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‘Rules’ in Need of Adjustment

November 18, 2015

I just finished reading Laszlo Bock’s ‘Work Rules’ and while I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the book I definitely think it needs an attitude adjustment.51Df4YVLvbL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Bock is Google’s head of People Operations, which is an advanced version of what most people would know as human resources. Like many hi-tech firms, Google feels HR is an outdated term and doesn’t really explain what the department does. In truth, at least at Google, the department does a lot more than traditional HR departments.

But that’s really part of the problem. Bock presents a myriad of suggestions  for managing, promoting, recruiting and measuring employees or potential employees. Many of the procedures were developed at the company using statistical models developed by Google and all are presented as a common sense logical alternative to the way  other firms operate. A common refrain is simply “why would you do it any other way?”

This rationale comes despite that fact that the new procedures represent significant changes from the way Google used to do things, which were also supposedly based on statistical models and were  logical conclusions to the way things should be done.

Old methodology which has now been jettisoned include minimal middle management and the well known brain teasers which stumped thousands of job seekers.

Bock admits what everyone else in HR had been telling them for years: Everyone needs management and brain teasers only test how well someone can solve a specific problem, not overall creativity or performance.

The reality is, that despite their reliance on statistics, Google’s employee turnover  is no better than many other firms and they felt obliged to sign on to an illegal agreement with other tech firms not to poach employees. That case has been settled but the issue has not disappeared.

While there are a plethora of great ideas in the book, that many firms would do well to consider, my problem  is really an attitude issue. Much like a lot of other actions which aggravated many people, (such as private buses using public bus stops) Google seems to assume that what they do should not face the same scrutiny as others.

Other firms, they seem to feel, should be grateful that Google has shared their ideas so openly and should adopt them. That may be true, since there is a lot of bad management at most companies, but no-one likes to be told what is right for them.

In truth the best use for the book, might be for potential employees who want to figure out what principles will govern their potential employment.

And for that reason, I will suggest it for all my career clients, although I will warn them about the attitude adjustment that may be in order.

 

 

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Acing that Interview

July 6, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,Resumes — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:46 am

The government tells us that 223,000 new jobs were added to the economy last month. That means that at least 500,000 people probably had interviews.

What was the difference between the folks who got the job and the those who are still looking? Obviously, I don’t know all the factors at play, but I can offer some suggestions to help you ace your next interview.

Dealing with Stress:

Job interviews are stressful. But you need to understand that stress is normal. It’s the body’s reaction to fear. Thousands of years ago our stress reaction, shut down unnecessary systems, to allow us to focus on evading that saber-toothed tiger.Echo-Examiner-How-Strong-was

Today we sweat to cool our body temperature, our heart pumps more blood to critical organs, such as the brain, and our nervous system – infused with a chemical surge –  alerts us to the slightest change in the environment.

This is good, it helps you focus your attention on the person in front of you and the questions being asked.

Knowing that your stress reaction is normal can help you relax.

A simple breathing exercise is one way to reduce your stress. Before you enter the building find a quiet spot where you can just sit and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath trying to visualize yourself as relaxed and calm.

And finally: smile –research shows that this one act, will help relax your mind and body.

What to Wear:

You need to dress like you already belong.

The assumption is that you have done some research before you applied, but now you need to explore the company culture.

Does everyone wear business attire every day? Do most men wear ties, are women expected to wear skirts or business suits? The only way to find out might be to visit before your interview.

At many places in Silicon Valley (i.e. Google, Facebook, Apple) what you wear is much different than your ‘uniform’ for a Wall Street Interview.

The old saying, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ is true. When in doubt, a suit that says you are serious about the opportunity, is always the best choice. Looking sharper than your interviewer is always better than the other way around.

At the end of the interview I would rather be told, I’ll never wear my suit to work again, than I need a new wardrobe.

How to Act:

I was once told to mirror my interviewer. If he or she reached out to shake hands, fine, but don’t offer your sweaty palm first.

If the interviewer crossed their legs, I could too.

