Friday, March 23, 2012

Facebook Responds

As they should and as one would expect. I'm a little surprised it took them as long as it did. Take a look here. One would think it's only a matter of time before this issue is settled and the practice of requiring personal login information in an interview (or any setting for that matter) is declared illegal.

In the meantime, I am going to polish my Hulk-a-Maniac membership card and get ready for the it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Job Seekers Are Required To Turn Over Facebook Login Information?

The AP recently ran a story about job seekers being required to turn over their Facebook user name and password during the interview process. If you are anything like me, you use the same password for numerous logins so turning over your password to one would compromise your online profiles in several other places. To begin with, that's the first of many reasons I would never work for an organization that asks me for that kind of information.

Job seekers should never be forced to reveal private information about themselves in an interview and since Facebook pages contain a wealth of private information they too should be off limits. The idea that a job seeker would be asked to actually hand over any type of login information is especially ludicrous. Why don't I grab my bank account number and PIN for you while I am at it?  

It seems that if it is illegal to ask about your martial status, age, disability, whether you have kids, your sexual orientation, or your religious affiliations during an interview, employers shouldn't be able to actually log into Facebook as you to poke around your public and private profiles. Wouldn't they be able to glean at least some if not all of that information from a person's Facebook page thus answering some of the questions that are otherwise illegal to ask? Seems like a pretty clear invasion of privacy doesn't it? Even requiring a job seeker to be a Facebook friend crosses the line in my estimation as it will provide an eye into the personal life of employees that should not be used in consideration for employment.

Naysayers may ask what you have to hide. But that's not the point. The point is that I have a right to hide it if I want to. That's why Facebook protects its users with a login system and why I am the only one who can log in to see it. Let's take it a step further and say that in your free time you like to engage is some type of activity that you might not want people to know about. Maybe you are a die hard WWE fan and like to dress up in body paint and go to matches wearing a Speedo and you don't want your colleagues at work to know. Maybe you like Justin Bieber more than a pre-teen schoolgirl. Or maybe you participate in some other type of completely legal activity outside of work that others who don't understand the culture might use to judge you and you have pictures which aren't even available to the public stored on your Facebook page. How does the fact that your are a card carrying Hulk-a-Maniac affect your ability to do your job and do it well? It doesn't. And revealing such information shouldn't be part of the interview process.

It's hard to imagine the Facebook question remaining legal if it hits the courts. However, this issue brings up an interesting question: how do you deal with this in an actual interview?  As a job seeker, it is our responsibility to know what questions interviewers are and are not allowed to ask.  We also need to know how to deal with the situation if one of them is asked. Whether someone is asking you how old you are, whether you have kids, or asking for your social media login information, you have a few choices for how to respond. Mind you, the social media question isn't actually illegal (yet) like the others:
  • Tactfully point out that the question is illegal (if it is) and that you are uncomfortable answering it as a condition of consideration for employment: "That question is illegal to ask in an interview as a means to assess my qualifications and I respectfully decline to answer it."
  • Point out that the question is illegal, but still answer it: "While that question is actually illegal to ask in an interview I don't see any harm in letting you know that I am an energetic, well qualified and competent 32."
  • Don't point out it is illegal but still don't answer it: "I don't see how my age (or marital status, disability, religious affiliation, etc) would affect my ability to perform the duties of this position and in fact I am confident it wouldn't get in the way whatsoever."
  • Sidestep the question: "Are you asking me if I have kids because you are worried about my ability to travel? There's no need to worry because I am ready, willing and able to travel as much as needed to help this company reach its goals."
  • Answer the question anyway: sometimes we need the job really badly and we simply have to avoid the risk of alienating the interviewer or creating a confrontation.
Hopefully you'll never have to deal with this situation but if you do you need to be ready for it. As for Facebook and turning over your login information, as you probably know I don't have a Facebook page and thus don't have to worry about it. But many of you do and until this question is rendered illegal by the courts you should probably decide whether you are comfortable handing over your user name and password to an interviewer.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How do you know when it is time to go?

