Career Interview

Interview with Tiffany: HR Director

I am really happy and excited to to share today’s interview with you all. It is a little different than my other interviews in that it doesn’t focus on shopping, or fashion. Instead I wanted to take some time and focus on another topic that really interests me and that I feel passionate about – thoughts and advice for women on managing life/career/finances.

Tiffany is a woman whose opinion I have always respected tremendously, and who as you will discover below, is one of the best sources for advice on how to manage your career, and your finances. I’ve always wanted to be able to ask a HR professional a ton of questions, from how to negotiate salary to any lessons they have to share. I finally got the chance with Tiffany below – there’s a ton of content but I do hope you read it all – it is all super important. Enjoy meeting Tiffany!

 

For obvious reasons, Tiffany wanted to remain anonymous 🙂

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

I’m a Director of Human Resources for a tech company and I live in Chicago.

How did you come upon your job, and what are the best and worst things about it?

I actually got my job through a connection on LinkedIn. I wasn’t really looking at the time, and the opportunity presented itself to me. I’m so happy I took it! Best things are the flexibility I have in my role and the awesome people on my team. Worst thing is the inevitable managing of personalities and egos that comes with working in HR. But it keeps things interesting. I’ve been working in Human Resources in different capacities for just over 10 years and I really love my work.

In your career, I am sure you have seen many differences between how men and women approach their careers. I’d love to ask you some questions around the following –

How do they negotiate differently? What are mistakes that women make when negotiating their offer?

I’d have to say that the major difference is that women are afraid to negotiate at all. So often, they’re offered a job and they accept the offer without even asking if the terms are negotiable. In most cases, they are! It’s a shame because I’ve noticed this for women at all levels of their careers. Everyone from the new grad to the seasoned VP candidate don’t ask for more. In my experience, about 75% of women I’ve hired over the years have not negotiated their salary, benefits or perks. It’s such a shame because the first offer is often the lowest offer. It doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst they can say is no.

The best strategy is to first get a good indication of what your market value is for the position you’re be offered and the skill set you bring to the position. Then when offered the position, use that information to discuss increasing the compensation package. Come up with a fair range and negotiate from the top of the range down. Don’t be narrow minded and only focus on the salary. Ask about signing or other bonuses, stock options, or additional paid time off. Sometimes there’s more flexibility in those areas.

Be realistic, but understand that it’s not uncommon to go back and forth a few times before coming to an agreement. The key is to be firm but gracious during the whole process. Remember that they’re offering you the job because they want you. Make sure you’re getting what you’re due for the hard work you’ll undoubtedly be doing for the company. It’s easier to negotiate before starting the job than it is to ask for a raise once your in the thick of it already.

How about career progression? What do women do that they can improve when looking after their careers?

For anyone, having an actual written career development plan with a reasonable time line attached to it is key. It’s so easy to say you’d like to be a certain level, but become complacent in your current role and not being proactive in working towards the next step. Sometimes that means seeking opportunities that are outside of your company or industry or returning to school. Don’t be afraid to do that!

So often, women second guess themselves and their talents. They’re capable, but they’re not giving themselves enough credit. Learn to showcase your talents without being boastful. Network before you actually need a job. Have a clear idea of what you’d like your career path to be so you’re networking with the right people. Keep your resume current and work on your interviewing skills. Look for a career that you enjoy. It makes a huge difference in your level of success.

What are some other common mistakes you seen made on the HR side and how can we avoid them?

Well, there’s a lot of mistakes people make and some are more specific to industry and where an individual is in their career path. But in general, I’d have to say that women tend to be too trusting that everyone in their work life has their best interest at heart. Just because you eat lunch with someone everyday doesn’t mean they won’t throw you under the bus for their own benefit at any given chance. Don’t succumb to the drama of office politics. Take advantage of any new opportunities to expand your role or training. Even if you don’t need them now, they may come in handy in your next position. Work smarter, not harder.

I love your approach to finances and protecting yourself (as a female). What would be your advice to all women in regards to their finances – whether they work or don’t work? Do you think we should all have our “own accounts?”

