Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quote | I don’t need anyone great

During coffee today with a buddy who is a killer sales professional in the staffing world, he shared a quote with me that I just love.   One of his clients was looking for a contract developer to add to his team and offered:

I don’t need anyone great, I need someone to get the work done

Remarkable.  Instead of good to great, we’re going from awesome to good.

Looking for a completely adequate developer?  That’s an awesome strategy for an adequate product, adequate growth and adequate ROI.  Let’s print the t-shirts right now!

I’m all for people who can get work done, but adding average people to your team is never a good idea.  Role players need to be awesome in their jobs as well.

Whether it is and FTE or 10-99, adding someone based on bill rate or salary (to a point, of course) alone is really a bad idea.  Base your decisions – and coach them up to –on what value they can bring.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Start what you (want to) finish


As I finish an awesome first week at the new job, a recent drawing (bottom) from Nicholas Bate’s blog came to mind.  As Nicholas often does, it quickly and simply paints a business reality (in this case - getting stuff done).

As simple as it is, so often folks overlook the reason that they have not finished something yet –– because they haven’t started!  Hello!?!

I had two recent personal projects this year that followed this simple methodology:  running a half marathon and landing a new job opportunity.

Put one foot in front of the other

This year, I decided to finally get serious about my running passion and take the first step (as it were) toward my ultimate goal of completing a (full) marathon by first completing a half-marathon.   There were a lot of excuses to overcome (had gotten WAY out of shape, time crunches, whatever). 

But, I gutted it up (or more accurately dropped the gut) by getting a plan, applying focus (getting up at 3:00 am to run in the dark before work requires focus), making a decision (mix in a salad, big boy), abandoned excuses (it’s too hot, I am tired, I am sore) and got started (as slow,painful and embarrassing as running 1 minute/walking 1 minute in public is).  

Without starting, I would have never reached the finish line (literally) - which I did.

Westbound and down (loaded up and trucking)

This same, simple process was in play for my job search project.  Do you need to find a job?  It starts with a plan (network, network, network), focus (triangulate the search on opportunities that fit your passion, your talents and what there is a market for), a decision (Curtain #1, Curtain #2 or Curtain #3), abandoning all excuses (the economy, too much competition, I hate wearing a suit, change is scary) and then it comes down to just starting (and for those that know me - all my job searches start in the same place).

So – if your next big thing is floundering (your new project, your new program, a new product, going after a new market, starting your own company, getting your MBA, a job hunt, a house hunt, a spouse hunt, writing a blog post, writing a book, cleaning the house or that weight loss plan that keeps losing out to Ladies Night), there’s one thing to do: start by starting. 

You can’t finish, if you don’t start.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Joel Not on Software | Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

As he announced earlier this week, Joel Spolsky is retiring from blogging today – on the 10th anniversary of his blog, Joel On Software. Joel was one of the pioneers of blogging (especially on the geek side of the world) and his content has been a welcome sight in my Google Reader over the years. clip_image001

I’ve talked  about Joel often in the past decade (on this blog, other blogs and in countless emails and presentations). I share his views on the simple approach to the art of creating software, how to make the interface user-centric and how to create a start-up company the right way (hire Über-talented people and you’ll find a way to make a product people will buy).

Additionally, Joel gave the simplest advice to any hiring manager on what you look for in a candidate you are interviewing (which I nicked last year for my own post):  

    1. Smart
    2. Get Stuff Done

He later turned The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing into a book (a must for all IT hiring managers – but useful to anyone in the talent acquisition realm).

I love Vegas every moment (how long ‘ave I been on?)

My friend Angie loves to clown me to this day about the time she and I went to the Better Software Conference in 2006 (primarily to see Joel as the keynote speaker). Not only did we eschew the pool and slushy drinks to attend that session, but I was a like tweener at a Hannah Montana concert (or so so she tells me). Of course, we also joke about the $22 drinks at Mandalay Bay (but that’s a story for another day).

Jumping the Virtual Shark

It seems to be growing sentiment that blogging has jumped the shark.

