8 Ways to Negotiate for Job Perks

In the past couple of years, the economy has thrown job seekers for a loop. But in the midst of job loss, high unemployment rates and long-term unemployment for thousands of job seekers, there have been the lucky few who have held on to their jobs for life -- well, professional life.

But now that the economy is improving, companies are concerned about keeping their top performers and attracting new ones. In order to retain their star talent, companies may be sweetening the pot with non-monetary benefits, according to a new Accountemps survey.

When chief financial officers were asked about the perks they plan to offer or are already offering, 29 percent said subsidized training and education topped the list. Twenty-four percent said flexible schedules, telecommuting and mentoring programs.

"On the heels of the recession, perks are a cost-effective way employers can reward and retain staff and attract new employees," says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies. "The most popular incentives are those that aid in career development and give employees some control over their work schedules."

The problem is, many job seekers and employees don't know how to negotiate for such perks -- they're only used to bargaining for money.

"Many job seekers are tied to the notion that monetary compensation from a salary is the only factor to consider. What many fail to see is that there are many other benefits that hold 'monetary value' outside of what's directly reflected on a paycheck," says Tina Chen, vice president of operations for Employco USA, Inc. "Just because a company may not be flexible with salary negotiations doesn't mean that they are not willing to offer other extras in lieu of a higher salary. There are many 'perks' that can make up for the difference to make the workplace more attractive."

Some of these perks include but aren't limited to extra vacation time, flexible scheduling, continuing education benefits or tuition reimbursement. And sometimes, negotiating these perks can actually be better than negotiating for a higher salary, says Bill Driscoll, district president of Robert Half International.

"Because perks typically are less costly, employers may have more flexibility to offer these benefits than a higher salary. Keeping this in mind, candidates may feel more comfortable asking for more perks than they do asking for more money," Driscoll says.

There are several reasons why employers may not be willing to pay you a higher salary, says Jean Baur, senior consultant, Lee Hecht Harrison and author of Eliminated! Now What? Finding Your Way from Job-Loss Crisis to Career Resilience.

"It really has to do with company structure. A hiring manager can't bring in a middle manager at a higher salary than the senior managers, so asking for a sign-on bonus or additional vacation days may be more successful," she says. "It's often a lot easier to get an extra week of vacation than it is to raise the base salary by $10,000."
Additionally, there are instances when the worker's performance or skill sets don't merit a pay increase, says Driscoll.

"Most employers want to make sure that salaries correspond to the employees' skill set and direct output versus meeting a 'demanded salary,'" adds Chen. "As more employers are becoming cognizant of hiring costs they want to make sure employees are delivering the level of work that is required and can exceed expectations. Employees have to prove that they are worth the asking price, so unless the employers feel they have seen exceptional work – chances are higher salaries will not be considered."

Here are eight tips to help you negotiate for perks in lieu of a higher salary:

1. Be prepared for the discussion. "Research current trends related to perks in your area and industry, and understand the types the employer is most likely to offer," Driscoll says.

2. Cover your position. "If you are negotiating for more vacation time, have a plan as to how your work will be covered in your absence," Chen says. "This will alleviate the headache of your employer having to scramble to fill the gap and make the absence less visible."

3. Present a business case. "Employees must be able to show how the perk they seek will help them meet not just their personal objectives but also benefit the company," Driscoll says. "For example, by attending a seminar on a new industry software application, you can help your colleagues get up to speed on the new technology more quickly."

4. Stay employer focused. "Before you ask for an item that will be beneficial to you, ask yourself how it will benefit the employer," says Chen. If you're asking for flex time so you can drop off and pick up your kids at school and would like to work 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, for example, try something like "Working 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. will also allow me to take the early phone calls that come through the reception desk, which generally go into the voicemail box. I can also accept the early packages that are delivered instead of having them being left at the front door where they can easily be stolen,'" Chen says.

5. Don't be demanding. Remember you're asking for, not entitled to, more vacation or a sign-on bonus, Baur says. "Prioritize what's more important to you: is it money, flexibility, time off or health benefits -- then only ask for one or two things. This is not the time for a laundry list as that could make the employer not want to hire you. If you negotiate in a positive way and limit your requests, you won't lose the offer."

