Breaking down your salary

A lot of job seekers do not realize the importance of knowing their salary and how to break it down to a potential employer in an interview. Whether you are working with a recruiter or applying directly with a company, it is your responsibility to clearly communicate your current salary. If this is not clearly communicated to the employer or recruiter during the interview process and/or on the application, you can easily have your offer rescinded if the numbers don’t match up.

Example: If you tell a potential employer that you make $65,000 a year, when in reality, you have a base of $60,000, a bonus of $3,000, and $2,000 worth of overtime, you can have your offer rescinded when the employer or recruiter goes to verify this information.
The way to avoid this is to clearly breakdown your salary on the application into: Base + Bonus + OT + any additional benefits that might be monetary in nature such as 401k or profit sharing contribution.
Not every application gives room to break this all down, so in a worse case scenario, only list your base salary and then clearly explain if/when asked the breakdown of your salary in more detail, but DO NOT just lump everything together on an application without a clear breakdown.
By doing this you will avoid any confusion regarding your compensation and will ensure your offer is secure once it is made to you.

Should you send a “Thank You” Letter?

I often get asked by job seekers whether or not they should send a “thank you” letter after their interview. The answer is always YES! I highly recommend sending at least one, if not two “thank you” letters. Ideally, you should send one “thank you” letter via email the same day as your interview. Then, you should send a follow up, hand-written “thank you” letter via snail mail the day after your interview. This way the company will think of you at least twice after the interview.

The next question I get asked is: What should go into the “thank you” letter? The answer is simple, keep it short, sweet and to the point. Below is a sample of a generic “thank you” letter. I would encourage you to modify it and make it your own or come up with your own version that expresses you.

Dear Mr. Jones,

It was a pleasure meeting with you today. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing the position you have available at ABC company. After speaking with you in depth about the position, I am even more interested in the opportunity. I think my skills make me uniquely qualified for this position and I think I could be a tremendous asset to your team.  I look forward to being a resource for your company.

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview with your company.

Jennifer K. Hill

Be Memorable

   This week we are going to look at the top 3 reasons people do not get the job. One of the top 3 reasons people do not get the job is very simple, they are not memorable. You might be asking yourself what would being memorable have to do with getting the job, I am here to tell you that it has EVERYTHING to do with getting the job. I personally interview anywhere from 5-20 people a week. Some weeks I remember almost everyone and other weeks I can barely recall who I met.
   The same is true of employers. They see hundreds of job seeker resumes for every open position, and then interview anywhere from 5-20 people on average. If you are up against anywhere from 5 to 20 other people in any average interview situation then you better bring your A-game. So how do you make yourself memorable?

1) Get a career coach or a friend to help you practice your answers to interview questions. I cannot begin to tell you how many times my eyes have glossed over during an interview when I hear the same old answers to every interview question. Add some “PEP” to your interview question answers. To find out more about PEP go to:

2) Dress to impress. Dress sharp, but do not over do it with loud colors or accessories. A job seeker I recently placed came in to interview with me one day and he blew my socks off. He had on a very sharp suit and tie, nothing over the top, but I was immediately struck by how professional he came across. Needless to say, my client was equally impressed.

3) Finally, it is important to remember that ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING! You can be extremely well dressed and very articulate, however, if your attitude does not match everything else, you will quickly fade into the background. It is important to be confident, but NOT cocky. You should also be extremely eager to get the position, but not desperate. It is a very fine line, but when properly balanced, you will always be the one who stands out!

What you leave blank could lose you the job…

I just learned a very important lesson today in recruiting and career coaching. Never think that any advice is too obvious. I have been recruiting and coaching now for close to 8 years and the longer I have been in the business the more I notice I take it for granted that job seekers know certain things. One such thing came to my attention today.

I had thoroughly prepared a job seeker for her interview with a law firm. She knew how to answer just about any question you threw at her, however, the one thing I did not prepare her for was how to fill out the application. I was reminded today that I need to cover EVERYTHING from the application to the thank you note when I prepare candidates for an interview.

This candidate was so well prepared on how to answer her reason for leaving her past position, that when it came time to answer that question on the application, she thought there was not enough space to fully answer the question the way I had coached her. This is my fault. I should have let her know what I am about to tell you: NEVER LEAVE A QUESTION BLANK ON AN APPLICATION! It is perfectly acceptable to put a short answer down on the application and then elaborate further when asked the question directly.

