Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Ace the Final Interview

You’ve done it. You got through the sometimes tricky applicant tracking system. You survived the phone screen. You performed well in the first interview stage. Now you are in the final interview stage. This is the job search Olympics and you are going for the gold. You are feeling really good about this. You prepare like you are studying for your college finals all over again – except you are serious this time. You do everything right and feel like the interview goes really well. You leave feeling as though you nailed it. You know you had a great rapport with the hiring manager and are confident you are getting this offer.

Then you don’t.

You get a call that says they went with someone else.

Maybe this wouldn’t bum you out if it hadn’t been the third time in as many months as this had happened.

Always the bridesmaid….

So what happens? What is it that keeps happening in the final interview stage that relegates you down to the silver medal? Why do they keep choosing someone else?

I may not have an exact answer.

In fact I know I don’t.

I can tell you about the process though. I can tell you what is happening in this final stage and things you might be able to do to increase your chances of being the bride.

At the final interview stage your skills have been assessed. Through every interview they have accessed your ability to do the job. For the most part, they are now confident that you can. This final interview stage isn’t really about that. It’s about your ability to fit in. Your ability to fit in with the culture. Your ability to fit in with your co-workers. Maybe most importantly, your ability to fit in with your boss.

Everyone at this stage is asking themselves the same question. Can I work with this person?

Typically at this stage it comes down to two to three candidates. The one whose personality seems to fit into the overall environment better will usually come out the victor. Even if some skills are lacking, personality trumps at this point.

While you obviously can not be something your not and figuring out what type of personality they want may be difficult, you can ask questions early on to help.

Starting with your very first contact, ask questions about culture. Not just culture of the company, but of the particular team you would be working with. Also ask questions about what makes the right person successful, personality wise. What types of characteristics would make someone in this role fit in nicely? Asking these questions early on will give you a better idea of what they are looking for at the final stage.

Hiring managers and recruiters talk about this stuff, so leverage the recruiters knowledge of what that hiring manager may be looking for to ace that final stage.

While the interview process can be nerve wracking, you want to try to relax as much as possible and give your true personality a chance to shine through. Letting them see who you are and that you would be an easy person to work with will help solidify your spot as the final selection.

Of course if you are not an easy person to work with…..we’ll save that for another day.

via How to Ace the Final Interview.

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How to Ace the Final Interview

Cover letters for job applications: top tips from our experts

How do I write a speculative cover letter?

Lindsay Johnson, information officer at Newcastle University Careers Service: “Research the organisation thoroughly. It can be difficult when you’re not applying for one specific role, so it’s important to really show your passion and enthusiasm for wanting to work for that particular organisation and why you’d be a good fit. Reading their mission statement and values can help with this.”

Simon Gray, founder and director of Career Codex Limited: “Get a feel for the types of opportunities that exist at the organisation, that fit well with your experience and passion, and tailor your cover letter to these. It should start with a grabber that shows you have done your homework on the organisation, for example, comment on recent relevant news.”

Elizabeth Bacchus, founder of The Successful CV Company: “The key is getting across your passion for wanting to work for that organisation and the value you can offer. Research the organisation in depth, and outline how your own values align with theirs as a starting point, including examples to state your case. Are there any particular projects or campaigns they have undertaken that really stand out for you – if so, what was it that had an impact on you? Include two to three bullet points on how you’ve added value in previous roles, whether they are voluntary or paid for positions.”

Should I address long-term unemployment?

Sarah Archer, qualified career coach and co-founder of CareerTree: “Take a direct approach in your cover letter and address the area you are concerned about head on, rather than letting the recruiter make assumptions about your gap.”

Elizabeth Bacchus: “Given the difficult climate for job seekers at the moment, many people face this dilemma. Illustrate that while you may not have been working, you have made efforts to stay aware of the field you are focused on developing a career in, by reading industry articles online or perhaps teaching yourself the latest version of software packages. The key is to let prospective employers know you have been using your time wisely.”

Lindsay Johnson: “I would address this briefly, but keep it positive. You could focus, for example, on any skills you’ve developed during this time such as any courses, relevant hobbies or volunteering you’ve taken part in.”

If you don’t have experience in one of the criteria areas, should you address it or ignore it?

Elizabeth Bacchus: “It’s always better to address a potential concern, such as not meeting part of the criteria, and back it up with examples of how you can compensate. Avoid the reader discounting your application because you don’t tick one box.”

Simon Gray: “If you don’t have the experience, you don’t have it. Showing a real desire and willingness to get this experience is a good idea. Is there any research you could do in advance that demonstrates you’ve taken small steps to help?”

Lindsay Johnson: “It depends on whether it’s an essential or desirable criteria. If it’s essential, it may be worth addressing. For example, you could say, ‘I don’t have X, but I’m willing to/currently working towards…’ If it’s desirable, you could perhaps not mention it, but be prepared to be asked about if you get through to interview. Get in touch with the employer before applying to see how essential this requirement is and how flexible they are.”

How can I be succinct and give concrete evidence of my suitability?

Simon Gray: “A covering letter should spark enough interest for someone to want to take a good look at your CV. Having a very relevant example on there as bait to your CV is the idea. But it needs to be short and to the point.”

Sarah Archer: “Due to the volume of applications, recruiters want cover letters to be succinct so it is really important to focus on quality of information you are putting in there – rule of thumb would be one page. Include some brief examples of your suitability but choose the ones you think are the most important for the job, and that they would find interesting. Make your cover letter stand out by being interesting and readable and avoid making statements that anyone could say, such as ‘I have great communication skills’.”

What do I write in my closing statement?

Elizabeth Bacchus: “It’s a highly competitive market out there so one of the key things is to be a little pushy, although not arrogant. Ensure you include a call-to-action, as in a statement of purpose. Be clear with your closing statement; if you are going to follow up with a phone call, make sure you tell them you are going to do this and when. If you are going to wait to hear from them, tell them you look forward to the opportunity of interviewing for this role so you can illustrate further your suitability.”

Sarah Archer: “I like my clients to imagine when making their applications, that, to quote the Berocca advert, they feel like ‘You but on a really good day’. So the sign off to your cover letter should reflect your style but should be positive. I favour something quite simple: ‘I am available for interview and I look forward to hearing from you soon’.”

Lindsay Johnson: “If you prefer, you could end with a brief summary of why you think you’re suitable for the post, say you’re available for interview at any time and then end with a positive ‘look forward to hearing from you’.”

With most applications now done online, does length really matter?

Sarah Archer: “The cover letter should still be around one page. Even though they are submitted online, a recruiter still has to read it and they want something that is interesting and succinct. The key is to make the cover letter and CV as relevant to the job as possible so spend some time identifying the key aspects of the role and the key requirements. Most of the specification should be addressed in your CV, and use your cover letter to convey more of your personality, your enthusiasm for the role and the organisation.”

How honest should you be sbout your character and what you’ve achieved, and how much should you sell yourself?

Lindsay Johnson: “It’s always best to do your research before approaching the employer; find out about the culture of the organisation and who you are actually writing to (look them up on LinkedIn) to see if a more quirky, different approach may be the best one. In terms of selling yourself, it’s always worth highlighting your achievements. It’s not boasting if you can demonstrate specific evidence to back these up. If you’re less than honest about your skills, you’ll soon be found out at the interview.”

Simon Gray: “Honesty is always the best policy and I would always avoid selling; think of it as demonstrating areas of achievement with real life examples. The cover letter needs to be brief and introduce the CV which would normally be attached.”

via Cover letters for job applications: top tips from our experts | Guardian Careers | Guardian Professional.

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Cover letters for job applications: top tips from our experts

How NOT to Make Hiring Tiresome and Costly [INFOGRAPHIC]

Hiring new employees can be tiresome and costly.

