Tag Archives: interview

Building on your base

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Often we focus exclusively on our base salary when looking at a job offer, but our base is only part of the package. The benefits and non-tangibles that a company can offer, even if they aren’t able to budge on your salary, can be truly substantial and can often be more readily granted by employers whose hands might be otherwise tied.

Things to consider negotiating for next time you get the opportunity:

  • Signing bonus
  • Performance bonus
  • Equity
  • Extra vacation
  • Work from home privileges (you’re saving on commute dollars as well as time spent)
  • Employee savings match (this can end up being tens of thousands of dollars each year if you’re a diligent saver)
  • Salary reviews at a shorter interval (at your six month anniversary instead of the year)
  • Paid attendance at industry events
  • Paid mobile bills (assuming your phone usage or accessibility is relevant to your job)
  • Career related training (it could help you get a better paying job in the future)
  • Paid network access at home
  • Sabbatical
  • Title promotion (even if it doesn’t come with a pay increase, it could translate into one on your next review or your next job)
  • Health club access/fitness benefits
  • Parking

On a somewhat related note, I recently stumbled upon an article on Forbes by Liz Ryan which I think uses a great (and highly comfortable) dialog for a sample salary negotiation. It’s a quick read and a real confidence builder.

Interview challenge: under $350

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I thought I’d give myself a small challenge today and see what it might take to suit up in pieces I might actually wear again.

I decided that sale items were fair game if they weren’t one-of-a-kind close-outs, but I made sure that the pieces I put into my hypothetical shopping bag met a certain standard–they had to be versatile enough that I would mix them in with other things I might wear once hired and they had to be good quality pieces that would stand up to scrutiny (no unlined jackets, no trousers that wrinkle if you look at them wrong, nothing that looks like it might not last a day’s wear–nothing that would go to the back of the closet and stay there for good).

What made the cut ?

I started by finding a jacket I liked that had some matching pant options. LOFT was having a sale so I gravitated to this suit, knowing that they offer a good range of sizes and that the fit and finish would be very good. Once the jacket and pants were settled, I moved on to a top. Since the jacket is an open style, I wanted a color to punch up the outfit a bit, but I didn’t want to spend money on a colored silk or poly shell which I might move to the back of my closet. I like T’s under jackets. They’re versatile and cheap and truly the Target brands are great ones (there’s no need to premium dollar here). And then it was on to accessories. Timex makes a great classic watch. Since real pearls can be had at the same price or less than many women’s retailers, I chose real ones. I opted for a pair of classic black leather pumps–in a rather non-neckbreaking height. And then, a Zara tote that looks almost as good as it would in leather.

Total cost: $341

Skirting the issue

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I confess. I’m like a deer in the headlights when it comes to dressing the skirt suit for an interview. I love the way a skirt suit can look so fabulously polished and yet, I have such an aversion to wearing “pantyhose” that it is territory that I avoid like the plague. Bare legs paired with a dress or skirt haven’t been on the “no-no” list for years here in California unless you’re in the court room or in a bank. And in my mind, they are the trappings of an older generation (not to mention that I my pumps always slip off my feet when I wear them with hosiery). However, the interview dynamic dictates that we fall back to more formal, conservative attire–so bare legs become more of a question, even if they’re something that would totally fly in the normal office environment.

I recommend that if you go the way of the skirt suit, you absolutely err on the side of hosiery for your first interview. Go skin tone. Get as close of a match as possible. As sheer as possible. Sheer black nylons were left behind in the last millennium (for good reason). And opaque tights (even in black and even if they’d totally be your go-to at the office) can make even the chicest suit look instantly matronly. Nordstrom has some good nude options that won’t break the bank. Calvin Klein has some great super sheers, too. And of course, Wolford probably offers the best of the bunch–but their prices aren’t for most budgets.

Pro-tip: Avoid stay-ups–they never do. And skip the garters/stockings combo–the fasteners can show through thinner suiting material.

Or wear trousers. I do.

Interview style recon

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It can often be difficult to figure out what exactly to wear to your first interview. And while I stand by my claim that you can’t go wrong with this number, the right outfit can vary by occupation and industry.

If you’re going to interview at a larger company and have the benefit of some spare cycles prior to your interview, a small lobby stake-out can tell you a lot about the workplace attire. However, it may not reveal what’s expected of you as an actual candidate. As an example, I worked for a number of years in the engineering arm of a high profile software/hardware startup. While I wore jeans, company logoed unisex tees, and Keds to work, my expectations were that everyone I interviewed would come prepped and dressed to show me their interview dance. Even in that most laid-back environment, a suit was a given for at least the first round and the absence of one didn’t go without remark.

Cue Glassdoor.com. Although I have visited Glassdoor before, it wasn’t until today that I had noticed that some users were including comments on attire. The volume of posts that include style comments is low, but it could lend some insight into what you can expect. You need to join if you want to view more than ten reviews but accounts are free so there’s not much to lose. And, Glassdoor reviews cover a wealth of meatier topics that can help you know what to expect and get you prepped for questions.

The ritual of the interview outfit

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Tip: the interview is about showing an employer how well you fit in. Once you have the job, you can show them how well you stand out.

No, seriously. It is. Some jobs may require you to be “artistic” and others may be looking for “out of the box” thinkers, but employers are all looking for you to fit the job description and ideal they’ve already created for themselves for who they plan to hire. For all jobs, this means dressing the part—and for most corporate jobs, this means nailing a variation on the interview outfit.

To this end, I submit the classic, neutral corporate interview outfit—ready for that first interview.

classic, neutral first interview outfit
*Editor’s note: Ignore how aspirationally priced these pieces are—I wantonly pulled them together from Polyvore. Future posts will be more soundly grounded in reality.

Now naturally some industries have a more prescribed uniform than others, but this number hits all the high points and reinforces the fact that you are no stranger to this part of the ritual of hiring. What makes it a can’t miss? Since it’s not a matchy-matchy suit, it looks less rehearsed (good for most industries, but not all) and you’ll be able to wear both the jacket and pants to work as separates once you land that job. Also, in the event you’re partway through your meeting and feeling way overdressed, you can slip off the jacket and dress things way down because—you’re wearing a tee (bonus points for comfort and, because you’re not wearing some fussy, sleeveless silk shell, you actually can take the jacket off!) The bag is large enough to hold a folder with copies of your resume without crushing it. And the understated watch, earrings, and shoes all quietly communicate that you pulled your look together in a calculated way.

Oh, and don’t forget to actually look at that watch—it’s not just for sending the subliminal message that you are a professional—it’s there to keep you on time!