categoryIncome

9 Tips For a Great Job Interview

Yes, I mentioned it in my latest monthly review:

I recently got a promotion! 🙂

As you already know, saving and investing as much as possible is essential to reaching FI. Of course, there are two important variables that can be changed to increase one’s ability to save. I’m talking, of course, about expenses and income.

On the expense front, I believe mine are already quite well optimized and it can only be lowered so far. I already lead a rather frugal life. So I decided to take a page from my own book and increase my income. A particularly interesting way to do this is to increase my hourly wage. This way, I earn more money working more hours. Double win!

In my current role, I actually asked for a raise last year. I got 12%. Just for asking for it! Imagine if I hadn’t had the courage to do it?

Be Open to Opportunities

This year, though, I could hardly see how I could get such a substantial raise in my current role again. So, I began to look for a different position within the same company.

I quickly found an interesting position one level higher, i.e. a 7.5% salary raise, and for which I seemed to meet the profile they were looking for.

Of course, it was in a completely different team and I didn’t know anyone on that team. I didn’t necessarily meet all the requirements mentioned on the job posting. My resume needed a makeover. I had to do a cover letter. Job interviews are stressful.

Considering all this, I could have used any one of these excuses not to give it a try. I know a lot of people around me who like to make this kind of excuses to stay in the status quo. Well, I decided to go for it.

Personally, I prefer to think I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I applied for the job. Because if you do not ask, the answer will always be no. 🙂

Preparation is Key

No matter how much self-confidence I have, I remain an introvert through and through. I am comfortable writing, but oral presentations have never been my forte. You can imagine how a job interview can make me anxious.

I am very aware of my weaknesses in this regard. I also know that the best weapon against my anxiety is preparation.

Here is the result of my research, preparation and experience. This is how I got my promotion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it useful!

1. Prepare for the Most Frequently Asked Questions

A simple search on Google or YouTube will allow you to find plenty of resources on the most frequently asked questions and how to answer them. Questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself;
  • What are your strengths;
  • What are your weaknesses;
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years;
  • Why did you apply for the job;
  • Why do you want to quit your current job;
  • Etc.

Just check out a few sites or videos to get a good idea. There are plenty of people who have already been on the other side of the table who know exactly what questions will be asked and how to answer them.

This way, you’ll be able to think about your answers and be ready for most questions you could be asked.

2. Prepare Elaborate Answers and Stories

In addition to the typical questions, there are often questions that can be adapted to the job. You might be asked to give an example of a particular situation that you’ve experienced in the past. For example, you may be asked to give an example of:

  • A difficult situation at work;
  • A difficult customer;
  • Particularly good customer service you’ve given or received;
  • Work overload and how you handled it;
  • Etc.

So it’s very helpful to have some career highlights in mind when you’re being asked these kinds of questions. Think about difficult or stressful situations, but especially how you overcame them. Also think about some good things you’ve done, procedures or methods you’ve improved, etc.

These kinds of questions can be really annoying if you don’t have some ready-made answers in your back pocket. You have to be quick to answer. Of course, you can take a few seconds to think about it, but you don’t want to answer that nothing comes to mind. It’s your time to shine, don’t waste it!

3. Learn More About the Position, the Team and the Company

You don’t want to look like someone who applied for the job just for fun or for the money. 😉

You must show that you have at least some knowledge of the position in question and that you are really interested. The first thing to do is to read and basically know the job posting by heart. Sometimes job postings just sound so abstract, and it’s hard to know exactly what the job involves without actually doing it, but reading the job posting will give you at least an idea.

If it’s a job for another employer, it’s good to know the company in question. Do your research.

4. Smile and Have a Positive Attitude

No one wants to hire a negative person.

Be enthusiastic, smile, ask questions, look interested and thank the interviewer. Show them that you’re happy to be there, that it’s a pleasure to meet them and to discuss opportunities for your future career.

Positive attracts positive, so be positive.

In addition to talent and qualifications, employers are often looking for a good fit. I guarantee that a person who sounds and looks negative will rarely be a good fit in any team. It doesn’t matter what team.

5. Remember It’s Not an Interrogation

An interrogation sucks for everyone.

Relax, remember that the person in front of you is a human being too who wants the process to be as enjoyable as possible. You may be the fifth person they’ve interviewed today. Make it a little more enjoyable for them.

Ask questions along the way, too, if you have any. It creates a nice back and fort and makes the conversation more natural.

6. Save Questions for the End

Inevitably, you will be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. It is important to have questions.

Once again, it shows interest, curiosity and, it could actually be useful to you. You probably have legitimate questions on your mind anyway. It’s a win-win situation.

