Thursday, May 12, 2011

Managers, clones and hiring

Have you ever experienced an interview where managers are looking at hiring candidates that are clones/replica of themselves? And then you get back from the discussion wondering if it was for a role that you didn’t fit into. Or, you got hired for a role that held much more promise than the one you eventually got.

It’s not an uncommon scenario. The easiest way for a manager to conquer the hiring heights is to look for candidates that match the job description 100% and yet would bring in a bit more competency to the table. It’s an ideal scenario that has, less ramp-up time, good fit and most importantly easy to manage. They’re easy to manage (or at least so it seems) because they already know what needs to be done. Zero conflict situation. Perfect.

Except that they are far too many issues that will crop up in due course of time. That’s when the ‘safe’ managers will take a hit. Imagine a situation where the product needs a new roadmap to be defined and everyone at the table thinks alike! Breaking news: The product just got killed.

What should you do if you are a manager stuck in this hiring situation? First and most importantly, don’t benchmark candidates against the last person in that role. Treat each candidate’s competency differently. Assess your current team’s strength and hire to fix gaps. Be prepared to accept new perspectives. Give the candidate some room to learn things in the role. Finally, be ready to take risks (at least the calculated ones) as a manager. If you can’t, then ask yourself if you are in the right role.

What should you do if you are a candidate stuck in this situation? You were promised a meatier role, but ended up in a role that’s identical to your last job. It’s time to communicate with your manager. Understand the duration of your current responsibilities in the role. If it’s for a fixed duration, then ask for a timeline to start taking on more/newer things. I’m quite sure there’s no manager (in their right senses) that would say ‘No’ to a team member asking to take on work. If the answer is no, the responsibilities will continue for an indefinite time, it’s a call you need to take. Are you willing to continue or move on?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Can I tag along for an interview?

I got this question at a discussion forum with friends.

Can I tag along for an interview?

Adding a little more context to the question; the person asking the question comes with a background of approx 5-6 years of work experience and has been on the look out for a another job for the last few months. He hasn’t yet received a call from any prospective employer. Another person in the forum got an interview call with a company for a job that matches the original poster’s profile. This wasn’t a walk-in interview. It was a scheduled one. Should he just tag along with his friend?

The short & quick answer is – No. Please don’t tag along with your friend for an interview.

Now, here’s a bit more explanation. There are at least three different sets of people involved in this situation. In order of priority: Your friend. Company/Firm. Yourself.

First, let’s take your friend’s situation. He’s might have known you long enough and doesn’t want to end up saying ‘No’ (which he ideally should say). Yet, you are putting him on the spot by asking to tag along. It’s his interview call and let him go for it. The best you can get from your friend would be the mail ID of either the recruiter or hiring manager to send your resume. Tagging along would put him and yourself in an awkward situation at the interview.

Second, let’s see the company perspective. Yes, they would love to talk to another candidate, but it’ll have to be on another day too. This just happened to be a ‘scheduled’ interview. It means that time and effort of the interview panel was planned. They definitely can’t accommodate another unplanned candidate into their schedule. They’ll ask you to send your updated resume to them for consideration. Save yourself and them the trouble and wait for your friend to get back from the interview.

Finally, from your perspective, this is a great opportunity. Agreed. But you’ll end up messing the opportunity it if you tag along. Typically, companies would like to review a candidate’s resume before they initiate a discussion. And possibly even have a telephonic discussion before meeting you in-person. That hasn’t happened in your case, they’ll have to say ‘No’ to you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Candidate Tip - Part 10

I started the ‘Candidate Tip Series’ on this blog with the intent to answer recruitment related questions from readers. The series was also introduced in an attempt to avoid redundancy in replies. I tweet these tips on my twitter account too, and use the hash-tag #candidatetip.

If you are a candidate, hope this helps. If not, you can help send this post to people searching for answers. I’ll continue to take questions and should you have one, you can send it to

Looking for the earlier posts on candidate tips? You can read them here

  1. Putting your spouse's contact number on your resume isn't a great idea. Recruiter's would want to talk to the candidate.

  2. Not a good idea to place an interviewer 'on-hold' during an interview. And not return to the call even after 5 mins! Enough reason to reject.

  3. Words like 'hyper-active' don't sound great on your cover letter. You may want to rephrase.
  4. Using wi-fi connectivity during interviews is fine. Just don’t get hooked to it and forget the very reason for being there.

