Are you committed to your job search or just interested in it?

In a recent Spartan Up podcast Joe Desena quotes Ken Blanchard saying:

There are people that are committed and there are people who are interested

The difference is that the people who are interested do it when it is fun and people who are committed do it all the time.  So I ask you… Are you committed to your job search or just interested in it?  I get it, searching for a job SUCKS!  It is a job in and of itself and the pay stinks.  You apply online and never get a response.  You feel like you are back in high school and everyone is breaking up with you by not calling you.  Going through your job search can be isolating and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are only interested in finding a new job then you won’t break through the uncomfortable feeling you get when you think about reaching out to people you don’t know.  Or maybe you haven’t even posted on Facebook that you are looking for a job because it would be embarrassing.  You need to learn to only be embarrassed about the things worth being embarrassed about.

It’s time to be committed to your job search

First and foremost you need to start reaching out to your network.  I have had several friends over the years who know I am a recruiter and they never tell me they are looking for a job.  No, I am not end all be all when it comes to job search advice (no one is) but I probably could have saved them some time in finding a job or maybe they wouldn’t have missed that opportunity they REALLY wanted.  Start today.

It is still more about who you know than what you know

Start by making a list of people in your network already that you want to reach out to.  Think of church, past co-workers, organizations you have been involved in, etc…  Break it down in to small goals, say one or two people a day.  Next, set a goal of also finding one new person to add to your network each day.  You can use LinkedIn, Twitter, Associations, etc…  Then get to it!  Don’t wait till the end of the day either.  Do these things first thing in the morning.  Your morning is often the only time of day you can control.  As the book Eat That Frog says, if you had to eat a frog each and every day would you rather wait till the end of the day and dread it all day or do it first thing and get it out of the way?  First things first!

I could go on and on but you know the things you NEED to do.  Stop reading this and go do them!  No really, go on… get!

Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.
Mason Cooley

Get comfortable being uncomfortable in your job search

Most of us take the path of least resistance in our job search.  Unfortunately, that is usually the longest path and it may have the greatest cost.  Taking the most direct path to any goal is usually the most difficult and the most uncomfortable.  But taking the easy and comfortable road can cost you in your job search.  Ever heard of opportunity cost?

op·por·tu·ni·ty cost

noun: opportunity cost; plural noun: opportunity costs

the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

The cost of NOT doing something is often times much greater than doing it.  For instance, in your job search.  How many people have you NOT connected with on LinkedIn?  How many friends have you NOT told you were looking for a job?  That can have a REAL cost.  I have known plenty of people that have missed out on opportunities because they were late to the game.  Even the lowest hanging fruit of all in your job search, job postings, have an opportunity cost.  I personally have only posted some positions for only 24 hours while others have dragged on for months.  Companies fill some openings before the current employee works out their two week notice.  What are you NOT doing that is costing you?

Just Do It!

Nike made that phrase famous but we all need to keep it in mind.  Any time you think about contacting someone… Just Do It!  Yes, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable but what is the worst that can happen?  The could say no.  Big deal.  Bigger deal… they could say YES!  Get creative when looking for people to connect with.  I encourage job seekers to find the people that have the type of job they want then look how those people got there.

Do you have a superficial attachment to what others think?

Tim Ferriss often references stoic teachings in his podcast and this is one that hit me between the eyes.  How many times do we not do something just because we wonder “what would other people think?”  We need to be ashamed of the things only worth being ashamed of.  Is contacting a hiring manager directly worth being ashamed of?  No.  Remember that article you read about the candidate that took their resume to the company directly and asked if the hiring manager was available?  Have you done that?  But to overcome this superficial attachment we have to what others think we need to practice.

Intentional practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Some of the ways to practice can be VERY helpful and quite simple.

  • Ask for a discount EVERY TIME you buy something – I heard one guy asking a clerk “do you have a good guy discount?”
  • If something, do something about it – I often times see people walk by trash on the floor and not pick it up.  Unless you work in a union environment, pick it up!
  • Instead of searching for that item at the store, ask someone – yes gentlemen, I am speaking to you!
  • Ask people to borrow things – that neighbor who has an awesome saw you could use… ask to borrow it.
  • Help people – If you see someone unloading a grocery cart as you are headed into the store, tell them you will take it back in for them.

