John Hadley's Career Accelerator Blog
Seek Answers to Your Career / Career Search Challenges

August 2008
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When To Talk About Salary (Redux)
Filed under: Interview, Salary, Negotiation
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:49 pm

When I first wrote my piece “When to Talk About Salary”, I received the following comment:

“I couldn’t disagree with your comments about salary more. Hiring someone is an economic transaction. To not talk about salary is to hide part of the facts of the transaction from one of the parties involved in the deal. There is no reason to feel shame in discussing it. In fact, the job candidate who asks about salary early in the interview shows to me a business acumen and forthrightness that makes him/her look more favorable in my eyes, not less.”

My response

I was surprised to receive such a strong disagreement with this article. Coincidentally, I received a comment from another actuary who couldn’t imagine anyone taking issue with what I said - he thought it was such obvious common sense!

Even if you reduce hiring to just an economic transaction (debatable), how do you determine the ‘value’ of that transaction? How do you measure the value of the future results this candidate will produce for the organization? This is where negotiation comes into it. And I would never start a negotiation by laying out all of my cards on the table face up.

I’m not advocating “hiding” anything. I just believe firmly that the best time to get into the discussion is after the hiring manager is convinced that he or she needs the candidate, that the candidate is the strong solution to his or her serious challenge. That’s the time that the hiring manager is prepared to make the best offer, and to be the most flexible in negotiation. To get into the discussion earlier is to risk ending the interview prematurely, or set things up for a significantly lower offer.


Feel free to post your own comments on this topic!

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Relocating For A Job
Filed under: Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:44 am

Here’s a question I received from someone who had received his first job offer after a layoff, struggling with whether to consider relocation

I interviewed for a position, and the manager sent me email asking, if he made me an offer, would I accept it?  I responded: “I am very interested. What are the terms of the offer?”

My concern (and apparently his, too) is that he wants me to relocate.

I have lived here for close to 30 years. My two kids are going to college only a 45 minute car ride from our home. We are close and we see each other regularly. On the other hand, the job is very good: the position is very good, the work challenging and exciting, secure, opportunity for growth.

I have not been made an official offer. His email was the opening of the negotiations and it seems like he doesn’t want to go through the effort of a formal offer, if I already know I would not move. The truth is, I don’t know. It is not out of the question for me. It’s a two-hour plane ride from where I live, so, it’s not like I am going to the ends of the earth. My son and I are particularly close. He is already feeling discomfort… only at the thought.

So this is the classic dilemma. Family and familiarity of my sorroundings vs. new sorroundings away from close members of my family.

What do you think?

My response (Feel free to weigh in with your own comments)

You can always turn an offer down, so until you have the formal offer, there’s no problem fully exploring the opportunity. It’s not a fair question to ask if you would accept an offer, without all the details of the offer, so it’s fair for you to express strong interest in the opportunity, and use that as a chance to explore fully what will help you make a decision.

For example, will he bring you back up for further discussion face-to-face, and also to spend a day with a realtor looking around the areas that would be a reasonable commute from the office to get a feel for that? (That’s something I did on an interview in Indiana once, and the end result was that I surprised myself with how impressed I was with the area & lifestyle for both myself & my family.)

For example, is he open to the idea of you doing a partial tele-commute, so that you could work from home, say, 1-2 days a week and work 3-4 day weeks at the home office (living in an apartment or such in the area during those days)? Or working a compressed week like 4-10 hour days, so that you could come back home 3 days a week?

These things are difficult to explore with him via email, so I would use the email to set up a date/time you could discuss the opportunity over the phone or in person.

In any event, don’t let the fact that it’s the first possible opening you’ve seen, and fear of looking, drive your decision. Sit down and weigh carefully the pros and cons of the opportunity (outside of the location) to see if it really fits what you want exclusive of that problem.

Guard Your Professional Image
Filed under: General, Networking, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 8:24 pm

Someone posted to a listserv I’m in, complaining about the fact that items posted there were getting picked up and re-posted elsewhere.  This prompted a good discussion.  I weighed in as follows:

I’d suggest you think of everything you post to this or any other forum, and your profile and postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. as an open book - don’t post anything that you aren’t comfortable having sent to the world. Make sure everything you do contributes to the same professional image you are trying to foster, that you want prospective employers to see.

