Use These Strategies to Get the Best Possible Job Offer

When you get an offer for a job you want, you’re tempted to do a dance. But don’t, simply thank the company for the offer and ask for time to review and consider. Most companies understand you need some time to make this decision, after all, this is the first time you have ALL the information and can make an informed decision. And understand this, negotiating your salary is a challenge for everyone and most of us hate it. The biggest reason people don’t like to negotiate? Fear. And we get it, negotiation can be scary. But if you don’t, you could one day be more scared your career isn’t where you want.

Most employers expect to engage in salary negotiations, so they’re expecting you to want something adjusted or increased in the offer. And, often they build in room to negotiate. This most often happens in mid to senior level roles, but there may be flexibility even with entry level positions. And because they expect you to negotiate, you may want to negotiate for something as simple as a few extra days of PTO.

Why is it so important to negotiate your salary?

  1. It shows employers that you are confident in your ability and your work.
  2. It shows the employer right from the get-go that you are a valuable employee.
  3. A higher offer often sets you above others on the team, a very good thing when promotion opportunities arise.
  4. Every year at annual reviews, your starting salary will be higher if you’ve negotiated a better offer, meaning you’ll reach your desired income level more quickly. Here’s an example: once you’re an employee, companies often limit annual salary increases. So, a 5% annual increase on a $50,000 salary gets you to $52,500 in year two. If your starting salary is $60,000 and you get a 5% increase in year two, your salary is now $63,000. And each year that initial difference makes a bigger and bigger impact in your bank account.

Now you’ve built up the courage, how do you go about negotiating an increased offer?

First, understand…your next company doesn’t care what you think you’re worth. Hiring managers offer you what they think you’re worth or what they’ve got budget for. Consequently, it never hurts to ask. Most often, the only negative response is “we can’t”. And, there’s a strong possibility you may end up with an offer you’re thrilled about. There’s several items to consider before you have a conversation with the company.

What do you consider when negotiating the offer?

Consider the full package – not just the salary.

Before a job offer, the salary can feel like the biggest motivating factor to take a job. But when you get the offer, there are other details to consider. Some of the benefits make a big financial difference to your life, like 401K matches to your retirement account. And, a generous PTO policy, can benefit your work/life balance. Take time to determine what’s most important to you.

Be reasonable in what you ask for.

Negotiating Your Salary

Ask for one or two things — negotiating for a higher salary, more vacation days, and a change to the leave policy is perhaps too many requests, and might make the company wonder if you’ll be committed to them, or will always be looking for a better offer.

Before you negotiate, be prepared. Have a plan in mind and be ready for questions and discussion.

And it’s a good idea to frame your negotiation in terms of the benefits you can bring the company, how soon you’ll be making an impact or the unique skill set you bring. It’s possible that a company may make their initial offer, and when you counter with “I’d like a different amount,” the company will agree. This happens sometimes, most often when the company knows their initial offer was a little low. When you’re negotiating a counter offer don’t bring up personal topics, such as ‘I’d like to work from home one or two days a week because the commute is so far’. That’s a huge red flag to the company that the drive is already a concern and you haven’t even started. One thing you can’t negotiate is the 401K contribution, as retirement plans have restrictions governing how the plan is implemented.

How do you make the counter offer?

When you’re ready to talk to the company about your counter offer, do it by phone. Putting your requests in an email takes away your ability to hear their initial response or to react to any concerns. It also provides you an opportunity to fully explain your reasoning for the ask.

What if the company won’t increase the salary offered?

If they respond they can’t increase the offer, you should be prepared with a smaller ask, such as a professional development class that will benefit you.

There’s more to a job offer than the salary. Think about what will give you more job satisfaction going forward. Consider negotiating for a better title, an earlier merit review, maybe in six months, more paid time off, a professional development class or an advanced degree. Some individuals are interested in work flexibility and the opportunity to work from home one or two days a week. It doesn’t matter what’s important to you, but do think about it ahead of time and narrow your ‘ask’ to one or two specifics that are most important.

The most important thing to remember is if you’re confident and thoughtful in how you’re asking and what you’re negotiating, you’ll likely have a positive conversation.

Good luck, you’ve got the tools for a great negotiation!



The Real Truth About References

You’re almost to the finish line, now for the references. The final stages of your job search and you’re close to an offer. You’ve created a strong resume, you love the company, and all your interviews went well. Now they’ve asked for references. While the resume and strong interviewing skills got you to this point, the results of the reference checks can make or break your getting an offer. Let me repeat that! What your references say…can make or break whether you get an offer. Good references are a must!

