Negotiating A Job Offer Beyond Compensation

Image of Negotiating Beyond Compensation by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

A mentee of mine recently completed negotiations for her dream job and as I reflected on the advice I gave her a few things stuck out.  None of the advice I gave her is necessarily something I created. Instead, it is a culmination of the advice I’ve received and the things I’ve learned along the way myself. 

In this particular situation, the salary offer was firm and the benefits (such as health benefits start date, 401k match, insurance premiums, etc.) were also non-negotiable. Taking those elements out of the negotiation actually made it easier for her to ask for some of the quality of life benefits that meant as much as salary to her. 

Know Your Perfect Offer

When she started interviewing, she wrote out what her perfect offer would look like. I encouraged her to include a salary range, paid time off and dream big items. 

Her list included: 

  • salary range reflective of her experience and education
  • a dedicated stipend for continued learning which could include conference attendance and travel and online certificate programs
  • PTO time (combined sick leave and vacation) to at least match what she currently has
  • sign-on bonus or relocation expenses
  • dedicated salary review timeline with benchmarks
  • student loan reimbursement
  • if permanent work from home situation office furniture allowance 

She used several websites to review the salary range including Glassdoor.com, bls.gov/oes, salary.com, payscale.com and LinkedIn. Then she only applied for positions that were within her range.  

After you receive a verbal offer

Once she received a verbal offer, she made a tiny (and very common!) mistake in naming a number above the initial offer. In retrospect, she should have asked for the full offer to compare the benefits and leverage with the knowledge of the company. 

Since she was number specific, it wasn’t a big surprise when the recruiter came back that the salary was firm but there was an annual bonus tied to yearly company profits. At that point, she asked a few additional questions such as confirming the position will remain remote even after the pandemic and the estimated travel associated with the position. 

Then she waited for the written offer. 

Written Offer Next Steps

Once she received the written offer, she was able to counter with some of the other items on her perfect offer checklist.

“I’d like to take the job, but since we were apart on salary, I’d like to discuss other ways to bridge the gap. As this is a dedicated remote position, I’d like to specifically discuss the paid time off, the possibility of a sign-on bonus, dedicated continuing education stipends, student loan assistance and the salary review timeline. Is this a good time to talk about how we can bridge that gap?”

She was then quiet and let the recruiter take a moment to hear what she was saying. 

The recruiter thanked her for her feedback and said he would get back to her as soon as possible with the answers to her questions. 

At this point, she knew whatever he came back with was the ultimate offer and she would not be able to negotiate again. (Note: two rounds of negotiation is about the max before the recruiter starts seeing red flags.)

The recruiter came back with a small sign-on bonus, the opportunity for a salary review after six months and an extra week of vacation. Knowing she may be able to renegotiate the continuing education stipend in the future and the sign-on bonus would be used for office furniture, she accepted and made sure to say how much she appreciated the recruiter’s work on this offer and that she would be signing it as soon as she received it. 

When she received the offer and reviewed it to make sure everything they discussed was in the offer letter, she signed it and returned it. Then she followed up with a phone call to the recruiter to let him know the signed offer was in his inbox, again thank him for his work and reiterate her excitement about joining the team. 

Then What

She made a few notes to discuss with her manager at the first opportunity that made sense. As she and her manager began discussing the first post-covid all-hands meeting that would involve her travel, she made sure to ask for details on how are travel expenses are handled and what is included. 

As it came close to the designated time for her annual salary review, she sent an email to her manager noting that she would like to schedule a meeting for her salary review and after checking her boss’s calendar offered three dates and times. 

After six months in the position, she is still happy with the outcome. It didn’t meet all the items on her perfect offer list but it met more than she expected. 

Two additional resources for job package negotiation:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2017/06/06/most-people-wont-negotiate-a-job-offer-but-heres-why-you-should/

https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/when-and-how-to-negotiate-benefits-with-workers-and-job-seekers.aspx

Applicant Interview Questions (with answers!)

