We’ve helped thousands of job seekers like yourself create smart strategies for achieving their goals. Here are a few of the questions we’re commonly asked - and good advice based on our years of success and industry experience.
Q. I have been in public accounting for five years and enjoy what I do. But I don’t feel I am being compensated fairly. How can I find out what type of compensation I could get in the private sector?
A. Assess what you do on a day to day basis and decide if your efforts are extraordinary compared to others in the company. If they are, structure a well thought out, persuasive argument as to why you should be paid a higher wage. However, before having that conversation, I would look at other ways you may benefit the company as well. Be willing to take on additional responsibilities, work longer hours, or help create an additional source of revenue that would allow the company to further benefit from your involvement. In other words, create value for your employer.
The more valuable you are to your employer the more leverage you have in asking for an increase in compensation. If you are deemed an essential person because you help the company make money, save money or become more efficient your employer should be willing to work out a more favorable compensation plan for you.
Q. I am just completing my 3rd year with a Big Four accounting firm. I have done audits and receive high evaluations from clients. What type of position might I be qualified for within a corporate accounting and finance department?
A. You have a number of options with this background, including planning and analysis, budgeting/forecasting, various accounting roles, reporting (SEC) if appropriate, and internal audit; however the most important step is gaining an understanding of the job market, which industries and roles would be most appealing and available to you, how to leverage your current skills and experience, what you are worth, etc. Consider the following questions when deciding to make a career move:
- What sort of engagements have you been on at your firm?
- Public v. Private companies?
- Various industries or a concentration in one specific industry?
- Do you have any industries you would prefer or want to avoid?
- What did you enjoy or not enjoy about these engagements?
- Could you see yourself performing the roles of any of your client contacts either in your next role or in the near future?
- Do you have any experience(s) that make you a unique prospect for an employer?
- Are there any restrictions on the amount of travel you can do for work? If yes, what % are you comfortable with?
- Are you actively considering making a move or passively open to hear about what is available?
Once you have answered these you can make a decision that is right for you and your career. If you want to discuss your current situation with a Stephen James recruiter, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss the options available.
Q. A few of my peers have recently transitioned out of public accounting. I have been considering it but I do not have an updated resume. What is the best way to prepare a resume?
A. Our firm consults with you through every step of the recruiting process. This includes building a resume, which we can provide expert opinions as a result of our past experience in the public accounting world and our daily interactions with candidates and CFO’s. If you want to try and tackle writing a resume on your own, be sure to use “action” verbs such as develop, prepare, analyze, document, perform, oversee, and manage when documenting your experience.
Q. I am ready to make a career change, but have never met with a recruiter. I have received numerous calls from them over the years. How do you work and what should I expect?
A. Our firm is comprised of former industry professionals, so our work ethic is very similar to yours. We are honest, upfront, and have a unique understanding of the technical side of the positions we are representing and the confidential nature of a job search. We request that our clients and prospective candidates appreciate the value of our time; in return we work diligently to find opportunities advantageous to all parties involved.
During the search process, we will meet with you to get an understanding of your background and the types of opportunities for which you are qualified and have an interest in exploring. When we contact you about any opportunity, we will provide a complete overview of the client, the job description, the working environment and the growth potential of the position. We will help prepare you for the interview and provide prompt feedback from the client. If you approach the offer stage with one or more companies/opportunities, we will work with you and the client to develop an offer that is agreeable to all parties. Stephen James will also provide guidance during the resignation process from your current position and review counter-offer scenarios.
Q. I accepted a position with a great company located close to my home. When I gave my resignation to my current employer, my boss sat me down and offered to increase my salary to stay. I don’t know what to do now. Any suggestions?
A. Although counter offers are extremely flattering on the surface, you should be wondering why your resignation triggered such a reaction. In most cases, it is not in your best interest to accept. Often when counter offers are made, they are done as a stop gap because you have put the company in a difficult situation. Replacing you will require time and money, not to mention the assimilation required for a new hire. The hiring process itself may take weeks or months! Your boss doesn’t want to absorb your workload, work the overtime, etc., so it is often times much easier to pay you a few thousand dollars more and make some promises to keep you around. However, if you decide to stay, the company now knows you are not as loyal as they thought. You can be cut out of important discussions/meetings, special projects might be given to someone else who needs/wants the exposure, etc. By appeasing you in the short term, the company hopes to buy time to be able to create a contingency plan for your inevitable departure. In other words, they can begin recruiting or grooming someone to move into your role.