If you start looking for these things you will realize there are opportunities EVERYWHERE!  The most uncomfortable thing I have done lately?  An older gentleman was unloading his groceries from his Walmart scooter into his car.  I told him I would return it for him.  That was the longest trip into Walmart!  As a bonus, I felt great about it the rest of the day.

Have your really tried everything in your job search?

I hear people say this a lot in their job search.  Maybe you have, but I bet you haven’t or haven’t tried it for very long.  The more money you want to make or the more specific the position, the longer the job search is likely to take and the more effort it will take.   If you find yourself saying “that will never work” when someone gives you some job search advise then you have not tried everything.  Keep in mind you do want to start with things that have the greatest ROI.  Handing out resumes at your subway stop might work but if you have not already spent time networking you can spend your time more wisely.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Sometimes follow your passion is crappy advice

I just read another article talking about how important it is to love what you do.  Follow your passion it says.  I am not saying that getting paid for doing what you love is not awesome, it is.  But guess what, most people do not have that luxury and telling people to do that usually just makes them feel like a failure.

What is your purpose?

Many people who write articles about following your passion they really mean PURPOSE.  Your passion is what drives you towards your purpose.  People who talk about following your passion also usually leave out or forget about the process and time it took/takes to get there.  I am not saying don’t follow your passion, I am just saying you need to be patient and realistic about finding your purpose.  The real challenge comes in separating out what you want from what you were created for.  You can be passionate about chasing fame, money, etc but they fleeting.  When you are working on discovering your gift THEN you are on your way to discover your purpose.  Once you find your gift and your purpose then your passion cannot be taken from you.

Don’t get hung up on figuring out your purpose it will come.  As we say at work, you need to:

Trust the process

So, what is the process.  I am still working on the details but step one is getting out of your comfort zone.  You cannot and will not grow if you only do things you are comfortable with.  Try listening to people that you disagree with?  I mean REALLY listen.  Find out why people believe the things they do and how they came to that belief.  It is also a good idea to challenge your beliefs.  Many times we build the walls that later imprison us.  Talk to people that believe differently than you.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  This is why things like Spartan Races and Tough Mudders are so popular.  People are finding power in pushing their limits.  Me?  I push my limits through building community with and for others.  Think an obstacle course is tough?  Try pouring into the lives of others or better yet, your own family.  OUCH, I know that one hurts, it hurts me too.  But to me step one is to get kinetic.  Start moving, do something and do it now.

Pay the bills

Sometimes you gotta suck it up an take what is available to you.  I will use my story.  After graduation with a stellar 2.48 in criminal justice I got not one, but two jobs.  I washed cars at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and bused tables at Elijah’s restaurant. Very glamorous, I know.  Family reunions were really fun!

I still remember the Manager at Enterprise telling me that when they have a full time opportunity as a Management Trainee they would interview me for it.  I was smart enough to say that sounded great but the truth is it didn’t.  I did not go to college to rent cars!  But after 3 months of washing cars I learned that they actually taught you about running a business and you could make good money, after a while.  The manager was a graduate from UNC, Chapel Hill.  The rest of the crew had degrees from schools including Duke University and Maryland but renting cars was not my passion.  What is was though, was an opportunity.

Set goals

Setting goals is another thing you hear a lot.  Unfortunately I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I did not have a “passion” that I could tell let alone a purpose.  But through my career at Enterprise I pursued opportunities that allowed me to try new things.  I believe that by pushing through your comfort zones you will find things will help you find your gift.  Mine is helping people and building community.

I am not saying don’t set ANY goals.  Daily, weekly, monthly and career goals are good for you.  You should not feel bad if you don’t have a five year plan but you do want to know what direction you are moving in.  Without a direction on a journey you will find yourself stumbling over the same rock again and again.

Live in the moment

This is both good and bad.  I totally agree that we need to learn on being present.  Tim Ferriss quotes someone as saying:

Anxiety is living in the future and depression is living in the past

I know several people who have rushed through life working to retire early only to realize that they missed what they really wanted out of life… LIFE.  It is one thing to sacrifice for something you really want; not having that latte every morning to save for a vacation.  But is a whole different thing to not spend time with your family so you work more and retire early.  You need to ask yourself:

Am I doing what brings me life or death?

If what you are doing does not lead to life, then you need to make a change.  My litmus test these days is asking this question:

Does what I am doing create, build or foster community and relationships?

If the answer is no, then I do my best not to do it.  Watching TV?  If I do it with someone else or maybe I then discuss that TV show with others later then it might meet my minimum threshold.  Even video games can pass the muster if I am playing with someone I know.  The trick is to start building community.

