Your first raise will be your biggest: How to negotiate your salary to make more money

How to negotiate your salary
You survived the first interview, flew through the second and third interviews, and now the day is finally here: They’re offering you the job.

Wahoo! Time to crack open the champagne and celebrate, right?

Not quite. Your job isn’t over yet.

Before you say, “I accept!” consider this: if you can negotiate an additional $5,000-$10,000 now, this might be the biggest raise you ever receive!

How to negotiate your salary

Before you run away in fear, just consider a few easy negotiation tips:

  • Give a range. If they offered $45,000, respond with a statement like, “Now that I have a better understanding of the role and expectations, and given the skills and experience that I believe I bring to the role, I’d like to suggest a starting salary of $49,000 to $53,000.”
  • Always end any request with, “but of course I am open to negotiations”
  • Consider asking for additional vacation time if they really can’t budge on salary; an extra week or two weeks of vacation doesn’t cost the employer directly, but might hold huge value for you
  • If those tactics fail, consider suggesting a salary review 3 months into the position. “I understand that $45,000 is the highest you’re comfortable with at this point; I’d like to suggest we revisit this at my 3-month review and consider an increase to $49,000 if I have delivered the results we’ve discussed”

It is important to remember that just because you ask for something doesn’t guarantee the employer will say yes — but if they say no, at least you will have asked! And you will have a new decision to make.

What happens now? Second interview tips.

Interview QuestionsYou made it through your first interview; now it’s time to think about further interviews.

One of the most frequently asked questions is “what will employers ask me in later interviews that they might not ask in first interviews?’ or “what do I need to be ready for?!?”. This is an excellent question.

What to Expect:

Typically a second interview will focus more on the specifics of what you’ve achieved / done in your working history, and less on the general “who are you” questions. For example, while a first interview might see questions like “tell me a bit about yourself” or “how did you get started in this line of work”, second interviews are more likely to include questions like “tell me about situation XYZ and how you handled it” or “what experiences have you had with ABC”.

What can you do to prepare for this?

Unfortunately the answer is not a read-only solution… it actually requires you to do a little WORK (before you even have the job!); the very best way to prepare for an interview like this is to practice your answers & come up with a few “key” stories that you can spin to match a range of questions. For example, there is a pretty good chance you will be asked about your “most challenging time / difficult situation / biggest mistake”. Employers do NOT appreciate the “I’ve never made a mistake” answer… but you want to come prepared for this one!

Why the first interview matters: How to not screw up your first impression.

A page about first interviews on a website about second interviews?

Bear with us.

Why the First Interview Matters Too

The first interview was your first chance to impress the employer; given that you presumably have a second interview, you probably did an okay job of making a good impression.

To prepare for your second interview, you want to:

  • Critically review your first interview: what questions did you stumble on? Where did you really shine? You can expect employers to probe further into any troublesome areas that came up in your first interview
  • Examine what you found out about them: contrary to what you may believe, interviews are not a one-way street. Employers are looking for people who will fit into their organizations. If you don’t know anything about the company culture or environment, how can you know if you will enjoy working there?
  • Look for clues that can help you fit the culture: for example, maybe you noticed that everyone in the office was wearing black; for your second interview you might consider adjusting your wardrobe to match the company culture a little more.

What kind of footwear do women wear to interviews in Maine in the winter?

I had a serious problem. My dream job had just called to offer me an in-person interview that afternoon, but I had no idea what kind of footwear to wear. It was winter in Maine, after all, but did that mean I could get away with my Bean boots??

I tried Googling the answer, and found confusing responses:

  • “You can get away with winter boots but ONLY in Maine”
  • “It’s never appropriate to wear winter boots”
  • “High heels will look ridiculous”
  • “Heels are a must for any professional interview”

What’s a girl to do?!?

I decided to play it safe, and wore my winter boots to get to the car and drive to the office; then I changed into a pair of heels for the (short) walk to the front entry. Walking into the glistening glass and concrete office and noticing the very well dressed men and women all around me, I was thankful I’d made the right choice.

Remember, when in doubt — dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

And weather challenges aside, I don’t think any of us are applying to be snowplow drivers!


An easy trick to give better interview answers

Now that you know what the Top 5 Interview Questions are, you are ready to learn how to dramatically improve your answers to them. The secret is 3 simple letters: S.A.R.

SAR stands for Situation – Action – Result.

The idea is that when you’re asked a question you can use a SAR to nicely package your answer (rather than telling a big long story with no point… you know the ones, where after 4 minutes you realise that you’ve been talking about your co-workers personal hygiene and haven’t yet touched on the answer to the employer’s question?).

The ideal breakdown would be 10% Situation, 80% Action, and 10% Result.

An Example

The employer asks you how you deal with conflict. Before you knew about ‘SAR’, you might have replied “very well, thank you”.