6. Prepare a back-up plan. "Negotiating requires flexibility and employees should have a second option in mind in case their first choice is denied," says Driscoll. "If your employer doesn't allow you to telecommute, for instance, you may be able to work from a satellite office closer to your home."

7. Be knowledgeable. Continuing education is not only beneficial for your personal growth but also to the company, Chen says. "If you want the company to pay for a course or seminar that you would like to attend – consider adding the following: 'I am really interested in attending this workers' compensation seminar on claim management. I feel by polishing up in this area I would be able to process the claims more effectively and minimize our exposure to pay on these claims.'"

8. Remain professional. "No matter the response to your request, stay positive, and always try to end the discussion on a positive note. If your request is denied, ask your manager if there are specific steps you can take to earn the perk in the future," says Driscoll.

Source: careerbuilder

3 Cover Letter Myths You Shouldn't Believe

cover letter myths in 2012
Cover letters are a hot topic these days. Some say they are worthless; others say they are priceless. A recent study by Zip Recruiter indicates that 50% of hiring managers require a cover letter, and that of those, two thirds of them reject an applicant because of something included in the cover letter.

Based on that stat, I'd say learning to write a good cover letter is a skill that a job seeker needs. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad advice out there about writing cover letters. Most of it stems from experts with outdated notions about what a cover letter's real purpose is. Here are three myths about cover letters you shouldn't believe.

1. Keep it short.
Cover letters used to be used a formal introduction to the resume. It was believed the resume was going to do the heavy-lifting in terms of impressing the hiring manager. So, experts advised to keep the cover letter short and let the hiring manager get to the 'good stuff.'

Well, fast forward to today where most hiring managers don't believe what's on a resume anymore. Instead, they want to get a sense of the applicant's personality, and the cover letter is the best way to convey that. Longer cover letters, complete with sub-titles for paragraphs, are working in today's competitive job search. As long as you can get the reader at "hello" and hold his or her attention with a compelling story, a longer cover letter can serve to impress the hiring manager with your communication skills. This leads to myth #2...

2. Use formal language.
While it might seem to make sense to use a lot of formal text and fancy words in your cover letter, studies actually show that it makes you look less intelligent. Moreover, you would never speak that way to the hiring manager if he or she were in front of you. Why say, "I'm pleased to be applying for the esteemed role of Manager of..."? It just sounds stuffy. Instead, cover letters should share your story in uncomplicated language that is easy to read and believe.

3. Explain what experience you have that proves you can do the job.
The idea behind this myth is that you need to summarize what skills on your resume the recruiter should look at. In reality, that's just a waste of breath. The employer is smart enough to look at your resume and figure out what is relevant. Your cover letter should just focus on proving to the hiring manager that you understand why the job is important to the company's business.

Look at the hiring manager as the leader of a tribe that you want to join. The cover letter should present to the hiring manager your understanding of what the company does, what it does is important, and how you are in alignment with their mission. When you show the hiring manager that you "get" what the company does, you're also proving you could be a valuable contributor to the team.

Cover letters are a necessary evil. But, more importantly, their purpose and value in the job search has shifted. Avoid believing the myths and you'll start to develop a cover letter that will get the attention you want – and deserve.

Source: AOL

How -- and whom -- to ask for a referral

One of the best ways to get a foot in the door with a potential employer is to be recommended by someone who already works there. That may be true, but a referral is no guarantee of an interview, let alone a job offer. In fact, a poorly handled referral can leave you worse off than if you were just another unknown job candidate.

Here's how to ask for a referral the right way:

Before you ask
"It never hurts to ask" is normally a sound principle for job seekers, but it doesn't apply to referrals. Requesting a recommendation from the wrong person, at the wrong time or in the wrong way can do more harm than good. Since most people find it difficult to turn down a request for help, it's your responsibility to make sure that your potential referrer is well-equipped to recommend you and that he is the right person to do so.

The most common problem? Unfamiliarity. "Michelle -- er, Melissa -- is a close friend and trusted colleague" doesn't exactly make for a ringing endorsement. Before you ask someone for a referral, consider whether you know the person well enough and vice-versa. After all, the two of you are effectively agreeing to tie your professional reputations together. While you don't need to have worked alongside your advocate for years, 15 minutes of conversation at last night's Meetup isn't a sufficient personal history for a convincing recommendation.

