Who knew?  A year ago I wrote an article with sample “thank you” interview follow-up letters, having no idea this was such a highly searched phrase on the web.  It’s become my most-read story ever with over 6,800 views.  I’m glad to share it here again, along with other audience-favorite content for jobseekers.  Enjoy!

Five Helpful Thank You Note Samples for Job Seekers After an Interview

Why Haven’t You Heard Back?  Four Reasons to Calm Down After Applying for a Job

Does Your Resume Tell Your “What Happened” Story?

The One Page Resume Rule Has Left the Building

In a Job Search? How It’s Just Like The Dating Game

Help Wanted SignsFor the last 10 years, I’ve been watching NE Ohio’s employer career pages and working with local job seekers in my goofy hobby as the Job Bank House Mother.   There are a few “process improvement” stocking stuffers I would offer job seekers, as well as pointers for the HR departments who are posting jobs.  Chances are, no matter what side of the employment transaction you are on, you’re doing great in these areas . . . but you probably know a few folks out there who could use a gentle nudge, or a few companies who are missing out on great talent because their career page is less than customer friendly.  Here are my New Year’s Wishes for both.

For HR Professionals and Hiring Managers:
I’ve been on your career page, along with 200 other local employers, every two weeks for about a decade, which gives me a unique 30,000-foot overview of your company’s talent attraction experience and how you stack up to other competing employers in our community.   Most NE Ohio companies have maximized the user ease of their career pages, but a few HR teams need to wake up and smell the coffee, fix the gaps that are turning off top talent, and walk down the hall to IT to make some not-so-difficult improvements.  Here are my Pet Peeves that make me skip over your job postings, and promote other employer’s opportunities, on my 7,100 subscriber Job Bank.

Date your job postings.  How hard is this?  I’ve been on global HR teams at three Fortune 500 companies – other than being minimally easier for you (one less piece of data to upload/update), how is this helping you attract talent?   The #1 rule of job seekers is:  they want fresh jobs they haven’t applied to before, and new postings deliver the maximum ROI of their time and effort.  Your old job that I’ve seen on your site since June (which usually says “currently we are hiring for”) isn’t landing in my Job Bank listings, nor is it telling a compelling story about a hot new opportunity to job seekers.   Isn’t this one of the most important, most visited pages on your site?   Doesn’t it deserve more care and feeding? 

I blow by your jobs every month, because I’m tired of same dusty list of openings each time I visit your page – and I bet great talent in town feels the same way.   It takes just minutes to update a posting date, if you originally listed a job in September and you are still actively recruiting for it.  Some of our town’s technology and ad agency employers are the WORST offenders of this – with big companies (Alcoa, MTD, Lincoln Electric’s + Sterling Jewelers’ NEW designation, Nestle, Progressive, Rockwell, Swagelok) showing how it’s done. 

Please re-think your approach if your HR and IT teams do what’s easiest for them, versus what’s keeping you competitive with the hundreds of employers in town who have figured out how to list posting dates.  How about even just a Job ID number, which can help a job seeker figure out the new postings.  This isn’t rocket science!

“We may not be hiring, but here are job descriptions anyway.”   If you have openings, post them.  If you don’t, then stop doing this.  You’re heading towards a lukewarm to zero response when you do have a fresh posting, because you’ve conditioned your viewers to never expect actual live opportunities on your website – so your traffic is heading down, not up.  One local employer lists 84 jobs on its careers page (I suppose a list of every job title in their shop), with a checkbox if you want to search for “only the open postings.”  Guess what – the same 84 jobs show up, and have been there since April.  You’ve made it impossible for anyone to determine your new postings, which deserve a lot of traffic.  Where is this a best practice for talent attraction strategy?

And my New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers:

Be Eager, but not Desperate.  Stop being crushed when you feel you “are perfect for this job” but aren’t called back or get the offer.  Desperate daters don’t land a mate (“I’m perfect for her!  Why can’t she see that!”) and desperate job seekers waste their efforts and energy pining over a job that might not materialize.   The best advice, whether looking for Mr. or Ms. right or your next fabulous job, is this:  Keep Going.  