Again, Google is full of suggestions of questions to ask if you’re short of ideas. Here’s one I wrote down, asked, and am particularly proud of:

“After our discussion, is there anything else that makes you hesitate to offer me the job?”

What makes this question so powerful is that it gives an idea of your chances. It also shows that you are able to take charge and handle criticism. Finally, it could give you a second chance to clarify or elaborate on a point that was perhaps not clear or that makes the interviewer hesitate.

However, if you have questions about benefits and working conditions, it can wait until after you’re offered the job.

7. Send a Thank-You Email

I know. It feels like sucking up.

I read on several websites that it was important to send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Once again, it allows you to show you’re really interested, and it shows your gratitude. That’s another example of having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I was still reluctant to do it. Probably my introversion striking again. So I asked the opinion of a friend who interviews candidates on a regular basis. His answer was clear: it’s an excellent thing to do. So I proceeded with a nice little email:

“It was a real pleasure to discuss with you both and to learn as much about the role as about your team. It has only increased my enthusiasm to join you and put my experience to good use. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

I still think it sounds lame, but an hour later I was asked to provide references.  It sounds like it didn’t do any harm. 🙂

8. Notify the People You Will Use as References

Seriously.

No one likes to be called for references without prior notice. A quick phone call or email to notify the person is the least you can do. That person will appreciate having time to think about what they can say. You want the person to recommend you after all. Don’t take them by surprise.

It’s also a good idea to think ahead of time whom to use as a reference. If you are asked for one, it’s suspicious if it takes you two days to find one. Are you recommendable or not?

9. Be Patient

You’ve now done everything within your power. All that’s left is to trust your ability to have swayed them and wait for the good news. 🙂

A Great Learning Opportunity

Even before I got the good news, I was over the moon. I knew that I had prepared enough and performed well during the interview. No matter the result, I had had the opportunity to put myself out there and make myself known. It can never be a bad thing.

Even if I was not offered the job, I would roll up my sleeves and keep looking. You just have to appreciate having had a chance to prove yourself, to practise your interview skills and to make yourself known. You also have to take criticism humbly and then start working on your weaknesses.

I don’t remember the exact phrase, but a dear friend shared a quote to me recently. It said that to be happy no matter the outcome is a superpower. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

All’s Well That Ends Well

Luckily, I was offered the job! I will be starting on February 15th in my new position. I have been told that I was “a great find” and that they’re looking forward to working with me. What more could I ask for?

Oh, yes, the raise that I plan to fully save and invest. 🙂

I’m also hopeful that I’ll enjoy my new role. Although I was hired for my insurance expertise, there is a retirement & saving component that I will need to be “trained” for. I believe I am up to the challenge. 😉

I see a trend emerging! Indeed, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one in the blogosphere to have been promoted recently. Indeed,  ObjectifIF and L’Ingénieuse will also be able to increase their savings thanks to a promotion. Huge congratulations to them and I wish them the best of success!

What about you? Have you thought about how you could increase your income in 2021? 🙂

Increase Your Income

How was your week? After reading my last post, have you started assessing your level of spending? Have you started tracking every expense? Have you made a few phone calls to get better prices? I’m very curious about your journey!

Now that we have clearly understood the importance of lowering expenses, it becomes relevant to think about increasing our income. Because as soon as our expenses are optimized, the extra income will only increase our savings rate!

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t save on smaller wages. Again, it all starts with lowering your expenses.

My Income

For example, here is my annual income at the end of each year I’ve worked (information obtained from the CRA). This includes the years I worked part-time work during my studies (2009-2014) until now:

2009 $6,442
2010 $15,790
2011 $27,927
2012 $26,077
2013 $27,264
2014 $43,156
2015 $52,570
2016 $58,345
2017 $59,369
2018 $59,958
2019 $63,288
2020 (estimate) $77,640

 

Between getting my college degree in the spring of 2010 and starting my bachelor’s degree in the fall of 2011, I took a year off to put money aside. Result: I saved more than $10,000. You’ll notice that despite low income, this is a significant savings rate.

In addition, considering all 12 years in the workforce, my average annual salary rounds up to $43,152, which is still below the average wage in Quebec. And yet, as of today, I have over $100,000 in investments. Of course some of it comes from investment returns, but I estimate $70,000 came directly from my savings. The ability to save clearly does not rely solely on income.

In my previous post, I talked about people increasing their spending at the same rate as their income, thus never having any money to spare. That is what we must avoid at all costs. So, yes, increasing our income can be a very powerful tool in achieving our goals, but only when we are able to avoid lifestyle inflation. Otherwise, it’s a fool’s errand.

How to Do It

Increasing your income is easier said than done, you might say. Indeed, it’s nice on paper. But how do we go about it? Like anything else, it takes hard work, determination and even courage.