Although it has served him well (he’s not cutting coupons), Joel talks about the failure and unfilled promise (and linkage back to the business success) of blogging in a piece this month in Inc Magazine (Let's Take This Offline):

The big-hit technology companies from the past 10 years tend to have pathetic blogs. Twitter’s blog, like Facebook’s and Google’s, is full of utterly boring press releases rewritten to sound a little bit less stuffy. Apple’s employees produce virtually no blogs, even though the company has introduced several game-changing new products in the past decade. Meanwhile, hundreds of Microsoft’s employees have amazing blogs, but these have done nothing to stave off that company’s slide into stodginess.

Don’t give up on it just yet.  Blogging has a relevant place in the mix. But like any content and brand-building channel, it is not the only content delivery system to use and you need to be speaking to your customer in the right places with the right messages (and where they are!).

So long and thanks for all the fish

Finally - good luck Joel on your new endeavors.  I look forward to following you in other mediums and make sure to line up more keynotes in Vegas (I’ll come – probably Angie will, too)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Read to Write

For years, my pat answer to folks who ask me, “How can I write better?” has been: by writing. If you want to blog, start blogging (the practice makes perfect axiom – unless you’re talking about Kenny G or something). image

That is true for other forms of writing (a slide deck for the boss, a business case for your latest project or a whitepaper on your idea that will save the company millions and get your picture on the cover of Newsweek). The repetition improves the voice of your writing as well the quality (assuming you are getting feedback and striving to improve).

Wendii at Manager Tools (in her post this week) reminds me of the other half of the pie - which is 90% of the effort (as Yogi Berra or Norm Crosby might say): inspiration. Where do you get your ideas from (again whether that’s for your blog or the next product for you company)?

The answer is simple: read (and read a lot). Wendii explains:

Lots of input seems to help with output. Talk (or write) a LOT. Explaining things to others helps you consolidate them in your own mind and find new ways of putting things together.

My co-workers and wife will attest that I have that talking a lot part down.

I will add to her note to also read a lot of different things (inside and outside your industry or knowledge – and comfort zone). Reading someone like Scott Berkun or Joel Spolsky will expose you to a lot more than  software development (for example Innovation myths in Schoolhouse rock). 

And look, she was right. By reading Wendii’s post, it gave me an idea for this piece.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #14 How do I prep my references?

A: By doing their homework for them

First off – let me start by saying I am big fan of taking a shower. I like to indulge in the heavenly waterfall at least once a day (especially on those days I go into the office – my coworkers seem to favor that plan).  Nothing quite like a good shower to reboot your day as either a transition from sleep to work or perhaps from cleaning your gutters to going out to Outback SteakHouse for some Bloomin’ Onions (although showers are optional at Outback from my experience with the clientele).  image

Anywho, I am frequently asked to give references for employment. That’s largely because (I think) I have had the pleasure of working with so many talented peers and clients over the years (and I just love the opportunity to shout that out to the world).

Back to our shower, one of the worst references I ever gave (from a presentation standpoint more than content) was nearly ten years ago. I had just stepped out of the shower (literally dripping wet). I was so caught off guard (because I did not know anyone had put forth my name), I didn’t think quick enough to tell the caller, “Hey, can I call you back in 15 minutes”?

So there I was - in a towel (sorry – don’t visualize) sitting on the futon in my home office talking about all the wonderful things I could say about (let’s call him) Derek (because that’s his real name and therefore easier for me to remember) off the top of my head. Not an atmosphere or state of mind conducive for such a phone call.

The good news is that Derek got the job (so either I was good enough or my scantily clad phone call was a non-factor). But since that incident, I have instituted The Derek Rules (because The Dripping Wet Just Out Of The Shower Rules is verbose and sounds icky unless it is Danica in that Go Daddy spot). I also rid myself of the futon (not part of The Derek Rules – but because  even more than Outback Steakhouse, I hate futons).

