How and When to Negotiate Salary and Benefits?

How and When to Negotiate Salary and Benefits?

The following is a question about negotiating salary and benefits that arose out of a recent webinar I did entitled “Resumes, Interviewing and the World of Work” for Georgetown University alumni. That webinar was offered to give the participants  information about “the best way to find a new job”!

Hello Robb,

Thanks for taking the time to speak about resumes and interviewing today. I enjoyed hearing your take on the best way to prepare yourself. I do have one question you didn’t dollar signhave time to answer– What is the best time and manner in which to negotiate a salary? After getting an offer, what’s the most appropriate way to ask how much the position pays and then to start the negotiation process? I’ve never had to do this before, so I want to know what to do when the time comes… hopefully sooner rather than later!

My response follows:

Glad you found the webinar to be of value!!

 Great question! Let me give you part of the content from my book “The Ultimate Job-Seekers Guide” on this subject; the following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 – Congratulations! You Have an Offer! Now What? Evaluating Job Offers; Negotiating Salary and Benefits

Negotiating Salary and Benefits

The time to negotiate salary and benefits is after you have received a job offer. Why not earlier? Because you don’t want to negotiate against yourself. Your employer contact  knows your compensation history and knows the compensation range for the job he or she is trying to fill (and hopefully you know the range also!). This person is aware of all the answers you and other candidates have given during the interviewing process. Your employer contact has also made comparisons of whom else they have been interviewing for the job and how large the pool is of people to choose from (your competition for the job). From this base of information, a decision will be made as to whom to make the offer and at what salary. These factors will determine if the offer is at the high end of the range or not. Another factor that enters into formula is your current employment status; if employed, the offer may be higher than if you were unemployed. The benefit package is probably formula-driven for the position you are interviewing for, so little opportunity to tinker with it.

What then do you negotiate? Actually, very little. If the salary range is $45 – $50,000… and your last salary was $46,500 and the offer comes in at $47,000 or $47,500 – yes, you are disappointed it wasn’t more. Recognize, however that it is an increase and be assured that the hiring official thought it through and felt that the offer was a fair one. In almost every case, the salary detailed in the job offer has been carefully thought through; the employer wanting to pay as low an amount as is reasonable to attract and hire the talent to do the job. If you ask for an adjustment because you don’t feel it is enough you are not sending not the best of messages!

The best approach is to “pre-negotiate” the salary during the interview process. As noted in the interviewing chapter:

If the interviewer asks “What salary are you looking for?”

  • Answer carefully. Hopefully you know the salary range ahead of time. If so, you answer: “well, I know the salary range is $X – $Y. My last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I would like to be at the high end of your range, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”.
  • If you don’t know the range, then you answer: “well, my last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I would prefer to make some upward strides, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”. Never inflate your current or past compensation. It is not uncommon for an employer to ask to see a W-2…and your are sunk if it doesn’t match what you have said.
  • By these responses, you have put a salary number on the table.

If for some reason you aren’t asked this question, towards the end of the interview, say:

“We haven’t discussed compensation. What is the range? And from there offer the first response above.

What can sometimes negotiated are some minor aspects in the area of benefits – getting on the employer’s health plan sooner than the normal waiting period, clearing during the interview that you have made travel reservations for a family reunion at a distant location and therefore need more vacation leave time than might normally be available, perhaps getting paid parking, etc. Be aware, however, that your employer likes standardization of benefits within a class or group of employees; it avoids the hard feelings that arise when workers doing the same or similar jobs find out there is a difference in their benefits plans.

Keep in mind that one of the advantages of working with a staffing service  (check out my firm – NRI Staffing Resources) is that they can negotiate on your behalf without you personally interacting with the prospective employer.

Do keep in mind that what you are looking for is opportunity to learn and grow, to work for a boss who will be a mentor, and to be part of a team. Don’t get hung up on a salary if it is within your realistic range – and remember that the money will take of itself if you do a knock-out job.

Good luck!!

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12 Things to Do After Being Laid Off… (To Find A New Job!)

Today’s blog post was written by Bob McIntosh and came from his website –  a site with some great information …on things “career-related” naturally! Many thanks to Bob for letting me share this with you!

It could be sub-titled The Best Way to Find a New Job… so read on!


12I was recently asked this question, “You just got laid off. Which is more important, start networking or spend a week writing your résumé?” I thought this was a great question but also believe jobseekers have to think of other important activities when starting their job search after a lay-off.

Below are some of the must do’s for people who are starting their job search. You’ll note that dusting off your résumé and networking are far down the list of priorities.

