Count the Cost of Working


I am about to go on maternity leave with my first child, and have been checking into day care costs for when I return after 3 months. Wow! What an eye-opener. Quality child care is pricey. I don’t know if it will be worth it for me to even return to work. How can I decide?

Dear “Penny Wise,”

Child care expensesFirst, congratulations on the upcoming birth of your firstborn!

New moms – and every employed person – should be aware of the actual costs of working relative to their income, if only to be mindful of their budgets. A recent CareerBuilder study found the average U.S. worker spends $3,300 annually on work-related expenses.

Childcare: Penny Wise, daycare will be a new expense you haven’t had to consider in the past. As you’re discovering, quality childcare comes at a price. Of the 29% of the survey participants who had daycare expenses, more than one-third (36%) spend $500+ monthly. According to ChildCare Aware, daycare now costs more than 4 years of in-state college tuition in 31 states! (Working pet owners also spend money on dog walkers or “furbaby” sitters, but much, much less).

Transportation: There’s the cost of getting to and from work. The majority of workers (84%) drive to work and almost half of those spend $10-$25 on gas, and 37% spend more than $25 weekly. The CareerBuilder survey didn’t take into account an unlimited metro card or other public transportation fares, or a car payment, maintenance expenses, insurance, and parking costs. AAA estimates the average total yearly cost of a minivan – you’re getting the official mom-mobile, aren’t you? – is $6,482, or 81.2 cents per mile.

Work Attire: Unless your company provides a uniform, most workers foot the Lunch Tabbill for their own clothing to wear to work (and it is not tax deductible, unless you have to pay for your own uniform). Most employees in the CareerBuilder survey spend at least $250 a year on job-appropriate clothes and shoes.

Meals & Incidental Expenses: You need to eat whether you are working or not. But restaurant meals and $5 designer coffee drinks add up a lot more quickly than preparing and eating meals at home.

The Cost of Not Working: Parents who want to stay home with their new babies – or other readers wishing to start their own business or just take a sabbatical – should consider the cons of leaving the security of their full-time positions.

Insurance: Even if part of your insurance premium is deducted from your paycheck, your employer makes a major contribution. Check your self-funded rates at to see if you can avoid the ACA penalty. According to, the annual fee for not having insurance in 2016 is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child (up to $2,085 for a family), or it’s 2.5% of your household income above the tax return filing threshold for your filing status – whichever is greater. You’ll pay 1/12 of the total fee for each full month in which a family member went without coverage or an exemption. (Use this ACA penalty calculator to figure the damage after your COBRA coverage expires.)   

Retirement Savings. Will you be losing out on your employer’s matching contribution to a 401k or other retirement plan? Short-term savings on coffee may not fund your retirement – or your new baby’s college education.

Readers: Have you ever calculated the cost of going to work, or staying at home? Share your results below.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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A New Spin on Commuting
The True Cost of Employees
Family Leave Options
Four-Day Work Weeks
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11 Red Flags to Heed Before Accepting That Job


You talk about red flags for companies hiring employees. What about red flags for us job seekers? What should we beware of in a potential boss or company?

Dear Wary Larry,

After last week’s post on what hiring managers should avoid, let’s turn the tables and outline the warning signs job seekers should steer clear of in a prospective employer.

