How to Recognize Deceptive Interviewers

Have you ever had an interview that turned out later to be deceptive in one or more ways? Quite possibly, although I like to think that most interviewers do not deliberately deceive applicants. However, I have had clients who took a job before they discovered it had been misrepresented in the interview. That can be not only a frustrating experience but a costly one, particularly if you pass up other opportunities and accept the position before you discover your mistake.

How to Tell When Interviewers are Lying

According to a recent Brazen Careerist post I read by Vanessa Van Edwards, there are “3 Ways to Tell if Your Interviewer is Lying.” I imagine you could come up with more if you gave it some thought, based on your experience or the experience of people you know, but here in a nutshell are the clues Van Edwards offers:

  • Exaggeration: A clue might be the use of excessive adjectives or superlatives.
  • Common fibs: Van Edwards mentions “9 Annoying Lies Job Interviewers Tell,” (another Brazen Careerist post, by Heather Legg) which includes these 3 possible fibs: “You’re in the lead for this position.” “We think your outside life is just as important as your work life.” “We’re working on hiring someone who would help you.” (Legg’s post does point out that some of the possible fibs could be true, but you have to dig to find out.)
  • Body language: Watch for inconsistencies between what the person says and how he or she acts, including things like eye contact or seating position.

How to Avoid Being Deceived by Interviewers

Aside from watching out for the 3 ways mentioned by Van Edwards, here are a few suggestions I’d like to share:

  • To start with, include sufficient research in your interview preparation–actually, start sooner than that. Before deciding to submit your resume for a position you’ve spotted, research the company to see if any immediate red flags pop up, as well as to identify any good points that fit your desired situation. What kind of reputation does it have where it matters–which is most likely not from the pages of the company’s annual report.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on around you before as well as during the interview. In other words, from the moment you arrive on the company’s property, you should have your observation antennae up and functioning. It’s amazing sometimes the clues you can pick up from that.
  • Chat with the receptionist while you wait for the interviewer, if the lobby isn’t too busy. A short, friendly conversation with her (it’s usually a “her”) can give you a sense of what the company’s about and how it treats its employees, if you ask the right questions. Just don’t come across sounding like someone from the Spanish Inquisition!
  • Make notes before the interview and, if possible, during it about information you gain by watching, listening and asking questions. After you leave, compare those notes with what the interviewer actually said (if you didn’t get to write it all down, which was probably the case, add anything else you remember while it’s fresh in your mind). Also compare your notes with the information you researched before arriving for the interview.

Bonus Interview Tip: Make sure you don’t get swayed by emotion (excitement, desperation, etc.) into making a decision your research and observations tell you is probably not wise. Going with your instinct can sometimes work out, but probably not if you’re letting emotion cloud your judgment.


New Job Salary Expectations Reality Check

In my previous post I mentioned briefly the importance of keeping future increases in mind when you negotiate your starting salary in a new job. Of course, that does not mean you will receive the starting salary you are hoping for. It probably makes sense to aim as high as you can realistically believe is within reach. However, if your goal is “over the moon” or at least not in tune with what is actually going on, you might find the time has come for a reality check on your new job salary expectations.

What’s a “Reasonable” New Job Starting Salary?

You probably realize the answer is different now than it was several years ago. And a lot of people have something to say about this topic–if you Google the phrase “new job salary expectations,” you’ll come up with about 3.9 million hits!

The one at the top of the list when I searched was “Job Interview Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?” by Alison Doyle on about.com. However, what got me started on this tack was an article I just finished reading, which I found referenced on SmartBrief on Your Career (listed as “What managers should consider before switching jobs”). The original Fortune/CNN Money article by Anne Fisher deals with starting salary expectations and is titled “Job hunting? What kind of pay hike to expect”.

So what’s “reasonable”? Here’s a quote from Fisher’s article that gives one indication, based on what’s been happening in recent years. “An analysis by Salveson Stetson of compensation data from the past six years found that job-switching senior managers’ starting pay plummeted by 56% during the downturn. It’s edging back up, but on average, managers are getting offers 34% lower than in 2006 and 2007.” Fisher goes on to say that sales and marketing executives are the group probably least impacted by the downturn, whereas general managers are among the harder hit groups.

How do You Determine What Salary to Aim For?

I hate to say this, but the starting-point is research-research-research. Do whatever you realistically and legally can to uncover information that will help you determine your likely value to prospective employers in today’s job market and the leverage you might have in the eyes of those employers. That is, what’s the probable range the companies will be targeting for someone with a background similar to yours and how does that compare to your situation (expectations, current salary, job security or lack thereof, etc.)?

