How to Ask If a Company Is Hiring
It's helpful to have information about a particular company's current hiring needs, whether it's from online postings, newspaper advertisements, or even an employee of the company who knows what her department is looking for. However, not every company has a career section on its Web site, advertises its openings, and keeps you updated on its needs. In fact, many small and medium-sized companies don't do any of this. So how do you ask if they're hiring or have openings?
WHOM SHOULD YOU PURSUE? If there's a company you've been eyeing, do some research on its struggles and its potential for growth. Online searches, media coverage, and industry-specific networking may reveal a lot about the needs and strengths of a particular company. That information could indicate opportunities for employment.
Additionally, in your daily newspaper, you may read about a company that is expanding in your city, and this information could spark your interest in exploring possible positions. You might walk the mall and discover a new store that's about to open and will need to make hires.
Let's say that you are thinking of looking for a new position andfind yourself at a party or industry event. The conversation is so fascinating that you start dreaming about joining their organization. In such a case, you can say, "While I'm not yet actively searching for a new position, I'm so intrigued by what your company is doing. Might you suggest the right person for me to connect with to determine what possibilities exist for employment? I'd welcome the chance to see if there's mutual interest."
Announcements about new appointments to senior positions are a good way to spot potential openings. While you might not have seen any openings for a particular publication, you recently read that a new editor-in-chief was named at a great magazine. Send a note congratulating her and inquire about work. "I was delighted to read about your appointment since I've been a subscriber for several years. I know that every new manager likes to make her mark by bringing in fresh talent. I'm hoping you'll be willing to consider me for some writing assignments once you're ready to plan your first batch of articles."
The bottom line is to be alert and aware of the information and people you encounter. This can lead to a range of opportunities even if a specific position isn't obvious from the onset. When you spot something you'd like to pursue, don't make the mistake of sending a generic letter addressed to no one. You must determine to whom your inquiry should be specifically addressed. Call the receptionist or head of human resources at the company that has piqued your interest, and ask her who is handling hiring decisions. If you're told that there are no current needs, try reaching out to the person who heads up the division you want to work for. "I recently read about your expansion in Latin American markets. I have extensive international experience that could prove to be a great asset to your plans. I'm hoping you'll be willing to set up a time to meet when we cantalk about potential openings or even consulting assignments. If you're not the right person to handle this, perhaps you'd be so kind as to tell me whom I can reach out to by phone or e-mail?"
OVERLOOKED OPPORTUNITIES. Part-time, freelance, and consulting jobs are some of the main types of positions that are usually not posted or advertised. If the company is one you really want to join, find out how to contact the person in charge, human resources, or the department you want to be a part of. When you make your contact, share the highlights of your abilities and experience and ask if there are freelance opportunities suitable to your skills. This option works best for more-senior positions that aren't necessarily advertised because there is no head count or budget for a full-time staffer. However, a department head is often able and willing to make provisions to bring on consultants. These positions can be lucrative in themselves and can turn into full-time roles. Again, since these options aren't advertised, you'll need to inquire about them by taking the initiative.
Have a pleasant, strong, and concise pitch ready to offer as to why you're calling. If you get an assistant, you can say, "I know from reading the article in Crain's that Mr. Lerner is leading the expansion to the West Coast. While his hiring plans might not yet be firm, I wanted the opportunity to connect with him about possible freelance work since I have extensive experience and success in this area. When would be a convenient time for me to speak with him? Or do you think it would be best for me to send him an e-mail detailing my experience and interests? I am confident he will thank you for this lead."
How to Ask If Your Résumé Has Been Received
Your résumé is the marketing tool that helps you get your foot in the door. You've worked tirelessly on making it perfect, so don't spoil your efforts and abandon your chances for landing an interview by not following up. Not only will a prompt follow-up increase your chances for an interview, it will also prove to your prospective employer that you are interested in a specific position. This step separates you from the people who simply submit dozens and dozens of résumés without having any particular passion for or interest in a role, in hope that one of them will elicit a response.
Every job seeker knows that you often submit résumés without hearing anything in return. You wind up sitting by the phone or computer desperate to know if the human resources people have received your résumé, especially since you can't just call up and say, "Hey, did you get it or not?"
Résumés are often lost or overlooked, so while you're assuming that your résumé has been received and reviewed and that they have declined you, they may not even know you exist. This is another reason why follow-up is so important. You may wind up needing to resubmit your résumé.
Fortunately, there are effective, professional ways of finding out if the company you're interested in has received your résumé. Finding out presents an opportunity for you to restate your desire to pursue the position and remind them of your qualifications and why you are the ideal person for the job.
WHOM SHOULD I CALL? Figuring out whom you should call is just as important as making the follow-up connection. You will haveto identify the hiring manager responsible for screening and selecting prospective candidates for the position. If it's a small company, you can usually call the main number and ask anyone who answers to provide you with the name of and contact information for the appropriate person. The larger the employer, the more complicated it often becomes to pinpoint the appropriate person. Among the options:
1. Call the main number and ask to be connected to human resources. Sometimes an assistant will answer, and you'll be able to ask for the name of the person you're trying to reach. Always ask for the name of the assistant and create a connection with him or her by expressing your gratitude. You can also ask for advice on the best time to try to reach the person you want to contact.
2. Visit the careers or jobs section of the company Web site to look for contact names and/or e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Some employers list this information by department or region.
3. Look at corporate press releases or a listing of top executives on the company Web site to determine who is the head of the division that interests you. (For public companies this information can be found on hoovers.com.) When you call the main switchboard, ask to be connected to that person's office. When an assistant answers, politely ask if she or he would kindly tell you who is responsible for recruiting for positions in the line of business you're pursuing. For example, if the position you're seeking is account manager in the consumer-products division, ask who handles that recruitment responsibility.You do not have to identify yourself as a job seeker unless asked.
4. Ask a current employee to find out for you the name of the human-resources person you should connect with.
PERSISTENCE PAYS. Once you have a name, make this follow-up phone call a week after submitting your résumé. If the ad or posting stipulates "No phone calls, please," follow up using another communication method, such as e-mail. However, keep in mind that such rules are typically designed to ward off people who would ordinarily call up just to ask, "Have you received my résumé"--a question no human-resources professional has the time or desire to address.
When you're ready to pick up the phone, keep in mind that you have a dual purpose: to confirm that your résumé has been received and to further your candidacy by making a strong connection and impression. For example, "Hi, Ms. Goldman. My name is Haley Revez. Last week I submitted my résumé for the position of technical analyst. I'm following up with you now because I'd welcome the opportunity to discuss my qualifications." Before sharing additional information, pause briefly to allow her to acknowledge receipt of your résumé. If you have exceptional experience that makes you a standout candidate for this position, mention it here. In such a case, you'd say, "Hi, Ms. Goldman. My name is Haley Revez. I submitted my résumé last week for the position of technical analyst. You may have noticed my previous experience at Microsoft. Would you consider setting up an interview with me?" If she hasn't previously looked at the résumés submitted, or if yours was somehow overlooked, this additional information will likely cause her to pay attention.
If she says she doesn't recall seeing it or hasn't had a chance to check on what's been submitted, you may offer to send another copy. "I'm sure you've received many résumés for this posting. If it would be helpful to you, I'd be happy to e-mail another copy directly to your attention, especially since I meet and exceed all of the criteria outlined and I'd be ideal for the role."