1. Take time to regroup. This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do when starting your job search. It’s also something people neglect to do by jumping right into the hunt the same day they’re laid off. Conversely, some people wait too long to begin the search, considering this a time to take a “vacation.”

2. Evaluate your frame of mind. Understand that unemployment can play emotional havoc on your psyche and may require seeking professional help. Many of my customers have shared with me their despondency and even depression after being laid off or let go.

3. Think about what you want to do. Now is the time to think about what you really want to do, not what you feel comfortable doing. When I was laid off, I realized that I wanted to change my career. Deciding what I wanted to do was one of my top priorities. I had direction.

4. Be dedicated to your job search. Determining your direction could take some contemplation, especially if you’re changing your career. Once you’ve decided on path you want to take, dedicate all you effort to getting there. Is it necessary to spend 40+ hours on your job search I ask my workshop attendees. I don’t think so. More like 25+ hours of smart job seeking is more like it.

5. Assess your greatest skills. This is tough for many people, especially those who have a hard time promoting themselves, so solicit the help of others with whom you worked or know in your daily life. Create a list of your strongest skills and accomplishments. These will make good fodder for your new and improved résumé.

6. Begin telling everyone you know–everyone. That’s right, everyone. You may think your sister in New York would never know of opportunities in Boston, but you never know who she may know who knows someone in Boston. Don’t focus only on the people with whom you worked; you’re limiting your reach.

7. Dust off the résumé. Ideally you should have been updating your résumé while working, but we know how work demands leave little time to do this, and when we return from a hard day of work we have little if any energy to work on our résumé.

8. Get on LinkedIn. With all the articles written about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, you should know by now that most employers–approximately 95%–are culling talent on LinkedIn. Take the time to do it right, though. Create a powerful profile and be active by updating often, joining and participating in groups, sending invites, etc.

9. Get out of the house. Your style might lean more toward attending networking groups, professional affiliations, volunteering, or using your local library’s computers (even if you have your own). Don’t forget your local One-Stop career centers that offer you resources and training and education. Get out of the house.

10. Step up your exercising or begin exercising. Nothing is better for the mind than improving your physical condition. You don’t have to join a club. Simply walk every morning or do yoga. Make sure you get up at the same time you rose from bed when you were working. Do not let your routine slip.

11. Develop your company list. You’re now in a good position to figure out what type of companies for which you’d like to work. Identifying the companies can help you with your research on them and career possibilities. Your list will also come in handy when networking with jobseeker groups and informational contacts.

12. Start knocking on companies’ doors. Use your company list to be proactive by approaching growing companies either by sending an approach letter introducing yourself to them or literally visiting your companies. Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute, asserts that your chance of getting a job is 47% if you use this method alone.

The list of must do’s could be endless, but it’s important to keep in mind the important actions needed to properly start your job search. If you are having difficulty getting motivated, speak to close friends, relatives, or trained job-search professionals who can help you with this serious problem. Motivation is required in order to put our plan into action.


Again – many thanks to Bob McIntosh for sharing. Check out his website for more job-seeking resources –

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The Best Way to Find a New Job – (By) Utilizing Your Contacts

The Best Way to Find a New Job – (By) Utilizing Your Contacts

The following is a question about the best way to find a new job – by utilizing your contacts – that arose out of a recent webinar I did entitled “Resumes, Interviewing and the World of Work”.

Thank you very much for yocontacts graphicur webinar on the world of work this afternoon. I’m a mid-career professional just beginning a new job search, and I found your direct and honest guidance refreshing and helpful.

If I may, I would like to ask for your thoughts on a follow up question about job hunting through one’s professional network. I planned to contact specific people in my network expressing my interest in available positions at their respective companies. I anticipate my contacts will ask for a resume, though they may not know of a specific opening. Do you have any suggestions beyond today’s talk for building a resume that isn’t position-specific? Alternately, should I demur and offer to send a resume specific to a position, if my contact learns of one, instead?

I appreciate your guidance, and I’m looking forward to putting it into practice during my job search.

Best regards,

My response was:

Glad you found the webinar to be of value!

As to your question, unless there is a specific opening I would send them a resume that broadly summarizes what you have done/accomplished in the past and your areas of expertise. The real customization of a resume occurs:

1. When you are including in your resume key words from a specific job listing or posting… to “mirror” it and have it jump off the paper as the “perfect fit” as seen by a screener or recruiter! Also very important in the event your resume is processed via a scanner.

2. When you are skewing a resume to fit a position; e.g. – applying for controller position (stress financial statement capability) vs accounting manager (stressing management experience).