This infographic from HR Tech Blog shows how NOT to make it tiresome and costly.


  • On average there are 141 applicants to each job opening, and with a recruiter managing 22 openings simultaneously at one time, this produces 3102 resumes for a recruiter to handle at one time – but only 28% of recruiters have the technology to manage applicants.

  • A job position is open, on average, for 45 days, with 10 candidates screened per position.

  • Phone interviews have been found to be inefficient, inconsistent and ineffective.

  • 35% of companies regularly fly in candidates for in-person interview, and with 100% of jobseekers having used video calling services before, why not use pre-recorded video interviewing?

  • 60% of hiring managers believe that video interviewing could make their jobs easier.

via How NOT to Make Hiring Tiresome and Costly [INFOGRAPHIC].

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How NOT to Make Hiring Tiresome and Costly [INFOGRAPHIC]

Recruiting for Upside Potential: Hiring for Top-Notch Performance

Over my 30-year career in recruiting, I have found that, regardless of the employer, the industry or the decade, there is never enough money in the compensation budget to hire the very best people. So rather than compromise on quality, I reframe the conversation.

The challenge is this: Convince a job seeker to evaluate a new job as an important career move with a modest salary change, rather than a lateral transfer with a big compensation increase. In parallel, I have found I need to convince hiring managers to evaluate candidates based on their past performance and future potential, rather than some arbitrary level of skills and experiences.

This longer perspective has resulted in better jobs for strong candidates and built-to-last working relationships for hiring employers. Over time, this process became known as Performance-based Hiring.

How to Convert Jobs into Careers

Most job descriptions require candidates to meet a predefined list of skills, experiences, and competencies. These are bad ways to filter candidates. Instead, I ask hiring managers to define how a given skill, competency, or experience would be used on the job.

For example, if a new hire is required to have 5+ years of logistics experience and be an expert user in the FlexRPB supply chain system, the equivalent performance objective might be “to upgrade the entire inventory management and MRP system on a FlexRPB platform within 12 months.” Every job has 5-6 performance objectives like this that represent the bulk of the work. I refer to this list as a performance-based job description.

With this list in hand, I ask the hiring manager to consider interviewing candiates who had performed similar high-quality work, even if they had a slightly different mix of skills and experience. Most instantly agree. I ask the remainder to compare a few candidates who meet the performance requirements with a few who do not, but have the necessary skills and experiences. In the vast majority of cases, candidates judged on past performance trump those with the right pedigree.

Selling Candidates On the Promise of Promise

First, I compare the candidate’s past performance to the performance-based job description. (This is how the Two-question Performance-based Interview was developed.) I then sell any gaps between the two as a career move.

For example, if a candidate hasn’t led as big a project or team, or is in a different industry, or isn’t using as much advanced technology, or doesn’t have as much visibility, the job can be presented as more challenging, more satisfying one offering more upside potential (of course this all had to be true and tied to specific evidence). Collectively, this “opportunity gap” then becomes the tradeoff for a modest salary increase.

I first started using this reframing process when one of my first candidates rejected an offer for a plant manager job. When I asked him why he’d accepted a competing offer, he said the financial package was bigger, the company was closer to home, and he wanted a VP Manufacturing title. Although stunned, I blurted out something like, “Are you aware you just made a major long-term career decision using short-term data?”

I then went on to explain how the job he was rejecting had more upside opportunity, the work itself was more challenging, reporting to the CEO was better than reporting to a VP Operations, and a 5 percent difference in compensation was insignificant, since my client’s company was growing much faster. I then asked him to think it all over.

The candidate called me the next morning, profusely thanked me for getting him to examine both opportunities as a business decision rather than an emotional one, and accepted my client’s offer. Eight months later he called and thanked me again. He told me he was just named the VP Operations, earned a special bonus, and got a significant increase in pay.

In the rush to accept a job or fill one, there is always too much emphasis on what people must have to even be considered or what someone must get to even be interested. When the focus switches to what people will be doing and what they could become if they do it well, the whole decision process is reversed. Hiring a person or accepting a job is an important long-term decision. Don’t use short-term data to make it.

via Recruiting for Upside Potential: Hiring for Top-Notch Performance | Inc.com.

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Recruiting for Upside Potential: Hiring for Top-Notch Performance

Interviewing - "Do You Have Any Questions for Me?"

“Do you have any questions for me?” could be the biggest trap of the professional job interview. That is, when the interviewer turns the tables and offers to answer whatever questions may be on your mind. Don’t be fooled. This is not the moment to relax or think that the interviewer is just being polite. In fact it is often the most important part of the interview. This is your chance to show how much homework you’ve done – or not – about the company. How much insight you have – or don’t – about the position you’re discussing. And whether or not you are accurately reading the dynamics of the interview.

Do not wait to be surprised when this question comes at you with five or seven minutes left in the interview. Get ready beforehand and use it as the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition.

The worst possible answer to this question is, “No, thanks, I think I have everything I need.” If you do that the interviewer will write you off, then and there. as someone who isn’t hungry, isn’t curious about the organization or doesn’t care about the interviewer him or herself. Rather, prepare a series of questions that link to your narrative as discussed in my previous “Undercover Interviewer” post.

Some examples of good areas to probe and effective questions to ask when given the chance:

  • About the culture – “How would you describe the kinds of people that thrive in the company and those that don’t fit in? What does that say about the culture?” Or even more specific, “As I reflect on my two previous organizations, one culture was all about collaboration, teamwork, never using the word ‘I’ and the other was much more a star system, where it was all about standing out as an individual performer. How does this organization operate on that dimension?”

  • About the position – “What would success look like in the position? If I were to be offered the job and a year from now we were reviewing how it’s going, what would I have accomplished for you to say, ‘What an amazing year you’ve had?’

  • About the interviewer – “Tell me a little bit about your story. How did you find your way into the company? What have you enjoyed most and what’s been most frustrating?” It goes without saying (but it is worth repeating), people love to be asked about themselves. An even better way to ask this question is to have Googled the person you’re meeting and framing a question about them with specifics about what they’ve done, where they went to school, what they may be known for.

  • About the company – “In the most recent earnings call, the CFO said that the company is now projecting flat revenue for the year. Given that the market is growing double digits, shouldn’t I be concerned about the strategy not working?” Or “Would it be an accurate interpretation to say that your two most recent acquisitions were made to attract talent, or ‘acquihires?” If that is the case, why do you think it’s been so difficult to attract the talent you need?” When asking about the company and strategy, assuming you’ve done your homework it’s fine to be challenging – as long as you’re not being insulting or personal about it.

As you can see, there are any number of questions to ask when you’re given the opportunity in the last part of an interview. Your goal for the interview is for the interviewer to describe you, once you’ve left as being “very sharp and asking great questions.” Asking great questions in an interview is among the most sure-fire ways to get the job.

via The Undercover Interviewer: “Do You Have Any Questions for Me?” | LinkedIn.

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Interviewing - "Do You Have Any Questions for Me?"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Resume Power Statements: Why Do I Need One?

One of the best ways to showcase your career brand in your resume is to include a power statement. Strong brand-driven statements abound on well-written resumes and can be found in your career summary, position descriptions, and your achievements, but the most visible power statement on a resume is your tagline.

What is a resume power statement?

It’s a one-line encapsulation of your career ROI or a key achievement. Written with lean keyword-infused language a power statement showcases the impact your candidacy has had on your current or past employers or highlights critical attributes of your career brand. For example, here’s a power statement that quickly hones in on the candidate’s value:

Catalyzed $3B+ in Online Revenue while Generating 5X Shareholder Value in Industry-Leading Start-Up

Notice that this statement draws attention to two results (revenue and shareholder value) while providing two context hints (the revenue was made online and the business was an industry-leading start-up). Notice, too, that this power statement begins with an action-oriented verb (“catalyzed”). This is a lot of detail to include in a 13-word phrase.

