The salary question is illegal in MA

MA just passed a law making it illegal to ask your current or past salary before they have made you a job offer!

Here is the article.

I have to admit, I did not see that one coming.

How to find the biggest trick for success where you work

Are you trying to be successful doing the work that successful people throw out? What successful people refuse to do? Then hard work won’t help you.

Man pushing huge straw bale by hand.

How can you succeed doing all the wrong stuff?

This true story is about more than salespeople. It is about accountants, programmers and managers too.

Paul, beginning his job in sales, told me, “My manager seems to be able to make a sale every time we go on a call together. All the people we visit want to buy. He sells as much as everyone else in the office put together. When I take the leads he gives me, I can’t get them interested at all. What am I doing wrong?”

Paul was doing nothing wrong. His manager was visiting only high quality leads. Paul was visiting everyone that his manager didn’t pick for himself. His manager got the golden leads and Paul got the brass. Worse, Paul refused to look for the best quality leads in what he was given. He just went out and visited everyone.

Successful salespeople, accountants, programmers, managers, secretaries and septic tank cleaners all know what sales leads, jobs, duties and knowledge are most important.

Pick out the most successful person you know who is doing the job you want. Invite him out to lunch. Ask him, “What do you do that is different from less successful people?” Take notes. Don’t let him stop with one quick answer. Ask about what he reads, what he does, and the jobs he refuses to do.

If you really pry, you will find out that he no longer does a lot of things he used to do. Ask him, “What have you stopped doing because you no longer have the time to do it?” You’ll find that successful people really do work differently. They are picky. They find ways to get drudge work assigned to others. They study particularly difficult problems so that they are assigned the most interesting projects. They also invite themselves into meetings where thorny issues are discussed. They go prepared with fresh information. That’s how they get reputations as problem solvers.

If you want to become a guru, act like one. Do what the gurus do. Just as important, find a way to get out of the work that successful people throw away.

Something To Do Today

Make that call to a successful person doing the job you want next. Find out what they attribute their success to. Also find out what they no longer are doing.

6 places to check on a company’s reputation

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.  (George Washington)

When a man or woman brags about his virtue, avoid the former and cultivate the latter. (Unkn)

 6 places to check on a company’s reputation

Mt Rushmore with "Reputation? How do you find out what it is?"

What is the company’s real reputation?

I was told, “I want to work in a Fortune 100 company.  That’s where the action is at.  Then I will really be going places.”  It could be true.  Just remember, Enron was in the Fortune 100 club too, before their leadership was indicted.

Size isn’t everything.  It seems that in every Fortune 100 company there will be whole divisions laid off or sold every year.  The CEO may call it pruning. The people in the division have more explicit names for it.

For you, the job seeker, company reputation is important.  It will make a difference in how other people view your career.  The reputation of the local division is even more important.  Your success will be tied directly to the local division’s performance.  The reputation of your new manager is critical.  He’s the one that will make your job paradise or purgatory.

Places to look and people to ask

  1. If you go to their website you can find the official company news releases. That’s what they want their reputation to be. For the people outside of their industry, it will really be their reputation.
  1. Try calling some independent recruiters. If a recruiter submitted you there then they ought to already know the company reputation.  If they didn’t submit you, ask them about the company as you talk to them about your job search.  Independent recruiters talk to everyone going into a company and everyone leaving that company.  They know where all the skeletons are buried and which managers or departments are the best to work with.
  1. Quiz anyone who has close contact with the company. Look up their competitors. It can be particularly interesting to talk to people who worked at competitors. How do you find these people? Go to and search for company names in the “Person” search.
  1. Suppliers and accountants are great sources. Expand your online search if it is a company you are very interested in.
  1. Also call people doing the job you want in nearby unrelated companies. You want people from the same level you will be at because reputation can vary at different levels. If you want to be a salesman, programmer or COO, the reputation of the company will have spread outside of their industry.
  1. In many cases there are associations for your job. Talk to the people running the association and those at the meetings. Ask them about reputation.

Your search for their reputation can help you find other job openings too.  As you expand your circle of inquiry, more people find out that you are available.  Don’t forget to ask everyone who else you ought to talk to.  You may be surprised how important the comment of the friend of a friend can be.

Make it a habit to do your “due diligence” as you start interviewing for a job.  Find out their reputation.  Contact people about the company.  It will help you select the right company with the right boss.  Your inquiries may also lead you to a different, better job.