Keep in mind that your contact may have her own reasons for agreeing to refer you that don't necessarily align with your goals. She may be taking advantage of a referral bonus offered by the company or may just have trouble saying no. Be sure your chosen referrer can describe with confidence your qualifications and job fit.
If a hiring manager senses a referral is a shot in the dark, not a genuine endorsement, he might be predisposed against you. And if your referrer is known for making indiscriminate recommendations, your résumé might not even get a look.

Your pre-interview
Whether your potential referrer is an old friend or a more recent contact, don't take the referral for granted. Frame your request with a brief explanation of why you think you'd be a good fit for the company, and send along your résumé.

If the person seems reluctant to vouch for you, take that as a no. And keep in mind that a polite refusal will be better for your career in the long run than an insincere yes, which usually leads to a half-hearted referral.
Once someone has agreed to refer you, it's your job to provide her with a substantial sense of how you might contribute to the company. Ask to buy your contact lunch to talk about your skills and experience as well as the culture of the firm and your working style. Approach it as you would a casual interview.

Soon after your meeting, send a thank-you note. By expressing your appreciation before you know the outcome of the referral, you demonstrate sincere gratitude for the person's time and effort on your behalf. Make sure she understands that you know the referral is no guarantee of an offer, or even an interview.

Once you're in
If you do get invited for an interview, don't assume that your referrer has provided extensive information about you. Instead, follow the interviewer's lead. If she asks about your history with the person, be honest. Don't exaggerate your relationship with the referrer or lean too hard on it. Now's the time to rely on your own skills and experience, not your connections.

A thoughtfully planned request for a referral can be one of your smartest career moves. But some of the strongest endorsements are the ones you don't ask for. That doesn't mean you should passively wait for one to come along. What it does mean is that you should focus on building up professional relationships, not just converting them into opportunities. So get out there and network in person, keep in touch with old colleagues, and let your friends know you're interested in a new position.

Source: careerbuilder

How to choose good job references

Get the most from their support

When a hiring manager is trying to decide among candidates, the words of someone familiar with the applicant may tip the scale one way or the other. Are your references providing maximum advantage? Here are a few considerations:

Think before you select
Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, a career management consulting firm headquartered in Boston, says a good reference is someone who:
  • Wants to see you succeed as much as you do.
  • Can clearly articulate your strengths, areas of expertise and development.
  • Can think on her feet if asked a tough question.
  • Is someone for whom you feel good about being a reference.

While several people you know may fit the bill, consider whose position or ability to give pertinent information would be most useful to the prospective employer.

"In most instances, companies are looking for professional references -- people you have worked for or with who can comment on your skills and accomplishments," says Tracy A. Cashman, partner and general manager of the information technology division of Winter, Wyman, one of the largest staffing firms in the Northeast. "There are occasions when companies want more personal/character references, but you should have at least three or four professional references at your disposal, ideally to include a past manager, a colleague, a subordinate (if appropriate) and perhaps someone from another team/division who you worked with on a particular project."

Since you are looking for references to be enthusiastic advocates, it also is worth considering who might best convince others of your abilities. "There's nothing worse than a potential employer checking a reference who only answers in monosyllables and provides no detail," Cashman says.
Likewise, Mattson notes that it is wise to avoid anyone with whom you did not have a good working relationship and people whom you worked with years ago who are not up-to-date with your current career endeavors.

If you're conducting a secret job search, you might want to think carefully about choosing someone from your current workplace. Make sure the person can be trusted to keep the search confidential.

Ask before you list
Contacting people you'd like to use as a reference before listing them serves several purposes:
  • It makes you look professional and courteous.
  • It gives them time to prepare and not be caught off-guard by a phone call they didn't expect.
  • Their willingness or hesitancy can help you judge whether or not they would make a good reference.

Lavie Margolin, a career coach and author of "Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers," warns that just because someone agrees to give a reference, it does not mean that it will be a good one. "Your former supervisor may have had a different impression than you of the quality of work that you provided ... Or what if your boss felt you left him in the lurch when you quit the company?" Instead of assuming, he suggests having a brief conversation with the potential reference in which you can ask what he thought about you as a professional and what he plans to share.