Here’s another tagline example. This one is shorter and presents the candidate’s leadership philosophy in three words:

Focus. Discipline. Action.

If followed by a summary that emphasizes the candidates career ROI, the top portion of this person’s resume will quickly help readers to take the temperature of his fit for the role they are seeking to fill.

Where do you insert a power statement?

As mentioned earlier, these kinds of statements can be used in multiple locations throughout a resume. We’re focusing on using them as a tagline, which means the statement would be placed after your resume’s title but before your summary. This is prime resume real estate deserving of an exceedingly impactful tagline that will shape your readers’ perceptions of you.

Should a resume only use one tagline? No, not necessarily. While that is how they are arguably used most frequently, more than one tagline can be used in a document if there is enough solid brand material to showcase. If more than one tagline is inserted into the document, it can be placed immediately after the first tagline. For example, if a client possesses exceptional credentials, it may be appropriate to include them in a secondary tagline like this one:

KEY CREDENTIALS: Harvard MBA | MIT BS in IT | PMI PMP Certification

A secondary tagline can also be placed after the summary, as in this example:

Transformation Leader Who Repairs Troubled Customer Care Operations + Fuels Next-Level Performance

In this second example, the secondary tagline is followed by three achievement statements that drive home the results the candidate has achieved to date. Each of these achievements is also a resume power statement.

Why should you use a power statement?

There are at least four multi-layered reasons to leverage a tagline in your resume.


  • An effective tagline creates context for your summary and tells the reader what you’re going to tell them. Remember high school English? You may have been taught to write thesis papers with a simple 3-step formula: Tell the reader what you‘re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them. Your resume should do the same.

  • In essence, a tagline serves as a thesis statement for your resume, presenting a central idea or them in a high-profile location.


  • Your resume is a marketing tool for Brand You that helps your target market to recognize the relevance of your candidacy for their needs. As such, a tagline affirms your match for the position at hand and reassures the reader that it is worth his/her time to inspect your candidacy further.

  • When power statements are layered, they can provide deepening levels of detail that reel your readers in to know more about you. They help you to build a logical case for your candidacy one line at a time.


  • Taglines are important brand communications tools. They can help summarize your key skills, experience, credentials, and achievements while making clear how your candidacy is different than that of other candidates.

  • Taglines leverage the “power of proof” to drive home key ideas. When you highlight the total amount of sales you’ve helped generate throughout your career, for example, you’re making a powerful claim about your candidacy without sounding like a braggart.


  • Effective taglines draw your readers’ attention to the impacts you’ve had on your employers to date. Located up front and center, taglines place these impacts center stage so their message doesn’t get lost in all the content to follow.

  • When showcased impacts are tied to the job description of the role you are applying for, they reinforce your fit for the job and in all probability propel your candidacy ahead of others.

  • Emphasizing the bigger picture of your career ROI helps you point out the bigger picture to your readers. In the first sample tagline shared above, for example, sales are presented on equal footing with shareholder value results which enables the candidate to in effect say, “I don’t just drive multibillion-dollar sales – I magnify shareholder profits for the companies who hire me.”

If your resume doesn’t have a tagline, ask yourself how much stronger it could be if it did. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile, too. After all, your profile’s headline is the perfect place for a power statement.

via Resume Power Statements: Why Do I Need One? | CAREEREALISM.

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Resume Power Statements: Why Do I Need One?

Expert turnaround driver who improves customer experience, increases service delivery, and resolves client concerns. Demanding but fair people developer who excels at building teams that deliver the right level of service while scaling delivery based on business needs. Experienced in leading technology conversions that set the stage for key M&A, IPO, and rebranding initiatives.

Supported Acquisitions for Sunbelt and Markon Ranging Up to $650M in Value


CASH FLOW MAXIMIZATION: Increased average speed of answer 18% and cut escalations 33%. Ensured consistently superior service during peak call periods through demand forecasting.

POST-ACQUISITION INTEGRATIONS: Consolidated the acquisitions of 12 franchises through on-time, on-budget project leadership of system conversions for TechSmith Systems.

EMPLOYEE RETENTION:Lower call center turnover from 34% to 6%, cultivating peak-performing teams.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Junk Science Of The Human Resources Department

Apple asks some prospective Design Engineers to infer from a table of deconstructed parts the intended function of a motorcycle pump. Prospective employees at Fujifilm are asked to write personal essays about two experiences in their life, from childhood to the present to make a metaphor of their career. They’re given the example of someone who enjoyed mending bird wings as a child and later grew up to become a “corporate-turnaround artist. Google once tested prospective hires to estimate how many golf balls could be stored in a school bus and explain why manhole covers are round, a practice it later admitted was “a complete waste of time.”

These pointless tests are not just matter of misapplied practice, they’re symptoms of the steady degradation of Human Resources, the purpose of which seems to have reversed itself in recent years, acting as much as a gatekeeper attempting to rationalize the labor market’s irrationalities with junk science and false empiricism. Maintaining a large workforce is often seen as a liability, especially in tech-related industries.

MBAs practicing their job interviewing skills (Photo Credit: USFBPS/Creative Commons)

MBAs practicing their job interviewing skills (Photo Credit: USFBPS/Creative Commons)

Facebook’s 1.1 billion monthly users are served by only 4,900 employees. Twitter’s 200 million accounts are maintained by fewer than 1,000 employees. Amazon is a relative behemoth, with 91,300 employees worldwide, yet tens of thousands of those are brought on through temp agencies, which pay low hourly wages, offer few medical or retirement benefits, and leave all workers subject to at-will termination. HR departments don’t necessarily cause any of these phenomenon, they are almost always the mechanism used to keep them in place. What was once meant to be a safeguard against managerial exploitation has now become an enforcement mechanism for it.

It wasn’t always this way. In the 19th Century, Human Resources originated as a means of providing on-site factory regulation to ensure working conditions met a certain minimum standard. Mary Wood is often identified as the first formal HR employee, hired by Rowntree in the late 1890s to see to the morale of its workforce by putting flowers around the workrooms and tending to sick workers. In 1913 the Welfare Workers’ Association was founded to organize people in this new position, and after World War I there were over 500 people, mostly women, responsible for monitoring working conditions. Some companies began to experiment with using these positions to handle employment as well as worker morale. In 1921 a collection of interview techniques and selection tests published by the National Institute of Industrial Psychologist, putting in place the modern framework for HR.

This shift in focus effectively reversed the purpose of HR departments, tasking them not just with maintaining adequate work conditions but making them responsible for worker adequacy itself, something that has become a corporate currency in today’s economy. In a paper on “Developing HR as an Internal Consulting Organization,” former Senior Vice President of Mirage Resorts and MGM Grand Richard M. Vosburgh writes that HR departments are most effective when they make “rigorous data-based decisions about human capital management.” HR has effectively transformed labor into a kind of investment banking, with people analyzed and packaged instead of shares.

Even while the logic underwriting this system is growing more transparently exploitive and dysfunctional, ridding ourselves of its delusions is difficult. We want the dogma of HR hiring to be true, if only as a form of self-validation. In the same way that the doubling of home prices in a few  years was both self-evidently unsustainable and impossible to walk away from, the fantasy of meritocracy is tattooed into the American DNA. All meritocracies need prizes and so we carve out the benefits of job security, healthcare, and a decent standard of living as things that should be withheld, given only to those able to outperform the baseline in the human capital market.

