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I am starting to look into careers that are more professional or administrative than my current one since by the beginning of 2015, I will have a Master's. I have mostly worked for government where the salary ranges are clearly stated up front, but I have noticed more private sector positions do not state a salary range.

I just inquired about whether a private sector position listed on a state website was still open. This is another thing I have noticed, they rarely remove the postings once they have been filled, but that's another thread.

The position was open, so I asked about a salary range since another thing I have noticed is that the private sector likes fancy titles that do not pay very well. The person responded that she did not have that information, punctuated with an exclamation point. Apparently I committed a faux pas of some kind by asking, but i find it ridiculous to spend a couple hours drafting a cover letter and tailoring a resume and then possibly spedning money traveling for an interview just to find out that the position pays nowhere near what I would accept because I do not intend to move backwards in pay. Is this waste of time on everypone's part something I will just have to accept?

Secondly, when they do ask for salary requirements, what are some guidelines? Do I quote high or low? If it ends up being too low, have I somehow given up the "right" to negotiate for more?

This is all new to me, so if anyone has any experienced and educated answers, please chime in.

Thanks in advance!
 

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In government, pay is largely based on level of education, grade, and time in grade. In the business world it may or may not be based on those.

For example, let's say you are an accountant. If there are plenty of accountants available, business "might" offer a lower salary knowing they can get someone at a lower price. Government largely will have to pay you based on their criteria, regardless of supply and demand.

The good news is in the business world they can also pay you more if you have exceptional skills that they need. This is one area where you have to do your homework.

Study the job description closely. Try to understand exactly what they are looking for. Can you come up with examples of work you have done that matches the job requirements? Be prepared to discuss what special expertise and experience you can bring to the company.

In my experience, the cover letter is more important than the resume. Taylor your cover letter to the specific job you are applying for. On the resume, I like functional rather than chronological, because I can easily rearrange the resume so what the company lists as important shows up first in my resume.

Cover letter gets their attention. Bad cover letter means they may not even look at resume. Good cover letter and good resume should get you an interview. Then you have to sell them on you, the person.
 

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Thanks, MoonRiver. I do have issues with always having to rearrange and tailor my resume since I am going from one field into a completely different field. Sometimes they want "supervisory" expereince and I haven't had that in my current profession (at least officially) and in the position I did have it I am almost embarrassed to include it on a resume since it was decades ago.

I guess I tend to be an organized person and I hate time-wasting. I wish they would just include a broad salary range, so I can decide whether to even bother. This saves them time, too, by not going through a bunch of hoops just to find out that I would never take such a cut in pay. I make about $35K with overtime, so anything above that is gravy to me, but, like I said, they advertise a fancy title that sounds like it should be a good-paying position just to find out that I am making more as a peon at my current position.
 

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Agreed a cover letter is invaluable as a door opener. If you don't have job experience in a supervisory position, stress personal attributes such as being very organized, socially adept, commitment to goals, time management, and of course educational preparedness.

Most private companies won't give you a salary amount up front. There are too many variables for the company to consider based on the individual, as opposed to the government where variables can't be considered. For instance, how much money and time will the company spend training a person with little specific experience but basic competence as an employee. Companies hire and pay based on how much money a person can contribute to their bottom line.
 

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You can go on-line and look up salary ranges for different jobs. I think it's a government site. And yeah, sometimes you have to play the game by their rules - like doing what you don't want to do to get what you want. (salary range)

When you go into an interview, you also are interviewing the company. The salary is not the only thing that may be important. I'd take a beginning lower salary if other factors were there like advancement, job enjoyment, location, flex time and other things important to me were there. You're young yet - think about it.

A cover letter is so important as it lets the company know if you can string two coherent sentences together. It should let the prospective employer know that you are organized, etc.
I once submitted a resume for a job entirely opposite of my job experience, but I had loads of "life experience" in the field. My cover letter explained the life experience. I got the interview and the job!
 

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Companies hire and pay based on how much money a person can contribute to their bottom line.
This!

I'm a hiring manager at work (Fortune 40 company). You want to do some research on whatever company you are applying with. Not just the job - the company. When I hire people I am not only looking at whether or not they can do the job. I want to know if they are promotable. I want to know what they bring to the table. It costs an incredible amount of money to bring someone online and get them trained. If I'm going to spend that money I'm looking for people who have enthusiasm for the job and the company.