If your initial statement prompts the response that your résumé has been received, you can say, "Great, I'm glad to know you received it so quickly. I was happy to hear that position was open, since I was an analyst in Chicago for six years and know a lot about your company. I also wanted to let you know I managed the XYZ project, which was delivered on time and under budget for the company." You may then ask what the next steps are in the hiring process and when a decision to fill the position is likely to be made. The goal is to not end the call until you have some sense of the time frame and the next steps. Is there someone else you should follow up with? Can you set up an interview now that you're on the phone? When might someone call you for an interview? Try to get a definite response as to what should happen next.
Resist the urge to leave a voice-mail message with your initial question. It is doubtful that your call will be returned. Keep trying until you get a live person on the line, which might mean varying the times of day at which you place your calls. Early morning, lunchtime, and end of work are the best times to try reaching key contacts in their offices.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE? The response you receive from this contact should determine if and when you get a callback, or when you should call again. If they seem irritated, you can apologize and back off. "I recognize that you're busy and that you've no doubtreceived many résumés for the position. What would be an appropriate way to follow up?" Be grateful and try your best to connect with that person, but don't persist by sharing details about your interest. Ask if there's a better time for you to call or if your inquiry should be directed to someone else. If, however, the contact person seems neutral or the least bit interested, keep on course until your message has been delivered. In the end, contact has been made, your interest has been reiterated, additional information has been supplied, and a request for a decision on next steps has been made.
If you have not heard anything after three weeks, follow up again, either with a call or an e-mail. Restate your desire for an interview. You don't want to spoil your chances by contacting the potential employer too often, but you don't want to be forgotten or overlooked either. There is a fine line between positive persistence and annoying pestering, but by combining common sense with these suggested procedures, you will greatly increase your chances for going from résumé submission to interview.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME. Let's say you did everything you were supposed to, from submitting your résumé to checking up on it at each stage, only to hear that you were not chosen for an interview. If it's a company you want to have a future opportunity with, and you want to learn where you went wrong or what you can do differently next time, ask. "I'm sorry to hear that news, but thank you for taking the time to consider me. In your professional opinion, is there anything I could do differently to better my chances with your company in the future?" Or you could say, "Was there anything pertaining to my experience or specific skills or knowledge that I could improve upon in order to increase my chances of employment at your company, since I'm eager to join your team?" Anything you can do tofind out ways to improve your résumé and experience will help you in future job searches.
Additionally, if you didn't get to interview for this specific opening, ask if you can have a 15-minute information interview, which will allow you to find out more about the company and its hiring needs, as well as what makes a successful candidate. It will also allow you to tell your interviewer about your skills, experience, and achievements. This may cause her to recommend you for a future position. The goal is to stay in touch and follow up, since the person they hire might not work out or they might have a need for another employee before you know it.
How to Ask Smart Questions During an Interview to Help You Land the Job
Most people prepare for an interview by anticipating the questions they'll be asked--and practicing their answers. But what happens when the tables are turned and the interviewers ask if you have any questions for them. Consider asking questions that are specific to the company. You might concentrate on asking about the challenges it faces and its position within the industry in which it operates. Beyond those specifics, there are five more questions that you must be prepared to ask in any interview. These may provide you with valuable insight and further support your candidacy.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU SEE IN THIS POSITION? This shows an interviewer that you're interested in going beyond the basics and that you are inquisitive and thoughtful. It also shows that you're not adverse to overcoming challenges and tacklingthem with gusto. An interviewer will often reveal information that would otherwise have been difficult to ascertain. For example, he might let you know about specific projects that you'll be expected to tackle. Or she could let on that the various personalities in a specific division are difficult to work with. Whatever the response, you can use that information to address how you're ideally suited to rise to the occasion and handle those issues.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR THE IDEAL CANDIDATE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS? By asking this question, you're showing the interviewer that you are a results-oriented professional. All employers want goal-driven and motivated people on their teams. You're ready to hit the ground running with an eye toward accomplishing whatever is most important to your new employer. Finding out what an employer values and the expectations she or he has for this job candidate will help put both sides on the same page. It's beneficial to communicate your awareness of expectations and to make clear that you're willing and able to meet them.
WHY IS THIS POSITION VACANT? The answer might be either benign or a big eye-opener. The position might be new, which is great news because it likely means the company or division is growing. Someone might have been promoted, which is also positive because it's typically a sign that the company promotes from within. At other times the interviewer might let slip that they've had difficulty keeping someone because the manager is demanding and often difficult to work with. You'll want to know as much as possible, so take the opportunity to learn about what you might be stepping into in terms of culture and personalities.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS IN THE INTERVIEW PROCESS? Most interviewees make the mistake of leaving the interview without a sense of what to expect next. Ask this key question while you still have the attention of the interviewer. Find out if you'll have to meet with more people, agree to any kind of skill-based or psychological testing, or submit to drug tests and background checks. You should also ask if other people are being considered for the position, and where the company is in the hiring process. Be sure to inquire as to when you can expect to hear from someone about the next steps. Offer to call your contact in an agreed-upon time frame. The more you can glean from these answers, the less chance you will become frantic or frustrated because of uncertainty.
WHEN DO YOU EXPECT TO MAKE A DECISION? This question differs from the questions you'll be asking about the next steps in the process. You want to know their time frame for making a formal offer. You might learn that the company doesn't expect to make an offer for two to three months. Other times the period might be as short as a day or a week. The benefit of knowing their time frame is important in terms of managing your own needs and expectations. You'll also want to figure out who the final decision maker is, so that you will be prepared when interacting with that person.
In addition, it is advisable to ask about the company culture. You can say, "I know that you must determine if I'd be a good fit for your culture. Similarly, I want to make sure that this is a good match for me. I have a few questions about the philosophy and practices of the company that I hope you won't mind addressing." Among the questions you might want to ask:
• What is the policy for promoting from within?
• What is the turnover in the department I'm interviewing for? How does that compare with the turnover in the company as a whole?
• How would you describe the senior management style?
• How did you get your job here? Would you share your experience and impressions of the company with me?
By asking questions that show clear insight into the company's initiatives and goals, you are demonstrating to a potential employer that you will fit right in, that you understand their workplace culture, and that you are ready to go to work.
How to Ask for More Money
Some employers have no wiggle room, especially if the position has a fixed salary. This is common in entry-level training jobs. However, for more-typical positions, don't be agreeable to the first number just to get your foot in the door, especially since most employers actually expect that a successful candidate will ask for more money than what's being offered.
Men are four times more likely than women to negotiate the first offer; thus, they accumulate an average of a half-million dollars more in their paychecks by age 60. Whether by nature or nurture, many women shy away from negotiating salary. We assume that if we jump into the job, roll up our sleeves, and get down to business, someone will notice us and reward us accordingly. Rarely does that happen, and so you wind up cheating yourself out of money by not asking for it.
She Asked for It!
When I was a junior faculty member in a department of OB-GYN, there were five faculty members--four of whom were men, plus me--in the department available to take night call. Each person was assigned to take one day a week. I was assigned Friday, which meant that I would have to work every Friday night until eight on Saturday morning. This obviously spoiled any possible weekend plans every weekend.
I approached the department chairman, pointed out the problem with the schedule, and suggested that we either take call a week at a time or rotate Fridays so that no one would have every weekend spoiled. His response was that if I wanted to plan something on a weekend, I could ask someone to cover the call, but otherwise I still had to work every Friday.
This was a no-win situation, and I don't think there was anything that could have changed the outcome. It shows that not all work environments are fair or user-friendly for women. I suggest that in job interviews you keep your eyes open for corporate cultures that may be biased and avoid them if possible. There are better places to be, so why start out in a place where everything is an uphill battle? It doesn't have to be that way, and when it starts out bad, it frequently doesn't get better.