Now that you are a SAR-wielding genius, your answer is a little different:

“How do I deal with conflict? What a great question (<–tactic used to buy time while you think of your SAR). I’d like to give you an example of a time I dealt with conflict.”

“There was a situation where my direct supervisor and the VP of my department gave me conflicting instructions on how to proceed with a very important project that we were working on. (No additional detail is necessary! They don’t care about the project nitty-gritty; they care about how you handled it!).

The way I handled this was I approached each of them individually and asked for a 5-minute meeting, I explained the two sets of instructions that I had been given, I requested that we meet as a trio to collaborate on the most effective way to proceed, and then I mediated the meeting by actively listening and encouraging all stakeholders to “seek to understand before being understood”. (“Action” is one of the areas that you absolutely want to stress YOUR contributions; whether you were part of a team or working individually, try to avoid saying things like “we worked on this together”, “I assisted with”, etc. Keep the focus on what you did, and use action verbs wherever possible!)

As a result of this, the three of us were able to come up with an even better plan of action, the project proceeded smoothly, and we actually came in 2 weeks ahead of schedule and $4,000 under budget. The VP later approached me and thanked me personally for orchestrating that procedure. (Results are the benefits to the employer; forget to mention the result of your actions and you’ve lost a chance to sell your skills. Do NOT forget the results!!! If you’re stuck for a result, think back to a time that a supervisor, colleague, or client ever commented on your impact — this is a great way to have others “brag” about you without coming across as a pompous ass!).

This all seems like a lot of work!

Yes, creating a perfectly crafted ‘SAR’ for every interview question can be daunting; the good news is that if you can sit down and come up with 5 well-rounded SARs, you can most likely adapt them to any question that is thrown your way. As a starting point, see if you can come up with SARs for each of the above questions.

Those are the basics! Once you’ve got SARs down for those 5 you’ll be well on your way to interview mastery!!

What if I don’t get a second interview?

FailureHow to Recover When You Don’t Get The Job

You had a first interview; it went extremely well. You had a second interview, you sent thank-you cards, and you followed up on the appropriate day… and they hired someone else.

Game over, right?

Maybe not.        

The reality is that just because an employer has hired someone, does not mean that person will work out. In 1 out of 3 cases, employers were looking for replacement hires within 3 months of their initial decision. At this point, employers are feeling frustrated that their hire did not work out, and are anxious to get a replacement in as soon as possible. This is where you come in.

Put Yourself in the Employer’s Shoes

If you had spent 3-6 weeks generating applicants, another 3-6 weeks interviewing, and then another 1-3 months training, how happy would you be to have to go back to square one?

The reality is that hiring employees costs money and takes valuable time, so if the employer can save even a week or two in the process, they will jump at the opportunity.

This is where you come in.

Thank You for Not Hiring Me

A little-often used but highly-remembered gesture is the thank you card after you received your rejection. By sending a card that thanks the employer for their time and the opportunity to meet, and mentioning that you would like to be considered for any future opportunities, you leave the door open for potential positions.

This is not necessarily the most fun activity; nobody likes to thank people for rejecting them. But by sending a card you are taking the high road and sending the message that there are no “hard feelings”. This makes it much easier for the employer to:

1) Remember you later and

2) Make the initial contact when an opportunity comes up

So hold back your pride, embrace your humble side, and send that rejection thank you.

Side Note: If you’re not even making it to the interview stage, you need to take a step back and examine where exactly you’re going wrong. Is it your cover letters? Your telephone manner? Your resume? Eventually we plan to add pages covering all of these topics; in the meantime, if you are interested in improving your resume you may find a resume workshop to be a useful tool in your successful job search.

Scripts for thank-you cards: How to write a great follow-up

You know you should send thank-you cards after an interview or informational meeting. You know you should send them right away. But you don’t know what exactly to say?

Here is a sample thank you card (feel free to use it as the base for your next thank-you!):

Dear Miriam,

I wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed meeting with you. From what you have told me, it seems as if ABC has the kind of corporate culture that I would like to be a part of, and the staff I met with certainly seem to embody that.

It was also great to meet another sailing enthusiast! I am so impressed by all the sailing and travelling you have done, and I loved hearing about your adventures on the high seas.

