Realities of an Offer

realities of an offerThe realities of an offer are important to consider when negotiating compensation. In an blog post from February this year, I discussed what a “good” job offer is in this competitive market. In short, a 5-10% bump in total compensation would be considered a strong offer. A link to that article is here.

In this post, I wanted to look at some realities of an offer and why a 5-10% increase is the market norm. The offer stage can be a highly emotional part of the search process. It’s important to remember that on both sides of the negotiation, this is a business decision. Money is important, and negotiating is part of the process, but remember these realities of an offer when approaching the negotiating table:

  1. Friends sort of lie – do not listen to friends or colleagues about their salary. Friends provide some of some of the most unreliable data available. First, people have egos and they tend to fudge the numbers. Second, even if your friend is completely honest about a huge job offer they got, one example does not represent the market as a whole.
  2. You aren’t underpaid – most job seekers I talk to feel they are underpaid. In reality, very few people are underpaid. If you are a top performer with good skills, you are much more likely to be on the upper end of the pay scale for your experience and skills. The economic law of supply and demand sets a pretty standard pay scale for a given skill, years of experience, credentials, etc.
  3. Titles don’t matter – don’t get hung up on titles. I was quoted in a Fortune magazine article the other day about this (link to Fortune article here). In short, titles aren’t universally defined. One firm’s Director is another’s Manager. The responsibilities of the job, how you will develop professionally, and what you are being paid is all that really matters.
  4. Evaluate money last – I always talk about job search motivations at length with a candidate – well before we look at an actual opportunity. Money is important, but it should almost never be a primary motivating factor when changing jobs. A reasonable offer that accomplishes many of the career goals and objectives you were seeking is a great job offer. Even if you receive a lateral offer, why would you not take a job that offered more responsibility, more growth, learning opportunities, etc.?


By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers, job search|0 Comments

How To Explain Job Changes

Explain Job ChangesHow to explain job changes is a critical piece of being prepared for an interview. Even if you haven’t had a lot of job movement (which in this day and age means staying 5 years or longer on average at each employer), you need to be prepared to explain job changes. If you have a jumpy history and change jobs ever 3 years (or less), then you REALLY need to be prepared to explain your job changes. Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Be Prepared – you should have rehearsed answers prepared about why you are looking to leave your current job, and why you left previous jobs. This is interview 101 level advice, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people aren’t thoroughly prepared for these questions. Script out answers and rehearse them!
  2. Be Honest – you may have some difficult to explain job changes. You may have some very easy to explain moves. Be honest about reasons for making moves. If your employer went out of business, relocated, sold the business, etc., these are honest answers that basically absolve you from a potential red mark on your resume. If your reason is a bit more delicate (unreasonable boss, you were fired, personal issues with colleagues, etc.) you may have to prepare for a difficult conversation. Tell your side of the story, but don’t misrepresent facts.
  3. Sell Yourself – when discussing reasons for past job changes, put on your salesperson hat. Reasons for leaving past jobs can be used to “sell” yourself to the current employer. For example, if you left a employer due to the stagnant performance of the company, you can make that into a reason why you want to work at the new company (if they are in fact growing). Another example would be moves due to company size or industry. If you are trying to crack into a new industry space or larger/smaller company size, you can explain job changes this way. Make prior job changes tell a story about why you have been building towards working for the type of company you are currently interviewing with.
  4. Don’t Be Too Negative – if you’ve had a really bad experience at an employer, explain the bad situation, but be careful not to sound too negative. Additionally, if you seem to have had multiple “bad experiences”, you need to be really careful when explaining these as multiple “personal reason” moves might send up a red flag.
By |January 18th, 2016|interview, resume|0 Comments

The Best Time To Look For a Job

the best time to look for a jobI’m often asked, “what is the best time to look for a job?” The answer often surprises people. The best time to look for a job is when you are happy at your current job. The common retort is, “why would I want to leave my current job if I’m happy?” It’s a fair question, with a basic answer – because you have the tactical advantage. The best time to look for a job is when you’re generally happy because:

1) Passive Candidates are Most Desirable to Employers and Recruiters – potential employers and recruiters covet the “passive” candidate market. The perception is that passive candidates are the best at what they do. A passive person is likely to only consider an opportunity on a highly selective basis. This makes the candidate less likely to be scooped up by another competitor. It also reassures the potential employer that if the candidate takes the job they will be very committed.

