing was ever right as far as he was concerned” or “She wasn’t a team player.” Instead, describe the specific behavior objectively: “He would often make negative comments about team members” or “We needed her to provide a report every Monday, but it usually wasn’t done until mid-week.”

Be very brief about the difficult behavior, focusing primarily on what you did to make the best of the situation and how well it turned out. Treat this as a success story, emphasizing the positive results.

If you weren’t able to get any positive results, tell a different story! Remember, this question is not about the other person, it’s about you and your ability to collaborate with or manage others, to manage your own emotions and behavior, to resolve conflicts, and to use discretion and fairness in discussing a difficult situation.

Looking for more tips on handling tricky interview questions?

To read the other posts in this series, visit my helpful job search blog.

For a more complete interview guide, read Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview.

And good luck with your interviews!

 

 

What are your salary expectations? Most Common Interview Questions, #5

How do you answer the interview question, “What are your salary expectations?” This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, available from Amazon.

“What are your salary expectations?”

Answering this question too specifically can lose you a lot of money, or an opportunity. Naming a figure that’s too low can result in a lower offer, or even loss of the opportunity if your answer creates doubt about your value. A figure that’s too high can immediately disqualify you.

This is one of the few questions where formulaic, memorized verbiage may be the best approach.

First, as soon as you apply for a job make sure you understand the range of typical salaries for the position and geographic area, because this may be one of the first questions you will be asked in a phone screen, which could happen at any time.

You can research salaries via websites like Salary, Payscale, Glassdoor, Indeed, CareerOneStop, JobSearchIntelligence, a simple Google search, and sometimes via word of mouth. Use more than one source, since a broader range may give you more negotiating flexibility.

When the question is asked, respond with “Can you tell me what range you have budgeted for the position?”

If they tell you a range, say something like, “That seems like a reasonable ballpark. I’m sure once we agree I’m the right person for the job, we’ll be able to agree on a salary that’s fair.”

If they won’t state their range and put the question back onto you, say something like, “I’ve done some research and I’m seeing salaries anywhere from X to Y. I’m sure once we agree I’m the right person for the job we’ll be able to agree on a salary that’s fair.”

More Help with Common Interview Questions

Earlier posts in this series explored the common interview questions “What are your weaknesses?”, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, “Why did you leave your job?” and “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on the job?” For more posts like these you can subscribe to my helpful job search blog.

For tips on dozens of common interview questions (and some not-so-common ones) and much more, check out my book on Amazon.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made? Most Common Interview Questions #4

What the biggest mistake you've made? Most Common Interview Questions #4How do you answer the interview question, “What’s a major mistake you’ve made on the job?” This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from my new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview.

What’s behind this interview question?

The intention here is to see whether you are open to admitting, taking responsibility for and learning from your mistakes. No one wants employees who will sweep their mistakes under the rug or blame them on others. They also want to hear that you clean up after yourself where possible, going the extra mile to make things right.

Here’s an example:

“On a software project I managed, a certain manager didn’t come to the regular meetings until the final one where everyone was supposed to sign off. There, at the last minute, he objected to a great new feature the team was excited about. Later I realized how I could have countered that objection, but at the time it caught me by surprise, I didn’t make a good case for it, and the feature was left off.

“What I learned for the future was to always make sure the key stakeholders are involved early, and that’s what I’ve done since then. Anyway, I worked hard to ensure that the new feature would be in the next release – and it was!”

What other interview questions are you concerned about?

Subscribe to this blog to ensure you won’t miss more articles like this, or better yet, buy my book! It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook now, and the softcover edition will be available by mid-January 2017.

Why did you leave that job? The Most Common Interview Questions, #3

How do you answer the interview question, “Why did you leave that job?”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, to be published January 1, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now or get the softcover in January.

Does your departure indicate a problem that could derail your interview?

If you left and immediately started a new job, it’s no problem: you left for a better opportunity (or what you thought was a better opportunity, even if it didn’t work out).

On the other hand, leaving without a new job lined up is generally a red flag, so this question is tricky.

The key is this: although one reason may dominate in your mind – probably the most emotional one, such as a personality conflict or issue with the boss – usually there are more reasons. List them all on a piece of paper. Then see which of these reasons makes the best impression.

Here’s an example.

Joe quit his job for the following reasons: (1) his boss was a micromanager, (2) the company, a hospital, had toxic office politics, (3) the circumstances made it difficult or impossible to move up into a better department, (4) he couldn’t stay until he found a new job because the job left him no time or energy for job search, and (5) he also had an itch to move into the pharmaceutical industry.

Reasons 1 and 2 are a minefield that would be hard to discuss without presenting himself as a complainer who badmouths his former employer. But he doesn’t need to go there; he can build a truthful answer out of reasons 3-5:

“While Bayworth Hospital is a great institution in terms of patient care, and I had three excellent years there, with strong accomplishments like the ones we’ve discussed, there really wasn’t a path upward for me there any more (reason #3). It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies (#5) like this one. The job was intensely demanding and it didn’t leave me the energy to conduct a search. (#4) So I gave notice, helped the department make a smooth transition, and then left to devote myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Why does this answer work? Because it’s true, tactful, brief (30 seconds) and focused on the positive. It’s also a great example of the “sandwich technique”: surrounding a negative (the fact that he left) with positives (his respect for the hospital in certain ways, his accomplishments and his passion for the current opportunity).

What if Joe had been fired? In a past chapter I said “Never volunteer a negative.” Joe doesn’t need to say he was fired, unless specifically asked. His answer could be the same as above, with a slightly different ending:

“…It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies like this one. Since then I’ve devoted myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Because this subject is emotionally charged for Joe, he would be wise to rehearse this answer with great care. He also needs to be prepared for the likelihood the interviewer will ask additional questions that will reveal that he was fired. Then what? I’ve discussed this in an earlier blog post.

What other interview questions are you wondering about?

Subscribe to this blog to ensure you won’t miss more articles like this, and for in-depth guidance you can pre-order my Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview.

What’s Your 5-Year Goal? The Most Common Interview Questions, #2

What's Your 5-Year Goal? The Most Common Interview Questions, #2“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

How do you answer this common interview question?

This post is the second in a series of excerpts from my upcoming book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, to be published January 1, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now, or get the softcover in January.

What’s behind this interview question?

Why do interviewers ask you this? For one thing, they want to know whether the job aligns with your goals, and thus whether you’ll stick around. They may also be hoping you have some ambition. Ambitious people often make better employees. They’re more motivated, and they may work harder and smarter. They make a point of growing their abilities.

On the other hand, those who come in with their eye on a higher position and view the current role only as a stepping stone may be impatient and lack commitment to the tasks at hand.

So give an answer that combines a desire to grow, on the one hand, with realism, patience and commitment on the other.

Before the interview, see if you can find information about paths to advancement from within the position. If the only position you can advance to is that of the person you’re interviewing with, proceed with care! He probably won’t like the idea that you have your eye on his job, so just talk about growing and taking on more responsibility.

In most cases you won’t have much information, in which case it’s safest to start with a general answer followed by a question, like this:

“Over the next few years I see myself building my skills, taking on more responsibility and moving up, if it’s appropriate. Can you tell me about how others have advanced from this role?”

Although the question often includes the phrase “five years,” you don’t have to be that precise in your answer. More open-ended terms like “over the next several years” may be best.

What other interview questions are you wondering about?

Keep reading this blog as we examine some of the most common interview questions, what they’re about, and how to answer them in a way that’s authentic, strategic and gets you the offer. And remember there’s a lot more help in my book!