Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Interviewed by a younger person

I have been looking for a new job for the past few months and I’m in the final rounds of discussion with a couple of companies. At both places I was interviewed by people who were a lot junior to me in years of experience. Although I was hesitant at the beginning, I did go through the interview process. Is it normal practice for junior employees to take interviews for senior roles?

Well, it doesn’t qualify as normal practice, but I know for a fact that many companies are ok with this style of interviewing. Personally, I’ve interviewed people who came in with more number of years of work experience than me. The keyword is ‘years’ and gathering more years doesn’t necessarily guarantee gathering expertise. No?

I see many possibilities for such a situation to occur. First, it might just be that they don’t have any senior (by age/years of service) interviewers with enough skills to conduct interviews and hence they have placed their expectations on a junior employee with the required expertise. Second, it gives some indications that they are a result oriented company and don’t really place years of experience as a criteria to take interviews. It could purely be based on subject matter expertise in specific areas that they are hiring for. If someone with four years has shown enough maturity and expertise to take interviews, they find its ok for that person to interview someone with nine years work exp with lesser expertise.

Now, onto the other side of your question. If you are of the opinion that a certain number of years of experience define seniority, then I’ll have to strongly disagree. Yes, you need to be cognizant of the interviewer’s age. But that shouldn’t be a major factor in your decision making. On the contrary, it would work best for you if you do accept that many things have changed on the hiring front and try not to come off as condescending. The interviewer would also be assessing your comfort levels of working with people of all ages.

Good luck!

Post that might interest you:
Less could be more!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guest Post: Three Mistakes - Innovation as a Culture

Author: Prateek

When ‘The HR Store’ asked me to write a guest post for his blog, I was not only surprised but overwhelmed with gratitude. The gratitude because, one of the best compliments you can get from a blogger is that he thinks your views are worthy enough to be displayed on his blog. And surprised because his being a blog of a niche focus in the area of HR, and my credentials in the field are limited to reading a couple of books and interacting with working HR professionals in couple of organizations. So for this blog post I have picked up a topic which has always been something which I look up to in an organization. My level of respect and adoration grows leaps and bounds for any organization who can display the elusive traits of Innovation.

Innovation as an organization culture has always been a nightmare for organizations. The perfect blend of processes that might nurture innovation in the organization has eluded professionals across the globe. There have been companies that have invested millions of dollars to get the better of the competition year after year.

Steven Jobs is one professional who I have always looked up to, for his clarity of thought and vision for an organization. If anyone has been able to inculcate a culture of innovation successfully in an organization, that person would be Jobs. I present here my learning from reading about Jobs & Apple, on Innovation.

Dollars vs. People
"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."-- Steve Jobs, Fortune, Nov. 9, 1998

One common mistake a lot of organizations do to be innovative, is choosing a wrong starting point. You have got it wrong in the first place if your idea of innovation starts with an R&D budget. The idea of innovation is not having a fixed amount to money to spend, but to identify a set of people who are willing to bring about change in an organization, who have the ability and vision to produce next level of products or services. There should be a budget for financial responsibility and accountability for sure, but the idea that a budget is allocated based on current mindset and vision of an organization to innovate is flawed. R&D organizations need to be restructured independently, with a set of goals that's in-line with that of the organizations.

Age vs. Experience
"It's rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing."-- Steve Jobs, At age 29, in Playboy, February 1985

If we actually look at innovation, it's more of an art than science; it's less of process and more of out-of-box abilities of a person or even an organization. As Steve Jobs points out, age is often an ignored criterion but somewhere in configuring an overall organization mix to establish innovation as culture this needs to be considered. There are two ages of people where the innovation peaks, one in early age mainly triggered of the youth & enthusiasm to keep trying that which is not tried. One that involves taking risks traversing unchartered or untried territories. The second time is late into one's professional career where experience teaches people of ways that things could work; the fall-outs and possible areas of improvement. Though an organization cannot ensure this non traditional distribution of age for innovation, it can be work towards providing a borderless culture to allow the voice of youth and experience to communicate and ideate. This probably is the best shot at innovation, because talent which can be innovative is present within most organizations, but often the channel or medium to communicate those ideas to a level where something sufficient can be achieved is missing.

Process vs. Individuals
"It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn't compete with six people in blue jeans."-- Steve Jobs on Apple's lawsuit following his resignation to form NeXT (Newsweek, Sept. 30, 1985)

This is a million dollar observation! Mighty giants with thousands of brains working in tandem with each other are still beaten hands down when it comes to innovation by smaller start-ups. This is an illogical and at times even a paradoxical situation, that an organization with huge amount of talent is not innovative enough and few of its employees can simply quit, making it big by innovating. Case in Point: Patni Computers, Infosys, Wipro and Mindtree among many more companies that one can follow. I believe that the primary reason for this kind of occurrence lies in the fact that the cumulative energies of people is being diverted to a completely different area of work. It may be so because they are restricted by communications channels, processes and systems or even plain office politics. So when an organization is structured such that it allows for free flow of ideas, there's an opportunity that it is considered seriously and brainstormed. This is a key point which should be kept in mind while designing an innovation core for the organization.

I believe these are the three mistakes organizations have been doing time and again while eyeing for innovation to be at their core. The idea should be to strive towards a perfect balance which would maintain status quo of the day to day business while at the same time increasing the overall entropy of innovation in the system. Thus, setting it for a better and more stable state.

About the Author

Prateek is a Business Process Consultant working in Supply Chain Management and Planning Space. He is a passionate blogger, a technology enthusiast and a social media junkie. He blogs about topics like Organization Processes, General Management, Personal Management, and Business Issues. You can read more about him here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Take a stand

That’s the least you can do.

It’s applicable to HR, as it is to any other field of work. It’s time you put your best foot forward. Choose to do the right thing. You’ll end up making enemies out of people who were used to hearing you say yes, all the time. That’s fine, because you can bet that they will stop treating you as a doormat. Change is strange, but it will be fine if you give them time to digest the new normal.

It’s time you take a stand:
  • When a non-performer’s being rated as a high-performer cause the manager didn’t do his job & is avoiding the dirty work.

  • When employees are making demands that can’t be done.

  • When leadership is using HR as a messaging medium to convey bad news.

  • You get the seat at the table, only to get designated as the person who captures the minutes of the meeting.

  • Your department is treated as a cost center by the business & you agree!

  • Managers don’t take responsibility for retaining their top talent. They feel its HR’s headache!

  • You don’t need to take sides when managers are at war with each other.

  • Your time is always taken for granted. And you grant it without questioning!

These situations are just a tip of the iceberg! You can and should say NO to a lot more unreasonable demands.

Make it a part of your competency. Bring in some attitude to your work. You can be candid and that’s far better than sugar-coating stuff for the short-term. You’ll at least get the message across loud and clear.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obvious or Curious?

Well, before I start with this post, I want to ask you to read through the dictionary meaning of a couple of words, at least the one explanation that makes sense in this context.

Read up here on
obvious and curious.

Now that we have, let’s get down to the post. This one’s really got me thinking.

  • Does good talent take jobs that state the obvious? Or ones that leave them a bit curious?

  • Do employees like reading a user manual (obvious) before using the intranet/HRIS? Or will they use it better if you create curiosity about the application?

  • Can managers retain the best folks by opting for a natural career progression for everyone? Or will a few of them opt for a more risky career path if they find something curious?

  • Is that sales person pitching your product in the way that’s sounds obvious? Or is he willing to create some curiosity in the customer & let him try it out first?

If you still haven’t answered truthfully, then maybe this post won’t have an impact on you. Cause the answer is screaming at us. Most of us (at least starting with me and many that I know personally) including talent, managers, sales folks, marketing honchos, customers & even the front desk receptionist, among so many others, love stuff that tickles brain-cells. We are constantly looking for something that conveys curiosity, stuff that’s compelling enough to take on the risk. It’s a battle of the obvious versus curious choice. Before you jump at a conclusion, it’s OK to take a side. Go ahead and pick your choice. It’s perfectly alright.

It only starts getting murky when the leader picks obvious and implements it without considering the curious set of people. Towing the line is then, the only option. However, repercussions of this will be experienced when the market picks up and the curious lot will be find jobs that suit them better.