2) Bargaining Power – if you don’t need to leave, you have tremendous bargaining power when looking for a job. First, and most importantly, when you compare a potential opportunity against your current good situation, you are likely to be very selective. The odds of taking a “bad job” are reduced greatly because you are in a position to really scrutinize the opportunity. Secondly, you are far more likely to negotiate the best possible job offer. A potential employer knows they’ll have to step up to the plate with a great offer package to entice you.

3) You’ll Interview Better – if you go into an interview with the confidence of knowing you are in a good situation and don’t “need” a new job, your interview presentation will be much stronger. Your confidence level will be higher, and it will show.

When you are unhappy at your current job, or unemployed, it is often the worst time to look for a new job. The opposite of the above reasons become true. If you appear to be too active, employers and recruiters alike may be turned off because the chances of losing you to another employer are greater. Second, if you “need it” or appear desperate in any way, the employer is going to be less interested, and at best you’ll have far less negotiating power. Finally, you’re bound to be more nervous and appear more needy for the job if you are in a bad situation.

Even though when you are happy is the best time to look for a job, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you have to take a job. As I mentioned above, you can be extremely picky when evaluating outside opportunities when you are happy in your current role. If you see an amazing opportunity and have a tough decision to make, that’s a pretty good situation to be in! Additionally, if you aren’t open to entertaining outside opportunities because you are happy, you can only potentially miss great potential jobs.

By |January 18th, 2016|job search|0 Comments

Target Your Resume

target your resumeThere are no one-size-fits-all resumes. In my earlier posts, I’ve covered some resume basics (Two Ways To Boost Your Resume & Resume Formatting). In this post, we will talk about how to target your resume. This is probably one of the most useful, and most underutilized ways of increasing the chance of getting a job interview. When you target your resume to a specific job, you are making your qualifications more obvious, and thus making it easier to get noticed by the employer. As a recruiter, there are days when I go through dozens or even hundreds of resumes. With that type of volume, I can tell you with full honesty that I’m not reading them all in detail, but rather looking for some very obvious signs that the candidate in question warrants a further conversation. Here are some basic methods you can employ to target your resume to a specific job:

1) Cut Out The White Noise — when you want to target your resume, it’s important to focus on the things that are relevant to the potential employer. Things to cut out are Objective, Summary and Personal Interests. An Objective is self explanatory if you are sending it to someone. A resume is itself a summary, so take this section out. Personal Interests are also not going to help you get the interview if you don’t adequately demonstrate your qualifications. In fact, your interests could run contrary to the person screening your resume.

2) Use The Job Description — the job description for the role you are applying to is basically a blueprint as to what is important. Use the position description to identify the key skills and duties of the job, and then make sure your resume and matching experience speaks to the job. For example, the first few bullet points about your current job should highlight the duties talked about in the first few bullets of the position description. If you need to move bullets around, do so! If you need to add more details about your current experience related to the job, do so!

3) Cut And Paste — your word processing program makes tweaks to your resume sometimes as easy as cutting and pasting material in new spots. Bullet points should be shuffled around depending on their relevance to the job. Removing extraneous details is also helpful. Don’t hesitate to move things around to make them more obvious.

4) Focus On The Present — the most recent 3-5 years is where you should include the most detail about your work experience. A complete accounting of your work history is necessary, but short descriptions of your jobs more than 5 years old is sufficient. Your next employer is not likely to put a big premium on experience that isn’t current.

It’s a great idea to have a general resume as a starting point. However, a minimal amount of minor revisions on your resume can really make the difference between getting the interview, or not!

By |January 18th, 2016|job search, resume|0 Comments

Why Are You Looking


Q&A – Why Are You Looking?

Carol B. asked me, “I’m pretty happy where I’m working, but I look at new jobs occasionally. I get stumped when asked ‘why are you looking for a new job?’ I feel like I don’t have a great answer… how do you answer this question?” Great question, Carol B.! “Why are you looking?”, is a pretty common interview question, and one that people should be prepared for. If you are gainfully employed and interviewing for another job, it’s really important to handle this question the right way.