The Derek Rules

These rules are very simple and something everyone hears when they ask me to do a reference for them:

  1. Send me the resume you submitted for this job: We’ve talked about this before, in most cases you are going to alter a resume from job to job. Even if it is just a minor tweak (for some reason you decide to add youR education from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College ), you want to make sure the person that calls me and I are on the same page. Of course (if you make the proper inference here), that means you have to save a copy of each resume you send out (but you already do that, right).
  2. Give me a copy of the posting for the job: There are a lot of things I know about you. I assume that you want me to skip “Jenny is really crabby when she comes to work hung-over” let alone your Walk of Shame frequency. By providing the job posting, I can see what skills your potential employer is looking for so (just as you did with your cover letter and and resume) I can tailor my answers to fit it. Again (inference time), that means you have to save a copy of each posting you respond to (if you can).
  3. Is there anything about your experience you want me to highlight If there is something you stressed in your interview, or some important wants of the hiring manager you discovered during your research (she likes outgoing people), let me know that and I can also tweak my answers towards that. Get this straight, I will never lie for you. So – don’t tell me you told them you piloted a Space Shuttle mission (unless you did, obviously) or that you are an outgoing person (when you and I know you are not). If you are picking the right people to stand up for you – they should able to transpose your experience to fit these buckets.
  4. LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU SUBMIT MY NAME. Hello??!! Give me a heads up before you drop my name. That’s important if you don’t want me to have my pants on the ground when they call.  There are two other important reasons for this (as if the pants on were not enough):
    • Where is Waldo? You want to make sure I am not facedown at the blackjack table at The Luxor on a 3 week bender when they call (just using a for instance there – I’ve never been facedown at the Luxor – but we won’t talk about the Tropicana). Further, you want to make sure the fact that my cell phone was repo’d, and/or that I have a new email address does not prevent them from finding me.  So make sure to ask your reference where they would like to be called (or emailed if written) and what times are good for them.  Also – if your buddy gives you his ridemeallday666@sexworld.xxx address, you might want to ask him for one that is more generic (you know, first name/last name at gmail.com).
    • Thinking Time You want to give your reference some time to think of specific things about you (especially now that you have given them all the background downlo we just talked about) ahead of time. You don’t want them hanging up the phone with your new boss and say, “Dang! I forgot to tell them about the time he cured cancer. Oh well…”

The Big Easy

In addition to all the benefits and potential better results by following The Derek Rules, this also makes it easier for the person who is (after all) doing you a favor.  Also remember to “tip the dealer”.  If you get the job, a nice lunch on you is the least you can do.

p.s.  The person that emailed me today asking me to be a reference - that I replied back to you and let you know this post was coming, remember The Derek Rules when the time comes.

Up Next: I haven’t been able to even get an interview – what do I do?

Monday, January 18, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #13 Who do I use for references?

A: People who think you walk on water and are awesome at articulating it image

Over the past decade, I have used one former colleague a number of times as a reference on various employment I was seeking.  I consider him one of my A-List references. Whenever I call him after he has done the deed (to see how the reference call went), his answer is always the same, short response: you walk on water. 

That of course, is followed by a CSI-like probing by me of everything (including cadence and each stressed syllable) that was uttered during the call.

But it is those glowing reviews that you need to have in your reference arsenal. Moreover, it is a two-pronged thrust:

  1. Someone who has knowledge of your fantastic, chart-topping deeds
  2. Someone who can articulate it professionally and smartly

Hold on Sparky, isn’t this more stating not only the obvious but the really obvious (as we are wont to do)?  Sadly, no.

Personally - I am shocked and surprised when someone asks me to do a reference for them and the only knowledge I have of their existence is utter, and abject bozoness (“ummmm….when they showed up on time, they usually were sober”) or little knowledge of them at all (“I think I remember seeing their name in the employee directory one time”).