So what’s this choice got to do with HR, staffing or employee relations? It does mean a lot. In fact it means creating a work environment with a difference.

The obvious choice is to play it safe. Create enough policies so that HR doesn’t need to answer any questions. Make the hiring process predictable enough to hire mediocre candidates. Rate every employee as a high-performer and not worry about the side-effects until it happens (like a lay off). Follow industry benchmarking even when you know you can do much better. Implement processes that doesn’t give room for people to question or improvise.

On the other hand, you have curious. It has people who like to question status quo. They take the time & effort to find alternate solutions. They’re inquisitive by nature and are constantly looking at raising the bar. Setting new standards in benchmarking is a norm. Willing to take risks and they are fully aware of the repercussions and have solutions for that too. Curious is always ready to engage employees in an open manner and strive towards creating an inclusive work culture.

If you are in HR and are telling me that allowing curious is a culture thing or is a numbers driven issue at a very big organization, I’ll strongly disagree. If it were that, the curious lot would have left you in their very first month on the job! Really. I suppose it’s then an individual trait. Some managers are allowing for it to grow, while many others are curbing it at the very start. As a HR person, are you having discussions with the business to allow for that curious mind to grow? That’s the HR power that you will bring to the table. Start with one and you’ll be surprised that there are more people than you can think of in your company who’ll endorse that view.

So when will you start?

Monday, December 7, 2009

What if your HR Dept is like an open kitchen? Really.

Maybe I was really hungry when I posted this question on Twitter:

Does having an open kitchen at a restaurant enhance customer experience?

You can see some of the replies
here, here & here with an emphatic YES!

The bottom line is that people love restaurants that have open kitchens. It’s such a big hit. It’s gives customers a great chance to see the way food’s cooked and that could in turn enhance customer experience. Off course, it demands a certain set of standards to be maintained, like hygiene, cleanliness, quality of food & surroundings, behavior, safety precautions for having an open kitchen, deciding just how much transparency is good, etc, If going the open-kitchen way enhances customer experience to an extent where they are willing to go around and spread the good word, then wouldn’t it in turn grow the business? Obvious, isn’t it?

Now, I asked that question because I felt that the open-kitchen model would work wonders for a HR department too! By choosing to open the doors to our HR cabins or department we would help build trust, confidence, effective communication channels and not to mention a very motivated workforce. By the way, this is not just HR speak. It’s a way of improving HR life at work. This approach would also help HR connect better with employees. No? Think about it this way, the more you choose to stay closed about policies, rewards & recognition, performance reviews, etc, it’s only going to put that much more distance between HR & employees.

We believe HR department is responsible for understanding the pulse of the organization, providing information and educating the senior management on best practices. Then shouldn’t HR be initiators and become ‘Change Managers’ before campaigning for change among the managers/VP’s/CEO? I really wouldn’t buy “It’s been the Company’s culture” stand. It’s been there because no one’s questioned it. It’s been there because no one’s willing to take the initiative and invest time to build an open door HR department, since it requires you to give people in your teams the authority to take decisions (which is tied to hiring the right person). It’s possible to implement this model when HR stops being a compliance-only dept that use phrases like follow this process or check that policy. It’s possible only when you actively participate in running the business.

Understandable that
change is strange. But the HR-needs-a-seat-at-the-table jig isn’t really necessary for this change to happen or be implemented. All you need to take is three small steps. Start small. Let the effect be experienced by employees. Your brand ambassadors (employees) will sell the idea for you, by spreading the good word. It’s not going to happen if you sit around and wait for everyone to come onboard your idea-ship in one day. They’ll be the usual naysayers, pessimists and a whole lot of pushback from different departments. Take a stand. It’s time we did.

So should we then not drive towards having an open door HR department? Off course, it’s an emphatic YES from my side too. It’s obvious. It’s the right-thing to do.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Should I tell employers about the lay-off?

From a reader:

I read your blog regularly. I have a question for you, would be very thankful if you can answer it.

I lost my job 20 days back, was working for a reputed MNC. Now I want to start looking for a job in Jan. What do I mention in the future interviews? Since I didn’t lose my job because of performance reasons, our whole team was fired due to economical reasons. Is it fair to tell the truth in coming up interviews?

One more concern, is the job market better than what it was in past few months? I am very stressed out with the whole situation, any help would be appreciated.


There are a couple of things that you may want to do in this situation.

First, since you mention the lay-off was due to economical reasons rather than performance, it’s always best to stick to the facts in future interviews. I’m quite sure that prospective employers (recruiters and hiring managers) are aware of the current job market condition and should be able to understand your situation better. It’s a whole lot easier when you tell the truth in interviews. There are two instances I can think when this question might come up. One, when they ask, “Why are you looking for a job change?” Second, at the time of extending a job offer, they’ll first want to call your previous employer(s) as part of the reference check. Any mismatch in information provided by you in either of these instances, will end up hurting your chances even more. In fact, if you stick to the truth, you are in a better position to explain the reason for your job change.

Further, you can highlight that you were part of a larger team that was laid off. That should help the prospective employer understand that you weren’t singled out for the lay off. Don’t get defensive in your interview, that’s a common mistake that I’ve noticed in such interviews. You would do best if you treated this as another interview and highlight your strengths. If there’s a gap in finding the next job, then use that time to refresh your skills and speak about how you utilized that time to the best effect.

Second, you may want to make sure that your ex-employer (manager in particular) will give you a positive reference. Especially now since your performance wasn’t the reason for the lay-off. This post on
asking for a balanced feedback from your references might be helpful.

As for the job market, I do see it improving. There are definitely jobs out. It’s time to contact folks on your social network and let them know you are looking for a job change. Mail me at
thehrstore@gmail.com if you need any more help.

Good luck with your job search!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do I send video resume to recruiters?

I’ve been looking for a job change for the last couple of months. I've sent a standard resume to recruiters, but haven’t received many interview calls. Would sending a video resume help in getting attention to my work, instead of the standard resume?

There are two parts to your question. First, you are using a standard resume, that you feel isn’t working. Second, will a video resume get a recruiter’s attention?

I’ll answer them one at a time. First, a standard resume does need customization before sending it out to recruiters. I’ll assume that you are using a common resume template for all the positions that you are applying. If yes, it’s not the best way to apply for jobs. You might be sending out customized cover letters. Why not a customized resume? Yes, it takes time and effort to understand and address each job opening. By doing so, you’ll increase your chances of getting an interview call. On the other hand, there could be a possibility that your resume is perfectly fine, but companies aren’t hiring as yet. So not getting interview calls needn’t be just because of your resume. However, since your resume is the only thing you’ll be able to control and manage while applying for a job, I would suggest that you try using your social network for applying to jobs. This could give you a better chance of receiving a feedback.

Second part of your question was about sending video resumes. Video-resumes are very innovative by nature. It takes a whole lot of effort to put together things that can never be told on paper or for conveying things that are extremely difficult to explain in words. The overall idea is great. But should you send it to recruiters instead of a standard resume? My answer is 'No'. Resumes get a max of 30 seconds! Recruiters and hiring managers are crunched for time when it comes to reviewing resumes. Given the current market condition, each open position gets plenty of resumes. Hence they wouldn’t be able to give extra time to review video resumes. By sending a video resume of 3-4 mins you might be holding up the queue and that’s the primary reason for recruiter’s to not give attention to video resumes. That much time isn’t available. There might even be a remote chance that the recruiter might spend time on your video-resume, since he has dedicated a certain percentage of his time per day for reviewing resumes. But the chances for a hiring manager to review it, is very slim. For a manager, hiring is just one of the many things that his role requires him to do. He would have allotted himself very limited time for reviewing resumes.

Video resumes will work only when it’s specifically asked for, by the employer. It’s not yet recognized as a substitute for a traditional resume.

Good luck with your job search!

Posts that might be of interest:
Things that make a resume work.
Your Resume's Got Only 30 Seconds! Make It Count.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are you assertive enough at work?

Well, I was recently part of a discussion with a group of friends from a variety of work background. We had someone from engineering, HR, recruitment, sales, consulting, among others. The topic discussed was about being assertive.

The question we shared among the group was: Are you assertive enough at work?

