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Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 30, 2016 in Building Confidence
, Career Path
, Job Search
As a recent graduate starting out in your career, or a seasoned professional looking to make the next move, the most influential person you will interact with in your new position will be your boss. The majority of our waking interactions during the week are going to be at work with our boss. That is a lot of time to spend with one person. A boss has the opportunity to make you feel completely inadequate to the point of wanting to reevaluate your career path OR so empowered and encouraged that you can move mountains with a click of a mouse. Much like choosing a major in college, where often times we end up picking our academic career based on one teacher who changed our perspective, the decision to continue on a career path can be dependent on the bosses you encounter.
A good boss doesn’t just want you to fill a gap or need within an organization. They want you to grow into an employee that is able to do much more than a job description requires. They want you to move towards the tasks that are in line with your interests so that they can see the passion your eyes. They want to challenge you to exceed expectations and go out of your comfort zone so that you are prepared for the position that comes next. A good boss wants to hear your ideas and welcome new perspectives outside of their own while trusting you to accomplish your work unsupervised and without micromanagement.
When faced with a job offer, always make sure you really know who it is you will be reporting to. It may seem like an obvious thing to do but depending on the role, you sometimes only have the opportunity to interview with the head of the department or other members of a team, for example. You want to make sure that before you accept a job, you are able to at least meet your manager face to face. If possible, try to see if there would be an opportunity to shadow a team member in a similar role to you. That way, you are able to see not only how the team interacts with each other but also with the boss. It is important to know your work personality to identify which management style aligns with your needs. There are some people who enjoy the structure of clear guidelines while others prefer flexibility to stay creative. Young professionals believe earlier in their careers that a boss is just someone you will be working FOR to pay rent, but really, it is someone you will be working WITH, day in and day out.
At the end of the day, people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 25, 2016 in Lessons Learned
The parrots are one of the most beautiful and lively features of the jungle. Always active, always cheering, always loud and colorful, the parrots provide joy and inspiration for the other animals. Unless they’re sick. The sick parrot is a marked contrast to his healthy fellows. Rather than flying around the treetops in streams of wild colour, he sits on a branch, feathers ruffled, shoulders hunched, looking thoroughly miserable and making everyone who sees him miserable as well. If he retreats to a safe perch and rests until he feels better, the sick parrot does not impact upon the life of the jungle too much. Often, however, sick parrots try to hide their illness so as not to appear weak. This rarely works out well for the other parrots. If the sick parrot tries to fly with the other parrots, he’s likely to disrupt the aerial display, infect his fellows, and add a distinctly duff note to jungle proceedings. The sick parrot is a great exemplar of why, despite our yearnings for productivity and excellence, we really should take time off to recover if we’re sick.
Time taken off for illness is, it cannot be denied, a big issue for many companies. It results in lost productivity, and sometimes on claims to the company’s health insurers, which can prove to be an administrative headache. However, most companies are far more concerned about people faking sickness in order to get time off than they are about genuinely sick people staying home from work. If your boss seems to have a bit of an attitude about sick leave, it’s probably because they’re worried about people faking it rather than an actual desire to force people to work through sickness. Indeed, if you’re genuinely sick, the majority of bosses would probably rather that you stayed away. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, top of which is probably the risk of infecting others. If you’ve got some horrible virus, it’s better that you stay away and keep your germs to yourself rather than passing them around the office. Better to have one person sick than to have twenty people sick – that’s basic common sense! There are things that can be done to reduce the risk of infection (good hygiene practices, for example) – but there’s only so far that these can go. In general, the best way to prevent a workforce from succumbing to viral infections is to isolate the initial carrier at home, and stopping them from exposing everyone else to the virus.
You may feel well capable of working through your sickness, and you may well be right. However, if you’re not feeling 100%, you’re unlikely to be able to act 100%. You may be tired, moody, dull. You are likely to be quite ‘down’, and this can correspondingly bring the mood of the entire workplace down along with you. If people are stepping on eggshells around you because you’re irritable, or worrying about your state of health, or simply absorbing your low energy and feeling lethargic themselves accordingly, productivity is likely to diminish. We all have bad days, and we all sometimes find ourselves bringing the workplace energy and vibe down, but if the reason you’re doing so is because you’re ill, it’s probably better to phone in sick until you feel well enough to perform at your optimum. Better to lose a day or two of work from one person, than to diminish everyone else’s productivity exponentially.
