Is Your Salary History Hurting Your Chances of Getting an Offer?

January 24th, 2014

You’ve been on the market for a while now, and you’re starting to notice a pattern. Employers love your resume, and you’ve been called in for several interviews, but somewhere between the interview process and the appearance of a formal offer, things tend to fall apart. Are you simply being edged out by more qualified candidates? Or is there something off about your salary expectations? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look for answers.

Salary History versus Salary Range

If your potential employers ask you to provide an expected salary range, do just that. Present the highest and lowest salary you’re willing and able to accept. Calculate this range based on what you need to pay your bills, what you think you skills are worth, and what similar salaries look like in your industry and your geographic area (a little internet research can help). This range will NOT depend on your salary history.

Your salary history is a different number altogether, and unless you’re a public employee and this number is published on the web, your salary history is your own private business. Employers will sometimes ask you to provide this history, but you’re by no means obligated to offer a correct answer or any answer at all.

Make Sure Your Range is Reasonable

Of course, as a Junior Account Manager with less than a year of experience, it would be wonderful to make six figures as soon as you step in the door. But there’s a reason why a “range” includes both a minimum and a maximum. Annual salary increases are often calculated by percentage, so if your employers agree to overpay you during your first year, they’ll be locked into this pattern for the duration of your tenure. They know this, so as they weigh your expectations, they factor in the cost to the company over the long term. They also factor in the cost of annual bonuses and benefits like health insurance.

Don’t undersell yourself, but before you present your desired salary, be prepared to negotiate, and expect your potential employers to make a counter offer that’s close to or below the bottom of your range. Rely on your research and don’t allow yourself to be talked down below the average salary for your job, at your level, in your area, in your industry. And don’t let your salary history become part of this discussion—The past is past. The only thing that matters now is your financial future and the future growth of your career.

For salary negotiation tips and other job search guidance, make an appointment with the Des Moines staffing and career management experts at The Palmer Group.

Four Time Management Techniques to Increase your Productivity

December 20th, 2013

At some point in our lives, we’ve all had a chance to work side by side with someone who faces the same tasks we do, but who manages to complete them with time to spare. While we’re still wrestling with an overflowing inbox and leaving the office at 7:00, he or she finishes their final tasks, gathers their things, and steps out the door at five. What do they know that we don’t? How do some people manage to get more out of the day than others and still have time to relax with family and friends and get a full night of sleep? Here are a few productivity secrets that can help you crack the code.

1. Start the morning right. Turn off the TV and go to sleep early so you can face the day with all your cylinders firing. Eat a small, healthy breakfast of whole grain carbs, fruit, and lean protein. Stretch. Make sure you have everything you’ll need for the day before you leave the house. And try to step into your office at least five minutes early.

2. Make lists. Relying on lists can help you divide your available time into sections that match your required tasks. If you have an hour free, don’t launch into a chore that will take three hours of unbroken concentration. If you have five minutes free, lists can help you quickly identify a five minute task that you can knock out within this period.

3. Folders are your friends. Folders—both real life manila folders and their digital equivalents—are underappreciated magical time savers. If you aren’t making full use of your folder functions (or you don’t know how to use them at all) then it’s time to start. Every single piece of paper, digital document, and scrap of data in your life should have a folder it calls home. If you see a homeless item with no folder, make one.

4. Be mindful. Engaging in an hour long water cooler chat with your coworkers isn’t necessarily a waste of time. After all, your social connections can often do more for your career then the hours you spend toiling at your desk. But while you’re chatting, recognize that you’re chatting. Don’t let these precious minutes simply disappear from your day unnoticed and unaccounted for.

For more on how to get the most out our your working day, reach out to the staffing and career management experts at the Palmer Group.

Cold Emailing Your Dream Employer: Five Steps

October 11th, 2013

The job you want the most may be one you can’t find listed on any national boards or websites. This perfect job may not be publically announced anywhere, and it may not even technically exist—not yet anyway. But one thing about this job is clear: The company. You know the exact organization you’d like to work for. You just need to get past the gates and make your case to the person who has the ability and resources to hire you. So how can you send a simple, clear email that will help your message reach its target? Here are a few moves to keep in mind.