The question was directed more towards their life at work than in personal life. While the entire group started out saying we were assertive, the real truth emerged only after sometime into the discussion. As much as we wanted to debate, we really weren’t assertive enough in our work life!! The dude in engineering wasn’t assertive when he told he sure wasn’t going to meet the product release deadline. The sales guy wasn’t assertive enough to tell a No to his client’s demands, fearing he might lose them. The recruiter wasn’t assertive when it counted the most, in telling the hiring manager to take a decision with the existing bunch of candidates. That the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the candidate field. HR often ended up quoting stuff from policies, rather than a firm ‘No’ to crazy requests from employees (fearing attrition!)

Another obvious question asked was, do we then really need to be assertive? Off course we should be assertive. Isn’t that obvious? Being assertive really isn’t about forcing an idea on someone, pushing so hard that it forms cracks in a client relationship, does not mean you hide behind a HR policy instead of answering the question openly. It’s about being confident and not giving up on yourself when you know the outcome of a certain activity. Being decisive in your ‘No’ with valid reasons. If you choose to be assertive, you have then are decided to speak firmly about how you feel about a situation. It’s a thin between aggressiveness and assertiveness, striking a balance is the tough part.

There’s a ton of information on the web, telling/asking/showing/advising us on how to be assertive? Just what are we doing with that information? From our discussions, it was clear that most of that info got thrown to the backburner in a never ending rush to deliver results, please unrelenting clients and hire the next-best candidate.

So is being assertive a personality trait or one that we learn on the job? If we agree that circumstances reveal a person, is it then really possible to teach someone to be assertive (thinking on the spot rather than after the event has occurred)?

That gets me to ask you: Are you assertive enough at work? How do you manage to stay that way? Do share your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Manager asking for too many reports without sufficient notice

From a reader;

I work as an analyst and part of my job description requires me to prepare/generate reports on a regular basis. I’ve a weekly schedule that is planned way in advance and it helps me to prioritize my work such that deliverables aren’t affected. This mode worked great with my previous manager who has since left the Company. I now report to a new manager and I’m finding it difficult to adapt to his style of working. He’s ok with my weekly schedules and has been very supportive at work. However, I’ve noticed many times that he has asked for too many reports (not in the weekly schedule) without giving sufficient notice. The requests are mostly from clients who want a report immediately. This has had an effect on my weekly deliverables. I don’t want to continue in this manner. I need to discuss and sort it out. How do I approach my manager?

Is this happening only to you or have the other team members (if any) brought up the same issue? There are two things that come to mind. First, I get the feeling that your manager is much disorganized and needs help with time management and prioritizing his work. Also likely that he isn’t able to manage clients well enough and he’s getting pressurized to deliver things quickly. Second, maybe his trust and confidence in your work is high and hence he is relying heavily on getting the work done only by you. Either way he shouldn’t be having too many last minute requests, at the cost of already-scheduled work.

Whatever be the reason, it’s time for you to set up a discussion. Now. His management style is hurting your deliverables and that will come up for scrutiny sooner than later. If it comes to that, you’ll not be able to justify by saying you were catering to last minute/unscheduled requests. There’s a high chance he’ll ask why you hadn’t brought up the issue earlier. You get my point? It’s better to sort these things out before it reaches a point of no return.

Timing is crucial when you set up a discussion. Don’t do it when he comes up with his next last-minute request. That will backfire. Instead choose a time when you’ve completed work on his latest request. That’ll give you some data points to talk about. You need to find out if he is comfortable with a formal discussion or an informal one? If it’s a formal discussion that he prefers, then set up a meeting on his calendar at his convenient time. Tell him you want to discuss a concern that’s affecting your work and deliverables. Next, when you meet him, go prepared with points that you want to discuss about. Don’t try and get defensive, rather have an open and candid conversation. Get to know his side of thinking and address them accordingly. If he’s a good manager, there’s a high possibility that he will see that his actions are indeed hurting your work and change them to work better. On the other hand, if he turns out to be a jerk, he’ll agree to change and yet continue with his previous style. Hope it’s the former and not the latter that you encounter, since you mention that he’s very supportive at work.

If he turns out to be a jerk and doesn’t change his style. You have a few choices. While scheduling your work the next time around, allow for some buffer. If a project requires 10 days, you ask for 14 days, you then have a 4 day buffer, should he come up with last minute requests. Make sure you document very request that comes your way. That will be helpful for later discussions and will also act as a cover. If that’s not the way you work, you decide if you want to work for this manager.

My experience says that nine of ten times, having discussions early into an issue helps clear the air. Good luck!

Post that might interest you:
Yes, it's ok to disagree with your manager.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Awards aren't retention tools? Or are they?

Here’s the situation:

A manager has got to choose a top performer for giving the quarterly/annual performance based award. Should be a cakewalk, no?

Since he must have mentored, trained, tracked, monitored and given feedback for each team member’s performance over the last one year. Each one of them must have contributed their bit and in cases even gone beyond their scope of work. The review exercise isn’t done just for the purpose of the awards. It’s a critical part of the annual review process. Every thing gets captured. These stats help a manager identify the top performer. Well, that’s the ideal situation.

Apparently, that’s not what happens in most cases. I’m a big fan of performance based awards. As the name itself indicates, it purely based on performance. Yet, I’ve often come across managers who want to give out performance based awards to employees who show signs that they would quit soon (offer in hand!) or have started looking for better job opportunities with a competitor. That’s something that I strongly disagree with. Awards then serve as just another retention tool. I’m averse towards managers who use it for that purpose alone.

Yes, there are folks who do suggest that awards are part of retention strategies. That’s valid if you do have well defined criteria/parameters to judge performance and reward accordingly. Everyone on the team then is aware of their standing and hence decision making is a lot more transparent.

Here’s what an award really shouldn’t be:

  • Lucky draw. You have one award to give; put names in a hat and pull out a lucky one! It’s just plain ridiculous. No. I’m not kidding. It’s happened.

  • Make the award a cyclic trophy. This year Employee A gets the award, next year it’s Employee B’s turn!

  • Popularity contest. Truly, this one takes the cake. I’ve been part of discussions where manager’s wanted to give performance based awards to their fave team member, who also happened to be popular among other team members. Again. It’s plain ridiculous.

  • Have as many award categories as possible. It makes a manager’s job easy when he can choose multiple people from the same team for different awards! Sounds crazy?
All of the situations mentioned above do exist.

Employee recognition makes a huge difference and it is a big deal. Period. However, employees will take it seriously if it’s done in a transparent manner and managers play a vital role in deciding a recipient of the award. It’s obvious that the repercussions of an incorrect choice could be drastic. It’ll end up hurting team morale, causing rifts between team members, brings down productivity and not to mention the obvious, lot of exits.

The role of HR in this process is to ensure that key parameters for awards revolve around being fair, transparent and consistent. Get managers to stick to these parameters. If not, get rid of the awards. It's better to not have them, when it causes more issues.

  • Have you received an award recently? Or anytime in your career?

  • You felt you deserved to win that award that your colleague won?

  • What has your experience been with performance (or anything similar) awards?
Would love to hear your thoughts. It will help other folks to deal with situations better. It will also help me to share your thoughts with people who frame criteria for identifying performance awardees.

That would make life at work a whole lot better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Candidate Tip: Part 3

In case you are reading this for the first time and wondering how come it's Part 3 already! Then you can catch up by reading the earlier parts to this series here & here.

  1. Put your phone on silent mode during an interview. There’s only one other person in the room. So acting like it’s not your phone ringing, is stupid!

  2. Talking in low voice because you're not in a good place to take the call isn’t the interviewer's fault! It was scheduled. Plan better.

  3. It's ok to say that you don't know the answer for an interview question. Answering vaguely doesn't help. But do ask the answer.

  4. Speak only in the language that's chosen as medium for the interview. Bringing in native words sounds unprofessional. Avoid it.

  5. Are you a manager? Then isn't 'Conflict Management' a critical part of a manager's role? What's your approach? Critical to know.

  6. When you are offered coffee/tea & you sip it loud enough to be heard 10 cubicles away, it's just GROSS.

  7. Swiveling in your chair during an interview looks very unprofessional. Stay put. Unless you don't want the job.

  8. If you chose to send your LinkedIn profile before sending your detailed resume, then please update your LI profile.

  9. Why use a pseudo-name on a resume?!? I'm stumped.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Email ID's on resumes: Big deal?