If you’re working in a customer-facing role, or interacting regularly with clients, it does not present a good corporate image if you’re obviously ill. If you’re sniffling, sneezing, bleary, or in pain, customers will not be left with a positive image of the company. This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfectly beautiful, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed in order to do your job – but it does mean that you’re better off working when you’re capable of summoning some enthusiasm and positivity. Which, as we all know, is pretty hard to do when you feel like crap! Stay home and get better rather than leaving clients and customers with an image of a sickly company!
This Guest Post was contributed by Gemma Matthews.
If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 17, 2016 in Interviewing Skills
Flexibility. Flexible Schedule. Flex-Time. What does that mean? Why does it matter?
Well, if you are a monkey swinging from tree to tree in the jungle, flexibility is key. You need to be flexible in order to grab the next branch to continue on your way and you need the branch to be flexible enough to hold your weight or it will snap.
In the workplace, or during an interview, flexibility is a far different thing. 14 years ago, when I first started in recruiting, I had never heard the term “flexibility” or “flexible hours” or “flexible work schedule” come up in conversation. I did hear candidates ask about the ability to leave work early if there was an emergency such as when a child was sick or the ability to work from home during a snow day.
Today, people think that they are entitled to work when they want, where they want, and how they want. They disguise this entitlement by using the term “flexible schedule” which sounds innocent enough, but is a loaded term. If the employer is not able to meet their demands, then that employer is “inflexible” and the company is potentially labeled as a bad place to work.
This week, I had a candidate who asked the client during the interview if she could work a “flexible schedule”. This question was asked during the first 5 minutes of her interview. The client was quite surprised by her question and asked for clarification. With a straight face, the candidate said, “I need to leave by 3pm each day.” The client was shocked. The client later related to me that she would not have minded a discussion on work hours later in the interview process to address any special needs that the candidate may have, but the timing and the severity of the restriction on time from their core business hours instantly put the candidate in an unfavorable light in her eyes.
Work is just that, work. You are not doing the company a favor by working there. You are applying to a position to gain employment to earn a living. You are offering your expertise to solve a business issue or need for the company. They do not owe you anything. It’s work for pay.
The appropriate time to discuss any special needs that you may have is not in the first 5 minutes of your first interview. The best time to approach the topic of “flexibility” is during the salary negotiation phase of the hiring process. Even then, you need to have realistic expectations and stay flexible yourself. If a company has core hours, see if there are alternative solutions you can explore before asking your employer or potential employer to change their policy to accommodate your needs. See if you can carpool to use HOV lanes or if a neighbor can watch your children for an hour after school so that you do not need to leave early. When all else fails, then approach your employer. Remember that you also earn trust over time with an employer. Often, flexibility is given to trusted employees after they have proven themselves in their current role. You should not expect to be given the same consideration right away when starting a new job as employees who have been with the company for a long time.
Flexibility is a 2-way street. Consider your request for “flexibility” before you ask for it, or you just might find yourself falling from that branch that you were so sure could hold you.
This guest post was contributed by Jake Hanson of the Merito Group.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 8, 2016 in Career Path
, Lessons Learned
The job search jungle includes all biomes and species that are all indicative of Carolyn’s vast experience in her field. My name is Cammy Cohen, and as a summer intern at Merito Group I feel I am qualified to speak metaphorically on only one ecosystem. I have chosen the Temperate Deciduous Forest because of its seasonal changes. Unlike the Tropical Rainforest, which has the same temperature and weather patterns from season to season, my summer, winter, spring, and fall are all very different. I am currently a student at Virginia Tech and love being a Hokie. In Blacksburg, everyone is wearing maroon and orange on game day and you can order pizza bigger than your face until 2am. I want to share my glimpse into the professional world and my view as a college student. I truly cannot express my gratitude enough to Carolyn and everyone in this office for investing in me and immediately making me feel like part of the team!