  1. Disrespect. A hiring manager who keeps you waiting for 35 minutes without a very good excuse is not offering you the same courtesy you showed when you arrived for your interview on time. If they seem unprepared for the interview, strike two.
  2. Anger Management Issues. If you overhear your future supervisor castigating a subordinate or rudely yelling at a vendor on a phone call, run, don’t walk, to the exit.
  3. Low office moraleLow Morale. You may me able to sense the stress level when walking through the office, or the demoralized mood may only be apparent when you peruse workplace reviews on Glassdoor or a “rate your boss” website. Online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, as statistics show that 95% of people who’ve had a bad experience will tell someone about it, and only 87% will share a good experience.
  4. Unclear Job Description. The human resource professional conducting the phone pre-interview may not be able to answer “What is a typical day like in this position?” But if your future supervisor is vague, how will you know if you will be a good fit, much less excel in the post?
  5. Tight-Lipped About Key Criteria. Unless you really do need security clearance to discuss certain aspects of a government job, your potential employer shouldn’t deflect questions about success benchmarks, compensation, bonus structure, or benefits. What are they trying to hide?
  6. Illegal Questioning. You want to work for a company that is up to speed on employment law. Check out my post, 20 Interviewer Questions that Should Not Be Asked, to see the difference between right and wrong ways for interviewers to obtain information.
  7. Chaotic office environmentChaotic Environment. The hiring manager’s desk doesn’t have to look he has OCD, but a disorganized office can indicate a lack of business systems and a helter-skelter approach to such important duties as performance reviews, salary increase and bonus submission, and even day-to-day workflow.
  8. Immediate Job Offer. While being offered a job on the spot may be good for your ego, don’t give an immediate “yes!” It takes an average of 9 days for employers to thoughfully fill open jobs. A desperate employer who hires the first warm body may have a high employee churn rate, and you may not last long.
  9. No Follow-Up. It’s a pet peeve of mine when companies don’t acknowledge an application or résumé submission, if only with an auto responder. A company that does not follow-up after you’ve taken the time to interview is not the type of company you want to work for. A hiring manager who is uncomfortable giving you the news that she’s chosen someone else is not a good leader.
  10. No Opportunity for Growth. Make sure you are satisfied with the answer to your questions, “What kind of person gets promoted in your department?” or “What is a typical career path from this position?” If professional development is not encouraged, you may be headed for a dead-end with this job.
  11. Doesn’t Align with Your Goals. Through no fault of the employer, you may discover after a learning more about the company that its mission statement – or just the open position – doesn’t align with your career objectives.

Even if none of these red flags are present but you have a nagging feeling of unease about the opportunity, listen to your gut and decline the position. Your intuition won’t steer you wrong.

Readers: Have you experienced these or any other red flags when exploring job opportunities? Tell us about it.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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20 Interviewer Questions NOT to Ask to Stay out of Hot Water
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Hiring Red Flags


I just became manager of my department a few months ago, and now I’m in the position of hiring my first employee. (The reason I’m losing a team member is a whole other story!) Our company doesn’t have an HR person much less department, so I’ll be handling the hiring process myself. Can you give me some inside information on what to look for or, more specifically, what (or who) to avoid? I don’t want to make a bad hire.

Hiring red flagsDear “On Guard,”

Applicants who make certain missteps, listed below, raise red flags – or at least yellow “caution” signals – for seasoned recruiters and HR professionals. (Job seekers, listen up! Knowing the impression you are making on hiring managers could cost you the job.)