Here’s a question I posted on Twitter:

Is it right to read into email ID's of candidates on their resume?

I really didn’t expect it to cause such a stir! It set off quite a discussion. The real intent was to understand the impact on recruiters/hiring managers/readers when they review resumes that have mail ID’s such as iamsingle@ / devil-may-care@ / crazydudeinahurry@ mentioned in a candidate’s resume. Well, many of them were of the opinion that they definitely found it weird that the candidate even considered such an unprofessional mail ID for a resume. A few argued that it gave them insights into the candidate’s innovativeness! It really might be the case, you never know.

My intention was not to judge the use of a particular ID. It was all about questioning the impact on end users. Think about it for a second. You got a mail sitting in your Inbox from a sender who chose an ID owntheworldbytomorrow@ to send the mail. What would your first reaction be? Treat it as Spam? No? Another set of detail-oriented folks may get into the nitty-gritty by stating that one can chose a different Display Name for an ID. But what if the person just put the same email ID in the resume? You don’t get a display name there. Or would you? See, nitty-gritty can have mind-numbing effects!

Instead, how about creating a mail ID for the sole purpose of job searches? An ID that sounds professional. You really don’t even need to check it after you’ve got a job. It’s that simple. Not to mention the obvious, it’s FREE!

Your resume is doing a lot of marketing on your behalf. It’s talking to people even before you get to the table. Much before you even get to say a word in-person. If it’s doing so much work for you, would you want to take risks by showcasing yourself as someone who doesn’t take things seriously? Think about it for a second.

Before you ask, a crazy/weird mail ID doesn’t mean your resume will get rejected. It shouldn’t be. Or rather, will not be. Recruiters don’t want to shrink their talent pool on the basis of a mail ID on a resume! However, that doesn’t stop either the recruiter/hiring manager from showing hesitation while talking to such candidates, especially if the role demands a professional outlook.

Here’s my take though: Email ID(s) on a job application/resume has importance. Candidates should choose to display one that's appropriate for job searches.

What are your thoughts? Would love to hear them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Start-up: Hiring challenges

From a recruiter:

Dear HR Store,

I’m a recruiter at a start-up that has started hiring. Seems like the market conditions are improving and big players in the market have started hiring too. Candidates are accepting our offer, but that hasn’t stopped them from talking to the big players. My question to you is: how many times can we call candidates after they have accepted our offer? What can we do to convince the candidates to join us?


First, welcome to the world of start-ups. I just love the thought of a start-up. Hmmm……Sorry, I digress. This question’s about you. Not me. I’ll proceed to answer your question in two parts.

How many times can we call candidates after they have accepted our offer? Well, I’m tempted to ask, what is the purpose for which you are calling the candidate? Are you calling daily/regularly with an intention to find out what the candidate’s been up to since accepting your offer? That’ll look like you are stalking the candidate or you’re unsure of your choice or might even tell the candidate that you are desperate to get him onboard. Yes, it might be all of that and more. But that’s not the impression you want to give the candidate. Right? So, ideally here’s what you could do. Start with a call a week. That should suffice if the candidate’s going to join you within two weeks. If the joining time is more than two weeks, you could call a couple of times a week after the first two weeks. Understandable that you want to give your interactions a personal touch, but an overdose of anything is harmful. You could even try mails on other days. Make your mails informative. That should help a lot. Try and avoid calling daily! That’ll end up hurting your cause a lot.

Your next question, what can we do to convince the candidate to join us? So, what do you talk about in those calls / mails? Do you have a unique story to tell the candidate? Why, when or what was the reason for the startup to take shape. Take the opportunity to use those calls as personal touch time to give the candidate as much information as possible. Ones that will help him take an informed decision. Talk about improvements in product line, new customer wins, new additions to senior management/other teams, re-emphasis his role in the team, growth plans for the start-up, financial plans etc, Hiring for a start-up can get challenging, but you can make life easier for yourself by getting as much information as possible. You are expecting a candidate to give up his regular job and take a chance with a start-up with hopes that it will payoff soon. Give him enough reasons for doing just that. It may have been covered in the earlier interviews, but the gravity of the situation would have sunk in only after he went back home, consulted with his family, friends and peers in the industry. Decisions change rapidly based on the inputs he gets from them. Highlight that the startup is an opportunity that is very rare and one where he will find enough challenges that would be of high interest. Involve the manager in your talks. In most startups there isn’t a manager! Get the boss to do some talking too. Helps a great deal.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Things that make a resume work...

I got some questions on resume writing and how to make a resume stand out. While there’s enough information that you can get by Googling, here’s a list that I would suggest. Yes, many things mentioned below are obvious. I might sound like a broken record, but when it comes to searching for jobs, candidates end up hurrying on the document which talks on their behalf.

Here are things that might help make your resume work:

  • ZERO virus! You may wonder how that happens. But it does. Scan you resume.doc before you send it out.

  • Your career objective. Even better if you can mention short-term and long-term. If you don’t have one I’ll assume you are OK with any role we have.

  • Time periods for various positions. Previous held or currently holding. Both month & year. If there is an overlap or if you are working for different companies at the same time. Mention that.

  • Your contribution/achievement to projects you’ve mentioned in each role. NOT your team’s contribution.

  • Mention only those skills that you are confident with using / have used proficiently. Exposure to a certain skill doesn’t necessarily mean you know it in-depth! Right?

  • Contact details (phone, emails, etc,). Absolute must. If you have a preferred time to take calls, mention that. Again, if don’t tell, means you’re ok to take the call at anytime.

  • Don’t mention your blog. Please. Here’s why.

  • Any gaps/breaks taken before completing your education or even between two jobs work? Such as a sabbatical, medical reasons, etc., Mention it. Else, if it comes up during later discussions, it will look like you were trying to hide something.

  • Personalized cover letter. Please don’t send a mass mail with each recipient in the Bcc. It’s not a personal mail. It’s your career at stake!

  • Anything beyond 3 pages will not be read. So don’t waste time mentioning each and every thing you did in the last 10 years. Read the job description and then apply.

  • Read: Your resume’s got 30 seconds. Make it count.

  • Your resume font is crucial. Choose one that looks professional. Comic Sans doesn’t look professional. Period.

  • Typos. ‘Manger’ instead of ‘Manager’, ‘Martial Status’ instead of ‘Marital Status’, etc., Read thoroughly before submitting your resume.
  • Finally, keep it real.

Agreed. You are currently doing all of this and yet you’re not getting that most-awaited-for call. That’s just the way it goes. You really aren’t in control of that. But you can and must control things that are in your grasp. Your resume definitely figures on top of that list in a job search. You’ll do yourself a big favor by making sure your resume is presentable. That it has things which the employer is looking for or stuff that would at least make them consider your resume.

Post that might be helpful too: Resume Writing

Good luck!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do we need a policy for this? Really!

Got an interesting question from a reader:

I’ve noticed on a number of occasions that people stand in office corridors for long periods of time to discuss things. Quite often these corridor-talks are a spill over from a meeting/conference that they would have concluded a few minutes back. At times these discussions turn out to be loud enough to disturb other employees in that work area. There are enough conference rooms at the workplace that people could use for their discussions. I was wondering if I should write to the HR asking them to come up with a policy that prohibits people from standing in the corridor and having discussions. Employees sitting around these areas are put through a lot of discomfort. I’m one of them. Would it be possible to have such a policy? What are your thoughts?

First, I haven’t come across such a policy in my career. At least not yet. Maybe in kindergarten. Really. When we were told: Don’t sit here. Don’t stand there. Don’t talk here. Don’t walk there. You get my point?

So my answer to your question is – No. It doesn’t make sense to have a policy that states that no one can talk in office corridors. Sounds ridiculous. No? It will trigger an unnecessary debate. One that will question the very fact that everyone working there are adults and so this can be dealt with better than having a policy. All that’s required to resolve this situation is some tips on social etiquette. An email from HR should suffice to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, here’s something you can try. Next time if you notice someone talking in the corridor close to your work area, go and request them to continue their discussion in a conference room. Tell them that their chat in the corridor is disturbing your work. The reason I ask you mention that ‘you’ are affected is because I’m not sure if others feel the same way. If they have brought up a similar issue and expressed their displeasure, only then mention that people working in that area are affected. You really don’t want to make decisions for them, without their consent. With regard to asking people to stop chatting in the corridor, you might have to do this as many times as possible. It’s not a one time fix. But at least you’ll know when the discussion is loud enough to distract you from your work.