People are always taken aback by the fact that I want to be a recruiter. It seems to be a job that most just people find themselves in rather than set out for as a career. I suppose I am the exception to my perceived rule but so far, I believe this is the right path for me. I believe recruiting is an incredible use of my marketing degree. I don’t just want to market products, I want to market people’s skill sets and ambitions. I want to bridge a company’s needs with what my candidate wants, and market my firm in the process. I want to help people with the next step in their career by reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. But above all, I want what everyone should want from their career- to feel passionate about the work and to know that it has significance.
In the summer months the warm temperatures and ample sunlight harbor the growth of lush vegetation in the forest. In my current position, I am learning and growing as a professional every day. I am currently on a project with one of our clients who is a large government contractor. I am part of a team conducting the initial screening process of many diverse individuals every day.
My peek into the recruiting world has been a fantastic experience thus far, but not without falters in confidence. What I struggled with most was understanding the reason for implementing specific metrics- or why we have metrics at all. My idealistic view of recruiting was focusing on the candidate’s potential, finding the perfect job, and then making a “happy every after.” I was spending upwards of 10 minutes with candidate running through a conversation that should take no longer than 5 and stumbling through the computer software. I was reassured that I was still just learning, but that I wasn’t meeting my metrics meant that I wasn’t doing my job. This weighed on me and made me ask the question “at what point does quantity override quality and does this signify the nature of the industry?”
One day, after staying late in the office I asked this question to two of my colleagues. The question that had been nagging at me every time I opened my underperforming excel sheet. Both of them seemed surprised. My project deals with a high volume of candidates and they assured me I would get the hang of it. But that wasn’t what was concerning me; I wanted to know if this was truly representative of recruiting. They told me they felt the metrics kept them on track and was a fair, quantitative way to monitor progress. I left feeling unsure determined to understand the balance.
The next day I came back a new intern determined to streamline my efficiency without sacrificing the quality of my candidates. I found the best way to navigate the software and strived to keep my conversations concise and meaningful. Everything from this point on has clicked (which is the reason I have time to write this, might I add.) My point here is that everyone was right, I just needed to see it to believe it. So my first lesson has been learned- in a corporate environment there are quantitative standards you are required to meet but the true value of a recruiter is bringing quality alongside those metrics.
This Guest Post was contributed by Cammy, our fabulous summer intern! To see if Cammy has a position for you, apply here: Merito Group Career Opportunities
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 22, 2016 in Building Confidence
, Executive Coaching
Successful leaders have a certain “Je ne sais quoi” – an air of authority, trust, confidence and knowledge that inspires others to follow them and move towards the goals they have set. Jungle guides are the most valuable members of the excursion party. Without them, the group may become hopelessly lost, run out of food, or become food themselves. If the guide effectively projects their knowledge and authority, the group will follow the guide safely through the jungle.
As someone moving up the ranks towards leadership, it’s imperative to create your leadership presence early on. In order to be the one that’s tapped to take on new leadership assignments you need to assume the presence of a leader before you can actually be one.
Consider what you say, how you say it and how you look saying it.
WHAT YOU SAY
Leaders phrase things positively. They move as quickly and efficiently as they can through a process to a successful conclusion. Listen to great leaders who choose their words wisely and adjust your delivery to mimic theirs. Researching great speeches of the past is a good place to start to learn to frame your comments positively. Rarely do great leaders talk about all the problems they have had and what they are trying to avoid, they only speak about where they are going and how they are going to get there. Avoid negativity and find the positive in every situation first and only talk about the positive which will eliminate any appearance of negativity.
HOW YOU SAY IT
Contrarians are never the leader – they are the outliers. There are many times you may not agree with something, or have a differing opinion, which is how creativity and growth are often generated. But how you deliver the message is the difference between someone who is considered a leader and someone who is branded as not supportive of the company’s goals. The best way to offer a new idea that may not be in alignment with others’ thinking is to present it as a “brainstorm” by starting off the introduction with something like, “I don’t know if we’ve ever looked at it this way, but what about the possibility of…”, or “These are really important and great ideas, can we brainstorm for a moment here?”. Avoid blurting your disagreement directly out for risk of alienating others in the room. Remember, it is possible that your ideas have been explored in the past and were overlooked or avoided for some reason you are not aware of.
