So Just Call Me!

Many of us have been through this: we tweak our resume, send it out, rehearse our 30-second “sell” speech, write out our lists of tips and questions for a telephone interview and then we wait. And wait. And wait some more. So why aren’t employers calling you?

No Interviews

There are still a lot of people looking for jobs out there. HR departments and recruiters are getting flooded with resumes, many of which are not suitable for the position advertised. If you are not getting interviews, ask yourself:

Did I check my resume carefully? Did I list skills and abilities required in the job description? Did I put restrictions on my resume as to where I would work, which hours, which tasks I was willing to do? If you answered no to the first two questions, even one no is enough to get your resume removed from consideration. If you put any kind of restrictions on your resume, that will also get your resume removed from consideration because you are already proving to be inflexible. The flood of resumes can number in the hundreds of thousands at big companies like Google or Yahoo!, so if you did not run your resume through the spell checker, did not include industry “buzz” words, those words that automatic resume scanners look for or listed restrictions, it is likely that your resume is not being considered. Here’s why: With so many resumes coming in, companies can choose the best of the best. They use typos, “does not meet skill qualifications,” restrictions and anything else they can to eliminate your resume. Most recruiters will tell you the first telephone interview is usually used to cross you off the candidate list. Do not be the person who gets crossed off that list.

Check and re-check your resume and cover letter before you send it out. Only apply to the jobs for which you are qualified. Gone are the days when an HR manager will call you for a position for which you are semi-qualified. That was back in the day when job candidates were scarce. Be open and flexible. Save the must-haves for when you get to negotiate the job offer.

You’ve Had Some Interviews

Or you may be in this scenario: You’ve had a few interviews, were told when you would hear the company’s decision and that date has gone by. Give the HR manager a couple of days, and then call that person. Politely ask if the job has been filled. Find out if there are other considerations, if he or she needs more information from you, if funding is still in place for the job and if all of the interviews are finished.

There’s a lot that could be going on here: You may be the second favorite candidate and they do not want to say no yet, the interview committee just hasn’t gotten it together to meet, the funding for the job may have been pulled or even approval for filling the job may have been reversed. Whatever the reason, do not wait. Do your follow up calls, and move on. Keep interviewing. That is the hardest part when you are waiting, but I’ve seen great candidates lose opportunities for great jobs because they got hung up on that one job they “just absolutely had to have.”  There may be an even better job right around the corner, even though you may not believe it right now.

Five Minute Desk Vacations–Or What To Do When You Are Having a Craptastic Day

So I’ve been blogging away for awhile now, sharing info with you on the job search, interviewing, on the job situations, etc. But when it all gets too much for you, and you can’t face tweaking your resume one more time, or the person in the next cubicle is crinkling their extra-noisy Sun Chips bag, what do you do? Take a five minute desk vacation, of course! This is ideal plan for all of you lazy office types who don’t like to exercise because you don’t even have to get up from your desk.

Point your computer’s or smart phone’s browsers to some of these websites for 5 minutes of stress-busting fun:

Shakespeare Insults Generator: All sorts of lovely random Shakespearean insults randomly generated just for you. My favorite: Thou lascivious flap-mouthed clack-dish!

Head on over to Etsy’s Taste Test if you love all things funky, vintage, beautiful art or just plain want to be amazed at what the human mind can think up and create. Click on a few pics so that the site can get an idea of your tastes, and then it will generate a whole page of really cool stuff for you to drool over.

More the visit-the-art-museum type? Then check out  The Google Art Project. This page opens on the Uffizi, but there are many online museums and galleries that you can explore, courtesy of Google Places.

If you are curious about urban exploration, but are too chicken to get yourself all sweaty and dirty exploring abandoned places, consider Mr. Mots’ Opacity. The photos of abandoned places such as reformatories, sanatoriums, graveyard churches, inner city factories are astounding. These are the secrets of what happens when our jewels of architecture are left behind to decay. Tons of pics and many international sites as well.

Did you know that you can see 1930 census information online? Look up what your family was up to back then at Ancestry.com. I learned that my great grandparents had unpronounceable  first names.

Pacman. What more can I say? Too young to know what this is? Who cares — just click on it and have fun. There are a bunch of other games on there too like Frogger.

Want to know what you REALLY just ate for lunch? Log onto Livestrong’s The Daily Plate for useful and fun information on nutrition while you are just jellin’ at your desk.