Most often people get so absorbed in their discussions, that they might not be aware of their voice decibel levels. Your request could solve this issue in a jiffy! Really. The best case scenario is that people will apologize and get into a conference room / take their discussion elsewhere. I’m not sure of the worst case scenario. Do you think you work with people who would just ignore your request and keep talking? I really doubt that.

Another point to consider is whether this is affecting just you or have the other employees expressed similar concern. If it’s just you, then maybe, you are unable to tune out minor distractions. That’s something you can work on that too. There are enough solutions to this, starting with an old fashioned ear plug. No. It doesn’t sound / look crazy. If you are the kind of person that requires a silent environment at work, then the first step would be to help yourself achieve that environment. It’s a lot easier than controlling other people’s actions.

Hope that helps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recruiter mails offer to the wrong candidate!

From a recruiter:

Dear HR Store,

We had interviewed a lot of candidates for a role in the sales team and the hiring manager had selected a candidate. We had also worked out the compensation plan/structure that we would offer the candidate. It was decided that the hiring manager would discuss the offer with the candidate and then I had to mail the offer to the candidate. While mailing the offer letter, I made a terrible mistake by mailing it to a different candidate (with almost the same name as the first candidate) whom we had interviewed for the role but was rejected. I had previously sent him an interview rejection mail too. I’m totally terrified. How do I manage this situation?


I’ll digress and rant about this a little. Here’s exactly why recruiters end up among the most hated folks on everyone’s list. All that was required from you was to mail an offer to a candidate. Just how tough is that? You are right about feeling terrible for sending out an offer to the wrong candidate! Go ahead; scream it out of your system. Now, if you’re feeling a little calmer, let’s think of the next steps.

Before I give you any suggestions, I’m not sure of the legalities in this situation and you might want to consult an attorney. If it was left to me to decide the next steps, here’s what I would do.

To avoid any confusion in my reply, I’ll call the selected one as ‘Candidate A’ and the other ‘Candidate B’. First, talk to the hiring manager and explain the goof-up. He’ll need to know about this, in case ‘Candidate B’ decides to call/mail him to discuss about your mail. So, when you tell the hiring manager, either he’ll blow his lid off (very likely) or maybe, just maybe, there’s a remote chance that he’ll understand and empathize. Either way he might ask you to send out an apology mail to ‘Candidate B’. But hold on. Before sending out another random mail to ‘Candidate B’, call him and explain the situation. Yep, you’ll have to apologize profusely and hope he’ll understand. Next, you send him an email outlining your discussion and tell him that the mail wasn’t meant for him. That’s it. Don’t get into details about who was meant to be the original recipient of the mail. That’s divulging more confidential data. Apologize for the inconvenience and end it there. Might look high handed but getting into details could get into more trouble.

Also, you might be thinking of getting the hiring manager to talk to ‘Candidate B’. Don’t do that. He wasn’t involved in this mail mess. It’s for you to clean it up.

Understandably, this is a terrible situation to be in. More so for ‘Candidate B’, who could right now be out of a job and he might have thought that your mail was sent after reconsidering his candidature! It’s not the case, but that’s how it will look. Next time, pay more attention to details. You could be sending out a hundred mails a day, but this one has higher consequences than most other mails. Give it sufficient time and attention.

Hope you are able to resolve the issue without getting into deeper trouble. Good luck!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HR asked to snoop around!

Got a question from a reader. It’s a lengthy one and so I’m posting a gist of it here.

Manager at a midsized Company is worried that he might lose talented team members to competitors, citing various reasons including better opportunities, performance reviews, higher salary, promotions, etc., He approaches the HR rep and asks her to snoop around and give him some information on who is going to/is contemplating whether to quit and by when. He claims this will help him plan his projects better and start looking for potential replacements.

The HR rep hasn’t been asked to do such a thing before in her role (or career) and is wondering what should be her approach to this request?

First, the manager’s just being a jerk. If your role has enough authority to take decisions, then its time to have a candid discussion with this manager regarding his future in a managerial role. Or maybe even in the Company. Harsh? Absolutely. Such a request is a red flag for his managerial abilities. That’s off course if you have the authority. Understandably it’s not going to be easy. But having the discussion isn’t just an option, its mandatory.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the authority, you must still go ahead have a candid discussion with the manager. Assuming your role may require you to interact with this manager on a daily/weekly basis, saying ‘NO’ now will set expectations for the future too. Here’s something that you could tell him, “I would not be able to do that. It’s against the ethics & integrity of my role.” No, you don’t need to be apologetic. That’s generally the thing that people say when they are asked such requests. When you start by saying, “I’m sorry…”, it gets understood as, “I may help you, but I don’t know what to do. Give me sometime.” So don’t give room for assumptions. Be assertive.

Next, it’s time you set things straight with this manager. His fear of losing talented folks from his team may stem from many facts, including bad managing skills, not being proactive, having issues with feedback (taking & giving), not in sync with business decisions, or plain fear to communicate any type of news that might impact the team, among so many other things. For one, he should be taking control of things that can be controlled from his end. Exploring opportunities within the team/Company, honest performance reviews, transparency in dealing with issues, etc., Instead of trying to control factors that are not within his reach. Get this manager to attend a training program to help him manage better, if you have the budget. Else, it’s time you nominate someone internally within the Company to train him, like Karen Wise suggests in this guest post.

You cannot control /avoid external recruiters from reaching your employees. Period. Trying to do that will result in you wasting your time & efforts. Asking the HR to snoop around isn’t going to resolve an issue that has deeper roots in his managerial traits.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hiring: Candidate Tip - Part 2

So if you haven’t read this post yet, then I’ll just recap a bit. I get a lot of questions around recruitment related activities from candidates. In an attempt to avoid redundancy in replies, I’ve started posting answers on Twitter using #candidatetip. Here’s the next set of candidate tips. If you are a candidate, hope this helps. If not, you can help send this post to someone you know, searching for answers. I’ll continue to take questions and should you have one, you can send it to thehrstore@gmail.com

  1. Get to know the 'Role & Responsibility' of the new job/position. Title/designation means zilch if you end up not liking the work.

  2. Don't 'password protect' your resume when you send it for a job opening. It looks silly. What purpose would it serve? Check twice before you send out your resume.

  3. If you are asked for a good time to schedule an interview, think & then answer. One reschedule is OK. 2nd reschedule sends out wrong signals. You gave the time, means you have to plan accordingly.

  4. Deactivate your account on job portals if you don't want to be notified of new job openings. Why have it there when you're not keen on a job change? Unnecessarily creates negative impressions.

  5. 'Got stuck in traffic' isn't an excuse anymore! Cities are crowded / getting crowded. Plan better & leave early for an interview.

  6. Leaving a contact number on your resume helps reach you faster than through an email. Unless you are connected 24x7 & even then a recruiter would want to call before scheduling.

  7. If you don't answer your phone even the second time around; your turn to talk just got pushed to the end of the list.

  8. Please read your resume thoroughly before an interview. It looks bad if you don't know what's on Page 2 of your own resume!

  9. Don’t put an interviewer on-hold during phone interviews! If u have to take another call, keep the interviewer informed beforehand.

  10. Ask for a 100% hike in compensation. ONLY if you have enough rationale. Not because someone from somewhere told you to ask!

  11. Are you a manager/lead? Then you need to learn to describe your ‘management style’s in an interview. Easy to locate fluff! Avoid it.

  12. If you aren't ok with relocating to another city, why would you want to interview for a position based there? You’re wasting time.

  13. Watch your words! Using 'slangs' is not appreciated in interviews. Even if you said it bymistake. Avoid it.

  14. Number of years of work experience doesn't guarantee (rather shouldn't guarantee) a move to the next role! Don't assume.

