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The Salary Interview Question

"What salary are you looking for?" Career advisors say this is the interview question that makes job applicants squirm in their chairs.

Small wonder. Most of us aren't comfortable talking about incomes. We have been taught it's not polite to ask people how much they paid for something or how much money they make. But in a job interview, it can be a make or break question. You need to cut the best deal you can without sounding too greedy or pricing yourself out of the market. So what do you say?

Career advisors suggest that you try to get the interviewer to give you an idea of the salary range the company would consider before you commit yourself. Having tried this myself, I'm not sure I agree. The problem is that it's in the company's interest to get you as cheaply as possible, so if you are given a range, it's likely to be on the low side. Unless companies are in a bidding war over your unique credentials, the interviewer will not worry about setting a range too low to interest you. After all, if you find the salary unattractive, you'll be expected to make the case for a higher one, and if the company can't agree to your salary demands there are other qualified applicants who might come in lower. The need to ask for more than has been offered puts you on the defensive, a position that leaves many job- seekers uncomfortable. If you are one of those, then state your own salary expectations before you ask for the company's range.

Career advisors also suggest that you plan in advance how you'll answer the salary question and rehearse it a few times with a friend. This is good advice. You'll feel much more at ease in the real interview if you have answering questions that might come up. Even so, expect surprises. Sometimes the interviewer can throw you for a loop, introducing some unanticipated factors more or less benefits than you expected, unusual work hours, or whatever that leave you fumbling as to how to respond.

You can't be prepared for everything, but you can be ready for most eventualities. The steps to getting prepared are pretty obvious. You have probably have thought of all of them. Still, I find it's helpful to put all my salary considerations down on paper and then review them before going into an interview.

First, how much do you want to earn? Realistically, how much do you think someone with your skills and experience should be able to command? People with several years of experience in a field have a pretty accurate sense of what the market will bear. But if you're new to a field it's a bit more difficult. Do some research. Talk with knowledgeable people, check with an employment recruiter, search the job information that's so plentiful on the Internet. And remember that salary is only one part of the compensation package. An employer may offer other benefits that reduce your salary requirements. Health insurance, a retirement plan, profit sharing are all worth money. In your research, try to find out how quickly compensation increases in your line of work. How much does someone with, say, five years of experience typically make? Future year earnings potential may alter your views of how much you need to make initially.

Second, how low will you go? At some point, the compensation just doesn't justify getting dressed to go to work in the morning not unless you're independently wealthy and only work for the fun or it. Or unless you're willing to moonlight doing pizza delivery. You need to know when you walk into an interview what your absolute bottom line is, including the trade-offs between salary and other benefits you might be offered. That doesn't mean you should tell the interviewer what your bottom line is, since your floor could become the interviewer's first point of negotiations. But you should know what it is.

Third, how valuable are the non-salary benefits to you? It's not enough to know what they are. You should put a price on them. If, for example, you really need health insurance, then the value of that policy to you would be equal to what you'd have to spend if you went out and bought your own. You should know how much lower a salary you could accept or how much higher it would have to be, depending on whether or not the job includes a good health insurance program. Suppose you don't need health insurance. Then you should estimate how much money you'd be saving the new employer who didn't have to provide it to you. If it's offered as part of the package, say you'd rather take an increase in salary instead. Perhaps your employer offers commuter subsidies, day care facilities, or other perks that offset your costs of going to work. You should determine what value you place on them and factor them into the salary that's offered.

Some job factors are much harder to put a price on, but for those you value it's worthwhile to try. How important is a 15 minute commute versus a 60 minute commute? Let's say you'd really love to be close enough to go home for lunch, or you need to be back from work in time for the neighborhood slow-pitch softball game. Then the opportunity to work close to home may be worth a bit less take-home pay. How much? Does the type of job you're seeking lend itself to flexible work hours, like a 10-hour 4-day work week, or telecommuting once or twice a week? If so, how much would your ability to do this be worth to you? Would it make the salary look 5 percent better? 10 percent?

The idea is to think of all the job-related costs and benefits that would likely be applicable and place a dollar-value positive or negative on them. This puts you in a much better position during salary negotiations to weigh the options, offer alternatives, and make your priorities clear to the potential employer. Maintain some give-and-take, of course. The employer will feel happier, and more willing to agree, if he thinks that he has gained some points when he gave up others. But knowing clearly what you want and where you're willing to bargain helps you to come across as a thoughtful, thorough and realistic negotiator. That alone will make your employer value you more.

Written By: Vivikka Moldrem

Professional Resume Writing
Action Words That Make An Amazing Resume

One of the most important things when writing a resume is to use action words. Not only will these words increase the impact of your resume in the eyes of the employers but they might help your resume get selected when recruiters use resume scanning software.

Usually used to describe skills, experience and achievements, action words shouldn't however be "stuffed" in your resume as you need to make sure your document sounds natural.

