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Career Solvers Nominated for Three Toast of the Resume Industry Awards

I am pleased to announce that Career Solvers was recently nominated for three TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) Awards by Career Directors Intoriternational. Career Solvers has been nominated for this award over 30 times since 2006 and won 11 awards for Best Executive Resume, Best Technology Resume, Best Sales & Marketing Resume, Best International Resume, Best Creative Resume, and Best Cover Letter.

The competition draws hundreds of entries from resume writers from all over the world, and it is an honor to be a nominee this year in the categories of Best Finance Resume, Best Technology Resume, and Best Healthcare Resume.

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New Job? Four Ways to Improve Your Salary Offer

After guiding thousands of clients through the salary negotiation process, I’ve noticed that when most people begin to negotiate a job offer, they focus on the base compensation and ways to improve it. While you may be able to improve the initial offer, you may not be successful getting to your “magic number” without being a bit more creative in how you approach the salary conversation. Compensation is made up of two types: fixed and variable.

Fixed compensation is the range of salaries the company has determined they can pay for a certain job. For large companies, in particular, these ranges are very structured and it can be difficult to negotiate outside of the salary range. Variable compensation represents other forms of financial rewards that companies can employ with more flexibility. The pool of variable compensation dollars can be leveraged to entice new recruits to the organization and engage the existing workforce.

By thinking more strategically about your approach to compensation and thinking creatively, you can craft a negotiation strategy that leaves less money on the table and more in your pocket. Below are four items to consider negotiating to improve the offer.

1. Sign-on bonus. A sign-on bonus is a one-time compensation incentive given to a candidate to improve the quality of a job offer without impacting the salary range. Generally, a sign-on bonus is given to a candidate who is giving up something; perhaps leaving a current employer and foregoing their merit increase, bonus, or vacation time. But candidates who are in transition can also try to negotiate a sign-on bonus and may attempt to do so as a way to improve an offer when the employer cannot offer a higher base salary.

2. Spot rewards. Spot rewards represent money given to an employee for achieving a specific goal or project milestone. They are used as a way to motivate and engage employees and provide monetary recognition in real-time of the event, rather than waiting until the employee’s annual review. But candidates may be able to negotiate a spot reward based on certain goals they believe they can achieve relatively quickly for an employer.

By the time you are negotiating your compensation package with the employer, you often have a good idea of what their main challenges are. If you can create a roadmap for addressing those challenges with a firm completion time, you may be able to secure a spot reward. Examples of situations that might warrant a spot reward include increasing sales, decreasing costs, revamping a product, or improving a process or system. If you can prove that you can make an impact early on, the employer may be willing to negotiate a spot reward contingent to your completion of the effort.

3. Termination benefits. It may seem odd to be negotiating for what you would be entitled to on the way out when you are still trying to secure a place in the organization. But due to the new reality of work and the fact that people aren’t staying at companies as long as they used to, negotiating these benefits up front makes perfect sense. Benefits that you can negotiate include additional severance or outplacement services in the event your job is eliminated due to a business reason. You can let the employer know that you expect to have a long and fruitful career with them, but given the volatility of the industry, economic factors, your experience going through your last transition, etc., you would like to explore options for negotiating your termination benefits up front.

4. Additional vacation time. If you had long-term tenure with your previous employer, it’s possible that the amount of vacation time the new employer offers will fall short compared to what you are accustomed to. Negotiating additional paid vacation time may be a consolation to you when you can’t improve the salary. And if having the additional time is what’s most important to you, you can also try to negotiate additional unpaid time to help support the work/life balance that you may value.

At the point where you are negotiating your compensation package, you have leverage. The employer has decided they want you to fill the role, and they want you to be happy with the offer. Salary negotiation is a very collaborative process. You may not be able to negotiate for everything you ask for, but by being open to exploring different options, you are more likely to reach your compensation goals.

This post was first published on Forbes.

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How to Avoid Five Job Seeker Frustrations

A large part of my role as a career strategist is to help people in search be accountable and manage the inherent frustrations that are part of every search. Here are the five most common frustrations I see and advice for moving past them.

Applying to an online job posting.

The Challenge: Some of the systems that companies use to track applicants are so unwieldy that I’ve often compared the experience to that of the character from Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was punished in Hades by having repeatedly to roll a huge stone up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he had brought it to the summit. The upload process for many of these applicant systems is exceptionally cumbersome, requiring significant time copying and pasting information that is already in the applicant’s resume. To make matters worse, the number of applicants who get their job through a job posting is abysmal, particularly for senior executives.

