When it’s your turn to ask questions 2

Last October, I wrote a blog post titled During the Interview, It’s Not About You. I outlined reasons why the interviewer must get certain things from the interview to justify hiring you. I recently came across this quote from Louise Garver, an executive coach for the past 23 years from Broad Brook, Conn., and founder of Career Directions, LLC. It reminded me that the way you approach the interview will determine your ultimate success.

When talking about asking questions of the Interviewer, she says “The best questions are really all about them and not about you”. You can find her list of questions to ask during your interview on her blog

The more I speak with individuals who are actively interviewing, the more I feel they are not giving this part of the interview enough thought. It’s not enough to be qualified and enthusiastic, you need to show that you will fit in. The interviewer must be able to visualize you working for her company, interacting with her employee’s, contributing to her company in a positive way. Using your questions to give the Interviewer a reason to hire you is a great tool to have in your job seeking tool belt.

I encourage you to spend as much time thinking about the questions you will ask as you do preparing for the questions you will have to answer. The difference may just be you will hear “when can you start?” sooner than later.

Ladder vs. Jungle Gym – Is there room for a leader anymore? 2

Is this replacing the corporate ladder?

Has the Internet and social media destroyed the corporate ladder? Is there even a ladder to climb now? I’m hearing the instant collaboration via the Web has created more of a jungle gym interaction. People will tell you that there is no longer a leader, that the expression “lonely at the top” is no longer relevant because there is no top.

I have been trying to wrap my arms around this for the past two weeks. Having grown up in the “leadership generation” my bias is towards having one central figure in charge. You know; George Washington… Abraham Lincoln…  leading the nation kind of stuff. I’ve been trying to picture Abe tweeting all of his generals about the status of the Confederates, then creating a strategy in the White House. I remember reading Abe famously sent a  note to one of his generals suggesting that if the general wasn’t going to use the Army, he would give it a try. I’ll bet that would have garnered more than one RT.

I would welcome your thoughts on what defines leadership these days. The issue may be larger than I think. It could be a paradigm shift between my generation and my children’s. I do know that each of my children is dedicated to and is passionate about what they do, but not in the same way I am. While this is to be expected, it creates challenges as each generation has different expectations from their work experience.

As an aside (and a future blog post) the definition of leadership and it’s expectations becomes more relevant as those hiring and doing the interviewing change places. The  Ladder generation interviewers are no longer the only ones doing the hiring. Many Jungle Gym interviewees have been hired and are now the new Interviewers . The rules about how to interview are changing with the change in leadership. If you haven’t figured this out, you’re not getting those second interviews and the “when can you start” phone calls.

Please weigh in on this topic. My readers and I look forward to hearing other’s opinions .

How’d the interview go? Can you face the music? 2

I recently heard from a gentleman who is 62. He has  a very long record of success in his industry. Looking for a new job, he has gotten many first  interviews, but is not getting called back. He feels the interviews go great, but I told him if that were true, he would be hired by now.  I then suggested several specific things he could do during his next interview.

Having a positive attitude is one of the best attributes a person can have during the hiring process. But it shouldn’t get in the way of thinking clearly about how you are approaching your interviews. As with the gentleman above, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the interview from his side, yet he is not getting hired. Once he opens himself up to seeing the situation from a different perspective, meaning from the interviewer’s eyes, he will begin to see what he needs to change to land the job.

The whole process of putting yourself out there in an interview can be intimidating. It is a contest of sorts, with the winner getting the 401k and the two weeks paid vacation. We pump ourselves up before the interview, do research about the company, practice interview questions and then arrive early for the appointment. But what do most people do after the interview?

Well, after sending a hand written thank you card, the serious candidate will honestly assess the interview.  George Bradt, of Forbes Magazine says there are only three true job interview questions: 1. Can you do the job? 2. Will you love the job? 3. Can we tolerate working with you?

Assessing my 62 year old candidate: Yes, he really does have the experience for the job. He has a passion for the work, you can hear that when you speak with him. So on some level, the interviewers must have felt he wasn’t a good fit for their organization. That’s where he needs to focus.

Preparing for the interview is a huge part of landing a new job. Facing the music after the interview, though, may be more important.

Three Reasons You Can’t Make A Decision 0

Sometimes decisions are made without a second thought. Other times the right answer just doesn’t seem to come. Here are three reasons managers give for not making a decision:

1. “It’s out of my hands” “Clearly this decision is way above my pay grade, so if you want an answer, you need to go see my Boss”. How much time and productivity is wasted? In the end, your Boss is going to send them back to you. Or worse, he or she will take care of your employee and now you are out of the loop and your Boss is thinking “why do I even need this manager if he/she can’t make a decision”?

I believe the decision is only out of your hands when you say it is. If you need more information, you can say to the person making the request “that’s a great question. Give me time to work on that and I will get back to you”. Then seek out your Boss’s approval or get the information you need. The key to making this work is to always get back to that person in a timely manner. Then you become the go-to person, and your staff is more likely to help you when it’s crunch time.

