Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We All Need Lunch Hour


No one takes lunch any more.  Inevitably, the “lunch hour” has shrunk to twenty minutes, which includes the ten minutes it takes to go and get it.  Most people I know eat lunch at their desks, while continuing to work.  It is a mistake.

Everyone does it.  Including me.

Lunch used to be a great break during the day.  It was a time when employees got to socialize, got to know each other, even exchange ideas about their business. Lunchtime with co-workers built esprit de corpsIt was also a time in the middle of the day to recharge, relax and think.  Not so any more.

Once upon a time, the work week was 40 hours, but that included lunch, an hour a day.  Today, often, the work week is sixty hours.  There is very little time for recharging batteries, so to speak.  The irony is that without that mid-day break, employees become less productive not more, despite their long hours.  There is a difference between working long and working smart.

So what happened?

Staffing has shrunk.  Corporate revenues are down; profits are declining.  Deadlines loom (often falsely made by people who are afraid).  So people are expected to work through lunch.  Sometimes people work during lunch time because they are afraid of their boss or their boss’s boss – after all, what would those people think if someone actually spent an hour decompressing (we all know the best ideas occur in the middle of the night or in the shower, when people are relaxed, but no matter)?  Sometimes people work through lunch because they have an early afternoon deadline.  And, often, their boss, who always works through lunch and expects the subordinate to do the same, comes to them at 11:40 and schedules a lunchtime meeting or work session – without asking if it is okay.  After all, few people would dare tell the CEO or Creative Director or their supervisor, that they actually had a lunch date.  

The worst part of this is that rarely does the person who called the last minute meeting provide any food or drink.  I know too many people who tell me that they finally grabbed a yogurt at 4pm.

I think that all businesses should enforce a mandatory break for lunch.  I bet if they did, they would find that fresh ideas would increase, as would productivity.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When You Interview, Never Negotiate Until You Have An Offer

This advice is applicable to everyone, senior or junior.

I always try to tell candidates that they should not negotiate any aspect of a possible new position before actually getting an offer.  What this means is that during your first few interviews, you should only be gathering information to determine if you are interested in the potential job.  This is a time to ask questions and to listen – save your wants, needs and desires until you have an offer.  Once a company has committed to you and has made an offer, you will then have the leverage to bargain, but never before.

Last week I wrote about saying the wrong things when interviewing.  I used one example of a person who told her prospective boss that she liked to put her kids to bed.  It was misinterpreted.  Nevertheless, what the candidate was doing, in essence, was negotiating.  She was laying out her own ground rules for the job;  but in doing so, she precluded herself from getting an offer.

Interviewing is a process of gathering information.  Until you have all the facts about a company and a job, there is really nothing to negotiate. Some people, particularly those currently working, become slightly arrogant and lay out their wish list right up front.  it is their way of saying to a prospective employer, "I'm working, I'm successful and if you want me, here are my terms." They tell companies what they will and will not do and what they want and don’t want long before the opportunity is explained.  It is their way of being strong.  Unfortunately, it is a self-defeating strategy because it often precludes an offer.  

The leverage to negotiate is in the offer itself. 

Once you are made an offer, the company has committed to you fully.  Because of that commitment, it is time to negotiate.  Negotiations should not just be about salary and title.  They can also be about needs and life style.  I know of one person who lives in the city and was interviewing for a New Jersey job.  Once the offer was made, she was able to negotiate a daily limousine ride to work and back.  I can guaranty that if that had been brought up on the first interview, it would never have progressed to a second meeting. (By the way, I have actually heard about limos and car services happening several times.)

Salary expectations should not be discussed until an offer is made.  Interviewing should be a learning process for both hiring company and candidate.  As you interview, you can determine the parameters of the job which will enable you to determine if the salary range they have been given is reasonable for that job and for you.  Naming a number too early may preclude a salary negotiation.  I can think of many situations where after a number of interviews the candidate has learned about the difficulty of a job and believes that it should pay more than was originally suggested. Many interviewers like to ask what a candidate is expecting in terms of salary.  Sometimes this happens early in the process, sometimes later.  The answer should always be, “an opportunity”.  If a company tries to force a specific answer, the best way to handle this is by telling them current salary, which will leave you free to negotiate once the offer is made.