A colleague, who we'll call Chris, recently approached me about feeling like it was time to look for a new job. This is actually a conversation I've had a few times recently, including with my own manager. After reading up on it a little bit it was clear to me that Chris has several of the tell tale signs of someone who should think about moving on.  Here are three resources you can use as a quick reference to see if you should be thinking about moving on from your current position:

Feeling like you need to leave a job is completely natural, especially today. Very few people do the same job over the course of their entire career. Life circumstances change, our interests change, opportunities come and go, the organizations we work for change and we as employees are left to deal with all of this in an effort to do what is best for us as individuals. What's interesting, however, is that this issue is not something that we feel comfortable talking about openly at work. Chris came to me in confidence, which is the natural reaction of someone who has made this decision. While publicizing a job search and networking are the most important things you can do when looking for a new job, we feel like we can't do them with those that we currently work with even though our co-workers and colleagues are probably some of the best people with whom we can network. This adds a level of complication to the decision to leave a job that's not easily overcome.

I'm lucky to currently have a manger who is very much down to earth when it comes to looking for a new job. I've had several conversations about what's next for me in my career and gotten a lot of great advice. The department philosophy realizes that employees come and go for all different reasons and that the best thing they can do is support the person rather than making it harder for them to go. After all, as you can imagine an employee who starts to show signs of needing to leave is not going to be as enthusiastic or productive as the employer needs them to be so supporting the person who reaches this stage is probably a smart way to keep them engaged while they execute their transition. But not all managers and employers are like that so many of us need to be cautious with whom we share our intentions. Thus, it's best to proceed carefully as you hit this stage because you certainly don't want to risk making a difficult situation worse.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

10 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

Your heart races. Your palms are sweaty. Your mouth is dry. Pound!...Pound!...Pound! heart is about to fly out of your chest...

If you've been faced with negotiating your salary you're likely familiar with these feelings. After surviving the interview process, this is probably the hardest part about taking a new job.  There's no doubt that it's not fun and no one likes it but if you don't do it right you are seriously losing out by leaving money on the table.

You need to remember a couple of things. First, no one works for free and the person offering you a job knows this. Second, everything is negotiable. EVERYTHING. The process of negotiation involves two parties with mutual yet sometimes conflicting interests working together to find common ground. It is important to remember that both parties want to find a suitable agreement and that each will need to give and take in order to make that happen. The employer wants you and has a number in mind they would like you to accept. They also have a number they are willing to go up to in order to secure your services. Likewise, you want to work for the employer. And likewise, you have a number you would like to make as well as one you can't go under. Now, the trick is finding out what each other's numbers are.

The worst thing you can do when accepting a new job is accept less than you think you are worth. Even though you think you won't, you'll end up resenting the employer because they are under valuing your services and that could harm your entire time of service at that organization. Yes, this process may be uncomfortable for a few minutes but accepting less money than you need and want has the potential to be uncomfortable for years! And once this process is over, any reasonable employer isn't going to give the negotiating process a second thought. They will be glad they have you aboard and be ready to get started.

1. Be prepared for the negotiating process. Do your homework and find out what positions such as this one pay in your geographical area so that you can set your expectations. Then you'll have a scale on which you can place the initial offer to know if it is high, low, or just right. When you feel that an offer might be coming, make sure you spend some serious time thinking about the salary and your own financial picture. We all have bills to pay. You need to know how much you need to earn in order to really assess if what is being offered will be enough for you to live on. Realistically, think of your salary in three ways: Bare minimum you need, the amount you can settle for, the amount you want. Head into the negotiating process with a clear head so you'll know how the initial offer will affect your life.

2. Don't become emotionally attached. You need to be willing to walk away if you can't get the employer to offer the amount you need to live on. If you have $3000 per month in bills and they offer $2700 a month and won't go a penny higher you can't take that job. It's that simple. Be ready to respectfully decline the offer and walk away.