So when selecting a reference, some things to keep in mind before you throw some names to your (almost) perspective employer:

  • A is for Adore – not Effort First – that they love you and are willing and able to sing your praises is key. They must be a solid (it cain't be "in between"…no half and half romance will do). If you’re not sure your co-worker or crazy, bi-polar, ex- boyfriend that was also your boss will do you right – then DO NOT submit their name to the panel.
  • Know what you did  They have to be able to make a good accounting for your skills on the job (or whatever capacity in which they know you). Casual interactions for references is not good (you don’t want them to say, “gee I don’t know” a lot to the person calling them).  It has to be more than “Steve was always proficient in his ability to fog a mirror”
  • Articulate If your reference has trouble putting nouns and verbs together in a sentence - that can reflect poorly on you (worse if it is a written one – riddled with typos and smiley emoticons). There are ways to mitigate this (as we’ll talk about in the next post).  Also - they should be able to speak naturally (and not all Mr. Roboto as if they were reading it off the script you prepared for them).
  • Fit You want the references to resonate with the person calling. So Boss A may love you – but what she knows about you may not be important for the job you’re applying for. So – think fit (who can best help me land this gig).  Not only do you not want to bring a knife to a gun fight, holstering a rifle to a rock, paper, scissors fight is also bad.
  • RHIP Having (at least) one high-ranking, C-level sort is good (CEO, CIO, etc). Additionally, clients are always good (that is someone who hired you above and beyond an employer).
  • Shelf-Life I know your Burger King Manager speaks highly of you – but that was 1984 (and Reagan and A-Ha era references might not do you good).   BTW – Raymond (Assistance Manager at BK# 1591), if you are still out there, call me.

Don’t forget:  Although references are not always checked – assume that they are. References can and will be used against you.

So - take me to the river, and drop me in the water.


Up Next: How do I prep my references? (which assumes of course, that you indeed prep them)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #12 How do I negotiate (it freaks me out!)?

A: By knowing what you are worth (and reducing stress ahead of time)

My pal Dean (a local marketing maven) is fond of saying, “some people get paid what they are worth, and others are paid for what they are able to negotiate”. So true.  Unfortunately – even more true in the new normal (which will only be around until the newer normal sprouts up).

On an island image

With a nod to my penchant for sometimes stating the obvious, some people are Top Gun at negotiation and some folks just are not (be it on the candidate or hiring side). Whether we’re talking about getting the TruCoat free on a new car, or dickering with Skeeter to get $25 off the price of the moss covered, three handled, family credenza you found at a yard sale, or how many weeks vacation you are going to get at the new gig - some folks enjoy the process and some folks have panic attacks.


One thing (for those not comfortable with it) - normally you are all alone. Whereas you can have your wife proof your resume for you, the negotiation is real-time – just you and the hiring manger (or HR) Man-o-Mano with the clock ticking.

It may (at times) seem adversarial – as if the HR flunky is trying to screw every penny out of you. From your perspective, you just want to get paid as much as you can (planes to catch and bills to pay). And quite often, the deadly sin of pride comes into play (as in PAY ME WHAT I AM WORTH! VALIDATE ME!).

It turns out to be a many-to-many relationship (many variables with many options). It’s your skills, your bills, the job market, the competition, and a boatload of intangibles that factor into it.

The simple act of reading a blog post (even the finely crafted variety I humbly spit out) or digesting a bevy of books on the topic is probably not going to improve your skills substantially (these are acquired on the job – so to speak). But let’s talk about some building blocks and other things to help you go all Radio Raheem (fight the power!) on your next interview.

All your life is Channel 13, Sesame Street - what does it mean?

Let’s start by relieving some of the pressure. In most cases, good companies (with good hiring practices) are not out to job you when it comes to compensation. Yes – the market may have lowered the value of your goods and services (buyer’s market), but most companies want to pay you a fair compensation.  They need talent to make their business shine, and don’t want to lose a good prospect.  Yes – there are wiener hiring managers working for wiener companies, but (as my boss is wont to say) the market is brutally efficient.

You knew math was going to come into it

Now that you know the world is not against you (or at least probably not, I don’t know you that well) – the first place to start is determining your worth.