This isn’t meritocracy but another form of freelance feudalism, in which a narrative of individual achievement becomes a pre-requisite for being considered basically employable. All of these employment structures cover the deeper truths of the labor market, where nepotism matters more than pure merit in many cases. According to Maribeth Bailey, Deloitte and Touche gets 49 percent of its experienced hires from personal referrals, while almost forty percent of Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s new hires in the last two years have come from employee referrals. The food services company Sodexo favors employee referrals by a factor of 10 to 1. These statistics aren’t proof of institutional corruption, but a reminder that people are always more adaptable than HR templates suggest.

I’ve worked in a number of different fields and found that, with few exceptions, the technical skills required in most roles can be quickly learned. I’ve built databases, negotiated licensing contracts, budgeted and scheduled a feature film, taught English as a foreign language, worked as a health educator, taught myself cinematography, video editing, learned HTML, and become conversationally fluent in two languages (in addition to the two I’d spoken in childhood, and the third I picked up in high school). I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert in any of these skills, but in anywhere from a few weeks to a few months I became relatively productive in a variety of professions.

From that side of the HR wall, one learns that all of those intimidating skill requirements are mostly set dressing. It’s doubtful Steve Jobs would have passed Apple’s motorcycle pump identification test, and who knows if Sergey Brin could have explained the conundrum of manhole covers. Which in a way only confirms that HR’s screening policies are functioning as intended, creating a quantific basis for keeping people out rather than ensuring communities are working as productively as they can.

It should be that the benefits of digitization and the widely accessible information it brings create a job market driven by the cross-pollination of ideas and disciplines, supported by groups of people training one another, working together, and benefitting from having old standards challenged from the outside. Instead, we seem trapped in a period of corporate rigidity, with employers using an irrational holdover of industrial-age empiricism to evaluate who is capable of contributing and who isn’t, something which is readily set aside whenever a friend of a friend comes calling. Human Resources has become the junk science of rationalizing why most people we live with shouldn’t be allowed to contribute, and the closer one looks at its hiring practices the more nonsensical it becomes, an example of how easily a structure that was meant to enrich the working conditions of workers can become diverted with the business of proving why only a chosen few should be allowed access to that coveted and increasingly rare status.

via The Junk Science Of The Human Resources Department – Forbes.

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The Junk Science Of The Human Resources Department

6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some Of The World"s Best Interviewers

Everyone knows that particular feeling of dread that accompanies a lull in conversation at a party, networking event, or even a job interview.

You’ve already covered the usual small talk and then, oof, you hit a dead end. What now?

Even the most extroverted among us know that being a good conversationalist doesn’t always come easy–but there are some experts who have had more practice than the rest of us.

Writers, journalists and others who interview sources regularly have developed tried and true techniques that help them connect deeply with people.

Not only can interviews with thought leaders in your field provide a great source of content for your blog or website, the skills honed while interviewing are useful in many types of communication.

For instance, Terry Gross–known for her inviting style on the radio program Fresh Air–admits she wasn’t always so comfortable communicating.

“I feel really lucky that I know how to talk to people now, because I’ve talked to so many people and I know how to get a conversation going. Because I used to be really shy and would have been very uncomfortable doing that.”

We all want to be able to connect with people who are important to us, feel understood when working with a team and get to know new people better.

These six communication tricks from legendary interviewers can help you conduct a stellar interview, build a new relationship or simply become the best conversationalist in the room.

1. First Prepare Notes, Then Toss Them

Good interviewers always study up on their subject’s background – many even have a staff whose job it is to collect those resources.

If you can do so in advance, research the person or people with whom you’ll be speaking. A bit of familiarity will make you feel more confident – and will prime your subject to open up to you.

But during the moment of truth, you rarely see a professional interviewer following a script or referring to notes. A better, more casual approach is to stay in the moment and allow talk to flow naturally, as TV talk show veteran Dick Cavett advises.

“My former boss and idol for many years as a viewer, Jack Paar, called me before I started doing a talk show and said, ‘Hey kid, don’t do interviews.’ And I said, ‘What do I do, then, sing or just read to the audience?’ And he said, ‘No, interviews are boring. That’s just ‘What’s your favorite color?’ and that’s dull. Make it a conversation.’ And that’s almost the best secret. Throw your notes aside, if necessary.’”

A good interviewer knows how to make subjects comfortable enough to open up and reveal something real and true about themselves–and that only comes when both parties get a little vulnerable. That’s why comedian Marc Maron, host of cult favorite podcast WTF, focuses more on connection than research.

“I don’t do a hell of a lot of research. I go on a sort of kindred-spirit bonding that preexists the interview, and just see what unfolds. I’m just looking for authentic engagement of some kind … Some people just want to answer questions, but a lot of times, all of a sudden you drift away, and you don’t remember you’re on the mic, and you’re in something real. That, to me, is great.”

Click to expandChart via Visual.ly

2. Match Your Partner–in mood, energy level, language and body language

“The more comfortable you make someone feel, the better interview you’re ultimately going to get,” says interview veteran Katie Couric.

And how do you make someone feel more comfortable? Great interviewers do it by meeting subjects on their level. That means matching their mood, energy level, language style–even body language.

Calibrating your tone and energy level sets the stage for an evenly matched conversation and puts your subject at ease, while mirroring the body language of the person you’re speaking with is a nearly subliminal cue to show that you’re fully present in the conversation. Just keep it subtle.

Body language can also help defuse a tough conversation or argument (try moving so you’re facing the same direction as the person in question) and let you know when your subject is ready to leave the conversation (Are their feet facing toward the door? Time to let them go).

Just as important, says Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, is matching the right line of questioning to the right subject. The best interviews are never one-size-fits-all.

“There’s no generic one question to me. It would depend who the person is. I think one of the things about interviewing is that you don’t ask the same thing of everyone. It would really depend. Is that person a painter? Are they an avant-garde jazz musician? Are they a politician, a priest? Who are they?”

3. Practice Flexible Listening

What seems like the simplest part of holding a conversation or conducting an interview is often the trickiest. It’s listening–the right way.

Skilled interviewers become adept at listening not just to the words their subject is saying but also the tone in which the words are said, the pauses and nuances of the answer and what’s being left unsaid.

This active, flexible listening lets them know when to move onto a new subject and when the moment is ripe to probe a little deeper with a follow-up question.

Off-the-cuff questions often yield the best answers – but the opportunity only arises from deep, engaged listening. Take a lesson from Katie Couric and stay poised to change direction based on what happens in the conversation.

“Nothing is worse for me as a viewer than to watch someone go down a laundry list of questions and not explore something with a little more depth after someone has answered a question … I think you need to use your questions as sort of a template, but you have to be willing to listen and veer off in a totally different direction.”


Worried about going down too many conversational rabbit-holes and forgetting to pick back up on an important point? Try the “outrageous image” technique from Dick Cavett.

“Eventually, I developed a memory technique from my friend, Harry Lorayne, the memory expert, of creating an outrageous image. Like if they were caught stealing an apple as a kid, but then they start talking about something else, you picture picking up an apple and throwing it in the face of, I don’t know, Mitt Romney or some prominent person. And that sort of startling image will trigger ‘apple’ for you later on.”

4. Activate the Power of the Pause

Remember that dreaded lull we talked about earlier? Sometimes – just sometimes – it can be a useful communications tool.

When a pro interviewer feels a subject is holding something back on a particular topic, they’ll often use the power of silence at the end of the answer to draw out more information.

Here’s how journalist Jim Lehrer describes it:

“If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”

Try counting to three – or five if you can stand it – after your subject answers a tough or thoughtful question. This method can seem agonizing at first, but – used with empathy – it works wonders to develop a deeper rapport between two people.

Since our natural tendency is to fill in a silence, the pause can also work as a power play in a tougher scenario – say, a salary negotiation. Dick Cavett explains how he employs it tough-love style with interview guests:

“You can hold someone with silence and make them go on. You tend to feel you need to fill all dead air. There are times when if you just say no more than ‘uh-huh,’ and pause, they’ll add something out of a kind of desperation that turns out to be pretty good. Let them sweat a little and then they’ll come up with something that they were perhaps not going to say.”