--DR. CARLENE ELSNER, reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist
Before you can ask for what you deserve, you have to make the commitment to negotiate. You must be willing to speak up and argue your worth by demonstrating the value you are bringing to your new employer.
No matter how excited you are, don't say yes immediately. Always assume the first offer is negotiable unless you've been told otherwise. Ask for the offer in writing, and take at least 24 to 48 hours to think it over; this "waiting period" offers breathing room to allow for other interviews if you have them. Make sure that you are clear about when you'll be getting back to them and that the time is acceptable to them.
Prior to discussing or negotiating a number that you'll be comfortable with, do your homework as to what the market is paying for someone with your skills. Figure out what comparable positions pay based on industry, level of experience, education, and geography. Check Department of Labor statistics and survey sites such as salary .com. Also look into industry-specific trade associations, which often track such data.
While it's okay to ask friends and colleagues in your field about their salaries, keep in mind that such responses are often inflated and can give you a false sense of reality. For example, approach knowledgeable peers by saying, "I don't want to appear to be prying, but I'm in the process of a salary negotiation, and I'd welcome your input on ranges that would be consistent with the going rates in this line of work." Or ask if there's someone they know in a related field whom you might call.
As you prepare to negotiate with a current or future employer, do the following:
FOCUS ON YOUR PERFORMANCE. The amount you are going to ask for shouldn't be based on your rent, car payments, babysitting needs, or other personal expenses. Mentioning those expenses will not make you more attractive to a company. Instead, focus on work: the demands of the position, your past and future responsibilities, your track record of success, and what the industry typically pays for such a position.
REMOVE THE EMOTION. Women often equate taking less money and not rocking the boat with being better-liked. Take the emotion out of the conversation. In an effective negotiation, your focus should be on receiving fair compensation for your work. You're asking for more money because you're smart, capable, and competent, not because you want someone to like you as a friend.
BE DIRECT ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS. "Thank you for extending an offer. I'm excited about the possibility of joining your team. I've researched the industry, and people with skills and experience comparable to mine are earning an average of $45,000. That's $5,000 more than you're offering, so I'd like you to consider increasing the offer. Can you make this happen?"
Another example: "Is your offer of $45,000 in line with what others in the organization in the same position are making? I'm asking because the figure is lower than I anticipated."
You can also offer a range. "While I appreciate your offer and I know I'd be an exceptional asset to the company, I was expecting to earn between $45,000 and $50,000."
If you are moving to an area where the cost of living is higher, ask if a cost-of-living adjustment has been offered. "I realize that in my previous position in Salt Lake City, I was earning $35,000, but sincethis new opportunity is in Chicago, I would expect to earn at least $10,000 more."
If the offer is significantly less than you expected, let them know. "As I've said all along, I'm very interested in the position. However, I would not be able to accept it for $45,000, based on my qualifications as well as the challenges of the role. Would you reconsider?" Be prepared to hear them either say no because the offer is firm or ask what you have in mind.
ANTICIPATE THE OPPOSITION. Try figuring out in advance why your request might be rejected, and rehearse your responses. The more you play devil's advocate, the better prepared you'll be in the long run.
For example, when you ask for $10,000 more in base pay, your prospective employer might reject that figure, citing your low salary history. In such an instance, you can say, "I'm asking for this increase based on the skills and experience I bring to the position, as well as my track record of successes. There are significant challenges that I'll be expected to tackle in this new role, and my overall responsibilities will be much greater than in my previous positions. Therefore, I'm confident that the results I will achieve warrant this increase."
When asking for more money, don't make threats that you aren't willing to keep. Be prepared for the recruiter or human-resources person to show you the door if you give an ultimatum.
ESTABLISH ALTERNATIVES. Decide on your own in advance the least amount of money you'd be willing to take to accept the position. Then figure out what alternatives to your ideal salary are important to you. For example, $15,000 more might be tops on your list, but if the company won't budge on base salary, perhaps you canask for a signing bonus, which often comes from a different budget. Your priority might be an extra week of vacation or a better title. Maybe you'd like to work from home one day a week or maintain a somewhat flexible schedule. Sometimes you can negotiate commuting or parking expenses as well.
You would ask for such alternatives by saying, for example, "Since you're unable to increase the base pay you offered me, I'd like to propose an extra week of vacation time. In my previous position, which I held for five years, I was eligible for three weeks, so I'm hoping you'll grant me the same amount of time here."
Consider walking away from the offer. Decide in advance what you'll do if your requests are rejected and the employer's offer is firm. Would you prefer to pass on the job offer and continue searching for a better opportunity? Or will you accept the offer as presented, with the satisfaction of knowing that you asked for what you deserved even though you didn't get it? It's essential to make this decision before negotiating.
THE BIG DAY. Rehearse your talking points in advance by roleplaying with a confidante who can be an effective devil's advocate. When the time comes for the actual negotiation, whether it is by phone or in person, bring bulleted notes that reinforce your key points.
PROFESSIONAL FOLLOW-UP. In the end, the company may still decline your offer. Be proud that you stood firm, and keep your cool even in the face of rejection. If they say no to your requests and you're unwilling to budge, send a genuine note of thanks within two days after the decision has been made. This leaves a positive professional impression, and might even result in a callback with a counteroffer.Keep the door open by letting the decision maker know that perhaps you'll have the opportunity to work together in the future.
CELEBRATE YOURSELF. When you are one of the deserving women who does get the salary you asked for and you're proud of it, be careful not to boast to your coworkers. Project your confidence and satisfaction from knowing that you asked for and received what you wanted and deserved, but don't become the Shelly Show-off of the office, whom no one can bear to be around. Tact and discretion will keep you out of trouble.
How to Ask About Compensation and Benefits
Base salary isn't the only important aspect of the job offer. Many women either ignore or are unaware of the numerous options available to them; they focus on the salary only, which is a big mistake. There are a few important things to ask about once you've been offered the position:
• Be direct and ask about the overall compensation package by saying, "Since salary is just part of the overall compensation, it is important for me to know about the whole benefits package available to employees. Is there a package you could share with me?" When possible, get this in writing so that you can review the benefits and fully evaluate the offer. Your prospective employer has no doubt invested a lot of time and money in developing its benefits plan, so ask questions whose answers will give you a direct and complete understanding of what's available to you.
• Ask about specific benefits, including insurance--medical, dental, vision, disability, and life-insurance coverage. You should ask what plans the employer offers, as well as what portion of the monthly premium(s) the employer contributes and when you become eligible for it. Also ask what is the minimum number of work hours required for eligibility, and if your spouse, domestic partner, or children are also eligible for coverage. If your previous employer paid your premium in full each month while your new employer pays none of it, then you might be getting a pay decrease, not an increase.
• Be aware of the different types of health coverage available versus what your employer may offer: traditional (fee-for-service), HMO (health-maintenance organization), and PPO (preferred-provider organization). Read over your options to help you decide which plan will meet your needs. Consider a variety of situations and what-ifs and educate yourself about what these plans really mean. What are your deductibles? What will you owe at appointments? Are there additional benefits that provide emotional security as well? The fine print often reveals these details, and it's important to understand in full what you are being offered.
MORE COMPENSATION. What about other benefits that may be available to you, like paid time off (PTO), vacation days, sick days, and personal days? How are they accrued? What are the specific terms? Can the unused time be carried over to the next year, or must it be used by a certain date? Does the company offer domestic-partner benefits? Are bereavement days covered? If so, what is the policy? If you're not pregnant now, but might consider becomingpregnant at some point during your employment at this new company, ask up front what type of coverage is offered just so you're totally clear.