  1. Not Following Directions. In your hypothetical Craigslist ad, if you request a cover letter and résumé, be wary of those who just attach a résumé only. Strike one.
  2. Templated Cover Letter and Résumé. Pirated “Dear Sir or Madam” introductions, résumé objectives unrelated to the position for which they are applying, and generic recitations of job duties indicate a lack of initiative. There’s nothing wrong with using sample résumés or cover letters for inspiration, but job seekers should personalize and make them their own.
  3. Typographical Errors. If an applicant doesn’t take the time to proofread his résumé, how can you trust him to pay “attencion [sic] to detale [sic]” in your position. Even if the cover letter and résumé are flawless, don’t disregard typos and grammatical errors in follow-up emails. This is what you – and potentially customers – can expect in the candidate’s day-to-day work.
  4. Lack of Experience. Sorry, recent graduates. But the learning curve can be steep for applicants have never had a job, an internship, or even a volunteer position. A manager has to consider how much time and resources are available for helping a first-time wage-earner learn the basics of navigating the world of employment, in addition to training for the specific job duties.
  5. Job-Hopping. A short attention span isn’t the curse it was in years past, but I know some companies that still automatically disqualify applicants who have held a set high number of different positions within a certain time span. If the change was a promotion or even a lateral move within the same company, that’s a totally different story.
  6. Gaps Between Jobs. Gaps on a résumé can be a result of life choices such as taking a traveling sabbatical or being a stay-at-home parent, or unexpected circumstances like caring for an ill relative or a layoff. The yellow flag appears when an applicant does nothing to explain in a cover letter the circumstances surrounding any gap longer than a few months.
  7. Extended Unemployment. Though much of this bias against hiring a chronically unemployed person may be an unconscious psychological stereotype (only lazy/dishonest/unskilled people are out of work – not always true!), it can be a legitimate concern that skills get rusty with disuse.
  8. Jobs Don’t Jibe. It may not be blatant lying, but it sure looks suspicious if the dates on a candidate’s résumé differ from his or her LinkedIn profile. If (like me) a job seeker is not great at remembering dates, they should cross-check employment periods entered on applications against their master résumé before submitting.
  9. Social Faux Pas. Many hiring managers make it a practice to check out applicants’ social media presence, looking for red flags such as references to drugs and/or alcohol abuse, inappropriate behavior, even bad grammar (refer to #3 above), all of which could pose potential issues in the workplace. Election Year tip: In this contentious political season, job seekers should keep argumentative comments out of the limelight. (See Facebook: Friend or Foe? for more tips.)
  10. Overqualification. What could be wrong with having too many skills? Savvy managers worry that an overqualified candidate may become bored taking a job a step below a previous position. Learning the reasons why a heavy hitter is applying can possibly turn a red light into yellow.
  11. No Back-up. Applicants who brag about “great people skills” or claim to be a “super salesman” without quantifying and backing it up with data or examples are suspect.
  12. DebbieDowner2Unprofessional Manner. Answering the phone, “Yeah,” or coming to the interview in grossly inappropriate clothing could mean the applicant won’t fit into your company culture.
  13. Negativity. The Debbie Downer who complains during the interview about the traffic, her medical maladies, and the ineptitude of former bosses is not likely to stop kvetching when you hire her.
  14. Desperation. An overly-eager candidate tells you more about why he needs the job rather than how he is the best person for your open position. Keep your emotions out of the hiring decision and never offer a person a position out of pity. Instead, select the most qualified – not the most needy – candidate for the job.
  15. Tepid (or Downright Bad) References. Don’t skip the reference check. While some companies have a strict policy prohibiting their staff from divulging much information during a reference check call, they can often answer the key question, “Would you hire this person again?” Smaller companies less worried about legal repercussions may provide more helpful feedback.

Managers: Have you ever ignored a red flag and hired a person anyway? Tell us what happened.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Attitude: It’s Contagious!
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Re-Entering the Workforce after a Hiatus

I have not worked in over 15 years. I was a stay-at-home housewife and now I find myself unemployed, broke, and hopeless. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how or where to start. Anita, can you help me?

Worried housewifeDear “Desperate Housewife,”

As long as you are breathing, there is always hope! Many people exit the workforce for extended periods for reasons ranging from raising children to taking care of an elderly parent or life circumstances of all descriptions. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible to get back into the labor pool.

First and foremost, update your skills. Do you know the basics to work in today’s office environment? Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook are commonly used in many companies. If you possess any accounting aptitude, QuickBooks knowledge is valued by many small- and medium-sized businesses. Brush up on computer programs with classes at your local community college or online at sites like and

Have you been a volunteer during the last 15 years? Many skills used in the do-gooder arena are transferable to the workplace (think organizational skills from chairing that charity event, or sales finesse to charm potential owners into adopting a dog from the shelter). Use a functional format when  creating your résumé; it won’t hide your employment gaps but will focus on your competencies.

Use a cover letter to very quickly explain why you have not worked for a few years, then go on to highlight the skills you have that match the job posting to which you are applying.

As an interim measure or a long-term alternative to a J.O.B., you could join the gig economy. Instead of getting paid by the hour, you can earn money by completing projects or tasks.

If you have talent in bookkeeping, copywriting, data entry, social media, customer service … whatever, advertise your skills on a freelancer site like You could become a Tasker on, which connects local errand-runners and chore-doers to busy folks willing to pay for someone else to buy their groceries or assemble their latest Ikea purchase. is an online service where, for a starting price of five bucks, Grocery delivery serviceyou can offer to do any number of projects, ranging from the expected, like graphic design, to the bizarre (someone will paint a message on his body and video himself dancing in a jungle for $5!). Stay-at-home moms or parental caregivers, even pet owners, can translate their nurturing experience into a gig on or by word of mouth.

