Tag Archives: Human resources

If I only had a Brain?

download“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.

Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices.  First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.

Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?

As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust.  Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.

If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers,  and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.

yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.

Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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Gossip is as Gossip Does

Thumper

We all know those folks who seem to feel the need to let others know they know more than they should, or at least more than you. In an effort to seem important or in the know, they have to tell someone around them. Here’s the problem, they never know the whole truth. The whole truth never gets spread cause the whole truth is never as interesting as their interpretation of it.

Yes lots of big ambiguous words, I did that on purpose to prove a point. Interpretation, perception, misdirection, confusion and chaos this is what happens when folks decide to share what they shouldn’t.

According to an article by Mary Abbajay of the “ The CareerStone Group”, “ The Danger of Workplace Gossip “Gossip is the death of teamwork as the group breaks up into cliques and employees start refusing to work with others.” What may seem like harmless sharing, posturing or chit chat; can quickly turn into a culture killing disease.

Recently, I experienced a situation where a colleague felt they had information about an individual that was ‘juicy’. They also felt they had the right to share this ‘factual’ nugget of information with everyone and anyone who would listen. Truth be told this tid bit was no more than an observation made by someone else and their personal interpretation of the events, having nothing to do with fact. The results were so damaging that the individual felt that leaving the organization was a better option than staying and trying to overcome the damage done to their reputation.

Yes this is an extreme case, but not that uncommon. So for just a minute I’m going to get on my soap box. My Mom, who is one of the most amazing women I know, raised me to “Do No Harm”. Seems simple enough, I know, but so often not observed. So instead I’ll bring it in a bit closer. Remember the movie “Bambi”, yes the animated Disney version! There is a line in the movie stated by my favorite character. Thumper is scolded by his mother for something he said. She asks a simple question, “What did your father say?” To which Thumper humbly replies, “ If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Very good advice.

In the professional world you will always encounter people you don’t enjoy working with. There will be cliques, mean girls, Heathers and people who just rub you the wrong way. Don’t become one of them. Put a smile on your face, try not to misinterpret what you hear, see, experience and keep your observations to yourself. Don’t go to a co-worker with the, “I saw something and I just don’t know what to do”, comment excusing your gossipy behavior. If you see something legitimately not right, follow the chain of command, be objective and state the facts. When all else fails seek out your HR professional and talk with them. Do no harm.

If you are the person with integrity, you don’t start those conversations, you don’t participate in those conversations, and you don’t even allow them to happen around you, then it won’t take long before your behavior is not only noticed but emulated.

There is a quote by Gandhi which is often truncated, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” You frequently see this as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Truer words have never been spoken. He is proof that one man, one person can make a difference.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

All Soft Skills Boil Down to Customer Service

soft skills

I arrived at the airport on Wednesday for a very long flight home only to find that my flight was over an hour delayed, this meant I would miss my cutoff for my final leg of my journey home. It was the last flight out and I was going to have to spend an additional night where I was. For those of you who are frequent travelers, this is not that uncommon an occurence. I received great service at the airport that night as they set me back up in my original hotel and provided for a taxi to take me to the hotel and return me to the airport the next morning. Again, not an unusual story.

The next morning once I made it to my first desitnation I went to check in on my upgrade and was met with complete disregard, as if going to the customer service desk was the biggest inconvenience in the world. I was bothering this woman who was there to assist me, how dare I! It occured to me at that moment what the practical application of ‘soft skills’ is and why employers spend so much time and money tring to identify employess that have it.

All soft skills, at their very basic level boil down to some form of customer service. While doing some research this morning on soft skills I came across an article titled Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters . This is by no means an all inclusive list but I think it’s pretty close.

  • Strong work ethic. Will you arrive on time and do your job to the best of your ability with honesty and integrity?
  • Positive attitude. Will you approach your job with a smile and genuine joy for what you are doing?
  • Good communication skills. Will you interact with internal and external customers in a manner that best befits the organizations image?
  • Time management abilities. Will you treat others time (including your organization’s time) with the same respect you would like others to give you?
  • Problem solving skills. Will you approach challenges in a way that provides objective judgement focused on the needs of our customers and organization?
  • Acting as a team player. Will you work collaboratively with members of your group to provide superior results?
  • Self confidence. Will you lead by example and provide assistance where and when needed?
  • Abiliy to accept and learn from criticism. Will you listen and heed the counsel of those around you in a professional and positive manner?
  • Flexibility/Adaptability. Will you accept that sometimes objectives change with little to no warning and it is your job to continue to provide the best support of those objectives?
  • Working well under pressure. In times of difficulty will you continue to act in the manner above to smile, be positive and approach the task at hand?