Fisher points out that every job seeker has some basic resources he/she should be checking out. For starters, she says you should “use sites like Salary.com and PayScale.com, as well as job boards with postings that provide salary ranges, to get an idea of what kind of salary you can reasonably negotiate for. And don’t forget that salary isn’t everything. Perks and benefits can sometimes make up for so-so base pay.”

You can probably find formulas of one kind or another all over the Internet for how to figure your new job salary target, so I won’t bother to “go there” in this post. However, I do have one commonsense approach to suggest:

  1. Figure out what you need to live on without a drastic reduction in your standard-of-living (including your family, if you have one).
  2. Look at what you’re currently making, including bonuses/perks, if you have those.
  3. Research to get a rough estimate of what people with similar experience, education and other qualifications are supposedly being paid. Where are you in that range? If toward the higher or lower end, what factors might be causing that placement?
  4. Identify your drop-dead number (which I’ve previously described as the least you can realistically accept). Then determine a range that starts somewhat higher than that and sets an upper limit you can hope to reach if all goes well.
  5. Brush up on your negotiation skills! See if you can come up with a win-win proposition that prospective employers can’t afford to turn down.

Retirement Plans Important in Career Management

If you have not yet considered eventual retirement as a part of your overall career management, I encourage you to start now. We all know that the economy and job market have become seriously more challenging over the past several years. What you might not have thought enough about is whether you need to revamp your career management planning in light of the need to cover your retirement years.

While I tend to be an optimist and take a positive approach to challenging circumstances–and I personally do not expect to retire any time soon–I also like to stay aware of what is happening or might be happening that could affect me when I reach that point. To that end, I read occasional articles and other advice pieces on the subject of retirement preparation and calculation of financial needs to cover that period. An article published in October 2012 (just a few months ago) was the latest to catch my attention.

Concern about Retirement Income

Authors Rich and Fry note in their article, More Americans Worry About Financing Retirement, that “Despite a slowly improving economy and a three-year-old stock market rebound, Americans today are more worried about their retirement finances than they were at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, according to a nationally representative survey of 2,508 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center. About four-in-ten adults (38%) say they are ‘not too’ or ‘not at all’ confident that they will have enough income and assets for their retirement, up from 25% in a Pew Research survey conducted in…2009.”

If you do the math, that means there are still 60% of Americans who feel confident they’ll have enough money to cover their retirement. However, if you’re among the 40% who don’t, that might not make you feel a lot better. Regardless of which group you fall into, though, it’s a good idea–maybe even a great one–to start now in doing serious thinking and planning to address your personal situation.

As important as anything else is the need to keep this subject in mind when you’re looking for a new job, negotiating your salary or taking any other action that could have an impact on your long-term income prospects.

Wait Until Late-Career to Consider Retirement Plans?

As the Pew Research article notes, the age at which we feel most concerned about our retirement income has dropped noticeably over the past 3 years. “In 2009 it was ‘Gloomy Boomers’ in their mid-50s who were the most worried that they would outlive their retirement nest eggs. Today, retirement worries peak among adults in their late 30s—many of whom are the older sons and daughters of the Baby Boom generation….This is also the age group that has suffered the steepest losses in household wealth in recent years.”

Worrying alone isn’t the answer, of course. However, thinking you don’t need to consider retirement plans until you’re, say, 5 or 10 years from retirement age, could land you in trouble a lot sooner than you expect. For example, Social Security payments depend heavily on your most recent years of earnings. If you don’t do your best to maximize your income in earlier years, you might not have enough time to catch up. (For the moment, I’m ignoring the arguments about how long Social Security will be around, etc.)

It’s important to remember, too, that future raises from your present employer are based on a percentage of your current income. If you have or can find any negotiating leverage to boost those a bit, it could pay off more than you think later on and help strengthen the financial aspects of your retirement outlook.


Career Success Elusive? No Complaints, Please

If you have yet to capture the career success you dream of, stop to think before you complain about that. This is not to suggest that you are a complainer or that you complain without reason. However, please bear with me, because I do have a point I want to get across here.

No one would describe me as a sports fan, and because I tend not to follow sports events closely, I often miss some amazing stories. When someone brings that kind of story to my attention, as Tim Mushey did in a recent blog post (Sell-Lead-Succeed), I appreciate it. If you haven’t heard about an ex-football pro named O.J. Brigance, you might want to check out a video about his inspiring story.

