No one needs to be reminded how competitive the job market is. What we do need are more ways to rise to the top of the candidate (Olympic sized) pool.
As of January 2014, there were nearly 4 million job openings in the U.S.
Here are some effective tools for getting hired.
1. Network Your Way to The Interview
With so many qualified applicants gunning for that job you must have, you need to stand out. If you didn’t network your way in, network your way to the interviewer once you get the call.
The simplest way? Ask the interviewer if there’s anyone available you could talk to about the opening. Then impress that person—you’ll already be ahead of most of the pack.
Otherwise, use all the tools at your disposal: LinkedIn, Facebook, your personal network, trade organizations, and so on.
Connect to that person (probably a future coworker) with a short email. Demonstrate some sort of connection (same alma mater, professional membership, interest in books, etc.) ask to speak for a short amount of time, i.e. Do you have fifteen minutes we could meet for? I know you’re busy.
Then make sure you stick to the time limit you set.
2. Breath Check
It’s common sense to come to the interview well groomed, right? That includes a fresh haircut, clean facial hair (men), light makeup (women), and appropriate clothes.
Even if the environment is casual, dress in a suit. It’s best to have two or three suits to be prepared for the next round(s).
The suit should fit well, be the appropriate length (pants to the ankle, skirts should go below the knee), and be spotless.
You don’t want to be remembered for your scent—good or bad. Eat mild food the day before (just say no to garlic breath), avoid heavy fragrance, and if you smoke, make sure you don’t smell like you do.
3. Your Pitch: Tell Me About Yourself
The classic first interview question and your prime opportunity to paint yourself as the dream hire. This is the time when you get to give your personal marketing pitch.
Make sure you cover:
why you’re passionate about this job,
the experience (and/or education) that has prepared you,
what makes you the perfect person for the job,
and that you know (as much as humanly possible) about this job by matching your pitch to the interviewer’s needs.
The trick: be clear, rehearse but don’t sound like you did, and keep it under two minutes.
4. Use People’s Names
We all love flattery.
Two ways to flatter a new acquaintance:
Listen and listen well; don’t just wait for the next breath so you can talk about yourself, ask questions.
Use her name; it’s the easiest way to make a first connection.
5. Shift the Interview to Your Skills
Any time you’re asked a question, answer it directly and then shift the topic to one of the things about you that makes you perfect for this role. Make sure to always use concrete examples. Brag about yourself in as humble a manner as possible.
For example: On my past teams, I’ve been called “The Closer,” because I keep my focus on the end goal and use it to guide my work.
6. The 20 Second to 2 Minute Rule
Make sure your answers are the right length during the interview. You should aim to keep your responses under two minutes, but not less than twenty seconds. This will make your answer memorable—not too short and forgettable nor too long and lost in a sea of unnecessary details.
An excellent way to make this second nature to you is to practice common interview questions and time yourself.
7. Know How to Answer “Describe problems you’ve had with your past bosses.”
You want to bond with the interviewer and this might seem like your chance to share your war stories. Turns out it is not.
It’s not possible to tell a “bad boss” story without unintentionally implicating yourself. Whoever is listening is going to wonder what role you had in making this negative situation.
Instead, stick to an honest but neutral answer, such as:
I’ve had many bosses and have been lucky not to have one I couldn’t work with. I’ve learned a lot from each of them. For example (insert your great boss story).
8. Know How to Answer “Why did you leave your last job?”
Another tricky question, this one. Stick with the same rules above—leave out the negative, focus on the positive, while staying honest (at least mostly). What are your reasons for leaving that anyone can relate to?
Think: room for growth, new challenges, fits better with your career plan (which you should also be prepared to talk about), this company drew you because…
9. Ask Informed Questions
Know the potential workplace like your life depends on answering questions about it. Read the website, research the business online, know the industry, talk to people who work there, and get your hands on the mission statement. During your research, you’ll probably find you have plenty of questions for the interviewer.
But, just in case, some excellent (research-free) standby questions are:
What priorities do you have for this position?
What have others done to succeed in this position?
What do you like best about working here?