Even without movement there is change. But without movement someone else is choosing your direction.
Al Pollard

How to be a good employee

There are few employees who wake up in the morning with the thought “I can’t wait to get to work and make everyone miserable!” Whether this it true or not, I believe it to be true, and believing that makes my life A LOT easier.  Sure, there are those people that always cc your boss and maybe another employee to cover their butt but if you talk to them they will usually tell you “that is how you get things done.”  They don’t see another way.  I wonder if they realize how much damage their actions do, or maybe they just don’t care.

The good employees worry they will be fired, the bad employees are always surprised when they are.

If you ask most people I bet they will tell you that they are good at their job.  Or at the very least they have a litany of excuses as to why not.  Yet we all know people who are “bad” employees.  OK, maybe “bad” it too harsh.  But I know I have been a bad employee before, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Be a little early

I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to people about being late.  Unfortunately some companies have rules that are quite inflexible while others are more apt to treat you like an adult.  Either way, if you know the rules, follow them.  Actually, do a little more than the minimum.

You don’t even really necessarily need to be at work all that early.  Just start your day earlier.  Being a little early allows you to do several things:

  • Plan your day:  Tim Ferriss and many others start their day journaling and setting daily / weekly goals.  If you fail to plan then I guarantee you won’t succeed!
  • Ease into your day:  I don’t think anyone likes coming into work only to be hit in the face with emails that piled up overnight.  If you are able to, I advise checking email briefly before bed and/or when you wake up.  That way you know what you are in for that day.  It is also not a bad idea to reply to the urgent ones with something like “Thank you for the email, when do you need the information?  Would by noon tomorrow work?”
  • Review deadlines:  One thing that backs up a lot of people is not having or not updating time-frames.  A to-do list is one thing, a to-do list with deadlines is on another level.

Be conscious of your brand

There is a lot of talk about branding these days.  Companies have a brand that they promote and so should you.  To me your brand is what people think of when they think of you.  Your brand should emote feelings and adjectives.  When people think of you does it bring a smile to their face or a frown?  What word would others use to describe you?  These all speak to your brand.

Your brand needs to be authentic.  If you are very casual then you probably don’t want to dress at the top end of the dress code every day but that doesn’t mean you have to dress at the bottom either.  A bow tie (hand-tied, clip-ons are for cops and kids) can set you apart from the crowd.  An ascot or a bolo tie… it would be much tougher to pull those off and it could be seen as disingenuous.

Help others

I know this may shock some people but this is generally seen as a good thing to do in life.  No really, it is.  Many people see helping others as a sign of weakness.  It is actually a sign of strength.  But there are limits.  If you help others while neglecting your own work it will not work out well for you.  Even something as little as holding doors for others will help set you apart.  How about picking up trash you see in the office?  Unless you work in a Union environment, helping others will go a long way.

You can also be a resource for others.  This can be as simple as telling people about a good quote you heard or as focused as setting up a Google Alert.  Let’s say you want to move up in the marketing department.  Maybe set a Google Alert for “Social Media Marketing” and/or other related terms.  Then you can receive daily or weekly news straight to your inbox.  That is an easy way to stay on top of trends.

Learn to say no tactfully

I am trying to do what Derek Sivers suggests… it is either “HELL YES!” or it should be no.  True, there are many times that saying no is not an option but you need take control of your to-do list.  Now that you have a deadline for everything, when one of your bosses comes to you and asks you to re-design the cover sheet for the TPS Report you can say “sounds good, where would you like me to put it in my to-do list?”  Then you can walk them through your task list in order of importance.

Be a life long learner

Whether your “thing” is podcasts, books, movies, TV or radio be sure you are taking in some things that actually help you.  Don’t like learning new information?  Learn to like it.  You may first need to do some habit/task bundling.  That is where you “bundle” one thing you need to do with something you like to do.  Or come up with a reward program for yourself.  Maybe you only get one hour of your favorite show after listening to one hour of a professional development audio book.

Life is not as difficult as some make it out to be.
Al Pollard

You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

The CAN and WANT of the job interview

There are two things I want to learn about a candidate from a job interview…

The Want

I want to know why you WANT to work for us.  This may sound stupid but I get a lot of people applying that don’t actually WANT the position.  Yes, I am serious.  Oh, they may not come right out and say it but I can pick up what they are putting down.  Here is how candidates tell me they don’t WANT to work for us in this position.  These are answers to my first question in every interview…. Why do you want this position with us?

