How to Interview After You Were Fired

what-to-say-when-youve-been-firedWhat is a good way to tell prospective employers you were fired from you last job? Should you ever use a boss who fired you as a reference? Reader S wonders…

I was recently fired from a very small law firm without any warning and without any real reason given. The owner of the firm has a history of firing an employee every six months to a year without explanation. I was told that my work product was good and he would be happy to give me a positive recommendation. I’m at a loss as to what to say when the topic of my last position comes up during interviews. I’m certain that prospective employers will ask why I left and I will have to admit that it was involuntary. Is there any way I can explain the situation without sounding like I’m complaining about my prior boss? Also, without understanding the reason for my termination, is it wise to take him up on the offer for a recommendation?

Wow, I’m so sorry, S — that really stinks. We’ve talked about what to tell interviewers when you’ve been laid off, but we haven’t talked about being fired.  In general I think it’s important for an unemployed person to have a simple, practiced explanation — three sentences, max — for future interviews. So I think my advice here would be to go back to your former boss and ask the following questions: [Read more...]

The Hunt: Interview Pumps

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

It feels like we just talked about black interview pumps — the simple, closed-toe, walkable pump — but in fact it’s been a full year since I’ve done a round-up of basic black pumps (see here for our roundup of black pumps under $250, our 2010 roundup of black pumps under $100, and our original 2008 roundup of classic black pumps.  A lot of these pumps are true classics, and are still available — the Naturalizer Lennox, the Franco Sarto Cicero pump (on sale at Amazon as low as $32 depending on the color), the Cole Haan Air Talia pump, the Stuart Weitzman Platswoon and Blog pumps — and of course our recent discovery, the $20 Payless pump that a number of readers swear by, is still available.  Readers, what is your favorite, basic black pump?  What shoes do you wear for interviewing? [Read more...]

How to Ask For a Raise

Money on the Table, originally uploaded to Flickr by tuchodi.How DO you ask for a raise?  Reader K asks this classic question…

I am looking for tips on how to successfully ask for a raise! I have a unique situation – I was promoted just under 1 year ago, and got a significant raise in my salary. However – I actually took a pay cut, since I went from base salary + commission. The powers that be don’t view commission as part of your salary, so I essentially took a 20k pay cut if you look at my W2′s, but on paper I earned a significant raise. Now, looking online at salary ranges for my position and the company’s pay grade chart, a 15% raise would put me smack dab in the middle of nationwide salaries in positions like mine, and my company’s pay grade chart. Asking for a 15% raise seems ballsy to me, especially in this economy, but I have received a LOT of praise this year, including from the CEO directly. I feel I have earned it. Suggestion or tips on how to go about this? I actually have never asked for a raise before! Thank you!

Congratulations on your great year, and the bump (on paper, at least) in salary.  A lot has been written about how women don’t negotiate raises the same way men do — we hesitate to do it, we ask for too little, we don’t do it often enough (to say nothing of employers who have a bias against women). (Pictured.) [Read more...]

How to Secretly Use LinkedIn to Change Careers

How to Use Linked In Secretly to Change Careers | CorporetteHow do you use LinkedIn to get a new job — without alerting your coworkers or boss that you’ve got one foot out the door? Reader B has a GREAT question:

I am nearly six years into my first job, which is in commercial insurance. I want to transition out of this industry and thought augmenting my LinkedIn profile would be helpful (to show up in search results, connect to new contacts, etc.). HOWEVER, my entire work history and a good proportion of my contacts skew insurance. Since my current co-workers can view my profile (through second and tertiary contacts – I am not directly linked to any of them at present), I don’t want to raise any red flags at my office. Any suggestions?

Excellent question! I’ll be 100% honest here: whenever I get a little LinkedIn activity notification that someone has updated their experience, I wonder whether they’re starting to look around for a new job. I suppose it’s a bit like wearing a suit — if you never, ever wear a suit to the office and then one day, you do, everyone starts to wonder whether you’ve had an interview that day. But if you’re savvy about your LinkedIn usage, though, you can get around that. (Pictured: Secret, originally uploaded to Flickr by val.pearl.)

I think there are two phases to using LinkedIn to change careers. The first phase is the research phase, when you want to discreetly look at other people’s profiles, see what connections you might have, and join a lot of new groups in your target industry to get an idea for the conversations happening within the industry. [Read more...]

The Hunt: The Perfect Interview Bag

Mosey - Working Girl (Jet Black)Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

This is how I see the perfect interview bag: it’s big enough to fit your folder, a notepad, and everything you would normally carry in your purse, as well as maybe a bottle of water. It’s large, but not so large that the interviewer fears you’re hoping to crash on the couch in the lounge. I always like a black bag (sure, even with a navy suit), and for me, nylon is perfect because it doesn’t get as heavy as a leather bag, and nylon is very easy to clean. (Another bonus: if you accidentally swing around too fast in the elevator, the bag won’t turn lethal.) Oh, and it has to hold its shape by itself (so to me, not a Pliage bag, although those are great for other things). If this sounds familiar, forgive me — I think I go on the hunt every August for the perfect tote bag, and it always amazes me how hard it is to find these suckers online. I think I’ve rounded up some good ones for today’s Hunt, though — check ‘em out below. Readers, what is your ideal bag for interviewing? Have you found any good ones lately?

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How to Do Well in a Telephone Interview

Telephone, originally uploaded to Flickr by plenty.r.Phone interviews can be just as trying as an in-person interview — but how do you sound and act your best over the telephone?  Reader J just had her first phone interview, and wonders if she can do better:

I had my first telephone interview last week (previously, I’ve interviewed for summer positions, and taken part I in OCIs and other much more structured hiring processes and only had in-person interviews) and I wasn’t sure what to expect and how to prepare. I looked through your posts on interviewing, but didn’t find anything dedicated to talking about telephone interviews. I think it might be a useful topic to discuss (and get the hive’s input on) – in particular, how to know what kind of telephone interview to expect (the check-she’s-not-crazy with a low-level recruiter/firm HR person, the check-she’s-qualified with higher-level recruiter/firm hiring committee person, and the we-don’t-want-to-fly-you-across-the-country-for-an-in-person-interview-yet with the employer), how to prepare for different telephone interviews, and any telephone interview etiquette or tips.

Interesting! I think more and more companies are doing phone interviews as an initial step, so we should definitely talk about them.  (We have talked about Skype interviews, but those makeup tips seem a bit . . . irrelevant for a phone interview.)  Here are my thoughts, but I’m curious what the readers have to say. (Pictured: Telephone, originally uploaded to Flickr by plenty.r.) [Read more...]