Whenever answering any interview question, it’s a good idea to consider the intent of the question. Why are you looking? is a question focused on uncovering a reason that is compelling for the potential employer, and to eliminate people who might be looking for the “wrong reasons”. Some good reasons as to why are you looking include:

More Challenging Role – pick out specific aspects of the new potential job that are broader than your current role, will help you gain more experience, and present learning opportunities. Seeking a more challenging role is a great reason to move jobs.

Better Company – don’t be too negative about your current employer, but cite reasons why the potential employer might be a better company. Perhaps your current employer lost major clients and is making cuts. The new employer might be growing much more rapidly and expanding their business while your current employer is stagnant.

Location – the commute to work can be a very legitimate factor when considering a job move. A new role that is good for your career and saves you substantial commute time is definitely a valid reason.

Structural Changes – if there are things happening at your company outside of your control, or life factors that might lead to a job change, you should mention them. For example, your company is planning to move offices out of the area. Perhaps you are getting engaged/married and your significant other is moving out of state. Maybe you are having a family and settling in an area outside your current geography.

One or more of the above types of answers are great ways to approach the “why are you looking” question. Topics to avoid would be money (we’ll cover how to handle that in a later post), personal problems with colleagues, or being too vague or general. You should be prepared for this question with a good answer that is tailored to the specific opportunity where you are interviewing.

By |January 18th, 2016|job search|0 Comments

Shady Recruiters

shady-character-300x260I’ve been a headhunter for 16+ years. I’ve heard every kind of horror story about shady recruiters you can imagine. The average complaints about recruiters are common – they don’t call you back, they just fished for job leads, etc. The really shady recruiters are worse – they’ll alter your resume without your permission, they’ll send your resume to employers without your approval, and I even had one candidate tell me that their recruiter ended up having an affair with the candidate’s significant other! Talk about shady recruiters! While a good recruiter can be absolutely invaluable to your career, shady recruiters can be extremely costly. Here is some advice on how to sort out the good from the shady recruiters:

1) How the recruiter finds you – this can speak volumes as to their ability. Referrals are obviously best. A mutual acquaintance is unlikely to put you in touch with someone who isn’t great at what they do. Many recruiters now a day used LinkedIn to reach out to candidate prospects. That’s a totally acceptable way of doing things, but you want to scrutinize the recruiter’s approach. Shady recruiters will reach out with vague and unspecific emails because they are probably just fishing. A strong recruiter will be much more likely to send a very specific message to you about a very specific search, or area of expertise that they focus on that is well aligned with your experience.

2) How competent is the recruiter – a competent recruiter is one that does a few key things. First, they are going to take time to understand your experience and your career goals. Second, they’ll demonstrate a certain level of marketplace knowledge and expertise. Good recruiter’s will be knowledgeable about their clients and the jobs that they are pitching to you. They’ll also only present jobs where there is a fairly strong alignment between your background and skills. Good recruiters will quickly establish credibility and you’ll get the sense that they know what they are talking about. Shady recruiters will often spend little to no time speaking with you, demand your resume, won’t tell you the names of clients, etc. If a recruiter tells you that the client is “confidential”, that is typically code for “I’m going to send your resume all over creation without your knowledge”.

3) Follow Up Skills – one of the biggest criticisms I hear about the staffing industry overall is that shady recruiters “don’t follow up”. A good recruiter is going to have strong follow up skills. As I tell my candidates, “even if the answer is ‘no’, I will always follow up with you so you know”. Good recruiters realize that their candidates are also future clients, and vice versa, so the good recruiters are going to be good about following up.

By |January 18th, 2016|job search|0 Comments

How To Get Interviews

how to get interviews

how to get interviews

A personal friend recently told me that they are having a really hard time getting job interviews. They asked my advice as a headhunter on how to get interviews. After chatting for a bit, I noticed some very glaring flaws in their particular job search strategy. If you too are frustrated because you want to know how to get interviews, this post is for you!