Move on, stop agonizing that this is “the one” and make sure you have lots of irons in the fire, so that one job doesn’t feel like your last and only shot.  You may get hints about next steps (we’re calling second round interviews back next week; the hiring manager will be talking with people in a few days), and if the interview went exceptionally well but you haven’t heard anything,  make one call/send one e-mail to indicate interest and show you were paying attention – but don’t call three times a week, don’t send demanding and repeated e-mails, and don’t come off as a half-hinged stalker girlfriend who is overreacting to a “I’ll call you some time” casual comment.  Keep Going! 

You are great for many companies out there, and don’t obsess over one potential (but pokey) opportunity.  Read my article on “Why Haven’t I Heard Back” for some perspective on what might be going on in the HR department at an employer.

Know how to write, spell and punctuate.  This is also called the Drive for Show, Putt for Dough rule.  I run into nightmare resumes (why so often with sales professionals?) that earn a Fast Fail because of the atrocious lack of punctuation, capitalization and formatting abilities.  I am floored at folks who think this dreck could stand up to the spotless resumes with which they’re competing, and dumbfounded that anyone in our industry can’t see mistakes the size of a . . . barn. 

These otherwise talented and dedicated professionals are fooling themselves to think a lack of fundamental grammar, word usage and document layout skills will be “overlooked” because they bring strong revenue numbers to the table.  If you can’t create a perfect document all on your own, grasp capitalization rules, get religious about grammar and spelling, avoid six types of wacky, randomly-tabbed bullets, and know how to make a clean, shiny Word document, trust me:  your competition can, and that means YOU are the only person preventing your phone from ringing for an interview.

The dynamic personality of a great salesperson falls flat on the floor when HR realizes you couldn’t create a perfect document for the CEO, or for a customer pitch, if your life depended on it.  Take free courses at the library, brush up with online tutorials, get some pocket guide books or phone apps to carry around, but for heaven’s sake get better at looking like a professional on paper who will be a sophisticated (and not embarrassing) representative of a company to the outside world.

Get Out of the House!  If I had a nickel every time I heard from a job seeker that they never go to networking events, industry luncheons, breakfast seminars, the City Club or job clubs, well there is not a shred of mystery why you aren’t generating more activity within your search.  Being outgoing and able to chat up a room is important in our industry, and even if it’s not your nature, isn’t finding a job worth moving a tiny bit out of your comfort zone? 

You can do this - grab another job seeker, find a co-worker, go with a friend and take advantage of these outstanding opportunities to make a great impression on others who can be an advocate for you in your search.  The Crain’s Cleveland Business event calendar is a great place to find networking events, and so is the Northern Ohio Communications Advocates (NOCA) calendar (and they have their own industry get togethers, too!).  One is coming up February 6th - don’t be left out of the fun.

Here’s to even more job openings in 2013 (With posting dates!  Yes!) and a bigger local economy on the horizon for the talented job seekers in our industry.  Good luck out there – and wishing you a prosperous and healthy New Year.

I’m a huge believer in the power of LinkedIn, and share with jobseekers that a sharp resume is 51% of your job search – but LinkedIn covers much of the remaining 49%.  While you are sleeping, washing the dishes or walking the dog, decision makers are poking around LinkedIn for candidates that match the skills they seek.   

Earlier this year, I posted tips and advice for LinkedIn newbies that explained the process of creating a first-time profile and promised another round of  guidelines for newer LinkedIn users.  Here’s Part Two of my pointers:  let’s go from the top of your profile, to the bottom:  Headlines, Photos, Summary, Experience, Skills and Groups.

Make Your Headline Work for You
You are up against hundreds of job seekers with the same general skills and experience.  How can you stand apart from the pack?  Your Headline.  If you don’t fill in the Headline field, LinkedIn will automatically populate it with your Current Job – which might be a snore of a title that doesn’t do you justice.  Pile up all the dull headlines that say “Accountant” or “Writer” or “Human Resources Professional” and you’ve got a mountain of mundane profiles.  To find the field to create a custom headline, go to Edit Profile and next to your name is an EDIT option.  It opens up a page that includes a field to personalize your headline.

