Don't be afraid to ask about salary

Q. When you go on a job interview, is it appropriate to ask what the salary would be for the position?
A. It is very important to know the pay range, so don't hesitate to inquire -- especially if they ask you for a salary history.
Q. I do not speak good English -- I am a strong accent immigrant. It's hard to get jobs. I want your advice.
A. You do have a language problem and it would be helpful to take classes in English as a second language.
While your e-mail had many spelling and grammatical errors, you did get your point across. So that shows you only need a little bit of improvement and language won't be such a barrier to getting a good job.
Q. I applied for a job recently and was told the only way I could get a complete job description and even an application is to pay a fee of $25. The fee is nonrefundable. It's so hard to find a job today and most job seekers are short on cash. Is charging a fee to job applicants a new trend?
A. There's nothing new about it, but it is a reprehensible tactic that -- thankfully -- few employers use. Never pay for a job.
Q. My boss has been out of the office for several weeks on business. He returns next week. I have a ton of questions I want to ask him, but so does everyone else. Should I be at his office door at 9 a.m. sharp or wait?
A. Wait. Give him a chance to breathe. You'll get better results.
Q. What can you do when you learn that a colleague with the same job title as yours makes more money -- beside go ballistic?
A. Frank J. Leonard of Aurora, Ill., a director of compensation, has some helpful insights.
First of all, Leonard says, it's important to be aware that if you're being paid less, it might be because your & quot;performance, effectiveness and results produced are less than your colleague's. & quot;
That aside, Leonard says, make an appointment with your manager and ask & quot;how my performance and results stack up compared to company standards and what you expect. & quot;
Take notes, and if you're still sure you're doing a good job, then it's time, according to the compensation expert, to say to your manager that the other person & quot;makes a lot more than I do even though we've both got the same experience, education, perform pretty much the same and produce pretty much the same results. I wonder if you'd review the situation. & quot;
Leonard's approach has worked, but with years of experience in his field, he also emphasizes that if you're making less it simply might be because you're & quot;just not as good a performer as the other person. & quot;
Which means that the employee you're making less than might be & quot;correctly & quot; paid.
Fun and games
I've been hearing from readers who are asked what they consider very challenging -- some describe them as upsetting -- questions in job interviews. These questions, applicants complain, are off the wall. What's worse, they don't know how to answer them.
Now a former university official offers some insight into so-called difficult queries and why job applicants are asked them.
One of the favorite questions asked by Lloyd H. Ahlem, a retired psychologist living in Turlock, Calif., was, & quot;What do you do for fun? & quot;
Ahlem says he believed if he could understand what potential faculty people really enjoyed in life, he would have & quot;a most helpful insight & quot; into their personalities.
One candidate for a position as a biology instructor answered that he got & quot;a kick out of kids who like to experiment with things. & quot;
He got the job and & quot;turned out to be one of the best hires & quot; the department ever had, Ahlem said.
Another, unfortunately, blithely responded, & quot;Oh, I really like to drink! & quot; Needless to say, no job offer was made.
Reference check
One of the reasons employers do reference checks is & quot;to confirm that they made a good decision, & quot; according to Catherine B. Beck, author of & quot;It's Your Career -- Take Control! & quot; (Davies-Black, $20.95).
They also want to confirm that you gave them correct information and that their assessment of you is correct, she points out.
And there's another major reason: They want & quot;to uncover any problems in your past that could result in legal action for them. & quot;
Examples of the possible problems include incidents of violence and financial problems, Beck says. And that's why they check your driving record, credit history and criminal background.
XCarol Kleiman is the author of "Winning the Job Game: The New Rules for Finding and Keeping the Job You Want" (Wiley, $16.95). Send e-mail to
& copy; 2005 Chicago Tribune

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