Career Success versus Life Success

Sometimes career success and life success go hand-in-hand. If that’s your situation, consider yourself extremely fortunate. If it’s not, think about O.J. Brigance and other people who refuse to let even major setbacks–including life-threatening ones–define who they are and what they can or can’t do. I have to admit, I’m not sure how I would handle the situation O.J. got handed in 2007. Any challenges I’ve had in recent years seem to pale in comparison. In 2007 he was told he could expect to live 3-5 years, if he were lucky. Well, it’s now 2012, and he’s still around and kicking (metaphorically speaking, anyway).

So, in the space of maybe a few minutes, he went from career success as an NFL player to a man facing what amounted to a death sentence. Would I have fought back as well as he has? Would you? It has definitely given me something to think about, the next time I’m tempted to complain about something I haven’t achieved that I’d hoped to–whether it’s more business success or something else.

Different Kinds of Career Success

As I’ve commented before, we don’t all define success the same way or take the same approach to achieving it. From what I saw and heard in O.J.’s video, he has redefined what he might once have considered career success (although I gather he was a pretty great guy to begin with). He continues to not only “show up” each day but to inspire and motivate players and others affiliated with his former team to achieve goals they might not have thought possible. At the very least, they would probably be ashamed to fail in reaching a goal if they knew they could have made a stronger effort toward it. Instead of focusing on the fact that he can’t walk, talk, use his hands…he keeps on trucking.

So maybe it’s time for us to redefine what our career success–and our life success–should and can look like. You might still think, “I want to earn at least $100K–or $500K–or…$XXXX next year.” Hey, most of us can relate to a goal like that! But if that’s as far as you take it, you probably don’t want someone like O.J. looking over your shoulder, LOL. And you shouldn’t complain if you don’t reach it. Set career goals and life goals that really make a difference; then see how you do.


Personal Branding, Career Management & Job Search

The trend toward personal branding–as opposed to corporate brand development–has been evident for at least the past few years, if not longer. However, many people still have not paid much (enough) attention to it. If you are one of those who believe personal branding is a flash-in-the-pan fad, I urge you to give the concept another thought. I do not see personal branding as a now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t aspect of savvy career management and well-planned job search campaigns.

Ditch. Dare. Do!–Personal Branding

One of the career-oriented newsletters I receive regularly is “Reach Personal Branding Newsletter – YOUnique.” Today’s edition highlights the upcoming book Ditch. Dare. Do! by Reach Personal Branding’s William Arruda and one of my highly esteemed colleagues, Deb Dib, a CEO coach.

I saw excerpts from the book in a presentation Deb gave at a professional conference I attended last fall, and I am definitely planning to read the book as soon as it becomes available (I’ve put my name and email address on their advance notification list to make sure I don’t miss it). Even though the book is pitched as being of particular relevance to executives, I’m pretty sure you would find it intriguing and thought-provoking even if you’re not at that level–yet.

The concept behind the book is called 3D Branding (you can see the connection with that in the book’s title). To give you just a teaser about what you can expect from the book, here’s a snippet from the conference presentation:
“What is 3D Branding?

  • Personal Branding rEvolution.
  • You as a whole 3D person.
  • You in your world/work world.
  • You as your business/career manager.
  • You as a DITCH. DARE. DO! daredevil.”

Note: The apparent mis-capitalization of rEvolution in the first item is actually intentional on the authors’ part. They consider personal branding as an ongoing process and 3D branding as a natural but also amazing outgrowth of that–in other words, an evolution that is really a revolution.

Personal Branding’s Role in Career Management & Job Search

We’re not talking about manufacturing an image that you want to present to the public (employers, in particular), even though it really isn’t “you.” Genuine, effective personal branding has to be based on uncovering the reality of your strengths, your unique value, and other similarly distinctive aspects of who you are.

I’m not a branding expert like William and Deb, but I understand the importance of the concept in today’s environment and do help clients with some aspects of it when we work together. You are probably always going to have competition for the jobs and careers you want to pursue; that’s a fact of life. Other people are bound to find them just as desirable as you do.

What gives you the edge in that competitive employment environment? It starts by identifying your unique message to employers, deciding how to communicate it compellingly to the right people, and having a plan for doing that consistently throughout your career management, including a current or anticipated job search campaign.

If you don’t know “who you are” and what makes you special, you can’t expect employers to figure it out for you. They’ll just move on to whoever is next in line. Your job is to make it difficult–preferably impossible–for them to bypass you without at least agonizing over doing so!

P.S. To find out more about 3D Branding, you can check out the 3D Branding video and sign up for notification about the book’s launch. (Personal note: I don’t get any “payment” for recommending this–I just believe it’s something you should know about.)