5. Cultivate Curiosity: The Dale Carnegie approach

All of these techniques are tried and true, but they don’t really work without one simple quality on the interviewer’s part: curiosity.

A true passion for learning more about those around you goes further than any trick or even the most polished communication skills. Take it from Gay Talese, one of the legendary founders of literary journalism:

“I used to wander around. I never knew exactly what I was looking for. I knew vaguely what I hoped to find or I had some rough idea, but I was in the exploratory mode all the time … Just go out and discover and you’ll find by chance, by accident some terrific stories, some terrific people you never thought you would meet.”

You can cultivate curiosity in your daily life by noticing more details, delving deeply into the ideas that grab your interest and being alert to those around you and what makes them light up.

As Dale Carnegie famously explains, the beauty of curiosity is that it makes you nearly irresistible to everyone around you.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

More on this Image here

6. Practice Ego Suspension: The Power of Forgetting Yourself

Of course we’d all like to think of ourselves as attentive, curious students of the world, but one little thing gets in the way: our own egos.

It’s not our fault–we’re hardwired that way. After all, talking about ourselves feels as good to our brains as money or sex.

That’s why ego suspension is so essential to cultivating the kind of curiosity that lets you connect with others. Robin Dreeke, lead instructor at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Training Center in behavioral and interpersonal skills training, explains:

“Most times, when two individuals engage in a conversation, each patiently waits for the other person to be done with whatever story he or she is telling. Then, the other person tells his or her own story, usually on a related topic and often times in an attempt to have a better and more interesting story. Individuals practicing good ego suspension would continue to encourage the other individual to talk about his or her story, neglecting their own need to share what they think is a great story.”

At the next gathering you attend, resist the urge to tell that one story that always kills and instead focus on asking questions of someone new. It may be unfulfilling at first, but you might be amazed at the end result.

As author Tom Wolfe puts it, “the world is full of people with information-compulsion who want to tell you their stories. They want to tell you things that you don’t know. They’re some of the greatest allies that any writer has.”

via 6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some Of The World’s Best Interviewers | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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6 Powerful Communication Tips From Some Of The World"s Best Interviewers

Why You Should Care About Your Company"s Emotional Culture

We’ve all heard about the importance of corporate culture. How companies like Google and Facebook create environments for their employees that make going to work feel like a day of play. But a recent study at the Wharton School of Business found that keeping employees happy involves more than ping-pong tables and a private chef.

“Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork,” write researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill in Harvard Business Review. They show up for work more often, and their attitude impacts relationships with clients.

While employees who felt greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based recruiting firm, says few managers focus on building an emotional culture and many believe love should stop at the office door.

“People join companies but they quit managers”

“If loving your job was just about the company, no one would leave Google or Facebook,” he says. “People join companies but they quit managers.”

Creating a culture of caring means putting a little personal into your professional life. Gimbel offers five things CEOs and managers can do to foster a feeling of appreciation at work:

1. Start with the CEO.

A lot of a company’s emotional culture falls on the individual managers and not the employer, says Gimbel. If a manager doesn’t care, it comes across. But managers often take their cue from their boss.

“It really goes back to the CEO,” says Gimbel. “If you’re going to create an atmosphere of appreciation, the CEO needs to take the lead for the company.”

2. Set clear expectations.

Employees want their employers to care about them, but a work relationship is a two-way street. Managers need to set clear expectations and be honest with employees when there is a problem.

“Managers like people who are all in,” he says. “It can be hard to be that committed sometimes, but those who are, are often the happiest employees.”

3. Be available.

Managers should be available to their staff 24/7, says Gimbel. For example, if an employee is worried about a project and reaches out over the weekend, a manager should reward that kind of dedication by making time for him or her.

“If you expect your staff to be dedicated, you have to be willing to offer that too.”

“You don’t have to take the call at all hours, but you need to be responsive,” he says. “If you expect your staff to be dedicated, you have to be willing to offer that, too, because if an employees needs aren’t met, you’re looking at turnover.”

4. Build relationships outside of work.

It’s tempting to work and personal lives separate, but Gimbel says there is only so much trust you can build between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“You’ve got to spend some time together after hours,” he says. “Play golf, go to a concert or just go out for happy hour. Those are the times when you hear about personal lives and you can take engagement to another level.”

Gimbel says it’s also important to choose team-building activities that employees enjoy: “The founder of a company might think it’s fun to have their staff spend the day at their pool, but if employees have to drive 30 miles and give up a Saturday afternoon, it might backfire,” he says. Instead, get a sense of what’s fun for your staff.

5. Pay attention to personal lives.

Fun events, such as company picnics or baseball game outings, can keep employees engaged in a corporation, but their loyalty to their job will be strengthened on a more personal level. Gimbel says showing care for your colleagues or staff is easiest during life milestones.

“A new baby, a death or a divorce–how the company reacts when something like this happens can make a big difference,” he says. He suggests offering extra vacation days when an employee goes through a divorce, sending flowers when there is a death, or texting employees on their birthdays. “Little things can go a long way,” he says.

via Why You Should Care About Your Company’s Emotional Culture | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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Why You Should Care About Your Company"s Emotional Culture

6 Ways To Look Great On A Video Call

Face to face meetings are the most natural way to communicate. But if that’s inconvenient, then video conferencing has a lot going for it over phone calls. People pay more attention when they can see the people they’re talking to.

Unfortunately, for all the benefits, video conferencing is incredibly easy to screw up. “Everyone thinks they know what they’re doing but they’ve never been trained to do it,” says Paul J. Bailo, author of The Essential Digital Interview Handbook. Here are some tips for looking like a pro:

1. Get the right lights.

Overhead lighting is the worst kind of lighting for video conferences because it makes shadows under your eyes. Unfortunately, that’s what most people have by default. You may not care about the lighting if you’re doing a quick snow-day check-in with the team you’ve worked with for four years. But for high-stakes situations (like job interviews) when you need to look your best, Bailo recommends using three natural, soft light sources: two behind your web cam (one on the left, one on the right) and one right behind you.

2. Watch your angle.

Are you using a web cam clipped to the top of your monitor? Chances are it’s not capturing you from the ideal perspective. If it’s angled down too much, you’ll put your fellow meeting-goers in the position of towering over you. You want the lens to be right at eye level. A tripod can get you there and hold the camera steady.

If you’re using the built in camera on your laptop, it may be too low–and looking up your nose. While it’s not ideal, you can put hardcover books under your laptop until the angle’s right. You want the camera to capture the triangle of your forehead to your left shoulder and right shoulder in the frame.

3. Look presentable.

Even if only your face and shoulders are in the frame, you never know if you’ll need to stand up for some reason. So look decent from head to toe. Put some flattering, solid colors near your face, just like television news anchors do. Check your teeth for remnants of lunch. Make sure the temperature is such that you won’t be sweating, and won’t need to start taking off layers, which is disconcerting for all watching.

Less obvious? “Make sure you’ve got the right chair,” Bailo says. Fidgeting is fine on audio but deadly when you can see someone moving like a hyperactive school boy in the corner of your screen.

4. Look behind you.

The people you’re interacting with will be treated to the view of whatever is behind you through the whole meeting. Junk and clutter is bad enough. Your bed with dirty laundry on it is unprofessional. Or worse, you may have something sitting there that’s part of the scenery to you but jarring to everyone else (e.g. that Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster your kid moved out of his bedroom but never put away). Bailo recommends investing in what’s called “seamless paper” (what professional photographers use in their studios) if you’ll be doing a lot of digital interaction.