Don’t take it personally if others don’t like your ideas every time. Remember, it takes a village, so do your best to contribute AND collaborate when it’s time for you to support someone else’s ideas that are being adopted.
HOW YOU LOOK SAYING IT
Even if its casual day, a put together look is key. No matter how crazy their morning was, leaders never come in and talk about chaos in their lives, they just manage it. If others view you as unable to manage yourself to be where you need to be and looking ready, you won’t be the one they choose to be a leader. Always putting your best self forward will ensure others view you as a leader at all times. Leaders don’t make excuses, either. They take responsibility for what they do, where they are and their outcomes. They embody this by making it to meetings and appointments on time, dressed appropriately and being organized and ready for the meeting or conversation. Traffic doesn’t keep them from being on time. Their kids don’t prevent them from getting somewhere they need to be when they need to be there. They get it done, consistently and build confidence in others by being reliable and dependable.
Wondering if you are on the right track? Look at people in the hallway – are they making eye contact with you? Are they saying hello? Do the big bosses know you by name? Take the lead and greet others as they pass you in the hall; introduce yourself in the elevator to someone you know that may not know your name. Leaders are natural connectors, too – introduce others you are with to the people you are meeting to take the lead and position yourself as a leader.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 5, 2016 in Interviewing Skills
Getting an interview call is one thing and being successful is another thing. Everyone who has appeared for an interview knows this. It is a dream come true for anyone who successfully cracks an interview in one of the giants in the industry and start a career in Microsoft, Google, etc. We can always compare the competition involved in getting a job to that of the ways of the jungle. You need to be a powerful or a cunning one according to the situation and pounce on the prey (read job opportunity) at the right time.
Here this article will provide a view on how an interviewee can behave like a beast of the jungle to prey on a job opportunity with success. Are you going to be an opportunist or force your way to the job? Let us look at some of the ways how you can achieve it:
Be a juggernaut like a rhino
When it comes to interviews you will need to just focus on a certain goal and move rapidly towards it. In other words you need to be a juggernaut and sweep away all other candidates with your expertise. You cannot be viewed as a weak one when interviewing for one of the biggest companies in the world. They are going to grill you with some of the toughest answers that you will come across. So you need to move forward fast and without backing down.
Roar like a lion
Interviewers are going to intimidate you with some of the toughest problems and you need to let them know that you are the best suited candidate for the job. Just as the roar of a lion is distinguishable from the rest, which makes it king of the jungle, you will need to voice your skills loud enough (metaphorically) to let the interviewer know that you can do the job perfectly. Let them know that you are going to be majestic in your field.
Be cunning like a fox
Sometimes force simply does not work; you need to be careful, cunning and dodgy like the fox. If you are asked questions that seem complex, think before answering and be clever (innovative), which will give you an edge over the other candidates. Remember sometimes you will even need to dodge an answer if you are not too sure and this requires skills which you can acquire by preparing well for the interviews. Check out the type of questions that have been asked in the past and prepare accordingly.
Swoop on an opportunity like an eagle
Sometimes you will be given a hint or a glimpse that the job is yours for the taking but the interviewer is expecting more from you. In such cases you should know when to make the swoop and let him know why you are the best person for the job with clear reasons and how you are going to be successful. Good candidates know when to make the kill for the job. In simple they know when to give the right answer and how it will count.
Move fast like a cheetah
In a modern workplace, the candidates need to be fast-paced and easily adapt to the situations around them. You will also have to be a fast-learner as the competition is rising and professionals have to keep abreast of the latest technologies. These are things that the interviewer also look for in a candidate while offering them the job.
Overall you will need to be a powerful beast of a candidate to force your way into the job, when you are interviewing for a position in one of the best companies in the industry
This Guest Post was contributed by Hasib. Hasib is a professional writer working with one of the top job sites in India. He often writes articles related to interview preparations and also helps professionals in making their career decisions. He is an avid reader and passionate about the beautiful game of football. Reach him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn
If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 11, 2015 in Executive Coaching
You may have heard the phrase “managing [x group] is like herding cats.” While a group may exist with shared goals it, like the territorial cat, may not collaborate as a high performing team even if they are familiar with its members. The essence of high performing teams is collaborative independence and participative leadership but the wild cat, while independent, is not known for its teamwork.
All teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. Next time you find yourself herding cats in a group, use these characteristics of cohesive, high performing teams:
- Members of a high performing team have complementary, yet unique, skills.
- The team as a strong group identity which can be underlined with special names or methods of identifying the group (such as uniforms/shirts/pins/Internet groups).
- The members maintain a clear understanding of both the importance of the work, their individual role, and how it relates to overall goal achievement.
- Members have the authority to act autonomously and with discretion to complete their necessary tasks. This doesn’t mean they aren’t supervised, rather it means they are properly empowered to take risks.
- Members believe success is achievable as a group and are individually passionate about the results and accountable for their own performance.
- Members treat each other with respect and sidebar conversations that are dissenting or subversive to the goal.
- Underachievement, or social loafing, is not tolerated in the team. They establish minimum standards for performance or level of effort and members who are deemed ineffective or disruptive are eliminated.
- They set their own goals, rules, schedules and norms for behaviors and follow them.
- Use democratic decision making and leadership is participative.
- Evenly divide the work space and level of effort.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 26, 2015 in Building Confidence
, Self Improvement
Our office has recently seen many individuals make significant employment changes from one large company to another; leaving behind the teams they built over the last 5-10 years for the unfamiliar terrain of a new executive position filled with fresh faces to groom and lead. The conversations about how the new role is going seem to center around a common theme – the first priority of building a new team that they can trust. This begs the examination of what is really the definition of trust.
Webster’s Dictionary says, trust is the “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective.” Wikipedia offers a social definition as when the “trustor” is willing to rely on the actions of another party (“trustee”).
It takes time for people to build credibility with each other. You must exemplify trustworthiness in order to receive it from your team and build your own trust in them. Consider these 5 tips for making a daily effort towards building your leadership trustworthiness offered by Jennifer Miller from SMARTBLOGS:
- Get to know people’s minds and hearts.
- Keep promises.
- Maintain confidences.
- Ask, “How are you doing?” Then shut up and listen.
- Back your people up.
Jennifer stresses as her first point that building and promoting your team’s skills is not enough, you also need to understand their motivations. Recognize the underlying influences that drive your team beyond the technical so that you can better position them for success in the group, and in their career path. This will solidify your team’s confidence in your abilities as a leader. Ask your team members what gets them to work in the morning beyond salary and social aspects.
Equally important is keeping your promises, both positive and negative. Creating a track record of consistency will allow you to ask the same of your team. Nothing erodes trust in a leader faster than broken promises and false hope. Be especially careful about assurances that could be undone because of a lack of information or support from senior leadership. It will be viewed by your team as a significant weak point in any future promises you make no matter how much they trust you.
Get to know your team and their individual personalities to maintain confidences. Your team’s observance on how you treat privileged information about them builds, or destroys, a foundation of trust in what they are willing to share about themselves to you. This can extend to simple praise and criticism where one employee may not mind being corrected or complimented in public and another may prefer to receive any feedback in private.
In this age of technological progress where communication is faster than ever, people seem to have less and less time to truly listen. This is especially true the further you are in your career. Asking how someone is doing and then being able to take the time to truly listen to the response is very rare. Schedule time on your calendar for members of your team to discuss ideas and concerns with you to avoid only half listening while writing an email or having to cut them off to rush to a meeting. Making yourself available to be able to respond with your whole attention will help you develop a deeper relationship with your team.
To err is human and to pass the blame is the mark of a team’s shaky confidence in its leader. If the team makes a mistake, correcting that mistake in the work product should take precedence over whose individual fault it is. If the fault is yours, own it. Even if your only mistake was not catching the error before the project was submitted. When your team is comfortable knowing they won’t have to waste time and energy constantly covering their own rears at the expense of the team’s cohesion, they will be able to get back to business more quickly after a minor slip-up. A single team member can be coached in private if they are the source of reoccurring issues.