First, to land job interviews you need to be realistic. You have to target jobs for which you are well qualified. A potential employer is looking for people who have strong experience in the skill sets required by the job. If you are applying for jobs that are too outside your skill area, or in roles that are too senior for your level of experience, don’t be surprised when your phone isn’t ringing off the hook. You need to target potential jobs where you have a relevant skill set, and appropriate years of experience. This does not mean that there can’t be some flexibility. Rarely, if ever, will a candidate have ALL of the necessary skills, or EXACTLY the requisite number of years in a position.

Second, you need a GREAT resume to land job interviews. A resume is a “commercial” which advertises your features and benefits. Research shows that on average, a person who reads your resume spends less than 30 seconds “skimming” it before determining whether or not to interview you for a job. Thus, you need a resume that is concise, highlights the matters of importance for a particular job, and speaks to your qualifying experience. I like chronological resumes that stick to employment history, education, and technical skill sets. I also recommend that candidates always adjust their resume to suit the specific job to which they are applying. DO NOT use a one-size-fits-all resume and blast it out to every potential employer.

Third, and maybe most important, be smart about how you apply to jobs. In the Internet age, most people take the easy route and submit their resume online. Even if you are perfectly qualified for the job, it is very unlikely you’ll get a response. You are always better off looking for the side door into the company. Network, network and network some more! Reach out to former colleagues or classmates who may work at the company.  Contact an employment agency or recruiter who specializes in your field. Use tools like LinkedIn to try and proactively network your way into the potential employer and access the decision makers. Although these methods require more effort, they are FAR more likely to land interviews.

If you’ve been scratching your head about how to get interviews, the advice above should definitely help. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time! Even in a good job market, it can sometimes be hard to get things started. Just remember – if you aren’t getting results doing what you are doing, don’t be afraid to change things up!

By |January 18th, 2016|interview|0 Comments

How to Dress for an Interview

How-to-Dress-for-a-Job-Interviewjob-interview-attireA lot has changed in the last 20 years regarding norms on how to dress for an interview. There was a time when it was pretty much standard to dress in a suit. While a business suit has hardly disappeared, there is a growing trend towards more “casual” attire for job interviews. In this post we’ll cover some basic considerations for how to dress for an interview.

1) Know Your Audience – depending on your profession, or the type of company where you are interviewing, who you are trying to make a good impression on can dictate how to dress for an interview. For example, if you are interviewing for a legal position, it’s hard to imagine interviewing in anything but a crisp business suit. Conversely, if you are a software developer interviewing at a tech startup, anything more than a hoodie and jeans might make you look out of place. If you are working through a great recruiter (like me!), he/she will be able to give you instructions on how to dress. If you have a contact at the company, call and ask them what is appropriate. Worst case scenario, call the main number, tell the receptionist you are coming in for an interview, and ask what is considered “proper” interview attire.

2) Better to Overdress – if you still aren’t sure about how to dress for an interview, err on the side of caution. It is better to be over dressed than under dressed. By default, if you aren’t sure, wear a crisp, clean and tidy looking business suit. If you think that casual wear like jeans and button up shirt are OK, but you aren’t sure, wear pressed slacks, a button up shirt and a sport coat. There are exceptions, but generally speaking it is best to be a little over dressed than not.

3) Fashion Tips – I’m hardly a slave to fashion, but when it comes to how to dress for an interview there are some general rules to stick to. First, clean, neat and tidy is best. This means your grooming and coordination of colors/styles should be your best possible effort. Get a haircut and style it neatly. Men should be clean-shaven or neatly trimmed. Women should stick with more conservative hair styles and minimal jewelry. Second, whatever level of interview attire you are selecting, it should be clean and well matched. A suit for men and women should be fresh from the cleaners, well-tailored, and accessories should be matched. Shoes should be freshly polished. If you are wearing something less than a suit, you should make sure that the styles and colors between pants, shirt, jacket, shoes, etc. all “go together”.



By |January 18th, 2016|interview|0 Comments

A Good Job Offer

Money_Scales_Balance_crop380wI get a lot of questions from potential job seekers about what type of job offer to expect when they make a move. “What is a good job offer?”, “What is the current market rate for my skills and experience?”, “What will company X pay me?”