Make certain your headline uses descriptive action words, describes your industry specialty, and if you’re currently in a search, removes any shred of doubt that you’d immediately return that call or email from a recruiter.  Examples:
- Results-driven financial leader with global energy experience in transition
- Environmental professional combining hands-on skills with strong analytics
- Freelance Copywriter that makes cash registers ring!
- B2B marketing executive with significant logistics expertise seeks next opportunity
- Quality and Lean Leader | Aerospace Industry | Open to Relocation

Design Tip:  If you’ve been seeing those vertical lines | which look like these | and wondered what fancy trick is that, wonder no more.  It’s called a Pipe and used to separate words, replacing commas.  On most keyboards, the Pipe character sits as the Top Option for the Backslash key, found on the upper right side of your keypad.   It will look like standing-up dashes – but on screen and on paper, it’s a nifty formatting tool. 

Your Photo is Your Brand
I urge candidates to include a professional photo on their profile.  For women, your name may have changed over the years; your old contacts will appreciate a face because they may not recognize your current name.  Gals, avoid Facebook or match.com type photos:  the prom dresses, spaghetti straps, cleavage and your “havin’ a blast” party pix don’t belong on LinkedIn.  They position your brand as not ready for prime time, much less being mature enough to represent a company to its stakeholders.  Guys, if you look like a lumberjack on the weekend but are a supply chain leader during the week, please don’t use your Paul Bunyan plaid flannel pix as your profile photo. Do you want a recruiter wondering if you dip snuff, wrestle bears or even own a suit?  A hiring decision maker wants to speak with the candidate who looks like an executive, not a logger living off the grid. 

I’m not a fan of quirky, either:  kissing a baby’s feet or using an Avatar like a Ninja warrior are a “no.”  And the vacation profile photos have to go - your competition looks like an executive, and you’re sporting a National Lampoon Family Vacation look.  Finally, guys – you may be the greatest creative in the world, but the Tie-Dye T-shirt says more about the decibel level in your van than it does about your ability to generate profit- and award-winning work.  Stop thinking like a dude and start thinking like a CFO – there’s not a shred of mystery why the “old rocker chillin’ out” photo on a profile isn’t generating interviews.

For about $150, you can have a professional take your photo with all-important retouching afterwards (my photos are from Howard Tucker, by the way).  Your attire should be selected with color and contrast in mind:   if you will be against a white background, you don’t want too much white or cream in your shirt or suit, as it will wash you out.  And I sadly gaze at folks who used a professional photographer but they’re against a dark background, wearing a dark suit and blouse/shirt.  You don’t want to become part of the wallpaper – look at samples before agreeing to the lighting and background. 

Summaries – Your Elevator Speech!
As a jobseeker, you have a brand – the unique package of skills and experience you bring to a potential employer.  The secret to a brand is consistency – your offering statement/summary on your resume should be the same on your LinkedIn profile, and re-stated in your cover letter as well.  Think of this as your elevator speech:  use action words, talk about results/deliverables, give a sense of scale/scope of the organizations you’ve worked for.  A summary is insight into your personal style and tone, and not having one means you’re withholding this relevant info from potential employers. 

Experience – It’s Like a Miniskirt             
You know the old saying about resumes being like a miniskirt – make them short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover everything.  You should be even a little more “tempting” on LinkedIn – enough content to make a casual reviewer say “I need to get that person’s full resume, this looks promising,” or “Let’s bring that person in and learn more.”   There’s a bit of brevity inherent in a LinkedIn profile: it’s a snapshot, not a full data dump.  Put a few bullets under each employer that tell a story about how you moved the needle, and most importantly, are consistent with the story you tell on your resume.  For beginners, LinkedIn offers a handy feature that lets you upload your resume and it will populate key Profile sections - of course, you’ll need to do some editing afterwards.  Focus less on job responsibilities, more on “what happened” because you had that role.  Saying nothing about your previous jobs sends a clear message that you aren’t very proud of anything you did while earning that paycheck.

