Salary RE-negotiations: Spend your time now, so they won’t have to waste their time later…

17 Sep

As a recruiter, I cannot tell you how absolutely frustrating it is when someone attempts to renegotiate the terms of an employment agreement after the negotiation has formally ended.  Sometimes, even after the position has started!

It takes countless hours of time and money from my company, and makes my back office pissed off.  It makes the employee look like someone who lacks attention to detail, has a problem speaking up when they should, and ultimately, who doesn’t think they need to spend their time reading through an employment letter – which someone like me, spends time actually putting together.

None of these are positive impressions to make on a new employer.  You need to read your contracts.  You need to ask all of your questions up front and if you determine that the rate, benefits package, schedule, start date, location, or dress code, aren’t good enough for you – then you need to figure it out and move on, or negotiate something that can make you content for the long term.

Most companies do not evaluate you for a raise or schedule flexibility options/benefit increases, etc until the 12month mark – so by long term – I mean a year.  If you can’t deal with the rate, or if you decide that you no longer want to relocate to Winniwood Oklahoma – then it’s ultimately on you if you sign on the dotted line and make me work to initiate on-boarding.

In this job market, it’s easy to jump on anything that comes your way with enthusiasm.  It’s easy to get lost in the moment when sitting in a conference room across from a COO who is extending an offer letter on pretty letterhead and smiling from ear to ear.  If you have been unemployed for any period of time, there is undoubtedly a sense of urgency for you to land a contract.   It is perfectly acceptable and normal to take 24 hours to read the employment agreement, talk it over with your spouse and work the numbers to make sure it’s going to work for you.

For the respect of any future employer, and the recruiters who make this crazy world go round…READ YOUR CONTRACTS.  Don’t sign unless you can be happy and stable in that job, at that rate.  Ask your questions first.   Kick ass over the next 12 months….prove to them why they wanted you in the first place…and earn your bonus.  Sheesh…can you tell it’s been a long week?


Working From Home: Dream or Disaster?

18 Jul

Working from home certainly sounds like a dream come true to most people – but for few it actually is.  I happen to be one of those people who needs little if any small talk, team building activities, water cooler banter or group lunches to get through my week.  Pretending to like everyone in an office can get pretty exhausting for me.  I enjoy putting my head down, and knocking out my work so that I can celebrate when I accomplish what I’m paid to do.  I realize that this isn’t normal.  Most people enjoy the social aspect of working in an office, but they often take it for granted.  Then, they leave a cushy office job for a work-from-home opportunity because their friends and family think it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them.  Yeah right.

Your friends who are jealous that you can work from home most likely hate their jobs and have never tried it.  Your husband who is stoked, thinks that working from home means that you will have more time to cook better meals, run errands during the day and secretly thinks you two might be able to save money on nanny expenses.  YOU might even think that it’s a dream come true until you realize that you don’t manage your time well enough to efficiently switch from one project to another without dropping the ball.  You are having trouble staying motivated without a team around you to benchmark off of.  You thought that you would be able to work from your pajamas on your couch and roll out of bed at 7:55am for an 8am meeting until you realize that it’s a video conference.

All I am saying is that you may want to evaluate whether working from home is really something that YOU could be happy and EFFECTIVE doing before you really try to lobby for it in a new job or an existing one.

Here’s the hard truth.  I just switched jobs and now I work from my home office full time.  I wear yoga pants all day, but I usually work 10-11 hours.  I don’t frolic around an office and get compliments on my new necklace or pretend to care about what someone in Marketing did over the weekend.  I talk to people because I am a recruiter – so it’s the kind of conversations I dig.  I have something they want – and vice versa.  It’s more productive, less congenial.  I get more work done because nobody walks into my office and bothers me.  I run fewer errands, and I haven’t shaved my legs in two weeks.  If that sounds as glamorous as you imagined – go for it.  I recommend jogging at lunch to get out of the house.  I think I might do that one of these days…

Starting your own business? Better have a exit strategy…

10 Jul

You have always had a passion for sewing, so you decide that a layoff in late 2010 was a sign that you should put your passion to work and start selling hand made thing-a-ma-bobs online for low overhead and a high fulfillment career change.

