Answering the Salary Question

Sometimes they’ll ask you to send your salary requirements within your cover letter.  Other times it’ll be a question on your application or they’ll ask you during the interview. Regardless of how they ask, they will ask.  

The discussion of salary is a dance between employer and potential employee. As the employer, I want to know how much you’re willing to take first.  That way I’ll know if I can get you for less or if you expect too much all together.  As the potential employee you want them to give you a number first for the same reason. You don’t want to give them a number that’s low and risk losing a higher salary and you also don’t want you to price yourself out of a position.

As a jobseeker, the standard rule is to say open. This allows you to see what they’re offering first so that you can determine how to negotiate.  Most employers will press you for a number after you say open so be prepared to offer a relevant range.  Your salary range isn’t an arbitrary amount that you think you should be paid.  This range should be based on research for different positions in your industry/sector related to your level of experience and education. 

Recently during a telephone interview I asked the candidate about her required salary.  The number that she gave me was about 20K more than we were willing to offer for the position.  It was also about 20K more than her current salary  More importantly, her experience and background didn’t warrant a salary that high even if we did have the higher amount in our budget.  She effectively priced herself out of that position.

As a job seeker you should know how much people are being paid for the kind of work that you want to do and you should be able to justify why you should receive that amount.  You should also be able to  realistically figure out where you would be within the range that you provide.  Let’s say the salary range for your position of interest is $40K – $55K.  If you have limited experience (entry-level to less than 3 years) without a Masters degree (if it’s preferred), expect to be on the lower end.  Concurrently if you have more than 5 years of experience plus supervisory experience and an applicable Masters degree, expect to be on the higher end.

Several factors go into salary offers: your current salary and salary history, program/organization budget, the outgoing person’s starting salary, possible room for an increase down the line (if your status might be changing in a few months with a new certificate or degree, there’s a chance they’ll offer you more at that time so they can start you off lower to make room for that increase), industry salary standards for that position, etc. Ultimately the employer wants to remain competitive but at the cheapest price possible. 

 In order to make sure that you’re still in the running, do your research and come to the table prepared.  If your range is on target for your field and you can provide concrete evidence that  XYZ pay rate is justified (i.e. skills/qualifications, educational background, increased level of responsibility, etc.), you’ll be able to settle on an offer that makes both you and the employer happy.

Websites to Research Salaries (Nice site.  You can evaluate your current salary to see where you fall within your field, evaluate offers, and research) can research specific positions to see national averages and generate salary reports. They also break things down by level of experience). (Most people are familiar with this site.  Besides salary information it’s also good to read reviews)


Can you recover from a Nic Cage resume bomb?

By now I’m sure most have seen the Nicholas Cage resume faux paus.   A job seeker attached a picture of Nicholas Cage instead of her resume and cover letter.  Hilarity ensued for those that read the story but for the actual job seeker (if she’s real), she was probably mortified.

No one has ever sent me a picture of Nicholas Cage (yet)  but I have received a few questionable attachments.  Some job seekers have sent drafts of their materials, resumes and cover letters in track changes, resumes and cover letters in a non-compatible format,  papers or other writing assignments and my favorite, a blank word document.

Usually if I have time, I’ll contact the applicant and let them know that the resume they sent was actually blank.  I do this primarily because they’ve probably been sending that word doc entitled “resume 2012” for some time now without any response and won’t understand why until they actually open that word document.

How does one recover from this?

Step 1: Apologize profusely and point out that your faux pas in no way reflects the quality of work that you would provide as an employee.

Step 2: Make a joke (if you’re funny).  Depending on the sector and type of position they might welcome your sense of humor.  Make sure your joke is appropriate (and funny).

Step 3: Move on.  We tend to look at the closed door for so long that we let other opportunities pass us by.   You sent a blank document to a prospective employer.  Is this the only position that you’re applying for?  No!  You’ve apologized and provided the correct information.  If they get back to you, great! If they don’t, that’s great too.  There are plenty of other positions that you can apply for.  Mistakes happen.  As a job seeker and employee you’re supposed to be perfect but the reality is that mistakes will happen.  The most important thing is that you accept responsibility for your mistake and make an effort to correct it.

To prevent situations where Nicholas Cage and his crazy eyes can make their way to your job application, set up some safe guards.

-Entitle your documents something that accurately describes what they are, “M.Honeypot_resume 2012.”

-Once documents are attached, open them and review them to make sure they’re correct.