“If you wouldn’t want it in a live meeting you shouldn’t have it on a video conference.”

If you’re in an office, Jay O’Connor, chief marketing officer of Blue Jeans, a video conferencing service, suggests painting a spot of wall with the company colors and a copy of the company logo to serve as the backdrop. “You look like a million bucks,” he says. “You look like this incredibly established company. It’s a very low-cost way to make yourself come across as a professional big business.”

5. Minimize distractions.

Bailo suggests making an “On Air” sign for your office door when you’re live in order to keep other people from walking in. If you’re working at home and the people you’re concerned about those who are too young to read and obey such a sign, then you need to hire a babysitter or ship them off elsewhere. Pets too. A barking dog can ruin a conversation, as can a cat that runs across your keyboard. “First impressions count when it comes to video conferencing,” says O’Connor. “If you wouldn’t want it in a live meeting you shouldn’t have it on a video conference.”

6. Be prepared.

Video is closer to a face-to-face meeting than it is to a conference call, yet most people treat it like a conference call. So they’re trying to look at their notes, or are squinting at their computer screens. This is much like holding a piece of paper in front of your face in a live meeting. “You come across as not listening,” says O’Connor. Know your main points and look up, so you can interact normally and score the benefits of seeing people and being seen.

via 6 Ways To Look Great On A Video Call | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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6 Ways To Look Great On A Video Call

A Matchmaker’s Advice For Finding Your Dream Job

Which do you think will last longer: Your friend’s new job, or his new marriage? Tell him to update his resume because divorce rates might be high, but job turnover is even higher.

The average employee sticks around 4.6 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the average marriage lasts eight years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That means we’re slightly better at a picking mates than employers. So is there anything you can learn from dating that you should take to your next interview?

Yes, says Barbie Adler, founder of Selective Search, a personal matchmaking firm with offices across the country. “Finding a spouse is very similar to finding a new job–it’s a corporate marriage, so to speak,” she says. “If goals and values aren’t aligned, the result is often a fracture or divorce.”

During your job search, Adler, a former executive recruiter who has worked as a consultant for NBC’s The Apprentice and ABC’s The Bachelor, suggests asking yourself these six questions to find the perfect match:

1. Is it marriage material?

In the romantic world, we often put together a list of non-negotiables when looking for a mate; you should do the same thing when searching for a job. While getting an offer is an immediate success, Adler says your compatibility with the company’s structure and culture will affect your long-term happiness. For example, if you like companies that can be fast and nimble with little red tape, you are probably better off at a dynamic startup. If you crave stability and an opportunity for frequent promotions, blue chip companies might be a good fit.

“Companies have personalities,” says Adler. “Ask yourself, what lifestyle am I looking to have, and then find companies that are a match.”

2. Could I have fun here?

One of the indicators of a strong marriage is that you have fun together; the same can be said for a job. Sixty percent of your waking hours will be spent at work. If you love what you’re doing, success will follow, says Adler.

“You need to be passionate about your career,” she says. “Every day won’t feel like Disneyland, but your life will be much more rewarding if you’re in an environment that makes you thrive.”

3. Am I putting my best foot forward?

Before a date, most people take time to look and be at their best. And you probably know that the same thing goes for an interview, says Adler. Show up a few minutes early, put away your cell phone, but don’t stop there.

“Before a date, you might clean your house; with an interview, your house is your social media,” she says. Remove pictures that might peg you as a partier or that aren’t in good taste. “If a date saw pictures of you on Facebook with several different guys, he might think you’re not serious about a relationship,” says Adler. “HR looks at same things.”

4. Am I an active partner?

Just like with dating, there is a courting process during an interview, says Adler, and the conversation should be a two-way street.

“It seems like the employer has the control, but the candidate has just as much power,” she says. Research the company before your interview and ask smart questions.

Let the employer take the lead, but be engaged and ready to share examples of your work history. “Give specifics,” says Adler. “Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. You can do it in a way that’s humble, if you talk with passion about being part of a team.”

5. Am I saying the right things?

We all have things in our past that we consider baggage when it comes to dating and the same can be said for an employment history. Don’t talk badly about your previous employers. Don’t immediately ask questions about things like salary, benefits and vacation time.

“You shouldn’t tell your life history on a first date and interviews are similar,” Adler says. “Ask questions about the company’s culture and the job responsibilities. If it goes well, there will probably be a second interview. Questions can go deeper then.”

6. What should I do next?

After a date, you might call or send a text to thank the other person. After an interview, promptly send a letter thanking the person for their time. Make sure it doesn’t include misspelled words or poor grammar – it’s a turnoff when someone can’t spell, says Adler. And if you interviewed with more than one person, make sure each person gets a personalized letter.

“Cookie cutter follow-ups are bad,” says Adler. “It’s just like a date who doesn’t make you feel special.”

via A Matchmaker’s Advice For Finding Your Dream Job | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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A Matchmaker’s Advice For Finding Your Dream Job

Your LinkedIn Profile: Go Big Or Go Home

LinkedIn is an enigma. It now has some 260 million users, and it’s a daily routine for millions of ambitious professionals. But millions of others reluctantly create profiles, feel guilty for not having a stronger profile, and wonder, “Does anybody really get a better job through this thing anyway?”

Some do, but that’s not really the point. The point is that you need to take control of your personal and professional branding on the Internet.

For most people, their LinkedIn profile isn’t just their online resume, it’s a window into their existence. It allows others to quickly find out about your background, your competence, your network–and, above all, your sense of self.

And increasingly, people are sniffing out your Klout score and other measures of your overall social media presence, and judging accordingly.

[Don’t be afraid that having a comprehensive LinkedIn profile will freak out your boss or signal that you’re desperate to leave. My Forbes colleague William Arruda recently made the case that an organization should want every employee to have a strong LinkedIn profile, for the sake of its own branding.]

Of course, you don’t have to be on LinkedIn. And you might as well not be on LinkedIn if you’re going to do it poorly. But if you’re going to LinkOut, be sure to find other ways to maximize your online profile. For instance, check out this terrific About.me page by tech personality Veronica Belmont, which registers higher in online searches than her LinkedIn profile. Or be sure to beef up your Google profile.

Based on an informal poll of some savvy and successful colleagues, here’s a quick assessment of how you’re being judged:

A complete lack of a LinkedIn profile sends a mixed signal. It may suggest, “I’m so successful and happy at my job that I don’t even notice that there’s a world out there.” Or it could signal that you’re technologically illiterate. That’s all the more reason to find a good alternative if you’re not going use LinkedIn itself.

Having a profile but not posting a photo sends a negative message. It may signal that you’re unprofessional or insecure about yourself–or that you’re mainly lurking on the network rather than connecting.

By contrast, a complete profile speaks volumes. “I judge professionalism by profile completeness,” says Kathleen Kilian Wainscott, a proposal writer and presentation coach at Deloitte. “That includes a nice headshot and a full listing of jobs and education for someone in corporate America. Or a cropped photo and one-liners for jobs for freelancers or creative types. Someone just out of college who has a professional photo and completed profile looks like an up-and-comer.”

The wrong picture sends the wrong message. Too often, profile pictures look as though they were taken at a club or rave or beach rather than a studio or professional environment. We can see the top of the umbrella of the mai tai that you’re holding, or we can see that you cropped out some drunken friends. You’re not inspiring us to take you seriously as a dedicated professional.

No one wants to see you brag. “A profile headline in which they call themselves a ‘guru’ or ‘visionary’ is a negative,” says Derek Lazzaro, a tech lawyer in Los Angeles. “It seems arrogant and it’s not really descriptive.”

Adds Jeremy Pepper, a Los Angeles-based media strategist, “There are no gurus, there are no visionaries, and we’re rarely in a paradigm shift.”