2. “I can’t make a decision without more information” – There’s a time to think and there’s a time to take action. When someone yells “fire” in a crowded theater, you take some kind of action.  You look around for flames, you sniff for smoke and then you are able to make a quick decision about what to do next. Committees are sometimes consumed by fires because they can’t come to a consensus and take action.

If you just take a moment to think about it, most of the decisions you will face you have faced before.  The form may be a little different , but the same rules apply. Successful managers are able to apply what they learned yesterday to tomorrows problem. Add in a basic understanding of your companies standard of ethics and you can take care of problems within company policy. Armed with that,  the outcome is usually successful.

3. “It’s My Way or the Highway” - This response is making a decision without really making a decision. Yes you have answered the question, but it is by shutting down the person and any better solutions they may have.  It’s never that easy these days. Similarly, new Managers seem to use the “Because I say so” decision making technique when they first get promoted. It takes a while for them to realize that (yes I’m going to use the cliché) There is No “I” in Team.

So don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. The more decisions you make, the more experience you will have to pull from the next time.

Create Your Own Mardi Gras Tradition 0

Fat Tuesday Parade
Fat Tuesday Parade

The reporter said yesterday that the annual Mardi Gras Celebration in New Orleans generates over 500 million dollars in revenue for the local economy. What if you could create your own Mardi Gras event for your business? Create world-wide recognition of the event just by saying the name? Have people the world over mark your event on their calendars, search on-line for details and ultimately be at your event, just so they could say they were there? What impact would that have on your business, your non-profit, your town, city or state?

Now I can already hear the nay-sayers going “I’ll never be able to create global excitement like Mardi Gras”. And maybe your ad budget isn’t in the millions and maybe you don’t have hundreds of years of history (The starting date of festivities in New Orleans is unknown. An account from 1743 notes that the custom of Carnival balls was already established. Processions and wearing of masks in the streets on Mardi Gras took place. Thank you Wikipedia.)  To create your own Mardi Gras, you need three things.

1. Tradition -There are great traditions that generate income. My town of Lakewood, New Jersey holds a concert in the band shell on the 4th of July followed by fireworks from a barge on the lake. Hundreds of merchants and enterprising entrepreneurs benefit from the annual event. One of the keys to creating your own Mardi Gras in consistency. I have been in New Jersey 21 years and the town was holding this event at least 25 years before I got here.

2. Size – It must be big enough based on your situation to inspire people to action; The largest state fair east of the Rockies, the largest collection of antique cars ever assembled in Detroit, or Uncle Buster’s Annual Special Soup Cellar Collection Event, Main Street, USA

3. Economic benefit – You must decide on your ROI. How will you measure success? (  In 1833 Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville, a rich plantation owner of French descent, raised money to fund an official Mardi Gras celebration. Again, thank you Wikipedia) If your event generates sales, new customers or adds to your Brand, you may have a winner

So as you decide what to wear (or not to wear) for today’s  Mardi Gras Parade, spend a few minutes thinking about how you can start or build on something you do. How can you create an annual tradition that will create excitement, generate revenue and create a loyal following? When it becomes big enough,  they may write about it in Wikipedia.

If you take this death may occur 2

If you take this death will occur

What comes to mind when you hear the words “if you take this death may occur”? My first thought was it might be written on the briefcase carrying our Nation’s Nuclear Launch Codes. Perhaps it would be posted on a respirator in the trauma unit of a local hospital. Or even on the air packs and spacesuits NASA astronauts wear in space. I never expected to see it on a  stapler in an office.

Productivity is one of the keys to success in any business. Getting things done efficiently  makes us feel good and motivates us to the next task. But what if you can’t find the tools to do your job?

Many of us can relate to not being able to find a pen, a paperclip or a piece of tape when you need one. Offices are notorious for always running out of basics. I’m sure if you checked the tray between the seats in your car you have one or two office pens. Or maybe you have a collection on your dresser at home that you have been meaning to bring back to the office. The point is, having access to a stapler (filled with staples) when you need it seems to be a privilege, not a right, in an office setting. But then I saw this stapler.

Now the whole idea of taking the time to print an Avery label the size of the top of a stapler with the words “If you take this death will occur” seems a bit extreme. On some level you can really feel the frustration of the owner. You can picture years of going to the desk, a stack of papers in hand only to find the stapler missing. Then there’s the productivity issue of wasting 5 minute searching for;  first, your stapler, then any stapler, in order to complete a simple task.

I must admit when I first saw the stapler, I laughed. But that was before I needed to send a letter and I couldn’t find my roll of stamps. So next time you’re tempted to “borrow” a stapler in the office, imagine this  warning on top and at the very least, put it back when you are done. Everyone will be more productive.

