Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why Should We Hire You?

This is another broad question that can take you down the wrong road unless you've done some thinking ahead of time. This question is purely about selling yourself. Think of yourself as the product. Why should the customer buy?

The Wrong Track

Spencer answers by saying, "Because I need and want a job." That's nice, but the bottom line here is, "What can you do for us?"

Mariana says, "I'm a hard worker and really want to work for this company." The majority of people think of themselves as hard workers -- and why this company?

The Right Track

Tom's answer to this question is, "Because I'm a good fit for the position." Getting warmer, but more details, please.

Sharon answers, "I have what it takes to solve problems and do the job." This is the best answer so far. Expand on this, and you've got it.

Develop a Sales Statement

The more detail you give, the better your answer will be. This is not a time to talk about what you want. Rather, it is a time to summarize your accomplishments and relate what makes you unique.

Product Inventory Exercise

The bottom line of this question is, "What can you do for this company?"

Start by looking at the job description or posting. What is the employer stressing as requirements of the job? What will it take to get the job done? Make a list of those requirements.

Next, do an inventory to determine what you have to offer as a fit for those requirements. Think of two or three key qualities you have to offer that match those the employer is seeking. Don't underestimate personal traits that make you unique; your energy, personality type, working style and people skills are all very relevant to any job.

The Sales Pitch: You Are the Solution

From the list of requirements, match what you have to offer and merge the two into a summary statement. This is your sales pitch. It should be no more than two minutes long and should stress the traits that make you unique and a good match for the job.

Example: "From our conversations, it sounds as if you're looking for someone to come in and take charge immediately. It also sounds like you are experiencing problems with some of your database systems. With my seven years of experience working with financial databases, I have saved companies thousands of dollars by streamlining systems. My high energy and quick learning style enable me to hit the ground and size up problems rapidly. My colleagues would tell you I'm a team player who maintains a positive attitude and outlook. I have the ability to stay focused in stressful situations and can be counted on when the going gets tough. I'm confident I would be a great addition to your team."

What Makes You Unique?

Completing an exercise around this question will allow you to concentrate on your unique qualities. Like snowflakes, no two people are alike. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from others.

  • "Never miss deadlines."
  • "Bring order to chaos."
  • "Good sense of humor."
  • "Great attention to detail."

Let the interviewer know that you have been listening to the problem and have what it takes to do the job -- that you are the solution to the problem.

Who's Responsible for Quality of Hire?

Over the past few months I've been describing a new approach for determining quality of hire, and using changes in this to justify any new expenditures on an ROI basis. While the methodology is pretty slick, the pushback is coming not from the process, but from the idea that HR/recruiting is responsible for quality of hire at all.

If not HR/recruiting, then who?

Most HR/recruiting execs would suggest hiring managers themselves as the likely assignee. Others would contend that HR/recruiting is responsible for the quality of the candidates, but managers are responsible for the quality of hire. Others would suggest there are too many variables to assign it to anyone.

Further confusing the issue is determining when quality of hire should be measured. If you do it before the person starts, you're measuring the sourcing and selection process. After the hire, you're measuring the hiring manager's management and leadership abilities as much as you are the candidate's ability to perform the job needs. Compounding the time variable is the measurement standard. If you use a different measurement technique for before and after, then you're left with a comparison between oranges and cell phones, or more likely, experience and qualifications vs. performance.

It's because of these complex issues that I believe that HR/recruiting must take responsibility for quality of hire. If not HR/recruiting, then who?

Here's my rationale behind the nomination.

  1. Maximizing quality of hire is the most important strategic role HR/recruiting can play. Other than maximizing on-the-job performance and retention, there is no more important role for the HR/recruiting department. Not wanting responsibility for this seems odd to an old recruiter like me. All the executives I've placed thrive on this type of challenge. Why would HR/recruiting be reluctant to take on — even demand — this responsibility?
  2. The CFO is responsible for the capital acquisition process, so why shouldn't HR/recruiting be responsible for the talent acquisition process? While the financial department doesn't select, install, and run the capital equipment it approves, it still manages the approval process and strongly influences the ultimate decision. This parallels the role HR/recruiting should play in the talent acquisition process.
  3. Having responsibility means the process is adhered to, not the decision itself. Developing and monitoring the hiring/selection process is the role of HR/recruiting. This means developing and implementing processes that ensure that the best candidates are seen and hired. There should be an audit process as part of this to ensure that the best decision has been made, and that if it has not been, the process is modified.
  4. There is a huge tactical and strategic cost to making mistakes. HR/recruiting needs to deal with all the mistakes, including finding replacements and dealing with the legal and employee relations issues. The opportunity costs of bad hires alone provides the rationale for some type of vigorous and auditable selection process. Who else could possibly lead this type of cross-functional effort?
  5. If not HR/recruiting, then who? Hiring managers should police themselves on quality of hire. Some do it, most don't, and even those that do, don't do it well. Regardless, there should be one standardized process that works and is used company-wide. This is the primary reason why hiring managers can only be held responsible for the successful performance of the person hired, not the process used. If some managers want to use their own process, they need to be held 100% responsible for mistakes, including the costs associated with this. This is one way to convince them they should use the approved process.