  15. Don't type your entire resume in CAPS!! Looks ridiculous & not to mention, very rude.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Team member skips meetings regularly

    Dear HR Store,

    I’ve been recently promoted to lead an eight member team. As part of the team’s weekly activities we have a team meeting scheduled every Wednesday. It’s critical for all team members to attend the meeting. It helps us stay updated on the team’s goals/objectives. It’s also an interactive session where team members discuss a lot of things related to work. Stuff like challenges they faced during that week and their solutions are discussed. It’s a ground for learning too. My issue is with a particular team member who has been skipping these meetings regularly giving far too many excuses. At times it’s ok, since he is held up with other activities that are critical and needed immediate attention. But the occurrences are far too many to ignore. The other team members have begun to notice the pattern.

    The team member doing this excels at his work. So I’m worried any hasty reactions from me could end up creating more problems. How do I go about resolving this issue?


    Well, looks like this team member has been given too much leeway. Your case is a classic example for setting a ‘precedent’. It not only poses an immediate danger but also has long term repercussions.

    Agreed that the team member excels at his work, but that’s no grounds for not complying with the rest of the team. Are you telling the others that they are good enough to be excused from the meeting? See. Setting precedents are bad. Period. You’ve just experienced the tough part of being a manager. Your ‘No’ should have enough logic and ‘Yes’ should make enough sense.

    How do you go about dealing with this? First step would be to have a candid talk with him during your one—to—one meeting. Before you start with telling, “You should attend all team meetings starting this week”, give him a chance to explain his prior absence. There could a reason for missing them than just giving an excuse for attending to another activity during the same time. To start with, give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is really overloaded with work. Maybe he doesn’t see enough value in attending the meeting. Or worse, he just feels he’s the best in the team and doesn’t need to attend meetings when he knows it all! If that’s the reason, you have more trouble than you think. Your response will depend on his reasons for not attending. Being supportive is fine, as long as it’s for the right reasons. If you’ve set up the meeting as a weekly recurrence, the team has been given enough notice. So getting caught up with other work at that time is a sign of bad time management. More than twice is never a coincidence. Set it right.

    On the contrary, trying to enforce a rule like, “Everyone must participate in team meetings”, will backfire for sure. Team members will be present but they’ll never participate. So try and avoid taking that approach. If the agenda of the meeting is to figure out if the team is aligned to business goals/objectives and for sharing their challenges of the week, then your one-to-one meeting and email should suffice. Meeting every week to discuss the same things takes away the importance of the discussion. Sorry, I digress.

    Back to your question. As a manager, you’ll have to play a dual-role in getting team members to adhere to team activities. One part of the role (the good part) is when you encourage team members to attend these meetings citing a chance to learn from others. The second part (the bad part) of the role is when you make it clear that all team members will be treated equally and any violations will have the same consequences. Being a manager is a lot tougher than you thought!

    So first have a discussion with the team member. If it continues, write him a mail. I really doubt if it should get beyond this! If it does, you have to take a tough call. You don’t need a star performer with the wrong attitude who could end up hurting a well balanced team. That’s something you don’t want to deal with. Act fast. And have that discussion. It should sort things out. Make it clear that you are the authority on this issue and that shouldn't be taken for granted.

    Next time. Be wary of setting precedents. You are the manager. And you should decide what works best for the team. Don’t let the entire team manage you! If it happens, there’s only one way it will go. Downhill.

    Good luck!

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Monday's that rock!

    Yes, you heard me alright. If luck has anything to do, you’ll find a recruiter’s Monday made when:

    - ALL (I mean, each & everyone) of the New Hires shows up at the door. Agreed it’s a bad job market, but that hasn’t changed for great talent to reject job offers.

    - The hiring manager sends you an ‘awesome job done’ mail copying the entire senior management! (You wonder, why the delay in sending the mail?)

    - Your project just got identified as the best submission. And you get funds for running it too. Cool!

    - All tasks on your list for Monday are marked – DONE.

    - Over 85% of candidates/employees participate in your survey.

    - Zero ‘offer declines’ from potential hires. Awesome! Must be dreaming.

    Bring on the week now! So what’s on your list today? I would love to hear your Super Monday stories.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Carnival of HR: Talent Management Edition

    Jessica over at blogging4jobs is hosting the latest Carnival of HR 'Talent Management Edition'. I would suggest you head over there to read some great informative posts. Check it out! It would be worth your time spent. Don't forget to leave your comments on posts that you find interesting.

    PS: The 'Carnival of HR' was started by the Evil HR Lady way back in 2007 and since then it has been regularly featuring recent posts from the best of the HR and management blogging community. Get to know more about the Carnival here.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Guest Post: Be Creative About Staff Development

    Guest post by Karen Wise

    Recently I have been thinking about how we develop our staff and ourselves. This subject seems to weave it's way into almost every aspect of my work at the moment: I've been delivering appraisal training to several different organisations: a staff's Personal Development Plan is discussed as part of the course; I recently delivered a break-out session at a Coaching conference on Continued Professional Development; and I'm going to be delivering a practical developmental seminar for coaches next month.

    In the course of this work, through discussions and feedback from participants, I've begun to realise that there's a real need to change the way that managers approach the development of their staff.

    Traditionally, when a manager writes a Personal Development Plan (PDP) as part of their staff's performance appraisal, external training is identified: some kind of taught course, a conference, further education resulting in a recognised qualification.

    But at the moment, with the recession still biting at our heels, the organisational development budgets are not as large as they were a few years ago. Managers now need to start considering how to develop their staff in a cost-efficient way. So I'll give you an example:

    A junior manager pulled me aside on a training session. He wanted a piece of advice on what course he could send a member of staff on who needed training in how to manage difficult conversations - there were no more places left on the in-house conflict resolution training, and all external courses cost more than his departmental training budget would allow.

    So I asked a question: "Who do you know, more senior to you in this organisation, who is able to manage difficult conversations?" The junior manager was quickly able to identify someone.

    So I said: "How about you approach this person to ask them if they could support you in developing your member of staff? Let's develop a plan."

    1. Your member of staff and the manager will need an initial meeting - to make sure they can work together for this specific development need.
    2. Your member of staff will then attend a couple of meetings to observe the manager managing a difficult conversation.
    3. The member of staff will meet with the manager again and talk through his observations. The manager will in turn talk through some of the techniques they use to manage difficult conversations.
    4. The member of staff will return to the workplace & apply their learning.
    5. The member of staff and manager will meet again, perhaps one or two times to consolidate learning: identify any challenges, reflect on application to date, and measure the progress made.

    It's quite simple really - and all it will take is the resource of time and commitment from the manager and the member of staff. Some might say that this is a form of mentorship - and I suppose that they would be right. However, this mentor relationship is defined for a specific need, and is time limited. The key benefit is that this form of development opportunity has high impact and is sustainable. The added benefit is the networking opportunities that it creates for the member of staff, and the exposure to a wider range of issues beyond their current sphere of work.

    In essence, this idea is based on one of my key principles that development and growth is natural, given the right conditions. Choosing the right role model and having the opportunity to observe, then reflect and discuss with them their approach can happen in any organisation, anywhere. The example I give is just one way that a manager can demonstrate creative thinking when identifying the appropriate learning method to meet a development need.

    When you're next completing a Personal Development Plan for a member of your staff - try and think creatively.

    About the Author

    Karen Wise, MCIPD is an Organisational Development Consultant and Business Coach, with over 12 years’ experience of working in Human Resources roles up to and including Director level. Karen now runs her own consultancy and coaching business, with a particular interest in maternity and wellbeing coaching.

    Karen is a co-founder of Minerva’s Mind: an organisation that supports women to become leaders in their own lives, by exploring what leadership means today in every area of life. (www.facebook.com/minervasmind)

    Karen is based in St Albans, 25 miles north of London, England, where she lives with her husband and two small children. She is also currently undertaking a Masters Degree in Coaching / Coaching Psychology at the University of East London.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Hiring: Candidate Tip - Part 1

    Off late I’ve started getting a lot of questions from readers/candidates asking for advice regarding hiring/recruitment. More specifically about interviews, resume, cover letter, etc. A few questions do intrigue me enough to write a post with my reply. However, many questions are repetitive in nature and hence might seem redundant. I would be glad to answer your queries my mail, but here’s another way that I would go about answering those queries, on Twitter, using the hashtag #candidatetip. To make it easier for folks who are not on Twitter I’ll post those tips in parts on this blog. Hope that these tips would prove helpful.