You can ask about other types of paid or unpaid leave. These might include sabbaticals after a certain number of years of continuous service.
Long- or short-term disability, severance packages, or company takeovers: Companies are not required to offer benefits to protect you in these cases, but you should definitely ask about them so that you'll be prepared. You might want to ask about notice periods in case your position is eliminated. This information can often be found in an employment agreement.
Retirement plans--401k plans: In most of these cases the employee and employer contribute money to the account via automatic payroll deductions. Ask how much you will be able to contribute and what, if any, match the employer offers. Ask when you can begin to contribute to the plan, when the matching component (if any) begins, and what the vesting schedule is for the matched amounts.
Stock options: Ask if there are any stock programs available for employees. Depending on the options, you may want to consult your own financial planner, accountant, or stockbroker to determine the best options for participation. Even with a small start-up, profit-sharing and stock options could be valuable to you. Think of the early Google guys who are now seeing huge dollar signs and early retirement because of their stock compensation.
If the person you are negotiating with can't answer your questionsin detail, ask to speak to someone in the corporate-benefits department who is likely to be more familiar with the information you're requesting. Ask to see a copy of the employee handbook or corporate-benefits summary. Ask to see a total-compensation statement so that you can understand what your total package will be worth, not just the portion that you receive in a paycheck.
OTHER BENEFITS YOU MIGHT WANT TO INQUIRE ABOUT.
Expense Account: Depending on your position and level of experience, you may be eligible for this. "Is there an expense account that comes with my position for entertaining clients, vendors, or suppliers? What is the procedure for being reimbursed when I purchase items for business use?"
Child care assistance: Is it available? Is it offered on a daily basis, or is it reserved for emergency and backup occasions? What are the costs, and what ages are admitted?
Elder care assistance: Is it available? And if so, what are the specific services or referral programs?
Telecommuting: Is it a possibility for this position? What expenses are covered if we agree to this option? Do you provide a computer, phone, internet access, or other aids?
Educational support: Is there a tuition-reimbursement policy for continuing education or degrees? How many classes per semester or year are reimbursed? Are fees and books covered? When does anemployee become eligible? Are there any stipulations, such as certain grades or approved courses, for reimbursement?
Employee-assistance programs (EAPs): Since many employers recognize the need for resources that address a myriad of personal issues, ask if you'd have access to any confidential referral services. These programs might focus on such challenges as mental illness, family disagreements, substance abuse, divorce, and financial pressures.
Health and wellness: Does the company offer discounted membership to a local gym, or do they have an on-site fitness center for employees? Is there a subsidized cafeteria? Some companies even offer daily aerobic breaks right in the office--a few minutes of daily stretching and movement can be the little extra nudge you need to a healthier, happier lifestyle and career.
Other programs: Healtheare-reimbursement accounts, which allow for pretax deductions on unreimbursed health-related expenses; transportation savings accounts, which provide for the purchase of vouchers for commuting, using pretax dollars; college scholarships, grants, or savings plans for your dependents' higher education; purchase plans for discounted rates on big-ticket products or services offered by the employer; and concierge services, including the procurement of theater tickets, on-site dry cleaning, car washing, and other services of convenience.
While you don't have to grill the human resources department on every detail prior to accepting an offer, use your judgement to determine which benefits are valuable and relevant to you.
She Asked for It!
The first company I worked for closed down. When I was offered an ideal position with a lower salary, I didn't think I was in a position to negotiate. I knew that the long-term benefits from a financial and quality-of-work perspective would be very rewarding. I was able to convince the company to grant me more stock options as I believed the company had a solid product and future. I negotiated an additional 1,000 options to my package.
--SANDRA KRIEF, Senior System Engineer
How to Ask for Time Off Before Accepting a Position
During the interview process, there may be important dates on your mind that will likely conflict with your new position if you wind up receiving a formal offer. It could be a long-standing vacation, a wedding, surgery, or another important event to which you had a prior commitment.
Don't wait until you've accepted the job to ask for the necessary time off. Instead, do it in the final stages of the negotiation process, after it's been made clear that the company wants you.
YOU'VE BEEN OFFERED THE POSITION. Once you have been offered the job and you know you want to accept it, ask for the time off as part of the deal. "Thank you for the offer. I'm very excited aboutjoining the team. I know there will be time to discuss all the details, but I wanted to let you know upfront that I will need the last week of May off for a long-standing commitment that I cannot break. Will that be an issue? I'd like to discuss in advance how to work that into my paid time off."
Here is an approach for another situation: "My family and I have planned our summer vacation a year in advance, and I don't want to miss it. Not only would I lose our substantial deposit and airfare, but I'd disappoint the kids as well. I want to accept your offer for this position; however, I need your assurance that this trip will not be jeopardized. Will that be an issue?"
ESTABLISH ALTERNATIVES. An alternative is offering to make up the days off. For example: "During the first two days of June, I have a prior engagement that I committed to before beginning this interview process. Would I be able to take those days off with pay, and make up for them by staying later or working on a weekend?"
One condition you could make for accepting the position could be the employer's willingness to extend those days off to you, even if your vacation wouldn't typically kick in that soon. Do not volunteer to take the time off unpaid, but you should keep in mind that you may ultimately have to do so if they won't budge on their policy. This should be a last resort on your part. Once you receive approval, put it in writing so that it doesn't fall between the cracks.
When negotiating time off, you may need to give up something to achieve it. For example, you might ask by saying, "I appreciate the one week of vacation starting in six months. Would I be able to take an additional week off unpaid if I took my vacation during a slow time for the company?" Be prepared to have to prove yourself beforesuch a request is granted. Results and performance are the drivers for getting special privileges.
How to Ask About a Position's Salary Without Divulging Your Salary History
Your goal is to discover what a company is willing to pay for a position, but you want to do so without discussing your past salary, and without selling yourself short or knocking yourself out of the ballpark.
RESEARCH NUMBERS. Find out the market value of your position. Sites like vault.com offer insights into specific companies' salaries via message boards and white papers. If it's a government position, the pay range may be published in the posting. If you want to do general research, you can do this through salary.com and industry-specific associations that track salaries in particular areas of interest and geography.
If you're changing careers or entering a different field, expect a different salary range, since you may not have all the qualifications the position requires. Alternatively, if you're going from a nonprofit to a for-profit organization, or if you're moving from a small city to a big one, you don't want your smaller salary to be taken for lack of ability. Keep this in mind as you are inquiring about or researching compensation. Be practical, yet have confidence in what you can offer your future employer now and after you've been hired.
When initially inquiring about a position--over the phone, in person, or via e-mail--you can ask the person handling your inquiry,"What is the general salary range for this position?" Don't dance around the issue. Get right to it. This way you'll know if it's worth your time going through the rest of the process. If they won't respond with a specific answer, ask for a range. Some people are not forthcoming with information, but usually they'll provide what you need if you ask directly.
DO YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM? This is a tricky one. Some companies claim they can't and won't decide what you're worth if they don't know your entire salary history, yet most job seekers feel that it's confidential information.
Other employers have suggested they don't need an exhaustive list of past salaries, but they would like to know your most recent earnings to determine if you're in the right ballpark for this new opportunity.
When you are filling out applications and encounter the salary-history area, do not leave it blank. Complete it honestly; otherwise, you may ruin your chances of even being considered for the position. Remember that before hiring you, most employers will insist on verifying this information, either by calling your former employer (s) or requesting the previous years' W-2s for proof. If you've lied, this is the time you will be busted and lose the offer.