Image with Applicant Interview Questions with answers by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle AuroraMeyer.com

When I shared these interview questions, I wasn’t quite expecting the response! I’ve enjoyed hearing practice answers and working with those who have reached out to make their answers stronger from both sides of the table.
I have another list of questions I like to ask when I’m interviewing candidates. I particularly like these questions for entry-level positions.  The ones in bold have a right and wrong answer (more on that below).

  • Why are you here?
  • If you had only one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?
  • Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time? Why?
  • What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?
  • When have you failed? Describe what happened and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.
  • When I contact your last supervisor and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?
  • How do you take advantage of your strengths? How do you compensate for your weaknesses?
  • What’s one thing you would like to do better? What’s your plan for improving?
  • What do you think are the most important attributes of successful people? How do you rate yourself in those areas?
  • What would you do if you made an important business decision and a co-worker challenged it?
  • What would you do if management made a decision you didn’t agree with?
  • Describe a time when you were asked to do something you weren’t trained to do. How did you handle it?
  • What will make you love coming to work here every day?
  • What frustrates you in an office environment?
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • If you get the job, how could you lose money for me?
  • Are you fully prepared to start if you are hired?
  • Is there anything you need to know in order to do the job?
  • Is there any special training or any classes you’re going to be required to take if you’re hired?
  • What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
  • Is there any question I haven’t asked you that I should?
What I’m looking for in the right or wrong answers:
  • It is better to be on time than late and perfect. There is no perfect. Being late is disrespectful to your team and in some cases can cost you a client. Deadlines are implemented for a reason, don’t be the person who blows it for everyone.
  • The biggest decision question is about your process. Tell me the steps you went through and how you weighed the pros and cons and how you ultimately made the decision and what the outcome was. Many entry-level applicants don’t have the industry work experience to detail a project so asking this question gives them the opportunity to tell me how they work. Some examples the applicant can use include applying for this position (make sure to talk about your research!), changing your major, adding a minor, moving across the country or leaving a previous job.
  • The question about the applicant’s previous supervisor gets at the things you want to improve. The key for the applicant is to tell me how they are already improving it. So if your previous supervisor would say their work is great but they could work on asking for more stretch projects or needing less supervision, I want the applicant to tell me how they are advocating for themselves and proving they can take on more responsibilities and trusting their knowledge and work. All supervisors know entry-level positions need more guidance and that isn’t a bad thing! But applicants should know that as they get more comfortable in the organization and in their role, they can trust themselves and their work more than they previously did.
  • We all have things we want to do better. When I ask this question I’m looking for work-related answers. Not how tidy you keep your living space! Tell me how you are working smarter. Tell me a tip you learned that changed how you manage your time or your day. Tell me how you are overcoming not speaking up in meetings. Tell me how you are tracking and keeping up with multiple projects. If I were answering this question, I would talk about how I’m working to avoid burnout. This year has added extra levels of stress to an already stressful job. I would talk about how I’m making it a point to take time away from email and my phone. To tune out of work in order to keep a good work-life balance. In answering this way, I am telling a potential employer that I will work hard and give my best effort at the office but that I value my off time too.
  • For the management decision-making question, I am looking for two things. First, how do you handle disappointment. Second, how will you fit in our team. Supervisors are not often going to be willing to sit down and go over all the reasons why they made every decision. Often, there may be additional information they can’t share with you. If an applicant answers with they would ask me for the reasoning behind the decision I would ask why they would go that route. What I am ultimately looking for in this answer is the word trust. I want to know my employees trust me to do what is best and what is right at all times. They may not fully understand why that decision is best or right at that moment, but I hope they trust that it is. Of note, for those reading this encountering a situation where they disagree with their manager currently, think about your current relationship. If that door is opened and feedback is requested, absolutely take advantage of it, but don’t assume your supervisor needs to explain themselves to you.
  • The question about describing a situation where you are asked to do something you aren’t trained to do is a way to highlight a skill that doesn’t read well on paper and that you have a willingness to learn something new.  Make sure to emphasize the results and what you learned in the process.
A few more general interview tips I wish I had known earlier in my career:
  • Your skills get you the interview the interpersonal relationships and fit get you the job. The goal is to make sure you are a good fit for the organization and will integrate well into a team.
  • Don’t speak too fast.
  • It is ok to take a few moments and pause to think about your answers. Remember to take a moment and take a few deep breaths and slow down.
  • Make sure you think about the question and don’t rush ahead to answer without making sure you are answering the question that was asked.
  • Be careful not to get suck on filler words and phrases. Rather than use a filler phrase, stop and think before answering.
  • You will also want to make sure you find ways to get a good sense (asking questions, getting a facility tour, etc) to see if this organization is a good fit for you. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
  • ALWAYS write a thank you note. Always.