Of course, if HR/recruiting is given the responsibility for maximizing and measuring quality of hire, there comes some programs that need to be implemented to pull it off. Here are some quick recommendations:

  1. Stop using job descriptions to source and select candidates. If you describe the work that needs to be done and assess candidates on this, before and after the hire, you'll solve the dual measurement problem and reduce turnover dramatically. The primary reasons new hires underperform and/or leave is lack of understanding of real job needs and a poor fit with their hiring manager.
  2. Develop sourcing programs that target high-quality candidates, rather than eliminating the worst to see who's left. This is not insignificant. It means you must stop asking knockout questions and stop posting boring ads. The only reason companies ask knockout questions is to eliminate weak candidates who apply. If you change the sourcing paradigm to target great candidates, rather than hoping great candidates fall through the cracks, you eliminate the "eliminate the weak candidates" problem at the strategic level.
  3. Use a performance-based talent scorecard and evidence-based assessment system to measure pre-hire quality. Competency models and behavioral interviews are too generic and do not measure a candidate's ability and motivation to perform the actual tasks required for success. Instead, candidates should be evaluated across all real jobs, including their ability to work effectively with the hiring manager. Quantifiable evidence of consistent and comparable past performance needs to be the basis of the yes/no decision.

With this type of process in place, HR/recruiting's role then becomes one of ensuring that the process for maximizing quality of hire is being followed — not making the hiring decision. This is comparable to the authority given, or taken, by the CFO, in ensuring that capital expenditures are justified in some reasonable fashion. Maximizing the quality of every single hiring decision is the primary strategic role of the HR/recruiting department. If HR/recruiting wants a seat at the strategic table it should demand this responsibility.

By Lou Adler / ERE.net

Problem Solving

"Don't find fault, find a remedy." -- Henry Ford

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." --
Art Linkletter

"The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it!" --
Alan Saporta

"Highly motivated achievers are looking not to receive but to contribute. They are looking for problems that are personally satisfying to solve." --
Denis Waitley

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

Drucker set very high ethical standards for all leaders. To Drucker, management as a profession practiced by leaders was a "calling" regardless of the environment in which it was practiced. So he saw leaders as being special people entrusted with special organizational, as well as societal responsibilities. Drucker knew that leaders are human and sometimes err, and he was well aware that there were leaders who did not live up to the high standards he felt not only were necessary, but were part of the code that they accepted when they made the decision to accept the mantel of the leader. Some leaders failed their profession, the organizations and individuals they led, and society. Some lost sight of the real goals expected of them and the reason they were in their positions of responsibility. Others didn't understand the implications of the responsibilities they had accepted, and put their own interests above those they led. Others yet were seduced by the power and the privileges that leadership brings. All of these failings pained him, and he frequently wrote about them. Drucker hoped that by making these explicit he could help leaders avoid falling into these traps.

Categorizing Drucker's Teachings

To categorize these potential failings, I sought a number of different frameworks, including abuse of special privileges, abuse of power and corruption. None seemed to fit all of the cautionary tales through which Drucker warned leaders of all stripes. One morning I awoke with words the "Seven Deadly Sins" on my mind. Clearly this was my subconscious at work while I was asleep. It seemed to fit perfectly.

The development of the "Seven Deadly Sins" is clouded in mystery. Some say they were based on an interpretation of Israel's fight against the seven Canaanite tribes after fleeing Egypt. They and their interpretations have changed little as originally conceived.

Comparing The Seven Deadly Sins against my notes of where Drucker saw executives go awry, I was surprised to discover that these were the very vices that Drucker had cautioned leaders to avoid. They might have saved otherwise outstanding leaders and the organizations they led from disaster.

The Sin Of Pride

The Sin of Pride is almost always considered the most serious of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yet it seems so innocuous. My wife calls it "being full of oneself." I believe feeling proud of what a leader has accomplished or is accomplishing is perfectly acceptable. The problem comes when one feels this pride to the extent that the leader believes himself so special that ordinary rules no longer apply to him. That's where many leaders go awry.

