Monday, June 29, 2009

My blog's on Alltop!

Is there a place to get all the latest HR news/updates/blog posts? Yes! The answer is Alltop and you can check out the latest HR news here. It’s pretty cool. They help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. They do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a particular topic. More like an “online magazine rack” of the web.

Now, you can find
my blog in the HR category! Thanks to AllTop, for including me in it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Perplexed! Questions from an entry level candidate

I got this query from a reader, in context with a previous post written here.

“Starting as a fresher/entry level candidate my only objective is to land myself a job no matter which or what and that is only because I really have no idea about what to expect from a workplace or the work itself. I have sent out my resumes to few companies. I have a few questions:

1. My resume is pretty empty. I have mentioned my academic details and a few other activities that I was a part of in school and college. Is there anything else I can add to make it look better?
2. How important is it to mention my objective? I ask this reading the previous post.
3. How much weight are my scores given? I do not exactly have an impressive marks card.”

First, I suppose you shouldn't be thinking along the lines, “I’m ready for any job on the earth!” Really. Thinking that way will hurt your chances even more. You’re asking how? Going down that way will encourage you take up jobs that don’t complement your education or course in any useful way. Unless that’s what you want! Else, you might take up a job with the intention of looking out for a relevant one later. But more often than not, any job will require your 100% time & effort, which will only make it tougher for you to look for the right one. The trial & error method will cost you precious career time. If you still are unsure, I suggest you meet with a career counselor.

How else then do you get that initial break in your career? Sending resumes to companies isn’t going to help either, unless you are sending it to someone who really matters in that organization. Otherwise, you are just adding to their resume database and chances that they’ll retrieve it later are very rare. Unless your resume speaks of something very niche. Having said that, there’s so much more you can do to make your resume stand out.

I’ll take your questions one at a time:

1. My resume is pretty empty. I have mentioned my academic details and a few other activities that I was a part of in school and college. Is there anything else I can add to make it look better?

Good question. Yes, there are many other things you can add to your resume. But it will need some efforts to get there. How about a white paper in your area of work? That will definitely boost you chances of getting noticed. Write about the books from prominent authors which you had referred to during your course (if any). Also, mention some of the prominent websites that you frequently visited to gather information. This will hopefully help the recruiter and hiring manager understand your efforts spent to learn more. Can you provide two excellent references from the industry? If yes, then put them on the resume. Off course you need to let them know before you do that. You must have done some projects in your final semester. Right? Then you should explain your role in detail! Yes, the team achieved it together, but what was your contribution in getting it done?

2. How important is it to mention my objective? I ask this reading the previous post.

Not many pay attention to the objective. But since you asked me, I do read it while reviewing resumes. It tells me a lot about the candidates and their real intentions. Don’t try and write something generic like, “I’m seeking a position to utilize my abilities and skills in a challenging and creative environment that offers professional growth and career opportunities”. That’s nice to read & looks straight out of a Google search. But it’s not telling me where you want to utilize your skills! Make your objective the focal point of your resume. Agreed it will narrow down your chances of making it in other fields. That’s a call you take, unless you are again ready for the trial & error method for finding the right job.

3. How much weight are my scores given? I do not exactly have an impressive marks card.

If your plans are to find work in an area that complements your education, then unfortunately, your scores matter. At least at the entry level. Otherwise, it’s ok. Else, your degree will be an add-on feature for a job that doesn’t really require it. Such as, if you hold a degree in chemical engineering and land yourself in HR, your degree will not add much value to the HR role. Except for your engineering based analytical skills, this again can only be demonstrated. Get yourself to take up tests (more like a certification in your area of interest) that matters and put that on your resume.

A few other things you may want to keep in mind:

Cover Letter! Write up an excellent cover letter. Don’t make it bland and boring to read. It should talk about your personality in words. It should tell the hiring manager/recruiter: your strengths, reasons for opting for the current role, your understanding of that particular industry, answer the question - why do you want to work for them?, the efforts that you are ready to put into the role.