THE INTERVIEW. If you've come this far and still haven't learned or been told of the position's salary, try to avoid questions about money until you've learned more about the position from the interviewer. There could be more to the job--good and bad--than you know at this point, and you don't want to come across as if salary was the only thing on your mind. Say, "I'd like to hear more about theposition before talking about salary," or, "First I had a question about ..." (whatever is also important to you at that time in the interview). This will impress the interviewer by showing your interest, and the additional information will provide you with more power when the time to negotiate finally comes.
Either way, be prepared if the interviewer asks you to provide your past salary history. You can reply politely and directly, "I'm very interested in this position and your company. While I can be somewhat flexible on salary if the opportunity is right, it would help me to know the general range that you're able to offer."
In the end, don't risk alienating or annoying a prospective employer with your unwillingness to answer the question. At some point, you're going to have to provide your information, just as you expect the company to provide a number as well. Be careful about dismissing a potential opportunity solely because of the base salary offered or advertised. Ultimately, you'll need to factor in the company, the people you'd be working with, the potential for growth, and your own goals. Collectively, some of that might be more important than the salary alone.
How to Ask About Next Steps in the Interview Process
Figuring out the next steps in any career-related process--whether applying for the job, interviewing for the position, or negotiating the offer--is your chance to manage your expectations and set the course to make things happen. If you don't get the critical details aligned, it's difficult to know what to expect and when, which often means you won't make the most of an opportunity. Getting into the mind-set of asking requires planning and preparation. Here are some situations to be prepared for during the interview process:
She Asked for It!
I was negotiating salary for my first serious job. I was offered the money, and instead of taking it, I said, "Let me think about it," and I went to the ladies' room and cried: I went back and said I couldn't live with it. They then offered me more money, and I called my father, who said, "What, are you crazy? Take the money!" Once again, I didn't. So I went back in and asked one final time. They increased the offer, and I took it.
They didn't know I was upset, but I was crying because I had to ask, and it was hard to imagine a nice girl like me asking for money. In those days, you wanted them to give you money because they liked you and you were worth it. I learned that not only is there absolutely no shame in asking, but that they expect you to ask. You don't just get it because you're nice.
--DR. JUDITH SILLS, clinical psychologist and author, The Comfort Trap: What If You're Riding a Dead Horse
NEXT-STEP SCENARIOS. If you meet a recruiter at a career expo and you discuss details about a specific opportunity, don't walk away without saying, "This sounds wonderful, and I'm so appreciative of your time. When and how should I follow up with you?" As with any question, watch your body language. If you are nervous--fumbling for your résumé or unable to find a pen--that minute-made impressionwill be lasting. Be confident; otherwise, you are sending a message that you are not prepared. It's also a good idea to ask for the contact's business card in order to make sure you have the correct spelling of her name and the right contact information. If she prefers for you to contact her by e-mail, then you'll have a record and her permission to do so.
Say you're at a holiday gathering and you strike up a conversation with a friend or family member, which leads to the discovery that he has a great contact for you. Don't wait for him to call you with the details, because he's certain to forget. Take the initiative after the event by saying, "I appreciated your mention of a possible contact at last night's dinner. I'm calling to see if I might get that name and number from you." Each of these situations demonstrates one key factor, which is follow-through. Many jobs and opportunities are lost due to dropping the ball and not taking action. Determining next steps is critical: it puts you back in charge and makes you feel empowered.
During an interview there are many questions you can ask that will help move things to the next steps:
"Will another interview be necessary? If so, with whom will I be interviewing?"
"What should I bring with me to our next session?"
"Are any tests required?"
"How many open positions do you have?"
"What is your timing on filling this position?"
Never leave an interview without establishing the next steps. "When should I expect to hear from someone?"
Alternatively, you can state when you will be contacting them. "Thanks again, Mr. Smyth. I'll follow up with a call in a few days to see where things stand. Would that be okay with you?"
The next steps are like closing in on a deal or sale. You want to move the process forward in order to get the job in the end. For this reason, treat every interview as if it were your last. Be nice to everyone, including the receptionist and other staffers with whom you are required to interact. Their impressions of you could help seal the deal or nix the offer.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW. Always send an e-mail or handwritten thank-you note to the person or people with whom you've interviewed. Be sure to also thank the person who set up the interview (s). All of the messages should be unique. Double-check your spelling and grammar. Do not send one form e-mail to everyone. Your notes should reiterate your desire to join the company. This is also a good time to cover anything you forgot to mention during the interview, such as additional qualifications, anecdotes, or recommendations. Include your contact information, such as a phone number where you can be reached; you can use a business card. Make it easy for someone to connect with you.
When it's time to place the follow-up call as you indicated you would, say something like, "Hello, Mr. Smyth. This is Maria Hernandez. I interviewed with you last week for the marketing-manager position, and, as you suggested, I'm touching base with you today to see where things stand in the hiring process."
NOT YET. If they haven't yet reached a decision, ask, "Would you please let me know if I am still a candidate for the position?" If you are, then you can add, "When would it be best for me to checkback with you?" If you sense some hesitation on the part of the interviewer, you could say, "If there's any hesitancy about my candidacy, I hope you'll share it with me so that I can perhaps answer other questions or provide more information as to why I'd be a great asset." If you feel it's essential, you can also offer to work on a trial basis to prove yourself.
Continue with the weekly follow-up, or whatever timetable is most suitable based on the feedback you received. Be patient and polite, keeping in mind that decisions aren't often made according to our ideal time frames.
NO. If their answer to you is no, make sure you leave them with a positive impression. Since the potential for future opportunities could still exist, you don't want to jeopardize their opinion of you. Be gracious. "Even though this didn't work out as I had hoped, I am appreciative of your time and initial interest in me. And I hope you'll keep me in mind for future opportunities. In the meantime, I'd welcome any feedback as to what the selected candidate possessed that you didn't see in me. Perhaps there's something I can learn that will help me grow." And in case they were positive about your interview but had many other qualified candidates, and provided that you are still interested, consider dropping the contact a note letting him know you are still available should there be another related opening.
YES. When you hear the news that they'd like to hire you, be calm and enthusiastic, but don't necessarily accept the offer just yet. There could exist the potential for negotiation. "That's terrific, I'm delighted by this news. If possible, I'd like to receive your offer in writing." Then ask, "What are the next steps in the process so that we can agree on the terms and my start date?"
She Asked for It!
Like any good job applicant, I had researched the finances of the organization. I was interviewing for the position of executive director of the Atlanta Press Club and was truly thrilled when offered the position. I believed it to be the perfect job for me, and it has turned out to be just that.
However, the first offer was considerably lower than what I had hoped for. I remember feeling confused and hurt and not quite knowing how to respond. Like many women, I took it personally. My husband turned out to be the perfect career coach. We researched salaries of comparable positions and did our best to determine what was reasonable for the Press Club and fair to me. I then made a counteroffer.
My husband convinced me to ask for exactly what I wanted and made me believe I was worth it. I thought it was a bold move and was afraid they would laugh in my face. They did just the opposite. I believe in retrospect that it raised their respect for me. I was able to say, "If you meet this salary requirement, I'm in." They did, and here I am.
--SARAH DOUGLAS, executive director, Atlanta Press Club
How to Ask to Be Considered for Positions Outside of Stereotypical Roles
Not every position is going to put you on the fast track to the top. In fact, most support positions, which are traditionally held by women,rarely lead to advancement to the highest levels in a company. The roles that will help you reach the top are called line jobs. These positions directly impact the company's bottom line--its profits and losses.