I’m a huge advocate of having your own accounts. Particularly retirement and emergency savings accounts. Whether you’re working full time or a stay at home mom, it’s so important to have some financial means that are yours alone. I’m not advocating keeping secrets or hiding money from your partner, but simply not being completely dependent on anyone else for your financial security. I’ve encountered so many women that are digging themselves out of financial ruin because they didn’t want to be bothered with the money management and trusted that their partner was taking care of everything. Don’t do that to yourself! There are enough resources out there and it’s easy to learn the basics of personal finance to protect yourself from what I like to call “I thought we had money, but it was really his money and now it’s gone” scenario.

I’ve found the easiest way to save is the “pay yourself first” method of having money automatically deposited into savings and investment accounts. If it’s not on hand, you can’t spend it during a weak moment shopping. Set some goals, stash some cash, invest some cash, live below your means, save yourself from becoming the cute but broke chick.

And now onto some lighter questions…what are some of your hobbies and passions?

I’m a wanderlust, music loving, Chicago sports fanatic. I love helping people help themselves and volunteer with career development organizations that focus on that. I love good beer, good food and pinching my boyfriend’s cheeks. Those are the things that make me happy.

What do you collect? There has to be something!

Well, it’s not really a proud collection, but I collect shot glasses. Classy, right? I started buying them when I began traveling internationally and now people buy them for me on their travels as well. It’s getting so big that I’m going to run out of space for storage!

What’s one totally frivolous item that you want? What about a cherished possession?

I kind of want a motorcycle. They’re terribly dangerous and my practical side says it’s crazy to even entertain the idea. But maybe, someday. I don’t really have a cherished possession. I’m not really into “stuff”. I cherish people and memories the most. That being said, I’m probably a little too attached to my iPod.

Can you share any final advice about anything (life, romance, etc) that you’d like to pass onto readers?

Work hard, play hard, give more than you take and ultimately you’ll receive more than you ever imagined possible.

Finally, please share something surprising about yourself!

I play a mean air guitar? I don’t know, I tend to think I don’t surprise people much LOL!

I hope you all enjoyed meeting Tiffany! I want to give a special thanks for her to taking the time to do this interview – she is super busy and is such a fabulous and valuable resource. I know that for myself, reading through the answers again made me rethink some of own decisions. Thank you again, Tiffany!

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  • K
    August 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Love, love, love this interview! I have some questions though: I've heard that entry-levels should not negotiate salary in finance, e.g., an analyst at an investment bank. Tiffany, or Katherine (since I think you worked in finance for a stint?), do you know anything about this? Also, Tiffany, have you come across sexual harassment cases while working in HR, and can you offer any practical advice to women going through this difficult experience? I feel like the theory of what women should do is in fact very, very different from the reality, especially taking into account the repercussions on a woman's career.

  • couturecoco
    August 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    That's such a great interview and so useful for everyone! Thank you!
    I'd just like to agree that as a married woman it is SO important to make sure you have your own money and independent income. Time passes so quickly, when you're having fun or working 🙂 that the little savings and investments you have here and there will soon add up. Especially if you plan to or have children, most likely, you will have to stop working at least for a short time so always plan to cover for that.

  • Lindsay @ A Walk in the Closet
    August 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Great interview! Thanks for featuring Tiffany – she has some great advice and I like the candid conversation. I'm really glad you decided to venture into this topic! As a 20-something female working in a big corporation, this topic is something that really interests me.

    Hope you do more interviews like this!

  • amy b.s.
    August 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    i really do love this series!

  • Maya
    August 24, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    What a great interview– I loved this! I recently transitioned to the HR field from law and would love to chat with Tiffany about her experiences in HR if she's up for it. If she's willing, my email address is kinziesays @ gmail. com.

  • Lisa
    August 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Great interview! I was in HR for 10 years before deciding to stay with children and the lessons I learned were invaluable.

  • Annette
    August 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    This was such a good interview! I'm always a little unsure of how to handle office politics and how to really voice my own value as an employee in the most proper and best way.