Network! Yes, there are social networking sites like Orkut, MySpace and even Facebook. But I suggest you get onto LinkedIn which is a professional networking site. Get to know recruiters, people in your area of interest, you need to go out there and make some noise.

Take up contract based roles! Agreed, it’s not on your mind right now. But it’s worth a shot. Take up that contract job (yes! it will pay less) but it'll help you garner valuable work experience. You could put that on your resume.

As obvious as it seems, it won’t be easy. But it’ll stay that way unless you take that extra step and put in more efforts in the right direction. Beware of complacency!

Good luck with your job search! I’m sure you will get a really good role soon.

PS: Make sure your resume is not more than two pages. It has to pass through the 30 second scan!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Don't know why, but everytime I see this ad from Tata Motors (the same company that purchased Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford last year) it gets me into a contemplative mood.

Before you ask. No. I'm not buying a new car yet. The current one still has a long way to go. Maybe, it's telling me that I need to take that long pending break and head out of town for a nice vacation with my wife! Ahhh, vacation! It could also be their catch phrase (Reclaim Your Life) that's making me feel that way. Darn. Work's piling up. I need to stop watching this ad, at least for now.

Do you like this ad too? Any thoughts?

PS: I dont own this vehicle so I am not going to comment on it either. It's just the ad and nothing else that interests me. Needed this disclaimer, lest the automobile experts write their review here!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yes, it's ok to disagree with your manager.

Got this from a reader:

“My manager is becoming very difficult to handle. Off late, he has even started using abusive language at work. It’s having a negative effect on the entire team. To an extent where he isn’t even ready to listen to us; he only wants to hear a YES from us. My work requires me to come up with new/fresh ideas regularly and his attitude is making it difficult for me to work productively. There are times when I want to disagree with his plans, but he just isn’t willing to even consider my plan. It doesn’t look like a work related issue, since the team is performing well and the overall business is fine. It looks more like a personal issue. I feel we shouldn’t be bearing the brunt for his personal issues. If I need to do a good job, then I need to disagree on a few things. What can I do to improve the current situation? Can I approach his reporting manager?”

Ok, if what you have told me is the fact and nothing but the fact, then your manager is acting like a jerk. He is doing the mistake of carrying his personal issues to work. Agreed, most of them do that, but as a manager he is in the spotlight and far too many people are dependent on his actions. So, yes, he needs to be told about it and real fast. Just make sure that your discussions are professional. By making it a blame game will only trigger his frustrations to higher levels. Check for a good time to meet him to discuss in person. Don’t try and write an email. It’s counter-productive.

Start your conversation with being honest, open and candid about the recent events. Maybe, a couple of situations will help him understand why you feel that way. There’s a catch though, he might end up not accepting your explanation and might flatly refuse to acknowledge your discussion. Really. So be ready for denial too.

Can you approach his reporting manager? I would suggest you don’t. At least not until you have spoken in-person with your manager. The last thing he would want is a confrontation with his boss based on your (or the team's) report to the management. Quite sure he wouldn’t take it well. With that approach, you’ll make life at work a lot tougher.

What can you do to improve your current situation? Again, sit down with your manager and have a candid discussion. Tell him your work is getting affected and you want to find a way to make things better. Go with solutions. Most often that’s the part that is missing. The discussions usually veer towards who’s at fault. It’s bound to fail. Instead, make a note of his plan and you could tell him something along these lines, “I’ll give it a good shot. However, here’s another way I feel that we could get better results. . I would like to try out both solutions. You could then decide on the best one.” Be ready to listen, to answer questions or even to take feedback. Chances are he might say yes or downright reject your plans. After all, he is still your manager.

He is getting abusive! I wouldn’t take it lying down. Really. You do not need to take abuse at work. That’s a no-no. Here’s some advice on dealing with abusive managers:
confront or walk-out?