One of the biggest pet peeves of many Human Resources professionals is not thoroughly completing your job application. You should ALWAYS thoroughly answer any question on the application. NEVER put “see attached resume” or leave a question blank. This makes you look lazy or disinterested, which is the last thing you would want to convey in an interview. In a worst case scenario you could always put “open” if the question
has to do with salary desired or hour preferred.

In these economic times, it is also important to be prepared for a background check. Some companies will require you to fill out their background check form during the first interview. This does NOT mean they are going to run your background check right then, rather most companies will keep it on file and ONLY run it if they offer you the job. If not, they will simply shred it.

Do not give the hiring manager a reason not to hire you. Be thorough and complete and please be accommodating with any requests they make of you when it comes to filling out background check information.

What if you don’t have the experience they are looking for?

A job seeker recently asked me “How do I handle it if I am asked about my experience in an area that I have not worked or am not experienced with?” This question can often come up in an interview. The interviewer might ask you: “How strong are your Excel (Excel could be anything) skills?” If you did not have prior experience working with Excel, but were familiar with it, you might want to reply something like this: “I have always wanted to learn Excel. It is a software that I am very familiar with, but have not used extensively in my past positions. It is something I am sure I could pick up quickly, especially given my knowledge of other Microsoft Office tools such as Word and Outlook.”

In this case you do not want to specifically talk about the lack of your skills in that area. Rather you want to emphasize where you do have skills and how those skills can be parlayed into whatever they want you to learn. Always de-emphasize what you don’t know and emphasize what you do know.

How to handle the fact that you have been Laid Off in an interview

What does it mean about you if you were laid off? Does it mean that you are not employable or that there is something wrong with you? Absolutely NOT! People who have been laid off are getting hired all the time. The lay off is not what matters. What matters is how you handle your explanation of being laid off in the interview.

I meet with hundreds, if not thousands of job seekers every year. In the past 2 years, a large number of these job seekers have been people who were laid off. Many of them ask me what are they doing wrong that is not having them land the job. I share with them that they are not doing anything wrong, it is just that they are not being effective in their explanation of why they left their last position.

Often times, when I ask someone why they left their last position they will give me an incredulous look that says “duh!,”and then they will say some version of the following “I was laid off,” “My company closed,” “My position was eliminated,” etc.. DO NOT FOCUS ON THE LAY OFF! The problem is that everyone is saying the same thing and that is NOT memorable. What I coach my clients to do is to focus on what they liked about their last job, rather than focusing on the lay off, and then to follow up with how excited they are to find a great new position they can stay at long term. For example, if Betty was at her company 5 years and she loved her job, I would have Betty start by telling the employer why she stayed at her job for 5 years and how much she enjoyed her job. Then I would coach Betty to lightly mention the lay off, and finish by focusing on what she gets to create in her next position.

There is a little mantra that I teach people that helps them to remember this for their interview. I call it the GOOD-BAD-GOOD method. Next time you get stuck on a tricky question that could come across as negative in an interview, always try to start with a positive, lightly touch on the negative aspect, and then finish by bringing it back to a positive.

Good luck!

Behavioral Interview Questions

There is not much you can do to prepare for a behavioral interview. One tip I can give you that can enhance your chances of success in a behavioral interview is to come up with a list of at least 10 situations, including times where you overcame an obstacle or challenge, and how those situations were resolved. Below you will find a list of some of the more common behavioral interview questions:

Tell me about how you workedeffectively under pressure?

Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion tosuccessfully convince someone to see things your way.

Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situationthat demonstrated your coping skills.

Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able tomeet or achieve it.

Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to apolicy with which you did not agree.

Please discuss an important written document you were required tocomplete.

Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the callof duty in order to get a job done.

Describe a situation when you or a group that you were a part ofwere in danger of missing a deadline. What did you do?

Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split seconddecision.

Give me an example of a bad decision that you made and what youlearned from that mistake?

Tell me about a time when something you tried to accomplish andfailed. What did you learn from that failure?

Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and youwere required to prioritize your tasks.

What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me anexample.

Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal withanother person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (orvice versa).

Give me an example of when you showed initiativ
e and took thelead.

Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with avery upset customer or co-worker.

Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-findingskills to solve a problem.

Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to aproblem.

Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems anddeveloped preventive measures.

Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopulardecision. 

Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?

What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.

Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.

Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?

Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.

Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.

Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.

