According to Forbes, during the pandemic over 70 million Americans filed for unemployment and the rest were sheltering in their jobs. “The Great Resignation” is a term that has been coined to describe a trend in which after keeping their jobs for the duration of the pandemic, a slew of individuals all quit at the same time for a plethora of reasons. According to the Labor Department, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021 alone. In June 2021, NPR reported on the various reasons individuals are quitting or changing jobs, many of which have to do with shifting perspectives on work as a result of the pandemic. People are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued at work, and how they spend their time. Some employers are requiring employees to return to offices and people no longer want to commute after having the luxury of working from home for a year. Candidates are demanding more flexibility and more money.
The good news – it is a job seeker’s market. Job seekers are demanding higher salaries and more flexibility, and, in many instances, getting both. The challenge, however, is that the talent pool is highly competitive. Below are five tips I’ve developed for standing out in the interview process in this highly competitive market so you can hopefully land your dream job, on your terms.
1.) Be clear about your salary expectations and stick to them. Salary negotiation can be tricky in this climate because many candidates are receiving multiple offers, which can mean quickly shifting salary requirements. Compensation is something that is typically discussed upfront in the recruiting process so both the candidate and the hiring team can decide whether to invest the time in the interview process. It can slow down the process for a hiring team when a candidate quotes one salary expectation at the beginning of the process then changes it at a later stage. Companies take many elements into consideration beyond budget when making an offer, including, more importantly, internal equity regarding compensation. Why is being clear about your salary expectations and sticking to them important? Because, if they change drastically, you are at risk of losing the opportunity. The best thing to do when asked for your desired salary is to quote a range instead of one number. And if you do receive other offers, it is okay to be transparent, direct, and clear. If you’re transparent up front, a company is usually more likely to work with you to get to that number as opposed to moving to another candidate. It can be off putting when a company feels like you’re shopping around to the highest bidder, and it can become very obvious to a potential employer. Provide a salary range, be transparent, and make your communications timely. This will go a long way in impressing the hiring team.
2.) Research your interviewers ahead of time and make sure to let them know you’ve done so. For example, my background is in career coaching, job advancement, and human resources, and that is apparent by looking at my LinkedIn profile. During an interview, if a candidate starts asking me very technical questions that I couldn’t answer based on my background, then it’s clear the candidate has not done their research. It would go into the bucket of “attention to detail,” which is important for almost every role in the job market.
3.) Be thoughtful about the questions you ask your interviewer. There are two types of questions I always find off putting. The first I call stock questions – those that don’t seem relevant to the candidate or the role and come across as though the candidate Googled, “What questions do I ask during an interview?” Examples of some stock questions include: “What do you like about your role at Lighthouse?”; “Why should I work at Lighthouse?”; “What is the five-year vision for the company?” Those questions could easily be rephrased to sound more engaging and relevant, such as, “What is your favorite thing about working at Lighthouse?” The second type of question I recommend avoiding are those about the candidate pool and those only intended to ease your anxiety. Examples of these include: “How do I stack up compared to the other candidates?”; “Do you see anything in my background that is concerning?”; “What about my resume interested you the most and made you want to interview me?” You always want your questions to demonstrate that you’ve done some due diligence on the company where you’re interviewing and to be relevant to the role. Great questions include: “How big is the team?”; “What is the greatest challenge Lighthouse is facing as an organization?”; “What made you join Lighthouse, and what has kept you there?”
4.) Send thank you notes. At one point thank you notes were standard, but now I see fewer and fewer of them. They really can go further than you think, especially when your peers are not writing them. Some great guidance for thank you notes is to take the three-beat approach: 1. Thank the interviewer for their time; 2. Reference something specific you really enjoyed from the interview; 3. Mention you look forward to hearing from them soon. If you are sending thank you notes for an interview consisting of multiple interviewers, I recommend individual and personalized thank you notes. Interviewers share notes and they will know if you copy and paste.
5.) Be familiar with your video technology before an interview if it’s virtual. Make sure your head is in the frame with good lighting and be very aware of whether you’re muted. If you’re using headphones, make sure to do a test run and ensure your internet connection is stable. And if something isn’t working, call it out! I always give a free pass when someone is transparent about having connection issues if, for example, they’re driving. If you’re on camera it is also okay to ask the interviewer if the visual is clear. I have so much respect for that. What is more uncomfortable is when there is clearly a glitch with the technology and it isn’t acknowledged.
Being clear about your salary expectations, researching your interviewers ahead of time, asking thoughtful questions, sending thank you notes, and making sure your technology is on point are helpful and easy tips you can implement today to help set you apart from your competition. Best of luck!