So, who have you asked to provide references? And, who should you ask to provide a reference? People who know your work well, and can tell your story effectively. Good references confirm to the potential employer that you’re a great choice.

Get references ready before your first interview.

Even before you start interviewing, you should develop a list of peers, customers (internal or external), and supervisors/managers who will best articulate your strengths and accomplishments. Make sure you have at least three people you’ve worked with who can speak to your experience and strengths.

Never ask someone to be a reference if you aren’t extremely confident they are going to give you a positive reference.

What if you’re currently employed and don’t feel comfortable asking your boss?

If you don’t or didn’t have a good relationship with your boss, and most people seeking a new job are in that situation, then provide a previous boss, peers at your current company, or other individuals you’ve directly worked with at the company that you trust to provide a strong reference. But remember, if you provide individuals at your current company, you should explain why they can provide a valuable recommendation. For instance, perhaps your boss didn’t have visibility to your day-to-day work, but other individuals you worked with on projects had that day-to-day line of sight, then use them.

What to do before you provide a list of references?

Contact your references right before you give them to anyone, make sure they’ll be accessible and anticipating contact from the potential employer. It’s important to notify your references that they may get contacted. Provide them details about the role, a copy of your resume, which of your strengths fit best in the new role, and what points can they address to the prospective employer to help you win this job. Advise them how they can be the most impactful in supporting you. Each reference you use will provide a slightly different picture of you, so by providing them insight on what you’ve learned, you help prepare your references to give you an exceptional reference and support what you said in the interviews. Tell your references why you want the new role and why you think it’s a good fit for you.

What do you do if your company’s policy is not to provide references?

Many companies are choosing not to provide a formal reference, but may provide the dates you were employed and your role, nothing more. If that’s the case at your company, you’ve still got customers, peers, and previous bosses who can be used to make sure you’ve got a list of strong references.

What to do if this is your first position?

You’re not alone, everyone starts this way. First, remember you’re talented and are on the right track…that’s what’s gotten you this far. But, if don’t have professional work references, provide references who can speak to your commitment and follow-through, such as professors who witnessed your class participation and performance, team members you worked with to complete a project, or people who worked with you in volunteer roles. If you have had an internship, then individuals you worked with at the internship can provide great references. It isn’t as important who’s name or role you provide the prospective employer, as what they say about you and if they can say it because of experience with you in a situation where you had to get something done.

What you should do after you’ve accepted the offer.

Circle back to your references and thank them! Let them know you’re excited about the new role and you appreciate their support. A personal phone call is always the best option, but a text or an e-mail will work, just do it shortly after they’ve provided the reference and you’ve accepted the job offer.

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far and done well and now you’re on your way to an exciting new opportunity!


Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

Ten Important Lessons I Learned in My Job Searches

For 20 years I’ve been in the job market, either in a job or in a job search, and 15 of those years I’ve been recruiting all levels of professional talent for multiple companies in various cities and countries. Through all of it, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share.

1. Network now and forever.

NetworkingIf you’re not doing it already, start immediately. Networking should be an integral part of your career, and is critical when you’re in a job search.

Periodically connect with your existing professional contacts, whether it’s getting together or just passing along a relevant article to them, but stay in touch.

Extend your network regularly. Every time you attend a conference or off-site business meeting, make a point of connecting with someone. And, consider asking your current network to connect you with other contacts they value.

Extend yourself to those within your network by offering to help, introduce them to other contacts or act as a mentor to a junior professional.

When you ask someone in your network for assistance or to connect you to a hiring manager, be specific and thoughtful in your ‘ask’. For example, if you’re in the job market, and interested in a specific role, be prepared by providing your resume, as well as an outline of your strengths and accomplishments that match the requirements of the role you’re interested in.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is engaging and professional. Don’t just drop your resume into your LinkedIn profile. Your profile should be more distinctive and include the highlights of your career. Create a headline that speaks to what you’re passionate about in the business world. Hiring managers and recruiters are constantly using LinkedIn, so a strong headline can get you noticed.

If you want to minimize age bias, abbreviate your experience, including only the last past 10 to 15 years.

3. Have an elevator pitch ready.

NetworkingWhen you least expect it, you’ll be asked what you do or what you want to do. Be ready and be concise, zero in on what you do and what you want to do. Your story should take less than thirty seconds to tell.

Always have your elevator pitch ready, not just when you’re making a job change, but all the time, because opportunities can arise when you least expect them.