Job Search Tip: Network Thoughtfully

Sometimes people just do not understand what networking is about–or not about, as the case might be. If you abuse the process, you will probably pay the penalty and not reap the rewards you can gain from thoughtful networking…that is, networking that respects the rights and time of others. A post I read recently on Tim Mushey’s blog (Sell-Lead-Succeed) has some very pertinent points to make about this concept.

Un-Thoughtful Networking on LinkedIn

Tim had a frustrating and unpleasant experience with someone who connected with him on LinkedIn and then stepped far over the line into inappropriate territory to take advantage of that connection. Here’s just a little of what Tim had to say about the situation in his blog:

“Unfortunately LinkedIn does not have a ‘disconnect’ button, where you can ‘relieve yourself of the burden’ of networking with somebody who just does not get it! You can remove a connection, but it takes some work….Would you try to sell somebody your products and services from the moment that you met them in person? I would hope not! So why should it be ok online?

“Network ‘virtually’ like you would ‘personally.’ Show up, be responsive and care about your connections. The last thing you want is for people to…’disconnect’ with you soon after accepting your requests.”

How to Network Thoughtfully in Job Search Mode

First, do your homework! Determine whether there’s the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship before you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn (or Twitter or….). If you’re a big-time network builder (LION, on LinkedIn, for example), you might not stop with this criterion, but I think it’s a good one to begin with. In other words: Is there at least the potential for you to give as well as get at some point? If not, why should that person want to connect–and stay connected–with you?

Second, understand that “remoteness” (electronic rather than in-person contact) does not excuse pushiness, self-centered and relentless pursuit, or just general bad manners. No one deserves to be disrespected like that, remotely or otherwise. We used to have a sign in the break room at a company where I worked that read: “Your mother doesn’t work here. Clean up after yourself.”

The implication was, of course, that you were expected to take care of things appropriately and not put the burden of that onto someone who wasn’t responsible for your behavior. You should, in fact, behave as if your mother were looking over your shoulder and saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t do that–THIS is what you should do”!

Third, express appreciation for any help, ideas, etc., that your new connection shares with you. We all like to be valued when we make an effort to contribute something. Even if you can’t use a suggestion now, for instance, you can say “thank you very much” and file it under maybe-I-can-use-this-later.


Career Success in 2013: Possible vs. Impossible

According to Jon Gordon (“20 Tips for a Positive New Year”), success in 2013 starts with this: “Stay Positive. You can listen to the cynics and doubters and believe that success is impossible or you can trust that with faith and an optimistic attitude all things are possible.” You can think of Gordon as a Pollyanna type if you choose, but I prefer to believe he knows what he is talking about. Of course, staying positive in my book (and probably in his) means taking action, not just maintaining a hopeful outlook.

Possible vs. Impossible in Career Success

Career success, job search success and success on the job–they’re all interlinked. If you adopt an attitude where impossibility predominates, that success will continue to elude you. On the other hand, if you keep an open mind about what’s possible, your odds of a successful outcome can increase dramatically. Recently I read an article by Erika Andersen, “2 Things That Will Give You Long-term Job Success,” in which she says you should do the following:

  • “Put joy on your “required” list. Joy at work doesn’t mean that you love every person, every moment, or every task. It means that – overall – you’re happy to go to work in the morning. You look forward to it rather than dreading it….People who show up grudgingly to work every day and move through the job while clearly not having a good time do not get onto anybody’s short list of employees to retain, develop and promote. Think of it this way: being unhappy at work is bad for your career. So commit to finding a job, a workplace, and boss that you feel good about most days – consider it a requirement for success.
  • “Embrace challenge. In his wonderful book Drive, Dan Pink points to research showing that one of the things people want most in their careers is the opportunity for “mastery” – for getting better at things. Mastery arises from challenge: you get better at things when you put yourself into situations where you have to stretch.”

Change and Career Success

This year isn’t last year. Last year is over, and there’s nothing you can do to change what happened or didn’t happen for you in 2012. However, as my previous blog post noted, you can start now to see 2013 in a new light. So if career success–or the shorter-term but still important job search success–seems to have escaped you lately, remind yourself that the only thing you can really change is the present, although that can certainly affect the future–often in totally unpredictable ways.

If you can do something this year that seems very likely to increase your odds of career success, why not go for it? Assuming, of course, that it’s not illegal or dangerous to your physical or mental health! And if you’re the type who tends to wait for Santa Claus (or one of his helpers) to bring you that wonderful future success, just remember that he’s the same guy who didn’t bring it to you last year .

Be prepared for change if you want to achieve career success in 2013–and take charge of initiating that change if it’s clearly not going to happen without your effort.