You should always shoot for the stars, but hedge against the risk that your dream job may not be lucrative enough to sustain you financially over time.  If you go back to your accounting, HR, Project Manager job after 2 years of sewing in your garage and a mediocre launch of an eCommerce dream, you will be at a significant disadvantage in the job market.  Your skills may be looked upon as latent, rusty and soft.

What you need to do is come up with a strategy to keep your skills sharp while you are out of the game.   Maybe it’s earning a quick certification or two, relevant to your professional field.  Most of these can be done by studying online and taking a test for a small fee.  Maybe it’s earning an online MBA online from home at night.  Perhaps even pick up some consulting on the side for friend’s business’ that doesn’t exceed 10 hours/week.  You can keep track of results you were able to achieve for those small projects and include them in your career growth time line on a resume.

In addition to sharpening your skills, and staying up to date in your field, you should also document everything you are doing to get your business off the ground that is relevant to your old career.  If you left a career in project management or business analysis you can outline the process you managed of obtaining financing, doing a cost benefit analysis for using outsourced production over in-house, or even your evaluation of supply vendors.  This way, if you are forced to cultivate a resume in a few years, you can refer back to this list of tasks and projects you had to accomplish at the beginning that you may have forgotten about.  You’ve just brought your professional career into focus in everything that you do – almost creating your own position over the last X years based on your expertise.  Your resume should reflect that you ARE the job, and this process can make it easier when trying to write it all down again.

It’s admirable to start your own business but it’s difficult to make it work.  Even the smartest, most determined and entrepreneurial people can have bad timing or luck. In my opinion, the only people that would usually take the risk of starting their own business possess something extraordinary and I love it.  I am a huge fan of small business, and fostering an environment in this country where you can build an empire out of your garage – BUT there are some things that we can’t control and we need to be mindful of what COULD happen so we can mitigate the effects on our lives as much as possible.  Recruiters and hiring managers will want to see a commitment to your field, and a passion for it.  We don’t really need to know that your real passion is thing-a-ma-bobs. At least not throughout the interview process.


Resume Fakers Never Prosper…

14 Jun

Even a white lie on a resume can easily turn into a very embarrassing moment in an interview, an opportunity lost and a bridge burned.  Worse yet, you get hired and everyone figures out that you don’t know what you’re doing in about a week.  You have a target on your back and are resented by your team who really needed your support.

Here are some examples of flat out lies on your resume – and if you have any of these – take them off.  The sooner you can come clean and represent your skills, qualifications, and be completely forthright, the sooner you will land a job where you can start building some credibility, and stability in your life.

1)      Listing programming languages when you aren’t even a programmer expecting that someone will be impressed with the key words.

Here is how the conversation will go with me:

Me: “So, it says here you can code in HTML, where did you pick that up?”

You: “Oh, well, uhhh, I guess in college.”

Me: “Really, what’s the url of the last website you programmed in HTML?”

Insert – embarrassing moment here.

2)      Listing degrees on your resume that you never finished.  Need I say more?  It’s misleading and often, a lack of a completed degree will disqualify you for a position.  That said, if the hiring manager or recruiter finds out after they’ve already invested time in talking to you – that you don’t meet those qualifications – it can leave a very bad taste in our mouths.

3)      Be careful not to list technologies that you have worked alongside of, but not EXACTLY with.  For example, it’s sort of misleading to include specific operating systems on your resume if you haven’t actually administered them.   It’s a safe rule of thumb about technology on a resume to only include things you would be comfortable answering questions about.  We know when you don’t know what you are talking about – it’s lame and makes you look like an idiot.

4)      Don’t say things like “Social Media Marketing” and SEO if you only know the buzzwords and have never implemented a campaign.

5)      Don’t list your aunt’s Los Angeles address on your resume when you live in Ohio and are planning on relocating as soon as you find a job.  Best here is to just list your phone number and no address at all.