At the most base level all soft skills are your ability to put the needs of your internal and external customers first, provide service with a smile, regardless of the task at hand, and the desire (it is a choice) to enjoy what you are doing. If you can master these few things then the list above will be taken care of. Soft skills, cultural fit, customer service are the same thing.

Your challenge is to be able to demonstrate that you possess these traits in your resume and in the interview. Make sure to tell stories about your experience that demonstrate your willingness to go out of your way to help your customers, co-workers, department and organization. Doing that will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Kids and Interviews Don’t Mix

imagesCA6A53GG

As parents, talking about our children comes as naturally to us as walking and breathing. I do it all the time, and if given a little rope will completely consume the conversation with anecdotal stories of my fabulous four’s antics. Having four children at home, I have a story for just about every situation and trust me when I say reality is much stranger than fiction. See, there I went, point made. There are instances however, where going off on ‘kid tales’ is not appropriate and can actually be detrimental; the Interview.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing a delightful woman for a position. She was professionally dressed, articulate and well informed. She asked thoughtful questions and her resume was quite impressive, however her children dominated the conversation from the very beginning.

She took a very clever approach to her interview, wherein she tried to tie each of her previously held positions and their duties to the position she was interviewing for. A good strategy to show that you have the skill set, direct or transferable, and experience necessary to be successful in the new role. Her mistake was that each of her positions was related through her children in some manner or other.

When asked how she would approach managing a divers staff with somewhat differing approaches to their daily activities, her answer was about recruiting volunteers for her children’s PTA. When asked to discuss her experience with coaching and mentoring students to achieve career success she noted a program she work on with elementary children with regards to drug use.

Now I do want to point out that both of these endeavors are important, difficult and have intrinsic value to our society; however they did not clearly connect the dots between her skill sets and the needs of the position for which she was applying.

With her management and human resource background, she should have been able to easily make connections and share examples from her work experience to the job at hand. I wasn’t sure if her answers were due to a lack of understanding of the job she was applying for or her parental instinct to share stories about her children. Either way, she talked herself out of the job.

She was nervous, she was not observing the non-verbal cues of her interviewers, and she was not answering the questions in a manner that befitted a professional with her experience.

Kids and interviews don’t mix. Even when you feel the interview is informal and the interviewer is sharing stories of their children, stay away from the subject. It’s too easy to fall into the storytelling parent and lose sight of what the conversation is really about.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Why Do They Ask That?

imagesCAZDDIOR

Yesterday I received an instant message from a student who was asked a question during an interview she wasn’t sure how to answer. She was interviewing for a Medical Billing position and the hiring manager asked “What would you do if the computer system went down?” She was confused by the question and after the interview called to ask me why they asked that question and what the right answer should have been.

I asked her how she responded and she told me that she said “I would do other activities like filing and returning calls.” they asked the follow up question, “So you wouldn’t do any billing the whole day?” Ouch!

Ok let’s think about this. No this wasn’t a question designed to catch you off guard, although that was probably how it felt. This was a question to get to the root of your critical thinking skills, how would you behave under pressure, or if you had to improvise to still achieve your goal. In other words can you call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Ok you’re at the line and you can read the defense is going to blitz to your left and your play is leaving you vulnerable on that side. So you have to call an audible, make a play change on the line to still move the ball toward the goal. Are you decisive enough to change direction when you see the line collapsing in?

Once she understood the reason for the question, she then asked me what I would have said. I would have asked if they have resources in place for a paper only process in the event this happens. If they do not, I would probably make it a priority to help devise a process to accomplish the daily tasks with a manual or paper process in the event of a power outage or computer crisis. What I would want to make sure is that all my daily tasks were able to be completed in a timely manner regardless of computer issues.

Understanding the question goes a long way to making sure you’re providing the best answer. The questions hiring managers ask are purposeful, to see if you are a good fit culturally, skillfully, experientially and professionally. A good way to think of those, not so obvious questions, is to just think what would you want to hear as an employer? You would want to know that the individual you are hiring will be dependable (there on time for their scheduled shift), professional (able to express to your customers the image you want), adaptable (able to change priorities as needed by the organization), and decisive (able to make decisions for the benefit of the organization). This is not an all-encompassing list; but you can’t just come out and as a candidate, so will you be here every day, on time? You know what that answer would be, true or not.

