From interview to negotiating a great package

Coach Oliver Hansard in part three of his series on job hunting in difficult times gives advice on the interview and job negotiation phase.

Self employed older worker


So you’ve got to the interview. What happens when the interview gets underway and how do you go about negotiating a great package for yourself and hit the ground with the energy needed to make a brilliant start? In part three of his series on job hunting, Oliver Hansard gives his advice on job search success and beyond.

Be prepared for open questions

“Tell me about yourself.” It’s the inevitable, killer opening question. But it’s going to come, so be prepared for it. And in many ways it’s a great opportunity to share enough of who you are and to find out, by their reaction to your response, if who you are will really fit into their business.

I would have a structure for this answer which flows naturally and ends up justifying why you are perfect for the role. Maybe start with your purpose and what motivates you (could be your family or some other driver in your life), bring in examples of skills and achievements that both have a coherence and stand up as evidence supporting their decision to employ you. So have a structure or a clear narrative that logically links the essence of you to the job. And try it. And try it again.

How personal should I be. in an interview? The answer to this one is, not surprisingly, personal! I would start with asking yourself, how much of myself am I comfortable in bringing to work if I did get the job? With this in mind, consider if you do want to talk about your family, your hobbies etc. If you do, make them relevant to the role and talk about them in terms of them enabling you to be a success in the workplace. If you are more private, stick to work related topics. Either way, just make sure the real you comes through.

An open question can be a friend and a foe. They are used as a device to see how interviewees deal with unstructured questions and to see if they talk themselves into dead ends or around in circles. With a little preparation, you will want to be asked them as you can direct the conversation more and give yourself the best chance of success.

Demonstrate the right skills and behaviours at every stage of the interview process

Use the whole interview process to demonstrate all your skills. It’s the best chance for your potential employer to have a real sense of what it will be like to have you in their business. Start with the recruiter, particularly if the role is being managed through an in-house recruitment team. Be polite and professional when you arrange appointments; if you commit to do or provide something, do what you promise.

In particular, be on it from the moment you are on the premises – if you can be. And that’s with the security guard, the receptionist, the executive assistant; not just with the person interviewing you. Businesses talk. When it is time to sort out your package negotiate, but negotiate hard but fair. Negotiate as if you were doing a deal for them. So, be well informed, understand the context and the personalities; know what is important to them and how your role will fit into their overall strategy and, in particular, their priorities. Show them what you can do – if you’re a salesman, sell yourself: if you’re a negotiator, negotiate elegantly. Make them want to do business with you.

Case study – I was once involved in recruiting a sales leader who was moving from a contract role to a permanent one in our business. As you would expect from a senior sales leader, she negotiated hard; but she was effective and used a fantastic narrative the whole way through. She had also done her research – she knew what she was worth in the market and had enough depth of knowledge about our business that she could make her demands consistent and logical in the context of our plans. In effect, we felt what it would be like to have her on the other side of a negotiation with us. And we liked it; we liked her style, approach and strength. So, not only did she get the job, but she got a great deal too.

And remember, your behaviours and soft skills are key. Show them you have the right set of values and behaviours that will sit well with their business. Indeed, so little of the process will be within your control other than the way you behave. Never give a hint of desperation; be calm and content to proceed at their pace. Do the right thing, and you have a better chance of that role or building a relationship that might lead to another role in the future. Behave poorly, and you have little chance of either. Finally, if you want the job, commit quickly when the time is right. Ask for updates, news
and intelligence before you join. Be part of the team before you even join the team.

Follow up; interviewing is the best networking opportunity

I have an ex-colleague who keeps an eagle eye on job boards and takes the view that he always needs to know what he is worth. For me that is an extreme approach; I take the view that a job search is a job in itself. It can also be quite a distraction from the role you are currently in as well as being a sign to yourself that you are not committed to your current role.

Having said that, interviewing is a phenomenal networking opportunity. At its best you get the opportunity to talk to senior executives in businesses you would never otherwise get to. As a minimum, it’s a neat way of finding out what your competitors are up to, of keeping up-to-date with trends in your marketplace as well helping you understand what you are really worth.

Also, really importantly, getting out there enables you to practice your interview skills for the role you really want. If you are not sure about the role, you can take more risks and try different things out. You can also negotiate harder if you are not so sure you want to make the move.

Case study – an old colleague of mine was always searching for that perfect role, and so always job hunting. I was amazed he was able to avoid distracting himself from his day job with all the interviewing he did. In the process his network grew and one day he had a massive pay-off. A business where he had interviewed came back to him for a much more senior role and his career leapt forward. An extreme case may be, but he always behaved consistently well and knew everyone in our industry. Interesting approach, but fair play.

Most importantly, follow up after the interview. Even if the role was not for you or you were not for them part with a thank-you and a bit of class. You never know where you might cross paths with that business again. Their preferred candidate may change their mind or a new role might crop up. You might end up in a company that gets bought by that company. Just don’t burn your bridges and use the experience as gaining more knowledge and a wider network.

Rest up, then hit the ground running

So, you get the job you want – fantastic! You’ve negotiated an improved package compared to your previous job, but not too good so that you are under pressure from day one. Great news. But what next?

Have a break. Seriously, take time out. It’s golden time and high quality because you have nothing to worry about from your last job, but don’t know what there is to worry about in your new role. And if your new employer is grumpy about you taking a break maybe that should set some alarm bells off for you. Yes, it’s great that they are keen for you to start, but you must be the best version of yourself from day one.

Case study – A former colleague had a reputation as a massive workaholic. He landed a fantastic new job which, in effect, was a double promotion. It was a great move and, potentially, a transformative moment in his career. A combination of him being eager to please and easily flattered meant he was happy take on his new employer’s enthusiasm for him to start immediately. No break, no decompression, no time to reflect and recharge. He sprinted into the new role at full speed and within the first year had crashed and burned. You are your own biggest asset; a bigger asset over your lifetime than any single job. Treat yourself well for yourself and those you love around you, particularly when it comes to preparing for starting that new golden role.

So how do you hit the ground running? I think there are things everyone should do when they start a new job, or even move to a new role in the same organisation:

  • Get a list of the key people you must meet before you join and get meetings in the diary to meet them when you start
  • Know what your objectives are. Yes, you will have a job description, but what does your new employer think success looks like for you? Get it clear
  • Know who the key people are in your new organisation, make your own stakeholder map and get to those you need to as soon as you can. By the way, don’t take your new boss’ word for who you need to know; confirm it for yourself
  • Have a plan. It may just be for you; it may just be a commitment to create a plan for your boss in 30 days. Whatever it is, having a plan is great psychology for you to encourage you to make the impactful start you need.

*Read part one of the series here and part two here.

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