EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Despite all the financial scandals that we have seen in the past few years, most of us financial types by our nature have a hard time lying. For the most part, it just isn’t part of our DNA.

While we may be burdened with many secrets of the organization such as payroll, we get around the questions of others on these topics with silence or a cold glare. (They should know better than to ask us about such matters.)

When it comes to job search, we get asked a lot of questions that we would prefer not to answer. The problem is if you don’t answer you won’t be considered for a golden (or perhaps silver or brass) opportunity. Such questions such as why you left your last job and your compensation history or requirements sort of top the list.

One thought to keep in mind is the stage of your discussion with the other party. While I would never recommend actually lying about any aspect of your career, the goal to keep at the top of your thinking is your purpose. And, your purpose is to get an interview.

On the topic of why you left your last job, the shorter the better is the right answer. Put a clock on it. Allot 90 seconds. The 90 second version needs to be so good that if someone actually heard the WHOLE story there would be no contradictions. At the earliest stage, no one actually needs to know the WHOLE story, but if and when you do need to tell the whole story, the partial explanation can’t be seen as any kind of contradiction to your earlier tale of woe.

Compensation questions come up all the time. What could be a more appropriate screening device than to know that you were earning twice what the job will pay? On the other hand, the client may be willing to pay more and/or you might be willing to take less. The parties will never know if you get eliminated too early.

The truth is that many folks don’t pick up on questions that are answered with a question. For example, if you are asked for your salary history or compensation target and you don’t know what the job pays, ASK. It is a fair question to ask for the salary range. If you know the salary range of the job, you are being foolish if you suggest your requirements are more than 25% more. “The salary range posted for the job is certainly something I would consider.” is an appropriate response. That doesn’t mean you will accept it, but it is truthful to say you will consider it.

The problem still remains that you have to sound convincing. If you have your heart set on an outrageous salary level, so be it, but you will get very few interviews. You have a product (you) that CAN’T be sold over the phone. Without a personal interview you will never have the opportunity to sell your wares.

You need to practice your “gut” responses so they sound truthful. You may even have to convince yourself that they are. (Have an argument with yourself some time and see if you win.)

Us financial types are just not good at lying. Others can hear it in your voice and if you are presenting in person, they can read it on your face. Don’t let them see you sweat. Practice your responses to all difficult questions until you know the “right” answer, and be sure it is one that won’t get you into trouble later.

Hopefully it will be truthful, and yet will get you into consideration for all those great jobs about which you are getting called.

Regards, Matt

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