Trust must be built over months and years but it can be shattered in an instant. Maintaining trust requires continual investment in the leader-employee relationship. Show your trustworthiness by getting to know your team personally to position them for success, keeping your promises, maintaining confidence, and really listening to and backing your group is the fastest way to develop a team that you will be able to trust. In the wild Job Search Jungle, your team may be your only hope for survival so make sure the trust you build can get you through any obstacle.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 11, 2014 in Interviewing Skills
, Lessons Learned
Weird Tales from Behind the Recruiting Desk:
The jungle can be a tough place to find shelter, or in this jungle, a job, so let’s take a key piece of advice from our friend the chameleon – it can be in your best interest to blend in order to get ahead in the market. This thought came to light recently, as my last few months recruiting at the Merito Group has allowed me to uncover some of the more unique inhabitants of the jungle. Sticking out can be a great asset in an interview, but in these cases not so much.
In this blog series I will be examining a few candidates that were special cases – some facts may be exaggerated, skewed and twisted! These are meant to be lessons learned, not exposes of my stellar candidates, so please enjoy:
Be aware of your surroundings. The chameleon has an advantage above the rest of the jungle. They can slide under the radar of those trying to hunt them, but they still must be on guard! (It is, after all, a jungle out there.) Many companies in this day and age offer the flexibility of webcam interviews for those candidates who are still currently employed, but looking to make a move. Here at Merito Group we try to make the process as easy as possible for our candidates as well as our clients. I have had a few occurrences, though, that have made me wonder at the lack of professionalism exposed with this media.
Candidates who use their computer screen, phone, and other varying technologies as a security blanket: beware! Employers and recruiters will want to see you and meet you “in-person” so you must still present yourself professionally, even if it is from the comfort of your own home in a webcam or phone interview. Your interviewer will understand that your home is your place of comfort and exudes personality, but your cats, dogs, children, spouses, and cuckoo clocks are not a welcome distraction in an interview no matter where you are. Use a room where you have solitude from such distractions.
Technology is changing every day and to keep up with the times, we sometimes must use interfaces we are not used to. Please test your webcam, the platform, and your phone reception before calling in/showing up to an interview that is not “in person.” The most annoying thing our clients have to put up with on phone or webcam interviews is that the candidate doesn’t have great call quality or internet speed. Use a land line or go to a library, if necessary! Sometimes a webcam can freeze due to bandwidth limits, weather, or even user error. Please be aware that both sides may not always freeze at the same time: do not assume your interviewer cannot see you! Maintain your professional persona until after your interview is complete. Many technological issues can be avoided with the proper preparation.
Remember: You can’t re-do a first impression! More on that in my next post…
This guest post was contributed by Emily Craig of Merito Group. If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 3, 2014 in Interviewing Skills
Interviewing Questions Series: 7-8 of 29
Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.
“Would you be prepared to move?“
When you are interviewing for a job that requires relocation, say “yes.”
If you applied to the position knowing that relocation would be required, it will usually be discussed in detail after the offer. Despite the fact that there are a lot of steps that will need to be accomplished for that to occur, the interview is not the time to discuss them – save that for after you have received the offer. Bombarding the interviewer with too much detail about all the things you will need to do to get moved and settled may actually be a deciding factor on who they choose, so when asked this up front, just say you will be able to relocate and leave the planning and discussion until after you have accepted the offer.
“What is your anticipated salary?”
Start with a discussion of the cash you have received in your last position. Many discussions about stock options get complicated and the first or second interview is not the time to get into those details. Options are only as good as the cash you can or have received for them so make sure you know what your grants were and what that immediate or near term value is. Preparing a spreadsheet is a good idea in case you need it.
No matter what the total compensation is that you are looking for, let them know you are open their best offer. All companies have different pay and incentive pay plans that are pretty consistent across the board and the larger the company, the more consistency they strive to achieve. You could unwittingly under- or overprice yourself by bundling your base and bonuses together in a lump number so make sure you break that out so they have a firm understanding of the components of your previous pay.
Another thing to consider: Health insurance paid on your behalf is not generally used to negotiate more cash up front. Just because you don’t need the plan now doesn’t mean you might not need it later. While it may seem like a good idea to ask for $2k more per year since you won’t be using the benefits up front, it won’t usually work. If you need to initiate the plan later, they most likely would not reduce your pay so it’s best to just leave it on the table.
Never lie about your previous compensations. It will be verified.