Capital2's Blog

Recruitment and Career advice for the High Tech and Banking Industries

Capital2 bosses speak at HEC Paris

February 12th, Capital2 Solutions founder Sam Kirby gave a talk to the 2009 MBA class at  HEC Paris (France’s top business school). The subject was the Hiring Markets for 2009 / 2010 and the hour long presentation gave rise to some healthy questions and debate at the end of the talk.

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February 17, 2009 Posted by | Banking News, Capital2, Interview Technique, Macroeconomic News, random, Technology News, The Team | 2 Comments

Negotiating an offer of employment

Even if the interview has gone well, you love the opportunity, the people and the company, our work here at Capital2 is far from done. We now have to ensure you get an acceptable offer. Assuming we have had good lines of communication, there should be no surprises at this stage….. but there are still some simple ways you as a candidate can facilitate the process by doing some preparation beforehand:

Know what you’re worth

  • Salary vs the package
  • How to negotiate
  • When to back out

Know what you’re worth

The first step in salary negotiation is doing some research into the remuneration package you expect, as well as the current market rates for the type of role you’re applying for.

The aim of your research should be to develop a clear idea of your minimum, expected and dream salary, as follows:

Minimum salary

Whilst seemingly obvious, ascertaining your minimum salary can be tricky. Does it equate to what you’re currently earning? Or perhaps it’s just enough to pay your outgoing bills?

Your minimum salary should basically equate to your minimum cash requirements for a role based on your circumstances.

So, if you’re a first jobber this may be enough to cover your costs and give you some spending money. Alternatively, if you’re currently working and are moving jobs to earn more, your minimum will probably be at least the same as you’re earning.

In any case, earning less than your minimum will probably make you feel slightly cheated, and that you haven’t done well enough out of the offer.

Expected salary

The expected salary will naturally sit in between your minimum and dream salaries. But how do you calculate this?

Well, looking at market rates is the best place to start. So, look for job specs with similar requirements to what you’re applying for and check what companies are currently offering.

An average of the salary for these jobs is probably a fair assessment of current market rates, and so will be around the salary you should expect.

Of course, if you’re particularly well qualified or experienced, you may well expect higher than average market rates.

To check the latest market rates in your chosen field of work, why not try our salary calculator?

Dream salary

Having done some research on what the market rates are, you’re now in a position to start considering your dream salary. But what is your dream salary?

Clearly, we’d all like more money so are reluctant to cap what we’d like to earn. But, your dream salary should be the most you can expect to earn given the job you’re applying for and your own level of experience.

Looking at the higher-end salaries for jobs posted in your chosen field, as well as the level of experience they require, is a good place to start. If you’re expecting a salary higher than any of the jobs you’ve seen, you’re probably expecting too much.

Salary vs benefits package

Having set out your minimum, expected and dream salaries, you’re now in a position to consider where you might have some flexibility on this. Namely, the benefits package.

Whilst take-home salary is clearly important, there are other elements to consider. For example, your prospective employer might offer health care, a generous pension, stock options, free gym membership or flexible working options (e.g. flexi-time).

The next step is to consider how much flexibility you’re willing to offer for all of these benefits. This will take into account the monetary value of these benefits, but you should also consider some of the lifestyle and time-saving benefits.

For example, flexible working hours might allow you to spend more time with your family, whereas company pensions will mean you don’t have to organise your own pension scheme.

How to negotiate

You’re now at the stage where you know what you should be earning, and what room you have for negotiation. So it’s time to start negotiating your offer.

Your prospective employer is likely to have a figure in mind for your salary, but don’t simply accept or reject the first offer.

Initially, you should ask whether there is flexibility on the salary dependent on the experience and skills of the applicant. Also, remember to ask how often this salary is likely to be reviewed – taking a lower salary will be more acceptable if there will be regular salary reviews.

With the salary band stated by the employer, now is the time to start comparing it to your initial salary expectations.

If the salary is below your minimum expectation, you will probably want to explain that the offer is below what you were expecting. You’ll also want to explain why this is – perhaps because you can’t afford to earn less or because you are already earning more than they are offering.

If the package is around your expected salary, you will still want to negotiate. Explain that you may be worth more than market rates, due to your experience, knowledge or qualifications.

In the event of being offered your dream salary, you will probably want to discuss room for future growth in earnings and career development. Remember, although this is your dream salary, as you progress your expectations are likely to increase.

For any of these scenarios, you should never flat out refuse a salary straight away. You should state that you ‘need time to consider the package’, giving you and the employer time more time to consider your options.

When to back out

There are clearly a number of considerations when deciding whether to accept an offer from an employer.

Whilst salary is important within these, you will need to take into account other considerations such as benefits, working hours, work culture, the job itself and room for career development.

If the salary is not what you expected, and is not compensated by additional benefits or career development, you should say so. If this is not then reviewed by the employer, you’ll probably need to accept that the job wasn’t right for you and move on.