Skills – Yes You Need These!
Every time you re-state a key phrase or word on LinkedIn, it can help your profile pop up higher in searches.  Skills are a super-easy way to facilitate this – add skills under your Edit Profile feature.  LinkedIn has added a new “Endorsement” feature, where others can give you a quick thumbs up for your skills and you can do the same for them.  When you endorse others, a notice shows up on their connections’ home page activity feed that you’ve done so.  Endorsing gives you a bit of extra visibility, but don’t be the party hog who endorses 50 people in one day – moderation and restraint are good guidelines.  Look at what other leaders in your industry list for their skills if you are stumped where to start – or what key words are in the job openings to which you are applying.

Groups – Don’t Miss the Boat
Groups are a terrific way to put your ear to the ground among your industry/interest peers, and alumni groups.  Who breaks down doors to join Groups?  Recruiters and HR, so they can post open positions to generate buzz and forwards.  Useful seminars and networking events are often posted as well.  You already are a natural member of many Groups:  your college or prep school, and alumni groups from your previous jobs.  Functional industry Groups (HR or IT or engineering) often are wide open to industry professionals, rather than limited to paid members of a trade association.  And civic organizations with which you’ve been involved often have their own Groups.   Once you’re in a Group, you can always manage how much e-mail or notifications you receive from them, to ensure your inbox isn’t overflowing – go to a specific Group, and click on the More link on the far right – you manage your settings there. 

How do you find potential Groups?  Go to Groups > Groups Directory and type in search terms in the Name Field – it’s that easy.  Some Groups will approve your request immediately, and others are moderated, which can take a few days for someone to verify your college, for instance, and respond.

With these six pointers for new LinkedIn users, you’re on your way to more effectively harnessing this amazing job search resource.  And remember my “make it fun” rule – make your LinkedIn time relaxing.  Have those cookies, enjoy an adult beverage, play your favorite tunes while you tweak that profile.  Stone-cold serious is for your resume-creating time – but LinkedIn brings a lot of smiles as you re-connect with great former colleagues and build out your online brand.

In my presentations to jobseeker groups, one of the observations I make is that being in a job search is precisely like hunting for Miss or Mr. Right.  Here’s why:  anyone “on the market” for the first time in decades, whether it’s the job market or the dating scene, feels like they’ve been teleported to a new planet:  how you find leads, how you communicate, the niceties you expect – someone changed the rules and never even left you a note on the fridge.  You feel rusty and confused, left behind, and the internet has changed . . . everything, hasn’t it?   Steps that used to be totally driven by human interaction, are now computerized, anonymous, and one is frequently rejected before even having the chance to make an in-person appearance.

This idea of packaging one’s self, boosting one’s style, and thinking constantly about “strategic product placement” is perhaps alien to anyone who’s been married for a few decades.  But for those who are back in the mate hunt, or have been a singleton for longer than you’d like, you know how looking for a great match is a nonstop effort:  and it’s no darn different for job seekers.  Here are hints to help improve your Job Dating Game:   

Similarity 1: The Process Flow Chart.   Not convinced?  Here’s the process breakdown of getting to the altar, which is exactly the same sequence to land a new job.   You and hundreds of other candidates are hoping to:
•Grab the attention of a top prospect
•Make a great first impression
•Earn the chance to meet again
•Sell yourself as a match
•Pass a tough background check
•Eliminate the competition
•Win the one available offer,
•Negotiate towards an acceptable middle point, and
•Say Yes!

Now that I’ve made you laugh, jobseekers who were comfortable in a 25-30 year career and now are hurled into a sudden job hunt need a little nudge on how to think like a Match.com dater, who is trying to lure and land a special someone – before someone else gets to them first.

Similarity 2:  How You find Leads.  Thirty years ago, jobs landed in our lap – and so did opportunities to date.  It was effortless to find prospects at high school or college, your neighborhood, or temple or church.  Every event you attended provided ample opportunities to meet friends of friends, and relatives of relatives, all of whom had plenty of job (and date) leads.

Where do you find posted jobs (and dating prospects) today?  They’re online.   Eighty percent of your job leads are found on job boards, employer websites, trade association career postings, and LinkedIn Groups (with the other 20% through personal contact).   In order to generate leads, you must constantly check websites and modify your search parameters to generate a promising pipeline into your inbox – no different than managing those E-Harmony, Match and JDate accounts, either! 