The bottom line of advice here is: Be prepared to discuss, in detail, your specific detailed experience in all areas you list on your resume.  I’m not guaranteeing that you will be asked about everything – but do your best to avoid situations that cause embarrassment and burned bridges.

Those who can pass the interview “tests” and move on to get the job will soon be exposed.  Two weeks on the job and you are having to explain why you couldn’t do the job they hired you to do.  People are let down, time and money are wasted and you are back to square one on the job market feeling like a loser.  Don’t lie.  Don’t try to cheat the system.  Apply to jobs that you are qualified for.  Set yourself up for success.  Control what you can control.  The merits you have earned, the failures you’ve endured and who you are because of it all are good enough to get you a job – just not ALL jobs.

Resume filled with short tenures at jobs? Wondering why the offers aren’t pouring in? READ THIS…

2 Jun

I have mentioned several times throughout my Tweets and Blog posts that short stints at jobs are looked upon by employers as a red flag. The response from the world at large has been mixed so I thought I would take some time to address what concerns go through our heads and what steps you can take to alleviate any concerns and move forward in the interview process.

When a hiring manager or recruiter sees 1-2 years or less at every job on your resume (or in the last several years at least) it can elicit some of the following assumptions:

1. This person isn’t loyal or committed.

2. They get bored easily or are inflexible with change and would rather jump ship that work through difficult circumstances/people.

3. This person jumps from job to job for 20% increases in salary along the way – only out for more money and will continue to be susceptible to recruiting while employed with us.

4. They are a “grass is always greener” type of person, and a blame-shifter. For every job you talk to them about, there is going to be some person who was “out to get them” or who “stood in the way” of their success – so they were forced to move on.

5. They were fired. I realize that it may seem harsh to assume the worst, but it’s a reality that job seekers should accept and try to work around.

I have certainly heard stories that are exceptions to the above 5 assumptions, and some include:

1) Mergers/Acquisitions

2) Start-up whose VC money dried up

3) Company relocates to a different state

4) Department is eliminated

5) You took a newly created job that was poorly defined and expectations were unrealistic

6) New boss came in and brought in their own team

7) Company was legitimately crazy; unethical/hostile work environment

So, what do you do if any of those are causes of your short tenures at your jobs in the last 5-10 years?

Well, first of all you have been unlucky, misinformed, misguided, or failed to do adequate research. Whatever the case may be, the first thing we need to do is figure out the most appropriate way to disclose relevant information on your resume that may shed some light on some of these reasons and divert any recruiters/hiring managers from any of the first 5 assumptions.

The second thing you need to do is be honest with yourself and if you can own any fault in the matter, learn from your mistakes and vow to not make them again. I met a gal once who kept accepting positions that were newly created because she loved the thrill and the challenge. She stayed at each new position only as long as the CEO of the company was willing to support her entire salary as pure overhead because the positions were poorly defined and loosely linked to revenue generation/profitability. I would highly recommend steering clear of “brand new” positions – at least if you are the first of second person to take it on. It would be extremely difficult in an interview process, to determine how defined the role actually is, and exactly what the expectations are of you – and frankly, what happens after a year if those expectations aren’t met? Recalibration in a collaborative environment, or “I guess this just isn’t working, thanks for giving us a shot but we feel it’s best to move in a different direction.”

Here are some tips you can use on your resume to explain short tenures:

1) Specify if a job was a contract. You can place the word on the resume right next to the job title in parenthesis and italics.

2) If you fell victim of a merger or acquisition, you can specify in parenthesis and italics next to the dates of employment “Lay-offs due to acquisition by _____________,” or “Laid off as a result of merger with ________________, or something like “Part of 2,000 employee layoff as a result of division closing.” The point I’m trying to make, is it’s OK to be appropriately honest without making things too complicated on a resume. If your whole department got laid off, then write in “Department eliminated during restructuring.” Do not make this explanation long that 5 or 6 words, if possible. The longer the explanation, the more desperate and/or long-winded you appear.