Roles in public relations and human resources support line jobs. This is often true whether you work for a Fortune 500 corporation, a small nonprofit, or a midsize law firm. Rotating into jobs where you are responsible for revenue generation is essential when you want to reach the top level in an organization. Consider any number of line jobs: find the fun in finance, act as an accounting ace, sell with sizzle, or offer to optimize operations. See yourself as CEO, and become the boss.
Lack of information about various positions is a key reason why many women hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Not enough women are skilled at getting sufficient diverse experience inside their companies to allow them to attain the advancement they are seeking. The first step is to project where your current job experience will take you. Quite often, the pinnacle of your current path is easy to see. It may simply be department head.
The way out of this box is to start talking about your career goals with your supervisor early on. Don't begin this conversation by sharing pie-in-the-sky fantasies of being CEO. Instead, show a commitment to your boss, your department, and your current career path by sharing your desire to expand upon your current expertise. Say, "I'm very interested in building a long-term career with the company. What types of responsibilities tend to enhance a skill-set like mine?"
You may also identify someone in senior management who once worked in your department and say to your boss, "I've been impressed with Barbara's career. What additional skills did she developto put her in line for senior management?" These conversations should stay focused on how you can acquire greater strength in your current job. Show loyalty with inquisitiveness.
IF YOU MEET WITH RESISTANCE. In some cases, your supervisor will be supportive and give you the information you want. Other times, however, you will be met with resistance. In situations like this, don't pursue the conversation with superiors in your department. Instead, consider asking someone outside of your department for advice. You can also look into company advancement programs on your own. Approach senior-management women inside and outside your organization and ask them how they developed their careers. Say, "I've really admired your career and understand that you once worked in investor relations. What additional skills did you need to acquire to attain your current position?"
HOW TO AVOID GETTING STUCK. Of course, not all women have built their careers in support roles. Many women work in line jobs like sales and consulting, and are subject to the same issues as those that women in staff jobs confront. Women in line jobs, admittedly, deal with these issues to a lesser extent. The issue here is that line jobs tend to have a narrow focus. Support positions often address the bigger picture. For this reason, women in line jobs also need to concern themselves with job rotation--at least once or twice in their careers. The risk, however, is getting stuck permanently in a support position. The best way to handle this is to develop your plan in writing so you're clear about your goals and how you will achieve them.
If you aren't able to rotate into other roles inside your company, consider a rotating out of the company altogether. Stay proactiveand skillfully manage your career. Although women now make up half of the workforce, they are underrepresented in senior positions. Very few women currently make it to the top of their organization, but progress with advancement is underway.
The numbers are moving in the right direction, however, with an increasing number of female corporate officers in the Fortune 500 over the past decade. Women at this level help set the policy that affects the rest of the workforce. You will find that your experiences at work will be enhanced as more women reach these pinnacles. And who says you can't be the next Meg Whitman or Andrea Jung? The workforce needs smart women--women like you--in executive positions.
How to Ask for a Paid Internship
You are now ready to take your classroom knowledge and acquire professional skills in a specific field. An internship will help you accomplish that goal. It will also strengthen your résumé and create connections you can use down the road. Although paid internships are not common in all fields, there are ways to get them.
Companies are investing more time in and devoting more resources to internship programs because they can often lead to the identification and grooming of future employees. Most of the leading entertainment and publishing companies do not have paid internships, since there are so many people who want to be interns in these enterprises. The big businesses of investment banking, accounting, and technology have the best-paid internship programs. Compensation will vary according to region, company, and even size of employer.
There are many people to ask for help with regard to landing apaid internship. You can approach professors, college career counselors, and friends and family for their suggestions. "I'm interested in pursuing a paid internship this summer where I can apply my engineering skills. Would you have suggestions about small- to-medium-sized employers that I might look into about this?"
Although your focus will be hands-on education rather than employment, you should search for the right internship in the same way that you would search for a permanent job. This internship could lead to valuable recommendations for future employment, or you might be the one intern they don't want to get away. Research potential organizations, choose a program or customize one of your own, and then do your evaluations. Remember, you can do an internship almost anywhere in the world if you can afford to do so.
Ask yourself what skills you want to gain from this position. What knowledge would you bring to an employer? Are there any restrictions you have during the internship, such as number of hours you're available to work, or transportation or housing needs? Once you apply, be prepared to interview either by phone or in person. Consider the talents you bring to work and be prepared to address a variety of questions. The interviewer may ask:
"What are your plans after graduation?"
"How did you become interested in this field?"
"How have your courses prepared you for this internship?"
"What are your goals in relation to a possible internship here?"
"Why did you choose us?"
"What are your strengths?"
"What are your weaknesses?"
Be ready to ask questions in return:
"What will be my responsibilities?"
"Who would be my supervisor, and what are his expectations from interns?"
"Do you offer any type of intern training?"
"Have you hired any of your former interns in full-time positions?"
"At the end of my internship, assuming you're pleased with my performance, would you be willing to write me a recommendation and review my résumé?"
When it's time to discuss the important subject of compensation, you could say, "While I know this internship will offer me invaluable experience, for which I am very grateful, I am hoping you'll consider providing a stipend. Is that possible?"
Alternatively, you can focus on extra hours and the unique skills that you bring to the position. "Since I have expenses associated with accepting this internship, I'd like to respectfully request that you consider providing some compensation based on the long hours I'll put in and the special skills that I'll be bringing to this position. For example, I interned at another leading public-relations firm last semester and personally cultivated many media contacts who will takemy calls. Secondly, I belong to the local press club and public-relations society as well as the networking group in this area. I would be delighted to network on your company's behalf, identifying potential clients."
Keep in mind that you will probably have more room for negotiation with a small company than with a large one. This is because bigger companies have formal internship programs that involve hundreds of positions annually. Some provide stipends while others do not, and some of these companies actually post this information. It's rare for them to make an exception in order to compensate one person.
If your request is rejected, which might very well be the case if there's a standard internship program and deviations are not permitted, then you might suggest being reimbursed for your travel, lunch expenses, or even a particular professional organization that you'd like to join in order to help the the company. Even though you won't make any money on the internship, this would prevent it from costing you money. On rare occasions there is such a thing as a free lunch, and as a starving college student, you deserve it.
Before you reject an unpaid position, keep in mind the long-term benefits of an unpaid internship in your field versus a paid hourly position outside of your industry of choice. For example, indirect compensation such as discounts on services or products, and attending seminars and participating in training workshops, can be very beneficial to your professional growth. It might also be possible to negotiate an internship that is unpaid for the first half and then paid in the second half To determine if this is possible, ask if other interns have ever been hired on this basis. Also, inquire if you will be allowed to list specific assignments you did for the company's clients on your re-sumé under your internship credit. At the very least, will the companygive you a letter of recommendation if you do a great job? Other benefits are likely to increase your career opportunities and salary down the road. You can view these rewards as delayed compensation. Take into consideration that:
• You will end your college or graduate school career with exceptional work experience.
• You will have benefited from real-world instruction.
• You may have earned college credit toward your major.
• You will have made important networking contacts.
• You will have gained hands-on experience in your field of choice, which may further your interest in that field or prove that you're no longer interested in it.
How to Ask for a Temporary Assignment
Are you ready to launch a career without any prior work experience? Maybe you can't decide on a specific career field just yet. It's okay if you're still test-driving in many areas of your life--be it cars, homes, clothing, partners, or your career path. Take the time to find your right match. What if you're between jobs and just need to make some extra income and keep your skills sharp? Temporary assignments are a great way to gain these experiences while also bringing in some extra spending money.
You can suggest a temporary assignment when a company doesn't have an available opening or they can't afford you on an annual basis. Typically, no benefits are provided, and there's no guaranteeof long-term employment, but you often can make more money per hour or per day than you would if you were a salaried employee.