Keep people in the loop
Prepare your references to support your candidacy by briefing them on your background and career goals. Mattson suggests providing each with a current résumé, access to your LinkedIn profile and information on the best way to get in touch with you.

While it is good to update people occasionally on the status of your search, contact is especially useful when you know a potential employer is about to begin checking references. Discussing the position and pointing out key elements that you are trying to emphasize can help your reference prepare informative answers.

Be sure references can be contacted
Once you've finalized your references, be ready to present them to a prospective employer when asked. Margolin suggests creating a one-page list that includes the following for each reference:
    1. Person's name 2. Job title 3. Relationship to you (such as co-worker or direct supervisor) 4. Company name 5. Address 6. Contact info (phone number, email address)

Then, check back with your references from time to time to make sure that contact information has not changed. The best reference in the world becomes useless if he can't be reached.

Source: careerbuilder

16 job search errors you're probably making

Over the years, hiring managers have born witness to every hiring, interviewing, résumé, cover letter and negotiation mistake there is.

You know what these blunders are. We've told you several times. Yet you (and hundreds of other job seekers) continue to make common job search mistakes.

From those who see your mistakes over and over, here are 16 common job search mistakes to avoid -- and some of them may surprise you"

1. You don't keep your options open"Candidates tend to think that if they interview for a job they will get an offer, so they do not apply and interview for multiple positions," says Joanie Spain, director of public relations and career services, School of Advertising Art, a graphic design college. "They wait until one plays out completely, putting their job search on hold until knowing for sure they didn't get the offer."

"By having many more irons in the fire, you diversify the risk and disappointment that is inevitable when any single opportunity disappears," adds Roy Cohen, author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach."

"You also present yourself as a more passionate and energetic candidate. You're in the 'zone' -- a point where you're in the flow of information and ideas -- and that makes you more valuable."

2. You turn up your nose at job descriptions"Entry-level candidates are reluctant to apply for a position unless the job sounds like their 'dream job' or they have all qualifications listed," Spain says. "Rather than going on an interview to get more information, they base decisions about applying on the job description alone. They fail to see that all interview experience is good experience, or that, until there is an offer on the table, there is no decision to make."

3. You haven't perfected the thank-you note"Don't be too verbose with a thank-you note after an interview. Sending out a version of "War and Peace" can come across as desperate and needy for a job. However, sending a one or two sentence thank-you note comes across as flippant, not well thought-out and potentially shows indifference regarding the job to the employer," says Mike Barefoot, senior account manager at Red Zone Resources, a recruitment firm. "We encourage candidates to keep them to four to eight sentences."

4. You don't check your references"Always give out references that you've pre-screened. We sometimes see candidates give out references that were never checked with and the references feedback isn't always kind," Barefoot says. "Also, make sure they're predominantly managers. An occasional colleague is okay, but contemporaries and friends really don't carry that much weight in helping you land a position."

5. You've got poor business acumen"Managers are becoming more savvy and are taking candidates out to lunch for interviews. They want to see how you treat a restaurant staff and see the 'real' you. If you're rude to them or don't seem appreciative for their hard work to make your meal pleasurable, managers wonder how you'll treat contemporaries you work with," Barefoot says.

6. You have a messy briefcase"A messy briefcase can imply the person is unorganized, messy and unprepared, and that their work will be less than optimal," says Ronald Kaufman, author of "Anatomy of Success." "Someone who is neat, clean, organized and prepared in all areas conveys they're serious about getting a job and working."

7. You discount temporary positions"Many employers coming out of a recession want to hire on a temporary or temp- to perm- basis. We have already seen several contractors be offered permanent positions after they have proven themselves," says Jeffrey Weinstock, Esq. president, Rhodes & Weinstock, a recruiting firm. "Not only will the temporary position pay some bills, think of it as an audition for a potential perm position, or at least a way to get a good reference for another position."

8. You have a bad attitude"Poor attitudes come through in telephone calls and in interviews. If you are not positive, why would a potential employer want to hire you?" asks Weinstock. "It may take some time, but by being positive, by doing all the right things, by seeing each position as an opportunity, it will happen."

9. You include too much work history
"Many job seekers over 40 think that they have to take their work history back to their first job out of college," says Cheryl E. Palmer, career coach and résumé writer. " All that is needed is the last 10-15 years of your work history."