Here is a list of action words that will turn your resume into a powerful marketing document:

ability accelerated accelerated accomplished accurate achieved
acted actively adapted addressed administered advised
alerted allocated analyzed answered appeared applied appointed appraised approved arbitrated arranged assembled assessed assigned assisted assumed assured attained audited authored automated awarded balanced bought
briefed broadened brought budgeted
built calculated capacity careful cataloged caused
chaired changed clarified clarified classified classified closed coached collected collected combined commented commitment communicated compared compiled completed comprehensive computed computed conceived conceived conceptualized conducted conducted considered consolidated constructed consulted continued contracted controlled converted coordinated corrected
correspond graded granted guided halved handled cost control counseled counted created created critiqued cut dealt
decided defined delegated delivered demonstrated described designed designed determined developed devised diagnosed diagnosed diplomatic directed discreet discussed dispatched distributed documented doubled drafted earned
edited educated effected effective efficient eliminated enabled encouraged endorsed engineered enlarged enlisted entered established estimated evaluated examined executed expanded expedited experienced experimented explained explored expressed extended extracted fabricated facilitated filed filled financed focused forecast forecasted formulated found founded gathered generated headed helped hired identified implemented improved
incorporated increased indexed influenced initiated innovated inspected installed instituted instructed insured interpreted interviewed introduced invented invested investigated involved issued
joined kept
launched learned leased lectured led licensed listed logged made maintained managed matched measured mediated met modified monitored motivated moved named navigated negotiated observed opened operated ordered organized oversaw participated perceived performed persuaded planned prepared presented processed procured programmed prohibited projected promoted proposed provided published purchased pursued qualified questioned raised ranked rated realized received recommended reconciled recorded recruited redesigned reduced regulated rehabilitated related reorganized repaired replaced replied reported
represented researched resolved responded restored revamped reviewed revise saved scheduled selected served serviced set set up shaped shared showed simplified
solved sorted sought sparked specified spoke
started streamlined strengthened stressed stretched structured studied submitted substituted succeeded suggested summarized superseded supervised surveyed systematized tackled targeted taught terminated tested
took toured
traced tracked traded trained transcribed transferred transformed translated transported traveled treated trimmed tripled
turned tutored umpired uncovered understood understudied unified unraveled updated upgraded used
utilized verbalized verified visited
waged weighed widened
won worked

Resume Writing
How to Write Great Cover Letters

You have an impressive resume, you know how to present yourself well in an interview, you know what kind of position you are best suited for. . .now all you need is a chance to get your foot in the right door. Just what can you do to make that happen?

Make sure you write a knockout cover letter, advise career planning specialists. "A cover letter is your chance to explain to an employer why he or she should consider you for the job," says Jennie Z. Rothschild, Ph.D., executive director of Jewish Vocational Service on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville. "The best cover letters are specific and give examples that directly relate to the job you are trying to get.""Your cover letter is a targeted sales tool which should be tailored to the specific position you are seeking," adds Ann Harrell of the Johns Hopkins University Career and Life Planning Center on Alexander Bell Drive in Columbia.

The cover letter is also a good opportunity to show potential employers your writing skills, says Jennie Rothschild, and for those job-seekers whose native language is not English, a chance to show that you are comfortable with the language. Whatever your writing and language skills are, though, make sure that your letter has no mistakes. "Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!" emphasizes Ann Harrell. A cover letter, like most business correspondence, says Ms. Rothschild, has three basic parts: *Paragraph 1, in which you state: who you are; how you heard of the position or the company; why you are writing. "Your goal in this paragraph," says Ann Harrell, "is to convince the reader why you are the only candidate to interview." *Paragraph 2, in which you discuss: why you are interested in the position and/or company; how your qualifications fit the specific skills needed for the job; some specific examples of how your past experience has prepared you to do the job for which you are applying; any other relevant skills, qualities, achievements, and experiences that make you the best candidate for the job. "The second paragraph is your chance to shine," says Ms. Harrell. "Discuss your experiences and skills that match the criteria for the position. If you met your contact through networking, refer to your meeting notes. Use the company information you found if this is a cover letter for a direct mailing." *Paragraph 3, in which you: repeat that you are hoping to be considered for the job; give specific information about your plans to follow up; thank the employer for his or her consideration. "And then be sure to follow through," says Ms. Harrell. When closing, "Sincerely" or "Sincerely Yours" with your typed name and signature will be appropriate.

Jennie Rothschild suggests these additional DOs and DON'Ts:


  • In the first paragraph, name the title of the job for which you are applying and be specific about how you heard about the position or company.
  • Try to find out the name and title of the person who will be able to hire you and use the name, instead of writing "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam."
  • Write the letter based on exactly what the ad or job listing says the employer is looking for; try to give an example from your experience for every qualification listed in the ad.
  • Type the letter and use paper and font that is the same or looks similar to your resume. Don't forget to sign your name.
  • Reread the letter carefully and check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It's a good idea to have someone else proofread the letter as well.
  • Keep the letter brief--under 1 page. Keep the paragraphs to 2-4 sentences each.
  • Say that you are enclosing a resume.
  • Include your phone number in the last paragraph.
  • Make sure the envelope is clearly and properly addressed.
  • Send a resume without a cover letter.
  • Discuss salary unless the ad or job listing requires it.
  • Repeat information that appears on the resume, except in the briefest, introductory manner.
  • Generalize about personal qualities or past job titles. Instead, give specifics about your skills and experience.
  • Talk about what the job will do for you.
  • Give unnecessary personal information.
  • Include anything that you will not be able to explain in an interview.
  • Send Xerox copies.
  • Say you will follow up without having a specific plan to do so.
  • Staple or paper clip items.
Written By: Carol Sorgen

Professional Resume Writing
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