3. Listen to the offer. Thank the person for such a generous offer. Tell them you are very excited by the possibility of working for them. And then ask them when they need a response because you need to think it over. Hopefully they'll give you some time to go away to "think" a counter offer. At the very least, try to get them to agree to let you think it over one night and then call them with an answer in the morning. If not and they need a response right then and there, take a minute or two to gather your thoughts. Remember, you should be prepared for this (see step #1) so it won't be that big of a deal to do it on the spot. And then launch into the process of a counter offer.

4. Consider the benefits package. Your compensation isn't just the amount of money you are taking home, although that is obviously a substantial part of it. It's the entire package you are being offered including: sick time, vacation time, personal days, medical and dental benefits, retirement options etc. Factor all of this into your thinking. Maybe they aren't offering as much money as you'd like but the other benefits are so terrific that you can afford to not bring home as much in your paycheck.

5.  Always ask for more money. ALWAYS. You will never know if you could have gotten more unless you ask. And trust me, they aren't just going to thrown more money at you then they need to so you absolutely have to ask for more. Determine your counter offer. Don't be afraid to ask for more money. It's what you are supposed to do. Even if you only get a few hundred dollars, your first salary increase, every increase thereafter, and any potential retirement contributions they make will all be based on that higher number. So you won't just be making more now, you will be affecting your future earnings.

6. Make your counter offer higher than you really want or need. This one is tricky. How much higher should you go? You need to counter with something within reason so don't be greedy. But at the same time don't short yourself. Your real goal here is to create wiggle room in the negotiating so that you can have room to come down to where you need to be while getting them to come up as high as possible. If you get the high counter offer, then you've just made extra money. If they counter it, you'll have a place to go down to without going further than you want or need. Use this initial high counter and work down from it to where you need to be.

7. Ask about standard of living increases, merit increases and bonuses. When are they awarded? What is the criteria for determining such increases? Can you get more money now and defer your first increase? Can you accept less now but increase the level of that first increase? You need to know how your future salary is going to work as much as you need to know about your current one.

8. Once you land on an acceptable salary, start talking about everything else. Are there other places the employer can give if they aren't giving on salary? Is there a charge for parking at work? Can they buy you a permit or at the very least increase your salary to cover parking? Can you get additional vacation days, personal days or sick days? Can their contribution into a retirement plan be increased? Is there any subsidy program offered for using public transportation? What is the health insurance like? How much of the premium does the employer pay? This is your one and only chance to find out about your benefits package and see if there is room for the employer to improve it. Again, if you don't ask they won't improve it. So ask.

9. Find out about your hours. This is the time when you want to figure out when you will be working. Is it 8-4, 8-5, 9-5, or 9-6? Is there a lunch break? Do they have a flexible schedule program? These days many employers are willing to consider work from home or other flexible schedule scenarios and you'll never know about them unless you ask. You need to know heading into the job when they will expect you to be there and if that will work with your life so ask about it now rather than on your first day and come to an agreement before accepting the job..

10. What if they say "NO!"? It depends on what they are saying no to. If they are saying no to your need for more money and you can't possibly work for the amount they are offering and they won't budge then you need to think about declining the offer. But if they are saying no to something relatively inconsequential that doesn't mean that much to you, accept the no and move on in the conversation. No big deal.

Always remember, you'll never get anything unless you ask for it. Employers aren't in the habit of offering employees extra money and benefits but that doesn't mean they won't.  The only way to find out if they will is to ask. They are going to offer the minimum they think they need to offer in order to secure your services and it is our job to increase that offer in any and every way possible. Everything about going to work for an organization is negotiable even when they say it isn't. Just ask.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Thoughts on 10 Job Search Rules to Break

Thanks to Alison Green we have some insight about shifting trends in job searching and we can start to dispel rules that have become outdated.  Below, I offer my comments on her suggestions for what rules we can now break in the world of job searching:

Limit your resume to one page: I love it that this is #1 on the list! I actually recently did the exact opposite. I had a two pager for a few years and recently paired it back to one. I was talking to a Career Counsellor who liked my 2 pager but as an exercise told me to try to get it down to one page by listing only those things I am most proud of about each job. It was actually much easier to do than I thought it was going to be and I love the results. It is very clear and concise. So I am back down to a one pager but that doesn't mean you have to be too. The point here is that now both are acceptable whereas previously two page resumes were frowned upon.