3) If your company asked you to relocate to Nebraska, then write in next to dates in parenthesis: “Resigned after corporate moved to Nebraska,” or “Closed local division,” or “California offices moved to east coast,” or “Company HQ moved to Hackensack; declined relocation and resigned.”

4) Unfortunately, if you have fallen victim to getting sold on a “brand new role” within a company and it didn’t pan out, there really isn’t anything you can appropriately note on a resume without looking desperate. You will have to be able to clearly articulate the contributions you were able to make during your time in the position, and tie it up with something like “Looking back, I realize that I should have asked more questions prior to accepting the role because when I joined the team it was pretty clear that the position wasn’t clearly defined and I was facing an uphill battle.” You need to avoid bad-mouthing your former employer and take responsibility for what in hindsight appears to have been a bad move on your part. It is a delicate dance, but own what you were able to bring to the table and try and transition into how your accomplishments can be a value add to the team you are talking about joining.

5) If you resigned from a company due to harassment, hostile work environment or anything unethical or illegal, do NOT put this anywhere on your resume. In fact, I would even recommend not disclosing that in an interview UNLESS you absolutely have to (like you resigned from ENRON in 2000 and everyone knows what happened). No matter how legit your claims were (and I’m not minimizing any of it), you don’t want to advertise that you have experience suing your employers because it tends to freak people out. In an interview process, when they inevitably ask you why that job ended you can say something like “I actually decided to leave Enron because I realized that the company culture and environment was really not a good fit for me . That was a huge learning experience in my life and I feel that I am very focused and clear on what it is that I want in my next job and what sort of company I can thrive in.”

6) If you joined a start-up company who couldn’t afford to pay your salary after their venture capital money dried up, then it is safe to put (Start-Up) next to the company name on your resume and we can pretty much figure out what happened.

7) A different way to show loyalty and commitment on a resume is to insert a “Volunteering” or “Interests/Hobbies” section at the bottom that lists associations that you have belonged to and been active in for longer than 2 years. NPO’s you have volunteered for with dates can also show longevity. You can even include churches where you’ve been a member and how long, or # of marathons you’ve run, which shows discipline and the ability to stick with something that isn’t easy. Black belt in Karate, Big Brother/Big Sister, Boy Scout – all of these things act to humanize you and counter-act some of the assumptions of flakiness.

I hope this advice helps those of you out there that are dealing with trying to explain your way around your resume to convince anyone who will listen that you aren’t a job hopper and that you are truly looking for your next “home” in your next job. My advice is to keep networking and meeting people so you can get strong leads and referrals into positions. Take a class or earn a certification – but keep focused on your path and you will soon start carving it again.

For all others that actually DO have the “grass is always greener” mentality or think that all of your previous bosses are out to get you because they are all jealous – you may have a psychological problem. There is a slim chance that you were fired from your last 3 jobs because “they just didn’t know how to utilize your talent.” Try looking in the mirror at the common denominator and stop acting so self-righteous in your interviews. We have your number, and we don’t want to be the punks who sign your pay checks for the next year.

5 Easily Avoidable Mistakes That Can Cost You The JOB…

30 May

If you are actively interviewing, or even passively putting your “feelers” out there as the economy starts to show signs of revival – you should really take a second look at everything you are putting out there for prospective employers to judge you on.  Since I feel that I have already blogged enough about personal branding and how a photo of you wasted, and half naked at your best friends bachelorette party isn’t the best Facebook profile pic to have online while interviewing for a job, I shall spare you my lectures on social media this time around.

Below are 5 mistakes that I see candidates make DAILY, and some ways around them that will guarantee a certain level of success as you navigate through the grueling interview process in hopes of landing your dream job (or at least one that will pay the mortgage).


