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Archive for the category “Interviews”

Last Post and Launch of

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 6, 2007) - Flight...

Well this is going to be my final post on the twinpillars site. Starting out here from scratch on my first attempt at blogging less than 12 months ago I had no idea how this was going to turn out. It has been both fun and very rewarding.

I know what busy lives you all lead so I feel truly honoured by the steadily growing number of you who take the time to stop by and read my thoughts here.

Thank you!

I now invite you to join me on the new site smartcareerstrategy – launching this weekend

The focus on the new site will be very similar to what you have become accustomed to here. And all the previous posts will still be accessible there so you can read them again at your leisure.

The new site has already gone live so feel free to check it out at smartcareerstrategy

Over time I plan to add new sections with the aim of offering additional resources as well as the blog. I would welcome any suggestions or requests you may have for resources and additional content that you would like to see there. Why not leave a comment with your thoughts on this?


Thanks heaps to those of you who previously signed up to subscribe to twinpillars. I have not yet worked out how to/whether I can simply transfer your subscription details to the new site and I certainly don’t want to breach privacy. It would be wonderful if you would like to go to smartcareerstrategy and subscribe there from now on.


Should I accept a lower salary?

Should you ‘stand your ground’ on the dollars – or should you accept less?

Most career coaches would probably say quite firmly that you should do your research, have a clear understanding of what your skills and experience are worth in the current market, and do everything you can to achieve the same or a higher salary than in your last job.

And I would agree with that advice, or I would have until the last few months. For now, the game seems to have changed.

More and more as I coach senior managers through a variety of career transition and job hunting scenarios I am hearing that they are experiencing very real downward pressure on their salary expectations. It’s tough out there.

So why stand your ground in the first place?

The rationale for this is quite simple.

  • The employer almost always has “something in reserve” in order to secure their preferred candidate. They almost never make their very best offer in the first round of negotiation. Without being greedy, why just give away salary or other benefits you could have won through holding your nerve and negotiating sensibly?*(Example below)
  • If you accept a lower salary you must recognise that this will be the basis that will drive the value of other benefits that are often linked as a percentage of your base pay.
  • If the drop is really significant, this will have a major effect on how you are positioned when you ext enter the job market – you will find it hard to recover lost ground.

But has the market shifted?

It looks like it may have done just that, certainly in Australia and the USA. Many of my clients, and those of my career coach colleagues, are finding it very difficult to match the high salaries they have been accustomed to. This is particularly true for senior managers with long years of experience in banking and financial services.

Longer time to landing

We are also finding that the time to find a new executive role has stretched out considerably. At a salary of AUD200K or more it used to take between 6 and 9 months. This is now more likely to be 8 to 10 months or even a full year.

There seems to be very much increased competition of high calibre candidates for the few roles available. This is contributing to a perception amongst employers that they can find A-grade candidates at B-grade prices.

So while it will still be dangerous to accept too big a drop (for example more than 20% perhaps) for the same reasons I have already given  –  you may need to consider a flat move or small step backwards*(Example below).

Compare this with the financial cost of staying on the market  for the rest of this year with zero income.

*True story:   One of my clients very recently landed a good role, quite quickly, mostly through his network connections. While the salary on offer was substantially lower than his previous earnings (a little over 20% down) he was still able to negotiate a final package about 12% higher than the first offer. The upside for him was a quick return to the workforce and very little if any interruption in his income. The role also reports in at a senior level so it hasn’t done his future positioning much harm.

What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know whether you have run into this in your own job hunt. Maybe you have had a different experience or can give us feedback from the employer’s point of view? What is it like in markets outside Australia and the USA?

P.S. If you haven’t read Dr Spencer Johnson’s outstanding book on dealing with change “Who Moved My Cheese?”, I strongly recommend it. You can find information about it here . I won’t earn a commission if you decide to buy it – it’s just high on my list of “must reads”

Redundancy Is Not a Dirty Word

There’s a lot of it going around. Maybe it’s happened to you. So you’ve been “made redundant” and you are worried about how to explain that to friends and business contacts, and especially to recruiters and potential employers. After all, who wants to hire someone who is redundant, right?

Reality Check #1 – No-one can make you redundant.

This may sound like a rather fine point, but in reality no organisation can make you redundant.