10. You use your work email address on your résumé"Some people do not regularly check their personal email, so they use their employers' email instead," Palmer says. "This sends a negative message to potential employers that the job seekers will not hesitate to use their equipment for personal use."

11. You take "no" as a final answer"No" usually only means "no" for that position, says Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO, Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, LTD.
"If you are rejected for a job you should send a thank-you note, thank the employer for the opportunity, and wish them well. No one does that. When the next opening comes around, he'll remember you," says Hurwitz.

12. You lack tact"Be determined without being pushy. Calling or emailing to ask about the status of your résumé or interview can be a double-edged sword," says Rod Hughes, director of communications, Oxford Communications. "A tactful follow up can place you top of mind with the hiring manager, while incessant calling or emailing can push your résumé right off the table."

13. You don't search for yourself on the Internet"Your would-be employer is probably going to look you up online, so you should know what is out there," says Amanda O'Brien, vice president of marketing, Hall Web Services. "Clean up what you can, check your privacy settings on social networks and if it is something you can't get down off the internet, you may want to consider talking to the company about it."

14. You have a 'death by bullets' résumé"Bullets are great but they need context. Keep them to one line, focused on a result and include a figure like a fact, percentage or number," says Adriana Llames, author of "Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game." "Or, put the information in a short summary of the position."

15. You've got a scattered strategy "Looking for a job in any industry and with two or three résumés is going to get the same result as the strategy: scattered," Llames says. "Job seekers with a clearly defined, focused and organized strategic approach to their job search end up with clear results -- and a new job."

16. You think it's about youIt is not about you and your need for a job -- it is about the prospective employer and their need to run a successful business and make money, says Lori B. Rassas, employment attorney and author of "Employment Law: A Guide to Hiring, Managing and Firing for Employers and Employees."

"Many applicants mistakenly believe they will be an appealing candidate if they explain they will accept any type of job offer at any because they have been laid off, unemployed for an extended period of time, have children in college, or are having difficulty making the mortgage payments," she says. "Even if all of those circumstances are true, candidates need to craft a different message, focusing on how they can benefit the employer by saving them money, streamlining processes, creating additional sources of revenue and bringing overall value to the company."

Source: careerbuilder

Don't give these answers during your interview

After receiving a call from an employer inviting you in for an interview, it's common to feel simultaneously ecstatic, relieved and nervous. One of the best ways to calm those nerves is to be prepared for the interview.

To do so, try and anticipate what questions the employer might ask. While at times questions can get tricky, for the most part employers ask straightforward questions that help them get to know your personality as well as your ability to think on your feet.

Yet even if a job seeker is prepared, nerves can still cause stumbles. To help, here are four of the most common interview questions and tips on how you should -- and shouldn't -- answer them.

1. "So, tell me a little about yourself."
When answering this question, don't go off on a tangent. Prepare your two to three minute career summary and rehearse it out loud. "Make sure that whatever you share is relevant and makes sense given the job you're interviewing for," says career counselor and author Roy Cohen. "Too much information will be lost in translation and your interviewer will tune you out."

2. "Why do you want to leave your current job?"This question can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you say you're looking for a new opportunity, the interviewer may take that to mean you were bored at your current job and wanted out. Instead, you could be more specific: There were changes in management; the company's direction didn't align with your personal goals; or recent changes made you concerned about the stability of the company and your role. "It's better to have more reasons for making a move than just one. It suggests that the decision is multilayered and, hopefully, some of what you say will resonate with the interviewer," Cohen says.

3. "What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses? "
Stop saying, "I'm a perfectionist." It's trite and overdone. Name a strength that makes you stand out for the position to which you are applying. When naming a weakness, pick something that's realistic, and acknowledge that you're constantly working on improving in that area. Ensure that your weakness isn't directly associated with one of the prospective job responsibilities, but do be honest.

4. "Let's talk about salary. What are your expectations?"If possible, avoid addressing compensation until toward the end of the hiring process. When it comes time to discuss, provide a range with which you're comfortable. Going into the conversation, decide what the lowest acceptable salary is that will allow you to enjoy the lifestyle with which you're most comfortable. From there, incrementally increase that salary by 5, 10 or 15 percent. Once you get to the negotiation process, you'll be in a better position to give and take on salary and other benefits.

Source: careerbuilder

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