Too few connections send a bad message. “A small number of connections is also a negative,” Lazzaro adds. I’d agree, and would encourage a user to get to triple figures in connections as quickly as is reasonably possible.

500+ connections doesn’t necessarily impress people—especially if you look like you’re blindly chasing connections. You don’t have to approach only people you know. But you better not just be randomly trying to connect with established people in your field.

“If I don’t know you, don’t just send me the generic ‘I’d like to connect with you’ message,” one marketing executive in Silicon Valley tells me. “Say why you are trying to connect with me. Just a simple, custom sentence or two. I always decline random people who use the generic message.”

“I’m not impressed by people who out of the blue ask me to connect,” says Rachael Hand, a real estate broker in northern California. “I don’t know them, and I’m not connected to them even on a level 3. If you want to connect, I’ll probably say yes, but tell me why. Where’s Kevin Bacon when you need him?”

Don’t bother endorsing people for skills that you know nothing about. LinkedIn makes it far too easy to endorse someone, with one click, for a range of skills that they may or may not have. But meaningless endorsement of your connections can result in a loss of credibility. “I have people who have endorsed me for things I never did during the time I worked with them,” says Karey Rees, a management consultant in the Dallas area.

Communications consultant Susan Wampler says it’s unhelpful when the endorsement is for a kind of work that your connection wants to pivot away from. “I am constantly being endorsed for the one type of communications work I do not do,” she says.

Don’t be boring and stodgy.

“I was brought in to counsel an executive at a large company on his LinkedIn profile,” Pepper says. “The key thing was to be human.” He says this involved using a photo that was professional yet not stuffily corporate, making the job descriptions more interesting, and highlighting charitable activities.

Remember, you don’t have to do LinkedIn. But in this day and age, you do have to do something–and do it well. As Brian Zisk, a San Francisco tech entrepreneur jokes, “If someone does not have a fleshed out online profile, it’s hard for us to believe that they actually exist.”

via Your LinkedIn Profile: Go Big Or Go Home – Forbes.

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Your LinkedIn Profile: Go Big Or Go Home

How to Keep Your CIO Happy

Late last year, the global consultancy Booz & Company polled 60 CIOs at companies around the world in search of wisdom about CIO success, motivation, and retention.

Though the survey catered to large companies, you’ll see that the findings are highly relevant to smaller organizations too. Even if you don’t yet have a formal CIO function in your C-suite, you certainly have a key employee (or key people) who are the highest-ranking techies. Here are three tips that can help keep those employees from departing.

1. Offer a path to promotion, and to new challenges. The Booz survey shows that CIOs jump from job to job more frequently than other executives. In fact, about 40 percent had held three or more CIO roles. “This suggests that many CIOs don’t see room for advancement (for example, to chief operating officer) at their current organization, and they move on,” observe the authors.

In fact, almost 90 percent of the CIOs said the main reason they jumped to their current positions was “the new professional challenge” that came with the position. More than half indicated that they were dissatisfied with their current role.

“Providing new business and technological problems to solve, and the support needed to solve them successfully, will certainly help provide ongoing professional challenges and keep your CIO engaged,” say the authors.

The best thing you can do is ask your techie what those challenges would be. For example, in the Booz survey, a strong minority of CIOs said they wanted their next job to include some P&L (profit and loss) responsibilities.

2. Make sure they’re properly supported on major projects. Under what circumstances do high-ranking techies typically get fired? According to 70 percent of those surveyed, the failure of a pricey, multi-year project is often the main cause. While there are certainly times when a tech leader is to blame for a poor implementation, you can imagine that another reason for the failure is a lack of support from the top team.

Moreover, 70 percent of those surveyed indicated that they inherited these difficult projects; that’s not exactly an ideal circumstance–please, get us out of this mess, be our tech savior–under which to come aboard.

One CIO told the authors: “If you’re not extremely careful with these programs, business stamina and patience run out. ‘Just get the #@*%$!! system in once and for all so that we can pick ourselves up again and move on’ becomes the dominant refrain.”

At the end of the day, the result is a costly, lengthy implementation whose impact hardly justifies its time and expense. The bottom line: Avoid the tendency to scapegoat or single out CIOs for high degree-of-difficulty projects. In many cases, they are not the source of the problem. And it’s unreasonable to expect them to salvage the project without your enduring support.

3. Make sure they’re happy with the reporting structure. Whether a CIO reports to the CEO or the CFO can make a big difference in the job. For example, those reporting to the CEO said they felt empowered to take a more “enterprise-wide” perspective on all issues. By contrast, those reporting to the CFO “shift the primary emphasis of IT to the cost agenda and automating operations.”

Mind you: One is not necessarily better than the other. It truly depends on the preferences of your techies. What matters most, as noted above, is that any line of reporting contains a path to promotion and new challenges.

In the survey, the CIO of an energy company who reports to his CFO said, “A lot of this comes down to the nature of the relationship between the executives. If the CIO is credible [to] and accepted by the top team, and has the IT management basics like service and cost under tight control, the fact that they report to the CFO becomes more of a convenience and doesn’t have to make a lot of difference.”

via How to Keep Your CIO Happy | Inc.com.

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How to Keep Your CIO Happy

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Job Search Application for Linkedin You Must Use

LinkedIn has been adding a great deal of applications lately and my best guess is that they are trying to emulate what Facebook and the iPhone have already achieved on that front. A few of these applications are very useful for all of us but one in particular is handy for job seekers.

We already know that LinkedIn is a temple for job seekers and if the LinkedIn Corporation had its way they would probably put out every job board out of business tomorrow. So instead of being beaten, the job boards are joining up as well.

LinkedIn Jobs Insider

The brilliant little app I am talking about is the Jobs Insider tool on LinkedIn. It comes as a plugin to the LinkedIn browser toolbar, which you may have installed already. You download it to either your Explorer or Mozilla browser and it combines a number of technologies to bring you the best job search experience. The tool works with 7 major job boards at the moment: Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, Craigslist, SimplyHired, Dice, and Vault.

Once you have installed Jobs Insider, your new tool will appear as a pane on your left hand side. Now do some digging around the 7 job boards and search for a few job openings relevant to your experience. LinkedIn will very cleverly indicate which contacts you are connected to at the particular company that is hiring. If you are anything like me, you will have a few connections that you couldn’t say where they are working at the moment. This tool will pick up where your memory gave up and help you.

When you get a few matches, you can go about your sleuthing activities. Contact your connections quietly and try to gather as much background information as possible. I would advise to find out exactly who the hiring manager is and why the job has come about, so that you understand what situation the manager is in. If the best person on the team got up and walked out, the manager will be very motivated to get a good replacement pronto. If it’s a planned expansion with no deadline, you know the manager will take their time and potentially drag their feet.

If you happen to be a recruiter looking for new jobs to work on, it just so happens that this tool will be very useful for you as well. Search away on jobs that you want to work on, find out what connections of yours works for that company, smile and dial.

You will find the link to the Jobs Insider listed under tools at the bottom of your LinkedIn homepage, or click here.

A couple more useful tools for job seekers

MyResume is an application that allows you to post your resume or LinkedIn profile on Facebook. Finally you can convert all those friends on Facebook in to something useful; spreading the word about your skills, experience and what a great hire you would make. The application is available here and also very simple to set up.

If you have a WordPress blog, you can now syndicate your LinkedIn profile on it and show the world your online resume. This application is called LinkedIn hResume for WordPress and it grabs the hResume microformat block from your LinkedIn public profile page allowing you to add it to any WordPress page and apply your own styles to it. The plugin is available here.

via The Job Search Application for Linkedin You Must Use.