-If you have gmail, set up a send delay just in case you spot something that shouldn’t be sent to a prospective employer.

-Save your emails as drafts and come back to them in a few hours. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can spot mistakes.

-Don’t save gifs of Nicholas Cage and his crazy eyes.  (Probably the most important thing to do).

For those who have not seen it

Post-Application Follow Up

As a jobseeker, follow-up seems necessary.  You’ve sent in your application and days or even weeks have passed and you haven’t received a reply. Is your resume stuck on an admin’s desk?  Did someone accidentally delete it? There must be some explanation as to why you haven’t received a phone call.

As an employer, the honest explanation is that we’re not interested.  If i’m screening resumes and I see a gem amongst the rubble of poorly constructed cover letters and resumes, I contact that person.  If I want to interview you, believe me you will absolutely know.

I know that it’s difficult to just relax and move on the next possible position especially if you haven’t received any confirmation of receipt but it’s probably in your best interest and will benefit you in the long run.  

Don’t resend your resume and cover letter because they will know that you resent it.  They’ll figure either you’re just applying to so many jobs that you’ve lost track of where you’ve already applied, or that you’re trying to follow up without really following up.  

Don’t send your resume and cover letter via multiple means.  Most application instructions will say email, maybe fax, possibly (but not likely) mail.  Choose one and stick to that one.  If I haven’t called you when you emailed me your resume, I’m not calling you when you fax it in and mail a hard copy.  I’m definitely not speaking with you if you physically bring your materials to my office and ask to speak with me to discuss the position.  (This has happened more than once).

Don’t call inquiring about the status of your application.  If someone is interested they’ll call you.  No need to have that awkward phone conversation where you say your name and they have no idea who you are and you remind them that you applied and they try to let you down easy by saying it’s either filled or they’re still screening.  I hate those convos.

Definitely do not email asking, “when will I be interviewed?” Interviewing isn’t a courtesy extended to all applicants so don’t assume that it will be extended to you.  If they want to speak with you, believe me they will.

Don’t follow-up a few days after you’ve sent in your application.  Things do happen. Resumes can get lost or deleted.  Someone might be on vacation and hasn’t gotten to your beautiful masterpiece.  I’ve had several people email their resume on a Friday and contact me on Monday asking about their status.  Let some time pass. Ideally if you absolutely must follow-up, a polite check-in reiterating why you’re a good fit and conveying your interest can be ok after a few weeks.   

Regarding follow-up after an interview, I’m all for that but again make sure you’re polite, clear, and concise. Use your follow up to address any concerns that might have come up during the interview and to convey interest and enthusiasm in the position.   A crafty way that someone followed up for a position we were recently trying to fill was by sending in an article that addressed a job function and discussion topic that came up during the interview.  I thought this was really smart because it showed that she was thinking about the position and what she could do in that role and it showed us that she was still interested without being abrasive or pushy.

To some extent, you shouldn’t think about applying for a job differently than dating.  The same crazy red flags apply.  If you give a guy/girl you just met your number on Thursday and by Saturday you have multiple missed calls, facebook, twitter, and google plus invitations, and a handwritten letter at your door, would you go out with that person?  Most likely not.  A potential employer feels the same way.

“I’m Interested in Any Position That’s Open…”

This might very well be the truth but the employer doesn’t need to know that.  With each application that you send you’re trying to convince the employer that you’re the best candidate for that position.  Out of the hundreds of resumes that they’ve received, they should contact you because you will do the best job in that particular role.  How can you convince them that your specific mix of skills and qualifications make you a good fit for that position if you tell them that you’re interested in any position that they have open?

Whenever I see this blurb in an intro email or even worse an actual cover letter, I hit delete.  In some rare instances, I will actually reach out to the candidate and ask them to review the positions listed then get back to me with an updated cover letter for the position of interest.  I usually tell them that positions vary so much and listing “any” doesn’t give me a good sense of their skill set or interest.

As a jobseeker many years ago I made the same mistake.  Either there were multiple positions that I was interested in from that particular organization or I wanted them to know that I was flexible in case the position I was applying for was already filled.  What I didn’t realize was that internally, good candidates get passed around regardless of what position they’ve indicated on their application.

You do want your employer to know that you’re flexible but you always want them to know that you have purpose and drive.  Sending a generic cover letter and resume with an intro email that basically says that you’re interested in any position that’s open will convey to them that you’re lazy.  Take the extra time to review positions, assess your skill set, and apply to the one that best fits you.