  • I have done this before.
  • I can do this with my eyes closed.
  • You all have great benefits.
  • I really like the culture at your company.
  • I was recently laid off.

You might be thinking that I am off my rocker.  You may think these are why someone wants the job.  Nope, this is why they are WILLING to work for us.  HUGE difference!  I want people that WANT to work here.  Their desire will get them over the hurdles and through the tough times.  Willing… not so much.

The Can

I also want to know if you CAN do the job.  This speaks to a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities.  It also depends on how much a company is willing to train you.  Some companies are willing to teach you everything you need to know while some need you to hit the ground running.

Unfortunately some people are unable or unwilling to do what it takes to be successful in a position.  That is also part of CAN you do the position.  This is where interviewers ask about past experience and situations you have been in.

One out of two?

All that being said, it is hard to find people that are at 100% in both areas.  If I have to gamble I will take someone with more desire over someone with more skill every day.  Desire gets you up in the morning and makes you push past where others quit.  Many of the ones that quit had the CAN, just not the WANT.

The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.
Napoleon Hill

Reference checks in your job search

Reference checksWhat will your references say about you?

Some companies still ask for references as a part of the interview process.  Think this is antiquated?  Think again.  A good reference can seal the deal with an employer or derail an impending job offer.

I just saw an ad for someone willing to check your references, for a price.  Really?  Did you know you can do it yourself or at worse, have a friend do it for you?  It is always a good idea in a job search to know what your past employers will share about you.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal for employers to share information on past employees.  Most don’t because while it may be legal, it may also get them sued.  The sad part about this is that a truly bad employee can continue to jump from job to job with little information following them.  Now you know how that idiot next to you got hired!

When you check your own references you want to call the company’s main number, your local office’s number AND your supervisor.  You are probably fine calling the human resources departments unless they know you but you will want a friend to call your boss.  Some companies will ask for a signed background release form.  If so, just create your own.  Yes, you can pay for someone to do all this for you but if you are out of work, what do you have more of?  Time or money?

Reference check questions to ask

After you introduce yourself you will want to ask some of the generic questions that most companies ask to start with then move into the ones you want answers to.

"Hello, I am calling to check references on a previous employee of yours..."

OK, here is where the honesty line gets a little fuzzy…  What you wish you could do is call and ask “If a company calls you to ask about me, what will you tell them?”  But if you did that, what do you think they would say?  You think they would tell you everything?  Because of that, if you want to know what they will REALLY say you need to, or have someone else) play the role of a potential employer.  That means they need to have a story.  Name of the company, their name/position, a call back number, what position you are applying for, etc… Wait, maybe it is worth it to pay someone to do it for you.

But let’s assume you press on and save your money.  Here are some questions to ask.  The first two you should always receive answers to, the others… maybe not.

  • What was the position they last held at your company?
  • What were their dates of employment?
  • Are they eligible for re-hire?
  • How much was their salary and bonuses or commission?
  • Did they provide a 2-week notice when they resigned?
  • How would you rate their performance in the position?
  • What were their biggest strengths / weaknesses?

If they keep answering, you keep asking.  When someone calls your manager/supervisor they need to ask more direct questions.  Many managers will refer them back to human resources but not all.   Previous managers are sometimes the most damaging or helpful references.  It also helps if the person calling says they are your potential new manager.

At the end of the day, doing a little social engineering to check your own references might feel (is) a little dishonest but if you are worried that you will get a bad employment reference you are better off knowing ahead of time.

References Provided Upon Request

This one KILLS me!  In many of my past jobs we have requested that people provide us with references for us to call.  They are usually past supervisors or coworkers but the key here is that the candidate is providing us with the names and numbers of the people to call.  Think they are always good?  Think again.  Here are some of the funny comments I have gotten when calling references provided by candidates:

They put ME down as a reference? (laughing)
The only reason they didn't take anything is that it's all screwed down. (hotel manager)
They will be great for the first 30 days.

If you are providing references for a potential employer to call you better know what they will say about you!  You want to call each person and ASK them if you can use them as a reference before you start your job search.  Then once you submit their names to a potential employers contact them again and let them know a little about the position(s) you are applying for and what company it is with.  That way they can tailor their information about you to the specifics of the job.  It is very helpful to send them the job description.