Which brings us to the importance of networking. You may have heard the quote, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Let everyone – friends, relatives, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers – know that you’re looking for work, whether you wish to pursue freelance assignments or a traditional job.

Consider signing up with a temporary staffing agency. By working on assignment in various companies, you’ll discover the types of work you like (and those you don’t care for).  Some temporary positions can even turn into full-time employment.

Readers: How have you successfully re-entered the workforce after an extended absence?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Gaps in Employment
Functional Format for Résumés
Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond)
Take Advantage of the Outsourcing Trend
Help People Help You Find a Job

Big or Small Company

Dear Anita,

A few years ago, I was hired in an accounting role at a small company of about 12-15 employees. I thought the company was poised for growth. As time went by, I was gradually given more responsibility in the HR area, and I’m also the head of the company’s culture committee. Problem is, I’m feeling overwhelmed and burned out. I’m putting in hours on the weekend just to stay on top of the emails. I’m considering looking for a new job, but don’t want to get into a similar situation in another minor-league business. Should I look for a job in a bigger corporation where I won’t have to do the work of two or more people?

Big Corporation vs Small BusinessDear “Stretched Thin,”

Some companies confuse running short-staffed with running lean. Leftover hiring freezes from the Great Recession may need to be reassessed.

You are clearly showing some of U.S. News & World Report’s 6 Signs You Have Too Much on Your Plate. Before you resign from your job, schedule a tête-à-tête with your supervisor. Explain the consequences to the company of being understaffed – emails not being returned, late payments due to your workload, whatever it happens to be in your case. Provide suggestions for solutions. Can the company budget for a separate HR person, full- or part-time? Is it possible to hire an assistant? Can you use a temporary worker or a Virtual Assistant (VA)? Perhaps a payrolling service take some of the burden from your shoulders.

Really think through the decision to Stay or Quit. If you do decide to leave your company, make sure you don’t jump from a frying pan into – well, another frying pan. Larger companies may (note the italics for emphasis) be more sufficiently staffed than a struggling small business.

Check out reviews for potential employers on (granted, this is easier to do for a larger organization than a mom-and-pop shop). Watch for red flag keywords like “crazy hours,” “understaffed,” “huge workload,” “high pressure,” and the like. If there a lot of employees who have worked there less than a year before leaving, it could be an indication of a toxic environment.

You may not find much feedback online for local companies. Leverage your LinkedIn 2nd or 3rd degree connections and talk to those in your local network face-to-face (or voice-to-voice on the phone) to see if you can get the inside scoop on what’s it’s like working for the small-town business that has a job opening.

There are pros and cons to working in a big business versus an entrepreneurial enterprise. A perk of working for a large corporation with deeper pockets is they may offer better salaries and benefits, including more opportunities for personal development – conferences, seminars, or even tuition reimbursement. The bigger the business, the more they can specialize job functions, which would be an improvement over your dual-role situation. (Or would you miss wearing many hats and the diversity of duties that a small or start-up company demands?) The structure of a megacorporation provides the illusion of security, but being part of a massive layoff at a big business can affect your pocketbook just as much as being the last one hired, first one fired at a small firm. There may be more opportunities for lateral or upward movement in a robust larger business.

Lonely CubicleComing from a smaller, more nimble company, you may not be ready for the sluggish pace of change in a bureaucratic corporate machine. (It’s easier to maneuver a speedboat than a giant cruiseship!) But a company with systems in place could be a refreshing change from a chaotic start-up mentality. If you’re a people person and like the your close-knit “dirty dozen” in your small office, you may feel disconnected at a large monolith corporation where you don’t know 80% of your coworkers, who may not even be in the same state… or the same country.

Being a big fish in a small company pond means your successes may be more noticeable but, on the flip side, so will your failures. While some small start-ups expect long hours from their employees, mom-and-pop establishments may be more flexible for a better work/life balance; managers in large corporations have to enforce policies more stringently to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

Being given additional tasks you weren’t originally hired for can be disheartening, but look on the bright side. You can take your on-the-job HR involvement and translate into as little as a résumé bullet point or as large as a new career path.