This is done a few ways:

  • Research Salary.com and Payscale are two free sites that have a lot of salary data. It can be very specific and broken into the industry and regional factors (crucial metrics for salary). It is updated to the current market. This is the same site many employers use when setting salary ranges (so they know it – and they check it, too).
  • X-Factors Determine if there are any mitigating factors either in your favor or count against you (or you are competing with). For example, if you have the technical expertise, but lack the industry or specific system expertise (you know SAP ERP, but not Oracle) – the might lower you. Conversely, if you have niche experience that is beneficial to your suitor, it can be used as leverage.
  • TSA-like Full Body Scan Your current compensation is a big factor (as irrelevant as it may be that some just because some dumbass person in the past either way over/under paid you should determine what you get now). The more you can quantify (and document) your total compensation (bonus, benefits, quality of life).
  • Use your network When all is right in the world and stars align, you might have an inside source at the company that knows the salary ranges (current and former employees). Combat tactics, Mr. Ryan. Recruiters you know also can help with this.
  • Ping your peers (and not just for the alliteration of it) If you’re taking a new job in your current industry – you probably have a good idea of the compensation. But if this a career change (or an unintended step down), talk to folks who are currently employed. Again – I find my recruiter friends helpful here.

What you worth vs. what you’ll settle for

The other stress is often what to do if you receive an offer that is less than you were anticipating. Two things here:

  • Given all the research you have done (that we just talked about)  you know your worth
  • Before the final negation, determine what your basement is. This is total compensation. You need to determine that to you, right now, Base Salary of x + bonus of y and 5 more days of vacation (because spending time with my family has a value) is more important than Salary Z you thought you were going to get. Only you (and other stakeholders that get a vote like your spouse) can decide this. Sometimes, it’s better to do that at the kitchen table the night before or during your morning run when reason and emotion are in better check.

By doing this – you are deciding what the compensation that is right for you and your family (for this job at this time). It moves to a more place than feeling as though you were forced to settle for something you think is beneath you.


Last year, I was doing coaching session on negotiation with one my clients (and yes – it was at my favorite locale for such things…Starbucks). Myron was in a good place (in comparison to most folks today).  He currently had a job that was fairly secure but was looking to move to another job for better opportunities (now and in the future). However, the new job paid slightly less (due to the current economy) .

My very first question was, “do you want the job?” (because if the answer is no – nothing else matters)

“Yes”, Myron answered. “But, I don’t want to accept less money than I make now”.

Initially, Myron was hesitant. But we talked pros and cons and tactics to increase the salary (many of the things mentioned above in this blog) and other things that could increase the total compensation. In the end – it was close to a push – with future earning and career opportunities way on the upside with the new gig.

Again – I asked, “do you want the job?”

“Yes”, he said.

“Then get over yourself, and take it!”

Myron did (and negotiated his initial salary offer up) – and is loving the new gig.

Don’t let pride get in the way of doing what you not only want to do, but need to do (sometimes) just to put food on the table.

Also – don’t bluff and don’t lie (e.g. “I also have an offer at  company X for 10% more” when neither half of that is true).  I have seen people do it and win – but when you take another hit on a hard 19 , you’re gonna bust much more often than the dealer.

"By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10). That’s about as old school philosophical as you’ll get me to be.\

Up Next: Who do I use a reference?

Monday, January 4, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #11 How are phone interviews different?

A: Non-verbal communication takes a back seat (on both sides)

You’ve heard it before, right? Some audacious, unsubstantiated fact that someone flung at you during a sales training meeting or a Crucial Conversation class, “93% of all communicationimage is non-verbal”. That’s hooey (I don’t think cell phones would be as prevalent as they are if that was the case). 

Trying to put such a percentage like that on any specific conversation (or interview) you might have is not only impossible – but wholly irrelevant. What you need to know is that non-verbal communication is a big part of how you communicate and it forces you to concentrate on it during phone interviews (when all you have is the tenor of your words and those of the other person or persons). 