When you meet with the decision maker, say something like, "I'm very interested in this position, and I know I have a lot to offer your team. Since you don't have the ability to hire me full-time, would you consider a temporary assignment?"
Another scenario is, "The human-resources manager informed me that your receptionist is on maternity leave. I'm in between jobs and have great experience and references in customer service. I'd love to talk to you about hiring me temporarily for that position. This would provide you a wonderful opportunity to meet your current needs, while we could also see if we are a good fit going forward."
The majority of people in long-term temporary assignments are offered full-time positions. Businesses often find themselves in rough spots where there is a need to fill in for staff members who have quit or retired or are vacationing. The assignments can range from one day to a year, depending on the positions. And there will often be positions that require people with much flexibility. Show off your ability to adjust, negotiate, and problem-solve. You and your superiors will respect you for it.
For temporary assignments, you must have the kind of personality, skills, and great attitude that allow you to quickly adapt to new surroundings and new people. If you do, the possibilities are endless. It's exciting, and you'll gain insights into other businesses, along with training and connections. In all cases, you may need to go through the usual interview process, which will focus on your skills and interests. You may also need to take tests that pertain to the position.However, the turnaround time for hiring is often much shorter than with a full-time staff position, which is welcome news.
It's a smart solution if you can't decide which career path to choose. Temping is the ultimate job-hunting strategy. You can experience the job behind the scenes without having to commit to a company and/or position full-time or permanently unless you choose to do so. It's a win-win situation all around and allows you the opportunity to see where you best fit and what type of job or work culture you might want to pursue once you decide you want permanent employment.
Temp assignments provide flexibility, allowing you to personalize your schedule to fit the needs of your lifestyle, the demands of the assignments, and the vision of the company.
The employer may also provide competitive compensation. Again, wages will vary with each company, but they often match or exceed the hourly rate of the equivalent full-time position.
You could sign up for Temp-to-Direct hire: it is a great alternative to looking before you leap and is good for both you and the employer, because there's less pressure on both of you. Hopefully you'll fall in love with the opportunity, and the employer won't be able to do without you and will end up hiring you directly.
How to Ask for a Meeting with a CEO
Despite what some people think is conventional wisdom, contacting the CEO should be the last resort when you are looking to break into a company. Every day thousands of people call, e-mail, and write asking to see the big boss. And while the "I've got nothing to lose"mentality is often accurate, if the majority of these meetings were granted, CEOs would never be able to run their companies and satisfy their shareholders.
If you're trying to reach the CEO of a small or medium-sized business, it's definitely worth a shot to call the main number and ask for the e-mail address or fax number of the top executive. You might even get the person on the phone easily, in which case, go for it by stating your request as quickly and succinctly as possible. "I've admired your company and followed its growth for the last year. I have a brilliant marketing idea that is tailor-made for you. Would you consider giving me 10 minutes to stop by and present it in person?"
When trying to connect with the CEO of a large company, there are several points of etiquette to guide your approach:
FOLLOW THE PROPER PROTOCOL. Many people attempt to e-mail the CEO directly, which rarely if ever secures a meeting, as the big boss doesn't usually see those letters. They're routed to an assistant, who is likely to be annoyed that you didn't follow the proper protocol of contacting her in the first place. Most people who wind up getting a meeting with a CEO are smart and savvy enough to go through the assistant whose job it is to handle all the CEO's scheduling decisions. You will have a better chance of receiving a positive response if you do the same.
LEVERAGE MUTUAL CONNECTIONS, BUT DON'T EXPECT FAVORITISM. It is to your advantage to write to the CEO via his or her assistant if you share a mutual connection. However, never lie or overstate the strength of that tie. There's a real chance that you'll get an interview if you have a strong résumé, but there's absolutely no guarantee that you'll get the job. The best companies won't hire youjust because you know the boss or his cousins. Similarly, CEOs often bring in stacks of résumés from people they've met on the road or at speaking engagements, and all of them are typically directed to human resources with the caveat that there should not be any preferential treatment. Any good CEO wants his experts and leaders in each line of the business to make their own hiring decisions without unfair influence from the boss.
GO DIRECTLY TO THE RIGHT DEPARTMENT. It's usually more effective to go directly to the person who is specific to your needs. For example, if you have a terrific marketing proposal or you're looking for a marketing position, there are many people within the company's marketing division who've been empowered to make the needed decisions. If you're selling a product that you think is essential to a company's technical operations, go to the head of that department. This is not just good advice for salespeople and job seekers: when a mayor's office calls the CEO, they are often directed to the company's government-affairs group. It's not that the mayor isn't afforded respect, but there are people who are suited to handle those needs more effectively than the CEO. Rarely will the CEO of a major corporation override that team's authority to make decisions. He relies on their good judgment. Even when a CEO is approached by his own employees in the halls, he encourages them to take their good ideas to the proper manager.
TALK TO YOUR BOSS. Many internal employees want to impress the CEO with their ideas, especially when they believe they can transform a company. While there's nothing wrong with that, going to the boss is often not the most beneficial course of action. Think about speaking to your front-line supervisor, your manager, oryour VP first. Often your own department has a better chance of making something happen--especially if the idea is valid. Start within your group, build some consensus, and then offer the idea to your department managers.
If you've exhausted the other possibilities and you're still convinced that you deserve time with the CEO, make sure your prior course of action is detailed in your request. That history will be important to the decision-making process of the person who will ultimately grant or deny your request.
SAVE YOUR MONEY. Gifts don't influence a CEO's decision to meet with you. Sending cookies or other gifts doesn't influence any large company's decision-making process and can be perceived as hokey. In cases where such stunts do work, it is because they are directly related to the field. For example, an advertising executive once granted a meeting to an employee who, to describe his focus, created an ad campaign that was so clever, the executive couldn't resist meeting with him. However, such tactics rarely work. If you're the creative type, just remember that the bar for success is high. In addition, with ethics issues in the forefront of the highest levels of management in most corporate cultures today, assistants and executives are more cautious than ever about showing favor based on the receipt of a gift. To get the attention of the CEO or his assistant, send a straightforward letter with no frills attached. It will surely garner more respect.
SOME SOFT SPOTS EXIST. Because companies value education, a student writing a paper who requests a few minutes with the CEO might receive a brief phone appointment to ask his or her questions. Many students don't know the ins and outs of a public-relationsdepartment, so students are sometimes excused from following the typical protocol. An adult businessperson is expected to understand the rules and follow them.
Remember, very few strangers receive in-person meetings with a CEO, so don't take a refusal personally. Meeting time is typically reserved for staff members reporting directly, members of the media, and external partners who are critical to the smooth operation of the company.
Executive assistants, especially those who support Fortune 100--level management, are often perceived as pit bulls because they are tough about who gets through, but it's their job to make sure the CEO's time is economized so that she or he can run the company as efficiently as possible.
How to Ask for More Time to Make Your Decision About an Offer
The day will come--maybe while you are in the middle of a project, or while you are switching jobs, or even while you are in an interview--when you'll need more time to make a decision. Without laying anything on the line, how do you delay answering the person in charge in order to give yourself ample time to decide what's best for you?
You've just been offered a job, but you really want to hear back from your interview from yesterday so that you can compare companies and salary packages before making your decision. You also might be interested in making a counteroffer. You know that if you ask for more time, the interviewer will expect to hear back from you in a day or two. If she doesn't, she just may retract the offer.