Read up on your favorite urban legends and myths at Snopes.com.

Watch some SNL shorts old and new at Hulu.com.

Have some five minute desk vacations of your own? Please share them in the comments. Thanks.

On The Job: Probation: Acing The First 90 Days

Congratulations, you’ve finally landed that job for which you’ve been searching. Just as you’re about to breathe a sigh of relief, HR mentions probation — the 90 day period in which your supervisor will assess how well you do your job,  how well you fit in and whether you should keep this new job. Your benefits such as health insurance may not even start until the probation period is over. Not to worry. Here are some tips to acing your first 90 days on the job.

Before You Start: Write down the three most important reasons why you wanted this job. Remind yourself what your expectations for this job are, and what you want to accomplish.

On The Job:

Be early: Arrive early and be ready to work. Go to work functions such as happy hour, group movie nights and lunches out of the office so you can get to know your co-workers. Don’t get the reputation of being anti-social or always the first one out of the door at the end of the day.

Job Description/Performance Goals: Get your job description in writing if you do not already have it, and talk with your supervisor about the company’s performance expectations of you. Do not wait for your supervisor to call you into her office. Track your progress yourself. Ask for a performance review after you have been there for 6 weeks. This gives you time to work on fixing problems that could get you sacked before or at the end of your probation.

Observe: Pay attention to company culture and be wary of voicing your opinions unless asked to do so. Even then, be careful; you may be criticizing a pet project of the boss’s. Instead, offer what you think is good about the project, what may need tweaking and how tweak it to make the project even better — even if you think it stinks. There may be reasons to which you are not privy as to why the project is being implemented. Determine your supervisor’s communication and leading styles (stopping by your cubicle unannounced, a phone call to call you into her office, or email, delegating or micromanaging) and do everything you can to respond positively to these styles.

Around the Water Cooler: Get a reputation for being a great listener; leave off the gossip and stay neutral. You can learn a lot about the company culture and what is ahead for your job, as well as how the company got to where it is.

Questions: Ask questions. This is where listening can help you succeed. The more you listen, perhaps the fewer questions you need to ask. Choose your questions carefully to avoid mistakes. Do not ask for information that has already been given to you unless you need some clarification.

Stay Organized: Keep a check list of everything you need to get done — short-term and long-term. Look at your check lists when you come in to see what needs to get done each day. Look at your check lists before you leave at night to see what you accomplished each day and to prepare you for the next day.

Be Friendly/Flexible/Helpful: Be open to your supervisors and colleagues and to change. Show you are a team player, and you will find that people will voluntarily give you information to help you succeed.

Take note: You may not be on probation as a contractor, but all of this information still applies to you, as you may be working with the supervisors and colleagues you have now again in the future.

Duh! Dumb Things Recruiters Do

Continuing on with our “Dumb Things People Do” in job searching theme, here are a few things that recruiters have been known to slip up on from time to time. If you are a contractor who uses a recruiter or in a career field where you should be using a recruiter, timely and clear communication on your part should prevent you from having to deal with these problems. Recruiters usually have a check list for working with candidates and contractors. Ask about it. “Is there anything else on your check list that you need from me?” is a gentle reminder for the recruiter to check the list.

Large Number of Recruiting Calls: If you have been successfully placed by a recruiter and are in high demand in your career field, you may find yourself fielding a large number of calls from your recruiter and other recruiters as well. These telephone calls may come at inopportune moments such as dinnertime (when they know they can reach you) or when you are conducting a training session in a surgery theater.

Why  They Do This: Your resume on file is like cash in a bank to a recruiter. Recruiters make money by placing you in higher paid positions on a regular basis. A really good recruiter can help you with your career development and give you interview and job advice, but the bottom line will always come before your career development. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you work with a knowledgeable recruiter, because with money as a motivator, you may get some really expert advice and wind up on a stellar career path. Recruiters will also rely on your career networking skills and call you for candidate referrals.

What To Do: Try to negotiate with your recruiter when they can call you and where. You can limit the telephone numbers you give to the recruiter such as your cell phone or direct work line, but fair warning: Recruiters are quite good at finding these numbers, and you could miss out on being submitted for a really great job if they cannot reach you.

Your Resume is Submitted Without Permission: Recruiting is a very fast-paced business, and many recruiters will submit you for a job without your permission so that you do not miss out on a great opportunity and they do not miss out on collecting a placement fee.