The Solution: Circumvent the job boards. If you see a position of interest, use your network and tools like LinkedIn to see if you can find a connection into the company. Even if you are still asked to post online, you will have explored multiple entry points into the company and potentially increase the likelihood of finding someone who will be willing to speak to you.

Waiting to hear back from a networking contact.

The Challenge: Frequently my clients tell me that they reached out to a solid contact for an introduction and all they hear are crickets. They often start doubting themselves, thinking maybe the relationship wasn’t as strong as they thought it was or maybe their request has offended their contact and that is the reason he/she is not responding.

The Solution: Usually when you don’t hear back from a networking contact, it has nothing to do with you. People are busy, and while we would like to think we are top of mind with them, we aren’t. If the first outreach was by phone, try email, text, or social media. If you make a second phone call, try reaching out during a different time of day to see if it’s easier to catch them. Try to create a follow up plan that is persistent, but doesn’t make you a pest. Don’t leave dozens of voicemail messages or send too many emails. You’d be surprised how many people eventually respond and profusely apologize for their tardiness. If there are others in your professional or personal circle who know the same person, consider asking them about the contact’s whereabouts. Maybe they will know if the person is extremely busy or out of town.

Additionally, before you reach out to your contacts, make sure your “ask” isn’t too big. Many job seekers tell their contacts that they are in a search and say, “If you hear of someone who’s hiring, let me know.” This is generally too much to ask. Most will not know of someone who’s hiring, which makes it easy for them to say no or not respond to you at all. Instead, start your conversation by bluntly stating, “I have no reason to believe you know of anyone who is hiring, but would you be open to spending a few minutes with me so I can learn more about…(a company, an industry, a job function, etc.)” This type of “ask” often leads to a meeting and introductions to other people who may be closer to an actual job lead. People like sharing information. They also like talking about themselves. It’s a low-risk interaction and many are happy to have this type of conversation.

Asking for a LinkedIn recommendation and not getting one.

The Challenge: LinkedIn recommendations can be a great way to build your brand online and demonstrate your value through the lens of people who have worked with you. But my clients often report asking for a recommendation and waiting a long time to hear back. This makes the situation awkward, because the person has agreed to do them a favor and the requestor doesn’t want to appear impatient or entitled by following up.

The Solution: If you want a LinkedIn recommendation from someone in your network, offer to write it for them. This allows you to tailor the recommendation to the skills you want to highlight and it helps expedite the process. Most people are perfectly happy to have you write the recommendation, and once it’s done, they are likely to make only minor edits or approve it quickly.
Another strategy is to write a recommendation for someone without being solicited for one. When the relationship is such that a reciprocal recommendation would be appropriate, you may very well get one without even asking.

Waiting to hear back after a final interview.

The Challenge: You have a final interview that you think went very well. The hiring manager suggests that they will make a decision quickly. And then nothing happens. You spend days in self-flagellation, picking apart every moment of the interview, trying to figure out what went wrong.

The Solution: Understand a delayed response often has nothing to do with your interview performance. Even when a hiring manager wants to make a decision quickly, he/she often can’t because there are others that have to be consulted or an approval process that has to be followed. In some cases, they have offered the job to someone else and while that person goes through their decision or negotiation process, you are kept in the dark. They don’t want you to know they are considering someone else and want you to be excited if they later present you with an offer.
You can try to gain some control over the situation by specifically asking when they plan to make a decision. If they say they will decide shortly, ask them if you should following up in one week or two. By asking a question with a forced choice, you may be more likely to set expectations.

Being asked about past salary regardless of its relationship to the job you are interviewing for.

The Challenge: Your most recent salary is not a competitive benchmark for your next salary. All a salary represents is what someone was willing to pay you to do a specific job at some point in time. It doesn’t account for changes in industry, market demand, geography, or economic factors. Yet many hiring managers continue to ask this question. Identifying this information could put you at a disadvantage, but not disclosing could damage the relationship you are trying to build with the hiring manager.

The Solution: Let the hiring manager know that while you are happy to share that information, your past salary may not represent your expectation for the job you are interviewing for. Let them know you would like to learn more about the position and ask if they would be willing to share the salary range. Do some research before your interview on salary sites such as or Talk to industry recruiters who may be able to disclose salary ranges for certain types of roles or seek out information from professional associations that may conduct industry salary surveys. If the hiring manager asks you to identify a salary range, let him/her know what your expectation is based on your research. In this scenario, your past salary becomes irrelevant, because you have identified a new benchmark and reset the expectations.