    So here’s the first part of the tips. Let me know your thoughts.

    1. It’s best to avoid 'Comic Sans' as a font for your resume.

    2. Do you mention your blog on your resume? I suggest you don't. Here's why: http://tinyurl.com/p9lxav.

    3. No, you don't need to put your zodiac sign in your resume! Unless the role specifically asks for it. Really. Why would you put it there?

    4. If you give 3 different email ID’s on your resume, the employer can choose to send their mails to any one of them or to all three ID’s! Be sure to check all mail in all your ID’s.

    5. Maybe its time to get yourself a Skype a/c. Employers still aren't willing to spend on travel yet. It’s one more way to reach you!

    6. If you have a preferable time to take a call but don't mention it in your resume/cover letter, your telling the employer your ok to talk anytime.

    7. Don’t waste space in your resume by writing too much about your current employer. Maximum of 2 lines along with the official website should suffice.

    8. You can't compare YOUR job offer with your friend's, even if both are from the same company. You just raised a big Red Flag! Here’s a post on this.

    9. It's ok to reject a job offer. But keep the Company informed. You don’t join elsewhere & then call them. You just burnt a bridge.

    10. Employers can reach any ref(s) from companies listed on your resume. Reaching ref's from present company is a no-no.

    11. You don't call your prospective employer @ 10:30pm on a Sunday nite (unless its scheduled). Especially NOT when you're drunk! Silly? It has happened.

    12. If you think you are the smartest one in the room (and have enough reasons to believe so). Then chances are you're in the wrong room. Get outta there. Go learn.

    13. If you're scheduled for a telecon, DON'T switch-off your phone @ that time. If you can't take the call, just inform.

    14. If you are not 100% keen on the role, don't take the job. It will catch up soon and only get worse.

    15. When an employer asks for a week to revert, that’s 7 days. So don’t send mails/call during that week asking for an update. Reach them only if you have something critical to share. It’s ok to follow-up after a week.

    16. Don’t give an email address that doesn’t belong to you. Even if it’s your spouse’s. It's sends out a wrong signal.

    17. Keep your references informed about the call from prospective employers. If they aren't kept informed, it'll look like cold calling! If I had to do that, I wouldn’t ask you. Right?

    18. On mails/any other form of written communication, if you get a name 100% wrong it’s ok. Apologize and get to know the correct one. Don’t tell it’s a typo error!

    19. Put your cell on silent mode/switch off during an interview. It's basic manners. If you have to take a call in between, keep the interviewer informed before the start of the interview.

    20. The excitement of getting highly paid for a job you don’t like; will eventually not sound exciting a year down the line. Really. You are better off not taking up that offer.
    Stay tuned for more tips. And yes, if you are a hiring manager, recruiter or in any other role that requires you to hire candidates (and you are on Twitter), please use
    #candidatetip while tweeting. It would help candidates who could use those tips for better results.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Is this a bold move?

    You decide that after reading this post.

    There’s enough written about managers. I’ve written about it myself
    here, here & here. But this post is completely devoted to a much avoided/evaded part of a manager’s role: Giving Feedback

    So here’s a suggestion I have: Why don’t we make giving feedback a part of a manager’s performance review? Make it objective and quantifiable.

    Why should we go with this approach to management? Here’s why:

    - It will make managers give feedback. Simple. Right? Yes, sometimes a basic request for feedback isn’t met. At times it’s completely avoided too.

    - Feedback can be tracked and reviewed along with other parameters as part of the manager’s performance review. It would help identify areas in which the manager might need help, when it comes to giving feedback.

    - Takes away the opportunity to just give hints and get away with it. The recipient knows exactly what’s been said.

    - Avoids arguments. When the feedback is clear and precise it doesn’t give room for arguments, debates or worse, assumptions!

    - When you make it quantifiable, the manager’s focus will be on giving feedback with enough data.

    - Makes it a direct interaction between the manager and his direct report. Often, feedback is passed through other leads/employees. An approach that always backfires.

    - It helps set-up a clear communication channel between managers and direct reports. Performance parameters can be set openly and discussed without any discomfort.

    - Expectations can be set, managed and communicated effectively.

    - It takes away the assumption that giving feedback is a one-time effort.

    - Once the feedback is in place, it would help with formulating measures for improving the direct report’s performance. Follow-up can be well planned, tracked and executed easily.

    - PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) will make more sense than before. Since feedback is captured on a regular basis and hence helps avoid surprising the recipient.

    Thinks to watch out for:

    - Managers need to be trained before implementing this move.

    - Feedback is to be given only about work. Shouldn’t be a personal judgment of the manager.

    There could be many more instances to look out for. That’s exactly why a training session would be helpful. Is this a bold move? Maybe not. It’s a matter of companies implementing and manager’s accepting it. Yes,
    Change is Strange!

    Do you think your organization is ready for this? Are you ready for this? Do you manage people? Are you a leader? Do you report to a manager who gives feedback? Do you report to a manager who hates giving feedback? Would love to hear your thoughts. I’m open to receive feedback!

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Candidate Rant: Flawed Salary Negotiation

    A candidate writes:

    “Dear HR Store,

    Been reading your blog for sometime now and wanted your advice on a current situation I’m in, regarding a job offer. I’ve been looking for a job change for quite sometime and have interviewed with a few prospective employers.

    I’ve now received a job offer from a Company that I’m keen to work with, based on the role and responsibility explained to me by both hiring manage and HR. However, the compensation offered doesn’t excite me. I know I deserve better. How do I go about asking for a better deal?

    Recently, a friend (ex-colleague from same team) as mine has joined them and he was offered a better deal than me for almost the same role. I did bring it up in my discussions with the hiring manager and HR, after I received the job offer. They have however stuck to their offer and aren’t willing to make any changes. What could I do to convince them?

    I’m running out of time and need to let them know of my decision.. I’m keen on the position. But don’t want to go into the job thinking that I’ve been undervalued in terms of compensation.

    Any advice?


    Since you wrote to me, I’ll give you my take on it. Not sure if you’ll like what I have to say next. So brace yourself. You just touched upon my candidate pet peeve.

    If you have been reading my blog, then you may (I wish you already have) read this post on
    salary negotiation. If you still haven’t read it, I’ll explain again.

    First, it’s good you like the role & responsibility that comes with the position you have been offered. That’s a great start. So you already have a valid reason to take up the job. Since the excitement of getting highly paid for a job you don’t like, will eventually not sound exciting a year down the line. Really.

    Second, the Company you’ve interviewed with have their own parameters to select candidates. If they’ve offered you, it means you’ve made the cut. But chances are at you may have only met a majority of their hiring criteria. That leaves certain areas of the job profile that you don’t bring to the table, but have shown potential to pick it up.

    That brings us to the point. How do you go about asking for a better deal after receiving a job offer?

    - Start with having a candid discussion with the hiring manager regarding your take on the job offer. Start with asking their way/rationale of arriving at a job offer. It will help understand the criteria they’ve considered in your case.
    - Based on their response, you build our case with reasons for why you feel that the compensation offered is on the lower end.
    - Your reasons could be based on:
    o Reinforcing the value that you would add to their team / work.
    o You could project your value primarily based on having studied their product/service.
    o Take prevailing market conditions into account.
    o Your understanding on skill-set availability.
    o Your ability to manage more responsibility efficiently and effectively (not another role, but more on the current role over a period of time).

    Now, all of this must have been done during the interview process itself. If for whatever reason you haven’t highlighted your strengths, this is your last chance. The hiring manager is usually the decision-maker too. So use your last chance wisely.

    However, I would ask you to be ready to hear a ‘No’. That’s a possibility too. If they believe they’ve been fair in their selection process, they’ll stick to their offer. Then the call rests with you. That’s when you ask yourself, “What are the things in a job offer that are you willing to give-up?” Make a checklist of things that you cannot give up, while maybe others you can give up. Which bucket does salary/compensation fall under?

    Ok, that was the nice me answering your first part of the question. I’ll move on to my candidate pet-peeve.

    You can't compare YOUR job offer with your friend's, even if both are from the same company. You just raised a big Red Flag!