Thank her and buy time by saying, "I appreciate the offer, and I respect the fact that you usually need an answer in 24 hours, but I'd like to ask you to make an exception. I'm immersed in a project this week. Would you be able to give me a few days?" This demonstrates loyalty. Once you've made your decision, notify the person immediately via phone or in writing based on past communication.
She Asked for It!
I was bused to the Astrodome in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and I was fearful about the future. When I saw a woman holding a sign that read ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A JOB?, I jumped up to get the chance to speak with her. I described my situation and she offered to help. The woman turned out to be Tory Johnson, and she kept her promise by finding me immediate employment and housing after this terrible disaster.
When I told other Katrina victims about my good fortune, they wondered how I was so lucky. I told them it wasn't just a matter of coincidence, I actually made my own luck by standing up and asking for help. I've learned that help rarely falls into our laps. You have to be willing to recognize that you need it, then you have to muster the confidence to ask for it. I'm thankful that I had the guts to ask for help.
--DORIS BANKS, Houston Texas
Imagine being told that you were chosen as a contender for a transfer to the big city. It will mean not only a higher salary and a more prominent title, but a whole new life--and your interviewer wants an answer by Friday. You have a whole lot to think about, so it's not inappropriateto ask the employer to allow you time to consider the offer.
Immediately respond that because of the nature of the situation, you need time to think. "Off the bat, I'm delighted about the possibility of your offer; however, that's a significant decision to make, for which I'll need more than just a few days. I'd like more time to consider all aspects of what this might mean for me. What time frame would be acceptable to you?"
INTERNAL CHANGES. You work for a small company that you love. It's review time, and you're in a meeting with your boss. She informs you that the company is going through some rough waters and won't be able to grant you a raise. Worse, she asks you to take a pay cut, promising that when the company gets back on its feet, she will make it up to you. You might say, "While I'm aware that things have been tight, I'm very surprised to be asked to take a pay cut. I've delivered solid results above and beyond what's required of me. [Pause to breathe.] Of course, I value my position and would hate to consider the idea of looking elsewhere for work. But wouldn't you agree that I deserve a week or so to get my thoughts in order?" To have the benefit of the full picture, you should also ask if pay cuts are being made across the board. While you're buying more time to make your decision, consider asking for benefits to compensate for the possible cut, and develop a time line that shows when your pay would increase.
METHODS FOR DECISION MAKING.
• Allow the news to soak in. Your mind is trying to digest reality right now. Let it. Take a bath, go for a jog, or listen to music to relax you and help you consider the options with a clear head.
• Evaluate your options. You have the power to accept or decline the offer. Consider all sides of the equation based on the short- and long-term implications. Don't focus on pleasing others; focus on doing what's best for you.
• Weigh the pros and the cons of your options by using cost-benefit analysis. Make a list, and assign a value to each: pros (0 to +10), cons (0 to -10). Add the totals up for each and compare the outcomes. This is a great way to gain a better perspective. Bounce your thoughts off a family member or trusted friend.
• Get some sleep. Many problems are solved this way. As you're falling asleep, think about your situation, the choices you have, your feelings about each of them, and the possible results. Maybe you'll have your answer in the morning.
• When you make your decision, stand by it, and don't look back. Throw yourself into your decision and commit all of yourself.
If your boss doesn't grant you the extra time you request, let the issue be for the moment. Go back to your office and take a break. Even an hour or a day can bring about change, whereby the boss might be willing to give you a bit more time, and you might be willing to take a bit less time. If you're being pressed for an instant response, try providing one or two valid reasons why it's beneficial for both sides that you have this time. For example, it will ensure that you make the best decision for yourself and the company, one that neither party will regret. You may get the boss to empathize withyou. In the end, however, rather than making a rushed decision within someone else's time frame, it's often better to decline the offer, especially if you feel in your gut that it just isn't right.
How to Ask for a Relocation Package and Moving Expenses
The most common reasons for relocating are starting a new job with a new company, transferring for personal reasons, or being transferred to a new location because of a business need. It's always best to negotiate associated expenses before accepting the job. This way, there are no surprises for you or the company. If negotiating isn't possible, a well-researched plan will contribute to a happy and successful move.
What is the policy on COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments)? It will vary with the company: a salary increase, a down payment for a home, paying points on a mortgage to lower the rate, or providing temporary housing until the employee finds a home are some of the possible options. For more-senior positions, you can negotiate for all of these benefits, not just one of them.
If your schedule permits, make some trips to the new location and explore it. Ask if your employer will consider paying hotel and meal expenses for your family's house-hunting trips.
When in the new city, check out commuter costs and meet with real-estate agents to get some idea of the housing market and property taxes. Get a handle on costs. You want to have enough cash left over after getting your new digs to enjoy and explore your new hometown. So do your research beforehand.
Document your findings, set up a meeting with your new boss, and explain your situation. "If I am to consider the relocation offer you made, we have to discuss the fact that my $250,000 home in Kansas City is comparable to an $800,000 home in San Diego. I will need a cost-of-living adjustment to address that difference. When can we discuss this in detail?"
BE REALISTIC. If your company is very eager to relocate you, a relocation package is negotiable. The more senior you are, the more likely it is that your salary will be based on national, not regional, standards. If you don't have a senior position, and your skills aren't unique, you'll be more limited in what you can ask for. You may have to settle for a bare-bones accommodations. Similarly, if the move is for personal reasons, and not being done at the request or for the benefit of your employer, your position in the negotiation isn't as strong. You'll want to find a way to focus on benefits to the employer in order to bolster your case. For example, while you might be doing the same work, this move will put you in closer proximity to several key clients and allow you to improve customer relations.
DISCUSSING THE MOVE. When discussing moving expenses, make sure to ask that packing expenses and insurance be included. Travel, lodging, fuel, and meals are also things you will want covered during the move. Make sure you understand any exceptions or exclusions in the policy.
Depending on its relocation policy, your company might buy your house if it doesn't sell before you transfer; or the company might reimburse you for the difference between the house's fair market value and what it sells for; or they might pay all the expenses (monthly payments, taxes, and insurance) until your house sells.Covering real-estate commissions on both the purchase and sale of the house is another benefit you can ask about.
Does your employer have any agreements with national movers? Ask the company to pay the mover directly. Do you have a car or pet that needs to be transported? That's an additional expense, so ask for them to be covered.
MORE THAN MOVING. A relocation package can also include more than just moving expenses. Will your employer assist your spouse in relocating? For example, will it help him with job placement in the new city? Your company may also provide assistance with finding appropriate schools for your children. Advance preparation to help your hubby and little ones feel happy and fulfilled could help ease the transition for all of you and keep the family positioned as your cheering squad.
READ THE FINE PRINT. These moving packages often have a set amount of money allotted to them, and they often hinge on your staying at the company for a minimum amount of time. Find out exactly what the time commitment is and what happens if you leave the company before the end of the relocation term. So that you won't be surprised, ask to see any contract from your employer before you commit to taking the other job and leaving town. Many times employers wait until you arrive at your new destination before handing you a new agreement.
It is very common for companies to demand your repayment of moving expenses if you leave the new job during the first year of employment. Ask about signing bonuses and any other monetary incentives, as you don't want these to be used against you if you end up leaving early while under contract.
NONCOMPETE CLAUSES. These are usually found in employment agreements, so it's a good idea to seek legal advice before you sign a document with such a clause. Some companies utilize these clauses to prevent you from working in your particular industry during a specified amount of time in the event that you leave them.
TAKE THIS BOOK TO WORK. Copyright © 2006 by Women For Hire, LLC, and Robyn Freedman Spizman Literary Works, LLC. All rights reserved. . No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.