Far and away, people are our most important asset. You can learn a lot about a company's culture on the net and what their goals are. If you come into an interview knowing that information and can explain to me why your skill set makes you a good match not just for the job but for the company, you've got an instant leg up. "I read recently that this company is expanding into (fill in the blank). That's really exciting and presents a lot of opportunity! Here is how I can help with that goal." Stuff like that is music to my ears. It tells me the candidate took the time to research and took the time to give some thought to what they bring to the table.

We do not make public the salary range on our job postings. Frustrating, yes. It's considered poor manners to ask what the job pays during an interview. Let the interviewer bring that up. At the end of an interview if I'm thinking of making an offer I may give a salary range and ask if it's acceptable. Personally, it doesn't bother me if someone asks, but I'm probably the exception to that rule. If someone is spending the small amount of interview time we have (maybe 30-60 minutes on average) and a person spends the majority of that time asking what the company can do for them I'm not horribly impressed. I will explain what those benefits are at the end of the interview.

What I want up front is to hear in your own words why you want to work with us, what you get excited about in a work environment, what motivates you. If I know what motivates you I will know if we're a good match for each other. Sometimes someone is not a good match for the position I'm hiring for - but I know of other positions where the manager would LOVE to have that person and I'll for sure make some phone calls to get that person an interview.

I also what to hear about how you handled a mistake. I will often ask, "What's the biggest mistake you made and how did you handle it?" Everyone makes mistakes. I'm interested in how you work through it, what you do to take ownership, whether or not you communicated in a timely manner the error to those higher up the food chain and - most importantly - was the customer satisfied with your 'fix.'

Supervisory experience I may or may not care about. Supervisors can be good or bad. What I look for in a supervisor (among other things) is someone who is willing to be proactive, take ownership of issues, can problem solve and is a great communicator. I want organizational skills. I look for thoughtfulness and someone who is articulate. Whether they have "supervisor" on a resume matters to me very little provided they can explain why their experience (life experience or job experience) gives them that skill set needed. I want to hear what your goals are.

A lot of people will take entry level jobs at this company even though they are qualified for more. They want to get their foot in the door. If you look for a company that promotes from within, that's a good plan.

Here are a few things I hate to hear. "I'm a hard worker." That doesn't tell me anything at all. I would rather hear about a project you worked on and how you contributed to the success of that project. I don't care if it's organizing a block sale or running a retail business. Give me something specific. Tell me what you can do. I also have a whole lot of respect for people who have had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet or accomplish a financial goal. That is specific information about being a hard worker. Specifics are good. :)

"I'm a very organized person" also tells me nothing. If someone gives me examples of being organized that is a different story. I love that. :)

I want people who want to work at my organization. I want people who want to grow and get more responsibility. At the same time, I really hate hearing "How long do I have to wait until I can post out for another position in the company?" That tells me they really don't want to stick around and play in my corner of the sandbox. I kid you not, I have had people ask that. Why should I spend money, time and effort to get you onboarded and trained when your goal is to work for a different area of the company?

If you have a flexible schedule that's a plus. I always tell people what our hours of operation are for a given position. Every hiring class, when people get schedules, there will be some who say, "I really can't work that shift because...." If you can't work it, don't tell me that you can.

Be honest. Don't tell me you have a degree in xyz when you don't or that you did this or that when you didn't. We will find out, trust me. Don't pretend to be something you are not. If you get hired and can't deliver what you said you could you'll have less of a chance at additional training and additional responsibility.

Protect your online reputation. If you have a Facebook page please have some security settings in place. If you don't do so businesses may view that as sloppy and careless. Businesses do not want careless people in positions of responsibility.

What is your Master's in?

If you are looking to move up in a business role please make sure you know your way around the basic programs like Excel.

When you are putting your resume and cover letter together remember that spell check is your friend. :)

Good for you for looking for more and better in whatever field you are trying to get in to. Keep us posted on the search.
 

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Kasota... I like your approach.... if I had ever applied to your company, when you got to that part about asking me about my biggest mistakes and how I handled them a simple "I divorced her" would have been my reply. Its direct and to the point without a lot of valuable time wasted. Minor mistakes would be about the same... anytime I made a minor mistake... like on the job or something, I simply reached in my back pocket and made things right. In my eleven years as a real estate agent I reached into my pocket twice... a nine dollar error on a closing statement, and an 80 dollar error on another. :)
 
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