4. Regularly update your resume.

Annually, it’s a good idea to update your resume, even if you don’t need it. That insures when you do need it, you’ll be ready to go.

I’ve met leaders and senior professionals who recommend you keep a record of your accomplishments and update your record at least annually. It’s a great idea and good practice to get into.

5. Be prepared to discuss salary during a job hunt.

It may seem radical that when you’re in the job search, you get asked about your salary during your first conversation with a company, but it happens frequently. The reason why? Companies don’t want to spend valuable time with candidates who aren’t likely to fit their role. And, from your perspective, there’s nothing worse than spending 8-10 hours interviewing, and then receiving an offer that $10k to $25k below what you’d consider. You’ve just wasted valuable time and energy that could have been spent on a stronger role. So, while it feels intrusive, discussing desired and/or actual salary insures you and the company are focused on a role that matches what you’re interested in.

If you’re asked for a specific number and you’re not comfortable providing one, consider providing a range. If you want to be flexible about compensation, add that you’re flexible when you reveal your salary. And, tell the hiring manager or recruiter why you’re willing to be flexible, so it doesn’t appear to be desperation. Many individuals are flexible in their compensation requirements for reasons such as a better location, work/life balance, because they feel they’re over the current market salary or they may be transitioning their career.

6. Be organized.

cover-letter-writingJob search should be viewed as a project, and potentially the most important project you work on at any point in time. Like all good project managers, develop a plan and schedule, work the plan, and stay on target. Good project management skills will keep you organized when you’re juggling multiple interviews and roles, and interviewing with several companies.

7. Set aggressive goals each week.

Since most of your work will be meeting people or applying online, set goals for both, applications and networking. And, make your job search your number one priority every day. When you’re in a job search, you should spend 6 hours/day minimum on your job search, like your standard work day, whether it’s time spent networking, in meetings, resume submissions or research.

8. Contact and confirm your references.

Don’t include references on your resume or when you apply for a role, but do connect with your professional references early on in a job search. You should gather a list of at least 3-5 references and use only 3 of the most appropriate when you’re asked for them after an interview(s). Most companies want a reference from someone who supervised you, a peer, and one other person who knows you professionally. If this is your first role after your education, then teachers and professors can be used as they will speak to your work ethic. And, stay in touch with your references regularly.

When you get asked for the names and contact information for your references, reach out to the ones most appropriate for the role, and provide them information about what you’ve learned about the role, reiterate strengths that are important for the position, and thank them in advance for the recommendation.

Once they’ve provided a positive reference, and you’ve accepted the offer, circle back with your references, advise them of the role you just accepted, and thank them again.

9. Stay positive.

Job search, whether your currently employed or not, can be exhausting and discouraging. It’s critical that you stay positive. When the going gets tough, reach out to motivators in your network for support and fresh ideas. And, even if it’s difficult to hear, take the advice they give. Sometimes, we can become too siloed in our thinking when it’s about our career or salary. After all, it’s highly personal and often fundamental to how we define ourselves.

10. Pay it forward.

Do what you can to help a colleague, friend, or connection whenever you can. Help others through introductions, or mentoring more junior colleagues. And, if someone seeks your advice, be generous in providing it. Never forget that someone else is today in the same situation you were at one point and may be again.

Job search and managing your career can be exhilarating and frustrating. Being prepared and organized will make you savvier and appear more professional, and get you the results you want faster!


Want to Work at a Company Where the Culture Is a Positive One?

“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”

— Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s

A job is more than just a place you go for 8+ hours a day—you also need to deal with coworkers, bosses, and office politics. Here are some clues to determine a company’s culture before you take the job and it’s too late.

It’s important the culture of the company is one you think you’ll thrive in. The work environment significantly influences how you’ll feel about your job. This includes everything that forms employees’ involvement with the work itself, such as co-workers, supervisors, company culture, personal development opportunities, even hours and surroundings.

A positive work environment makes employees feel good about what they’re doing and encourages employee engagement.

Our colleagues and especially our boss, have a huge impact on our work experience.

If you’re looking for a new job, assessing a potential work environment is a crucial consideration you shouldn’t skip.

Check Out the Company Using Multiple Tools to Learn More

Start with the corporate website. What news and updates do they put out to the public, because what’s on their website is generally relevant to new products, ideas, conferences, or volunteer activities that are happening at the company. If there’s nothing there, that may evidence they’re not concerned about their image. So, they may react the same to their employees.