  5. Use your name as the file/doc name for your CV. Eg: .doc/.pdf. Names like 'Cool Boy', 'HR Bull', 'Chosen One' sound insane!

  6. If you're referred by a friend for a job at the company he works, let him know you'll meet him after the interview. Stay focused.

  7. Avoid using acronyms in interviews. Else, first give context and then use it. Saying BRX, MNJ, XYZ means nothing to anyone outside your current company. Explain it.

  8. It's ok to follow-up with the recruiter/hiring manager on the status of your interview. A couple of mails should be fine. Don’t go over-board. If they still don’t reply, you wouldn’t want to work for them
  9. .

  10. It's not a good sign when you want re-negotiate the job offer after you’ve accepted it. Think.

  11. Take time. Read. Re-read. Ask questions. And only then say ‘Yes’.

  12. It's ok to ask the hiring manager a few questions on his/her style of management. You'll know if it works for you or not.

  13. Try to not change your contact number(s) in the middle of an interview process. If you really have to change it, keep the recruiter informed.

  14. It's not a great idea to take another interview on phone, while you wait in the lobby for the present one to start! Not. A. Good. Idea.

  15. Coming from a competitor definitely gives you an edge, but you still need to ace the interviews. Take nothing for granted!

  16. Aggressiveness is an asset. Don't demonstrate by hitting the discussion table, to make ur point! It's not the same trait.

  17. Getting a presentation to an interview is fine. Just don't force it on the interviewer; unless it was asked of you.

  18. If you're invited for an interview outside the employer's office, it's your call whether to want to take it there or not.

  19. Good hiring managers look for two must-have things in managerial candidates: (1) Emotional Quotient (2) Intelligence Quotient. Go prepared.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things to do in your notice period...

  • Plan, document and share a list with things that you will to complete during your notice period.
  • Prepare a manual that captures everything that your team or manager might require in your absence.
  • Documentation would help your colleagues to deal with things in your absence or at least till they identify your successor.
  • If you have some time to spare, volunteer to help out colleagues with their work.
  • Help your manager with the process of identifying your successor. Even helping with interviews would suffice.
  • Be ready to take calls or mails (for atleast a week) from your manager/team member asking for your help while your successor/manager works through the transition period.
Take a minute and re-read the points above. To be honest, you would want your team member or peer or even your manager to do these things during their notice period! It’s always good to leave on good terms with an employer. Getting good references are one part of the deal. The other part, and the important part, will be if you cross paths with your manager/peer in the future, they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to be hired.

  • Walk in late to work everyday.
  • Don’t care a damn about the remaining work in the project. Someone else will clean your mess. No?
  • Delay sending your reports and don’t get on any conference call(s).
  • Don’t agree to take on more work, after all you’ve resigned. How can they allot new/more work to you? Absolutely crazy, no?
  • Spend a ton of time on social networking sites.
  • Delete everything from your mailbox. Everything.
  • Send a farewell mail ranting about everything from the a/c, cafeteria, and size of your cubicle and color of the walls!
And before you actually exit the company; you can be rest assured that you’ve burnt enough bridges to last a lifetime. Even worse, you could be at the receiving end of such treatment at a later stage in your career. Ever thought about that? Maybe, it’s time.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Last weekend, my wife & I had been to Pizza Hut for dinner. Oh yes, Pizza is considered dinner when you don’t have too many options. We got to our table and were given the menu card to place an order. All along the guy serving us was doing everything that was expected of his job; attentive, polite, courte, well-mannered and multi-tasking. All along he was a good listener and kept up with the pace in the place. We got served some tasty pizza and then came the surprise of the evening! Time for the check/bill. No, I’m not going to complain about the cost or taxes or any such thing…go ahead and have a look at the bill.

Wow! Just. Wow. This was absolutely wonderful and it’s got a personal touch. To be honest, this happened the second time around (last time was a few months back). Hence, it deserves this time and space on the blog!

Are you a manager wondering how to identify top talent within your team?

This display of ‘wow’ right here should act as an example. There were at least 8 other people serving tables at the place. Among them this was a stand-out performance. He didn’t need to do anything different, rather was not required of his role to do anything different. Yet, he chose to go the extra mile, take the extra step and deliver awesome customer experience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dream Company or Dream Job?