10. Don’t Talk Salary Until the Offer Stage
If the question comes up early, they’re probably worried they can’t afford you. Gracefully dodge this question with a response like, “It’s an important question and I think I’ll be able to answer it better once I know more about the position,” or “I’d like to talk about that once we know I’m the right fit for the job, but I’m so excited about this job I know salary won’t be an issue.”
However, make sure you research the job well enough to know the salary range. If forced, go for the high end of the range based on your qualifications.
Whatever you do, don’t ask first. You don’t want to open that door and hand over your negotiating power. If the salary is too low, keep your head in the game and count the interview as opportunity to practice for your next one.
If the employer falls in love with you, they’ll have a hard time letting you go. The best way to make this happen is to be graceful even when things fall through. Successful people often get better job offers than the one they interview for.
11. The Million Dollar Question: Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate?
It takes courage and shows initiative. It’s also your chance to learn the interviewer’s thoughts. Then address the issue, show him why it won’t be a problem. If the interviewer denies any issues but you’ve sensed one along the way, bring it up now.
This is your chance to erase doubts and underline your strengths.
12. Clean Up Your “E-Resume”
This isn’t actually your resume; it’s the electronic record that piles up when someone conducts an online search on you. Be assured that potential employers will do this.
Beat them to it. Search for yourself and scrub away anything unflattering: pictures from college, your best friend’s bachelor/bachelorette party, over-revealing blog posts/comments, anything that will make you look problematic.
*Bonus* 13. (Insert) Your Tip
Ever had that during-the-interview stroke of genius? Get a tip from an insider?
Also--how have you answered the bad boss question?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Dying for more? Some excellent articles for further reading:
Networking Pro 2.0: Brazen Careers
Dress for Success: Jacquelyn Smith for Forbes
The 2 Minute Pitch: Five O'Clock Club
The Two Minute Crash Course on Job Interviews (and oldie--2005--but a goody): Job Hunters Bible
What Bad Boss? The Nest
Why I left, well... Forbes
Questions? Why, yes I do. Money.UsNews.com
My What Now? (What employers probably will already know about you). LifeHacker.com
Ever found that dream job, been offered it, only to turn it down because it doesn't pay enough? Was the thought that followed:
If only it wasn't for that student loan payment?
You aren't alone.
Thanks to activist groups such as Student Debt Crisis and The Project on Student Debt, this issue is getting attention in mainstream media.
An internet search today for “student loan debt” news provided a cross section of articles from sites such as: Time, USA Today, Fortune, and NY Times.
The picture they paint?
People, highly educated people, who are too overextended to afford a house payment, people who have to move back in with their parents, and people who have worse credit scores than their peers from decades past.
I often advise clients to consider taking lower paying jobs to gain experience or higher levels of satisfaction. More and more, they tell me they can’t. And it’s not because they don’t want to give up luxuries; instead, it’s because there aren’t any. That $500 (or more) a month loan payment makes the prospective job pool even narrower.
Of course, student loans aren't the only barrier to accepting less income, having children or dealing with medical issues can result in the same financial stranglehold.
So what can you do?
1. Make the Most of It: Your vacation time? Use it to recharge. Fight for opportunities to grow and expand your skill set. Apply for promotions. Negotiate for higher pay. Branch out and try new things when the opportunity arises. If opportunities aren't there, strike out and make them.
2. Work out a lower monthly payment while you are at a starting level salary. The payment will increase when your income is projected to increase. This is not a perfect answer, because the interest is growing and there’s no guarantee you’ll be ready for the increase, but it may be worth a shot.
See: Income-Based Repayment at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
3. Ready to put your all into paying off the loans, see this post at Forbes:
How I Paid Off $90,000 In Debt In Three Years
4. Another possible negotiation: ask the potential (or current) employer for a one-time bonus/payout to use toward your student loan. (A big chunk up front can take years off the loan.)
5. You could also work more. I think the 40 hour work week is too much, so I consider this a last resort, but if can pull this off it will make a difference. You’ll have extra income to put toward your loan(s) and you’ll have less time/energy to spend your money on fun things. (Not really win-win.)
Fired Up About Student Loan Debt?
Student Debt Crisis You’ll find resources, stats, and petitions. Be a student debt activist!
Higher Ed Not Debt There’s an excellent short video and oodles of information. (Need catharsis?)
Default: The Student Loan Documentary A 27 minute video that was shown on PBS in 2011.