People like to Hire People like Themselves

Today I was leading a workshop on interviewing in Downtown Los Angeles. We covered a variety of fun and fascinating subjects regarding being effective in an interview. One question that came up, was a question I had never encountered before, but definitely got my wheels turning:

“What do I do if my conversational cadence does not match that of the person that I am interviewing with?”

This question surprised me because I have coached thousands people over the years on many aspects of being effective in an interview, but this was one subject I had not thought to include in my workshops. After giving the question some thought, I realized that being able to match another person’s conversational cadence is not something that comes naturally to a lot of people. I also realized what a critical component conversational cadence is an interview, and how it can make or break the interview.

Often, we take it for granted that we are able to have flowing conversations with the people closes to us in our lives such as our friends and family. We do not realize how difficult it is to match someone else’s pace until you are in an interview where it is blatantly clear that things are not meshing (or in some cases a date!). So why is it so easy to converse with your friends and family and yet, so nerve racking to speak to someone new in an interview (or in any situation for that matter)? The reason for this is that we naturally augment our rhythm and style to fit that of those that we are closest to. Think about your closest friend, chances are, you speak in a similar fashion when you are together. This happens over years of spending time together and adjusting to each others styles.

How can you apply the same principles of how you interact with your friends to being successful in an interview?

The answer is simple: Mimic them. By mimicking the person you are interviewing with, you will put them at ease, and you might surprise yourself by how comfortable you feel. What makes friendship so easy, is that, over the years we unintentionally wind up mimicking each others behaviors. People like people who are like themselves. The same is true of potential employers. Just like married couples who wind up looking alike or pet owners who wind up with pets that look strangely similar to their owners, people like to hire people like themselves.

I am not saying that you have to run out and dress up like the person you are interviewing with. Quite the contrary. I am simply asking you to become more aware of how you interact with other people and get more in tune with different people’s respective styles. Styles can range from voice pitch, to what is said, to how it is said. A way to practice mimicking others would be to find someone who is very “high energy,” almost to the point that you find them annoying. Then try to match their energy level and conversational pace just like you would with a friend.

The same goes for someone who is very “laid back” or low energy. Try to bring your energy down and to mirror the person’s energy that you are hanging out with. It is not quite as easy as it sounds, but it is better to practice with people you know then take your chances in an interview with a complete stranger.

Once you have become more adept at mimicking those around you, go out and try it in the real world. Try it out on dates, and in normal every day situations. The more effective you become at mimicking other people’s behavioral styles, the more successful you will find yourself in interviews. The key is to gauge another person’s style and meet them at their level. If the person you are interviewing with loves to use big words such as loquacious, then throw in a big word of your own such as verbose. The more present you become to how people interact the more success you will have in your own interactions, and most importantly, in your interviews!

Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts


Stand up for a phone interview

Smile during your phone interview

Have your resume nearby for reference

Have a list of your accomplishments handy

Speak on a land-line

Research a company just the way you would for a normal interview

Have a pen and paper and a glass of water handy

Speak slowly and clearly, and give short concise answers!



Interrupt the interviewer!

Have any noise in the background (pets and children included)

Have too much clutter distracting you during the phone screen

Read from your resume or read from pre-written answers

Pretend you know something you don’t and/or Google search the answer while on the call

Chew or eat anything while on the call!

Bring up salary or benefits!

Forget to send a “Thank You” letter and/or email because it is a phone screen

Your Interview Starts Sooner then you Think

Many job seekers are unaware that their interview starts long before they walk in the door. In fact, the moment someone calls you to set up a time for you to come in, the interview has already begun. When the phone rings, and the Human Resources person introduces themselves, you should literally stand up , remember your preparation, and communicate clearly your interest in the potential employer.

When you arrive at the parking garage of the potential employer, it is critical to treat everyone, even the parking attendant, with the utmost respect. People can often be rude to each other in a parking garage by honking or being on their cell phones, however, you never know if the person you are interviewing with might be the one you are honking at!
The same goes for the elevator ride up. There could very well be a Human Resources Manager in the elevator with you and if you are not polite, or if you are chewing gum, it is bound to reflect negatively on you in the interview. One of the most common errors you can make is to be rude to the receptionist. 
In the 6 years I spent as a recruiter, several of my clients would prescreen a candidate based on how well or poorly they treated the receptionist. Many people lost job offers over the years over something as simple as being on a cell phone while waiting in reception or being rude.
Next time you have an interview, remember, it begins the moment you are invited in for the interview. Good luck!