Remember, if you’ve done your homework, you should know what you’re worth and make sure you earn that in your next career move.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Interview Technique, random | | Leave a comment

Basic Interview Questions, Hints and Tips

Capital2 Solutions generally works with experienced, senior candidates. However, even at this end of the career ladder some candidates make basic interviewing mistakes which can harm their chances of getting the job they apply for. Here are some basic guidelines to ahere to, whether you’re going for a Director level job or an entry level position:

Research

Find out as much information as possible about your prospective employer in advance. Many now have websites which are packed with information. Familiarise yourself with mission statements, past performance, future goals and current analyst ratings. Be aware that if your prospective employer does have a comprehensive website, you may seriously compromise your chances if it becomes apparent you have not taken time to research it.

If there is no company website, it is still easy to research your employer. All national newspapers and professional magazines have online sites with archive articles. You can also utilise web search engines just by entering the company name. Talk to anyone you know who has worked at the organisation. If all else fails do try phoning the company and requesting general information. 

Interview tips

  • Greet your interviewer standing, with a strong, firm handshake and a smile! Good body language is vital. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Speak clearly and confidently. Try and maintain a comfortable level of eye contact throughout.
  • A standard interview will generally start with an introductory chat, moving on to questions specific to your application and experience. General information about the company and role may follow, finishing with an opportunity for you to ask your own questions.
  • Be familiar with your CV and prepared to answer questions from it. Similarly, ensure you have read any job description thoroughly and think of ways in which your experience will benefit your potential employer.
  • Listen to what is being asked of you. Think about your answers to more difficult questions and do not give irrelevant detail. Give positive examples from your experience to date but be concise. Avoid one word answers however. Prepare yourself in advance for common interview questions.
  • Be ready to ask questions that you have prepared beforehand. This can demonstrate you have thought about the role and done some research on the organisation. Ensure they are open, thus encouraging the interviewer to provide you with additional information.
  • Show your enthusiasm for the role, even if you have some reservations. These can be discussed at a later stage.

Question: Tell me about yourself.

Answer: Identify some of your main attributes and memorise them. Describe your qualifications, career history and range of skills, emphasising those skills relevant to the job on offer.

Q: What have your achievements been to date?

A. Select an achievement that is work-related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit it had to the company. For example, ‘my greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger system, bringing it in ahead of time and improving our debtors’ position significantly, saving the company £50,000 a month in interest’.

Q: Are you happy with your career-to-date?

A: This question is really about your self-esteem, confidence and career aspirations. The answer must be ‘yes’, followed by a brief explanation as to what it is about your career so far that’s made you happy. If you have hit a career plateau, or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify your answer.

Q: What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?

A: The purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of difficult is and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. In order to show yourself in a positive light, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.

Q: What do you like about your present job?

A: This is a straightforward question. All you have to do is make sure that your ‘likes’ correspond to the skills required for the job on offer. Be enthusiastic; describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it – after all, you are looking to leave.

Q: What do you dislike about your present job?

A: Be cautious with this answer. Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company, such as its size or slow decision-making processes etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job.

Q: What are your strengths?

A: This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four proficiencies e.g. your ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared.

Q: What is your greatest weakness?

A: Do not say you have none – this will lead to further problems. You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered to be a strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be: “I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick”.

Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer?

A: State how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Do not be negative in your reasons for leaving. It is rarely appropriate to cite salary as your primary motivator.

Q: Why have you applied for this particular job?

A: The employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you, fits in with your general aptitudes, coincides with your long-term goals and involves doing things you enjoy.  Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the organisation, and describe the attributes of the organisation that interest you most.

Other common interview questions to consider:

  • How does your job fit in to your department and company?
  • What do you enjoy about this industry?
  • Give an example of when you have worked under pressure.
  • What kinds of people do you like working with?
  • Give me an example of when your work was criticised.
  • Give me an example of when you have felt anger at work. How did you cope and did you still perform a good job?
  • What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with?
  • Give me an example of when you have had to face a conflict of interest at work.
  • Tell me about the last time you disagreed with your boss.
  • Give me an example of when you haven’t got on with others.
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group? Why?
  • This organisation is very different to your current employer – how do you think you are going to fit in?
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • How do you measure your own performance?
  • What kind of pressures have you encountered at work?
  • Are you a self-starter? Give me examples to demonstrate this?
  • What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?
  • How do you feel about working long hours and/or weekends?
  • Give me an example of when you have been out of your depth.
  • What have you failed to achieve to date?
  • What can you bring to this organisation?

Remember, these tips are just guidelines, and it is important that you don’t trot out the same old robotic responses to these questions. Try to appear engaging and interested, also be sure to add in personal anecdotes and stories aimed at showing your true personality and way of working.

 Oh, and GOOD LUCK!

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Capital2, Interview Technique | , , , , , , , | 46 Comments