The short answer is, your offer will reflect what you  are worth. And right now, for professional positions that require college degrees or greater, relevant experience, etc., that is just about a 5-10% increase in base compensation.

Do some people get more? Sure! Is it rare? YES! The reason for this “standard” level of increase is twofold:

First, supply and demand sets the price. Think back to Economics 101 in college. If demand is high and supply is low, price goes up. If supply suddenly increases relative to demand, price decreases. A given skill set and experience level comes with a pretty narrowly definable price point. Employers don’t wildly overpay for a skill set because they don’t need to. Conversely, they don’t underpay, otherwise people would leave for better pay elsewhere. Thus, the market has essentially set the rate for your skills and experience.

Second, that the average annual increase when you stay at the same employer is close to 2-3% annually, outside employers don’t need to create more of a financial incentive to attract talent. A 5-10% increase is actually quite generous when compared to what you can expect if you stay with your current employer!

Many people are surprised to hear this information. There is a common belief that a good job offer wildly increases your pay. It’s important to keep money in perspective. It really should not be a primary motivating factor when changing jobs! Making a career move should be motivated by better long term prospects, exposure to new skills and experiences, expanding your responsibility, etc. Money will always come to those who work hard and smart! Don’t let short term dollars cloud long term thinking!

By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers|0 Comments

Using LinkedIn – Add LinkedIn Connections

In my last post we covered how to create a strong LinkedIn profile (click here to see that post). I’ll now look at several ways to add LinkedIn connections. If you are already a regular LinkedIn user, you may know some of this information. That said, LinkedIn becomes exponentially more powerful as you add LinkedIn connections, so it’s not a bad idea to periodically use these methods to expand your network. LinkedIn is pretty user-friendly, so many of these methods are easy to figure out. If you have trouble, visit LinkedIn’s help page for great video tutorials, walkthroughs, and Q&A. Here are some of the main tools to add LinkedIn connections:

1) “Connect” and “Add Connections” Buttons — when you visit someone’s LinkedIn profile and you are not connected, the “Connect” button allows you to send them a request to become first degree contacts. The “Add Connections” button can be found on your own LinkedIn home page and it allows you to enter an email address which sends an invitation to that person to connect with you. FYI – LinkedIn frowns on blindly sending connection requests to people whom you don’t know. More on how to handle LinkedIn and connection etiquette later…

2) Sync Contacts — you can also import contacts from major email services like Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. If you click the “Add Connections” button on your home page, you’ll be able to enter your email type, username and password, and bulk import your contact database and send invitations to those people. It’s a quick and easy way to add a lot of connections very quickly.

3) “People You May Know” — on your LinkedIn home page, over on the right hand side you’ll see a section called People You May Know. This section is often overlooked by a lot of LinkedIn users, but it’s a handy way to add LinkedIn connections. The LinkedIn software finds a list of people who it assumes you may know based on shared connections, groups, interests, etc. Again, LinkedIn discourages people from blindly trying to connect with people. I often find people in here that I’ve lost touch with over time, have recently joined LinkedIn, old classmates, etc.

4) Introductions — as you peruse LinkedIn, if you come across a 2nd degree connection whom you’d like to connect with, you can send an introduction request to a contact person you share in common. You just have to click the “Get Introduced” button, pick the shared contact whom you’d like to make the introduction, and craft a message to both parties explaining the purpose of the connection request. We will cover more on how to craft LinkedIn messages in a future post.

5) Groups — groups are a huge part of LinkedIn. In short, they are closed communities that are focused around a specific area. Groups are a great way to add LinkedIn connections. It’s generally recommended that you join lots of groups that cover your professional area of interest, and participate actively in discussions in the group. You’ll be engaging with people in your space and be able to add many connections as a result.

6) Inmails — inmails are LinkedIn’s version of email within their platform. Inmails are an upgraded feature which you can purchase if you have a free account, or are given in small blocks to users with paid accounts. If you plan to network a lot on LinkedIn, a paid account is definitely worth looking into! Inmails allow the user to send a message to another LinkedIn user to whom they don’t have contact information. We will cover how to craft high quality inmail messages in a future post.