At the end of the day references are not always a make or break part of the interviewing process but sometimes they are.  Do you want to risk it?

There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tell me about yourself

Tell me about yourself (or some other variation) is probably THE most common interview question but many people say it is one of the most difficult to answer.

Why should I hire you?

I recently read an article about rude recruiters.  The author went on to say that asking “Why should I hire you?” is rude.  My response was why is that rude?  That is what interviewers are asking when they ask “Tell me about yourself.”  They want to know what makes you different and a better match for them than all the other people that they are interviewing.  Here is a tip… most companies want to hire the best person for each and every opening and if they do not think you will be a good match, they don’t hire you.

This is the time for your elevator speech.  You want to tell them about yourself, but primarily the most relevant parts of yourself.  I also believe it is a good idea to weave information from your research on the company and the position into you monologue.

“I am a life long learner.  If I have any free time I spend it reading, listening to audio books, or podcasts around subjects I can benefit from.  That is one of the things that interested me about your company, I read how you all are always looking to improve your processes, procedures and people.”

One thing to be careful about here is not to lie.  Many people either lie in the interview or it becomes very apparent that they are telling me what they think I want to hear.  I want to hear about YOU.  But focus on the best YOU.  Think of this as a first date.  Do you show the REAL (unfiltered) you or the best you on a first date?  If you want a second date I bet you show the best you, which should also be the real you.

Why should someone hire me?

If you are having a tough time coming up with things to say about yourself, try asking others about you.  Ask some friends, coworkers or teachers “why would someone want to have me as an employee?  What are my strengths and weaknesses?”  They may be able to give you insight from a different perspective.  Start making a list that you can choose from when putting together your answer.  You don’t want to tell everyone everything about yourself, just what is most relevant.

Start thinking about who you want to be, then be.

Should you answer an illegal interview question?

If you have been on many interviews I bet you have encountered at least one illegal interview question.  There are three main ways to handle them and the choice is up to you.

That is an illegal question and I don’t have to answer it

While the above statement may be true if you respond with “That is an illegal question and I don’t have to answer it” you will likely not have another interview with that company.   While you don’t want to work for a company that is making illegal discriminatory hiring decisions, let’s not kid ourselves, all interviewing is discriminatory.



  1. the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
    “victims of racial discrimination”
  2. recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.
    “discrimination between right and wrong”

I believe that any company making a decision based on race, gender, age or any other non-performance related reason will be less successful in the long run.  Diverse companies will perform better.  So if you feel that a company is being discriminatory on race, age, gender, religion or any other non-work related reason then I suggest you look elsewhere.

I think you misspoke

Sometimes the interviewer doesn’t know how to ask what they really mean.  Here are a few illegal questions followed by what they should have asked.  The idea is to answer the question they should have asked.

How does your husband other feel about you traveling overnight?

What they should have asked:  We have had some employees in the past where overnight travel has become an issue.  Tell me how you feel about extensive travel for work and how you maintain some work/life balance.

Do you have children?

What they should have asked:  We expect everyone to be at their desk working by 8am and work until 5pm at a minimum but we frequently work overtime during peak season.  Is that an issue?

Where are you from?

What they should have asked:  We like to get to know people in the interview process.  Tell me about yourself.

How old are you?

What they should have asked:  We use the latest software and programs here.  How do you stay up to date on the industry?

I fully admit that some people ask those questions for the very reason they are illegal but I make the argument that those people are the exception, rather than the rule.  Granted, there are some industries that are much more prone to sexism, racism, and many other ‘isms but I chose to believe that most people are trying to do the right thing for their company.

I also fully admit that my views are filtered through a white male christian lens.  Sorry, I can’t change that fact but I do my best to be aware of my blind spots and filters.

Why do you need to know that?

Ask for clarity.  You may be surprised by what is behind an illegal question.  If you are like some of my friends and you want to push back a little when confronted with an illegal question, you can do so with tact.

Do you have children?
What concerns you about employees with children?

How does your husband feel about your chosen profession?
I would think you would be more concerned about how I feel about my profession.

How old are you?
How does an applicant’s age factor into your hiring decision?

Are you single?
Do you discourage employees from having personal relationships?

Unfortunately we all have to deal with situations where we need to try and figure out how to react and interviews are no different.  In short, there is no one RIGHT way to handle any interview questions.

TACT – getting your point across without stabbing someone with it.
New York Daily Mirror

How much money are you worth?