1. Identify the right recipient.

Who will be the primary decision maker during the selection process for this position? If you don’t know, find out before you make another move. Search the website, public company directory, or Google to determine the exact name of the person best poised to help you, then tailor your campaign to fit this person’s needs and preferences. Keep in mind that this person will probably be a hiring manger, not a HR pro or the CEO of the entire company.

2. Lean on your indirect contacts.

Sometimes the most helpful connections on Facebook or Linkedin aren’t friends, but friends of friends. Why are people more likely to help you if they don’t exactly know you? Researchers are working on this question, but the answer seems to lie in the value of novelty. People feel a strong sense of pleasure and reward when they make moves that expand their own networks, and every new connection brings the excitement of unknown adventures, new information, and new opportunities.

3. Be clear with your recipient about what you want.

As you craft your message, you’re going to have to be very clear about what you want your reader to do next, and you’ll have to emphasize what’s in it for her. Outline your vision in a way that’s easy to understand and remember, and close your letter with a specific invitation or call to action.

4. Write well.

This one seems obvious, but it’s probably the most important guideline of all. Those who communicate well in written form are often considered more intelligent and more reliable than those who don’t. So keep the three most important elements of strong writing in mind: brevity, clarity, and relevance.

5. Follow up

No matter how compelling or well written your message may be, if it wasn’t requested, it can easily be forgotten. Keep the pressure on by sending polite, short, respectful follow up messages no more than once per week until you hear back.

For more on how to use cold emailing strategies to pursue the opportunities you need, make an appointment with the Des Moines staffing pros at the Palmer Group.

Simple Tips for the Night before Your Interview

September 13th, 2013

Of course the night before your interview isn’t a great time to go out and drink till three. And it’s not a great time to start repainting the hall, throw a wild party, or watch a horrifying movie that will keep you from sleeping a wink. But there are a few less obvious moves that can help you bring your best, smartest, and most energetic self to your interview the following morning.

1. Cut off the caffeine by noon. Drink your last cup of joe before 12:00, so there’s nothing circulating in your bloodstream that can exacerbate your nervous thoughts and keep you awake later on.

2. Schedule an early bedtime. This may mean moving your appointments around in a way that has you landing in bed by about 10:00 PM. If it means you have to skip some of them or reschedule them to a date after your interview, so be it.

3. Exercise. You may not have time to do this the following morning, but exercise offers a great way to improve your circulation, which can help you sleep (if you’re headed to bed) or keep you alert and energized (if you’re on your way out of it). If the next morning will be hectic or rushed, exercise the day or night before.

4. Get breakfast ready. On the morning before your interview, you’ll want to load up on fruit, whole grain carbs, and lean protein like nuts, fish, poultry, or eggs. If that means taking a quick trip to the store so you’re not hitting the greasy drive-thru on the way to your venue, make it happen.

5. Go over your directions and travel plan one last time. Don’t leave any final details for the following day.

6. Hang your suit properly. This goes without saying. Take one last look on the front and back for loose threads, small stains, lint, or damage. Do the same for your shoes.

7. Clear the morning. Make sure your childcare plans, pet care plans, and competing chores are taken care of or placed in trusting hands so they don’t hold you up.

8. Print out a few copies of your resume and place them in a sleek portfolio that you can carry with you. If you know you’ll be facing more than one interviewer, take a copy for each person. If you don’t know, five will probably be more than enough.

9. Charge your phone.

10. Find a small talisman that can help you stay calm if anything goes wrong. This might be a picture of a pet or loved one, an inspirational quote written on a small card, or just a reminder, like a mantra, that you can repeat to yourself if you start feeling anxious.

Need a few more preparation tips? The staffing experts at the Palmer Group can help. Reach out to our office and find out how we can make your day a little easier.