Think about it for a moment. Between the day before the redundancy and the day after, what has changed to lessen your skills, acquired experience, intelligence, knowledge and behavioural strengths? Not one thing! Yes it is possible that your skills and knowledge may be getting out of date if you have not kept up with developments in your field, but most of the value you have to offer is still intact, irrespective of the “redundancy”.

They can take your job away but they can’t change you.

Reality Check #2 – Why did you leave?

A fair question, which you will run into frequently. You will have to have a confident, positive answer to explain why you have you left or want to leave your last or current employer.

To reassure you a little, while there may still be some people around who take a less than positive view of a job applicant who is facing redundancy, most people recognise that most redundancies these days have nothing to do with your capability or performance. Not only that, but most people you meet during your job search will either have experienced redundancy themselves at least once – or they will know people who have. What matters is how you handle it when the question comes.

It can help to put together a brief statement ahead of time so that you are not fumbling around for words when asked. Many coaches and outplacement organisations would suggest you try to avoid using the word ‘redundancy’ or if you can’t avoid it altogether, connect it to the job not to yourself.

Check out these examples and consider which you would rather hear if you were a hiring manager

Example 1

Interviewer:        So, why did you leave Company A?

Candidate:          I got made redundant. I guess you could say I was a casualty of the latest cost cuts. (As a recruiter I have actually heard people say this sort of thing!)

Who wants to hire a person who thinks and acts like a victim when things get tough?


Example 2

Interviewer:       So, why did you leave Company A?

Candidate:          The Company had been under pressure for some time and there was a real focus on costs. As part of this, several roles were made redundant and mine was one of those affected. I see this as a good opportunity to move ahead into a new and challenging role.

This sounds like a person who has some resilience, a positive outlook and the will to grasp a challenge and make the best of it. Much more attractive to most employers.

Interview Nerves – Let’s Talk about Fear

looking afraid..

looking afraid.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Important job interview coming up? Feeling a bit on edge? You are not alone!


Why are so many people so apprehensive about job interviews?  Usually it’s the same things that drive most irrational fears. I say irrational, because although job interviews can, and indeed should, be very challenging, they are not likely to cause you significant physical or psychological damage.


Most people who fear job interviews do so because they don’t know what to expect, or haven’t done it for quite a long time, so they feel less than ready to handle the questions and make a great impression. They feel as though they are heading into a very important exam, there’s a lot at stake, and they are afraid of not doing well.


So the real causes of these fears are:


1)      Lack of knowledge


2)      lack of preparation


3)      lack of practice


The good news is that you can do something about every one of these issues – it just takes some work.


5 Key Steps


1.       Know Your Story
2.       Do Your Homework
3.       Get Coaching
4.       Practise
5.       Review and Improve




Know your story


  • value proposition/your ‘edge’ vs other candidates with a similar background (check out my post on how to do this in your resume)
  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • achievements
  • dealing with failure
  • future aspirations
  • others’ opinions of you
  • motivation for applying for this role and working for this organisation
  • reason for leaving each job


Do your homework


  • research the industry, company and its people, the interviewer(s)
  • check the job advertisement and/or position description so that you can anticipate the main competencies/skills/experience you will be tested on; prepare specific examples to behavioural questions making sure you can articulate strong outcomes, not just activity
  • prepare “in principle” responses to the most commonly asked questions


Get coaching


  • Even international stars value the objective input of someone who can help them sharpen their performance




  • Don’t walk out on the stage without knowing your lines!
  • Make sure you have had plenty of practice responding to the questions you anticipate.
  • Get someone to help you by asking you the questions from a number of different angles – anyone will do, they don’t need to be a skilled or experienced interviewer as you will give them the questions.
  • Also have them throw in some questions that you have not specifically prepared for. Thinking on your feet gets easier the more you do it!


Review and improve


  • If you can, record your practice interviews, ideally on video so that you can review, identify issues and work on improvements. Yes, that can be a bit scary but it’s usually worth it.


Thanks for staying with this. By now I hope you are already feeling a little less nervous because you can see some practical things you can do to take control over your end of the situation.


You can’t know exactly what they are going to ask you, or the particular quirks and personality issues of a specific interviewer, but there certainly is no reason for you to go into an interview ‘flying blind’.


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