The Sin Of Lust

I once heard a retired leader of a large organization of almost a million members speak about his challenges of leading this organization. "One of the biggest problems," he said, "was newly promoted senior executives. I may be exaggerating a little," he continued. "But it seemed almost that as soon as we promoted a man to be a senior executive, he suddenly decided that he was God's gift to women."

This individual spoke at a time when almost all senior executives had been male. However, I do not think that one would find much difference with female executives. There is unfortunately a feeling among some leaders that they have "arrived" and are "entitled" to additional sexual gratification as some sort of fringe leadership benefit. In one online survey done by the White Stone Journal, The Deadly Sin of Lust was the most frequent of the Seven Deadly Sins self-reported as "my biggest failing." So this sin is hardly uncommon. However, it can have very unfortunate consequences. In any workplace it creates jealousies, feelings of favoritism, a lack of trust, damages people and relationships and more.

The Sin Of Greed

The Sin of Greed is a sin of excess. It frequently starts with power. Leaders have power, and unfortunately having power has a tendency to lead to corruption if the leader isn't careful. This may start with the acceptance of small favors and grow into vacations, loans and worse. How do these things happen? A leader sees others with more than he has. Questions may be raised in the leader's mind as to why others have so much more, yet (in the leader's mind) are far less deserving. Maybe a small bribe is accepted. It may not even be seen as a bribe, just a favor between friends. If the leader allows himself to be seduced in this way, greed can take over. Unlike the movie, greed is never "good," even as a motivator, and though Drucker analyzed and approved many motivations, greed was not one.

The Sin Of Sloth

The Sin of Sloth has to do with an unwillingness to act. Sometimes this is due to laziness. More often it is an unwillingness to take on work that the leader considers is beneath him. I have many times seen leaders watching critical work that must be completed and for which they were also qualified to do. Yet they stood around "supervising" when they could have given real help to their subordinates and to the mission that they were responsible for accomplishing. In too many cases, good men and women fail because their leader failed to help or take action in other ways. Make no mistake about it, The Sin of Sloth leads to disaster. Leaders must be proactive and they must take action.

The Sin Of Wrath

This sin has to do with uncontrolled anger. There is a time for anger in leadership when it serves a definite and useful purpose. As Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson taught us, you can take one minute to make a correction and include the words "I'm angry" and then tell the recipient why. Moreover, anger does have a useful function in that it can mobilize psychological and physical resources to do something about a problem.

However, leaders need to avoid repeated and uncontrolled anger because it can have negative impacts on their leadership. It can destroy morale, does not guarantee a lasting effect in correcting problems, and in effect requires surrendering anger as a tool for the times when expressing it is really useful and appropriate. Moreover when in an angry state, anger causes the leader a loss of self-monitoring capacity and the ability to observe objectively.

Drucker taught leaders to analyze their environment and to determine what actions that have already occurred mean for the future before taking action. Using anger as a single response to all leadership challenges prevents us from doing this analysis. It prevents the leader from making good decisions and may prevent the leader from taking the correct action appropriate to the situation. Actions taken during uncontrolled action are frequently in error and require additional work to undue the consequences of these mistakes later.

The Sin Of Envy

With the Sin of Envy, the leader is envious of what is enjoyed by someone else. This may or may not be incorporated with greed. The sin usually leads the leader to make decisions and to take actions that will be to the disadvantage to the object of his envy. So a leader who falls victim to this sin may deny an earned promotion to a qualified subordinate, attempt to destroy another's reputation or in other ways attempt to make himself feel better by lowering the situation of another. This is obviously harmful to this other individual, hurts the organization and is probably harmful to the leader who perpetrates these actions.

The Sin Of Gluttony

Most think of food or drink with this sin, but for the leader it has a far more ominous connotation. The Sin of Gluttony was the one that most frustrated Drucker. Expensive food or drink is scarce. Therefore excessive consumption can be seen as a sign of status. But gluttony need not apply only to food.

Drucker knew how hard managers had to work to do their jobs as they needed to be done, and he had defended high salaries for top managers early in his career. However skyrocketing executive salaries caused him to drastically alter his opinion. Drucker said and wrote that executive salaries at the top had become clearly excessive and that the ratios of the compensation of American top managers to the lowest paid workers were the highest in the world. Moreover, this difference wasn't slight, but differed by magnitudes. He said this was morally wrong. The ratio of average CEO compensation in the United States to average pay of a non-management employee in the United States hit a high in 2001 of 525 to 1. Drucker recommended a ratio of no more than 20 to 1.

