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.