Similarity 3:  Strategic Product Placement.  Singles who are good at generating new dates also know they have to get out of the house.  Putting a product directly under the nose of its intended target gets you the biggest payback of time and effort, whether it’s landing a date or hearing about a hot new finance job opening that is under the radar screen.

Here’s how this works in dating:  getting out of your regular trajectory is crucial to crossing the path of new potential dates.  Guys show up at yoga class, art openings, wine bars, cooking classes and walk their dog in the park, because who is likely to be there?  WOMEN THEY DON’T KNOW.  Gals show up at sports bars, Browns games, golf tournaments, the Auto Show and beer tastings because a majority of attendees are who?  HAPPY MEN THEY’VE NEVER MET. 

The job seeker who travels the same path, week after week, without ever showing up in a room or a group they haven’t been in before, is missing the boat on strategic product placement.  You, the jobseeker are the product, and you need to be at events where you are a new face, meeting new folks who can be an advocate for your search. 

The best tool at your fingertips is the Crainscleveland.com event calendar, with dozens of luncheon speakers, trade association offerings, conferences, industry forums, and breakfast seminars that you should be targeting.  Pick one new event a month that is already of interest, grab a friend (or go solo, I always do), and show up.  Ask lots of questions of your tablemates, show a genuine interest, and you have earned the opportunity to pass along your business card, and mention you’re in a job search – can they keep their ears open for you?  

Similarity 4:  Getting Checked Out.  If someone has heard about you and is intrigued, as a job candidate or possible blind date, what’s the first thing they do?  Run, not walk, to the computer to plug your name into Google, search you out on LinkedIn and Facebook, and maybe even see if you make regular appearances in the Cuyahoga County Civil and Criminal Docket, available 24-7 at www.onecuyahoga.com (ladies, you’re welcome – truly a single gal’s best friend).  This digital detective work wasn’t part of the dating or employment landscape years ago, and is a real gamechanger that lets employers/dates be even pickier before asking to meet. 

Similarity 5:  Communication Tools.  Remember the telephone?  It’s become practically a historic artifact in the world of dating, and it’s not used so much in a job search, either.  E-mail is the primary means of initiating a conversation, or scheduling a time to use that telephone-thingy.  And unfortunately, an e-mail is most often how one learns they didn’t make it through to the next round of interviews, or dates.   And who hasn’t heard the classic, “I’ll call you next week – really.”  An eager dater – or job seeker - dials week after week to follow up, hoping they’re the Chosen One, but feeling tinier and more rejected every time they land in that dreaded Voicemail Oblivion. 

Similarity 6:  Boosting Your Style.  Job seekers who haven’t had to primp, or dress to impress, for 30 years because they’ve been married for decades, are sometimes a few steps behind when it comes to understanding one rule of job searching/dating:  someone else is willing to do whatever it takes to look better, sharper and more stylish to land that opportunity!  An attitude of “take it or leave it,” or “I can’t be bothered with that, my personality is my best asset,” or “I’m not willing to lift a finger to look my best”  is pretty much guaranteed to reduce the number of call-back interviews you land.   Remember, losing a job is out of your control, but you control 100% of your professional style!  Your competition is already bringing their A-Game to each and every interview and networking opportunity.  Don’t let your personal comfort zone, and appearance blinders, hold you back from a more successful job search.  See my blog, Do You Need to Boost Your Professional Presence? 

Dating is exhausting – no doubt about it.  And so is job hunting.  Putting forth the effort to be in new rooms with new people, keeping yourself looking your best when you walk out the door, and tirelessly searching online for leads is a full-time chore.  Just keep that “dating game” swing thought in the back of your mind during your own job search, and you’ll benefit from the success secrets of busy daters.  Here’s wishing you a “happily ever after” and a bright new career, very soon!

We’ve all heard of bosses that people would follow into a burning building – earning loyalty and trust from their teams, who are ready to tackle any challenge or raise any bar with enthusiasm.   What are some of the communications traits that those inspiring leaders have in their back pocket?  Here are three that are easy to implement in your own leadership toolkit, whether you are managing a staff of two or a department of 50.