Management in Unexpected Places 0

Thousands of people have gathered on the Camden waterfront to witness Red Bull’s Fulgtag, where contestants launch their homemade flying machines off of a 30′ tall runway attached to a barge anchored in the Delaware river. From the website promoting the event, to the local radio show celebrities who were judging the efforts, anyone could tell that this was a well organized event. The promoters were very clear in all of the advertising that they were not allowing any outside food or beverages (with the exception of unopened bottles of water) into the viewing area. This created a captive audience for the group’s $5.00 hotdogs and $6.00 beers. But as my son and I were watching one of the crafts attempt their flight, I noticed a business transaction taking place right beside me in the crowd.

 

The “Manager” of the operation was wearing a purple drawstring backpack. He casually approached his potential customer in the crowd and happened to ask, almost in passing, if the two men would be interested in purchasing a cold beer for $3.00. There was initial interest, followed by negotiation. The customer’s friend was very interested also and would the manager consider selling 2 beers for $5.00. As it was close to the end of the event, the “manager” said yes. As the manager was speaking with his customers, I noticed that he had two employees with him. Once the customer was interested, the managers’ employees backed up to the group, with each employee facing out towards the crowd. The employees never looked at the manager or acknowledged the customers. As the transaction took place, their job appeared to be that of making sure the manager was working safe. I pictured the 3 holding practice in someone’s garage where they covered evacuation drills in the event that their customers became disruptive or an outside entity attempted to interrupt their operation.

 

After the transaction was complete the customer said” I wish you had been here earlier” to which the manager said, “we’ve been here all day”. So the manager and his employees must have put together a business model in advance, had worked out the logistics of supplying their operation in spite of obstacles at the point of entry to the event and had planned out in advance evacuation routes in case their business was discovered by the original operations managers or local authorities. This was necessary because I had to assume that they had not secured the necessary permits to operate such a business.

 

Now I’m not passing judgment either way on what they did, but in the final analysis, price controls and regulations created an underground market. A group of entrepreneur’s recognized that opportunity and capitalized on it after weighing the costs and the benefits. Their conclusion was the potential costs (possible fines and a night in the Camden jail) were offset by the chance to make some money. I imagine they saw their company providing a service. So next time you are out and about, keep your eyes open and you will probably see your own examples of management in unexpected places.

 

The shocking truth about Management. This is your real job 2

At a meeting last year, I was learning the in’s and out’s of a particular process my employees were going to be using. The instructor was almost finished when he asked his Boss, who had been sitting in the back of the room, if he would like to say a few words.

I expected the man to review the same material or make a specific point about the training. Instead, he talked for a few minutes about how he ended up with this company and what it takes to manage. He ended with his assessment of what his job really was about:

“My job is to solve any problems before they get to my Boss”

Regardless of the nature of your business, at some level as a manager, this is your job. You report to someone who is expecting you to figure things out and to “take care of problems”. After all, that is a big reason why you were hired or promoted.

My experience is that those who are good problem solvers also have the most ownership of their jobs and their areas of responsibility. Good problem solvers are self motivated and get satisfaction in being able to resolve issues within company policy. In short, good problem solvers are good managers.

So pull out your job description and make sure you pencil in at the bottom, “My job is to solve problems before they get to my Boss”. Your employees, suppliers and customers will be glad you did. Oh… and your Boss will be happy too.

Dear Sir or Madam 2

Dear Sir or Madam:
I thought this greeting was out of style, but I received a LinkedIn message from a prominent Internet Marketer yesterday and it began:

ATTN: Calling All Company/Business Owners

Dear Sir/Madam;

If you are interested in:

I began to wonder if people still use this generic greeting on a resume cover letter? I’ve created a poll to answer the question Would you ever use this salutation for a resume cover letter?
Let me know your thoughts

“Meat In The Tube” or How to stand out in an interview 0

In order to get hired, you need to give the interviewer a reason to remember you. Having specific, memorable stories related to your work experience is a must. And I mean specific, not a general “I’m a good structural engineer”. Instead it’s; “I’m a great structural engineer, I  recently  created the XXX, to solve problem YYY and the result was ZZZ, saving my employer millions in start-up costs.

I’m always interested in stories people are using as they interview, and I was thinking about a client I had worked with recently. She was asking about how to be remembered after the interview and I related this story to her:

As I traveled Interstate 64 towards Hampton Virginia, I was listening to the morning traffic report. The on-air personality was describing the traffic conditions in Chesapeake, Smithfield and up in James City County. Then he turned his attention to the tunnel that connects Hampton with Norfolk. That’s when he said “watch for back-ups at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, there’s a lot of meat in the tube“.

I can honestly say I had never heard that expression before. And even though it has been 3 years since I heard it, I still remember it! And I’m willing to bet that some of you decided to read this post just because you wondered what in the world “meat in the tube” had to do with the interview process.

To get hired you must get noticed. To get noticed you must stand out. To stand out, you need specific, memorable stories. I am sure each of  you have many great stories about your work successes. Think about them, practice them and  have them ready for your next interview and you will surely stand out, just as that radio announcer did.