Interview Questions for Everyone

image of Interview Questions to ask by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

Whether we are hiring an intern, an employee, a contractor or a vendor we ask similar questions of everyone we work with.  Whether you are the interviewer and doing the hiring or the interviewee and wanting to join the organizations, these questions make a difference and can give you insight into the person.

If you are doing the hiring use these questions:

  1. Who is someone who influenced your career and how did they influence you?
  2. can you tell me about the most successful person you ever hired and what exactly they did to be successful? (you may want to follow up with where is this person now?)
  3. What is your managerial style?
  4. Can you tell me about a time that you and your directs did not agree and how you dealt with that situation?
  5. How do you like your employee to check in with you about projects?
  6. what is the one soft skill or competency you would say is critical for success in this role?
  7. What do you most appreciate from your direct reports or team?
  8. Can you tell me something about this role or your expectations from the person who gets this role that is not on the Job Description?
  9. What does success look like in this position?
  10. What does failure look like?
  11. What are the initial goals for this position? 6 months? one year? five years?
  12. How do you support professional development?

For the interviewee, be prepared to answer these questions:

  1. Who is someone who influenced your career and how did they influence you?
  2. Can you tell me about the most successful person you ever worked with and what exactly they did to be successful? (you may want to follow up with where is this person now?)
  3. What is your working style? How do you like to manage projects (one at a time or multiple at once?)
  4. What do you most appreciate in a manager?
  5. What do you want from professional development? How are you doing this on your own (reading, taking classes, getting graduate certificates, etc.)

Things to note about yourself:
I thrive in an [TYPE such as independent, structured, consistent feedback, etc.] environment where I’m entrusted to complete jobs and deadlines [independently, with supervision, as a team, etc.].  I don’t thrive at all in a position in which I am at all [left alone, micromanaged., etc.]

There are other questions that will give you insight into an organization or a prospective employee, but these are a good place to start.

How Much Money Can You Earn as a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistant Desk to accompany How Much Money Can You Earn as a Virtual Assistant post by Aurora Meyer

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written for our readers.

You’ve made up your mind to hand in your two weeks’ notice and escape the 8-to-5 grind that’s virtually taken over your life. You desperately wish to regain control of your life, maintain a healthy work-life, and spend more time with your loved ones. Or, you’re just looking to escape a toxic work environment.

After extensive research, you’re dead-set on becoming a virtual assistant and enjoy the freedom that comes with working from home.

Naturally, you’re concerned about how much money you can make as a virtual assistant as you’re determined to build the life of your dreams.

What’s a Virtual Assistant’s Earning Potential?

A little Googling shows you virtual assistants across the globe earn between $3 and $60 per hour and more. The massive discrepancy in wages only piques your curiosity.