Why  They Do This: There are very few rules when it comes to submitting a candidate for a job. Sometimes, the turnaround time between being submitted and the first interview is less than a day. It is key for a recruiter to quickly submit the best candidate that she can for a position. A recruiter will also submit you without your permission to prevent another recruiter from beating her to it.

What To Do: Develop a strong relationship with a few recruiters in your career field. Find out the companies with which they hold recruiting contracts. Try not to use recruiters who recruit for the same company to prevent a competition over who submits you first. If you really want to know before you are submitted as a candidate, negotiate that the recruiter will call you first. That means providing telephone numbers where you can be reached. Let your recruiters know if you do not want to be submitted to past employers or certain companies with ethical violations, or other companies for other reasons. A good recruiter will negotiate this with you because he wants to keep you as a client and as a source for candidate referrals. Keep your resume out of large resume banks if you do not want to be submitted without your permission. Recruiters troll these resume banks, collect resumes and submit them for positions without asking you first.

Administrative Problems: The remainder of the problems I want to discuss are administrative in nature and are usually related to the recruiter’s check list. Why do these problems happen? An item on the check list can get overlooked, especially when time is of the essence in placing a candidate. You can prevent many of these problems by checking in with your recruiters on a regular basis.

Not Being Submitted or Being Submitted For the Wrong Job: You are going to have to be on your toes when it comes to getting your next contract or job. If you hear of an opening, do not wait for your recruiter to submit you. Call him right away, verify that you are both talking about the same job and get your resume submitted. Verify the job at each step. Usually, the recruiter will set up the initial interview. If you are contacted directly by the company for an interview, make sure that it is for the same job.

You Do Not Receive Interview Information: If your recruiter tells you he will email the interview information immediately, and you do not receive it, first check your spam folder. If it is not there within an hour, call your recruiter. Sometimes these people are juggling several candidates at once and get sidetracked. They shouldn’t, but it happens.

You Do Not Receive a Background Check or Drug Testing Information: If your recruiter tells you her agency will be doing a background check and you will need to do a drug test, she should send you the information immediately. Remember, the agency cannot start you in a position until all of this paperwork has been completed.

Your Direct Deposit Did Not Go Through: Sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks to establish direct deposit of your paycheck, depending on your bank. You should receive your paycheck through the mail during that time, so it is important to check that the recruiter has your correct mailing address. If you are a contractor, remember: you are paid by the recruiting agency, not the company.

So with all of these things that can go wrong, why should you use a recruiter? In many instances, recruiters will be one step closer to hiring companies than a career consultant, will know what the companies are looking for and have the jobs that are not advertised. They may not be as warm and fuzzy as a career counselor, but good recruiters know their career industries and can give you accurate and current job advice while placing you in a job that you could not have gotten on your own.

FAIL! Dumb Things Job Candidates Do

When I was a career counseling intern, I heard about a student who wanted to work for a chocolate company, so he wrote his resume on a slab of chocolate and mailed it to the company. The chocolate melted, the resume disappeared, and HR was left with a mess. Obviously, he didn’t get the job.

Creativity: Career counselors will tell you to find a way to stand out, and you should, but not at the expense of your job search. Make sure your resume is easy to read. Your contact info should be at the top, not the bottom, not sideways, not on the back. You can find creative ways to list your skills and work experiences, but lying about them is not acceptable creativity. It can be very expensive to hire and train an employee, so many companies will take the time to do a background check and will discover your lies.

Research: Research the companies to which you apply BEFORE you get a call for an interview. Asking the company who they are and what they do in that first phone call is not impressive. It shows that you are not prepared to interview and that you do not know how your skills and experience can help the company. Know the salary range within which you should start beforehand. See C’mon Already! I Just Need a Job for research resources.

Practice: Work with a career counselor or a friend to do a mock interview. Pick up an interview book and rehearse the answers to questions you think you will be asked. Not preparing for an interview can trip you up at the actual interview, minimizing your chances of landing the job. In addition, interviewers may do all sorts of things to trip you up, such as the stressful things listed in my previous post.