Readers: Do you prefer working for a large company or a small business? Why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Reverse Snooping on Potential Employers
Saying “No” to Working Late

Writing a Professional Mission Statement

Hey Anita,

I recently graduated from college, but haven’t found a good job yet. I read in one of your past blogs [Target Your Perfect Job] that having a mission statement can help you find the right career path. Can you help me write one? I really want a job that helps society but still pays a good salary.

Professional mission statementDear “Man on a Mission,”

Companies create mission statements to provide a compass for their organization. By knowing why the company exists and what it intends to accomplish, the mission statement creates boundaries on which to base strategies and decisions. Creating your own professional mission statement can help you recognize your values and strengths, and then find a company that will recognize and reward those attributes. If you’re clear on your ideals, you can more easily sort through the job opportunities that come your way.

Start by defining your core values (up to five). If you’re uncertain how to put them into words, here’s a list of 500 core values. Select the ones that resonate with you.

Using these as the foundation, create your professional mission statement. Adapt Forbes four essential questions for a business mission statement to a professional mission statement:

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Whom do you do it for?*
    *This is the unknown in the job seeker’s equation. Solve for x = your future employer.
  • What value are you bringing?

Project Manager Susanne Madsen recommends honestly answering the following three questions to craft your mission statement:

  • What personal qualities do you most want to focus on?
  • How can you use and display these qualities in a working environment?
  • What are the most important values you want to express at work?

You needn’t get too wordy. In fact, the more succinct the better. An abbreviated, career-focused mission statement may be used by beginning job seekers in place of the “Objective” on a résumé.

Amy Louise-Goldberg offers this pithy formula on the Idealist Careers website:

“To combine/synthesize/integrate/leverage (or similar verbs) my experience in _______ (a) with my interest in _______ (b) to _______ (c) for _______ (d)”

In this format, “a” and “b” are nouns reflecting areas of existing expertise and target career field, “c” is a verb representing how you would like to contribute to a company and “d” is an adjective plus a noun that encompass the type of organization that would be attractive to you.

Your professional mission statement is a living document, not chiseled in stone. Feel free to update it anytime you have an “aha” moment about something you would like (or not like) to do in your career.

Now, to address your desire for making good wages while benefitting society. Teachers, social workers, and employees of nonprofit organizations are sadly not known for making decent salaries. But more corporations are trying to change the world, or at least improve their corner of the it.  Check out the 100 Best Corporate Citizens from Corporate Responsibility (CR) magazine. It will inspire your search for a well-paid position at a social good company with a mission statement that parallels your own.

Readers: Share your professional mission statement below.

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Tell the Summer Slump to Take a Hike


I manage the marketing team in our corporate office. I’m noticing a summertime strain of cabin fever. My team seems to be lethargic and our meetings are not as productive as usual – the ideas just aren’t flowing. Do you have any insight?

Dear “Making Hay While the Sun Shines,”

Coworkers hiking in woodsI can understand this outbreak of summer doldrums in your office. Kids are having fun at camps, emails to coworkers come back with an OOO (Out of Office) auto-reply, and friends are posting sun-drenched travel photos on Facebook. It’s enough to turn anyone green with vacation envy.

Back in the 1960s, advertising agencies noticed a decrease in productivity as summer weekends approached. Taking a “why fight it” approach, agencies instituted half-day Summer Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The practice, which fanned out to other industries, has pros and cons; while an early release Friday may push employees to complete more in four hours, the casual atmosphere could lead to slacking off.  If your company can’t institute half-day Fridays across the board, encourage your team to take vacation days or PTO to enjoy spending time with family and friends in the  glorious weather.

Your “bored” room meetings may be an indicator the team is in a rut. And who would feel inspired in a stagnant conference room? Generally geared for projectors and screens, there’s little natural light.  Health care tech company Epic Systems headquarters has on its campus a whimsical treehouse employees may use for a stimulating meeting space. The Japanese believe the practice of shinrin-yoku (literally “forest bathing”) increases the ability to focus, among other benefits. A study in collaboration with Outward Bound found that after a four-day immersion in nature (and disconnection from technology), creative reasoning and problem-solving improved by 50%. While taking your marketing department on a four-day hike may not be feasible, simply walking your weekly meeting to a nearby park or Group of business people at beachan alfresco lunch can spur breakthrough thinking. Stanford University studies found walking increases creativity by 81%, 88%, even 100%.