Furthermore, there are reasons other than money that made you want to make a move. Ask yourself, “Besides my paycheck, what else will change with this offer?” Many times a person’s judgment gets clouded when money comes into play, allowing them to “forget” the problems that made them consider leaving in the first place. Eventually those issues come back to light as they were not solved when you received a larger amount of compensation. Not surprisingly, frustration will settle back in and you will be searching again for another opportunity outside of your current employer.
Finally, your present employer will have solved their problem short-term, but by accepting a counteroffer, you may now need to do damage control with the potential employer. Imagine the conversation you will have when you have to tell your prospective employer that you’ve decided to accept a counter offer and will not be joining them after all. Your reputation may be tarnished.
Q. I haven’t interviewed for a new position in quite some time, but I recently was approached with an interesting opportunity. The interview is next week. What can I do to prepare myself?
A. Preparing for an interview can be just as nerve wracking as the interview itself. Remember you cannot possibly learn everything about the company, the person you’re interviewing with or the opportunity. However you can educate yourself enough to allow you to be successful.
First, do due diligence on the company. If it is a publicly traded entity, there will be more information than you could possibly dream of. Make sure you read the latest headlines and find out why they are in the news. Learn about their product and/or service offerings, delivery model and the person(s) you will be meeting with. If you are unable to attain this information call the person that contacted you about the job (referral, recruiter, colleague, etc) and ask them to help fill in the blanks.
Create a list of questions that you will need addressed in order to determine if the company is right for you. Remember, you are interviewing them as well, so it is important that you know how the position will affect you, your family and your career.
Prior to walking into the interview, bring with you four things: 1. Extra copies of your resume; 2. References; 3. Any visual aid that will showcase a talent, skill, etc. (i.e. examples of work); 4.The questions you developed while doing your due diligence. Make sure you relax, act like yourself and answer all questions truthfully. Good luck.
Q. I have been looking for a new job for the past three months but have not been able to find an opportunity that excites me. I have answered numerous on-line job postings but I have never been given a call. What should I do?
A. Understand that if an internet posting looks great to you, chances are it looks great to a number of others as well. If you are one of many answering a positing on the internet, you may get lost in the shuffle. Since you may not have a way to follow up with the person posting the position, you are taking the chance that your resume “reads” better than everyone else’s. Don’t leave your search to chance or luck.
Research the position. Find out the person posting the position and how you may get in touch with them. Seek someone through your network that may have a connection with that person and ask them to make an introduction. A familiar person referring you works better than answering a job posting.
If you do not have a way to be referred in, then pick up the telephone and introduce yourself. Don’t leave a voicemail, get someone on the phone. Be prepared to tell them how you can help the company make money, save money or become more efficient. Send your resume directly to their email address and not through an HR or applicant address. Then follow up to schedule a time to meet. This will allow you to stand out from the crowd.
Q. I have been verbally extended a job offer from a company I am excited about working for. However, the offer is contingent on the successful completion of a background check. When should I resign from my current employer?
A. . If you have no major issues in your background I wouldn’t be too concerned. If, however, there are problems that have occurred (i.e. an arrest, lawsuit, poor credit, etc.) make sure the employer making the offer knows about the situation(s) even if you have an expunged record. If you address the circumstances prior to the background check the potential employer may be forgiving of any previous indiscretion(s).
People genuinely like surprises, but not in this case. If a prospective employer is not kept in the loop about these issues the likelihood of them being forgiving is very minimal. They will feel that you deliberately tried to hide these facts from them and that you are not a trustworthy person. Therefore it is always in your best interest once a verbal offer has been extended and you know a background check will be completed to provide full disclosure to the hiring authority.
Once the background check has been completed and the verbal offer turns into a written offer you should then give your two week notice. Do not proceed until you have documentation in hand. Although you may want to give your resignation based on the verbal offer, a written offer solidifies the position and will make you feel at ease when providing you resignation letter.