Dress/Attitude: Once you have an interview, call the company’s main desk to find out what type of dress code they have, and follow it for your interview. If they tell you “business casual,” ask them to define that. Business casual is different at different places. Use your judgement; if you are told people there wear business suits, you need to wear a suit. Your piercings and any exposed tattoos are likely to be frowned upon, as is wearing your earbuds into the interview with your music turned on. Leave your mp3 player at home, be friendly and listen carefully to any directions given. Interviewing can be a stressful business, and not wearing the right interview clothes or having an inappropriate attitude can make you look and feel awkward.

Negotiating: Do not try to negotiate salary or benefits in the first interview. This gives the impression that you are more interested in the money than the job. Being interested in salary is fine, but let the interviewer approach you. Interviewers often use salary expectations as a way to eliminate you as a job candidate early on. Did you do your salary research beforehand? If so, great. When an interviewer asks your salary expectations, you can provide her with a wide range based on your research. If she tries lowballing you in that first interview, you may want to rethink working for the company. You can at least give her the source of your salary data — and make sure it is reputable.

Sexual Preference: Sexual preference is not an interview issue. Period. Your sexual preference is your own business, not the employer’s. They cannot and should not use it to discriminate against you, but they might use it as a reason to find something else for which to disqualify you as a candidate. Also, bringing up sexual preference in an interview can make an interviewer, even one who is not homophobic, apprehensive that you may use this job as a platform to push gay, lesbian, bi and transgender rights, taking focus away from the job. It can hurt your chances at getting the job, even if you feel this is discriminatory. If you want to be honest about who you are, save the talk for when you are offered the job.

Disability Accommodations: An employer has to make reasonable accommodations for you by law if you have a disability. However, stating your disability with a list of demands at the first interview is not appropriate. By law, you do not have to disclose your disability. However, if you wish to tell a potential employer you have a disability, then give him an idea of what you would need in order to do the job. Demanding accommodations versus educating the employer on what you would need are two very different attitudes.

Follow Through: Interviewers will often ask a candidate to do an assignment after the interview to get a better handle on the candidate’s skills and follow through abilities. Do not drop the ball on this. Follow the directions, complete the assignment, and send the completed assignment to the interviewer by the deadline. Not doing the assignment is perceived as a lack of interest in the job. Missing the deadline should be obvious — it shows you can’t work to deadline.

Even if you are not asked to complete an assignment, send a thank you note as a follow up. Reiterate your interest in the job and restate why you are the best candidate. Email follow up notes are perfectly acceptable.

Psych! Dumb Things Interviewers Do To Freak You Out

I once interviewed with a college administrator whose desk looked like the local landfill for career resources and other detritus. (I think his unwrapped lunch was in there too.) He also interviewed me for 3/4 of an hour with his tie askew, his dress shirt unbuttoned all of the way down with his chest and body hair sticking out. Try maintaining professional eye contact in that instance! Obviously, I was a FAIL because I did not get the job. However, I hope wherever he is, that he never runs chest first into the sticky side of a roll of duct tape.

Now, whether this guy left his shirt unbuttoned on purpose or not, I do not know. However, I do know that interviewers will do some pretty crazy things on purpose to see if they can shake your composure and to find out how you will react to stress. Consider some of these stressful situations.

Parking: The office admin has emailed you all the info you need for your upcoming important interview, including parking instructions. You get to the interview place, drive up to the parking attendant booth and give your name. However, your name is not on the guest list. And the attendant just stares at you…

What do You Do? Plan ahead, bring money for parking, just in case. Keep your cool, and politely ask the attendant to call the office where you are interviewing so you can be put on the guest parking list and receive a parking pass. If the attendant is uncooperative, ask for the nearest paid lot, and try to get the office to validate your parking or to reimburse you at the end of the interview.

Why Would the Company Do This? You may get jerked around to see how you interact with the “hired help.” Are you rude and dismissive of them? You’d better not be, because your attitude towards workers lower on the totem pole than you may be seen as the same attitude you will have towards difficult clients, as well as other lesser paid individuals.

Arriving at the Interview Place: You are now inside and are faced with a row of elevators which are key-controlled only. The admin sent you information that the office is on the 34th floor. However, he neglected to mention that the office IS the 34th floor, elevator access is restricted, you should let the desk attendant know you have an interview, and you need to show some form of ID.

What do You Do? By now, you are probably pretty angry at the company and the admin and wondering why you would ever work for a company that is so disorganized in the first place. I would wonder that too; and that is the risk that companies take when they try these stress tactics on candidates. They may lose good candidates by jerking them around. Again, keep your cool and look for a floor, elevator or lobby attendant and explain that you are here for an interview.