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The Job Search Application for Linkedin You Must Use

Big Data Analytics Will Affect Your Company - HR

Whether your company builds software, provides marketing services or sells life-sized posters of Fred Flintstone, big data analytics will affect your company culture. Why? It’s simple: analytics offer information, and once information has been learned, it changes everything around it. Just as our Stone Age ancestors underwent incredible cultural changes with the discovery of controlled fire, so too do our modern businesses change culturally when exposed to the advanced, specific information available in the form of Big Data. More to the point, if big data isn’t affecting your company culture, you aren’t using it correctly.

The specific ways in which big data are going to affect your own company culture are dependent on the type of data you have, and what you intend to do with it. Take, for example, a company whose primary income comes from clothing sales. Their compiled data should be comprised of detailed demographic information about their customers; a proper big data analysis will reveal certain consumer trends. The way the company decides to pursue these trends affects its overall culture.

Business Culture and Human Resources

The HR department plays a large part in the culture of a business, because it is here that networking and company population begins. The datafication of HR means that fundamental company networking and internal growth is becoming more personal. HR managers can look at the hard data for a candidate in their business, and analyze the benefits and possible drawbacks of bringing that person on board. What sectors has this person worked in, and for how long? What was company growth during that period?

In terms of HR culture, the way that hiring managers view their existing and potential staff creates a fairly specific, well-defined perception of the company’s M.O. Better data analytics means a more fixed and more specific company culture.

Marketing Culture and Big Data

Your marketing demographics have a lot to do with overall company culture, so in this way, big data can have a big effect. You can’t waste money and time advertising to people who don’t care about your product, after all. Basically, streamlined analytics will force your company to shed inefficient practices and focus only on what brings in customers and makes you money.

Traditional marketing practice teaches business owners to cast a wide net in terms of advertising media: television, radio, print ads, web ads and social media. Big databases and effective analytical schemes mean that now, you can see exactly where your revenues are coming from and which campaigns were a complete waste of time and funds. How does this affect company culture? It forces you to embrace the personality and ideals of your customer. Advertising campaigns will change as the image of the customer changes, and so in the end, the consumer really defines the company.

Finance, Trade and Big Data Analysis

Even banking and trade institutions are experiencing company culture changes thanks to big data analysis. The complex mathematical equations necessary to keep an informed eye on trading patterns and investment patterns can finally be stored, explored and interpreted; this means less wasted money and time for banks and stock specialists.

What does it mean for people in the financial industry? It means that a culture that already allows no mistakes is moving towards acquiring an almost cut-and-dried work method. The high level of detail and specificity of big data in terms of the financial industry is becoming more important and reliable than individual reports. In the future if you don’t follow the data, you might be sued by your own employer or client. Trading and banking culture is becoming even more cutthroat and scientific.

Approaching Big Data Strategies

If your company is considering a move towards big data acquisition and analysis, be prepared to make fundamental changes to your business strategies. Be flexible about the structure and mantra of your business. You may need to change your recruitment strategies to best fit your statistical needs, and change the hours of your best staff so that they are utilized during peak hours. As far as your marketing department is concerned, things will become much more streamlined as ineffective ad schemes are dropped and the most effective are duplicated in other media. If you follow the big data, your culture may well change forever – but it will be for a healthier bottom line.

via Big Data Analytics Will Affect Your Company | SmartData Collective.

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Big Data Analytics Will Affect Your Company - HR

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Hidden Biases in Big Data

This looks to be the year that we reach peak big data hype. From wildly popular big data conferences to columns in major newspapers, the business and science worlds are focused on how large datasets can give insight on previously intractable challenges. The hype becomes problematic when it leads to what I call “data fundamentalism,” the notion that correlation always indicates causation, and that massive data sets and predictive analytics always reflect objective truth. Former Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson embraced this idea in his comment, “with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.” But can big data really deliver on that promise? Can numbers actually speak for themselves?

Sadly, they can’t. Data and data sets are not objective; they are creations of human design. We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them, and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks, and are as important to the big-data equation as the numbers themselves.

For example, consider the Twitter data generated by Hurricane Sandy, more than 20 million tweets between October 27 and November 1. A fascinating study combining Sandy-related Twitter and Foursquare data produced some expected findings (grocery shopping peaks the night before the storm) and some surprising ones (nightlife picked up the day after — presumably when cabin fever strikes). But these data don’t represent the whole picture. The greatest number of tweets about Sandy came from Manhattan. This makes sense given the city’s high level of smartphone ownership and Twitter use, but it creates the illusion that Manhattan was the hub of the disaster. Very few messages originated from more severely affected locations, such as Breezy Point, Coney Island and Rockaway. As extended power blackouts drained batteries and limited cellular access, even fewer tweets came from the worst hit areas. In fact, there was much more going on outside the privileged, urban experience of Sandy that Twitter data failed to convey, especially in aggregate. We can think of this as a “signal problem”: Data are assumed to accurately reflect the social world, but there are significant gaps, with little or no signal coming from particular communities.

While massive datasets may feel very abstract, they are intricately linked to physical place and human culture. And places, like people, have their own individual character and grain. For example, Boston has a problem with potholes, patching approximately 20,000 every year. To help allocate its resources efficiently, the City of Boston released the excellent StreetBump smartphone app, which draws on accelerometer and GPS data to help passively detect potholes, instantly reporting them to the city. While certainly a clever approach, StreetBump has a signal problem. People in lower income groups in the US are less likely to have smartphones, and this is particularly true of older residents, where smartphone penetration can be as low as 16%. For cities like Boston, this means that smartphone data sets are missing inputs from significant parts of the population — often those who have the fewest resources.

Fortunately Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is aware of this problem, and works with a range of academics to take into account issues of equitable access and digital divides. But as we increasingly rely on big data’s numbers to speak for themselves, we risk misunderstanding the results and in turn misallocating important public resources. This could well have been the case had public health officials relied exclusively on Google Flu Trends, which mistakenly estimated that peak flu levels reached 11% of the US public this flu season, almost double the CDC’s estimate of about 6%. While Google will not comment on the reason for the overestimation, it seems likely that it was caused by the extensive media coverage of the flu season, creating a spike in search queries. Similarly, we can imagine the substantial problems if FEMA had relied solely upon tweets about Sandy to allocate disaster relief aid.

Big data’s signal problems won’t disappear as the use of smartphones and other digital technologies increases. As the geographers Michael Crutcher and Matthew Zook noted after Hurricane Katrina, technologies are always differentially adopted, and “any divide in accessing digital technology is not a one-time event but a constantly moving target as new devices, software and cultural practices emerge.” As we move into an era in which personal devices are seen as proxies for public needs, we run the risk that already existing inequities will be further entrenched. Thus, with every big data set, we need to ask which people are excluded. Which places are less visible? What happens if you live in the shadow of big data sets?

This points to the next frontier: how to address these weaknesses in big data science. In the near term, data scientists should take a page from social scientists, who have a long history of asking where the data they’re working with comes from, what methods were used to gather and analyze it, and what cognitive biases they might bring to its interpretation (for more, see “Raw Data is an Oxymoron“). Longer term, we must ask how we can bring together big data approaches with small data studies — computational social science with traditional qualitative methods. We know that data insights can be found at multiple levels of granularity, and by combining methods such as ethnography with analytics, or conducting semi-structured interviews paired with information retrieval techniques, we can add depth to the data we collect. We get a much richer sense of the world when we ask people the why and the how not just the “how many”. This goes beyond merely conducting focus groups to confirm what you already want to see in a big data set. It means complementing data sources with rigorous qualitative research. Social science methodologies may make the challenge of understanding big data more complex, but they also bring context-awareness to our research to address serious signal problems. Then we can move from the focus on merely “big” data towards something more three-dimensional: data with depth.

via The Hidden Biases in Big Data – Kate Crawford – Harvard Business Review.

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The Hidden Biases in Big Data