Job search can be frustrating at times. Work on managing the situations you can control and letting go of those you can’t. This will help you build confidence, patience, and maybe even a greater sense of humor throughout your journey!

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Spring Clean Your Job Search

springSpring is here and it’s time for some spring cleaning. That goes for your career strategy as well.  Have you given any thought to trimming your bloated, outdated resume or banking some of your new networking contacts to help advance your job prospects  this season? Here are 7 easy steps you can take right now to get your career on course and ensure you are prepared for future opportunities.

  1. Ditch toxic people. You know the ones I’m talking about. They are the people who say no one is hiring, you’re too old to find a new job, you make too much money, you’d be crazy to change careers…the list goes on and on. These people rarely add any real value to your career goals. Find people who can support you or hire a professional to help you chart your career course.
  2. Put your resume on a diet. Has the waistline of your resume expanded to 3+ pages? Are you still dedicating a half page to detailing information about your client base in 1999? Is you resume packed with information about company courses you completed back in the eighties? Remove this unnecessary poundage from your resume and create a sleeker, more streamlined message of value. If you like to diet alone, here’s a resume guide to help you. And if you need someone to help you whittle your resume down to a respectable size, let me know.
  3. Give your LinkedIn profile a makeover. How old is the picture on your profile? Does it need to be updated? Is the information current? Does the headline show only your current job title or does it convey more about your message of value and expertise? Have you paid attention to the skills section and have you created a customized URL to improve your chances of being found? If you are totally baffled by LinkedIn and social media in general, we should talk. A resume is no longer enough and you will need a strong online identity to compete for the best opportunities in 2017.
  4. Make new friends. Has your network gone stale? Do people in your professional community know what you are up to and do you communicate with them regularly? Now might be a good time to catch up by phone, grab coffee, or exchange an email to touch base.
  5. Practice interviewing. If a great opportunity became available tomorrow, would you be ready to pitch yourself to a hiring manager? If not, here’s a free app for interview prep that can help.
  6. Benchmark your salary. Do you know what you are worth? Have you been in the same job or same company for a long time and has your salary become less competitive? Check out sites like Payscale and Glassdoor to do a quick audit.
  7. Do something for someone else. Help someone with a personal or professional project, volunteer in your community, recommend a colleague on LinkedIn, or make an important introduction for someone. The more you give, the more you get. Start giving now and you’ll be getting back by the end of the season or maybe even sooner.
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Five Ways to Sink a Job Offer


After discussing the salary negotiation process with more than a thousand clients, I’ve found that many of them made mistakes in the past that we corrected during our coaching sessions so they could have better outcomes.

Some negotiate too aggressively, damaging the relationship with the hiring manager; others negotiate for too many things or for too many rounds, giving the perception that their expectations are unrealistic; and still others don’t negotiate at all, leaving the hiring manager to wonder if the person will be effective negotiating with colleagues and clients when this is a necessary part of the job.

Here are the five most common negotiation mistakes I see job seekers make and suggestions for negotiating more effectively.

1. Offer an ultimatum.

Negotiating a job offer is a collaborative process. The person you are negotiating with may very well be your future boss. When candidates negotiate in a very aggressive way, saying they can only accept a job offer if certain conditions are met, they reduce the chances of finding common ground with the employer.

Rather than giving an ultimatum, explain why your request is fair and reasonable. For example, if you are negotiating for a larger car mileage allowance, say something like, “In order for me to offer exceptional customer service, I will need to visit clients at a minimum of two times per month. Given the number of clients I will be responsible for, I believe it is fair and reasonable to request a larger car mileage allowance.”

2. Say you have a competing job offer when you don’t.

When you actually have another offer, a negotiation strategy is to hedge that offer against the other to see if you can speed up the decision process or improve the quality of the second offer. However, if you say you have another offer but don’t, this could backfire as the employer might respond that they can’t make (or change) their offer and wish you the best of luck in the other job.

If you are interviewing for another role and think you might be close to an offer, an alternative is to say, “I want to be totally transparent with you. I am expecting an offer from another company, but I am much more interested in this role. If there is a way to expedite the interview process and I was to receive an offer, I feel confident this would be the job I would select.”

3. Negotiate yourself out of a job.

While the negotiation process may require some back and forth, you want to make sure you are negotiating for what is important and not just for the sake of negotiating. Over-negotiating, or going back to the table too many times, may give the impression that you are not flexible or a team player, and the employer might decide you are not the right fit.