Write in formal language: I very much agree with this one. Your resume is a representation of you and thus should sound like you. Hey, if you speak in a formal mechanical language then go ahead and make your resume like that too.

Include an objective: I didn't even realize people still listed objectives on their resume. I'm not even sure why anyone would have ever used one in the first place. The very nature of me giving someone my resume should make my objective pretty clear shouldn't it?

Lead with your education: This is very true but is also very tricky if you are just starting out. So if you're not just starting out definitely list your work experience first. In many cases, the employer isn't going to care what you actually got your degrees in and will just be looking to see that you have them. But if you're on the hunt for your first job out of school and your college career amounts to the most significant thing you've accomplished then listing it at the top is probably your only choice isn't it? If this is the case, consult with your college's career office and get their help on your resume.

Include "references available upon request" on the bottom of your resume: This is just like listing an objective. It's not needed and takes up space you can otherwise use to articulate the value you will bring to the company.

After you submit your resume, wait a few days and then call to schedule an interview: Making this phone call stinks and is awkward. I was so glad to read it on Alison's list. The Career Counsellor I worked with when I left the theatre told me that I should call every organization I apply to so I can get them to find my materials and bring them to the top of the pile. I hated doing it and from what I can tell it has never paid off for me. Thanks to Alison I won't be making any of these calls any more.

Arrive early for interviews: While I understand what she is saying, there is no possible way I would ever risk being even one second late for an interview. The only alternative to that is to be early. That being said, I'd never actually appear more than 10 minutes early and generally I shoot to be less than 5 minutes early. This definitely means sitting in the car or around the corner. So I say, be early. Be as early as you want to be to make you feel comfortable. The most important thing you can do is assure that you are on site on time so do whatever it takes to do that. But also, yes, don't actually report to the interview until it's time.

When an interviewer asks about your weaknesses, answer with a positive framed as a weakness: To begin with, this is such a stupid question. Everyone has faults and weaknesses including the interviewer. I hate being asked this. But at the same time, I am prepared with an answer. If you want to win you have to play the game right? So yes, admit your weakness like Alison says and then let the interviewer know how you are proactive about overcoming it.

Don't name a salary number first. Talking about salary is so taboo in our society that it has made us all afraid to talk about it when we actually need to. So by all means, don't be afraid to bring it up first assuming that you do so at the appropriate time. Knowing when the right time is, however, is another story all together as you need to be reasonably confident that you are their top choice. If the interviewer knows one thing, it's that you are not going to work for free. He/She knows that you will be getting paid so talking about the amount you are getting paid shouldn't be as hard as many people find it to be. I am going to get into the process of negotiating a salary later so keep your eyes out for that post.

Ask for the job. As Alison says, treat the interview as a collaborative process. You need to know if you could work there just as much as they need to know if they want you. It pretty much goes without saying that by submitting your resume and attending the interview you have already asked for the job. Assume the interviewer is required to go through some sort of process and that actually asking for the job during the interview isn't going to do you any good because they wouldn't be able to upset their process and give it to you on the spot even if they wanted to. Rather, use your thank you note to reiterate your interest in the position without going so far as to ask for the job directly.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Breaking Job Searching Rules

We've all met the know it all who insists that everything needs to be done a certain way. It seems that when it comes to careers and job searching the know it alls know even more and are doubly insistent about the breadth and accuracy of there expertise. Increasingly, however, when it comes to searching for a job the standard know it all rules are becoming obsolete. So tell your know it all co-worker or friend to pipe down a bit, open their mind a little and consider breaking the steadfast rules of job searching we've all come to know.

I am going to turn to Alison Green again for guidance on this matter. She writes a fantastic blog called Ask a Manager and has recently written about 10 Job Search Rules to Break. While I don't agree 100% with everything she says there's a lot you can learn from this post. I will comment specifically about each of her 10 suggestions in a few days. In the meantime, take a look and let me know what you think.