When you contact people, best to ask for their overall career guidance (“I am in the process of making a change and would like to get your read on my resume and where you think I might send it”. I do not advise asking them (as a person) if they have a possible job for you – it can create a very awkward situation! You can ask if they know of any opportunities within their organization, however.

Hope this helps… let me know if I can be of further assistance!

Good luck!


P.S. Suggestion – buy my book and read Chapter 9: Job-Seeking Strategy – Uncovering the Hidden and Unpublished Job Market. – $14.95 at

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Want to Build a Great Team and Be a Great Motivator?

Want to Build a Great Team and Be a Great Motivator?

If so – you can take a page or two from John Wooden’s playbook.

woodenJohn Wooden was the legendary basketball coach at UCLA whose accomplishments are in the record book and will probably never be matched:

• 10 NCAA National Championships – 7 consecutively

• 4 30 and 0 seasons (4 perfect seasons)

• Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as BOTH a player (1960) and coach (1973)

John died in 2010 at age 99… but his comments and homilies live on forever. John’s ability to build a basketball dynasty with “ordinary” talent was renowned. Part of his formula was to instill in his players a sense of responsibility, self-sacrifice and humility to meld them into a team. His quips and quotes are great training and motivational aids… use them in sales meetings… add them to your vocabulary to be a better communicator…use them to illustrate lessons when training and mentoring.

Being motivating translates into leading people beyond their envelope – their comfort level. It is done by instilling in them self-belief and self-confidence…and the ability to spring back from failure or setback.

No one was any better at it that Coach John Wooden. Make his comments your own!

  • “Treat all people with dignity and respect”.”
  • “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
  • “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
  • “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
  • “Never mistake activity for achievement”.
  • “Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.”
  • If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
  • “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
  • “Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”
  • Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
  • “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

Take a look at John’s “Pyramid of Success”. It has been used by managers and coaches world-wide to illustrate the components of success.

john-wooden-pyramid1For further readings about John – see his biography “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison.

Wooden book cover

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Is a Cover Letter Really Necessary?

Yes it is… and I have seen good ones and bad ones. Let’s talk about why a great cover letter is necessary.

1. It anchors the resume; it provides the starting point to consider your resume.

cover letter2. There is a reason why college applications almost always ask for an essay; it provides a way to further evaluate a student. Same for the cover letter – it tells the recruiter “can this person write a brief, articulate and specific business letter”. With very rare exceptions, the ability to communicate in words – to present “word pictures” is important – and your cover letter needs to do just that.

3. If the cover letter properly “mirrors” the exact words and phrases called for in the ad or job requirement – those words and phrases will jump off the page and the recruiter will say to themselves “I may have hit the mother lode on this  one”!

So with it now established that Yes – you do need a cover letter, let’s see what an effective one looks like.

1. First of all – it is reader friendly. One page max – lots of white space. Black ink on white paper. Nice quality paper – 24 lb. ideal (NOT copy machine paper!).  On personal letterhead. If you don’t have personal letterhead – create it in MSWord – and save it as a template. When you need to write a cover letter, open the template – save it as “cover letter – XYZ corp – date” and then write the cover letter.

2.  Have an opening sentence that is to the point – mildly creative – but not overkill. Don’t start off with “I am the superstar you are looking for” or “I’m a one-of-a-kind take charge person”. Too “over the top”! Since you know the job title – the opening sentence might be “I am very interested  in your open position  of staff accountant; I am confident my background and experience will be of interest to you.”

3. The next portion of your cover letter will be literally lifted from your resume. The very first content of your resume should be a “Summary of Experience and Accomplishments”. Let’s assume the following is that section of your resume:

 Summary of Experience and Accomplishments – 12 years of accounting experience, including 5 years of Public Accounting. Account management responsibility for several SEC-reporting clients. Supervise audit teams. Specialize in trade association accounting  procedures and software, including unique tax and foundation issues. Featured speaker at trade association CFO seminars.

The content of your cover letter might look like:

As can be seen on my enclosed resume, I have significant accounting and audit experience with ever increasing responsibilities  including account management for several SEC-reporting  clients. I am particularly proud of leading my audit team to consistently completing our work ahead of target dates.

I have also been part of several successful client development efforts, and I found that to be both very rewarding and fun.

The cover letter goes on to include:

One of my career goals has been to work for a firm such as yours, and I am confident I can make a significant contribution from day one.

I am available for interview immediately.  I will call you in several days to see if it is possible to arrange for a time for a personal interview.