A full-blown fun-in-the-sun team-building event may be the catalyst for your creative team’s breakthrough. See my blog post, “Make Team-Building a Picnic,” to get your staffers out of the workaday environment and into natural surroundings for a day of productive play. Infusing the event with a tropical theme (Hawaiian shirts, mocktails with umbrellas, and team sand-castle building) may help chase away that summer slump.

Readers: What’s your cure for the summertime blues at work?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Rewards from Retreats
The Importance of Vacations
Four-Day Work Weeks
Make Team-Building a Picnic

What to Wear to Work in Summer

Dear Anita,

It’s so hot and humid! How can I dress for comfort during summer yet maintain a professional image at work?

businesswoman with sweaty armpits holding fanDear “Hot Under the Collar,”

Unless you’re a lifeguard, you can’t get away with wearing beachwear to work. (In fact, that’s a good litmus test: “Would I wear this to the beach?” If the answer is yes, don’t wear it to work!)

Even though less is more when it comes to summer dressing, don’t take it too far. Forgo the panty hose and tights, but make sure you don’t show too much leg with a too-short mini skirt. Cropped pants or culottes may give your ankles a breeze while not ruffling feathers in the HR department. Depending on your company’s dress code, sandals may be allowed, but flip-flops, in my opinion, are never copacetic for work (that thwack-thwack-thwack is so distracting!).

Bare arms may be acceptable – thanks,  Michelle Obama! – but spaghetti straps are not office-appropriate. Be sure to bring a cardigan or blazer so you don’t catch a cold when you enter your hermetically-sealed 68-degree air-conditioned office. (Think that’s just an old wives’ tale? The Wall Street Journal published an article on the effects of going in and out of air conditioning.)

Check out my Pinterest board for summer wardrobe inspiration.

Check out my Pinterest board for summer wardrobe inspiration.

When diving into your closet to select a summer wardrobe, check clothing labels, not for the designer name, but for the fabric content. Breathable fabrics like cotton or linen keep you cooler than synthetic fabrics like nylon which, because they don’t absorb moisture well, can leave you feeling clammy in high temps. Seersucker is a cotton fabric woven in a puckered style so it lifts off your skin and allows air to circulate. In that vein, looser-fitting clothes (without looking sloppy) can be more comfortable than bodycon fashions. Opt for an unstructured dress rather than pencil skirt with tucked in blouse, cinched with a leather belt. That’s just asking for a sweat-soaked “spare tire.” Performance fabrics wick sweat away from your body. The trend started in athletic wear, but you no longer have to look like you’re ready for your gym workout. These value-added textiles are going mainstream; you can now find polos and dress shirts made from performance fabrics.

Color matters, too. There’s a reason white and light colors are popular in the summer. While black may be slimming, it also absorbs more heat (technically, black absorbs more light which is converted to heat). And there’s just something psychological about wearing a fun summer floral that feels more refreshing than drab winter hues.

With these tips, you can avoid cooling yourself Marilyn Monroe-style over a subway grate, like viral Reddit “Cape Man.”

Readers: Describe your favorite hot-weather office-appropriate outfit.

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Dress for Success
What’s the Tress Code
Summer Job Seeking

The Best Time to Ask for a Raise

Dear Anita,

How do I tactfully go about asking for a raise? I have been with the company I work for a year and a half now and no one has brought up the issue of yearly raises or performance reviews (small company, less than 15 full time staff between two offices, one of which I am the office manager). My responsibilities have greatly increased in the last year and a half. Also, we have some part-time janitorial staff who just got raises to equal my wage.

Dear “All in Good Time,”

Alas, some small companies without a specific person in charge of human resource issues can often be remiss in employee relations. Since you’ve never been informed about the company’s policy or customs for pay increases, you’ll have to ask now. Not for a raise just yet, but for the criteria with which the company and your manager determines pay increases. (Incidentally, the review at the end of your probationary period is a good time to bring up this subject in future positions.)

Sometimes you have to be assertive more than subtle. Bring up the topic with your manager. “You know, in a year and a half, we’ve never talked about the company’s procedure for pay increases. Could we set up an appointment so I can learn how and when I may be eligible for a raise?”