I recently read an article that stated job seekers hate being asked what they made in their last or current job.  It went on to say that the question is “not relevant to the job interview and it’s impolite.”  The writer further throws fuel on the fire by saying “it is none of an interviewer’s business what you are earning now or what you’ve earned at any job.”

My Current Pay is None of Your Business

This style of writing is popular these days.  It fans the flames of dislike until they burn with disgust and hatred.  As was said in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing “Yo! Hold Up! Time Out! Time Out! Y’all Take a Chill!”  Anytime you are asked a question that you do not like or do not want to answer first chill out and ask yourself “why are they asking the question?”  If you do not want to discuss what you currently make you could always re-frame the question by answering it this way:

My current employer has very strict rules around sharing our compensation.  I am seeking a salary between $x and $y as part of the overall comp package.

As a recruiter I want to ask; why is this an issue?  Some interviewers ask what salary you are seeking rather than asking what you have been making but the fact of the matter is, money is an issue.  Usually, when someone asks about your current or past pay, they want to know if you are within the company’s price range for the position.

Many people talk about equal pay.  Is everyone’s work equal?  What if it takes you 20% longer to produce the same product as the person next to you, is that equal?  Or how about if you have a bad attitude and people do not like being around you?  I think we should re-frame the compensation discussion around what is fair.  I fully admit this is from the perspective of a white male but this will always be an issue when we have a free market.  There is an interesting perspective on the gender pay gap from Freakanomics.

Before you start talking comp with a company you need to be sure you do your research.   You want to research both the industry and your budget.  Both are important for different reasons.  You want to know the pay in the industry so you know where their salary range should be and you need to know your budget to have a minimum you need to make.  Just as a company may be willing to hire someone with a little less experience or skills if they cost less, you may be willing to take a position you are more interested in for less money.  But you still need to pay the bills.

Here are a few sources for compensation research: – You (supposedly) get the information from people who currently or previously worked at the company.  They also review companies. – You can do research on your current position, research another field or evaluate a job offer.

O*NET Your tax dollars at work.  You can see median wages, projected job growth and more.

The One Who Talks Compensation First Loses

I do not believe this statement.  In my interviews I always bring up compensation first and I tell people what our compensation range is before I ask about theirs.  After I tell them ours I do frequently ask what they have been making so I can tell them if that is possible here or how long it would take to get back in that range.  I hire sales people.  It is a real concern for employers if we are offering less money than you made at your last position.  Why?  Mainly, once you make a certain amount it is difficult to go backwards.  I know because I have done this twice personally and once as a family.  It sounds easier than it is.  Also, many people measure their value in dollars and cents.  Making less is possible but it is tough and leads many people to keep looking for more, which can lead to turnover.

As a candidate you need to understand that a company / department has a budget and they usually have a bean counter somewhere that has budgeted a certain amount of money for the position in question.  That means that if they offer at or below budget it is easier, above is more difficult.

I Changed My Mind

What to do if you tell the company a number then you change your mind?  You better have a good reason.  Is is VERY frustrating for a company if you tell me your number, then I offer that number only to have to say that is not enough.  Think of it like dating.  You ask someone out to lunch and ask where they would like to go.  They tell you tacos sound good and you name the local taqueria, they agree.  But when you all get there they say that they changed their mind and they want steak.  Frustrating?  You bet it is.

But it can be done with some tact and discretion.  There are a few guidelines  I suggest you follow:

Don’t ask for too much – If you first told them $50k and now you are asking for $60k that is a 20% jump.  Maybe a 5% – 10% ask is easier.

Why are you asking? – State a reason.  Maybe you are moving for the position and housing is more expensive than you thought or their insurance costs are higher than in your current position, which changed your personal budget.  Maybe the increase would allow you to move out of your parent’s house.

Ask the question – I encourage candidates to start by asking something like “I am excited about the position!  Since we last spoke I started looking at housing in the area and it is more expensive than I expected, is there any flexibility in the offer?”

Know your number – If their offer is below your bottom number and you know it won’t work, just tell them.  Be nice but be direct.  The earlier in the process the better.

Reiterate your interest – When renegotiating terms be sure to remind them why you are the right person and confirm your interest level.  “I really hope this can work.  I found the perfect place twenty minutes away and I am looking forward to starting next week!”

My salary situation at ‘Morning Joe’ wasn’t right. I made five attempts to fix it, then realized I’d made the same mistake every time: I apologized for asking.
Mika Brzezinski