Thank you for your attention.



4. Address the cover letter to a specific person if at all possible. In many cases, the person’s name will probably be included in the ad. If it is not, do a Google search and get the name of the director of HR or of the department head for the position (VP of sales for a sales position, VP of finance for an accounting position, etc.).

5. Proofread you letter very, very carefully! Read it aloud to be sure it makes sense and you haven’t forgotten a word, have the wrong tense, etc.

After following these guidelines – you will have a powerful cover letter to pave the way for the recipient to review your resume!

Here is an example of a good cover letter:

(Please excuse the double spacing in the letterhead text as well as the address – this would not be the case in the letter itself – but WordPress won’t let me single space it!):

Susan T. Someone, CPA

1234 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 123-4567 (Home)     (703) 987-6543 (Cell)

[email protected]

Mr. William J Harris                                                              Date

Managing Partner

XYZ National Accounting Firm

1633 M Street, NW Suite 900

Washington, DC 20006

Dear Mr. Harris:

I am writing in regard to your published position for Senior Auditor on your website.

As can be seen on my enclosed resume, I have significant accounting and audit experience with ever increasing responsibilities, included account management for several SEC-reporting clients. I am particularly proud of leading my audit team to consistently completing our work ahead of target dates.

I have also been part of several successful client development efforts, and I found that to be both very rewarding and fun.

One of my career goals has been to work for a firm such as yours, and I am confident I can make a significant contribution from day one.

I am available for interview immediately.  I will call you in several days to see if it is possible to arrange for a time for a personal interview.

Thank you for your attention.



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Great Communication Skills – the Mark of Successful People!

Management is the process of getting things done through the efforts of other people utilizing available resources.

Leadership is the process whereby a person can obtain the support and actions of others to achieve a common goal; people follow leaders based in part on the belief that leaders can and will pave the way regardless of obstacles.

In both cases, successful managers AND leaders posses strong and effective communication skills.

What are some of the common characteristics of great communicators?

1. They are really good listeners. Not only to hear and understand but to also demonstrate sincere interest in what they are hearing and who they are hearing from. Being a good listener is not always easy – distractions abound both externally and within your mind. When you are listening, be careful you are not formulating your response  in your mind rather than listening. Strive for full understanding, and demonstrate that by asking questions. Don’t show signs of impatience; there is a polite friendly eye contactway to get someone who is stuck on a tangent back on target: “I think we have wandered off the reservation – let’s get back on track and focus on what you were saying.”

2. They maintain strong and frequent eye contact. This goes hand in hand with focusing on the person or persons you are listening to. To not do so is to tell the speaker “what you are saying isn’t really important to me”! Not exactly a trust-building characteristic! Your eye contact needs to be “friendly” vs “threatening”; no glaring and certainly not continual….the operational phrase is frequent friendly eye contact. The two photos show the difference between “friendly” and angry eye contact“threatening” eye contact! Make sure yours is of the friendly variety!

3. They develop a “delivery style” that is energetic, lively and above all articulate. If you are not all three of these – get started on achieving them. Read out loud in front of a mirror. Ask others if you are a mumbler or otherwise not as clear as the network newscaster on the evening news. If you constantly insert “um” and/or “ah” into conversation – you really need to work on that. Have someone you trust listen to you and snap their fingers when you make those sounds to alert you to how often you do so – you may not be aware of the extent of this impediment. When you feel one coming on…just pause for a moment and then continue. Most people that say “um” and “ah” are buying time to think of the next word… so just pause for a fraction of a second while that next word comes into mental focus. Eliminating these from your speech is critical to being a great communicator.

As for the energetic and lively aspects, great communicators exhibit body language that portrays confidence, enthuasism and a high energy level. They show a sense of humor, they smile, and they vary their timing for emphasis where emphasis is called for.

We all can be better commincators… but like most things …it requires focus and work. Good luck!

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Interviewing is a “Single Elimination Process”! – Getting Past the Initial Telephone Interview!

The objective of the interviewer is to winnow down those applicants applying for a position to a very small handful – perhaps 3 or 4 – for second-level interviews (step two of the interviewing process).

Provided that you are both interested in the position and feel that you are qualified to do the job, your objective is to make it to the second-level…so that you can then make it to the third-level and… then get a job offer.

1316543853-phone-interviewClearly your  qualifications are an important criteria during the interview process but you can inadvertently send some bad signals that can torpedo your chances of moving on. Remember – interviewing is a single-elimination process!

And most often – that first interview will be over the phone…where it is hard to bring your personality to bear.