Think about what kind of employee you would want to hire, what would you want to know about them and answer the question accordingly.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Power of Positivity

positivity

In your last interview were you asked any of the following questions?

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about the worst supervisor you ever had?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • Tell me about the most challenging co-worker you’ve ever delt with?
  • Have you ever delt with a difficult customer, what did you do and what was the result?

Do you know why hiring managers ask these questions? Well let me tell you. They want to see if you are a positive or negative person. Yes it really is that simple, and yes we ask those questions on purpose. We know if you are going to talk bad about a previous, supervisor, co-worker or company; you’ll talk bad about us as well. If you speak about yourself in negative terms, it’ likely you’ll do the same about the people around you.

These questions, for the most part, are not about finding out if you had a bad boss or co-worker so we can find out how to manage you better. These are questions designed to see how you will communicate with and about the organization you desire to join. These are questions designed to see if you are going to be a positive or negative force with our organizational culture.

So to answer your question, yes they are trick questions; however they are not tricky to answer in a way that will make you shine.

  • When asked about your weaknesses, your response should be about your greatest areas of opportunity. After all a weakness is just an area in our life we have not developed as fully as we would like. It’s not a weakness, is an opportunity for us to grow in areas we are not as strong.
  • When asked about your worst supervisor/boss or co-worker or customer; again you need to reframe the answer. You haven’t had bad anything; you may have had challenges with communication, direction or understanding but in each case you were able to overcome these challenges to create a satisfactory work environment or experience.

It’s not rocket science! It does however, take practice. Reframing comments to maintain a positive style of communication is a skill that must be honed. Hiring managers will continually throw questions at you to coax you into a feigned level of comfort to get you to provide them with a negative response. Don’t fall for it! Organizations are drowning with applicants and they are looking for reasons to disqualify candidates and get down to the gems. This is one of the ways they will accomplish their goal.

If you want to stand out; be smart, thoughtful, professional, and always, positive. I can’t stress this enough! Hiring managers want to bring productive, professional and positive individuals to their organization. It’s up to you to show them you are the best choice.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Charming Can Only Get You So Far

strike three

I was interviewing a candidate the other day for a Director level position in my organization. Now to be fair, the candidate wasn’t really qualified for the job but I could play connect the dots from his job experience to the skills needed for someone in this position to be successful. Plus he seemed like a colorful character from his background so I thought, why not! I scheduled him for a Skype interview and set to work.

First there were multiple technical difficulties. He tried to take the interview on his tablet, while at work, surrounded by people. Strike one!

Then his tablet and his phone cut out, not once, not twice, but three times. Ball one!

Next he did NOT research my organization or even read the job description so he could not speak intelligently about either. Strike two!

He borrowed a phone from a co-worker, called back and apologized, while at the same time asking his co-workers to keep it down while he was on this call. Ball two!

I asked him, “When you reviewed the job description, which areas did you feel would be the most challenging for you?” He replied, “None of them, I don’t think I’ll have any challenges at all.” Ball three!

It’s a full count…needless to say; I’ve known pretty much from the beginning that this is not someone that I’m going to move forward with. However I wanted to get to the final question, because I was really curious as to how he would answer it. He’s labeled himself a ‘talker’ and that he can motivate and coach anyone, and that there are no challenges he can’t overcome. I’m trying to decide if he is charming in an overconfident kind of way or completely arrogant in a really annoying way.

“So why should I consider you for this position?”

His reply, “because I’m me, and no one is going to be better than me.” Strike three, you’re outta there!

One of the best things about a full count, there’s only one pitch left. You have one more chance to hit it out of the park, walk to first base or fail miserably. (And yes, for my baseball fans, I know they can hit a foul ball and it remains a full count; however for the purpose of the argument let’s assume one more pitch.)

Having a powerful personality, the ability to converse easily with people combined with a charismatic energy will get you much farther in life than those who don’t possess such characteristics; however it will only get you so far. I would choose someone with a strong skill set, who understands the work that needs to be done and the qualities of leadership necessary to succeed over someone who is relying solely on their personality to move them forward.

This candidate was one question away from a bottom of the 9th walk off home run; but he came to the plate swinging a twig at a fastball, he didn’t even make contact.

  • He didn’t research the company or the specific job.
  • He didn’t research the industry.
  • He wasn’t prepared to answer real questions about any specifics; e.g. his experience and how that related to the job requirements.
  • He actually said his personality gets him what he wants, and I think he believed it.
  • He certainly didn’t seek any assistance with how to appropriately answer interview questions

When given the opportunity to redeem an incredibly lack luster ‘at bat’ performance he had no idea what to say other than “I’m me”. Well you’re obviously not Babe Ruth, but perhaps this approach to interviewing has worked for him in the past. As far as this interview went, it was like watching my 10 year old son try to hit off Randy Johnson; painful to watch, but I love rooting for the underdog.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

You Said What in the Interview?

