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When in Doubt, Ask More Questions

clock November 5, 2009 13:48 by author Administrator
I am a strong advocate of the 85% rule: If the candidate has all the mission critical skills and demonstrates the capacity to learn and grow -- make him or her the offer. It is rare that in today's tight marketplace there is a 100% perfect candidate available -- let alone a perfect candidate who is ready to interview, in your price range and available at the exact time you need him or her. The opportunity cost of holding out for that candidate is sometimes too great. However, the cost of hiring someone in whom you lack complete confidence is also too great. If you're not sure that a candidate meets the 85% standard and you have doubts about skills in critical areas, ask more questions to make an informed decision. Technical Skills: Effective Interview Questions to Avoid a Snow Job Every industry is home to some fast talkers -- the people who know enough to be dangerous and can "snow" most recruiters and hiring managers in a one-hour interview. To weed out the people who really know their stuff, ask specific questions about projects on which they have worked. Present candidates with a situation similar to one that could be presented to them on the job and ask them specifically how they would respond. Ask for details about the steps they would take, the tools and resources they would use and their rationale for this approach. The answers you receive will provide you with insight into the candidate's ability to think through problems, approach to problem solving, knowledge of available resources and true technical capabilities. This approach is different than pure technical testing. Many of your best employees will not remember every technical rule or code they learned in school or on the job -- but they know exactly what questions to ask, where to get answers and how to implement the answers once they get them. How to Assess Written Communications Skills in Candidates Copywriters, journalists and public relations representatives are not the only people who need strong writing skills. For many positions, written communications skills are critical to success. In fact, most professional positions require a fair amount of written communication. When written communication skills are important, ask candidates for writing samples. For instance, a sales representative position requires verbal and writing sales skills. The sales cycle may include communication in person, by telephone, via email and by formal proposals. While a candidate's verbal sales skills are apparent in an interview, his or her ability to write is not. So ask the person for a writing sample. Give the candidate a small case study and have him or her come to the interview prepared with a sample letter or proposal in response to the case. There is nothing worse than being a sales manager burdened with editing every piece of communication a sales rep sends out prior to making a sale. There is something to be said for those grammar and composition classes many colleges and universities require during freshman year. Using Behavioral Interviewing to Assess Management Skills Being technically competent and being able to lead a team are two very different things. I see many projects collapse because the technical leads are rewarded with promotions to manager. When hiring a group manager of a technical team, management skills should take precedence over technical skills. A strong manager knows how to assemble the appropriate technical talent to get the job done on time, within budget and with the fewest headaches. Technical knowledge is critically important, but the ability to listen, give clear direction, remain objective, and motivate, appreciate, delegate and integrate a team of people is the true talent needed by managers. There are many behavioral/situational questions you can ask in an interview to draw out the true leaders. Be sure to study up on appropriate behavioral interviewing questions and ask many of them during management candidate interviews. Ability to Work in a Team: Listen Carefully to Candidate Responses Most work environments today are project-based and team-centered. Sometimes teams work closely together on a daily basis, while at other times everyone functions independently to deliver their piece of an integrated project. Either way, a candidate's ability to work well in a team is essential to most positions. Having worked in team environments doesn't mean a candidate is a strong team player. When interviewing for project members, it is critical to ask situational questions that require the candidate to think like a team player. If a person always answers a project related question with "I" did this and "I" did that -- rather than "we" did this or "we" did that -- you may want to dig deeper into his ability to work in a team. The best recruiters can extract the following from an individual: the types of project teams he or she has worked on, his or her role on the team, his or her contribution within that role, and his or her ability to integrate with, share with and help other team members. As always, when in doubt ask more questions, present more what-if situations and dig deeper.


Top 13 Managing Employees Mistakes

clock November 2, 2009 13:45 by author Administrator
1. Not making the transition from worker to manager As a worker, you were held accountable solely for your own job and responsibilities. Now, all of a sudden, you are responsible for the results of a group of people - not just for yourself. As a result, you must tap into a new set of business skills - people skills. Some of the best employees become the worst managers because they fail to make this transition. 2. Not setting clear goals and expectations The fastest way to derail your employees' engine is to leave them in the dark without goals and directives. Your employees will have few challenges and even less motivation. You must meet with your employees to develop attainable goals, to help them understand what is expected of them, and to give them a vision to work toward. Not only should you work with them to set the goals, but also to achieve the goals. 3. Failing to delegate You simply can't do everything by yourself. But, even if you could, it would not be an effective use of your time or your talent. Besides, when you delegate, you create more opportunities for your employees, and projects that at first seem overwhelming become totally manageable once assigned to a team. 4. Not recognizing employee achievement Do not get so caught up in your workload and the delegation of work that you overlook opportunities to acknowledge your employees' successes. In the midst of downsizing, uncertainty, and constant change, employee recognition, is more essential than ever, improving morale, performance, and loyalty. Most times the most effective reward is personal and written recognition. 5. Failing to communicate The health of companies depends on widespread dissemination of information. Poor managers use the control of information as power, to ensure they are the most knowledgeable, and therefore, the most valuable employees to an organization. However, employees have the right to know what is going on, so that they are able to make the best decisions for themselves as well as the organization. In this way, managers should be approachable. 6. Not making time for employees As a manager, you must make and take time for people. Managing is a people job. You must assess your employees' individual needs and address them. When employees talk, be sure you're there to listen. 7. Going for the quick fix over the lasting solution Many managers dispense painkillers when they should be finding the tumor and performing major surgery. As a manager, you will not last long just treating symptoms; you need to take the time to seek out long-term solutions to problems. 8. Starting your day without a plan of action Time management plays a large role in your day-to-day and long-term success. This entails doing the right things efficiently. Other people will take all your time if you let them, so you must begin each day with a clear idea of allotted personal time and employee time. 9. Working with a messy desk or work area Studies show that the person with a messy desk spends, on average, one and a half hours per day trying to find things or being distracted by things. This adds up to seven and a half hours a week in lost productivity, not to mention appearing very unprofessional. 10. Not taking a lunch break After several hours without eating, studies prove, that you start to dull out. Thus, a lunch break, even if it's just a short 15 minute break, helps to recharge your batteries, and more effectively handle afternoon tasks. Consistently skipping lunch to save time will only cost you in lost productivity. 11. Getting out of balance with your life Attention workaholics: there's more to life than work. You have health, family, financial, spiritual, intellectual, and social pursuits and aspects in your life. If you spend a sufficient quantity and quality of time in each area, you should feel happy and productive at work. It's when you neglect one or more areas in your life that other areas, especially your work life starts to show signs of suffering. 12. Resisting change The best managers around the world are positive and forward-looking. They proactively anticipate changes coming their way and make plans to address them before they hit their organization. Resisting change will get you nowhere. 13. Taking it all too seriously - Watch your ego A manager with a big ego will most likely alienate his/her employees. Pride is never justified as the basis for a business decision. Above all, you have to maintain a sense of humour. Make a fun environment for your employees and for yourself. When you retire you won't be remembered for your fantastic budget or discipline, people will remember someone who brightened their days.