But this is all part of communication – which is 70% visual. By the time you get to the interview, chances are good that you fit the technical requirements to do the job and they are looking more at your personality and ‘soft skills.’

Many times interviewers form an opinion in the first five minutes and then spend the rest of the interview trying to prove themselves correct. Google claims they have developed a system to prevent this cognitive bias, but the statistics don’t suggest their practices insure better choices.

One other tip, make sure you have your own copy of the resume you submitted. You want to make sure your interviewer is reading things correctly.

I parrot my third grade teacher, Miss Opie, when I advise clients, “sit up straight, pay attention, don’t chew gum and speak clearly.” Always be honest and if you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and agree to find out.

Many firms are famous for asking brain teaser questions to test problem-solving skills. I think they are less than useful, unless they are directly related to the job. Unfortunately they still exist, despite the fact that there is no evidence they prove anything beyond whether you can solve that particular problem.

I am particularly bad at them, and once when challenged at an interview, simply declined, saying it was not a true test of my ability. Yeah, I did not get the job, but I felt it was probably not a place I wanted to work anyway.

Remember this is a two-way street, so be prepared with questions of your own. Not specifics about pay or benefits, there’s time for that after you get an offer, but about the company and what they do. Maybe even current trends in the industry.

With any luck, the first interviewer will ask you to stay for a while to speak with a few more people – maybe a manager or co worker – so be prepared for a longer stay. Don’t be afraid to stash an energy bar in your pocket or purse to avoid hunger pains. A quick trip to the restroom gives you a break and some time for a snack. (Just make sure you check your teeth before you return)

How do you handle an interview panel? Not easily.

It’s impossible for one person to think as quickly as three, so it’s inherently unfair. Always address your answer to the person who asked the question, and don’t be afraid to pause, and collect your thoughts before you respond. You are not in a time competition.

And, when the panel members start arguing about a question (they always do) stay out of the fight and take advantage of the time, and breathe.

With any luck, the preparation and the talent that got you to the interview in the first place will be your biggest asset. Hopefully, when next month’s employment numbers come out you will be among those with a new job.

 

 

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Emotionally Intelligent Interviews

May 17, 2015

In the last few years emotional intelligence has gone from a consultant’s buzz word to bonafide skill that employers value when they make a new hire.

In many cases it may be the key characteristic that separates one candidate from another.emotional-intelligence-graphic

Emotional intelligence covers a wide range of characteristics, but they are all classified as ‘soft skills’ that can be difficult to quantify. They include self awareness, and self efficacy, but also includes empathy and a range of talents that allow you to connect with your fellow employees.

Emotional intelligence is a key component in your ability to work well and communicate with others.  It’s recognized as a key strength for good management.

The ability to understand your employees and know how to motivate them is often the difference between managing and leading.

I mention all this because mastering emotional intelligence is not easy. While books have been written on how to learn the basics, there is a significant body of opinon which suggests that emotional intelligence is something that cannot be taught – either you have it or you don’t.

Personally, I believe you can teach EI, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of skill people acquire fully through classroom instruction.

Why is this imporntant for your career? Because if you don’t at least understand some components, you may find yourself asking, “Why didn’t I get the job, I thought the interview went great.”

The biggest challenge for most people is self awareness. I have had many clients who don’t have a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. Even if you work for a company which does annual performance reviews, and you have a good manager who explains what you might do better, it’s always easier to blame someone else.

Office politics, prejudice, managerial incompetence are always easier to see than your own faults. You can’t depend on friends and loved ones to explain what’s wrong and if they do, it comes with a good deal of emotional baggage.

I recently had a new client complain to me that he, ‘just couldn’t get past that first interview for a new job.’ He couldn’t understand why, even though his wife had been telling him, apparently for months.

He is very competent in his field, but the funding for the project he was working on was running out and he had to find another position. He explianed all this is a monotone voice, with no espression other than resignation. He had, what psychologists call, a flat affect. No emotion, no enthusiasm and certainly not the kind of personality that would make employers want to add him to their payroll.