Check the feedback about the company on sites like Glassdoor. Take the reviews you see there lightly, but if you see common threads between reviews, you’ll know what to watch out for. If everyone leaving a company complains nothing is worth the long hours and demanding management, it may not be what you want to get into. On sites like Glassdoor, don’t just read what employees say, but look at what people who interviewed said too. And, if candidate interview reviews suggest a strenuous or disorganized process, consider it a reflection of what’s happening behind the doors.

Check out the company’s social network profiles, specifically their pages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

See what they share on Facebook to the public, and visit their corporate LinkedIn presence will reveal people who work there, what their skills and backgrounds are.

Ask Questions About the Culture in Your Interview

If you’ve done your homework and the company still looks like a great place to work, you have an opportunity to learn more about the culture in your interview. The one question that usually comes up (and often near the end) in most interviews is “Do you have any questions for us?” That’s your opportunity to learn more about the culture, information you can’t get from just your research. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  1. What’s the company culture like from your perspective?
  2. How does this group work with other teams?
  3. How do the different roles on our team interact?
  4. What’s the intrateam dynamics?
  5. How would your employees describe you? What have you been told by more than one person?

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one of the strongest advocates of culture, makes a solid point when he says ‘the people you hire represent your company even outside of work. If you meet someone and learn where they work, your perception of that place is influenced based on what you learned.’

So, What Elements Make a Great Company Culture?


Let’s start with what is Corporate Culture. It’s probably a word you hear often, but what is it exactly?

According to The Business Dictionary corporate culture is: “The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

This is the reason a positive culture matters. Culture sustains employee enthusiasm.

8 Elements of a great company culture

  1. Positive Values – A positive mission statement outlines the goals and demonstrative the company values and strives toward.
  2. Relaxed and Productive Atmosphere – People enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated, acknowledged, and rewarded.
  3. Open and Honest Communication – Everyone communicates in a cards-on-the-table manner, solving difficulties in a positive way. They view constructive feedback as an opportunity for growth. And constructive feedback is given frequently if needed, and they don’t wait for your annual review. Constructive feedback should also offer workable solutions.
  4. Cooperation, Support and Empowerment – Employees have a sense of camaraderie, cooperation and empowerment.
  5. Humor – Employees keep things in perspective, laugh, and have fun even when change is occurring or everyone is busy.
  6. Flexibility and Transparency – The employees embrace change, accommodate new trends and technology, and incorporate new skills. Companies where management is transparent about the direction, current challenges, and even mistakes creates an environment that builds trust.
  7. Positive Reinforcement – People need acknowledgement, appreciation and gratitude to be motivated. And frequent, specific and timely positive reinforcement is best.
  8. Approachability and Support – When employees feel they can talk openly with their boss and will be supported when faced with challenges. At some point in a career, everyone faces challenges and managers who support their employees


Tony Hsieh, now CEO of Zappos, believes that interactions–both between employees and with customers–are the key to a business’s identity. “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.”–January 9th, 2010, The New York Times

In the end, there are no magic pills even when you’ve thoroughly done your research. Business, like everything else today can change on a dime, so if you’ve decided to join a company and learn the culture is toxic, start looking for a new opportunity, and do research on how to handle a toxic environment before you find yourself just reacting to it.



Nuances of Successful Phone Interviewing

Phone-InterviewIt all starts when the recruiter reaches out to you about your availability for a phone interview. When they do, and they will, offer a couple blocks of time, not just one. If you only offer one time, it often requires multiple back and forth emails that delay your interviewing. Also, consider that the person interviewing you may not be in the same area code, so provide availability that would accommodate multiple parts of the country. Many companies may have an office in your city, but their recruitment may be in another or a different state. Even if you know where the home office is, the recruiter could be somewhere else. Again, suggest multiple blocks of time you’re available that could be accommodate east coast and west coast callers if needed. And, include the phone number that you can be reached with your area code. Plain and simple, doing these two simple tasks can speed up the entire process for you.

The Day of The Interview

Plan to be available for the call a minimum of 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after (in case it goes longer). Most phone interviews last 30 minutes, but keep 60 minutes available. If you can’t do that, alert the interviewer up front to your time restraints. Use a comment like, “I’ve got another meeting at 1:00 I can’t be late for”, rather than “I only have 30 minutes” or ” I have a hard stop at 12:30″. That will take pressure off you to get the interview wrapped up at a specific time and possibly rushing the interview.