No matter what safeguards you think are being taken, once you post something there is a potential for it to be found in an internet search, or for someone else to forward it or cut & paste it into something else.  Most of the time this is innocent - someone using what you wrote as an example, or thinking they are being helpful by forwarding it somewhere else. Just assume that will happen, and act accordingly.

Even emails should foster the image you are attempting to achieve. At the very basic level, friends & associates to whom you send emails are part of your network who can connect you to opportunities, and it is important that they have the same professional image you want to promote to those potential employers. And you never know who might innocently forward something you write them (“Hey, Joe, thought you might like to catch up on what Joanne’s been doing”) or to be helpful (”Jim, if you’re ever looking for a top quality recruiter, check out my friend Joanne.”).  And sometimes things get forwarded to the wrong address…

For more on guarding your professional image, check out this article:

Making Up For Bad Interview
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:29 pm

A posting I came across

“I am just curious as to whether or not any of you have recovered from a bad interview. For instance, you talked too much or weren’t focused in your responses .. maybe you were distracted from something that happened just prior to your interview and it threw you off your game or you didn’t feel as though you connected with the interviewer or didn’t say something you thought would have been great to bring up.

Did you make up for it in your Thank you letter or did you do a follow up call and as a result, you got another chance?”

My response

Review very carefully in your mind whether you actually made mistakes in the interview, or simply didn’t perform as well as you could. For example, if communication skills are critical to the job, and you garbled what you said in significant sections, then you need to address that in your thank you letter. Make a very simple statement explaining it, but don’t go into much detail - the more you talk about it, the more you emphasize the negative. Then immediately go into accomplishments and results that demonstrate that you actually do have powerful communication skills.

On the other hand, if you simply didn’t perform as well as you hoped, or neglected to include a story to back up an important skill / area of experience, then there’s no need to talk about your performance in the interview. Simply provide the proof in your thank you letter of the qualifications and results that make you a powerful candidate, including the bullet points to prove any missing points. You could even preface something that you omitted to mention in the interview, like “I may not have mentioned…”

The Thank You letter is really a marketing document, just as is the Cover Letter. You need to make your most powerful arguments in both…and in the Thank You you have the advantage of already having had the deep discussion with the interviewers, so that you can tailor it much more effectively to their challenges.

Here’s an article on the topic:

“Are Cover Letters A Waste Of Time?”

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When to Talk About Salary
Filed under: Interview, Salary, Negotiation
Posted by: John Hadley @ 11:24 am

When a job seeker told me he’d had a great interview, but that they wouldn’t pay him enough to make it worthwhile, I asked how he knew. His answer: “Because I asked them what the range was.”

I asked why he did that. The question surprised him. “Because I wanted to know … but don’t worry, I first told them that money wasn’t the most important thing to me, that I was most interested in the challenges, etc.”

This is a common mistake among job seekers. They are naturally worried about compensation, and want to know what the possibilities are. They want to be prepared for offer negotiations. But there are many other ways to find out enough information to satisfy those concerns, such as through networking with people in similar roles at other companies, or friends at the particular company who aren’t involved in the hiring decision; and through research in the library and on websites like

The problem with being the first to bring up compensation with anyone in the hiring chain is that just raising the question:

  • Communicates that at some level, money is more important than the job, no matter how you couch the question. (It also projects less confidence than the person who doesn’t bring it up, who assumes that compensation will take care of itself.)
  • Makes you less impressive to the interviewer than someone who didn’t raise the question; someone who is entirely focused on the job, and what they bring to the table.
  • Weakens your bargaining position.
  • “Oh, but I said all the right things first.”

    So? Do you think hiring managers aren’t savvy enough to know that you ask every question for a reason? Do you really believe that they don’t try to use every piece of information offered, including what questions you ask, to get a fix on what’s important to you and whether you are the best possible candidate?

    “Don’t worry, I didn’t ask the hiring manager … I just asked the HR person.”

    OK, that’s better than asking the hiring manager. But don’t you think I will seek input from every person you talked to prior to making a decision whether to move forward? Or do you assume that the HR person’s opinion carries absolutely zero weight?

    “But I didn’t ask about salary, just other benefits.” (eg, paid time off, medical/dental)

    Why is that any better? Those benefits are still part of the total compensation. In fact, that might be worse. As a hiring manager, I can at least understand why someone would be so worried about salary that they ask about it, but to ask about specific benefits? Now I’m wondering whether you are even focused on the right issues, and understand that benefits are a tradeoff for salary. And if it was vacation time you asked about, I might now be worried about whether you are prepared to put in whatever time the job requires.