    Worse, you brought it up in your discussions with the hiring manager. It screams that you don’t understand the hiring process. If you don’t know how it works, ASK. Understand the process and it will help you handle future interviews a lot better. If you brought up your friend’s salary /comp details, it tells the employer:

    - That their employee (your friend) is revealing salary details to candidates (you). That’s reason enough to land him in trouble. And hurt your chances of getting hired too.
    - By comparing yourself to your friend, you are creating a pseudo-benchmark for yourself.
    - Even if you do accept the offer and go on-board; the hiring manager is going to be on his guard for a long time. You wouldn’t like that. Really.

    So there you go. You know what you could do next and most importantly what you should not be doing in future. Make your checklist of things you are ok to let go and those that you aren’t ok with. Quick. Revert to the hiring manager with your reply.

    Good luck!

    PS: Another post about cost that might interest you

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009

    Learning on the job (flipside)

    Scene from a recent shopping experience at a sports shop:

    (Backdrop: There’s a sale at a particular sports shop. My wife went there in the morning and picked a t-shirt for me, which ended not being the right fit. During the purchase the sales guy at that time/shift had assured my wife that she could exchange it later if I didn’t like the fit/color. And off course only on terms that there was no damage caused to the goods purchased. Understandable. Later in the afternoon we tread our way back to the store to exchange the Tee and we end up meeting the sales guy from the next shift. Here’s what happens next…)

    My wife: Hi Joe (sales rep), I picked this t-shirt this morning, for my husband. The fit isn’t right for him and so I would like to exchange it for another one.

    Joe (thinks for a minute): Was this bought from the sale?

    Wife: Off course, that’s what I told you. Here’s the bill for reference.

    Joe: Ok, let me check.

    (Runs to his pal in the store to check and then returns)

    Joe: Sorry, that was the last one and we don’t have another one to exchange it against. You’ll have to keep it (offers no other solution, lost his chance to ‘WOW’).

    Me: (!!!! Momentarily dumbfounded): Ok. Since it doesn’t fit me well, I cannot wear it. So could I buy another t-shirt not from the sale but at retail price and I’ll pay you the difference?

    Joe (thinks again): Sorry. No. You can’t do that! Since your wife bought this at the sale, not from the retail section. You’ll have to keep it (Second chance, to give an alternate solution. Lost.)

    Me (slightly agitated): Why can’t I exchange it for another one that costs more? You’ll stand to gain more money. (Makes sense, right?)

    Joe: Sorry. I was informed (by his colleague) that the system doesn’t allow us to do that.

    Me: So you telling me you can’t exchange it because a system that you are in control, doesn’t let you do it! Ridiculous. Can you please check with your manager?

    Joe: (Again runs off to check with his manager & returns. Smiling.): Yes, he says you can exchange it. Sorry for the trouble, I’m new here and learning on the job.

    Result: T-shirt exchanged for another one from a retail section and difference amount is paid. The store stood to make more money and we got a better Tee.

    I’m a big fan of learning on the job. Don’t get me wrong when I tell you that learning on the job is dangerous. There’s a powerful downside to learning on-the-job.

    - You really learn to approach things in a way your job-mentor would. No? That’s at least until you start thinking about the process or procedure to do certain things.
    - Most often there’s no written document to refer too. So you are called upon to use your judgment/discretion in handling queries.
    - There’s no budget allotted for employee training and development. So your sources of learning are colleagues, books (self-funded), networking sites or blogs. Sources that are FREE. The challenge is in identifying who is authentic and worth your time.

    So if you are an employee asked to learn on the job:
    Here's a few things that you might want to watch out for:

    - Ask questions. Listen. Ask questions. Listen…continue the learning process.

    - Understand the escalation hierarchy. If your colleague (peer) is your max ceiling. It’s trouble. Get access to leads/managers.

    - USE your discretion. The Company either tested you for it or knows you are good with using discretion. Don’t stop that.

    - Are you allowed to make mistakes? Or do you get pulled up for each one you make? Helps you understand the Company’s stand.

    - Go ahead and network furiously. It's the best way to help you learn on the job. Are you on FaceBook, Orkut, Twitter, LinkedIn? No? Start now.

    - If you are uncomfortable/don’t like roles that require you to learn on the job. DO NOT accept the job offer. You'll end up doing a big disservice to yourself.

    - Last, don’t forget to use Common Sense. It’s a powerful tool. (Sorry, that was sarcastic) But far too many of us tend to ignore it.

    If you are an Employer promoting learning on the job: A few pointers that you could take into consideration.

    - First, hire right. Many people like documentation at work that they could follow during their initial days. And if you don't have any, then maybe such people will have difficulty with the learn-on-the-job working style. You are better off hiring people who have had prior learning-on-the-job experience.

    - There will be mistakes. Don’t get too critical. Better off giving constructive feedback. It’s part of an employee’s learning curve.

    - Allow them to question. It will help tweak/build your processes and also understand their thinking methodology.

    - While hiring, tell candidates that the role requires them to learn on the job. And dig deep during interviews to know their comfort with such an approach at work. Interviews that are situation-based would help immensely.

    - If you have hired right, you’ll have employees who know to use discretion. A powerful skill-set. Especially when it’s learning on the job. Allow them to use it.

    I’ve been a one-man HR team for long enough and have mostly learnt on the job. I’ve noticed that people are either comfortable or they are not, when it comes to learning on the job. It’s best to decide whether you want to take up a role that requires it.

    I would love to hear thoughts from readers who have built their careers in similar fashion. Do share them.

    Sunday, September 6, 2009

    Would you trade your iPOD for this?

    I'm convinced that this cool gadget from Sony has got me hooked! The question I'm asking: Would you trade your iPOD for this? :) Check this ad out...

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Cost is just a negotiation tool!

    Yes, it is. Especially when hiring highly skilled talent and its true in a good market or otherwise. Agree? No? Read on.

    The reason I bring this up is because as much as we deny, cost is a major driving factor in hiring. And needless to say, managers want the best bang for the buck. That’s understandable. But don’t we know that you always get what you pay for? Yet for some reason hiring managers aren’t willing to buy that reason. If you believe that’s right. It’s easy to understand why a candidate will not take a sub-standard offer even in a bad job market. If you still persist with a sub-standard compensation, the candidate might eventually relent, but only until such time that the market improves. And when that happens, you can be sure that he’ll be in the first one out.

    Think about any product you recently purchased that you felt was overpriced. Then you started using it only to realize that the benefits were so awesome, you even recommended it to your friends. That’s the ROI on cost. It works the same way with hiring too. The initial high price is long forgotten once performance kicks in. The tough and laborious part is in identifying who makes that cut, a.k.a, the selection process.

    The flipside is obvious. Things don’t work out and you’re forced to move on. Now, far too many hiring managers take that path since it’s a safer option to assume. Have you ever known a manager who’ll pass a chance to tell, “I told you so!”? Never. It’s also the very reason that many hiring managers generalize the selection process and avoid taking that extra effort in hiring right. The ones that take it get the rewards. They hire high caliber candidates who go on to build better products/services.

    So how do we resolve this issue?

    As a candidate:

    Understandably you are looking for a job real bad. But wouldn’t hurt to take a step back and evaluate your career too.

    - Don’t accept that offer just because you want that job. Really. When you realize its not what you want to do (maybe a few months into the job) you’ll end up hurting your career in more ways than one.
    - Your ex-colleague got paid more. That’s not reason enough to ask for the same amount. Build your own case.
    - Taking up a job offer to let go later has its own consequences. It could range anywhere from burning bridges to hurting future references. Absolute no-no.
    - Prepare yourself with enough information which will help you decide better. Make a checklist of things that you cannot give up, while others maybe you can. Which bucket does cost/salary fall under?
    - When you go prepared with enough information on how much you are willing to negotiate, it helps to stay away from low-balling yourself!
    - Also, it’s critical that you sell your value. If you can’t communicate your worth to them, they’ll do that assessment for you! Really.

    As an employer :

    Answer this.

    - Does the role really need very high caliber candidates?
    - Or are you hiring high caliber candidates just because they are now easily available at lower cost?

    Your real answer will determine whether you have a problem on your hands or not. If you ignore it now, it will catch up sooner than later. Maybe a few months down the line. The only person getting fooled otherwise is still you.

    Here’s the final take: Cost is just a negotiation tool. The one who knows to use it well, ends up getting the better end of the deal.

    It’s now obvious. right?