The Sin of Gluttony was to be avoided for good leadership. Interestingly, Drucker drew a parallel of high executive salaries with the demands of unions for more and more benefits without an increase in productivity. He said we would pay a terrible price for these examples of gluttony and that "it is never pleasant to watch hogs gorge." As I write these words, we are paying this price.

There are things that a leader must do, and things he must not. The Seven Deadly Sins are those that Drucker maintained that leaders must not do.

Adapted from the book Drucker on Leadership, to be published by Jossy-Bass in November, 2009.

How to Answer Key Interview Questions When You're Overqualified

Especially in times of high unemployment and financial distress, many candidates will apply for jobs for which they are, by conventional standards, overqualified. Does overqualification mean you'll be disqualified if you're lucky enough to face an interviewer? Not if you handle the interview wisely.

First, calm yourself with the thought that it's normal for candidates who are something more or less than a 100 percent match to be considered as finalists. "You never find the perfect candidate," says Paul Falcone, an HR executive and author of 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire. "Everyone's too heavy or too light in qualifications."

If you're lucky, you may even find that your prospective employer is pleased that your wealth of skills and experience exceeds the position at hand. "Sometimes my clients like to hire an overqualified candidate," says Greg Gary, managing director of Technisource, an IT recruiter. "The theory is that a great manager surrounds himself with people who know what he doesn't know."

Next, acknowledge that the depth of experience you may have glossed over in your resume cannot be denied in the interview. "You're not going to sell yourself if you're misrepresenting yourself," says Sylvia Lafair, a consultant and author of
Don't Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success.

Indeed, "it's better for the candidate to take the objection of overqualification and hold it up under the light from the beginning of the interview," says Falcone. In that spirit, take a look at some interview questions the overqualified candidate is likely to encounter and suggestions for how you can respond effectively.

What will motivate you in a job that won't make use of many of your qualifications?

The first thing an HR or hiring manager has to worry about is that the open position won't stimulate you enough to keep you motivated. Since you can't successfully argue that the job requirements will offer a healthy stretch of your capabilities, try a different approach.

"You can never be overqualified in your enthusiasm, your thirst for learning and desire to mentor," says Lafair. "You're selling you, not your skills."

Given our company's sluggish near-term outlook, you can't expect a promotion anytime soon. Is that OK with you? Why is it OK?

Clearly you don't want to say, "It's OK. I'm happy to languish in a job that rarely challenges me, for however long." Better to say: "I'm excited to learn as much as possible about your organization while I do my job every day. I'm confident that after the economy turns around, your company will offer further opportunities for me."

Frankly, I'm concerned with this organization's ability to keep you here. Aren't you going to get bored or frustrated?

Interviewers' next concern about overqualified candidates is that they'll leave for greener pastures at the economy's first uptick. "The hiring manager has to recognize that if the hire is overqualified, [he] will continue to look," says Gary. Counter this fear by offering examples of how you found opportunities for professional growth in previous positions you held for considerable periods.

Why should I believe that you're going to stay with our company?

Savvy interviewers are likely to challenge you on your contention that you'll stick with the company even if you're "underemployed" for an extended time. The trick, again, is to demonstrate you have a professional history of sticking with it. "If your resume is tenured rather than choppy, point this out to the interviewer," says Gary. "Point out how long you were at your last job, and say that what matters to you is fitting in."

Starting out at the level of this position, what future do you see for yourself with our company?

When you talk about the future, keep talking about yourself and your prospective employer as business partners. "Emphasize that you are excited about the company and see good opportunities that can keep you there for a long time," says Rodney Capron, CEO of Pongo Resume. The trick here is convince the interviewer that you're looking for steady advancement in the long run, not a rapid series of promotions.

What would you tell an employer in five years about why you took this job? How would you justify it?

This is a tough question, because you've got to portray yourself as ambitious and yet realistic about your prospects. Work to persuade the interviewer that you've got a talent for making the most of any professional opportunity, and that you're confident that after five years you will have notched substantial achievements with the company.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Are The Odds Your Kid Will Grow Up to Be in HR?

The website BookofOdds.com had an interesting article recently titled "Hey Kids, Pick A Career", in which they give certain odds on what occupations your child (or any child born for that matter) will become a certain profession.  As you can imagine they give you some of the obvious first, like odds my kid will be a:

  • Surgeon: 1 in 2,872
  • Professional Athlete: 1 in 9,684
  • Fashion Model: 1 in 81,440
  • Fire Fighter 1 in 452
  • Elementary Teacher 1 in 87

Because you know, we all thought we were going to be one of those when we grew up!

