Careers

Get the Answers to These 5 Career-Focused FAQs

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You've got career questions? We've got answers! College Confidential collected a few of the most commonly-asked job-related queries submitted to us and compiled them into a quick Q&A roundup.

How do I answer the question "what kind of salary are you looking for?" I don't have experience with pay and I have no salary history, so I'm kind of a blank slate here.


Your compensation package depends on many variables: education level, years of experience, geographical location and target industry. Before you construct a strong response to the salary question, I encourage you to conduct research – online and by speaking with people in the field – to determine what’s reasonable in terms of pay expectations. Starting with websites such as Payscale and Glassdoor, identify the average salary for someone with your background and in your field of interest. In your job search and during informational interviews, inquire about a salary range you should be seeking. As you collect information, remember that you will need to negotiate, and even if you have years of experience behind you, navigating salary negations can be daunting. Maybe you are happy with the offer, or maybe you feel uncomfortable asking for more money. Whatever your hesitation, keep in mind that the employer expects you to negotiate -- and if you don’t, you will lose out on base salary and benefits. If you want to receive appropriate compensation – and I have a feeling you do – it’s your responsibility to research and prepare. For detailed information on addressing salary questions, check out this article.

I have multiple jobs right now -- two paid (both part-time) and one internship. The dates overlap on my resume and I seem to be getting a lot of questions about this during HR phone screenings. How do I explain this to them?

First, you need to be transparent about the reasons behind the overlaps. Second, you need to draft a narrative that effectively explains your situation and specifically, how it brings value that you can then transfer to your next employer. If you are invited for interviews, employers have determined that you have something they need. Interviews present opportunities to meet you and clarify. Remember that you control the narrative, and as such, you may want to know what the narrative is so that you can communicate it clearly.

- What’s motivating you to do two part-time jobs along with an internship?

- How did you come to that arrangement and what about it works for you?

- How do you manage your time so that you show full commitment in each role?

Perhaps each role helps you gain or enhance a different skill to make you a well-rounded candidate. Whatever the story is, write it down, share it with a trusted mentor or a friend, and practice it with a career coach. Interview questions seek to figure out who you are, what motivates you and how you think and make decisions. How you articulate your situation becomes even more important than what the situation is. An effective story that connects all the dots helps HR managers gain knowledge about you and convince them you are worth their time.

I interviewed for a job and haven't heard back. How soon is too soon to send a follow up email? And what should it say?

As a career coach, I hear this question on a regular basis. I hope you already know that you need to send thank-you notes within 24 hours of the interview. This is really the first step to an appropriate follow-up process. It is your responsibility to follow up and you should always do so, especially if you seriously desire the role.

To make your life easier, inquire about next steps at the end of an interview. That could give you a timeline to work with. If the interviewer says that she’ll be contacting candidates within the next two weeks, you know that you need to wait at least two weeks before following up. Give the hiring manager a couple of days beyond the established window before you follow up.

If you forget to inquire about next steps – it happens when you are in high-stress situations – or the interviewer does not give a specific response, I recommend that you wait at least a week before following up. If you don’t hear back, follow up again in another week or two. If you don’t hear anything at that point, it may be best to leave the position alone. You want to avoid annoying interviewers in case they do contact you eventually. A lot happens behind the scenes that may delay the interviewer’s response. I once heard back from an employer four months after applying and learned that an unexpected leadership shift had slowed down the hiring process.

In your follow-up, focus on expressing gratitude, highlighting your continued interest, emphasizing the value you could bring and including a simple request. Avoid sending your email on a Monday when many of us come to a full inbox. Here is a sample message:

Dear Ms. Smith,

I hope this email finds you well. Thank you again for speaking with me about the [insert title] position two weeks ago. Your mention of [insert a need you learned about during the interview] strengthened my interest in the role, and I am excited about the opportunity to join your team and apply my experience with [insert skill/tool you can use to address the need] to help you [insert employer’s goal you’d like to help them meet].

I’m curious about the status of my application and would be happy to provide additional information as you finalize your hiring decision.

Thank you for time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Mary James

I graduated college and haven't found a job yet. Should I take another internship to get more experience in the field, or does it look bad to potential employers to take an internship after graduation?

On average, it takes a job seeker three to six months to secure a position, and although it may feel demotivating when you don’t hear back, you want to continue working on your strategy. Before making a decision on what to do next, you may want to chat with a trusted mentor or a career coach and reflect on the following question: What has my approach been and is there a way to enhance or change it? If your current strategy is not working to help you secure a full-time position, it will probably not help you secure an internship either. Check with your alma mater, as in many cases, you may have continued access to career services.

After identifying ways to upgrade your job search strategy, you can certainly add internships to your target positions, but be strategic about the roles you target. As a recent graduate, you want to put your knowledge and skills to the test, so consider internships, part-time and full-time positions, fellowships or even volunteer engagements that allow you to apply and flex your skills. Completing an internship after graduation is not necessarily a problem. What’s more important is that you complete an internship that enhances your value, strengthens certain skills and allows you to access a network of professionals who can help you grow in the field. In addition, many companies hire internally, and an internship could be your way in.

I'm quitting a job because the boss is abusive. HR wants to have an exit interview. Do I tell them the boss is abusive? Everyone is telling me not to "burn the bridge" but they should know, right?

The simple answer is yes, but exit interviews are never simple. If your boss is mistreating you and causing you to leave your job, you want to make sure HR knows. That said, you want to do so in a calm, tactful and professional manner by focusing on both what worked and what didn’t. Hiring and onboarding are expensive and employee retention is key to company success, so the HR department needs to be aware of a toxic manager who is causing the company to lose money by chasing talent away. During the exit interview, be prepared to offer specific examples to communicate your reasons for leaving, and depending on your case, you may be asked to show proof or to indicate if there were any witnesses to the mistreatment. If you have not brought up the issue until the exit interview, be prepared to discuss why that is the case. Remember that you are not really burning a bridge if you are leaving an abusive boss. You probably won’t ask that boss for a recommendation, and even if you did want to come back to the same employer, I’m certain you’d prefer not to work with an abusive boss.