1)      Grammar/Spelling errors in email or written correspondence following your interview.  This is the most common flaw that hiring managers/HR use to screen out candidates.  We have to assume that the nature/style/format of your emails are representations of what your emails will look like to our clients, internal stake holders, executives and colleagues once you are hired.  Here are some tips to writing good post-interview follow up emails; work samples submission emails or general job inquiry emails:

Make the subject line relevant: “Angela Miller – Project Manager Position – Resume Attached” or “John Smith – Interview Follow Up – Technical Writer – Ref# 3455”.  Subject lines that read “Hello,” or “Thank You” alone can get lost easily in swamped email inboxes of busy people – so do your best to ensure your email is read by a succinct, professional subject line that is relevant to the content of your email.  Always include your full name in the subject line when moving through an interview process.

Always include your contact information below your signature in every single email correspondence to a prospective employer.  Make it as easy as possible for them to reach you.  Missing this step won’t ever rule you out for a position but your goal during an interview process should be to make it as appealing and easy as possible for them to contact you.

If your email MUST have a lot of content:  Perhaps they’ve given you an assignment, or asked that you submit work samples and the body of your email must explain each attachment.   It’s imperative to make use of an outline style where you use Bold and Underline to highlight each section and bullet points to describe anything you need to.

In regards to submitting work samples (Writing, PPT, Strategic Briefs, Reports, Excel, etc…) try to submit pieces that are somewhat in line with the business you are presenting to.  This may not always be possible – but try to avoid overt mistakes like submitting a PPT for an alcoholic beverage marketing campaign to a company that builds marketing campaigns for churches.

Make emails short and sweet.  Emails that are painfully long are a huge red flag and you can count on the fact that nobody will read to the bottom.  Proof read it 3 times before sending.  Make sure that your spacing looks good, your punctuation and name spellings are correct.  Make sure the company name is spelled right.  Some hiring managers get incredibly annoyed when you address their company “Fortrans” as “ForTrans”.  Branding means a lot in this day and age so make sure you know who you are interviewing with and are familiar with how they spell their name.


2)      Changing your story as it relates to compensation throughout the interview process.   In your online application when you submitted your resume, you put $70-75K annual compensation.  In the first interview you say $75-80K after you hear about benefits and learn more about the position (often based on benefits/responsibilities, candidates will want to revaluate what they need to earn – but leave room for this in your initial quote by making the range larger).  The second interview is almost done and you spit out that you want to entertain offers within the range of $85-90K.  You were most likely invited to subsequent interviews after the initial meeting for a few reasons, one of which was that your salary requirements matched with the company’s budget for the position.  Changing your story at the last moment, when you feel that the company likes you and is almost ready to extend an offer, puts pressure on the company to pony up more cash and can create an awkward relationship that might force the company to withdraw interest and harbor feelings that you wasted their time.


3)      Being hard to get a hold of.  If it takes you two days to return a phone call while you are going through the interview process and your availability for follow up interviews can only be outside of normal business hours, it can be perceived as a lack of interest on your part and the company might retain a more passive, “If she calls, we will interview her again,” stance.  This can open the door for someone else who portrays themselves as more eager and interested to steal the opportunity right out from under you.  All calls from a prospective employer should be returned within 24 hours – ideally in the same day to ensure you are showing interest, respect and professionalism.


4)      Using email rather than a phone call to follow up after a phone call from a prospective employer is odd.  If someone calls you – then call them back.  If they email you, then email them back.  Let the prospective employer set the tone for how you will correspond back and forth and respect that tone by following it.  Especially if you are interviewing for a sales position and only use email to respond to us – it only makes us assume that you are scared of the phone…which in sales, is not good.


5)      Not listing any recent managers as references is a huge red flag and good recruiters will call them anyway (of course not your current boss, but recruiters often cold call into your former companies and ask around until they get the person you once reported to).  If you’ve worked at 3 jobs in the last 5 years, and are currently working at the 3rd, then the last two bosses should be references.  A well-rounded reference list should include any managers you have worked under in the last 5 years, a colleague, someone who reported to you and a personal reference of someone who has known you for at least 5 years.  If you are a college student approaching interviews for your first job, then peers, professors, leadership individuals from any extra-curricular activities are great references.