We all know about the phone screen - yes? It’s where the company takes the (adjusted for current economics) 75 outstanding resumes they have separated from the herd (Round 1) and decide which 5 of those people to bring in for in person interviews (Round 2).  Good news, if they call - you’ve made the first cut (nice resume, Sparky) and here are some things to keep in mind during phone interviews:

  • Practice, practice, practice (especially if you haven’t done this in awhile or you normally are not known for giving good phone). I know it sounds lame – but record yourself in a mock interview and listen back to it. Something I learned in my radio days, the fact that you listen to your own voice (normally) not only from your ears but from inside the bones of your own head, it sounds a lot different coming out your mouth as others hear it. You’ll be surprised how discombobulated your answers…umm..err…sound. The good news – this practice will also help your in-person interviews (as you hone your self-aware skills)
  • This is a pants on event. I know they can’t see you – but wearing your 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers sweatpants during an interview will get you way too relaxed
  • Go to quiet place Find a room in your house where your kids and cats can’t interrupt the interview (I once had that happen – where my cat bellowed while I was interviewing).  If you are not at home (and calling on your cell pone during your lunch break from the McDonald’s parking lot), make sure you are not in a noisy locale (as in trains, planes and automobiles).   Also - make sure not to eat (duh!) or bang away on your computer  keyboard (they may think you are playing Bejeweled)
  • Mirror Mirror Another thing you might think is lame, but an old trick from customer services professionals and sales people: a mirror.  People can hear you smile (or as I once told a peer, “I can hear your eyes roll when I am talking to you on the phone”). So put a mirror facing you as you are on the phone
  • Cell phone rules If you are using your cell phone (or cordless) – make sure it is charged. On more than one occasion, I have had candidate fall-off mid-sentence (and hey – I can’t call you back since your phone is dead).  Also make sure you have enough bars (“Can you hear me now”?)
  • I can’t hear your head nod Not only can they not see you – but obviously you can’t see them.  So make sure you verbalize subtle cues for them (a “yes” or “I have” as they are talking).  From the other side, normally you might get a hint that you are prattling on too long (when they check their watch) or you can see when they LOVE what you are saying (by smiling and nodding their head). Don’t be afraid to ask for clues or stop to let them ask for more from you or move you along (“thanks for reciting the periodic table of elements in descending specific gravity order, but let’s get back to why you left your last job”).

Video Killed The Phone Screen Star

In this day of webcams and YouTube, some companies are doing video interviews (we have done that at my company). It is not widespread – but it is increasing (especially at geeky and remote location jobs).

So although you get some verbal cues back (with the video), some other things to keep in mind.

  • Dress as if  Dress as you would for the in-person interview (and yes – pants are preferred even if you don’t pan down)
  • Scenery  Like we talked about background sounds for the phone, in the video interview, it can be worse. So don’t let Fluffy knead your tummy while you are on the phone or let your wife walk behind you in the robe she swiped from the Davenport Radisson hotel. I also wouldn’t take your laptop to a public place (where background images of the hotties rollerblading around the lake can take focus away from you).
  • Power and Connectivity  Make sure you laptop is charged (or plugged in) and you won’t lose signal (if not hard-wired).

Next Up: How do I negotiate?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | Second Quarter Review (#6-10)

We’re halfway home and making the turn towards the clubhouse with the first #10 questions in the bag (let’s sing song of 10).  Before we start the 2010 work week (whether


you are heading back to work – or hitting it hard on your next opportunity),  let’s look back the last 5 Questions:


Question #6: What should be in a resume?
A: Why what you did mattered.

Don’t make it an Easter Egg Hunt or one of those dumb puzzles (that I mentioned I hate) for the person reviewing your resume. In short - metrics and what they mean and why they mattered (and please please me by skipping the Objective – nobody cares)

As mentioned in the original post as well - the judges would also have accepted smart and get stuff done to advance to the bonus round of our game.


Question #7: What is the purpose (or goal) of the interview?
A: To get the offer

That’s the quick answer (to get the offer). There are of course many other purposes (as we talk about in the forthcoming coming questions).  But - this is an important reminder to you to not start negotiating too early and worrying about things too soon that won’t matter (e.g. benefits) if you don’t get the offer.


Question #8: How do I prepare for an interview
A: By doing your homework

I hope you didn’t answer “down a handful of OxyContin”. Your homework involves getting to know all that you can about the company. Not only will you appear to be interested in the job you are applying for, but it allows you to fine tune your pitch.