Something To Do Today

Find out if there are any associations for your job or the job you are working towards.  Online search engines work well. Reference librarians are especially good at finding them. Go to your local library and ask for help.


Tomorrow:     The work successful people throw out.

Later:              Lose 10 pounds in one week is not job hunting

What to do if they haven’t called after a week – the job search

teen waiting with phone

Are you waiting to see if you got the job?

Why don’t companies say “Yes” or “No”?  What can I do about it?

Most of your frustration in a job search comes down to 3 situations at the company you are applying for.

First the receptionist is told:

“Jill, there are 250 resumes in my in-box.  Please go through them and give me the 10 best resumes.  Throw the rest away.”

Maybe the hiring manager was told:

“We’ve got to redo our budgets.  Put everything on hold.”

Or, the recruiter is told:

“We have a candidate we like better, but we want you to keep Jim warm, okay?  We might end up hiring Jim if this other guy doesn’t work out.  Don’t tell Jim anything.”

Those are the three scenarios that account for most of the frustration in a job search.  In either case you will get no useful reply to your job inquiries.  In the first case, you will never get a reply.  In the last two cases they may be forbidden to give you a reply.

You still should call and ask for information about your application.  Many times your call will cause them to pick up your resume one more time and take another look.  One unusual

company I know of rarely hires someone unless they have called 3 or more times.  I only know of one company that does that as policy.  I know a lot of companies that need their memory to be jogged.

If a company is hoping to hire you, that’s good.  It may be frustrating to wait for a month while they make up their minds, but so what?  If another job comes along, take it.  Anytime you go two weeks without an interview or an offer, assume the job is on hold while they look at other candidates. Call regularly, look for another job, but leave yourself available in case something good happens.  What can it hurt to be patient?

Deal with reality.  At the job you apply for, and get no response whatsoever, they are trying to work quickly.  If it takes one minute apiece to answer each of 250 job inquiries, that is over 4 hours of drudge work.  That’s why most companies don’t reply anymore.  The time it takes is too great. Many times you won’t get an answer.  That’s reality.  If you follow up with a call, you have a little better chance of something happening.  That’s also reality.

Don’t get mad, deal with reality. No one wants to insult you.  It is best not to be offended.  Just accept the fact that unless you are hired, your job application will end up in limbo, not in a straightforward “Yes!” or “No.”  Deal with it. Follow up, but also keep your job search active.

Something To Do Today

Call the companies that have not given you a final response every week or two.  Jog their memories.  Don’t get mad, just let them know you are still interested.


Tomorrow:      The company’s reputation

Later:               Lose 10 pounds in 3 days–is not job hunting

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone? (James Thurber)

Should you answer, “Where else are you interviewing?”

Spy asking Spying or helping?

Are they going to use the information to hurt you or to help you?

Who is asking you, “Where else are you interviewing?” That should change your answer.

During a police interrogation you answer questions differently than you do when you are talking to your spouse.  For example, “Where have you been?” can be more dangerous coming from one of those two sources.

There are two correct responses to the question, “Where else are you interviewing?”  If you are talking to a hiring manager or HR person, tell them.  Let them know what is going on. Give them details if they ask. It will most likely increase your desirability if they know others are talking to you.

If you are talking to a recruiter at an agency, you need to decide if you trust the recruiter.  Ask the recruiter, “Why do you want to know?”  After the recruiter acts defensive or offended, ask your real question, “Do you ever submit resumes to jobs you find out about from candidates?”

The recruiter should answer, “I will only submit a resume to a job you mention if I am already working on it, or if you tell me you are out of contention there.  I will never reduce your chances of getting a job by submitting competition unless I was already working on the job.”

Do you trust the recruiter?  If so, give him the details of your interviews. He can help you much better in your job search if he knows everything. All the recruiting trainers and over half the recruiters will play fair with you. They will not ruin your chances where you are already interviewing. If you have serious doubts about the recruiter, tell them you are interviewing, but not precisely where.

Basically, if someone will hurt you with the information, protect yourself.  If the information works to your advantage, tell them.

Something To Do Today

Evaluate every recruiter you work with.   Which ones do you trust?  Which ones are questionable?  Why? Trust your instincts.

I am going on vacation the week of the 4th of July.  I’ll be at a family reunion in Gila, NM and totally unavailable.


Later:                          Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

Will you do anything we ask? – the interview question

waist deep in water

Will you really do “whatever it takes” ??

