The One Most Often Overlooked Interview Question


Job seekers prepare for every interview question imaginable and have their own long list of questions to ask in return, omitting one that they frequently fail to address: “What is the office space like for this position; where will I sit?”

Most job seekers are concerned about job requirements, salary and benefits, not taking into account how the physical environment can impact job satisfaction and success. And, then there is the eagerness to simply land the offer and not wanting to appear too particular or pushy in the interview by asking about office details.

If you are not offered a tour of the facility before the offer phase, ask for one. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the full picture of your potential work experience before deciding to join a company. Ask if the person filling the role will have a private office, a cubicle or sit in today’s more trendy open shared space. There are pros and cons for each, but it can be a shock going from an office with a door to a large, wide-open room with no dividers.

Rare is the employee who wouldn’t opt for a private office, but there can be advantages to working in cool, Silicon Valley-style office without barriers, including increased transparency, collaboration and team cohesion. Truth be known, however, the greatest advantage for companies that build open-plan offices can be cost. Fewer walls and cubicle dividers mean less expensive construction.

But the true costs can be the exact opposite of the intended benefits: more distraction, lower productivity, increased illness spread through close contact, conflict among employees and decreased morale.

If you love the new opportunity but the workspace isn’t ideal, you may be able to use it as an additional bargaining chip. It could help you negotiate more remote work time, for instance, as a tradeoff.

Take your new work environment into serious consideration before signing on with a company. It can impact more than your ability to produce optimally and succeed, including taking a toll on your emotional and physical health.





Compensation Clues about a Company’s Culture


What does compensation have to do with a company’s culture? A lot, according to Payscale, a leader in compensation management solutions. Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report states that “Compensation is one of the number one culture-definers for organizations.”

If you are looking for a new job or in the negotiation stages, the compensation on the table tells you how much a company values your talent, but also may hint at more, including how well the hiring company treats its employees overall.

Don’t just look at the compensation on the table, though. Go deeper. Ask about the company’s history of annual compensation increases. It’s okay to ask that question. Does the company pay for performance or is tenure a bigger indicator of substantial increases? This will be important to you in judging what your potential increase will be and how fast you can possibly grow your income.

Does the company pay a standard 3-5% annual increase, and what does it take to get a bigger jump in salary? Is promotion the only way to garner bigger compensation increases? Too many candidates are so focused on the initial offer that they fail to investigate what impacts their future earning potential.

As expected, high-performing and enterprise companies typically offer better compensation as opposed to non-profits or underperforming businesses. If you are offered a compensation package that doesn’t stack up at the former, it can be a clue about overall culture and how a company appreciates its people.

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Image: Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report

Some companies play the low-ball salary negotiation game and offer a lesser amount on the first offer, waiting for you to negotiate a higher income. Be leery of that too. A really great company with an award-winning culture knows the value of its talent and communicates it from the get go. They show respect to candidates by cutting to the chase and putting the very best offer on the table—the first time.

Know your worth and know the company you are interviewing with. Look for red flags that can tell you more about the company’s culture and what it might be like to work there. Don’t be fooled by a great brand, mission or accolades that may merely amount to great marketing. Compensation may be a great indicator of what’s really under the hood.

The Balancing Act of Salary Negotiation


By Nichole Johnson

A contributing writer for the Houston Chronicle reported many Americans (who don’t negotiate salary) lose thousands of dollars over the course of their careers. Most people are ready to negotiate prices for a new vehicle, house, or insurance rates. But, when it comes to their livelihood, they become timid.

You got the job; it’s time to talk money.

After all your interview prep, the time has arrived to reap your financial rewards: You’re in the interview room, and they pop the question. What is your salary expectation? Sure, you have a good idea what number is ideal, but you should do your research in advance of the interview so you are prepared to answer. This is an important aspect of interview preparation you don’t want to forego.

Before your interview, research online websites such as, Glassdoor, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for salary ranges. Take the industry, job duties, your background, and the location into account.

Jobs at non-profit agencies, for example, pay at least 25% less than the federal government. If the federal government’s starting salary is $50,000, expect to earn $38,000 for the same position at a non-profit agency.

When the moment arrives, wait for the employer to make the first offer. A low offer cheapens your abilities; a high offer looks like you’re too big for the company budget. Both offers leave you out of luck. Some employers have a set salary for the position, and the first offer is their best offer. They ask what you want to see if you are willing to work with them.

Nevertheless, do not say the salary is negotiable. Always provide a specific range to ensure there is a comfortable figure in there for everyone. And it’s a number you should know before the interview.

Start with your low-ball figure. The number that should pay your bills and won’t leave you feeling as if you sold yourself short.

Next, figure out the salary you really want – what you think is reasonable considering the duties, your education, and experience.

Consider benefits, perks, stock options, and bonuses in your negotiations. If the salary isn’t attractive, the bonuses or stock options can be enough to get you where you want to be. A $10,000 yearly bonus, employer-paid tuition, telecommuting opportunities, and four weeks of vacation can make a $40,000 annual base salary doable.

If your ideal salary is not accepted, don’t give up. Refer to your resume or portfolio (if applicable) and put the accent on your accomplishments. Point out how you can help them save money and time.

Don’t make the mistake of being hard-nosed and set up a power struggle you can’t win. You’ll be seen as difficult and hard to work with. Asking for too much can cost you the job.

Be willing to walk away. Although you have a low-ball offer, come up with a walk-away figure – a final offer that’s so low you have to move forward. A job that doesn’t fulfill your financial needs won’t put you in a better position.

Always get your final offer in writing, and don’t finalize negotiations until this happens. If you quit based on a verbal promise, you’ll have no recourse. A prepared negotiator won’t leave money on the table.

Walking away from any offer will never be easy, but it’s important to know when a position is not a good fit.


Nichole Johnson is a career advice columnist, online college instructor, United States Navy veteran, and human services professional dedicated to helping others reach their full potential.