Some businesses dole out raises only at employees’ annual reviews, though that does not seem to be the case for you. At those companies, it’s a good idea to have a conversation several months in advance of your annual review to ascertain conditions for a possible raise. If your manager indicates you may be lacking in one area, there is time to improve before your anniversary date.

For companies without annual performance review policies, use common sense when planning the timing of your raise request. Make sure your business – and your industry at large – isn’t struggling. While you may not have access to the company profit & loss statement, your instincts, observations and, yes, even office gossip can give you a picture of the soundness of the enterprise. If your company has just landed a big client or received a large order, indicating an upwards arrow on financial charts, this could be a great time to ask for an increase in wages.

Manager Giving a lot of workLiz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, recommends these five best times to ask for a raise:

  1. Ninety days before your annual review
  2. At the start of a big project
  3. When you take on a huge new responsibility
  4. When you’re given another person’s workload
  5. When your boss acknowledges your contribution

Prepare your argument with tips from my post, Achieving the Annual Raise. Point out that you’ve picked up new skills and have been killing it (or in office parlance, “performing at a high level”) even with all the increased job functions you have been given. For other readers, if you have a shiny new new degree or certification, it may qualify you for a bump in pay.

In my blog post, The Best Time to Interview for a Job, research helped pinpoint the optimum day and time for an  interview – Tuesday.  The same theory about avoiding Mondays and Fridays applies to asking for a pay increase. Perhaps the “morning morality effect” found by Harvard & University of Utah researchers can further assist in setting your raise request meeting. Take advantage of your boss’s higher instincts and ask to increase your wage on a midweek morning.

Readers: How (and when) have you tactfully asked your employer for a pay raise?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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The Best Time to Interview for a Job


I recently had an interview just before a 3-day weekend. I could tell the interviewer was not really paying attention. It’s been weeks and I haven’t heard back. Should I give up? In the future, I don’t think I’ll make any appointments before a federal holiday! Are there any rules for the best time to schedule an interview?

Appointment entries for job interviews

Dear “Put Time on Your Side,”

As the saying goes, timing is everything. Even if your interview was scheduled for the Tuesday after the three-day weekend, it probably would not have gone any better. On non-holiday weeks, avoiding Mondays and Fridays is advisable.

SmartRecruiters, a web-based recruiting platform used by 70,000 companies, did some research on timing trends in the hiring process. Tuesdays are the trifecta for job hunting and hiring activity.

  • More companies post jobs on Tuesday (20%) than any other day of the week.
  • Not surprisingly, based on the previous factoid, more people (18.5%) apply to jobs on Tuesdays, too.
  • Tuesday also happens to be the most common day people get hired (21.5%), narrowly edging out Thursdays at 20%.

The time of day may even have an effect on the outcome of your interview. Wharton research shows that candidates who interview later in the day end up lower in the rankings because of a phenomenon called narrow bracketing. If interviewers give earlier candidates high marks, they are subconsciously hesitant to give another high mark, even if the last interviewee merits it.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Woman sitting in waiting room and text messagingEarly morning interviews can also backfire, depending on the circadian rhythms of the interviewer. Don’t take a chance that the you’ll be interviewing with a morning person. At least try to schedule an appointment after they’ve had time for coffee and emptying their email inbox.

If you’re sneaking out from your current job on your lunch hour for job interviews, be aware pre- or post-lunch appointments have their drawbacks, too. A pre-lunch interview may end up getting cut short (a growling stomach may be a dead giveaway). A 1:00 p.m. interview time can be sabotaged by an inattentive waitress who causes your interviewer to return late from lunch.

Keith Harris, CTO of online scheduler, found early afternoon on Tuesday is the optimal meeting time.

Another interesting stat – email reply rates are highest in the morning (about 45% according to Yesware). Try using the delay delivery option when emailing your résumé or follow-up letter, timing it for the hiring manager’s inbox right before starting hour.

Who knows, one week later, you may add to the numbers in the Tuesday hiring statistic. To celebrate… well, it’s Taco Tuesday!

Readers: Tell us about a time you felt “bad timing” sabotaged your interview.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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