To avoid over-negotiating, create a list of pros and cons following the presentation of the job offer and be prepared to discuss alternative concessions if your original negotiation points are not granted. This will help you avoid too much back and forth and show that you are negotiating in good faith.

4. Fudge salary information.

While your previous salary should not be the basis for an employer’s offer, tread lightly here. Some employers request to see your W2 or a pay stub to confirm your previous salary and failure to be transparent about this could cost you the job. Bottom line: Don’t lie.

5. Fail to prep your references.

Even though your references might be prepared to say great things about you, they might not be saying the things that will resonate with the hiring manager. For example, if you’ve done a combination of print and digital advertising sales roles and you are going for a role with a heavy digital focus, you want to make sure your references are touting your digital skills and not focusing on your successes in the print world. Prep your references following the stage in the interview process when the employer lets you know they will be checking references. Explain to your references the value you sold to the employer, so they can reiterate these points in their discussion with the hiring manager.

The salary negotiation process is not only important for ensuring the best compensation package. A collaborative process helps get the relationship between employee and employer off to a good start. Eliminate aggressive and combative behavior and replace with harmonious ones to start the business partnership off on the right foot.

This article was originally published on Forbes Coaches Council.

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Five Signs You’re Ready to Work With an Executive Resume Writer

Employing a resume writer to help position you for your next role can be a positive experience — if you’re prepared to work collaboratively and have realistic expectations. Below are five signs you’re in the right place to begin a resume project with a professional resume writer.

resume1. You have time to be part of the process.
Resume writing is a very collaborative process. Expect to spend time being interviewed by the writer or completing some sort of questionnaire so the writer can gather the appropriate information. It isn’t enough to forward a copy of your old resume and expect them to glean the best information from it. If you are extremely busy, under an enormous amount of stress or just not interested in working collaboratively, this might not be the best time to embark on an overhaul of your resume with a professional resume writer.

2. You’ve spent time thinking about the value you can bring to an employer.
The writer’s job is to best represent you and advertise the benefits you can bring to an organization. But she can only write from the information you supply. A good writer will ask targeted questions to unearth the key information she needs to write a strong resume. You must be willing to be introspective about your past experience. You need to start thinking less about your job tasks and more about what makes you good at what you do. If you wait until the day you discuss what you have accomplished with your writer, you are sure to omit key information or forget something that could help the writer do a better job.

3. You don’t expect your writer to embellish your skills.
If you have an expectation that the writer is there to embellish your experience or suggest you have competencies you don’t, forget about it. An ethical writer will only create a true representation of your skills. We don’t make up stuff.

4. You are ready to let go of outdated information and early-career experience listed on your resume.
If you are so attached to the great work you did on a Y2K project in 1999 or your stellar GPA in 1982, you will struggle with one of the real benefits of working with a writer: the ability to look at all of your accomplishments objectively and showcase the ones that have the most relevance in the current market. Approach the process with an open mind and let the writer help you make decisions about the content – what to keep and what to toss.

5. You don’t expect your resume to look just like the sample on the Web site.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great idea to review sample resumes to get an idea of a writer’s style. But don’t expect your resume to look like the one on the sample page. That resume represents someone else’s experience. Your resume must represent you and you alone. Your resume won’t stand out if it’s the same as every other drive-thru hamburger stand. Imagine the resume-writing process as a salad bar that mixes and matches the best choices for each individual.

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Anti-Aging Techniques for Your Resume

anti-agingWhile job seekers can’t turn back the clock, there are some things they can do to remain relevant in the eyes of the employer. By making some simple upgrades to your search strategy, you can potentially eliminate some of the bias associated with older workers. Here are four suggestions.

1. Create a Gmail account for job searches, as some of the earlier providers like AOL and Hotmail tend to skew towards an older audience.
2. Build a thorough LinkedIn profile. Most employers will Google candidates before calling them in for an interview. Being digitally distinct is increasingly important and a LinkedIn profile helps you create an online presence you can control.
3. If you are in a visual field or one where showing samples of your work is important, create a website or use LinkedIn, or to showcase your portfolio.
4. List software skills that are relevant but not obvious. Don’t list skills that are a given, like “proficient with Internet” or Microsoft Word. At this point this is the equivalent of saying you know how to dial a phone.

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Five Habits of Effective Executive Job Seekers


After working with thousands of executive job seekers, certain patterns have emerged regarding the practices of those that succeed. Here are a few I have witnessed.

