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Job Interview Dilemmas and Answers

Job Interview Dilemmas and Answers

April 18, 2011

The job application asks for previous salary figures or “desired salary,” but your best reference point is $5/hour plus tips at Ted’s Clam Shack. How do you come up with a figure?

Starting salaries have a lasting impact on your career earnings – even for years after you first enter the workforce. This is especially true for students who graduate during a recession. So it’s important to establish yourself at a fair, competitive pay grade.

At the same time, if you’re too aggressive – or just plain delusional – you’ll likely miss out on the job offer. Root says honesty is the best policy. “Recruiters understand, especially with recent graduates, that they may not have held a salaried position before.” If you’re asked to supply your desired salary, it’s more than permissible to write or say, “negotiable.” Hopefully you’ll be invited to a second interview and receive an offer letter, at which point you can always match your expectations against a source like eLearners’ Salary Wizard.

You’re new in the area because you moved to be with your college boyfriend or girlfriend. When asked, “what brings you to town?” is it okay to admit you’re a wandering romantic? Or do you have to rehearse some elaborate fiction about your lifelong ambition to land a job in Tulsa?

What sounds like a nonissue can quickly get complicated if you’re not careful. Lots of grads follow a loved one to a new city or a new state. Still, you don’t need to drag the whole story – like an annoying Ashton Kutcher movie – into your job interview. It could raise doubts about your long term plans, or even your level of ambition. Will you stay in town if things go sour? Are you focused on your career, or on your campaign for a wedding ring?

Long story short: it’s okay to be vague in this arena. Root advises that it’s enough to say you’ve recently relocated, and to emphasize your interest in the organization. Legally, employers can’t ask about your relationship status, anyway.

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