  • Bravoe Runway
    August 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    This is a great interview and yes it is absolutely true. Trust NOBODY at your office, basically everyone is there for him or herself…. I've learned my lesson the hard way.

  • Gloria
    August 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you for the interview. It's different and helpful for the future 🙂

  • Anonymous
    August 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    That was awesome! I just got back from Chicago where the cubs took victory against the cardinals at the first game I went to and I also collect shot glasses from my travels!

  • Olivia
    August 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    This is so useful, I recently had to negotiate hiring terms and I admit was I nervous about it, but in the end I got what I asked for- which goest to show you it doesn't hurt to speak up, if done professionally.

    Liv @ bklynlifestyle.blogspot.com

  • THE CHEAP
    August 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Love this interview and loving your blog.

    You're style is chic and this post was pretty inspiring 🙂

    xx THE CHEAP

  • Tangled In Texas
    August 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    What a great interview! I am currently job hunting, so this was so helpful! I hate to think about having to negotiate a salary, but I don't want to just take a lowball offer.

    A mistake that Tiffany referenced is getting too close to coworkers. She's totally right – just because you eat lunch together every day doesn't mean they'll have your back. I hope in the future I can strike a good balance.

    I liked the tip about women having their own accounts – especially if the woman is coming into the relationship with assets/children. I don't do that per se, but I can see that it would be helpful. However, I could just as easily take all of "our" money just as my husband could.

  • verychiclist
    August 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Katherine, love your blog and like this interview very much, it's meaningful and clever, both questions and answers. I love reading about finance, careers, economics themes, and tech (am gradutating in telecomm. 🙂 )…to break frivolousness of fashion!

    So keep going this way! 🙂

    And thank you very much Tiffany!Great advices!

    http://verychiclist.blogspot.com/

  • Janice Liao Shiao
    August 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Awsome post Kat. My favorite line, "Work hard, play hard, give more than you take and ultimately you'll receive more than you ever imagined possible." That is my mantra.

  • Katherine
    August 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I am so glad that you all liked the interview! For those who asked specific questions, Tiffany has said that she will try to respond throughout this week – so keep checking back!

  • Katherine
    August 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    @K I was an an analyst and yes ibanking is a different beast – I think you basically take what is given you in that industry, especially starting out – you can probably negotiate moving costs, etc but they tend to be really generous with that anyway.

    For sexual harassment – there is definitely still that "old boy's club" feel in these banks and I think that does come through sometimes in the behavior – probably some the jokes are a little more off color, etc than you are used to. I think honestly that is par for the course at an ibank – BUT any kind of serious harassment should not be tolerated – I would speak to your HR rep, none of those banks wants that kind of stuff to come out.

  • DSK Steph
    August 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    This is an awesome interview! I need to share this with my girl friends and lil sis. 🙂

  • Gelene
    August 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    This interview is surely helpful since I'm currently looking for a new job to transition from college student job – adult job 🙂 Thanks Katherine for featuring Tiffany!!

    – Gelene
    http://gellinjelly.blogspot.com

  • lexi920
    August 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks Katherine,
    I LOVE interviews like this! It's a very friendly kick in the arse for me. I'm always selling myself short when it comes to going for other open positions in my company. I think this time I need to put on my big girl panties, stop whining about being ignored at work and just go for it.

    The worse thing the hiring director can say is no, right? But at least he knows I mean business and I'm willing to show the department that I'm up for the challenge!

  • K
    August 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    @Katherine

    Thanks for the insightful answers, Katherine! 🙂 Regarding sexual harassment, I actually (fortunately) wasn't talking about myself. Rather, I remember reading a thread on TPF – this one, actually: http://forum.purseblog.com/relationships-and-family/are-all-men-like-i-am-over-reactive-696731.html – and it disturbed and saddened me greatly that the advice given – basically, along the lines of "ignore it; raising a fuss could doom your career" – was so old-fashioned and yet so realistic. I must have been super-naive in thinking/wishing that in this day and age, sexual harassers are/should be automatically reported and removed. I'm also frightened to think that this might ever happen to me, because I think in the same situation, I would react the same way – i.e., ignore it and move on, for fear of the repercussions on my career trajectory. That, doesn't seem right to me, naturally. I thought bad people were supposed to be punished? 😛

    Looks like women still have a long way to go for workplace equality.