The Project on Student Debt Many fact sheets with information about student loan trends.
Over the years I have had clients who take to salary negotiation like a Tribute to clean water. But there are many people who just don’t think they can do it.
Have any of these taken residence in your mind?
There are so many mental barriers to getting what we deserve. The thing about mental barriers, though? It’s only us getting in our own way. It's fixable!
Am I an Introvert? Quiz Here.
People who identify themselves as shy or introverted may write off the idea of negotiating based on (incorrect) stereotypes.
However, introverts like Miss Everdeen have many negotiating skills to bring to the table. There is enough proof to make a strong argument for shy types being even better at negotiating than their more vocal coworkers.
Factoid: Various studies put the percentage of introverts between 25-50%. (Take-away message: We need better tools for studying this.)
When you think salary negotiations, do you think "in-your-face" aggression? Does it seem like something you’d never be able to do with authenticity?
It might surprise you to know the most effective negotiators are calm, friendly, and good with people. It truly is something anyone can do. If you come armed with knowledge and the introvert-type skills below, you’ll see it’s not impossible. In fact, when it’s done I bet you’ll be saying, “That was easy.”
Introvert Strengths Everyone Can Use When Negotiating
1. Listening skills—Introverts are interested in hearing what others have to say and tend to interrupt less. When you take the time to really hear what is being said to you, you’ll have a much better sense of the person. When it comes to asking your boss for a raise, this skill can help you to strengthen that relationship by highlighting things that will benefit both of you.
2. Attention to Detail—One of the most important aspects of salary negation is making a case for that raise/higher starter salary. This skill will increase your awareness of both the requirements of the job and how your strengths meet, and exceed, this need.
3. Knowing the Bigger Picture—Fight the impulse to hone in on a detail or two, instead, step back and see how you are a valuable piece of the whole. What will you do to benefit the company in exchange for the raise (and promotion if applicable)? If you can lay that puzzle out in your meeting and by the end present that last, crucial piece—you—you may find that the boss is thanking you for taking the raise.
4. Self-Understanding—You must understand your strengths, your weaknesses, and be able to talk about them.
When you ask for a raise, you often open the door for the boss to spit out criticism he’s been holding back. Maybe this is something you knew about yourself, maybe it isn't. Maybe it’s far from the truth. Whichever it is, being able to dig deep and see yourself with an open mind will help you to respond effectively.
You could agree that it’s true and that you’ll do X to remedy the challenge. Kick it up a notch by asking to schedule a day to check in and see if you both agree you’re making progress.
Categorically not true? Then make a case for who you really are with specificity—use examples.
Or, thank the boss and open a discussion about how you can work together on the challenge.
Be prepared: Have a working knowledge of your many strengths. Make that one concern invisible by comparison.
5. Strong Interpersonal Connections—Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another human being (says the counselor). If you want to have a strong relationship, listen to your boss. Understand her. When it's time to discuss salary, you’ll know how to approach it and make the proper appeal to reach your boss. Your work is a contribution to the projects, but your personality is a contribution to the environment.
Employees who are easy to spend time with make the supervisor’s life considerably easier. Especially those who can be diplomatic, aware of themselves yet willing to compromise.
6. Ability to Thoroughly Explore and Understand the Issues—Who better to make a case for a raise than the person who is aware of the issues and has spent time thinking of solutions. The salary negotiation meeting is the perfect time to talk about the problems you’ve solved and the things you’d still like to improve.
If you really consider the project, searching for areas to improve and have already started making changes, your value to the team can be translated into salary dollars.
During the meeting, take another page from the introvert manual—take your time. Think before you respond, when needed. If the negotiation isn't going well and you know you need more time, ask for it. Well-reasoned, well-thought arguments are hard to shoot down.
And if none of this works, maybe it’s time to nock an arrow.
Figuratively, of course.
How Much Should I Be Earning?
A guide for coming armed to interviews/raise negotiations with the knowledge of what you should be making. Source:U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
1. Book: Coaching Career Clients on Salary and Other Workplace Negotiations (Directed at career counselors, this book is a well written, thorough guide to the steps and emotional processes of negotiating.)
2. Links by Salary Negotiation Topic
Source: Karen Chopra, Career Counselor