Why Would the Company Do This? See the reason above for parking. Also, the company may want to see how much initiative you have and how you handle ambiguous situations.

The Reception Area: Check in with the receptionist. Thank him for the interview email. (Do not mention that he gave you crap instructions.) You sit down and begin to wait. And wait and wait and wait, wait, wait. Wait!!! Are you sure you really want this job?

What do You Do? You are ready to walk out, but reconsider. You are already here. Just do the interview. You may just get the job and it may be the best one you’ve ever had.

Why Would the Interviewer Do This? The waiting may not be a psych out game at all. The interviewer may have gotten blindsided with a must-handle-now crisis or may be in a meeting that has gone into overtime. Or your politeness and anger management skills are being tested.

In the Interview: The interviewer invites you in, settles you in a chair, asks if you were able to find the office and parking okay (do not tell her about the crap instructions you received) and then rummages around her desk for about 10 minutes, not making eye contact with you. She says, “I don’t seem to have your resume. Tell me about yourself.”

What do You Do? Plan ahead and bring extra copies of your resume and references. Politely wait. Offer a fresh copy of your resume. Tell the interviewer the basic points about your education, your experiences, your skills and how you can help her company. Do not use the question to ramble on about your personal life just to get rid of some excess nervous energy.

Why Would the Interviewer Do This? Are you a whiner? The interviewer wants to know and will find out if you complain about the crap instructions or lost resume. You may think the interviewer never even looked at your resume prior to the interview, and you may be right. But you may be wrong. You may consider relaxing a bit because now you won’t have to explain that gap in your employment history that you so cleverly hid on your resume. Ever hear the saying that the word “assume” makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me?” Do not assume anything. Summarize your resume’s salient points without being condescending, and watch for insightful questions that show, yes indeed, she saw your resume beforehand.

The Hugely Pregnant Pause: You’ve finished telling all about yourself. The interviewer smiles and waits. And waits, and waits and waits. Oh, here you go again, the waiting game. She is now arching her eyebrows, steepling her  fingers in front of her face, looking at you and still she is silent.

What do You Do? Wait with her for a few minutes and maintain eye contact. Offer to elaborate on any of your points. You can also push a bit verbally to get the interview going again by asking about a point listed in the job description. She’ll have to answer, or run the risk of being rude!

Why Would the Interviewer Do This? She is trying to make you uncomfortable and to push you into blabbing something negative and unprofessional about yourself.

The Doorknob Question: The interview is almost finished after a grueling session of question and answer. You may even be on the way out after shaking hands, with your hand grasping the doorknob. Then here it comes, the doorknob question: “So why do you want to work here?” Or, “Are you an illegal immigrant?” Or, “Do you have kids?”

What do You Do? If you get the first question, summarize your skills and what you can do for the company. (“Because I have skills X,Y, and Z and can make a positive impact on the bottom line of your company.”) You’ll have to decide in advance how you will handle illegal questions in case you get one of the other two questions,. You can point out that it is illegal, which will probably not land you the job. You can answer the question, giving information that may damage your chances of getting the job. Or you can figure out what the interviewer really wants to know. “Yes, I am an American citizen.” “Yes, I have kids. However, their grandparents are close by and can babysit if I’m needed for overtime.”

Why Would the Interviewer Do This? The doorknob question can function as a way to get you to spill negative information, or to startle you into losing your cool communication skills and giving answers to illegal interview questions.

If you’ve ever had an interview like this, congratulations, you’ve survived the interview from hell! Will you use these tactics if you get a chance to interview job candidates?

How Do I Work With A Recruiter?

Recruiters have known for the last several years that the new job norm is going to be contracting. There have been thousands of jobs lost in the economic downturn, ones that will not come back as full-time, salaried positions with full benefits. Many of these positions will be replaced with contracts — short-term, long-term, ongoing. Each state has laws pertaining to use of contractors and legal contract length before renewal, so find out what your state’s laws are before you commit to contracting.

Why Use A Recruiter?

Recruiters may have insider leads on contracting positions that are not posted and never will be posted. There are some industries, such as clinical research, that will only post their contracting opportunities with recruiters and only accept resume submissions from recruiters.