You’ll definitely feel having these discussions with a manager isn’t easy. Especially if he’s the type you’ve explained. So it would do you good to show tact and use discretion in your discussions with him. But do have those discussions; avoiding him should not be an option.

The bottom line is that you need to decide if you really want to work for this manager or not. Is it worth working with him? Are there any chances of shifting to a different project under another manager? If not, then you might do well to start looking for a new job with hope of finding a better manager.

Until you decide, it’s back to work. Good luck!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Square pegs in round holes?

Do folks from start-ups fit into large organizations?

That’s a question which recently sparked a heated debate. I’ve made that transition and it wasn’t easy. There’s always a tendency to play devil’s advocate with some hope to arrive at the best decision. That’s very unlikely to happen. Really. You’ll get deeper into the debate of which is better – startups or large organizations? Candidates will eventually choose one of them for reasons they believe will work best for them and that will be irrespective of the market condition. That’s the bottom-line.

However, I’ve noticed far too many of them even after weighing their pros and cons end up making the wrong choice. Before they know it, they’re stuck! The lure of the start-up making it big fades away once the funding goes dry, working hours stretched to its limit, personal life is taking a beating and so is the case of a guy who feels lost without freedom, creativity and individuality at a large organization.

Did folks involved in hiring either of them get it wrong? They could have spent a little more time understanding the candidate’s needs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why the 'Copy & Paste' strategy won't work...

I’m not sure if the market is recovering or not. But you may have noticed the trend in my recent recruitment related posts. Yes! I’m currently on hiring mode! And getting a little annoyed reviewing resumes. Why?

Far too many candidates are sending resumes which looks like a replica of their team member’s resume! Guess what? Both of them are applying for the same role! Really. There just cannot be a worse deal breaker than plagiarizing your friend’s resume. You are doing a big disservice first to yourself and then to your friend. The job market isn’t great right now and this strategy is only ensuring both do not get interview calls. So why are candidates doing this knowing (hopefully) it’s wrong?

Here’s why I think candidates do it:

- Their friend (who is part of the same team) had used the services of a resume writing agency. He had paid for getting his resume written. Excellent! He did the right thing, since he couldn’t put together a great resume. So now the candidate start thinking, “We work for the same company, team, project, have the same skill-sets, etc. So it wouldn’t matter if I just copied his resume.” Not sure how they got your friend to agree to this idea. Really.
- A particular company and job which they were targeting had just hired a friend/team member. So again the candidate thought the company wouldn’t notice if his resume contents look very familiar and even applied for the same job. That’s a disastrous idea. Companies (irrespective of size) maintain their own versions of candidate databases. Remember? The same recruiter could be reviewing your resume and he isn’t impressed.
- Laziness got the better of the candidate! It’s a really lame (I would even say, dumb) excuse for copying a friend’s resume. The resume got a blacklisted or the recruiter raised a big red flag.
- The candidate couldn’t think of words that best explain his job on paper. Really! If the candidate can’t explain his work, then would his friend be able to do that for him? It’s a tough ask.

But there's hope. It's not completely lost as yet. If you are a candidate currently looking for a new job, then you may want to know more about resume writing and how to to make your resume count. Check the links below.

Resume Writing: Standard Template
Make your resume count!

At a time when the job market isn’t really doing great, plagiarizing is only going to make your job search a lot tougher and will definitely hamper your chances of landing a job. It’s time to give the resume a lot more importance. Yes, keep it real.

PS: Any recruiters reading this blog? Please do share your thoughts on ways to improve resume writing that would help candidates with their job search. Look forward to hear your thoughts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What's your objective?

I’ve so far been asked questions from readers. This time around its my turn to ask the readers a question.

“You may have interviewed for a new role in the recent past or at least once in your career or you may even be getting ready to start your first job. Your resume will be the one doing the initial talking with prospective employers. So is your resume answering the most basic question companies are asking of candidates: “What’s your objective?”