Start with a smile on your face. Not so easy to plaster a fake smile on your face? Think about yourself talking to someone who always make you smile or laugh as you answer the phone.

Greet the caller with your name immediately, and let them know you’re pleased to be speaking with them. I always appreciate when someone says, “I’m glad we could find a time that works.” It tells me they’re excited about the opportunity and starts the conversation off on the right note.

Phone interviewers rely heavily on everything you’re saying and how you’re saying it. There are no non-verbal cues here except how you’re saying things, so keep it upbeat and eliminate distractions, whether it’s music or pets or family. While many people recommend dressing up or making sure you’ve got another person to field distractions, sometimes they can still happen. I used to go into the bedroom, lock the door, and tune out the outside world. Not the recommended environment, but it worked. Whatever it takes.

Phone-InterviewDress comfortably, wear whatever inspires you to have your best conversations, so wear whatever you can be comfortably relaxed in.

Critical to any successful interviewing is building rapport, and it can happen in a phone interview two ways. First, you just connect with the p
erson (maybe because their voice if friendly, or because their background is similar). But, that rapport can sometimes hurt you if you get too friendly and don’t come across as knowledgeable in your field. The other problem is sometimes it might cause some to reveal too much and on the phone, you won’t get to see the interviewer’s non-verbal responses to the messages you’re conveying.
The second way to build rapport is to be upbeat and knowledgeable. When offering responses, they should come across as well thought out, thorough, and concise. Often people have good examples of their successes, but the story they tell about them goes on and on, and by the time they’ve told the entire story, I’ve lost interest. Especially when they do it multiple times in a 30-minute interview. At that point, I’ve also determined they don’t have the sense of urgency we do and won’t be effective in this fast-paced business world we are all a part of today. Unfair? Maybe, but I, the recruiter, must decide on this candidate’s next step and I only have so much time. So, here’s where being prepared becomes your advantage. If you’ve prepared for the interview ahead of time, knowing your strengths and why you consider them strengths, having several responses to questions like, ‘Tell me about a time you solved a complex problem,’ or ‘Explain what you’ve done that shows you’re an analytical thinker’ if you’re applying for a job that has analysis involved, then the interview should go smoothly. Many companies today focus on customer service, both inside and outside the company, at all levels, so be prepared with a response, even if you don’t have external customer contact. Who are your customers? Explain how you’ve taken extra steps to insure they’re satisfied.

And if you have additional constructive comments on a topic don’t hesitate to bring them up during the conversation. But again, be concise.

One of the advantages of a phone interview is that it diminishes the difference between an introvert and extrovert, because generally everyone is friendly on the phone. It also removes your appearance which can help, because it’s not a distraction. Bottom line, what the interviewer is looking for is knowledge, experience, and cultural fit. And, regarding culture fit, while every company is different, most look for someone who’s motivated, energetic, positive, and exhibits high integrity. And often, these characteristics come through in something as simple as a phone interview.

Have your resume handy, so you can easily reference it. Also have your prep work available and don’t forget to have the job description next to you too.

After you’ve answered a question, a great suggestion is to ask the interviewer if you’ve answered their question. It’s a great opportunity for them to bring up something that may need clarification. And, while the interview is your time to highlight yourself, don’t dominate the conversation, wait for the interviewer to ask questions. And then respond to the question and be as specific as you can. With that said, it’s also your time to get some of your questions answered, and you can ask right in the beginning or at the end, if you can ask a few questions if the interviewer hasn’t brought it up.

At the end of the interview, show interest and ask what the next step is, and/or what the entire process will be, and at what point will there be an in person interview. More and more companies never meet you in person, but conduct all interviews via phone or Skype. So, the more you know, the better you can prepare.

After the Interview and ‘The Thank You’

Shortly after you conclude the interview, send a thank you note. Today, the preference is an email and a generic one is nice, but nothing more. Including a specific topic or detail in the thank you can get you bonus points. And, it doesn’t need to be the reasons you’re a good fit, but what you appreciated about the interview that will stand out. You can include information if it’s additional information that wasn’t discussed during the interview and can benefit you, but keep it concise and brief.

Follow-Up After the Interview

How long do you wait to reach out to your interviewer to check on your status? In general, allow 5 business days before you make any attempts and done by e-mail is always the best, and most appreciated by companies. The only exceptions would be if the recruiter or screener told you they should have an answer in a specific time, then allow another 2 days and follow-up. Your career is critically important to you, and all companies understand that.

Summing this up, have a positive attitude, be flexible with your availability, and be prepared!