Further research shows that the pay rates vary significantly across the world, but it ultimately boils down to a few crucial factors:

  • Level of expertise. Virtual assistants fall into two broad categories – generalists who hand basic tasks and specialists who have mastered specific crafts. If you’re highly competent and committed to lifelong learning, you’ll scale the heights of success as a VA.
  • Your Experience. Your skills and experience determine the value you offer your clients, and that determines your income. Clients pay higher rates to seasoned experts since they can tap into their vast knowledge to come up with ingenious solutions. Also, because they have mastered the art of working in an unstructured work environment.
  • Target clients. Established companies and high net worth individuals offer higher rates than most small businesses and solopreneurs. Your client’s area of specialization also counts as it determines their ability to generate revenue.
  • Your location or nationality matters because it determines the cost of living. Remote workers in Europe and the USA charge more than their counterparts in Asia and Africa who aren’t as cost-burdened.

As a VA, you’re not entitled to retirement benefits and medical insurance. Therefore, you must factor these costs into your rates to earn a comfortable living.

What Are Some of the Most Lucrative VA Roles?

You don’t have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. Not when you’re a skilled VA with an efficient job search strategy.

You can have your pick from these rewarding VA sectors:

  • Rookies make up to $6/hour, while seasoned experts command as much as $45/hour.
  • E-commerce store administrator. Rookies make up to $25/hour while experts make as much as $70/hour.
  • Graphic designers. Rookies make up to $10/hour while experts make up to $37/hour.

While many factors influence your earnings as a virtual assistant, skills and abilities are the most critical. Honing your skills to an art form lets you snag lucrative contracts and lowers the amount of competition you’re up against.

Scaling Your Startup: 21 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written for our readers.

Infographic of IG-Entrepreneurship-and-Startup-Stories by Aurora Meyer

You’re familiar with the saying “knowledge is power.”

Of course, knowledge can be gained just about anywhere these days: a TedTalk, podcast, YouTube video — you name it, the list goes on. But If you want exposure to new ideas, modes of thinking and a compounded aggregate of diverse knowledge, then reading is important, especially if you want to be a successful business person.

Warren Buffett — arguably the most skilled investor of our time — said reading 500 pages a day was the key to success. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest,” he explained. He’s not alone in that belief. Other iconic business people incorporate reading in their daily rituals. Take Bill Gates for example. He reads 50 books every year. Mark Zuckerberg is another business icon who’s tackled lofty reading goals like reading a new book every other week — that’s 26 books in one year.

Of course, with millions of entrepreneurship and business books out there, just figuring out where to start can be a challenge in and of itself. Then you have to sift through reviews to discern quality from fluff. Simply put, not all business advice distilled into books is equal, especially when it comes to the volatility of businesses at the startup stage.

To help point you in the right direction, a startup insurance company, Embroker, narrowed down a list of 21 books geared to help entrepreneurs scale their startups and learn from some of the best veteran businessmen and women out there. These are broken into the following categories: growth hacking and scaling, books to read before pitching VCs, and entrepreneurship and startup stories.

Growth Hacking Books

If you’re like most founders, scaling your business is top of mind. In other words, mastering marketing, product development, sales, and other areas are crucial in growth hacking. Books like Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner offer a personal narrative to give you a behind-the-scenes look inside a fast-growing startup that created the first online dating app and grew to 100 million users.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow analyzes how some highly successful startups go from zero to billions in a matter of months. Additionally, this book shows how innovators and icons make strides by working smarter, not harder.

Books to Read Before Pitching VCs

If you’re at the stage of where you need to raise capital (beyond what you’ve bootstrapped), then knowing how to pitch venture capitalists is a crucial component of moving the needle for your business.

Books like Bargaining for Advantage offer a road map for how to survive and thrive in the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of business negotiation. Venture Deals is an exhaustive guide that covers everything founders need to know about achieving successful funding, including how to understand venture capital deal structures and strategies.

Entrepreneurship and Startup Stories

Success and the path to get there looks different for everyone. Books like Business Model Generation highlight factors that determine the success and failure of business today.

Startupland is Mikkel Svane and Carlye Adler’s unconventional story of founding Zendesk in a Copenhagen loft, how they left secure jobs to start something of their own, and the company’s journey to launching on the NYSE. It’s a relatable story of risking it all and going for broke.

To learn more about the full list check out their guide on startup books.