Thank you again for your time & consideration; I am very excited about the potential opportunities with ABC,


Joe Jobseeker
Phone #
Email Address

Final Tips for Thank You Scripts

  1. Try to make it personal; employers don’t hire paper, they hire people, so if you connected about anything not job-related, be sure to mention it again to re-establish your connection!
  2. ALWAYS include your contact information again. You can do this either by discreetly writing your phone number & email address under your name, or by including a business card inside the thank you card. Make it easy for the employer to get in touch you with you again!
  3. Send a thank you card regardless of how you think the interview went. Employers are not always open books, and you don’t want to close any doors that might actually be open! Sending a card ensures that they keep you in mind and no bridges are burnt. It also helps keep your name at the top of the list for future openings or opportunities.
  4. DO NOT EMAIL YOUR THANK YOU. This is important, so I’ll say it again — thank you cards should be hand written, not emailed! Hand-write your thank you card! You are a person, not a machine, so why are you choosing the easy option? When I open my inbox and see 150 new emails, I think “oh no, look at all these emails I have to deal with.” But when I open my mailbox, and I see a hand-written envelope, I think “Oh my! Who could have sent me a letter? This is exciting! This is special!” Don’t cut corners; send the card.
  5. It is never too late to show your appreciation. Yes, ideally, you would send the card within hours of your interview finishing. But if you’re new to this whole “thank you card” thing and you’re realising that you may have missed some opportunities from previous interviews, do not use this as an excuse! My hard rule is 3 months; if I had an interview within the last 3 months, I would absolutely send a card.

Sample Late Thank You Card Script (It’s Never Too Late!)

March 20th, 2013

Dear Miriam,

I wanted to drop you a quick note, as I never got the chance to properly thank you for taking the time to meet with me back in February. Your description of the projects and culture at ABC has really stuck with me, and I would love to keep in touch in case any new opportunities do come up at ABC Company.

I’ll also keep an eye out for you at the marina! Hope you get some nice summer sailing weekends in this year!


Joe Jobseeker
Phone #

And there you have it.

Two simple scripts to get you on your way to another interview. Remember that the extra mile is always appreciated, and it’s really never too late to send a little thank you!

Top 5 Common Second Interview Questions

Congratulations! You passed the first interview!

How did your first interview go? Were you asked any questions you couldn’t answer? Have you thought about the Top 5 Interview Questions?

  1. What is your greatest achievement? (Could be adapted for similar questions like “What are your strengths?”, “When have you been successful?”, “What are you most proud of?” etc)
  2. When have you failed? (A question that we all dread hearing; but with a SAR, you can take a negative situation, explain the steps you took, and then give a result like “As a result of this situation, I learned that abc def ged”. Other questions that you could use a similar answer for might include “What is your weakness?”, “What do you need to improve?”, “When have you really struggled with something?”
  3. How have you dealt with conflict? (Similar questions: “How do you work with others?”, “How do you work with people that are older / younger / more experienced / less experienced / disabled / visible minorities/etc”)
  4. What are your long term goals, and what are you doing about them? (Employers do NOT want to hear about your financial freedom, retirement plans, or grand-babies… what they’re really wondering is do you set goals, and do you actively work towards them?)
  5. Can you do ABC? (This question refers to any specific skill that an employer might be looking for. For example, they might ask if you can use Microsoft Office; if you can give an answer that actually demonstrates your proficiency (rather than just saying “yes!”, your credibility will be MUCH improved!!!)

Ready to learn how to answer these question? Read the “Guide to creating SARs”

How to follow up on an interview: 3 easy tips

Follow UpCompleting a second interview and then not doing proper follow-up is like running 9/10 of a marathon and then going for a cup of coffee… Ridiculous!

How to do proper follow-up is a question that comes up time and time again though, so we thought you might appreciate having the steps lined out for you:

As You Leave:

1. Shake their hand, look them in the eye, smile, and remind them of how interested you are in the position. Don’t assume they know this; employers need to feel wanted just as much as you do!

2. Ask when would be an appropriate time to follow-up with them on their decision (some employers will need weeks to choose a candidate; others may only need a few hours). This gives you permission to call them back and follow up!

Immediately After the Interview:

1. Get a thank-you card (maybe one you bought earlier to prepare for the interview?). Note that I am saying a thank-you card, and not a thank-you email, letter, or note. Why would a card be so important? Simple: We’ve all heard people mention the “150 emails” in their inbox, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about having too many thank-you cards on their desk! A card gets saved, stored on their desk (in prime view!), and remembered. It stands out from the crowd.

2. Write a short-but-to-the-point note inside the card (see Thank You Scripts for ideas on content).

3. Immediately mail the card. You know the feeling you get when you open your mailbox and see a hand-written envelope? “Not a bill??” That’s exactly the feeling you want your future employer to have as he or she excitedly tears into your card. They feel special. They feel important. They feel ready to hire you!

Congratulations! You got a second interview!

Second Interview Tips

If you’re looking for second interview tips, you must have done something right in your first interview! So let’s start by saying “Congratulations” on making it this far already!

Depending on what you’re looking for, our goal is to help prepare you for your second or subsequent interviews — and help ensure you get the job!

Note: If you are looking for help with your resume, this site may not have the information you are looking for. That being said, I am a professional resume writer (by day) and an interview-blogger on the side, so if you would like help with your resume feel free to have a look at my work!

There are easy-to-navigate tabs located at the top of every page; these enable you to go directly to the page that suits your needs. If there is a topic that you would like more information on, feel free to drop us a comment on our “About” page.

And good luck on those interviews!