Great Leaders Communicate What Good Looks Like.  Most employees are motivated to deliver great performance – after all, it’s pretty fundamental to keeping their job.  Are you as a leader setting well-defined expectations, ensuring that deliverables are clearly outlined, and telling your teams what good looks like?  Providing your reports with concrete examples will eliminate guesswork and allow your employees to more readily deliver what you’re looking for in the first place.  No one is particularly skilled at reading minds, and employees become quickly frustrated with cryptic requests – it starts to feel like you’re playing a power game with them:  “who can come the closest to figuring out what I want?”   

And speaking of sharing helpful examples, make sure your own communications are top quality and error-free.  Memos, team e-mails and PowerPoint decks filled with typos, misspelled names, sloppy formatting and grammar errors send a message that you don’t particularly respect the audience that’s receiving your communications, and you can’t be bothered to go the extra mile for those that work for you.   Not a great example to set for your team, or your internal reputation as a polished executive.

Great Leaders Deliver Regular Team Communications.   Smart leaders create a cadence of communications vehicles that share updates on financials, customers, quality, competitors and innovation on a regular basis – with a healthy dose of recognition for team and individual accomplishments.   Whether it’s an hour-long meeting in a conference room, or a stand-up 10 minute status report (no PowerPoints, no sitting!), outstanding communicators bring their teams together regularly to learn, solve, praise and inform. 

For site or plant leaders with hundreds of employees under their supervision, the practice of monthly birthday meetings means that everyone eventually gets some small group meeting time with the boss.  For example, all the September birthdays are invited for bagels and coffee, or a pizza lunch, to share feedback in a small group on what’s going well, and what roadblocks might be in the way of improving customer service.

Don’t forget agendas, distributed in advance.  They show respect for your subordinates’ time – you’ve planned out what you intend to cover, as opposed to winging it, and it allows your team to prepare in advance as well. 

And whether on a conference call or a plant-wide meeting on the factory floor, find ways for your direct reports and hourly workforce (who aren’t too shy) to deliver some of the content.  Even a few minutes giving an update makes employees feel valued and recognized.  It creates a sense that deliverables and solutions belong to everyone, and that you view your employees’ input as critical to the success of the organization.

They Walk The Halls And The Production Line – Impromptu Interaction Builds Credibility.  In manufacturing, a gemba walk refers to a Japanese productivity tool where leaders get out of their office and on the shop floor, following the production process from the raw material stage, to the  manufacturing and assembly process, all the way to the shipping dock.  These leaders ask employees about quality, scrap, standard work and production roadblocks as they walk the line.  Gemba walks help support an engaged workforce, as employees see management coming to them for feedback and news, taking the time to learn their individual role in customer satisfaction and operational effectiveness.

For leaders in an office environment, take that gemba approach and be visible in the hallways.  Don’t be the boss famous for leaving every night by the back corridor so he or she won’t have to say a few “goodnights” to their team.  Roam the floors and buildings where your employees work, and get a cup of coffee from a different break room further away from your office.  Stop by a team meeting for a few minutes to learn how a project is going.  The spontaneous conversations that result will reveal customer issues that need solving, provide an opportunity for praise, and encourage sharing of your workforce’s family and personal interests.

Setting expectations, delivering regular communications, and maximizing informal opportunities to learn and interact . . . they are the building blocks of strong external customer relations that your organization is likely already implementing to remain competitive.  It’s no surprise that these same three practices, when focused on your employees, can help boost your internal relations and leadership reputation as well.

Kelly Blazek is a senior communications practitioner who counsels global manufacturers on their internal and executive communications practices as they relate to change management and employee engagement.  A Six Sigma Green Belt, her website is www.gembacomms.com

A Guest Column by Cindy Beresh-Bryant, SPHR, RCC, MHRD, President of HR Solutions by Design, LLC

Well, you did it! You survived the interview process and are the leading candidate for your dream job – now what? Candidates who enter salary negotiations prepared and with a positive attitude often walk away with the best offers.

Negotiation Table Prep
Believe it or not, salary negotiation preparation begins when you write your resume – it’s about clearly establishing the value you bring to the organization and how you will positively impact their bottom line. To maximize your negotiating power you have to link your skills to accomplishments, bottom-line value and revenue for the company and this is done throughout the entire interview process. If done properly, once you arrive at the offer stage, it’s not a matter of you asking “how much are they willing to pay me.”  Rather, it’s a matter of them asking “how much is it going to take to get YOU?”  This may seem like the same question but the outcome can be significant.