Q. I have been training individuals in my department while trying to produce at the same time. I have found that once I have trained these candidates how to do the job that often they either leave for a better position within the company or they are promoted. What can I do as I feel like I am being taken advantage of?
A. Well you obviously are in a position in which you have become very valuable to the company! There may be a particular reason as to why you have been chosen to train each individual. If so you should be flattered. You may be the best person the company has ever had in the role or you may do your job so well that management has deemed it impossible to train someone as good as you. Perhaps you have been training your replacements once you have received your promotion but none of them could ever be as good as you.
But you will never know if there is anything you can do to get rid of the exploitation feeling if you do not ask. Sit down with your supervisor and ask him/her why you are not being considered for these other roles or better yet what he/she sees your role is in the near future. Remember you have created value in that you are helping to produce other individuals that are contributing positively to the company. Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility or look to move to a different role within the company. If you do not ask you’ll be left thinking you are being treated unfairly. Speak up!!
Q. I interviewed for a position two weeks ago and still haven’t heard from anyone. Should I call the hiring manager or would I be overstepping my bounds and wait longer to hear back from them?
A. I would contact whoever set up the interview first. If a Human Resources person or a recruiter scheduled the interview it is their responsibility to respond to you with feedback.
They may not have any specific feedback because the hiring manager was slow to get back to them or they may not want to be the bearer of bad news. Never the less, it is considerate and appropriate for the person that scheduled the interview to get back to you to tell you what is going on and how your interview was perceived.
If the Human Resources person or recruiter does not respond, then you should contact the hiring manager directly. If you have that person’s contact information (you should ask everyone you speak with for a card so that you can send them thank you notes after the interview), pick up the phone and ask them for feedback. Explain to them that you have not heard from anyone in regards to the interview and you just want to ascertain an assessment on your interview skills so that you can improve for future opportunities. By being proactive you may come across as a more desirable candidate. Also, do not put the hiring manager on the spot as to why you have not heard back. It may be that they have not completed the interview process, the HR person or recruiter has dropped the ball or maybe they have. But, the more uncomfortable they feel the less likely they will give you any response positive or negative.
Q. I am considering leaving my current company to work for a competitor. The opportunity is phenomenal but I am concerned with non-compete issues. Will I be sued? What should I do?
A. First and foremost, did you sign a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement? If so then you should consult with an employment attorney. These attorneys may charge a large amount of money per hour (between $150 - 500) but they are worth it! A good attorney will read the agreement, interpret it the way a judge may and deem if it fits within the confines of state employment laws. He/she will also give you an idea of what your options could be and advice on how to proceed. The one thing they will never do is tell you what you should do. That is still your decision, but after speaking with an employment attorney an informed decision.
If you have not signed any document - Congratulations! You have no legal obligations to worry about in regards to making a switch. The only issues you will have to deal with are the feelings of betrayal that co-workers or supervisors may have towards you. Understand that this is common when you leave to work for a competitor.
Q. I have been seeking an opportunity within my current company to move into a different role. I have been passed over countless times for promotion only to watch my peers attain higher ranking and better paying opportunities. What can I do?
A. I would suggest that you talk with your supervisor and find out why you are not being considered for these “other” opportunities. Maybe your co-workers’ effort is exemplary or that they have different attributes that you do not bring to the table (education, training, experience, etc.). Whatever the reason find out what it is. Realize that the information you get from the explanation is meant to help you figure out what you can do to attain another position. It is not a time to be defensive or to argue with your boss. Rather, it is a time to notify the boss that you are seeking an opportunity to gain more responsibility and contribute more to the company.
Ask your supervisor to help you put together a plan that will allow you to attain the skills, recognition, etc. necessary to move into the role that you want. Ask he/she their suggestions and input. Make sure you put together a viable plan that you feel you can execute. Once you have the plan in place begin implementing it. Ask your supervisor to review what you have done daily, weekly, monthly or whatever time frame makes sense. By utilizing your supervisor for help, you will find that he/she will be a big advocate for you once another opportunity becomes available.
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