Here are some examples of how to get more income, in order to increase your savings rate.

  • Ask for a raise
  • Get a promotion
  • Change employer
  • Get a second job
  • Work overtime
  • Sell belongings
  • Start your own business
  • Respond to paid surveys (through Swagbucks)
  • Become a mystery shopper
  • Rent a room in your home
  • Participate in clinical trials

Have you ever implemented any of these strategies? Of course, I’m not saying you need to try all of them. Just remember that every action matters.

How I Increased my Income

As you’ve seen above, my income has steadily increased over the years.

The large variations can mostly be explained by changing employers. Indeed, in 2014, after four years working for the same company, I made the leap to work for a competitor for a better salary.

Then, after four years of stagnating for that employer, with no hope of advancement on the horizon (I was unionized), I made the leap again in 2018. I did it for roughly the same salary at the time, but the prospects for short-term advancement were excellent. In fact, it only took 9 months for me to be promoted, which explains the increase in 2019. The 2020 increase, on the other hand, is thanks to a raise that I simply asked for.

My journey so far leads me to make two observations. The first one being:

  1. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no. Go ask for that raise or that promotion you think you deserve! The answer might surprise you. Who wouldn’t be happy to have more money for the same job or hours? Worst-case scenario: you’ll be turned down. And if that’s the case, well, maybe it’ll make you think about your future working for this employer. Ditto for those in a unionized environment who have little or no prospect of advancement. Which brings me to my second observation:
  2. Loyalty benefits only the employer. If you’re dissatisfied with your career working for a company, or don’t feel appreciated or fairly paid, look elsewhere! Again, you might be surprised at what the competition is willing to offer to have you.

In addition to these changes, I always let my bosses know that I am open to working overtime. It is not always possible, but when the opportunity is there, I seize it. Working for 1.5 times my regular rate? Oh, hell yes!

I’ve also been doing paid surveys through Swagbucks since 2018, now and then. It’s not big money, but I’ve still racked up over $1,600 in Amazon gift cards since then. It may not sound like much, but it is $1,600 that I did not have to draw from my paychecks. 🙂

Considering that I am single without children, I have no shortage of free time. I could easily find a second job to increase my income even more. There are plenty of options in the labour shortage we are currently experiencing. It could be as simple as putting my car to use and delivering food via UberEats or Doordash.

I’m aware of my options, but sometimes it’s hard to choose to work more, instead of knitting in front of a Star Trek episode. 🙂

It all comes down to choices. 😉

Do Not Overlook Tax Optimization

Increasing gross income is good, but increasing net income is even better. No one wants to see their extra income go up in smoke because of taxes. How many times have we heard a colleague refuse to work overtime because they don’t want to pay extra taxes? Too bad for them. This is where it becomes relevant to take advantage of the various deductions and tax credits offered to you.

The most obvious deduction (and relevant in our path to financial independence) are the RRSP contributions. Each amount deposited into an RRSP will reduce your taxable income. This why you end up with a nice tax refund in April. If you also contribute to a worker’s fund RRSP, such as FTQ or Fondaction, you’d also receive a 30% or 35% tax credit.

For people with lower income, reducing taxable income could increase access to various credits such as the federal GST/HST Credit and the provincial Solidarity Tax Credit.

Even better for families: reducing taxable income could increase the various tax-free family allowances. This topic being far from my expertise, I’d rather refer you to an expert in the field, the author of the blog called Se payer en premier, who describes his strategy in this article (French only). I also invite you to read chapter 10 entitled “Québec, le paradis fiscal des familles” (Quebec, Tax Haven for Families) in Liberté 45 by Pierre-Yves McSween (French only too, but hopefully there will be an English version soon enough). It almost makes me want to have children. 😉

In short, please don’t leave money on the table when it comes to filing your taxes. Knowledge is power. Find out about the various credits and deductions that apply to your situation to maximize your net income and minimize your tax bill, especially if you do your own taxes.

Bring Home the Bacon

Those were only just a few examples to help you make an extra buck. In my opinion, with an optimized level of spending, you are already in an excellent position to start saving. If you manage to get a little more income here and there, it’s a bonus!

On the other hand, this step has an undeniable advantage over lowering expenses. You understand that you can lower expenses only to a certain extent. On the other hand, increasing income has no limit. It all depends on the effort you are willing to make.

I’m already looking forward to writing about the next step. Now that we have lowered our expenses and increased our income, we will address the power of savings in our goal of financial independence. In the meantime, I invite you to calculate your current savings rate, or the one you intend to achieve once all the right strategies are in place. We’ll talk about it next week. 😉