    “But, wait, by asking early on, I’ve often been able to find out they couldn’t offer me enough to make it worthwhile, and saved us both the time and energy of a pointless interview!”

    Perhaps, but how do you know that they couldn’t offer you more than what they said? If I’m a hiring manager interviewing for a job whose range was $70-100,000, typically I’m going to try to bring in new employees in the lower half of the range, ie, $70-85,000. 90% of offers I make will be under $87,000, but there will sometimes be exceptional candidates to whom I offer $90,000 or even $95,000.  And once in a great while I will even upgrade the job to a new grade level to fit that exceptional candidate, opening up a whole new range.

    But if someone asked me early in the process what the range was, I would likely answer $70-85,000. I don’t want the candidate thinking I can offer more, and then bargaining for that higher amount. Plus I don’t want to set things up for them to potentially be disappointed with the offer because they compare their offer to a top of the range I don’t expect to offer.

    In fact, twice in my years as a hiring manager, I offered a candidate who was a superstar a salary only a few $1,000 below what I was making! But I NEVER would have even considered revealing that number as a possibility to either a prospective candidate or a recruiter who was interested in sending me candidates - until I interviewed those candidates, I hadn’t considered that amount a possibility myself!

    Here’s the most fundamental reason never to bring up compensation yourself: You don’t want a prospective employer thinking about how much you might cost them until they are convinced they want you on their team. If you’ve done a great job in the interview of getting deep into their challenges, of establishing how much it’s costing them not to have you in that position tomorrow, that you are a great solution to their problems, then they will want to make the best possible offer they can to get you on their team!

    1 comment
    Performance Appraisals
    Filed under: Career, Performance
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:44 pm

    Here was the first response to my question:

    “Do you view performance appraisals as a meaningless exercise, or an opportunity to raise your visibility?”

    “Meaningless- sitting on both sides I have yet to see a meaningful experience. The appraisal is written and done. There is no opportunity to gain visibility from the exercise.”

    I agree…if you wait until the time the appraisal is written to try to turn it into a meaningful excercise. By then, your boss has already evaluated your performance and reached his or her conclusions.; You may be able to make incremental improvements, but probably not much beyond that.

    On the other hand, if you write your own self-appraisal in advance of that time, you have an opportunity to:

    -Improve the ratings you receive, and ensure that what you’ve accomplished is well-documented in your personnel files.

    -Enhance your boss’s perception of your contributions.

    -Better equip your boss to describe to others (the next level up, other key executives) the value you are adding to his or her operation.

    And last, but certainly not least, by having done this careful introspection into the value you are adding, you equip yourself to answer the question “What do you do?” or “What have you done lately?” in a concise, compelling way that clearly communicates the results you have produced for your operation.

    What do you do if your company doesn’t provide for self-appraisals?

    Why should you let that stop you?  What would prevent you from documenting your accomplishments to your boss, and presenting it as something to help him or her in preparing the eventual appraisal.

    Just be sure that you give a lot of thought to the self-appraisal, and stay at the high level.  Don’t get down and dirty into all of the details of what you did, focus on the high level accomplishments.  And get very clear on the results you achieved - what your work meant for the operation and the company.

    For more on how to do this, check out this article:

    “Catch Yourself Doing a Good Job”

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    Performance Appraisals
    Filed under: Career, Performance
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 12:47 pm

    Many people on both sides of the table worry about performance appraisals:

  • Bosses procrastinate about writing them, wonder if the meeting is going to be uncomfortable, and especially hate having to deliver bad news.
  • Employees worry about whether they are going to get the sort of rating they feel they deserve, whether there are going to be unpleasant surprises, and what the appraisal means for their next salary action.
  • On the other hand, performance appraisals can be an opportunity:

  • For the employee to cement outstanding performance in a boss’s eyes and raise visibility.
  • For a boss to begin turning around a problem employee, raise issues before they become serious problems and recognize outstanding performance.
  • What do you think? Post your comments on this question:

    “Do you view performance appraisals as a meaningless exercise, or an opportunity to raise your visibility?”

    1 comment
    Career Challenges
    Filed under: General, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 12:43 pm

    “What’s the biggest obstacle to making sure new career opportunities seek you out?”

    Post your comments here, and let’s get a good discussion going!