Yes. That’s the question that runs in my mind whenever I review resumes too. What does the candidate really want to do in his career? What prompted the candidate to apply for the role? The answer lies hidden in the objective on the resume. Most often, I would go the extent of saying nearly 50% of them, don’t even have an objective on their resume! Really. They may have their reasons to not include it in the resume. But if I have to screen a hundred resumes a day and the candidate isn’t helping me understand why he should be considered, then I either figure the candidate’s objective is to fit into whatever we have to offer or he isn’t sure of what he wants to do. In both cases, the uncertainty will result in either the company or candidate realizing their mistake and some drastic steps will soon follow.

If you don’t have an objective on the resume, then I suggest you go ahead and put one now. But before you start typing furiously, give it some deep thought. You don’t want to Google and find an objective from someone else’s resume! Really. Think about an objective that screams, “I want a challenging role in an environment that encourages continuous learning and advancement”. It’s so clich├ęd. You can be sure that it was ripped off from someone’s resume. Yes, the message is loud and clear. But just how are you going to achieve your objective? What according to you is the learning and advancement you want in your career? That should have been the real objective.

Objectives work like milestones. Yes, you want to become a manager, that’s your five year plan. Great! Glad you know what you want to do, but that according to you will happen only five years from now. But that doesn't help the recruiter or hiring manager to know your plan between now and five years hence. Get the picture? It further helps the recruiters/hiring manager to fit you into another team within the company. You could stand to lose that opportunity as well.

I suppose, maybe, just maybe, the fear of committing to an objective still lingers in the candidate’s mind. It gives a false sense of flexibility! Well, if you aren’t sure of what you want to do, then don’t expect the company to read your mind.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How many times do I repeat myself?

An interviewee writes:

“I’m in the process of a job change and have been interviewing with a few select companies that match my profile. During the interview process I’ve noticed a particular trend: different interviewers at various phases of the interview process are asking the same questions. Is there a reason for the interviewers to do this or is it just lack of questions to ask?”

It might look like I’m sitting on the fence with this one. But the answer has a bit of both yes and no. Yes, there is a reason for different interviewers to ask the same question. No, they don’t need to do it. Yes, one possible reason could be lack of questions to ask. No, the repeat question could be one that interviewers use to kick-off an interview or build onto an interview.

Why would different interviewers ask you the same question(s)? First thing that comes to mind, (if the interviewers are well coordinated among themselves) it’s primarily to ensure that you are consistent with your answers and authentic too. There are far too many candidates who jump the gun and answer questions without realizing that it’s the same question that was asked earlier. The interviewers are making a note of your answers. Later, they’ll convene in a small conference room to discuss your answers and if you’ve answered inconsistently; they’ll tell you something on the lines of, “Someone from HR will get in touch with you later.” 8 out of 10 times that means you didn’t make it. Move on to the next company. Take this as learning. That’s a best case scenario.

Second, we move to an adhoc interviewing process. The interviewers have no clue what their colleague asked you earlier. So they feel its ok to ask you again, “Tell me more about yourself”. Arrgghh…. you start your answer like a broken record. This type of process is noticed more during marathon interviews where you have 4-5 hours and have to meet 7 different people! Phew! That means both interviewers and you are racing against time. The interviewers don’t have the time to meet and discuss feedback. So they’ll ask away. Even if it’s the same question the other 5 of them had asked you.

So there you go. Also, I wouldn’t recommend you to tell them you have already answered the same questions earlier. They’ll read into as “candidate not flexible”! Really.

I understand it’s really dumb to waste time & efforts answering the same questions repeatedly. In case you are interviewing for a senior position which will require you to interview candidates later. You’ll know what to do. Till then, hang on, drink some coffee or chug on that Red Bull or just bite into that candy bar, whatever it takes, to recharge your energy. The next interviewer will meet you in 5 minutes.