  • Plami
    August 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    She sounds like a really inspiring and amazing woman! Thanks for sharing!

    XoXo
    Plami

    http://fashion-thrill.blogspot.com/

  • Mica Cataletto
    August 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Great Interview. I recently got a job offer and I definitely did not ask for more money. (In these economic times? What if they recind the offer?) Totally wishy washy.
    But I did negotiate stock options and a very good benefits package so I was happy to see that Tiffany mentioned that is also a good way to increase the value of your package.

  • Susan
    August 24, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    This is one of the best interview to date! Thanks again and also to Tif. Very informative esp in the wage negotation. What about when job ads ask for your salary expectations – how do one respond there? BC clearly, company's that do ask what one wants usually filter out the high expectations of one's salary. There's a saying of no one is irreplacable. Very interesting.

  • the Gardener
    August 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Susan, I am not Tiffany, but I would do my research on what the standard salaries are for the position/industry/location (there are a few websites that provide this information, and you can talk to other people in the field to get a good idea) – and then give a reasonable range. If the company wants to pay you lower than market value, do you really want the job?

    Katherine I love this interview. I'm on the job hunt right now and it's great advice to be reminded of!

  • Stephanie Shepherd
    August 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    There was a TED talk on this same topic recently that sparked some conversation within my friend group recently. I find it so interesting that we can be our biggest barriers. Hearing this from an HR perspective is a great reminder to overcome fear of asking for what you want! Really enjoyed reading this.

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    August 25, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I agree with everything Tiffany said. What a fabulous interview!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    August 25, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I agree with everything Tiffany said. What a fabulous interview!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies
    August 25, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I agree with everything Tiffany said. What a fabulous interview!

  • ShinyPrettyThings
    August 25, 2011 at 2:37 am

    what a great interview!!! so much great advice since i jsut graduated and am trying to get my career started. i love your blog, always so insightful. thanks for this interview babe! ♥

  • Make Mommy Chic
    August 25, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Hi Katherine, I love your blog so much, such a great combo of beauty and brains. I was amazed to read a lot of what Tiffany had to say about women often accepting the first offer available. I hope that this post will bring awareness to us ladies that if you don't ask, you don't get. I wish that I knew all this when I first started in the workplace. Then maybe at this point in my life I could finally afford a birkin (yah right). Thanks for the post!

  • Musings by Di
    August 25, 2011 at 3:55 am

    what a fantastic post!
    these interview posts are always interesting to read 😀
    xoxo Diana

  • Finley
    August 25, 2011 at 5:07 am

    This is such a great interview post!!! So informative and relevant! I'm going to repost on my blog if you don't mind. 🙂 Thanks for the useful info Tiffany!
    {mommy chic} design. style. kids. life.

  • Mi_Mi
    August 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    wow amazing…interview and inspring!
    Mi_Mi
    x
    mi-miworld.blogspot.com/

  • Tara @ Haute Lunch
    August 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    What a great interview! Tiffany has made some great points, and I will definitely be using her advice when I enter the job market again! Of course, I also love that she is from Chicago, like me! I must say, it really is important to negotiate. I have done so twice, and both times got a very substantial increase in pay/vacation (about a 20% salary increase and an additional week of paid vacation).

  • Gray Skies
    August 29, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I loved reading this! I don't work much, but if I ever went back to working in an office full time I would definitely keep these tips in mind.

  • Mary Lane
    August 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Great post and great advice. I love the interviews you do, and this one was especially interesting.

    http://www.stylish3.com/marylane

  • urbanjunglefashion
    September 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Every time I read a new interview on your blog it inspires me. I really enjoyed this one and hope you highlight more women like Tiffany on your blog. It is important that we all share ideas and concepts to help move each other up in this world.

  • Interview with Tiffany: HR Director, Part Two » Feather Factor
    May 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm

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