“Will you do whatever it takes to get the job done?” is a common interview question.

In “The Firm” a new lawyer finds the perfect job: great pay, wonderful benefits and  a really high flying lifestyle.  Then he finds out he is a part of the mafia and can’t get out unless he is the guest of honor at his own funeral.

Let’s get realistic.  Even in high flying corporate scandals no one is murdered.  If you feel you have to blow the whistle you can go to newspaper reporters and the police.  You will be safe physically.  Your only real worries are social and financial.  The company’s risk is to its very existence.  It can be destroyed just by bad press.  Also, legal action can take away any profit the company has had for years.

There is no reason to suspect that your employer wants you to do something illegal.  It is much more likely he wants you to work late.

Go ahead and be enthusiastic when they ask the question, “Will you do whatever it takes?”  The proper answer is to give examples of how you have gone the extra mile in previous jobs.  Tell when you worked late to finish projects or help a teammate.  Carrying a pager is a great example of doing “whatever it takes.”  Mention the inconvenient business trips.  The support you had from your family when you had to work late or travel is a valuable story.

I hate to go back to it, but, don’t mention when you did something borderline illegal.  Don’t assume they want you to do something immoral.  If they ask you to do something that is wrong, ask them to clarify.  Ask for examples.  If you are sure they are asking you to do something illegal, immoral, or fattening, refuse the second interview or the job offer. You can even bring it up with the CEO or the SEC.

Some people have been burned by a previous bad employer.  You may have been hired by a place with dubious morals. You are out now, or in the process of getting out.  Assume the best of the companies you are visiting.  Give examples of how hard you are willing to work to succeed. Focus on what you can do for the company.

Something To Do Today

Assume the best.  Ask for examples.

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. (J. W. von Goethe)


Tomorrow:     Where else are you interviewing?

Later:              Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

How to talk about money in a job interview

beggar on the street

You aren’t a beggar in a job interview.

Do you hate to be asked about money in an interview?  Are you afraid it will go something like this:

“I really like your background.  I think you would do well.  How much less than $55,000 will you take as a base salary?”

You probably won’t be asked that particular question. It is brutally bad. But it does happen.

Employers hate to ask any money question.  It isn’t polite.  But, you and the employer need to be in the same salary ballpark. Wouldn’t you feel upset if after 3 interviews over a period of a month you were offered a salary of half of what you are willing to take?

What makes the money question worse is that you cannot give a solid answer and win.  If you give a number too high, they may refuse to continue the interviews.  If you give a number too low, they’ll pay that low number and not a higher one you could have gotten.

There is only one way to answer the question.

  1. Compliment — Start out with a compliment.
  2. My now — Let them know what you earn now or in your last job.
  3. Best offer — tell them you want to hear their best offer.

Here’s an example:

“How much do we have to pay you?”

“(Compliment) I like this company.  The opportunity is just what I am looking forward to.  The team is a real winner too.

(My now) I currently earn a $63,000 base plus a bonus of $2500 last year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.

(Best offer) What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.

This answer gives them information to work with.  It is not a refusal.  The heartfelt compliments at the start make them feel good.  You tell them what your baseline for comparison is.  Finally you give them a chance to be generous.

Can I bring up money?

Don’t bring up money in any interview, ever, unless you get a feeling they are going to be way too low. Even then, use the 3 step formula. You can discuss your expectations with an outside recruiter/headhunter any time, but not with the company’s internal HR recruiter or a company interviewer until they bring it up.

If you have questions about benefits, vacations, the 401K program, relocation payments, or other benefits you can ask the internal HR recruiter when you are interviewing face-to-face with HR. You can ask the external recruiter/headhunter any time.

So, what do I do?

Wait for them to mention money, then 1. Compliment them, 2. Tell them your “now”, 3. Ask for their best offer.

Never, ever suggest they don’t have to pay you.  What they pay for, they’ll value.  What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right.  Hold them up for all the market will bear.  (Lois Bujold)

Something To Do Today

Most people cannot clearly state what they earn.  I don’t know why.  Before you go on an interview write down the clearest, shortest way you can state your current earnings.  Then practice answering “the money question”.


Next:     Why are you leaving your job?

Later:     Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

Horrible interview answers, and a good one – the weakness question

Woman saying WRONG!

Wrong answer! You lose. Now leave.

In an interview you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”

You reply, “I really don’t have any weaknesses.”

Wrong answer.  Every religion I know of says that you have weaknesses.  Don’t fight it.  Come up with one.