Here are some guidelines of how to conduct that telephone interview….and survive to make it to the next round:

1. Make sure you have a good connection. Very few things are more frustrating to both parties than a cell phone conversation where every other phrase seems to be “can you hear me?”! If you are on a land-line there should be no problem (unless the caller is on a cell phone in a poor coverage area). If on a cell and your reception is poor – apologize and ask when is a good time for you to call back or take a call when you will be in a good coverage zone.

2. Be prepared to interview. Respond to questions promptly with your prepared and rehearsed answers (see my first blog post – May 1, 2013 on the subject of drafting and rehearsing an answer to EVERY possible question you might be asked! This is a stand-alone chapter in my book – Chapter 8: “Interviewing – The Bridge Between You and Your Next Job!”).

3. Show enthuasism. Be up and friendly… show a high energy level. Smile when you talk – it will increase the energy level in your voice. If you normally speak in a monotone… time to crank it up and inject energy into your voice!

4. Focus – focus – focus. Let no distraction get in the way of devoting all of your mental powers of concentration on the conversation. Don’t let your eyes wander.

5. Listen carefully to the question and answer it specifically. Don’t wander around the landscape with information that is not germane to the question asked. I refer to it as “tell him or her what time it is… not how to build a clock!”.

6. Ask questions – but only the right questions. The right questions seek to clarify what the job is all about; flesh out what you already know to get a good picture – overall – of the position. The time for the nitty-gritty details will come in subsequent interviews. The wrong questions are the “what’s in it for me” questions – “when will I get a raise”?; “how many vacation days will I get the first year”?; etc.

7. Wrap up the interview by showing interest. Unless you are 100% sure the job is not for you, end the interview with “I really enjoyed talking with you about this opportunity – I am really interested! When might I hear back from you?”

Interviewing is truly “The Bridge Between You and Your Next Job”…and it is your responsibility to navigate the process to make the cut!

Good luck!!

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“On-Boarding” Yourself – Avoiding the Mistakes that New Hires Can Make!

A procedure followed by most organizations when someone new is hired is to go through an “On-Boarding process – a process  to get the new hire oriented and off to a good and solid start.

Let’s talk about the sales-onboarding-Sales-Management-Workshop-300x213process of you On-Boarding yourself to avoid some common mistakes new hires can make!!

Just as first impression count – so do mistakes and displays of poor judgment during your first months on the job. After time – you will figure it out – or you will be gone! The key is to have a roadmap of do’s and don’ts to follow from day one.

  1. Dress and act on day one as you did for your interviews – day one on the job is still “show time”. As is week one and month one! Dress and act accordingly. Over the first several weeks – take measure of how people dress, how informal or formal is the culture. Adjust gradually as may be appropriate…but don’t be on the cutting edge – don’t dress to match the most casual or to mirror the most informal of those you work with. What you don’t want to do is to stand out in this regard!
  2. Pay attention to processes and procedures – take notes as may be needed. You may be given some written manuals or instructions as to certain aspects of your job. If not – take notes as things are described and/or as you are trained. What you don’t want to do is to require repetitive briefings on procedures and processes you could have captured in writing for future reference as needed!
  3. Sweat the small stuff. Operate in an error-free mode. Check your work and proofread.  You want to be – and be thought of – as a “Go-To” person. Those people don’t make mistakes – and if they do – they only make them once!  A great mindset I encourage everyone to adopt is “Do each and every task – no matter how small – with the skill, precision and efficiency of which you can be justly proud”. If you are asked to do some menial work – do it and do it in a first-class matter. It will be noticed.
  4. Minimize (truly!)  the social networking/media/texting, etc.  while on the job. First of all – when in a meeting or in a conversation – NEVER check emails or see what triggered the sound announcing an incoming whatever (news flash, text, etc.). It is just plain rude! Check email and respond to texts, etc. during breaks – not while you are focusing on the work at hand. Constant checking and responding breaks your focus on your work …and your inattention to the work at hand will be noticed!
  5. Avoid engaging in an office romance. They rarely end well, are NEVER a secret, can be very disruptive to morale. And if you do – against this advice – NEVER do so with a boss or subordinate… that is a job-losing course of action! And if you do – against this advice – NEVER do so while new on the job – don’t treat your workplace in such a cavalier manner!

Only you are responsible to manage your career…and that responsibility begins fresh each time you take a new job. Whether or not your new employer has an On-Boarding process for you to follow , set one up for yourself using these guidelines. Devise and manage your own On-Boarding process – one that will avoid job-ending mistakes! Good luck!

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