Good luck with your interviews!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bring your own shoes!

Question I got from the audience in a forum:

“I’ve just transitioned into a new role within my current company. I was told that the previous manager who held that position for over three years had done a fabulous job which got him promoted. Recently, everybody I’ve met from the top management has been telling me, “You’ve got some big shoes to fill!” Although I understand their expectations, don’t such remarks put unnecessary pressure on the new person? This isn’t an HR issue or question. But can’t the management avoid such remarks and give the new person some time to prove himself? Any thoughts on how to handle the situation”

Well, I did answer the query at the forum. Here’s the answer in as many words as possible.

First, I presume your management has done its due diligence in identifying the right candidate for the role. So unless they didn’t find you suitable, you would not have been offered the position. Right? That’s simple. They have placed their trust in you to get the job done and hence there are bound to be expectations. The previous manager’s success has only increased their expectations.

Yes. The management can avoid such remarks when they meet you, at least not in their first interaction. Maybe, they are saying this for lack of anything better to say. You’ll need to watch out for something more important; Are they just asking you to deliver results? Or are they telling you that they understand you have big shoes to fill and you can count on their support till you find your footing? So here’s a reply that you could use: “Thanks for the heads-up! I’m confident that I’ll deliver results and I’ll need your support to achieve it.” This answer could convey to them that they are partly responsible for your success too. The management cannot just identify a successor and throw him into deep waters. If that happens, you'll have more trouble than you expect.

A few things that you may want to try in your new role:

- Have patience: You’ll hear the big-shoes-to-fill line at least a million times within the first month. Tell yourself that these are new folks who are yet to see you perform magic. They’ll eventually be singing your praises to the next manager.

- Accept the previous manager’s achievements: You might have a few things to learn from your predecessor’s work. Acknowledge it. While you don’t want copy his style, he might have done a few things that you could follow/continue too.

- Self-doubt can be fatal: Really. You will get to hear a lot of the previous manager’s work being rated excellent; if you don’t know when to stop listening and start working. You will end up doubting yourself in that role! That’s fatal. Remember the management chose you for the role, someone must has noticed your potential.

- Can’t change things overnight: It’s a fact. Give the team and management some time to get used to your style of working. You may have some great ideas, but you need the team to execute it. So get the team to believe in your work. That is a process you don’t want to hurry.

- Bring your own shoes! – You have a long distance to run and its best done with your own pair of shoes! Really. Try and do your own things, like building strategies, team management, setting team objectives, etc., Off course it needs to be alignment with the business goals. Else, you'll end spending energy by running the wrong race!

Good luck in your new role!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Manager Time-Zone: Morning, Noon, Evening

The Morning Manager

He loves the mornings. Starts his day at 5:30am and wraps it up by 3:30pm. Heck, when he was getting ready to leave for work today, you were brushing your teeth! Doesn’t matter if he was at the same party last evening, he’s just a morning person. If possible, he’ll wait for you at the office door! Just to check on the time (to the last nanosecond) you came into work. Late today? You did yourself a huge disservice. Today will have 36 hours! The first 10 hours will be spent listening to the manager asking you (a million times), “Why can’t you be on time?” And then he’ll rattle off a list of opportunities that you missed by coming in late. It could just be 0.000000001 of a second. But, it’ll be counted as late!

If you report to such a manager, it’s tough luck. Say good bye to some fun evenings and set your clock to a new time zone known as ‘Morning- Manager-Time-Zone’.

Things that will keep this manager happy (Read: away from your neck):
- Walk in early to work. Daily. Your name just got added to his favorite’s list. It doesn’t matter if you don’t accomplish anything till 11:00am. Seriously.
- He’ll insist on you completing your tasks within lunch time. Hurray! You got yourself an extended lunch break! Walk up to that favorite restaurant two blocks away and enjoy the meal.
- Call him when you know you’ll be late to work. Make that call at least 15 mins before your deadline.
- Reasons that won’t work: “Got held up in traffic”, “Had to drop the kids off at school”, “Had to prepare breakfast for the family”. He’s been there & done that.