He told me that his wife had pointed out his lack of enthusism, but he chalked it up to marital issues. When I confrmed what his spouse had told him, he was shocked.

He’s a research scientist and doesn’t really understand why he needs to have the kind of enthusiam that I seem to be suggesting, since his work is pretty solitary, but I tried to convince him that it makes a difference to the person doing the hiring.

We’ll see where his coaching leads, but as a former hiring manager, I can tell you that self awareness is important. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses.

It works on the other end to – you have to know what you’re good at, but I’ll take that up in a future post.

There are host of other concepts that contribute to emotional intelligence. Author Daniel Goleman has made a career out of explaining the characteristics. I would refer you to his books on the subject, or you can just call me next time you can’t figure out why you didn’t get that new job you wanted, EI may be the answer.

 

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Resume Writing: The job No-one Loves

May 2, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Resumes — Tags: , , , — admin @ 8:28 am

Resume writing may be the most hated job in America.

At least that’s the impression I get from dealing with hundreds of rewrites over the last few years. Most of my clients, young and old, seem to be very unclear about the actual purpose of a resume or what they should include.submit resume

The purpose of a resume, and cover letter, is to get an interview. Nothing more, nothing less. The goal is to let the reader know that you have the skills and qualifications needed for the job and that they need to speak with you.

Which means, that it doesn’t have to include everything you have ever done, every job you have held and every award you received.

Without exception, this can be accomplished in a one-page document, that is clear, concise, and accurate.

In ‘the old days’ when I wrote my first resume, completing a neatly typed one-page document was almost impossible. White-Out liquid, and Correct-o-Type strips were a necessity, and making multiple versions for different employers was a just a dream.

These days, with computers, tablets, smart phones, you can rewrite your resume in the blink of an eye, tailoring it for every employer and even for different potential interviewers within the same organization.

A resume should not be a dry recitation of every job you have ever held. You don’t need to make sure every year of your life is covered. Yes, that two year gap when you decided to take time off, or were forced to take time off, doesn’t have to be explained in the resume. You will probably be asked about it and should have a good answer ready, but it’s wasted space on the resume.

The goal is to impress your potential employers with your skills. I advise all my clients to list their skills first. Not the jobs, the skills.

Are you a manager? Did you create budgets? Did you lead a project? This tells me more than the title you had and years you worked at Widget Works United Manufacturing.

These skills are what a potential employer is hiring, and can be adjusted depending on the job you want.

You are trying to match yourself to an opening, so don’t be afraid to re-arrange the skills to match the needs of the job advertisement.

Younger clients always complain, “I haven’t done anything, yet, so I don’t have any skills.” This is simply not true. You may not have on-the-job skills, but unless you’ve been hiding under a rock during your high school or college days, you have been involved in a host of activities that have left you with skills.

Maybe you worked at a fast-food restaurant and became a shift manager: maybe you joined a sorority and became the treasurer: maybe you volunteered at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club and coached basketball.

You have skills in management, bookkeeping, or organization, which might make you stand out. Most employers, hiring new graduates are looking for some indication that you have  “soft skills’ in communication, teamwork and trainability. They don’t expect to be hiring a polished professional.

No matter how old you are, there is no need to embellish, and there certainly is no excuse for lying. The internet lives forever so it’s not too tough to uncover something that isn’t true.

Once the skills are done, you can list the relevant jobs you have held and, particularly for older workers, that doesn’t mean you should list all those part-time high school jobs.

If there are some older positions that you held that may or may not be relevant, maybe a simple one-line listing is enough.

After the jobs, you can list education, with degrees, and finally any organization memberships and leadership positions.

You should provide enough information so that the reviewer understands what you did, but remember, the idea is to get an interview, where you can impress them with the details and emphasize your strengths.

I urge my clients to include a section on hobbies or interests to provide another ‘entry point.’ You never know when an off-hand comment about your interest in, say, photography, will spark a question from an interviewer with a similar interest.

It may not be relevant to the job, but it humanizes you and provides another topic to discuss.

So, if you’re having problems completing the most hated job in America, let me know, and I’ll be happy to help.

 

 

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