How to Show Passion in Your Job Interview—Even When You’re Shy

August 23rd, 2013

Some people have absolutely no problem bringing their true feelings to the surface as they engage in a conversation. Their passion for the subject naturally shines through in everything they say, and their enthusiasm starts in their eyes and radiates through their posture, words, and hand gestures. But some of us also suffer from “resting checked-out face”. This condition keeps our gestures and facial expressions restrained, even when we’re bursting at the seams with passion and commitment. And of course, some of us are also just shy.

So if you have thirty minutes with an interviewer to demonstrate the full range of your interest and passion, what actions can you take to get this message across? What verbal and non-verbal signals can you send—without faking anything? Try these tips.

1. Just say it. Sometimes the best way to express a feeling is to use the simplest and clearest channel evolution has granted to us: words from our mouths. Be direct and don’t try to exaggerate the truth, but say something like “I’ve loved this field since I was a child”, or “I was introduced to accounting by my grandmother, who worked for a major firm for forty years.”

2. Use stories. People love stories. If you’re asked to describe the subject area you know best, or explain your qualifications in a certain skill category, answer in the form of a story. Talk about the lessons you’ve learned as a direct result of specific experiences.

3. Don’t worry about filling the air with chatter. In other words, don’t be afraid of conversational pauses. These are natural periods of quiet that add rhythm and punctuation to a normal conversation, but shy or nervous people often find them awkward and rush to fill the gaps. These silences are not as long as you think they are—anything up to two full seconds is not at all out of place. Just relax, smile, and let the next exchange begin when it’s time.

4. Use open ended questions to keep the interviewer engaged. If you’re shy, you’re probably already familiar with this move. A good conversation requires a listener as well as a talker, and shy people often make great listeners. Ask questions about the company and its challenges, ask about the culture, ask about the daily demands of the position, and ask your interviewer how she feels about working here.

For more on how to shine during an interview while being true to your own introverted (or extroverted) personality, reach out to the Des Moines staffing and job search experts at the Palmer Group.

Six Resume Red Flags to Avoid

July 5th, 2013

When employers review a resume in a stack of dozens, or even hundreds, their first glance tends to be quick and unforgiving. Some hiring manager will even toss a resume aside if it fails to capture their attention within the first 30 seconds. A few red flags like the ones below can also put a resume on the fast track to nowhere. Make sure you don’t give reviewers an easy reason to simplify their hiring decision by removing you from the running.

1. Non-standard formatting and/or unreadability

Reviewers won’t hold onto a resume they can’t read. Watch out for tiny font, crowded blocks of text, and formatting that doesn’t respect business standards. A resume should begin with a summary and offer clear subheadings for education, work history and special skills. If reviewers can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they won’t keep looking for long.
2. A resume that looks like part of a clumsy mass mailing

It’s okay to use the same basic resume to apply for multiple positions, but if you mention the specific company or specific position you’re pursuing, make sure your terms match those stated in the job post you’re answering. Don’t accidentally refer to the company or job title from your last application.

3. Typos

Even one typo in a resume is unacceptable. This includes misspelled words your spell check feature won’t catch and inconsistent capitalization and punctuation. If you capitalize the first letter of each bullet point in your work history section, do the same with your other sections as well.

4. Exaggerations

Of course you know better than to lie on your resume, but even small exaggerations can get you into trouble. Why? Because your reviewers have been in this business longer than you have, and they know a fishy claim when they see one. Specifically, don’t be tempted to stretch 1.) the revenue you generated for the company during your tenure, 2.) the number of people you managed, or 3.) your dates of employment. This last item is very easy and perfectly legal to verify with a simple phone call.

5. Informal or disrespectful language

Your resume gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your strong command of the written word. So don’t blow this opportunity by using language and grammar that doesn’t belong in a professional document. 

6. Excessive buzzwords

Think twice before you call yourself “a change-driver”, “go-getter”, or a “highly motivated success addict”. These are hollow and meaningless phrases that apply to everyone, not just you. Replace them with terms and descriptors that refer to you alone.

For more guidance and resume tips that can help your application stand out and get the employer attention it deserves, reach out to the Des Moines staffing and job search pros at the Palmer Group.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

June 14th, 2013

If you’ve just been called in for the first serious interview of your professional career, this step-by-step guide can take you through the next 48 hours or so and help you get ready for any surprises that may come your way.