And then remember to read your offer letter.  If something you agreed to is not in the offer letter, it is not part of the offer.  Period.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Be Careful What You Say

Over time, I have had many candidates say things on interviews that were misinterpreted.  When they give me full and  honest feedback immediately after interviewing, sometimes I can correct the client's impression before it becomes an issue.  But it often doesn't happen because candidates don't want me to think badly about their interviewing skills, so they neglect to tell me when there is an issue.


People tend to be literal and hear what they want to hear.  I once had a candidate tell an interviewer that she liked to get home to put her eight year old to bed.  The client interpreted this as that she wouldn’t work late.  Nothing could dissuade my client from dismissing the candidate because he was convinced that she would leave at 5pm. Truth is, she shouldn't have even mentioned this need until the job was offered..

I had another candidate, a human resources person who was interviewing at an agency.  She told the COO that she liked doing paperwork at home.  This was interpreted to be that the candidate wanted to work from home part time. It was not what the candidate intended.  Consequently, despite being liked very much, she did not get the job. Again, it probably should not have been mentioned - unless the interviewer asked about her specific work style.  And even then, the answer should have been positioned carefully, "after dinner, I like to extend my work day by doing paperwork".  But in this case it was merely mentioned and not in the  context of the conversation.

Recently, I had the reverse happen.  A client was misinterpreted by a candidate.  The candidate was offered a job.  The client made a generous offer that had been discussed in advance with me and I had prepared my candidate to accept.  There were no surprises, except one.  My client is a very nice guy and in making the offer, he told the candidate he was open to “slight” negotiation.

When my candidate told me this, I was somewhat taken aback.  Naturally, the candidate came back and asked for a higher base salary.  When I questioned the client, he confessed that he was talking about title and responsibilities, not money.  In this case there was nothing insurmountable. I was able to handle it so that both the candidate and the client were happy.  But it could easily have gone the other way if the candidate dug in his heals or had gone back an told his family that he could get more.  Again, the lesson: be careful what you say; people hear what they want to hear.

I have been managing negotiations for a long time and previously wrote about the concept of a candidate having to give himself or herself “permission” to take a job.   Knowing that things can get interpreted and reinterpreted differently than intended is something everyone should keep in mind both while interviewing and negotiating.  I assume that in the case of putting her eight year old to bed, the candidate was laying out her needs and doing some pre-negotiation, but she did it out of context.  The only time to negotiate is once an offer is in hand.

Language is very much open to interpretation.  English is very nuanced.  The point is that we all have to be very careful that what we say is what we mean and that things are fully explained at the time they are said so that they are not open to misinterpretation.  Context is very important.  And you must listen (with both ears and eyes) to the reaction of the person you are talking to so that you can respond before things become an issue.
Remember, that if things need clarification, perhaps they are best unsaid.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some Of My "Mosts": A Look Back

I thought it might be fun to point out to my readers my list of “mosts”, some of which are really fun and informative.  Please feel to click on the links to read what you missed or want to reread or comment on.  

                                     Check   Check    Check   Check   Check

I would love your comments.  

Most Read (and most surprising that it is the most read)  – My Conflict With A Millennial Mother

Most Disagreements with Me – Never Bring Coffee on an Interview, Part I and Part II

Most Requested (and should be read by anyone redoing their resume)  – Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Your Resume and as a follow up, People will only spend six seconds reading your resume.

Most Comments – (Just a couple of weeks ago) Agency Websites Are Dreadful

Most Surprising (In terms of high readership) – How Long Should An Interview Last

Second Most Surprising (I guess I hit a nerve)  - Why Recruiters Might Not Return Your Call

Most Stupid Answer To An Interview Question (People really do say these things)  – What Is Your Favorite Part Of Your Job

Most Important (from your point of view) – When Is It Time For A Plan “B” In Your Career?

Most Important (from my point of view).  In retrospect, it should have been called how to work with a recruiter and contains very practical advice for people I meet  - How To Bug A Recruiter

Most Critical To The Advertising Business – Category Experience Is Limiting Agency Hiring

Most Important For Agency Management To Understand before starting a new business program – Why Agency New Business People Turn Over So Quickly

Most Often Ignored Information – What An Offer Letter Is And Is Not

Most Ignored Good Advice – What Your Email Address Says About You

Most words in a cover letter (exhausting, but amusing) - The Most Ridiculous Cover Letter.

Creative Commons License