Job Hunting Has Changed: You Have Leverage

Question:

I left a senior position in a large corporation when the pandemic and four children at home forced me out of the workforce. At first, my now ex-husband and I thought I’d take a month off, get the kids settled and return to on-site work. But COVID dragged on, and I couldn’t see leaving the kids at home to fend for themselves while I returned to ten-hour workdays.

Then, my personal life turned upside down. Now, I need to return to corporate work. I dread it. I want a job, but no longer want to be a superwoman who can handle a high-profile, high-stress career and still parent. I need “normal.” Forty, maybe forty-five hours a week is all I’m willing to give, maybe more if an employer will let me work three days a week from home. If I can work remotely, I can work when the kids are at school and get a few more hours in when the kids do their homework and have gone to bed. Do I bring my plan up in the interview?

Are there trick questions I can ask that will tell me if a prospective employer has reasonable expectations? I’m fearful of taking a job and hating the supervisor, as I formerly worked autonomously. How to I prevent that?

Also, I was making six figures before I quit. While I don’t expect to make six figures right off the bat, I’ve heard salaries are high. Should I ask for what I want? Will too high a salary demand put me out of the running?

Answer:  

When you interview with an employer, focus on the job, duties, and your work experience. Ask about your employer’s stance toward remote work and flexible hours. Other than that, hold your personal life information private until you’ve received an offer, unless your personal information directly relates to the job.

You can ask questions to get a sense for how reasonable your prospective manager’s expectations are and whether your manager’s operating style aligns with yours. Questions might include, “How reachable will you want me to be on weekends or evenings?” “What’s a normal workday and workweek?” “How often will you and I be communicating and what type of communication do you prefer–email, in person, by phone, or via texting?” and “How much overtime will there be?”

When you ask these questions, keep your tone positive and interested. Notice the effect of your questions and be careful not to touch a nerve. Word your questions to show you’re taking the job seriously and care about meeting the employer’s expectations.

If you’re lucky enough to interview with your prospective manager, notice her interviewing style, as it may give you a sense of her managerial style. Does she give you her full attention? Does she grill you or create a conversational dialogue and allow you to ask questions?

The Internet and LinkedIn give you multiple avenues for checking out potential managers and employer. Set up a Google Alerts for any prospective employers as that will give a sense of the company’s personnel and culture. If you share connections with a prospective manager, and have a good relationship with the connection, pick up the phone and ask what the work environment is like.

Many employers now allow large amounts of flexibility and remote work options to attract and retain top talent. If your prospective employer’s long-term remote-work stance is in flux, ask what criteria would push them forward to allowing long-term remote or hybrid work. A “we’re remote right now,” generally translates to “we’ll return to on-site as soon as we can.”

My research shows that job candidates now request 10 to 20% higher salaries than the starting salaries asked for in 2019. To ensure you’re in the right salary ballpark, visit LinkedIn, Payscale, Indeed or salary.com, enter in your desired job title and view the salaries listed.

Finally, take the time you need to find the right job—one you’ll want to remain at for one to two years, that works for you, and that allows you to parent. It’s out there.   

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One thought on “Job Hunting Has Changed: You Have Leverage

  1. “forty-five hours a week is all I’m willing to give, maybe more…”

    In an earlier post, I mentioned a friend who had a reasonable salary that ended up being unreasonable compensation due to extreme overtime requests at night and on weekends. I would definitely make sure that in addition to salary, any overtime will be compensated at a higher hourly rate.

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