1. First, thank the manager or HR employee who invited you to the interview. Make sure you confirm the time and place.

2. Map the route to your destination and determine how long it will take to get there and how you’ll accomplish this. Will you drive, take the train, or ask someone else to transport you? Clarify these details before you make another move.

3. Clear your schedule. If you have other appointments that may crowd into your interview time, cancel as necessary. Just because the interviewer says the meeting will take 30 minutes doesn’t mean it will take 30 minutes. Reset the entire morning or afternoon within an hour or two of your appointment time.

4. Choose clothing that shows respect for the occasion. A suit will usually work, but these days men can also wear a pressed shirt and tie, and women can wear a professional dress or blouse combined with skirt or slacks. Take your clothes to the dry cleaner if you need to.

5. Visit the company website. Find answers to these three questions: What exactly does this company sell or produce? What will you probably be doing every day in this position? How would you describe this company’s culture? I.e. does this seem a like fun/formal/ fast-paced/laid back/conservative/progressive place to work?

6. Come up with a clear, concise answer to this question, an answer you can deliver in less than 60 seconds: What makes you a great fit for this job?

7. Now answer this question: What can you bring to this position that no other candidate can? Practice both answers until you can deliver them in your sleep.

8. Print out ten hard copies of your resume that you can carry with you in a professional-looking portfolio. In the same portfolio, carry a pad of paper and a reliable pen you can use to take notes. (Unless asked, you won’t be taking out, looking at, or in any way fiddling with your phone during a professional job interview. Take a moment before you leave the house to silence all your ringers and alerts.)

9. Work on your body language and non-verbal gestures. Practice sitting up straight, work on your smile, handshake, and eye contact, and control your fidgeting.

10. Come up with five intelligent questions that you can ask your interviewer before the meeting ends.

Finally, confirm your transportation one more time, and then get a full night of sleep before the big day. Still nervous? Reach out to the IA staffing experts

at the Palmer Group and let us answer any final questions you may have about the process. Good luck!

Are You Guilty of Any of These Common Interview Mistakes?

May 24th, 2013

As the day of your interview approaches, you’re ready for anything. Your suit is at the dry cleaners, you’re practicing your handshake on everyone you meet, and you’re getting plenty of sleep. While you check off each of these items, go ahead and add a few more preparation tips to your arsenal by going over the list below. Interview mistakes like the ones listed here are more common that you probably realize, but a little heads up may help you pay attention to what you’re doing and stay out of trouble.

1. Keep an eye on three items: your coffee cup, your coat, and your gum. Even if you don’t, your interviewer will. The coffee cup goes into the trash before you enter the building. The coat should be handed over if the interviewer offers to take it—otherwise it should be taken off and draped neatly over the back of a nearby chair. And the gum shouldn’t even play a role in this scene. Spit it out before you step within a mile of your interview destination.

2. Manage your hands and arms. Humans communicate with their hands just as much as their voices. And if you don’t control them, they’ll speak for you. They’ll say things like “I’m so nervous!” and “Please forgive me—I don’t know what I’m doing.” The solution: rest your arms gently at your sides, draped parallel with the arms of your chair. Keep your hands open and relaxed when you aren’t speaking. When you are speaking, bring in them in front of you to help make your points, then return them to a relaxed position at your sides when you’re finished.

3. Don’t act as if your interviewer is the only person on earth who matters. Inexperienced candidates tend to go into a trance all morning long, focusing on this one conversation to the exclusion of all else. They don’t make eye contact with the receptionist, they ignore everyone in the waiting area, and they fiddle with their phones so they won’t have to speak to anyone until they’re sitting across from their interviewer. Then they light up. Don’t do this. Relax, engage, look around, and connect with everyone you encounter on your way in and out of the building.

4.  If someone asks you “Why should you be hired for this job?” have an excellent, articulate answer ready, word for word, that you can deliver within 30 seconds. This question is a universal part of any job search, but candidates are continually caught off guard by it all the same.