“My biggest weakness is my cheerfulness and high character.”

That just made everyone who heard it sick.

“I like to humiliate people with sexually explicit jokes.”

That weakness will get you escorted out of the building by security.

“As a project manager I have a tendency to give people too much freedom.  When they tell me they are just a little behind schedule, my tendency is to believe them even when I know deep in my heart they are in trouble.  I have to constantly remember to dig into problems my people are having and make sure they get help early.  That way we can hit all of our deadlines. I’ve gotten very good at it.”

That one is true.  It is my personal weakness.  It is the virtue of not micromanaging, that I take too far.  Did you notice that I mentioned what I have learned to do to overcome that weakness?

When you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”, be honest.  What is a strength that you take too far?  That’s a good place to start.  The most important part of your answer is to show that you have learned how to cope with your weakness.  What do you do to make sure that the weakness DOES NOT CONTINUE to be a problem?

Don’t be syrupy and sweet.  Don’t deny that you have problems.  Honestly evaluate your performance.  Take a strength that you over-exercise.  Explain it.  Explain what you do to keep it under control. When they know you have figured out how to compensate, they will accept it as self-realization instead of weakness.

Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.  (Knute Rockne)

Something To Do Today

Make a list of virtues you take too far.  Add to that list what you do to compensate.

Take your strongest weakness into your next interview, along with its solution.


Tomorrow:     What do we have to pay you?

Later:              Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The pause that destroys a job interview

shocked woman

It is not when YOU pause that destroys you.

Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.  (Muhammed Ali)

An interviewer said, “Tell me what your biggest weakness is.” The candidate gave one example.  There was a pause. The interviewer looked puzzled. Uncomfortable, the candidate gave another weakness.  The surprised interviewer sat for 10 seconds after that admission trying to gather his thoughts.  The candidate gave another weakness.  In all, the candidate gave six weaknesses.  The interview was over a few minutes later.  The candidate was not hired.

When you finish answering a question and the interviewer looks at you without saying anything, what do you do?  Do you start talking again?  No! Stop! Shut up!  You need to learn to outwait your interviewer.  If he wants more, let him ask. If he raises an eyebrow as if to say, “Is that all?”, then you should look puzzled or confident and wait for him to talk.

Most interviewers do not consciously use silence as a weapon.  They will be happier if you let the silence stretch.  They are gathering their thoughts.  Don’t interrupt them.  Let them have the time they need to feel comfortable.

Interviewers who purposely use silence will be impressed if you have the guts to let a silent break stretch to 30 seconds while looking them in the eye, occasionally glancing down to their hands.  To them it is a sign of self worth and assurance.

A big turn-off for many managers is someone who just can’t stop talking.  Make use of the old saying, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Something To Do Today

Practice talking and then being quiet.  Watch how the person you are addressing gets nervous. Just for today, don’t let them off the hook.  Be the strong silent type today.


Tomorrow:     What are your weaknesses?

Later:              What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

How to deal with interview traps

bear trap

Questions that are really interview traps can kill your chances

Thumb screws and the iron maiden are no longer considered proper interview tools. Nasty traps are rarely set for candidates.  The most common snare is a reasonable question or a pause that becomes the killing moment in an interview.  We’ll talk about pauses another day.

Reasonable questions that are dangerous include:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do we have to pay you to get you to work here?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Are you willing to do anything necessary to get the job done?
  • Where else are you interviewing?

When you get a dangerous question you should answer it accurately.  That doesn’t mean you need to go into a lot of detail.  Over the next few day we’ll touch on each one of these questions.  For now, remember to be brief.

Any one of these questions can bring out old job wounds.  Job wounds are things that happened at a previous job that you are afraid will happen again.  Get over them. This is a new company.  Don’t yell, whine or complain about the past.  If you have to mention something that is ugly, state the fact in one short sentence and stop.  Don’t explain.  Don’t fill in the details. Let your interviewer assume what he wants. You will find that their imagination is often more generous to you if you are extremely brief and only mention facts.

The secret to avoiding interview traps is to prepare an answer in advance.  Use that answer and avoid going into areas that are painful for you. Brevity is a key.

If all the world’s a stage, I want to operate the trap door. (Beatty)

Something To Do Today

Write down a one sentence answer to each of the questions above.  Next week compare those answers to the guidelines for each question.


Next:     Pregnant pauses

Later:              What are your weaknesses?

What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?