1. Follow up on all introductions. Surprisingly, many job seekers don’t follow up on introductions made on their behalf. Even if you are not sure it the person you are being introduced to can help you, follow up. It shows your contact that you value the introduction and it shows respect for the person you are being introduced to.
2. Become a resource to executive recruiters. Many executives ignore calls from headhunters when they are gainfully employed, only to wonder why those same recruiters don’t return their calls when they themselves are in a search. Become an ally to recruiters. If you are not right for a role they are recruiting for, see if there is someone you know who might be a better fit. Recruiters will remember your actions and be more likely to respond if you need help from them in the future.
3. Delegate job search tasks that are not their area of expertise. Successful executives delegate tasks that they know others can do better and don’t feel the need to control everything. Executives who can realize that they are not expert resume writers have the ability to hire a professional to manage this process and they are able to trust that they are in capable hands.
4. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Job seekers who believe they are great interviewers may not be as great as they think. Just because you are comfortable talking to people, doesn’t mean you are communicating the right things. Successful executive job seekers take the time to craft their elevator pitch and prepare stories of career accomplishments that will resonate with hiring authorities.
5. Display kindness and respect to everyone. Even if you are interviewing for a C-suite position at a company, everyone you meet during the process should be treated with kindness and respect. The same executive team that interviewed you may ask the receptionist or administrative assistant how you acted towards them while waiting for the interview to begin. Someone from the team may be riding up in the office elevator at the same time as you and share observations. Be polite to everyone, regardless of their position at the company.

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Interview Lessons from Mariah Carey

interviewBy now you’ve probably heard about Mariah Carey’s unfortunate performance on New Year’s Eve. Some of the things that occurred reminded me of similar things that can happen if you are unprepared for an interview. And while you most likely won’t be interviewing in front of a million or more people, here are five takeaways that can help you be prepared for your live performance.

1. Know your material cold before the big day. It’s unconfirmed whether Mariah forgot the lyrics to her songs or just didn’t want to sing live, but either way, she came off as unprepared. Many job seekers choose to “wing” their interviews rather than rehearsing beforehand and often their interview performance suffers because of it. Craft an elevator pitch to communicate your value proposition and be prepared to give accomplishment-focused, metrics-driven examples of how you have helped the companies you’ve supported do things smarter, faster, or more efficiently. Just regurgitating your resume or speaking about general job responsibilities won’t cut it.
2. Test for any technical problems. Was there a technical malfunction during Mariah’s performance or did the singer just get caught in a lip synching fail? In any event, it always makes sense to test your equipment before any type of performance or presentation. If you are conducting an interview via Skype, make sure your background is not distracting, your lighting isn’t too bright or too dark, your sound is at an appropriate level, and you have a working mike. If you are interviewing in-person, map out and time your route to the office beforehand to ensure you are on time and check your wardrobe for any potential malfunctions (missing buttons, etc.).
3. Expect a few curveballs. Whenever you do anything live, there is always the chance that something will go wrong. The key is to recover quickly. While unfortunately this wasn’t the case for Mariah, you can anticipate certain challenges that may occur the day of the interview. The one people fear most is not knowing how to answer a particular interview question. I like to remind people that they are the most qualified person in the room to talk about themselves. If you get a question you are not quite sure how to answer, you can ask for clarification or say, “That is a great question; let me think about it for a moment.” Then you can draw upon one of your success stories that is most similar to the competency they are trying to understand if you have.
4. Be honest. I’m not convinced that all Mariah’s comments were true. Perhaps she was embarrassed and said certain things to cover up that embarrassment. Lying is never a good strategy. Especially during interviews. If you are asked if you have experience in an area you do not, be honest. You can follow up by showcasing something that is similar to the competency you are asked about or give an example of a time when you didn’t have experience in something, but were able to learn that skill quickly.
5. Be gracious. Following Mariah’s performance, her team blamed everyone but Mariah and even suggested that Dick Clark Productions compromised the performance. Even if your interview doesn’t go well, assume good intent. It’s unlikely that someone is trying to sabotage your interview performance by asking certain questions.

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Career Solvers Nominated for TORI Award

I am pleased to announce that Career Solvers was recently nominated for a TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) Award by Career Directors Intoriternational. Career Solvers has been nominated for this award 29 times since 2006 and won 11 awards for Best Executive Resume, Best Technology Resume, Best Sales & Marketing Resume, Best International Resume, Best Creative Resume, and Best Cover Letter.

The competition draws hundreds of entries from resume writers from all over the world and it is an honor to be a nominee this year.