In Conclusion:

The point is, while we are seeing an up-tick in the economy and more companies are hiring – we are still far from the days of 10 years ago when there was more than enough room for mediocrity.  There are 20 other qualified candidates going for the same job as you are – and you have to control what you can control.

You can’t control whether the hiring manager belonged to a rival sorority and therefore is biased against you.  You can’t control if the hiring manager’s wife named Susan just left him and you don’t stand a chance if your name begins with an “S.”  You can’t control if your personality just won’t fit in with the current dynamic of our team, or if what you describe as an “ideal job” if so far from our environment that we know you would be miserable here.

What you can and must control, is portraying you in a professional, intelligent, A-player light by being overly detail-oriented during this first “courtship” period.  Companies still need to feel that you are trying to put your best foot forward for them.  Positioning yourself to avoid these silly mistakes can help you come across as consistent, reliable and hireable.

Resumes and Personalized License Plates…

8 May

I recently relocated, solidifying my fate as one of the drone commuters in rush hour traffic on one of the worst freeways in Southern California.  Good thing I love my job.  Since I’m not one of those book-on -tape people, I don’t even own an iPod and some days I’m just not in the mood for Ryan Seacrest – I find great entertainment in trying to figure out the  people in the cars next to me.  What kind of job are they headed off to?  Why did they feel compelled to put all those Disney family stickers on their back window (you know, the ones portraying each of the family members in Mickey Mouse ears just so that everyone knows that they enjoy going to Disneyland).  I find it fascinating that people feel so comfortable advertising their political affiliations, family unit data (how many kids in Mickey Mouse ears, or even how many pets), and even religion on the backs of their cars.

Last week, one personalized license plate stuck out to me as being a little over the top in terms of “too much information.”   It read “WEDNOMOR”.  The woman driving the gray Honda Accord looked normal, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her as I stared from my window to hers.  “Wow,” I thought.  Something horrible must have happened in that marriage for her to feel compelled to advertise her disdain for the institution and her commitment from it on the back of her car for everyone to see.

It made me remember some of the inappropriate advertisements people sometimes offer up on resumes.

I have seen everything from listing your husband’s name in your objective, to describing a two year break in work history as “Served 19 months in jail for DUI offense.”

I have read resumes whose introductions explain how many children they have, how old they are and what God they worship.

This is not the time in our relationship that I need to know this information.  Just like in the case of the Honda Accord lady last week – why should I know that you had an unfortunate marriage?  Why do you want people to feel sorry for you without even knowing you?  When you disclose on your resume that a 3 year break in work history is due to jail time, do you expect to get an interview?  When I read things like “Took 1 year off to relocate to west coast to get out of a bad marriage” – is that putting your best foot forward to a potential employer?

My point here is, keep the personal information personal.  I’m not sure there is ever an appropriate time for me (as a hiring manager or recruiter) to know what your husband’s name is, what church you go to or that you are divorced.  That certainly won’t disqualify you from any job, but it muddies the water with “fluff” that has nothing to do with your career or my company.  My advice is to be focused on your skills, experience and whether your core values match with a company’s mission and vision.  Don’t give me information that I won’t be able to separate from in my decision process.  Don’t allow anything to come between you and my perception of your ability to do a job better than anyone else.

I think there might even be a psychological implication with those who feel the need for attention from people revolving around somewhat negative personal events.  It could make an employer feel that drama follows you everywhere.  It may make us assume that you are the type of employee whose work gets impacted by personal/home related issues.  Or that you are the type that freely and openly discusses your family problems which can lead to discomfort of colleagues in the work place or frequent tardiness (taking care of family emergencies, etc…).  I cannot say this enough – You should seek to convey a stable, professional image in an interview process.  Nobody wants to represent themselves as an “HR nightmare” so don’t give us any cause to label you one.  Control the image, leave out the personal, focus on your accomplishments and speak only to what you can bring to the table.

If you have a statement on your resume that you feel is questionable or may be the exception to this standard, feel free to post it comments and I will give an honest opinion.