There’s an old adage, “Knowledge is Power” and negotiations are no exception.  Before contemplating an offer, be sure you’ve considered your needs and expectations carefully.  Create a checklist so you don’t forget anything in the excitement of accepting the position.

The Bottom Line
Do you know what your bottom-line salary requirements are? If you do, great! If you’re not sure, you’ve got some work to do. Once you’ve determined your bottom line, you’re ready to begin negotiations.

When you begin negotiations, start well above your bottom line. After 25 years in HR I can tell you employers look at salaries based on ranges and these ranges are determined based on two critical pieces of information: 1) the employer’s compensation philosophy and 2) salary surveys. Companies want to be competitive on pay, but they don’t want to overpay.  In order to negotiate your best deal, you have to know what you’re worth in the market you’re considering. There are any number of online salary survey reports available (www.payscale.com and The Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide) to help you determine the going rate for your position in your geographic area. Seek these out and do your homework before ever sitting down at the negotiating table.    

Negotiate Power Before Salary
You may think your title dictates your offer, but that’s only part of it. The depth and breadth of your responsibilities lie at the heart of what the organization is really willing to pay you. In other words, the greater your level of responsibility, the greater your pay. With that in mind, it’s best to negotiate your duties and responsibilities before discussing salary.

When negotiating responsibility make sure you and your future employer have the same understanding of your responsibilities and the specific performance standards that will be used to measure success. Keep copious notes of the discussion and document your title, the reporting structure, your level of authority, specific performance measures, accountability, the number of direct reports you will have, and any peripheral responsibilities. Remember, any documented increase in responsibilities put you in a better negotiating position.

Negotiating the Package
During negotiations it’s not just about the base salary, so be sure to consider the entire compensation package as fertile grounds for negotiations. Remember, anything you don’t have to pay for directly, is money in your pocket.

Employers are usually most concerned with base salary because it’s a fixed cost and in most cases health insurance premiums are a percentage of your base salary, thus driving up the total compensation package.  Because this is such a sensitive topic, consider other benefits during negotiations, such as:

Student Loan Forgiveness
Cell Phone Allowance
Professional Fees
Additional Vacation Allowance
Home Office
Internet Access
Wellness Program
Training Days
Relocation, etc.

Negotiation Strategy
When benefits negotiations are complete, it’s time to move onto the big stuff – salary.  Begin salary negotiations by inquiring about the possibility of signing bonuses, enhanced severance, timing of performance/salary reviews, and a guaranteed first year bonus. These are important for two reasons: 1) they increase your total compensation if you can get them and 2) they provide you with bargaining chips to “give away” in the spirit of flexibility.  Remember, in negotiations it’s important for BOTH sides to feel they have won something.  You don’t want to appear to be a push-over but you absolutely DO want to appear logical and flexible. Never give ultimatums – if you take that attitude, the employer will likely walk away. Don’t be negative:  look for win-win solutions.

Negotiations and Women
Many people, especially women, are afraid to negotiate either because they feel greedy or have a hard time asserting themselves. Remember, you haven’t gotten this far without the credentials to support your candidacy, so it’s now time to capitalize.  You will never have as much leverage, once hired, to boost your salary as you do right now during negotiations, so don’t waste it.  Studies have shown that men often make more than comparable women because men are willing to negotiate.

The Close
Once you’ve agreed to terms and conditions, get it in writing and never seek to reopen a point.  If the employer wants to reopen a point, that’s an opportunity for you to get a major concession.   Once it’s in the can and you have the offer in writing, take 24-48 hours to review it before actually accepting it.

If you’ve effectively demonstrated throughout the entire interview process the value you bring to an organization, you’re in a strong negotiating position and you may just be surprised at how far an employer is willing to go to get you on board.  At this point the question truly does becomes “what will it take for you to join our team” rather than “I wonder what they would be willing to pay me.”

