Tag Archives: questions

Your “Value” and Your Compensation

It is the ultimate “Third Rail” issue in business – is compensation really an accurate reflection of ones relative value to an organization? What is my “Market Value”?  What am I worth?  How much can I get paid?  Am I being underpaid?  Fair questions, and a natural part of anyones thoughts as they evaluate their career and professional growth.  However, if the last year has taught us anything, it is not just a question of are you getting paid enough, it can become a question of if you will get paid at all.

Everyone, in every role, at every level, in every organization had better be able to directly and clearly point to how they are helping the company provide their goods or service.  The days of “nice to have” and “extra” are behind us when it comes to business – especially when it comes to headcount.  Every single person has to be a contributor.  They must add revenue, protect existing revenues, or fill a vital support role.  For some this is fairly easy to quantify (sales, business development, client service, operations,etc.) while for others (IT, HR, support, training, etc.) it can be harder to quantify.  Regardless of the “degree of difficulty”, we owe it to the company, and especially to ourselves, to really identify how we are a critical player – how we are contributing.

As we commented on in some earlier posts, specifically in “Past Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results” and “Compensation Comments…Redux“, there is a great deal that goes into compensation and “value”.  However, when it is stripped down to its most basic premise, it is all about how much you and your role impact the companies revenue – do you contribute to the bottom line?  Do you personally help the company provide their particular good or service – are you an integral part of what makes the company successful.

In summary, there is no direct answer.  In the end it is a fundamental issue – does your presence and role in the organization add to the bottom line.  Are you a source of revenue or a cost?  Sometimes it is easy to quantify and answer that question.  Other times it is not so easy.  But in the final analysis, your relative value and your role in an organiztion is directly proportional to how much you are tied to their revenue going forward.  Revenue production that is…

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What Are They Asking…Really?

Interview Questions – there are 64.4 million Google hits and 29,805 book results on Amazon.  How can there possibly be anything more to say on such a topic?  There is an entire industry, and apparently a sizeable one at that, built around the idea of interview questions and answers.  The book titles are priceless – 96, 101, 250, 301, and the trump card 501+ Interview Questions.  The simple fact is that every single question you will ever face in an interview is nothing more than a fancy way of asking “why should I hire you”.

We have heard it countless times over the years from a host of folks – “what are they really asking”, or “I was not sure what they were after”, or my personal favorite “I think I answered their questions”.  It is absolutely critical that one realize that for a company, the purpose of an interview is to find the best possible person to fill a particular role.  The company needs someone to help them be more productive, to generate business, to increase efficiencies, to lead their people to greater heights.  As a candidate, the purpose of the interview is to demonstrate that you are the answer to their needs – you are the best possible person for them to hire.  Covertly you will be evaluating the fit, but every overt action, story, and behaviour should be focused on reinforcing the message that you are the answer to their need.

It is not about the stories you want to tell, it is about the stories they want to hear.  And what they want to hear is why you are the best possible person to address their particular need.  In short, why adding you to the team will make the overall organization better.  Simple really, but the message is too often lost in all of the surrounding noise, in the fancy packaging and in all of the positioning and gamesmanship.  The interviewer is asking a very basic question over and over.  Are you providing them the answer every single time is the real issue.  A simple question demands simple answers.

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Premature Offer Negotiation

Everyone has goals, requirements, needs, and even wants when it comes to their career.  How, and more importantly when, we allow those concerns to enter into the interview process is a critical issue.  Of course the “reasonable man theory” does apply – we are assuming a degree of understanding in that we are talking about scenarios that are at least in the ballpark with respect to scope, responsibility, compensation, etc.  However, if you want a guaranteed way to ensure you do not get an offer, allow yourself to enter into premature offer negotiation – no doubt you will be out of the process before you know what hit.

Companies love it when candidates insist upon bringing up concerns with compensation, expense accounts, benefits, vacation time, and a host of other topics early in the interview process.  But what really excites them is when the candidate does it without prompting. Laying down your requirements upfront is something all companies treasure, for it makes their decision so much easier and it saves so much time.  More often than not they can and do  discount you right off – someone to pass on straight away.

Do all of those things matter in evaluating opportunities – of course they do – it is foolish and disingenuous to say they do not.  However, there is a time and place for everything, and your “requirements”, however justified you feel they might be, are not of any concern to the company until they decide they want to hire you.  Before they discover that you are the best candidate for their particular role, your “requirements” are nothing more than reasons not to move you forward.  Harsh – yes.  Reality – you better believe it.