Here’s the scenario:

You’ve heard the company and researched a lot about them too. It’s the company that you’ve dreamt of from the day you got into college. You’ve been waiting for a chance to interview with them ever since. Now, they’ve called you for an interview! You’re totally thrilled and expect them to put you into a role that you had in mind. You’ve cleared the interviews and got yourself a job offer. Based on the interview evaluations, they deemed you fit for another role. Unfortunately, it’s for a role that doesn’t interest you. However, it’s your Dream Company. What do you next?

Should you take the role because it’s in your dream company? And wait for them to give you the desired role at a later stage? Or should you focus on your career and the role that you want to get into? It might be with another company.

It really isn’t a tough decision, if you know what would keep you going. Typically, the idea of a dream job evolves over a period of time, even leading to major changes in your career path. Have you watched
MasterChef, the cookery show? Most of the contestants come from diverse career backgrounds and their passion – cooking is something they do at home. I wonder if they knew when they started their careers, whatever they studied for, would eventually lead them to becoming chefs?!?

Sorry, I digress!

Coming back to the dilemma (if we can call it that) at hand. The truth about careers is that once you choose a particular area of interest, you start investing your time and effort into that role. Before you know it, you start getting slotted as a specialist. So, effectively every day at work you are digging deeper into that particular role. It isn’t necessarily wrong, since you are increasing your chances of getting a better offer in your “dream role”. It’s more like spreading your net wider in the industry. It’ll open up newer avenues. There’ll be more companies interested in your profile, rather than just one specific dream company. In this mode, you’re chasing a specific goal; single-minded approach to being the best available talent in a particular area of work. It will no longer be about the company, it will be everything about you…and your job profile.

On the other hand, what if you choose your dream company irrespective of the role? I can only speak from experience; that at some point in time the dissatisfaction of the wrong role will begin to have negative effects. Think about it, eight to ten hours in a company that gives you awesome benefits, perks, salary and a role that isn’t interesting! On the contrary, you’d be getting lucky or may even be noticed for potential role match in your dream company. I guess that’s a minority. Maybe it’s just my own perspective. You might have your own thought process.

Bottom line, I would place my bet on people who work on increasing their chances of gaining knowledge and expertise in a particular field. Rather than opt to work for a dream company, which might require compromises in the role.

What’s your take?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why do employees quit?

Author: Balaji is on 'The HR Store' with his second guest post. (You can read his first guest post here). In this post, he brings his global/multi-geographical managerial experience to answer:

Why do employees quit?

Read on to know the major reasons...

There are tons of articles written and tons more on what to do if you think its time to leave your job! Owing to my experience of working with people at various leadership roles and having a fairly large and diverse set of teams over the years, here are the reasons I've uncovered as to why some one would want to leave a job. And a small quirk on what to do in those situations..... not in any particular order... the order of these points seem to be different for different folks... it is the idealogy of what is more important to you at that point in time when you took the decision!

I'm not really excited to come to the office on a Monday morning and am desperately waiting for the weekend

Try and spend some time to figure out what is the real reason for your lack of motivation. Did something your supervisor said tick you off? Or did the PYT opposite cube reject your advances? Really. That’s reason enough for someone to quit! It’s happened.
What ever be the reason, be mature about it and realize that a similar situation can arise in your new work environment as well! If you are able to tackle it now, then you will be clear in your actual intent of searching for a new job!

The company I work for is not known in the industry!
One of the companies I worked for in the initial segment of my career had an impressive clientele and interesting projects to work on. The company was not well-known; it was a startup. These kinds of companies, according to me, are the best places to begin your career! The startup companies in their intent to establish themselves might not be willing to pay well enough for talent, but are more than willing to elevate/promote someone internally at a later time. Also, start-ups let you unleash your creativity in the craziest of ways and really get away with it, in the name of experimentation and learning.

Am I making enough money?

This is a very situational and sometimes tricky situation to deal with. If you put your resume to pasture and got nabbed by some one paying an insanely huge amount (in comparison to your current paycheck) to have you on board... it sounds too good to be true... it most probably is true! But, if you have niche skills which actually got you a job that pays well, you should either negotiate with your existing company (providing you are not peeved with them totally) - remember the big fish small pond idiom? OR just take the new job and move on! Just don't burn any bridges! Do remember to keep your finances in check and have the ability to plan and project your expected earning requirement (for your planned expenses) - sounds tough, doesn't it?

Do my opinions count at work?