Recruiters may provide you with a benefits package that they will partially subsidize. This can include health and life insurance, long-term and short-term disability insurance, 401k, vacation and sick days, a company car and a laptop and an expense account. Otherwise, you may have to buy all of these on your own, and single person policies for health and life insurance can get quite expensive.

Recruiters do the legwork for you. They will collect all required application documents from you such as resumes, licenses, Continuing Education Units certificates, and submit them to the hiring company for you. They will arrange and sometimes pay for background checks and drug testing. Beware: Some recruiters will submit you as a candidate for a position without telling you, especially if they pulled your resume from a search engine database such as Monster or CareerBuilder.

Recruiters typically also have insider information on the hiring managers and the supervisors. They know what these people are looking for, how they interview, what questions they will ask, how their questions are related, and what answers they will expect. The hiring managers who develop strong relationships with the recruiters they use will often tell them about company issues that may affect the job for which you are submitted such as funding problems, new funding strategies or changes that will happen in the future for this position. A good recruiter will brief you with all of this information before sending you on an interview.

Reliable recruiting firms will also have legal representation on retainer to clarify gray areas of your work contract and to help out if sticky legal matters arise in the process of fulfilling your contract obligations. This can save you a great deal of money should you need the legal help.

What Should You Look For?

Search online for recruiting agencies that specialize in your career area. Try to talk with a recruiter BEFORE you give them your resume. Your resume is like gold to them, and once you submit it, they have it forever. Eventually, when the job market gets back up to speed, they will be constantly calling you regarding new positions for you or leads on new candidates if you are not available. You may even get a referral bonus if they hire someone you recommended, which may offset the annoyance of frequent calls.

What Should You Ask?

Find out if the recruiting agency submits your information to a hiring manager without telling you first. Reputable recruiters will try to contact you first. Request that the recruiter do so if you want to control where your resume goes.

Ask which companies the recruiting agency works with in your career field. **This is important to find out in the initial stages, as some agencies cannot tell you the company to which you are being submitted until the company asks to interview you. If there is a company to which you do not want to be submitted such as a previous employer or a company with known ethics violations, indicate this upfront to the recruiter once you decide to work with that recruiting agency.

Determine if the recruiting agency offers a benefits package and how it works. Will they give you a business cell phone, and if so, how much of the bill will they cover? If you have many work-related expenses, find out how the reimbursement process works. Is it easy? How long does it take? Do you have to learn new software to submit your expenses for reimbursement? Is the software reliable? Will you need original receipts? If your contract ends, will you have insurance coverage until you pick up another contract with them?

Do you need professional liability insurance? Which type and how much?

Will you have to sign a non-compete clause that goes into effect when the contract ends? A non-compete clause limits your ability to move on to work for the company’s competitors or in a particular career area for a specified number of years. Many states such as California have declared non-compete clauses illegal, as they can cripple a person’s ability to develop his or her career. Find out if they are illegal in your state before you sign one.

Can you work several contracts at once? Many companies and recruiters will discourage this, as they want you to be flexible and available for whatever hours you will be needed.

Other Considerations

You can, and probably should, submit your resume to more than one recruiting agency. Here’s why: Not every recruiting agency in your career field has recruiting contracts with every company looking for people such as you. Recruiters do not like it when you submit to several agencies for obvious reasons: you are not their sole “property.” Other recruiters can submit you to the same job first, and then the first recruiter does not get the recruiting fee. You do not have to tell the recruiter that your resume is with other agencies, but he or she may find out. This may not hurt you if you are a stellar contractor; it may just force the recruiter to be quicker to submit you first.

Remember: If you contract with more than one recruiting agency, you may want to set up and pay for your own benefits package, so you don’t lose insurance and other benefits when you move on to a new contract with a different recruiting agency. Make sure that if you are required to work specific hours for each contract, that you have it in writing so that your contract hours do not conflict.

A recruiting agency should not charge you a recruiting fee. The agency gets paid a percentage of whatever your services cost the company, and they get paid by the company. The percentage does not come out of your earnings.

If you decide to contract for one recruiting agency, benchmark your contracting salary each time you sign a new contract. This means checking the offered pay against “the going rate” for a person with your skills and experience. There are salary calculators on the Internet that have picked up on the contracting trend, and you should be able to find contracting pay at these sites to compare with your offers: Salary.com, Salaryexpert.com and Payscale.com.