Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hiring Pet Peeves - Take Poll

Every interviewer has things they hate about the interview process.

We're running a poll on Linked In to find out your pet peeves in hiring.

Please click the link in the text (not the picture) above or here ( and take the poll!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hiring Paradigm Shift Gets “A” Players

Successful entrepreneur and investor Dave Berkus wrote a blog today titled Hire Each Employee as if Your Survival Depends Upon it. In this blog, Dave talks about the critical importance of finding "A" players, and how every CEO should invest the time and effort it takes to write good job specifications and then screen, interview and hire on the basis of what it would take to be that "A" player.
Dave cites the book "TopGrading" by Brad Smart, which is also one of my favorites.
I agree with 90% of what Dave says today, with one significant exception. I don't think it has to be that difficult or time consuming for a CEO to get this accomplished. It is really about a paradigm shift. Most CEOs take one of two old-school approaches to hiring people for their senior management team. They
either play it safe by specifying the ideal background and experience, and screen for that, OR they go with their gut – relying on intuition to pick the right people.

In our experience it only takes 60-90 minutes to identify the Performance Objectives (critical, tangible, measurable results) required of the new executive. Then, the entire screening process is simply based on can the candidate achieve these objectives? Interview questions and reference checks are constructed accordingly, and the hire is based on the objective assessment of candidate capability to be the very specific "A" player needed – the round peg for the round hole.
Kudos to Dave for pointing out the need for CEOs to take action on this, to ensure their survival. Make it easy on yourself, with a shift in your thinking about what is most important in setting up a recruiting project for success.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interviewing Basics has some good ideas about basic interviewing in this video.

To these basics, I would add the following:
  • When talking about weaknesses, it is good to show how you have overcome a weakness, or at least have successfully worked on that weakness.
  • Make the interview a dialogue - with give and take.  Get validation on how you are doing ("Does that fit with the way you would want this problem solved?")
  • Ask the interviewer what the most important objectives are in the position (see my previous blog on "Get the Job by Doing the Job") and talk about how you can get that done.
  • Get some closure ("How do you feel my background fits your needs?")
  • Eliminate concerns ("Do you have any doubts or concerns about my ability to do this job?")

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Computer Engineer Barbie

Recently, there have been several articles about the release (Fall 2010) of "Computer Engineer Barbie", and interviews with prominent female engineers, including this one with Erin Fitzgerald from the Department of Defense. Most guys don't know too much about Barbie dolls, so if you are like me, you may not have realized that this is the 125th profession for Barbie. Given all the press, I thought this might be an especially enlightened profession for Mattel to have assigned, or that they were showing extra feminist sensitivity. I was very surprised and pleased to see that this is not the case. Mattel has had an enlightened view of Barbie's professional life from the very beginning!

A review of Barbie's list of careers shows that Barbie has been an Astronaut (1965), a Surgeon(1973), and several other kinds of prestigious and well-compensated professionals – Doctor(s), Dentist, Business Executive, Olympic Athlete, twice a Presidential Candidate, and much more. Considering that Mattel gets a lot of flak for making a doll that could be (physically at least) a negative stereotype, from a career standpoint, they've set a good example in providing solid roles. Of course, Computer Barbie's laptop is pink, but that's ok.

The reason this 125th release got so much attention is that Mattel very smartly engaged their adult and young female customer base in a worldwide online vote to select the latest professions. They are also releasing a list of "10 Women to Watch in 2010", all people of significant accomplishment, including a 13 year old fashion blogger!

My wife and my daughter were very into Barbie as youngsters, but I never realized Mattel had actually done such a good job with Barbie's professional identity, so I thought some of my readers might also enjoying knowing about it!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Take a Candidate to Lunch

My weekly e-mail from SHRM today is an offering of books about bad behavior by employees. The titles have to do with discipline, conflicts, bullying, performance problems, turf wars, and in general, dealing with difficult people. This caused me to start thinking about how to prevent such hires. What can you look for in the interview stage as a clue to predict future bad behavior?

A particular client story came to mind. This company had just let go a President after less than a year, and was about to bring the new person on board. The outgoing person was a tyrant, a bully, never listened to others, and was uniformly hated! I asked the chairman if he'd seen anything in advance to reveal these awful traits. He responded that he actually had – at lunch! The candidate had bullied the waiter, complained unreasonably, sent food back, and was generally disagreeable to the wait staff. The Chairman said, "I should have realized then, that is how he would be likely to treat people in a subordinate position."