The Noon Manager

He’ll walk in late to work. Maybe, he was on call with a client across time-zones that stretched into late night. So you think. So it may not always be. For this manager, the sun rises only at 11:30am. He walks into the office in frenzy; people have been at work for almost 4 hours! He has tons of things to catch up. So all team members will now have to spend an hour just to update him. He’s missed some vital calls with the clients, his manager has left a couple of voice messages asking for him, a hundred mails needs his attention and replies too – the list never ends. He spends the next four hours sorting out things that started early in the morning. He missed the bus! And he’ll ensure you miss it you, later in the evening.

If you report to such a manager: Keep that update-mail ready! Send it to him as soon as he enters office. That way, you’ll have time to finish your tasks without hindrance.

Things that will keep this manager happy:
- If you are first to update him on things that has happened since morning. By mail is best, that way he won’t have to ask you again!
- When work gets done irrespective of him being late! Wow! The team rocks!

The Evening Manager

He’s the most unnerving among the three. And a top contender in the worst manager category! Why? He comes into work - on time, completes his tasks – on time, takes his coffee & lunch breaks – on time, wraps up his work for the day – on time. You notice something? He has allotted time to finish only his part of the work. This means by the time he is done with his part it’s 4:00pm!! That’s when he realizes he has to allot your part of the job and ask you to complete it the same day! The client is waiting; the production team is depending on you! Wow! Suddenly, you seem to be in the hot seat! He then proceeds to finish his day & head home at 5:01pm. While you sit at office making calls to cancel dinner with spouse, cancel your date to the movies; tell your kids you’re held up at work! Phew! The evening just got stretched!

If you report to such a manager: Go ahead and have a word with him. Tell him you will do your part of the project; that you like meeting deadlines too; but it would be good to give you more lead time, which will guarantee better results.

Whom do you work for?

Promoting Company's Culture: Just how cool is this idea!?!?!?

Recently started to follow Zappos CEO - Tony Hsieh on Twitter. His latest tweet was this amaziing video that the Zappos Pipeline/Training team put together for their internal all hands meeting!! The video is so cool & it definitely rocks! An absolutely amazing idea to promote your company's culture!

Culture is the start-point or key for employees to form a cohesive and successful team. It becomes viral when your employees know exactly what the company stands for!

Check out the video here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Life in HR: Lessons from Calvin & Hobbes

I’ve been a fan of CalvinandHobbes for a very long time! Somehow my current situation has struck a cord with this particular comic-strip.

Can you relate to it too? I’ll know I’m not the only one going through a rough patch!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Run! Run! Run!

Had been tweeting about it for sometime now! D-Day did start at 5:30am on a beautiful Sunday morning and it was time for me to put on those jogging shoes and hit the road. The Sunfeast World 10k event was held in Bangalore (second year) and it provided an excellent platform for runners (both professionals & amateurs) to showcase their running skills and also an opportunity for fund-raising. And I had to do my bit too on both counts.

The crowd was awesome - more than 23,000 runners turned up for the event! Sure there were
winners in the professional category, but the day belonged to each of those who chose to sacrifice their Sunday morning for a good cause. I did manage to get a good run in the Open 10k event and even exceeded my own expectations by completing the 10kms run in less than 56 minutes! The adrenaline in the crowd was enough to get all runners (across various age groups) over the finish line. I got to meet some truly amazing people from all around the world. If you are reading this post, hope to see you all again next year!

Finally, here’s a shout-out to all participants who turned a boring Sunday morning into wonderful day! Keep runnin’…

PS: Thanks dad for running in the senior-citizens category. And you made it in the Top 15 among 4,000 runners! You are just amazing and my true inspiration for this event!