Dont

Have you ever been in an interview and said something you almost immediately wish you hadn’t? Worse yet did you say something you shouldn’t have and didn’t even realize it, only to find out later that was the deciding factor for you not being chosen for a position?

I have read several articles this week revolving around the kind of questions job seekers ask that they probably shouldn’t have.

Last week I was sitting in my office when a colleague shared that she was just interviewing a candidate for one of her open positions. The candidate asked about the work schedule and when she was informed it was 8am to 5pm her response was, “Oh, I can’t get up that early.” WHAT?

Then a friend of mine forwarded me an article she had just read titled, “ 8 of the Strangest Interview Questions Job Candidates Have Asked ” This highlighted yet again the type of career limiting questions that folks ask in an interview.

Words of advice:

  • Think before you speak. The question might seem benign to you, however how may it be received by the hiring manager looking for their next rock star?
  • Words have power and meaning. If you are unsure how a comment may be received, rephrase, reframe or refrain. Once it’s out there you can’t take it back, and yes they will remember it.
  • Know your audience. Take a moment to try and size up your interviewer; are they outgoing and gregarious or are they reserved and calculating? Whatever their demeanor, you should mimic the energy level. Don’t come out the gate with a crazy joke for someone who has a hard time smiling or shaking hands; you may turn them off when you want to impress them.
  • Exercise sound judgment. Don’t tell the interviewer that you can’t get up early enough to work the schedule they are hiring for. Don’t ask if Mom can come too. Don’t ask if the boss is single or how quickly you can put in for a raise or transfer.

The main purpose of an interview is to showcase your skills, experience and cultural fit. The best way to accomplish that is to have the hiring manager be able to visualize you doing the job. If you are asking questions during that first encounter that will cause them to take pause…your chances of getting the call back are slim.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Why an interviewer wants to tell you why you were rejected, but can’t.

9-20-13 Rejcted

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get the job? Have you ever been in the interview and known you weren’t going to be chosen? Have you ever thought you nailed an interview only to find out you didn’t? Well join the club; we have jackets, t-shirts, and hats.

In a perfect world, we’d get the feedback we so desperately need to grow, develop and do better; however, in the world we live in, it just doesn’t happen.

In my field, I work with literally hundreds of employers. Some will give me a call after one of my students has finished an interview to give me feedback. What they can do better, differently, more professionally. This is, indeed, rare.

Unfortunately, in today’s employment climate, there is such a fear that if you provide feedback, that information can in turn be used against you. Human Resource professionals have to be part recruiter, interviewer, counselor and lawyer. What they are and are not allowed to share is so limited that they are actually hurting today’s job seekers.

I would love it if my interviewer could tell me:

  • Your answers were too short
  • You didn’t seem prepared for the interview
  • Your presentation was not professional enough
  • You spoke too negatively regarding your past experiences and organizations
  • You weren’t able to articulate your skill-set well enough

If this feedback were offered to job seekers, they could actually improve their skills and do better the next time. Instead, we blame the educational system, our culture, the economy, and on and on, when we could allow HR and hiring managers to just offer back some helpful advice.

Instead we close the door and turn a blind eye to otherwise valuable employees without them having a clue as to why. And “Why don’t they?” you may ask. Simply, they are afraid of getting sued.

Just think what it would be like if at the end of an interview we could hear, “Thank you for coming in today to meet with me. May I give you a few helpful hints that may assist you with future interviews?” Bad um bump! How hard is that? Don’t send people back out into the cold job search world without giving them some kind of help to make them better for their next interview.

As a culture we have, in my opinion, become so afraid of helping people for fear of being sued, that we’ve stopped doing the right thing in favor of doing the safe thing. In the long (and short) run this ends up causing more harm than good.

There are a few things, however, you can do to try and get some feedback from your interview.

  • Contact the hiring manager after you’ve sent your thank you note and followed up (building rapport). Ask if they would be willing to offer you some advice on how you could do better in your next interview.
  • At the end of your interview, after you’ve asked for the job, ask if there are any concerns the hiring manger has about your ability to do the job.

While these tips may help you get some feedback, nothing will do as much good as being well prepared for the interview in the first place. Being proactive in your job search will get you so much further than chasing reactive information after you’ve been let down.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

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