Remember, every company is not out to say yes to every candidate.  In fact, by the very nature of interviewing and searching, they are looking for reasons to say no – especially in the early stages.  They are looking for that one right person and there will be casualties along the way.  A lot of casualties.  It is the nature of the game.

Your willingness to trust in the process, in the company, and in their culture is paramount.  If you are so focused on yourself, how can they ever believe you will become a true teammate?  The vast majority of the time when the role is right, the candidate is the right person, and the company is excited, the offers work themselves out.  At a minimum, at least there is a clear expectation set once everyone knows that there is a match – offers can then be constructed accordingly.

In the end, you gain nothing by putting up hurdles in the interview process.  You gain nothing and more than likely will find yourself out of the process before you ever have a chance.  Unless you are open to learning and then evaluating, you have nothing.  Who wants to hire anyone that comes into an organization or situations with preconceived notions?

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This is business – Failure is an option

In the ongoing theme of sharing strong interview questions and techniques, we wanted to share another great insight into a candidates way of thinking.

As you are chatting during the pre-interview banter, a slight reference to the idea of “no fail” grading systems might provide a very telling glimpse into the candidates true thought process.

In the final analysis, business is about winning. In a capitalist system there is no room for dead weight – a business either is or is not viable (profitable). A binary issue. Does anyone really want a leader of their business at any level to be an advocate of mediocrity?

As we are surrounded by stories of “bailouts”, “too large to fail”, and other stories of “debt forgiveness” and other examples of excusing failure, it is wise to remember that at its heart business is a matter of competing and winning.  Though in everything there is a balance, it is absolutely critical to the survival of a business that it remain a healthy, viable, winning organization.

Great people make wonderful neighbors and friends, but are they winners is the question.  Interviewing is about finding the competitors and winners, those special few who will make the company better, who will lead it to win.  It is those special few who are the ones who want to and do keep score.

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Compensation Comments…Redux

We have received many a comment regarding the post “Past performance is no guarantee of future results“.  All have been pointed with some being rather heated, from both sides of the equation.  In the spirit of an ongoing dialogue, please allow us to address this sensitive topic in a touch more detail.

Clarifying Statement:  Past performance does indicate future results for compensation, at least once it comes to offers.  When one moves from the interview phase into the offer phase, there is a fundamental shift in how compensation is viewed, discussed, and the role it plays in the overall process.  Simply put, your past earnings certainly do play a role in the coming offer.  Again, to clarify we are speaking in the offer phase not the interview phase. 

What you have made in the past tends to act as both a floor and relative ceiling on what sort of offer you will receive.  Clearly this is not always the case, but there is a degree of pressure on the offering firm to keep you in the neighborhood of what you have historically become accustomed.  However, the converse of that statement is also true.  There is a degree of resistance to providing the you “too much of a jump” when first joining a new team.  Leveraging the former while being sensitive to the later is they key to successful offer negotiation.

Compensation is an inheriently sensitive area, but one where the onus is on you to be a good custodian of your situation.  At no other time will you have as much leverage as you have during the offer phase.  Compensation today has a very long term impact upon you, your family, and frankly your future financial picture.  Upward is critical

With all of the above said, we still hold to the ideal as outlined in the posting “Past performance is no guarantee of future results“.  Entitlement attitudes and expectation can certainly limit ones success in the interview phase.  Recognizing this is critical to winning the interview phase and entering into the offer phase.  In the front end too much emphasis/reliance on past compensation can be a detriment, but it certainly will matter once you enter into the offer phase.  Recognizing this upfront, managing the process and avoiding the typical pitfalls when it comes to compensation is critical to win the interview.  The offer phase is when the balance shifts – not before.

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Finding Leaders – Lessons From Interviews

In the competitive world of business, leadership requires special people who are able to balance the goals of the firm, the needs of their team, and the needs of their own ego.  Leaders who create dynamic teams, who have a record of achievement and sustained superior performance in a variety of situations.   Not managers of process, of programs, of performance matrix, or even of people.   In short, those special few who truly lead people.

Identifying these special few is not an easy thing to do, and it is certainly not an easy thing to find or discern, either in a resume or from interviews.  However, over the years we have heard a virtual cornucopia of  screening questions from our clients regarding this very issue, but only one that was worth sharing.  While to the casual observer it might be a question of semantics, for many it has become the key tool in identifying those special leaders.  Simply put, what is more important to a leader – to be liked or to be respected?   Asking this simple, “must choose one” question tells one a great deal about the person and their real leadership ability.

Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln and his administration, is one of the finest studies of this issue and serves as a great case study.  Clearly Lincoln’s “team” neither liked nor respected him as a person, as a politician, and certainly not as a leader.  Lincoln never set out to win their approval or friendship.  What he did do was respect their individual talents and experiences, provided them the freedom to do their jobs, and above all he lead them.   As a leader, Lincoln set clear goals, made tough decisions, shared his vision, stuck to his convictions, never wavered, and held people accountable.  Over time and through his actions Lincoln gradually won the respect, loyalty, and ultimately sincere affection of his Team of Rivals, a divided nation, and arguably a world.

Regardless of what Lincoln the person might have wanted, Lincoln the Leader knew that above all else he had to earn the respect of his team first.  He never set out to be liked.  He set out to lead.  There in lies the heart of the question – Leaders realize they must earn the respect of their team first – all else stems from the respect of the team, to include being liked.

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Filed under Hiring and Interviewing, Interviewing, leadership, Politics

But was it relevant?

As we head into the Final Four and the culmination of March Madness, I could not help but think of relevance as it pertains to our society, to sports, and specifically to interviewing.  We live in a “right now” world – yesterday is ancient history and tomorrow is light years ahead.  It is a never ending bombardment of stimuli in a relentless campaign to grab our collective attention.  College basketball goes from the relative background of thought during the regular season to the forefront of our collective consciousness during March Madness.  Amazing what office pools and single elimination tournament play does for ratings.  Regardless of why, for one month each year college basketball becomes relevant – people care.

The question for anyone interviewing is are you relevant?  Yes, being personable and interesting, warm and likable are important, but you must be THE answer to THEIR need – it is a business decision.  Are the things you are saying, the stories you tell, the talents you highlight and the case you make relevant to the company?  Are you aware of what they need and are you directly addressing those needs?  Is your presentation and product – you – relevant to their needs?  Are you clearly illustrating how and why you are the right fit, how you will make the organization better immediately?

“The interview went great.  We really connected.  It was a great conversation.”  Thus begins many a post interview debrief.  However, issues sometimes arise when we review what the topics of conversation really were during the interview.  “Connecting” and having great “conversation” are wonderful things, but they are no guarantee of a successful interview.  Were the topics relevant to the business situation is the critical question.  You are only relevant to them if you are bringing something of value – will you make them a better business by being able to fill the role they need filled, now.  

In the final analysis, are you and your experiences relevant to the company and position?  If you are answering anything other than an emphatic “yes” it would be wise to seriously evaluate your presentation.  Find the best possible stories and examples and tailor them to the interview.  In the hyper competitive environment in which we live, being relevant makes all the difference.   Oh, and please remember, interviewing is a single elimination tournament – you have to win to advance.

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Yes – there are dumb questions…

And this is easily one of the leaders.   “How many other people are interviewing for this position?”  

Finally, it has reached the point where I must address this issue for the final time, and the direct approach is the only course.  It makes absolutely no difference – NONE.  How does the number of people interviewing for an opportunity matter?  Seriously, if there are 500 or 2, it is of absolutely no relevance.  If there are 10 people in the loop, will you “go for it”?  If there are 20 is it now too hard?  Why does it matter – is there some magic tipping point in the odds book somewhere that impacts your commitment to an opportunity?

In the end, only one person will get the job.  The relative depth and breadth of the “competition” makes absolutely no difference to YOUR ability to win the role.  Every hiring decision is based on the interviewer’s particular needs and wants and how the candidate fits into that criteria.  The candidates “fit” is only based on that criteria, along with a healthy dose of relationship building (do they like you).  How many others might be paraded through the process does not change the criteria nor does it impact your ability to meet those criteria, and it certainly does not impact your relative level of “likability”.

So please, for everyone out there in the transition process, debating a transition, or who might end up in the transition and interview process someday, remember the number of people interviewing for a role is absolutely of no relevance to you.  It has no impact on your degree of fit for the role, and above all else, it is in the end and without question beyond your control.  Why worry about it – nothing comes from it – nothing.

So please, ask about things that matter, worry about what you can impact, and let go of the things that you cannot control and that are not relevant.  Interviewing is tough enough – do not make it tougher by sweating irrelevant details.  Besides, it certainly does not make you more likable!

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