We’re raised to be polite, kind, considerate and respectful of our elders and authority figures. These are fine qualities to have, but there’s a fine line where these positive traits result in your being taken advantage of. Your kind nature will, at times, be perceived as weakness by some—and they will not reward it. When it comes to interviewing, this happens all the time. Here is what you need to do to take back control.
When a recruiter or human resources representative from a company contacts you about a job, you don’t have to be passive and pliant. If you are interested in the role, feel free to tell them so, but don’t just send your résumé and hope for the best. Ask the person how much they are offering for the job. Inquire about the level, corporate title and the reason that it’s open. Push for more color and details surrounding the opportunity. This is critical information to know before you embark upon a three-to six-month lengthy interview process. If the person gives you push back or tries to skirt around the questions, recognize it as a warning sign. An insider’s tip from me is that many recruiters call about job offerings and lack the basic fundamental knowledge about the position and only care about putting bodies in front of the company. If you feel this is the case, there is no reason to embarrass the person. Be polite, firm and let them know that you are interested and that they will need to gather more intelligence around the job and get back to you.
Before you go on an interview, make sure that you ascertain the time frame they have to hire. Is it two weeks or six months? Demand that you get the names and titles of the interviewers and the reason why they are part of the process. Ask your recruiter to get color on these people. I recognize that this sounds almost rude as I’m writing it. So, when you say these things, do it in a friendly manner. It is possible to be both kind and assertive.
“Ms. Recruiter, I really appreciate that you thought of me for this role. I’m extremely interested in the company and the opportunity. To do my best in the interview, it would be helpful to have the names of the people, their titles and why they are involved with the process. Also, if you have had any prior experience with any of them, please share your thoughts. As you know, the more I know, the better I can prepare, excel in the interview process and increase my chances in getting the job. Since you are compensated if I get placed, you will benefit as well. Even if I don’t get the job, but do well, it will make you look good as you provided a motivated candidate that did her homework and research and they’ll certainly use you again for future assignments.”
In many states, there is a new law that forbids companies from asking about a candidate’s current salary. Other states that don’t have the law in place yet tend to follow this trend as well. Although this is the law, companies will still try to weasel the information out of you. Turn the tables around and push to find out how much they are paying for the position. If you have the experience and know that you can do the job, but are earning far less, why shouldn’t you get the higher rate of pay?
If they dance around the subject say, “This sounds like a fantastic job that I am very qualified for. According to your job listing, I possess all the requirements—and then some. I understand that the interview process would require many people at your company taking time out of their important schedules to meet with me. To be fair to you and your employees, it would seem reasonable to share the salary range with me so that we don’t go throughout the entire process and end up far apart with respect to compensation and then it doesn’t work out. So, to save everyone’s time and effort, could you please share your best understanding of the salary range for this job?”
You need to to ask hard-hitting questions to uncover any issues or potential problems that they are trying to hide from you. Be bold and ask the tough questions in the interview: “What exactly will I be doing in the role? Who will I report into? Why is this job open? How come the job has been open for so long? Why did the last person leave? Where do you envision the job going to? What type of career progression will the job have?”
Don’t be intimidated into accepting a compensation offer that you’re not comfortable with. If you feel that the salary is lower than you feel you deserve, it’s perfectly acceptable to negotiate.
It is appropriate to say, “Thank you for the offer, I really liked everyone I met with. My background is perfect for the role and it looks like I can add value to your team and grow within the organization. The salary seems lower than I expected and less than what I’ve seen with other companies I met with. Also, I’m sure my company would easily match it and try to make me stay. That said, I really do want to make this work! If you can raise the salary to X, I’d accept (use a number that is higher than you want, so there is further room for negotiations). Could you please check with the appropriate people and get back to me? Also, I am close with another offer, but prefer your company and this job. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I am confident that we can both make this work.”
You can handle other matters that arise in a similar fashion. Think of this as a tennis match. The company hits a volley to you, then you hit the ball harder and more strategically back to them. They lob it, but then you strike back with force and confidence. You don’t have to walk off the court and throw the racket when things get tough. Just outplay, outhustle and out smart them, all the while killing them with kindness.