I don't know about you, but I when I took the career interest assessment in my junior year of high school it didn't say I was going to be a HR Pro (I think mine gave me my top 3 "best" career choices, which honestly in order were 1. Teacher; 2. Floral Designer; 3. Sales).  Not sure how the Floral Designer got in there, but to this day I love working out in the yard - so there must be something to those assessments. There wasn't even a category for HR or Personnel or Hiring Guy or anything. 

So, Book of Odds really got me thinking about what my 3 son's will be when they grow up. I know their personal choices right now (oldest to youngest) are: 1. Pro Athlete, 2. Pop Star, 3. Stay at home with Mom.  Sounds like I would expect, pure and innocent, anything is possible - including spending the rest of my life at home in my pajama's watching Cartoon Network in Mom's bed as Dad goes to work.  In reality they are more likely to be:

  • Administrative Role: 1 in 5
  • Sales: 1 in 9
  • Food Service:  1 in 11
  • Healthcare: 1 in 19
  • Education: 1 in 16

What about HR? 

  • Human Resources: 1 in 656.9 
  • More interesting: 1 in 10 HR Pros make under $28,030 per year (ouch!). 

Well, I'm not 1 in a 1,000,000 - but hey only about 304M people are in the US.

Thanks to Tim Sackett, SPHR is the Executive Vice President of HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI.

The Art of Subtraction: Less Order, Better Organization

Great designers understand the role subtraction plays in creating elegant solutions. What can leaders learn from this organizing principle? Look at the example of FAVI, an autoparts supplier that manufactures copper alloy components. 

Conventional wisdom says that to be successful, our ideas—be they strategies, products, performances, or services—must be concrete, complete, and certain. And when it comes to leading people, we need organizations to be highly ordered, with a strong and well-defined structure. But what if that's wrong? What if we can gain through loss? What if we can add value by subtracting? 

Take the case of French company FAVI, an autoparts supplier that manufactures copper alloy components. CEO Jean-Francois Zobrist eliminated the personnel department immediately upon taking the helm of the company in 1983. But that wasn't all he got rid of.  Says Zobrist: "I came in the day after I became CEO, and gathered the people. I told them tomorrow when you come to work, you do not work for me or for a boss. You work for your customer. I don't pay you. They do. Every customer has its own factory now. You do what is needed for the customer." And with that single stroke, he eliminated the central control: personnel, product development, purchasing…all gone.

Twenty teams were formed on the spot, based on knowledge of the customer: Fiat, Volvo, Volkswagen, and so forth. Each team was responsible not only for the customer, but for its own human resources, purchasing, and product development. There are two job designations in the team: leader and compagnon—or companion—which is an operator able to perform several different jobs.

Every customer has a single FAVI linchpin, who oversees all aspects of the relationship, which are handled by the team, including all of the technical requirements, cost negotiations, purchasing, product development, quality control issues, scheduling and delivery, meeting organization, and information coordinating. The linchpin is a critical position of high strategic importance, so Zobrist handpicked each one. In effect, what happened at FAVI was that it moved from being one big plant to being a couple of dozen entrepreneurial mini-plants housed under one roof.

Zobrist's redesign added by subtracting.

The lack of hierarchy solves a number of problems. With work at FAVI organized into horizontal customer teams, job titles and promotions become irrelevant, so they are no longer a distraction. All energy is channeled into the work itself, which at FAVI is of the highest quality. Employees are accountable to the customer and to the team, not a boss—and they are free to experiment, innovate, and solve problems for customers. Equipment, tooling, workspace, and process redesign all rest in the hands of those doing the work.  FAVI people are encouraged to make decisions and take quick action to improve their daily work and respond to the needs of their customers. They're known for working off-shift to serve customers or to test out new procedures. Control rests with the front lines, where it adds the most value.

It works. Still, customers visiting FAVI are often astounded at what they perceive to be a total lack of control. A favorite story Zobrist tells involves a customer's site inspection at FAVI: "They asked to audit our procedures," he says. "They were not pleased because we had no measurement system for tracking late orders—nothing in place, no plan, no process, no structure in case of delay. They are a customer for over ten years, so I say, 'In that time, have we ever been late?' They say, 'No.' I say, 'Have we ever been early?' They say again, 'No.' And so I ask them why they want me to measure things that do not exist."

Zobrist's management reveals a different way of thinking, one driven by questions like: What would my customers love for me to eliminate or reduce or stop adding? What is it that my competition would struggle with if I were to cease? What would my most highly valued people love for me to stop doing?

In other words, the key to applying design thinking in management may be as simple (not easy!) as understanding the art of subtraction.

Thanks to AMA