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

April 2009
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Getting Your Cover Letter and Resume in Gear
Filed under: General, Résumé, Cover Letter
Posted by: John Hadley @ 6:33 am

I was interviewed for an article in amNewYork…


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Pay (Cut) Negotiations
Filed under: Salary, Career, Negotiation
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:33 pm

“I am working for a recruiting firm, and have been told that I can stay if I accept a 40% cut in pay until business picks up.  A bucket of ice water in the face does not adequately describe my initial thoughts. I am at a crossroads as unemployment would be more for me after taxes, but I have great insurance with the company that I could not get w/out.

Any advice? I would imagine there are more questions, please hit me with them! Need an outside perspective on this.”

This is a very tough situation – I would have described it more like a sucker punch in the gut than ice water in the face!

You should think carefully about options, longer term goals, etc, and be careful not to simply act out of the stress of the moment. Possibilities that occur to me off the top of my head include:

  • Figuring out a quid pro quo for the 40% pay cut, such as guaranteed employment for 1 year, benchmarks for production that when achieved will trigger an automatic bump back up to the prior salary, a substantial increase in paid time off (which you could use to seek other employment, though you wouldn’t tell them that), variable comp based on increasing your accounts above their current level (so that you can ‘earn’ your way back to your current pay)…
  • Negotiating with them on the size of the decrease (and coupled with any of the above). Get really clear on the results you have brought to their operation and expect to bring going forward for that discussion, and make that front and center in the meeting.
  • You could even try to negotiate a move back to contractor status at the pre-cut pay with a variable bonus based on production above a certain level, which would leave you with a smaller cut after paying for the insurance costs you lose, and would give them the benefit of moving you out of a fixed long term cost.
  • Seeking a new job while continuing to work with them at the lower pay.
  • Negotiating a severance package of some sort, and then going to look for a new job full time.
  • In preparation for the discussion, also try to examine how much they would be hurt if you walked away. What would that possibly cost them in terms of the remaining accounts, relationships, and the need to pay someone else to take on what you’ve been doing?

    If you have a strong relationship with those accounts, what could you do to sell the benefits of your services to them, either as part of the recruiting firm, as an employee with them, as an independent contractor (lower cost), or with another firm? (Obviously, any non-compete agreements with your current boss will affect your options … and if you have those, then part of the quid pro quo negotiation to accept any pay cut should include limiting or eliminating such restrictions until the point they bump your pay back up.)

    Finally, think about:

  • Do you really like the job, the company, your boss, etc.?
  • Does this pay cut affect how you feel about those elements?
  • What does it say about what else they might do in the future?
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    Tricky Interview Questions
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:54 pm

    “In one of my interviews, I was asked the following questions:

  • What are the qualities that “you think” your collegues like in you?
  • What are the traits that “you think” are disliked?

  • I just wanted to know how should we answer such a question and what is the purpose of such a questions?”

    These are just a variation on the standard “Strengths and Weaknesses” question, couched in terms of traits, and given some appearance of objectivity by framing it around what others would say. You need to have given a lot of thought in advance as to what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you would answer questions about them.

    The purpose is to get you to share things that you might not have been inclined to share otherwise, and perhaps to trip you up around the ‘dislikes’ question. You might share some serious weaknesses that will make my hiring decision easier.

    And you might reveal any of these:

  • That you aren’t very self-aware; you don’t know what others think about you.
  • That you are arrogant, and believe everyone thinks extremely highly of you, and that you like to brag about that.
  • That you don’t have good answers to questions, and can’t think on your feet well.
  • That you get uncomfortable when asked about certain things, or when discussing certain types of things, which tells me that’s an area I should probe more in the interview or with your references.

  • The best way to answer these is to have a clear picture in your own mind of your strengths and weaknesses, and then to:

  • Be very matter of fact about the former, giving key examples / results to back them up, and
  • Minimize the latter, avoiding a discussion of a laundry list of negatives, and showing for any you do reveal: (1) what you have done to work on them, and (2) what you will continue to do, so that (3) they are presented as something I shouldn’t be worried about in hiring you.
  • By the way, never reveal a weakness that is core to a critical job function, as that will likely get you ruled out, unless you can very clearly demonstrate that it is no longer a weakness.

    Interview Tips for Academics
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 8:38 am

    Here’s an insightful article on interviewing for academic jobs, particularly for higher education:

    And for more help in overcoming common issues in interviewing, see these blog entries:


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    Figuring Out My “Dream” Job
    Filed under: General, Networking, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 12:52 pm

    “Recently I began attemding an 8 week career seminar. At age 62, I have not had permanent work since 2006, following the 2nd of two layoffs in less than 2 years. I cannot say that I have ever found my “sweet spot” as to doing work that I love. I have also taken several assessment tests over the years.

    There have been some that I enjoyed, though nothing has been particulary challenging or rewarding. I need to find some level of satisfaction, not just a paycheck. Currently I am living on SS, unemployment and temp work, that is usually boring. Whether temp or permanent work (mostly adminstrative with some sales), my supervisors have always been impressed by my professionalism, customer service skills and my normally positive attitude.

    I have made several attempts to start my own buisness. I believe I have an entrepreneural spirit. I have struggled for 22 years both financially and career wise.

    I am convinced that God has a plan, but I honestly don’t know how to set career goals. I enjoy working and the satisfaction of doing a job exceptionally well, but have never really enjoyed the corporate world, working mostly with small businesses. I am happiest knowing I have helped others in some way.

    Can you offer some suggestions to a 62 year old woman who believes she still has something to contribute?”

    Think in terms of small steps that can start moving you towards a goal, rather than trying to first come up with the ultimate goal. Once you’ve achieved some small steps, you can take stock and think about what would move you ahead further.

    Find a few options for things you think you would be interested in doing - not necessarily your ‘dream’ job or business, but things that you could enjoy.

    Seek out meetings with people involved in those things, and have deep conversations with them about what they do, what they love about it, what they don’t like, etc. In the conversation, also talk about what you think you would bring to the table in that area, and do some brainstorming with them. DON’T ASK ABOUT JOB OPENINGS, WHO’S HIRING, ETC. Keep it focused on equipping them to know about you, and brainstorming with them to get advice. In this way you will get lots of information and advice, and will equip these people to become your eyes and ears in the market.

    As you do this, it will start to create a feedback loop that helps you get more clarity on your options, and you will start to feel either more or less excited about certain options, and see how you might shape them differently to tap more into what interests you.

    I would also recommend seeking out some volunteer effort in an area related to one of the options, which will give you some hands on experience that will help you see if it’s a viable option, will build your database of skills and stories to tell in your search, and will build your network – people love helping someone they see volunteering for something important to them.

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    Explaining Why You’re Looking
    Filed under: General, Networking, Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 4:20 pm

    “How should I handle a question as to why I would consider leaving an employer that I have been with for a relatively short time? I have been employed with my current employer for 7 months, the previous employer was for 8 years.”

    You need to keep your answer short and simple…the longer the answer, the more apologetic it will sound, and the more you will be emphasizing the past instead of the future. Think very carefully about why you left, and how you can put that in a way that doesn’t critcize your employer. Then give a short (1 or 2 sentence) explanation, followed by either what you’ve learned from that (if it was an involuntary resignation, or performance-related in any way), or what you are seeking now.

    For example:
    “I was hired by XYZ to become a project manager in the IT area. Shortly after I joined them, there was a restructuring, so that the position no longer fit my long term goals. What I’m looking for now is …”

    And it will be strongest if the “looking for now” expresses a result you expect to be able to bring to that role, or a challenge you can help your target employer overcome.

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