Conventional wisdom has in-laws sharing meals with prospective brides and grooms, to see if they have appropriate manners. Many divorced people will tell you that you'll never see better behavior from your future spouse than you see at restaurants, and that they also could have predicted future behavior by observing mealtime behavior.

So, take your job prospect finalists to lunch, and notice not just how they behave with you, but with everyone that crosses their path – from the parking valet to the host/hostess, wait staff, bus staff, etc. I'd also issue a caveat to beware of the overly charming candidate too. The person who wants to win over everyone, even random strangers, could be a narcissist, who craves having everyone love them. Such people can also wreak havoc on the job. What you want is normal, good behavior. Watch out for bullies and charmers – the extremes could be worthwhile indicators of future action in the workplace.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Get the Job by DOING the Job

One of the best techniques you can use to get a job is to prove you can do the job. Here’s how:

During a job interview, find out as much as you can about what needs to be done. Ask the interviewer to define the results needed from the new hire. Ask about the criteria by which this person would be reviewed on in 90 days. Rephrase your questions in several ways to make sure you elicit the objectives for the role. Keep asking, and what else… and what else?

Once you have a clear picture of what is needed, begin to portray how your skills will enable you to achieve the objectives. Since the interviewer will have a specific agenda for the time you have together, you may not be able to get all of this across, so don’t stop when the interview stops. That night, at home, put together a plan for what you would do in the first 30, 60, 90 days, and e-mail it to the interviewer and hiring manager (if you met the person who would be your boss) so they have it on their desk first thing in the morning. Put yourself in their place. Wouldn’t you be impressed? Even if you get a few things wrong in your plan, you are demonstrating that you WANT to do the job, and that you have the drive and initiative to do whatever it takes.

Employers can’t help but be impressed by this. Any follow up after an interview is good, but showing the employer that you can do the job, in writing, overnight, is one of the most powerful messages you could send. Give it a try.

Hiring Upturn Signals

A few months ago you had to really hunt for signs that the recovery was hitting the job market in a positive way. But this week, a number of indicators hit my news feeds, and others were easy to find. A good sign! Here are some highlights:

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Tech hiring is on an upswing, due to significant recovery by many key firms in the sector. Intel, AMD and Google reported substantial increases in revenue and/or profits last week, and Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are due to report next week.

CBS News is reporting this week that signs of new hiring are beginning to emerge in Healthcare, Finance and Engineering (they also mention the tech sector).

Numerous reports specifically about Wall Street indicate that job postings are up, hiring freezes are down, and overall expectations are good for that sector.

The new Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act signed by the President last month provides employers with exemptions and credits for new hiring.

An article in Fortune (CNN Money) this week reports that Warren Buffet, Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase) and Jack Welch are all confident and optimistic about the upturn.

Retail sales are up, the market is up (mostly, despite the Goldman Sachs reaction drop today), and many other indicators are turning positive. Our company (executive search firm) is busy, and I’m hopeful that all this will continue, everyone will reap the benefit of a strong recovery, very soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The 2% Difference

I have consistently contended that executives who tolerate "B" and "C" players on their teams give up a lot. Let me now quantify it:

Let's say you are a CEO with 5 key management team reports, running a $50 million (revenue) company. Let's say that you project 10% revenue growth next year, but you have a "B" player on your team that might hold you back a bit. If you achieve only 8% growth, you just gave up $1 million in revenue. Would hitting 8% instead of 10% be regarded as a failure by your board or parent company? Probably not. You probably still get your bonus.

If you run this company for 5 years, and you tolerate 2 "B" players rotating in and out of your management team, it might cut your annual average growth to 7%. Over 5 years time, you give up $7.5 million in revenue. If you have a $200 million company, you gave up $30 million in growth. This could erode equity by an equivalent amount when the company is sold.

In January I wrote about the 18-Month Factor – that it takes 18 months from discovering a sub-par performer before most companies have a fully effective person in that role. What if you established a zero tolerance policy for anything other than "A" players in every management position? Each time that you quickly replace a "B" or "C" person with an "A", you could gain 2% in growth. Would the 2% difference be worth it to you?

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