Also if you haven’t interviewed a lot (or since Clinton was in office), you will also want to practice concise answers. For example, when asked open-ended questions (e.g. “what is the most significant thing you did at your former job?”), you want these answers to illustrate a problem (or opportunity) you discovered, the solution you devised (and how you came about that) and what was the result (how much did you save or did they throw you a parade?).


Question #9 What questions do I avoid early in the interview process?
A: Questions that make you sound desperate (or clueless)

If your first inquiry when the interviewer yields their time for you to ask him or a question is, “Can I wear my Green Bay Packers Zubazs on Fridays?” – then you’re probably not painting the self-portrait that you want out of the gate (or in your case, on first down).

Folks try to avoid hiring desperate or clueless employees (although for some of you – that might seem contrary to actual practice).


Question #10 What questions do I avoid early in the interview process?
A: Questions that show interest and understanding as well those that give you answers you need to make a decision

You want to show them you are invested in this opportunity (more than just visiting their website) and that you understand them – and their market (and therefore how you can be a rainmaker for them)

Additionally – as I always tell the people I interview – this is just as an important of a time for you. You want to determine if this is a good fit for your talents and personality (and therefore know that you can be a rainmaker for them)


Related Content: 20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | First Quarter Review (#1-5)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #10 What questions should I ask the interviewer?

A: Questions that show interest and understanding as well those that give you answers you need to make a descison

Before we get to the meat of this post – a little rant: I friggin’ hate stupid interview questions (I know - going way out on limb with a controversial take on topic) and the big, red-floppy-shoes-wearingManholeCoverTakarazuka2-bozos that ask them.

You know the kind I am talking about- when a knucklehead hiring manager or some HR neophyte asks you, “Why are manhole covers round?”. The (only) correct answer to give to that obtuse exercise is, “Because you are a douchebag!”.   However, I would not recommend that answer if you still want the job after that question.

I’m not talking about analytic or problem-solving questions so the interviewer can see how smart you are (although – I am not a big fan of those either – like a variation of the worn-out Duel question one of my former peers was so fond of). If you can’t tell if someone is smart during an interview without a quiz – then you are a slappy, too.  The questions I speak of are those “no wrong answers”, “just want to see how you handle being thrown a curve-ball” type of question (as if interviewing with a douchebag like you wasn’t enough stress).

Not only is it the douchebagity (if I may make up a word) of the question, but the real problem is your answer doesn’t give the douchebag asking it any useful data. If I answer “Manhole covers are round because rhombus ones would just be wrong” – are you going to screen me out?

So my hope for the coming year (since we weren’t evolved enough to end them in the 20th Century) is a pact to banish those types of questions in the interview process (let’s call it 21st Century-10).

Knowing you, Knowing Me

After that aside-like rant, let’s get back to our topic at hand. In the last post, we talked about what questions not to ask (especially early on) in the interview. That begs the question, what (pray tell) should we ask?

There are two categories of questions to ask during an interview:

  • Questions that show you’ve done your homework (learning about the company)
  • Questions you need answer to decide if you want to work there ($5,000 less a year might be a okay if you’re going from a Dilbert company to a ROWE type of company)

Note: By stating there are two types, I’ve skipped the whole, “Should I ask question during the interview?” (because that should be obvious). You should also come with a list on paper (some folks disagree with that – but again, I think it shows you are invested in this opportunity).

Also – many times when I am interviewing and get to the part where I say “Are there any questions I can answer for you?” – and the answer is “No – you’ve pretty much covered all the questions I have written down”.  That’s a wrong answer (and I know I talk a lot in the interview – so I am sorry if I ate up your list).  You still need to find some things to ask – and perhaps (even better) ask a question on topic that came up during the interview and have the interviewer elaborate on a fact they have already given you (it shows that you can digest information in real time).

Any hot chick in my department?

In this first set of questions, you are really probing for information about the company that you were not able to obtain in your secondary research based on information you were able to ferret out.  And - these are not questions about which floor the break room is on.

These things include:

  • How is the company doing?
  • What are its growth plans?
  • What differentiates it from its competition?
  • Does it have good leadership?

Of course – just like when the interviewer asks you “What was the most bonehead thing you ever did at your last job?”, you’re (hopefully) not going to say “I banged the entire mail room”.