One last note on how to add LinkedIn connections — there are a couple of schools of thought on who you should add to your connections. One school of thought advocates “ADD EVERYBODY! THE MORE THE MERRIER!” Another approach is to only add people for whom you have some type of current/prior relationship. I suggest something in between. As you are building your network and have, say, less than 500 contacts you can add people pretty liberally. The more first degree contacts you have, the easier it is to get to second and third degree contacts you’ll want to meet. As your network grows to 500-1000+, you can become a lot more selective about who you add. If your network becomes too large, it can become difficult to manage and the quality of the contacts you have can be a bit diluted. Of course, it’s up to you and in the end and I’d ultimately recommend doing what works for you!

By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Using LinkedIn – Make a Great LinkedIn Profile

256px-Linkedin_svg_2If you are not already on LinkedIn, you should be. LinkedIn is hands down the #1 online application for managing professional contacts, and career / business related networking. It’s an invaluable tool whether you are actively looking for a job, or already have a great one.

In order to leverage LinkedIn effectively, it is essential to make a great LinkedIn profile. A great LinkedIn profile is one that thoroughly covers your education, skills, and work experience. In other words, it will look an awful lot like your resume. Here is a link to my public LinkedIn profile

The main things you want to include in your profile are: 1) Education and Degree(s) earned, 2) detailed work history with dates of employment and information about your job, 3) “buzzwords” specific to your work experience and skills. Nice to include information includes volunteer experience, interests, a professional picture, and “advice for contacting me” information. Over time, it’s also great to display personal recommendations written by other LinkedIn members (more on that later).

The good news is that LinkedIn has made creating or updating your profile very, very easy. When logged in to your profile, there is a wizard that will show you what sections are incomplete. You’ll note that on my profile, under each of my jobs held, I’ve included details about my specific work experience and accomplishments. Not as much information as you might find on my professional resume, but enough to give someone potentially interested in my background a pretty good idea of what I’ve done.

When you make a great LinkedIn profile, you’ll start to have a much more positive experience on LinkedIn. For one thing, the solicitations you receive for jobs or business partnership will generally be much more targeted and high quality. For example, we recently did a search for a great client that required extensive knowledge of specific accounting rule (ASC 605). When we plugged this variable into our LinkedIn search, we came up with a very small number of prospects, all of whom returned our emails about the search because we were sending them highly targeted messages. Secondly, when you use LinkedIn for networking purposes and you reach out to someone, you are far more likely to get a response when you have a professional and detailed profile that shows who you are.

In our next series on LinkedIn, we will discuss how to develop a powerful network. Stay tuned!

By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Competing Job Offers

In a hot market, you may find yourself balancing competing job opportunities. More and more, we are seeing skilled candidates find themselves in exactly this situation. While it may seem like a great problem to have, it can definitely make the decision making process more difficult. Here are a few things you can do to balance competing job opportunities.

  1. Evaluate Competing Job Opportunities in a Vacuum – if you have two or more job opportunities coming your way, try to evaluate each on its own merits. Consider the factors that were important to you in the beginning of your job search (i.e. more responsibility, a better commute, a growing company, etc.). If one opportunity doesn’t stack up, dismiss it and don’t let it bog down your decision making process.
  2. Look at Money Last – if you get competing job offers, look at money last. If two opportunities are very close in qualitative measures, looking at the financial compensation may tip the scales. However, don’t make a decision that is largely motivated by a slightly higher compensation package, where the opportunity itself is not as strong. If a second choice offer is substantially more money than first choice offer, you can always go back to the first choice potential employer and let them know that you’ve received a competing offer that is more money, but that you’d rather be working for them. They may not necessarily match it, but they might close the gap a bit and you’ll get to work at your first choice company.
  3. Be Mindful of Timing – timing can be a big factor in a job search. One potential employer may not move as quickly as another. If you have two or more potential employers speaking with you, be open and honest about where you stand in the process with other suitors. Tell them how many interviews you’ve had, if you are expecting an offer, if you receive an offer, etc. When a potential employer finally makes you a job offer, they are generally going to want an answer quickly. You won’t have too much time to sit on the offer while you wait for another company to pull the trigger. It’s OK to hold a company’s feet to the fire a little in order to keep the process moving along.
By |January 18th, 2016|Job Offers|0 Comments