For more simple tools and mental exercises that can help you control your nerves and think on your feet during job interviews, reach out to the Des Moines Staffing and employment experts at the Palmer Group.

You’re the Ideal Candidate for this Job: Let Employers Know

March 15th, 2013

When you submit your resume for a position and are later called in for an interview, you’ll want to make a great impression, of course. You want to come off as likable, reliable, stable, friendly, and committed. No matter what the position may be, these traits are always positives, and in most cases they represent the bare minimum necessary for consideration.

But in a tough, competitive job market, the bare minimum won’t be quite enough to set you apart. You won’t just need to prove you’re a great employee. You’ll need to prove you need to prove that you’re perfect employee for this specific job. So how can you do this if you’re not familiar with this company’s culture and you don’t know exactly what qualities these employers will be looking for?

You + This Job = A Perfect Match

1. Start by gathering all the information available to you and analyzing it for clues.  Examine the job posting and company website carefully and read between the lines. Even if the employers don’t specifically ask for a leader, or a follower, or a team player, which of these do you think will find the most success in this position? Which skills do the employers want to see most and which ones seem to be listed as afterthoughts or “pluses”?

2. Get some paper and list the qualities of a person you envision as an ideal candidate for this job. Put yourself and your own qualifications aside for a moment and just picture someone who’s likely to thrive in this role. Write down everything you know about this person, from personality traits, to skills sets, to likely previous employers.

3. List what you have in common with this person. If she’s a great public speaker, or a creative problem solver, or she keeps a cool head in a crisis, do you share these qualities?

4. Gather proof. Since these are the traits you’ll want to showcase to your potential employers, you’ll need to provide evidence to support your case. What have you done, what awards have you earned, and what accomplishments do you have to your credit that can help employers see you in this light?

5. Reduce your case to sound bites. If these employers will probably need a strong public speaker, and you’ve made a successful speech or two in your day, how can emphasize this in ten high-impact words or fewer? Work this out before the interview. Keep your messages short, strong, and memorable.

Contact the Des Moines staffing experts at the Palmer Group for more on how to make a simple, clear, and powerful case that you’re perfect for this job. We have the experience and tools you need to highlight the traits your employers are looking for.

Four Steps to Successful Personal Branding

February 22nd, 2013

To get ahead in a challenging career marketplace, you’ll need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. And since “standing out” is a full time job, it’s a good idea to create a personal brand that’s so strong and memorable it speaks for you, even when you’re off the clock. Make a name for yourself. Once you have a name that sells what you have to offer, you’ll be marketing and promoting yourself even when you aren’t. Try these simple moves and become the CEO of You, Inc.

Personal Branding in Four Simple Steps

1. Figure out what you’ve got. What do you have to offer that nobody else in the world can claim? What skill or unique combination of skills can you bring to another person’s life, company, or project? And how can these skills help that person or company get where they’re going? Are you the hardest worker in the room? Are you great with two or three different skills that are rarely seen in a combination like yours? What do you know about? What can you do really, really well? What aspects of the world do you understand on a level no one else can?

2. Figure out how others would answer this question. If your coworkers, bosses, family members or friends were to be asked about you, what would they list as your unique strengths? Their answers may differ from yours. But what they have to say is just as valid, if not more so.

3. Identify your target audience. Who are you going to have to impress in order to get the things you want? Who will you need to connect with, pitch to, or win over? Who will have to see your face, shake your hand, or observe you in action before you take the next step toward your destination? Make sure the people in your target audience fit two important descriptors: 1.) They have a need for what you have to offer, and 2.) they’re able to help you and move you toward your goals.

4. Finally, clarify your goals. Figure out exactly what you want before you take your first steps in that direction. Actually sit still and daydream for a while, and visualize your situation six months, three years, and five years down the road. Identify every important detail about that situation and then get a pen and write these details down. 

Now that you know where you’re going, who can get you there, and what you have to offer to these people, it’s time to get moving. Contact the Des Moines staffing and job search experts at The Palmer Group for additional tips and personal guidance.