In my resume consulting work with job seekers, an overlooked element to creating a truly gamechanger resume is telling the story about “what happened” because you showed up at work every day.  So often, individuals in marketing and creative fields forget to capture metrics and results from literally decades of work.  I’ve seen a stunned and disappointed look more than once when folks realize they’re unable to fill in the blanks because this never even crossed their mind to validate their efforts 20 years ago.  This frequently happens with journalists, who have a basement full of awards and clips, but never walked down the hall to IT or sales to do some sleuthing about the outcome of their work, and how their writing perhaps converted into eyeballs, special section revenue, rankings or market share.

But reporters aren’t the only ones who wistfully realize they missed the boat on collecting critical data while they were actually still at that employer.  It’s a sobering reality for marketing execs, graphic designers and communications pros, who need to IMMEDIATELY BEGIN focusing on how their output moves the needle.  Think like a CFO, not the creative director:  how will hiring you grow my revenue and market share, and shrink my operating expenses?  Here are a few tips from the Job Bank House Mother on the kinds of deliverables you need to be squirreling away, starting . . . yesterday!

Do you have web content responsibilities?  The minute you are assigned to manage web content, ask the webmaster or IT if monthly visit data is generated, and who receives that report. If you’re lucky, someone will show you how to look under the hood and run your own reports.  If not, make nice to the colleague who does track that data, and ask if you could see traffic reports every so often to gauge the reach and relevance of your work.  And just like a TV make-over show, it’s critical to grab the “before” stats on Top 10 most popular articles of the quarter, highest click throughs, monthly unique viewers, and overall visit traffic.  The “before” stats will make the tale on how you moved the needle even more compelling.

Do you have webmaster responsibilities?  Ditto.  I’m amazed at the senior comms folks I run across who were never curious enough to ask to generate their web stats.  And now that they’re in a job search, some of the most juicy “here’s how my work and leadership made a difference” numbers are lost forever.  Remember, no one cares how many goal alignment meetings you sit through or monthly reports you run, so don’t focus on those in your resume.  If you have a story to tell about e-commerce, overall pages on site, global reach, SEO rankings, then by all means grab that data and make it work for you.

Do you have SEO responsibilities?  Then be able to tell the “before and after” story.  On day one of a job, print your Google and other search rankings/key search terms for your employer.  If all goes well, months down the road your search rankings will be at a whole new level.  But only if you own the “before” data, will your story be complete.

Do you have print content responsibilities?  When your resume blandly says “edit copy” or “write headlines,” who would ever know how much work you crank out?  Bad news – HR will guess low, not high.  Always give the reader a sense of how much work you produce weekly or monthly, such as “write an average  of 15 stories a week” or “edit over 150 headlines a month.”

Do you have event or meeting responsibilities?  Tell me, then, how your efforts increased attendance over the prior year’s event, how you reduced costs, how you expanded marketing reach, how you built an army of volunteers, and how much revenue or membership grew because of your involvement.  And express all of this in percentages as well as raw numbers.

Do you have social media responsibilities?  Folks, this just slays me:  if a resume says “responsible for promoting institution through Facebook and Twitter,” and you fail to tell me how you’ve grown Likes and Followers, it shouts to me that growth and continuous improvement isn’t part of your vocabulary.  Increasing FB likes and Twitter followers is the EASIEST metric to capture, as long as you remember your #1 priority on the first day of your job:  print out and capture everything, because that’s your BEFORE story.  New social media tracking tools are invented every week – score/rank yourself, and keep up with it every so often to drop fresh stats in a resume or cover letter.

Do you have creative (writing or graphic design) responsibilities?  You too have a story to tell about increasing sales, boosting market share, creating industry buzz, driving trade show traffic, reducing the need for external vendors, saving money through clever and inexpensive design, building online views and winning awards.

Do you have newsletter responsibilities?  Then tell me that newsletter comes out quarterly for 15,000 readers, is full color and is translated in three languages.   The HR screeners won’t give you the benefit of the doubt when reviewing resumes.  You say “newsletter” and they think “sleepy PTA flyer for 300 members,” because you didn’t inform them otherwise.

Folks in the corporate world learned long ago that advancement means being able to capture your own ROI (Return on Investment) as an employee.  A little sleuthing and squirelling away, and you’ll be elevating your resume with volume, velocity and deliverables in no time.


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