But just like when you are asked questions – you’re hoping their answers reveal a truth in them.

However, you do not want to ask simple questions that should have come up in your research (“When were you founded?”, “What is it that you make?”, “Who runs this company, anyways?”). In fact - by marrying your research and your questions (“there a number of companies in your space - Acme Inc, Manufacturing Is Us – what qualities makes your company as unique and competitive as it is?”).

Your hope – in addition to learning more about the company – is that they give you another opening to more specifically drive home why you are the best candidate.  “Oh. That’s exciting about a new branch in the Uzbekistan; I oversaw our factory build-out in Uzbekistan…”.  I know - you’re not always going to be served up a specific hole-in-one like that (but you get what I mean).

Remember also - these are difficult questions to ask (if you are new to all of this) since they do require a modicum of decorum. You need to chose your words and adjust the tenor of the questions based on the level of the person you are asking and their openness. You want to appear interested and informed but not nosy and creepy (ala Slugworth looking for the secret of the Everlasting Gobstopper).

Things that matter

For the second set of questions, we’re looking for things that will help you decide that if offered a job would you take it?  Again – we assume that salary (and other compensation and benefits) will be addressed in negotiations, however we need to ask questions that put a value on that compensation (when we get there).

For me – I’m looking for those environments that I work best in (and therefore will more likely be successful in):

  • Level of ROWE vs. Micromanagement
  • Collaborative environment (real collaboration – not that they just installed SharePoint)
  • Innovation culture (not just a buzzword they do when they brainstorm once a month– but down to the marrow)
  • Flexible work options
  • Happy colleagues (tour the work space that you will occupy).

That last bullet (happy) is so import. A friend of mine went on an interview for a Senior IT Architecture posistion once and they would not take him around to see his peers or where they worked (“oh – we don’t do that”). What kind of cube horrors were they trying to hide? Needless to say – he skipped the next round of interviews.

Asking questions like “What are qualities employees that have exceed your expectations in this position share?”- you are  hoping to get to those answers (one way or another – as Blondie would say).

Up Next. A short post with a few points on the phone (or video) interview.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Random | Happy New Year and all the jazz – but where’s my jet pack?

Happy New Year everyone!

As another year (and another decade) falls, we’re all getting ready to start our New Year’s resolutions.  Some of us may be reflecting on where we are on our journey through life.  And as you ponder that, didn’t you think you’d be flying around in a jet pack by now?  Two my Facebook friends have asked that questions today. JetPack

If you grew up watching as much of the tube as I did (and that’s the cathode ray tube of a television– not YouTube), surely by 2000 (let alone a decade past that) we all assumed we’d be jetting around town like James Bond or Buck Rogers (the real one – not Gil Gerad)?

Dan Wilson is author of a book Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived. Although many things that science fiction promised us have come true, I still have to drive my Jeep® to work .

"For me the jetpack is a symbol really of all the technology that I thought we should have by now but which we don't seem to," Wilson lamented on CBS Sunday Morning (back in 2007).

So what happened?

So why no jet packs?  In short - some good ideas just aren’t feasible:

  • Jet packs are kind of hot (1,300 degrees). If we sue McDonald’s over spilt coffee – I don’t think this won’t fly (as it were).
  • They are dang heavy (135 pounds). That might be okay for Ed White in the weightlessness of earth orbit – not so good hoisting out of your Mazda MPV.
  • Limited range: how far can you go in 43 seconds (that’s as far as they go today)? I know don’t want to move that close to work.
  • Quite simply - they are hard to fly (described as standing on a ball with a fire hose),
  • Most people can’t even merge onto the interstate properly or navigate a roundabout (especially here in Minnesota) – I don’t think the FAA is ready to handle all these take-offs and landing.
  • Texting while jetting?  That will be the next jihad du jour.

But if you really want one – there is a company (Jet Pack International) that claims to have some ready to go for sale to qualified folks (although soft-pedaled with “more details” to be coming).  No prices are mentioned on their website.

For me – I would settle for an iPhone battery that would hold a charge for at least half of a day before we ring in 2011.