You would be surprised at how many people gripe that their opinion does not count, their voice is not heard and that they are just a part of a team! In this day and age of communication and openness, voicing your opinions actually mean a lot! Try and communicate during group meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Am I at the cutting edge?

This is a constant question which a lot of folks face, given the constant changing face and pace of the current job market! There are several scenarios here....are you in a position where your skills are not being used to the max? Are you working on something irrelevant, or having too much time on your hands? Then it is time to either have a talk with your supervisor or if you've already done that, evaluate your options and maybe its time to move on! If you are in a position where you constantly feel left out of the technical aspects of the work, you either need to upgrade yourself to the need of the project you are engaged in, or move to a different project/job where your current skills are in demand.

There will come a point in your career where you will need to make a decision whether you want to continue down the technical path - which will be a constant technical skill upgrades OR move into a different career path - say management. Again... management positions are not everyone's cup of tea. There is a fine balance between technical knowhow (not necessarily the technical skill required to complete a project), people management, politics and diplomacy. Work with your supervisor to use external facilities for getting trained in the required skills or you could even check you’re your internal training department.

Is there a Career path?

Defining a career path is as important for yourself as defining the route you will be taking while driving from point A to point B! If you do not define a career path for yourself, you are going with the flow, and not on your path! You may get lucky once in a while and land a plum position, but luck cannot keep you going forever, can it? When was the last time you've had a career path discussion with your supervisor and your HR? Part of your annual goals and objectives should be aligned towards your career path and assist you in attaining your personal career goals. If that is not happening, time to discuss with your supervisor.

Though this is not a major reason to leave an organization, I have faced situations where there is role-stagnation and you've done everything you need do in the role. You might feel challenged. You know every curve ball that this job is going to throw at you! There is lack of interest in you to perform the role.

We can go and find a multitude of reasons for wanting to leave a job and look for another, but the # 1 reason which a lot of HR folks state is that you don't leave an organization, but the company of people you work with! Which in a way is true.... it is the people who make up the organization. If you are unable to work with the people around you, look for the reasons, who knows, small changes may make an ocean of difference! Sometimes it may be an attitude adjustment.... in you!

Do remember... a lot us are are working in a very competitive global environment now. No longer in a plum government job, where seniority automatically begets you a promotion - unless you are actually in a government job! If you are not smart enough, an opportunity, either internal or external, may pass by you before you know it! If you have considered all options and are all set to make the career move... make it smart, keep your options open and keep the relations with people intact!

About the author:

Balaji is a seasoned manager with global experience in the IT industry, spanning multiple service & business lines. He has worked with several multinational companies and is currently working in the PMO office of a global equipment pooling organization.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interviews: Panel v/s One-to-one

Well, you’re ready for that all important interviews to begin and walk into the room…and you’ve walked into one of the two scenarios (or versions of it).

  • You come face-to-face with an interview panel of 2-4 (or at time even more) people waiting to start the interview.
  • or,
  • You have one person waiting to start the interview.

Either way, it isn’t a choice that you were given. Instead, you’ll have to deal with it as it unfolds. Well, here’s the take on both sides of the story. Which would you prefer?

Typically, panel interviews are practiced (or should be practiced) by companies with trained interviewers. It requires a set of people asking questions that aren’t redundant and focuses on evaluating different skills/topics. Since it involves more than one person asking varied questions, it’s perceived to be a lot tougher to focus. Yes, it’s difficult to gauge the pulse of everyone on the panel, but you can be assured that the final hiring call rests (or should rest) with the manager. We can argue that the panel interview saves time, cost, more focused and gives you an accurate decision/assessment. It also acts as a platform to train new interviewers. At the same time, it can be intimidating to the candidate, more stressful or might even confuse the candidate with different questions at the same time. More importantly, one can’t rule out the possibility of a dominant interviewer’s opinion affecting the hiring decision.

The only way to ace a panel interview, like in other formats, is to go prepared and stay relaxed.

On other hand, we have one-to-one interviews. It gives candidates enough time to answer each question systematically and in detail. It also gives the interviewer an opportunity to speak more openly and ask open-ended questions. More importantly, each discussion can be customized based on the candidate. It gives an opportunity for the hiring manager to evaluate the interviewer’s independent assessment of candidates. This takes away the bias of the ‘influencer’ in a panel interview. On the cons, it’s time consuming, costs are higher and the process is tedious.

So, if you had the option to choose a type of interview, what would it be?