Posted on: October 25th, 2016 by
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How do you know when you’ve hit the right buttons during an interview? It’s very simple: When the interviewer shifts from the “what” questions to the “how” questions. Let me explain.

Your resume is the only document the hiring manager has with your background and experiences.   The reason you’re being interviewed is that something in your resume sparked an interest. The hiring manager wants to find out more about you. Initially the interviewer will ask you the “what” questions about your experiences:

  • What was your job at each position?
  • What did you do in each job?
  • What were the results?
  • What motivated you to move to another job?
  • What are you looking for in your next move?
  • What were the greatest achievements in your work experiences?

These are all information-gathering questions. The interviewer is searching your experiences, successes and achievements that may potentially transfer to the open job they are trying to fill. The hiring manager is trying to match what you have done to what he needs. The closer you come to the match, the higher your potential. In other words, what have you done that may add value to their organization and ultimately to their results?

Once the hiring manager switches from the “what” questions to the “how” questions, you now know the key skill sets they are looking for in a candidate. The “how” questions are likely:

  • How did you achieve the results you claim?
  • How long did it take you to demonstrate these results?
  • How much training and skills upgrade did the staff need?
  • How did you sell the idea to senior management?
  • How much did it cost?
  • How did you determine the best approach to solve the issue?

These “how” questions target potential solutions for the issues the hiring manager is trying to solve. Once you know what the organization needs, you can offer alternatives. The more follow-up questions and the more details they ask, the bigger the issue is for them and the greater their interest in you.  That’s why the “how” follow-up questions are so important for you to understand.  It reveals the real reason why you are being interviewed.

Leverage your newfound knowledge now with your own follow-up questions, like, “The solution was made in three steps. Would it be helpful to talk more about these steps and how the implementation was accelerated?” Hiring managers are always trying to learn how to solve their problems. You now have the opportunity to become a consultant, with alternatives, to the hiring manager At the same time you’re advancing your candidacy as the best person for the job.

Knowing the difference between the “what” and “how” question is the difference between giving information about your past and giving potential solutions to the hiring manager about the future. Which is more effective for you as a candidate?

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Posted on: October 18th, 2016 by
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Each generation has a label that describes the main characteristics of those born between certain dates: The Silent Generation, 1927-45, the Baby Boomers, 1946-64, the GenXers,1965-80, then the Millennial (GenY) 1981-2000 and finally GenZ, after 2001.

We’ll focus on the Millennial generation from early 20’s to early 30’s to see how they’re different and somewhat at odds with the GenX generation, their potential boss. Then we’ll see how to hire, manage and keep the Millennial talent content and productive.

GenX – Born between 1965 and 1980; Ages 37 to 52

    • Street-smart, individualistic and cynical of big government and business
    • Raised by money conscious parents (Boomers) without computers until middle or high school
    • Wary of commitment, marriage, with divorce early and a rather self-absorbed lifestyle
    • Not impressed with authority. Views individual rights over the common good
    • While self reliant, they are also skeptical and cautious, averaging 7 career changes

Millennial – Born between 1981 and 2000; Ages 17 to 36

      • They are very different from GenX in that they respect authority, are focused and optimistic
      • They are organized, scheduled, work in teams and have high expectations of themselves
      • They grew up in a digital world, with information at their fingertips and immediacy of data
      • They see themselves as special, don’t live to work, and want a relaxed work environment
      • They also need a lot of positive reinforcement and expect support from their organization

Millennial workers have an average job turnover of only three years. On the other hand, the executives to whom they report (between the ages of 50-60) have a job turnover of more than 10 years. No wonder management sees the millennial as job hoppers. You can understand how loyalty and commitment are at odds between these generations.

From the younger worker’s perspective, they have more job opportunities than ever. They will be tempted by offers of higher pay or advanced job titles. From the employer’s view, the millennial may not be ready for promotions. The answer? A progressive plan, individually designed, with a targeted outcome in achievable steps: Take on positions of greater responsibilities and gain exposure to different functions, teams and upper management.

Impatience is one of the issues that management needs to help the millennial to manage. It takes between 8 and 15 years to develop the skill sets to be a manager or higher. How does an organization keep the millennial talent engaged and excited about their work to keep them from moving to a competitor: A mentor, positive reinforcement and interesting work.

With the sweet spot of career acceleration between the ages of 25 and 45, organizations must identify the top talent that will become the leadership for the future. Design individualized strategies to provide expanded responsibilities, exposure to higher management and the skill set development to move up the organizational ladder.

Plan for the talent to grow, or lose it.

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Posted on: October 11th, 2016 by
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Here are some of the questions I get from clients as we begin their job search:

How easily can I move from sectors, industries or functions to another?

Moving from one sector to another, like from education to industry, is not easy unless there’s a need that can’t be filled from within the new sector. Changing industries is also difficult unless there’s a pathway whereby you have a skill or result that is new to them. Changing functions is more problematic, like from marketing to finance, unless it’s at a lower level.

Anytime you add another layer of difficulty, you insert another impediment, especially if you’re trying to move up the ladder of responsibility. Hiring managers are always looking for someone who has gotten a result in an area that they need help.

What functions are most in demand?

When you’re in a down economic cycle, functions that reduce cost or improve efficiencies are in demand. Staff support usually suffers during a downturn unless you can demonstrate performance improvement. When you’re in an up cycle, new business development, product improvement or new market growth are in demand.

Currently there is a demand for productivity enhancement functions like: Logistics, data mining, computer programming, software design, statistical modeling. Industry segments in demand are health care, government, security and consulting.

How important are higher degrees, certifications, certificates or advanced coursework?

Higher degrees are more important earlier in your career. If you have 20 years experience on the job, an advanced degree has marginal value unless the company expects it. Certifications are important if it designates professional standing such as PMP (Project Management Professional). They usually have a professional review board and high standards for completion. Certificates are different as they certify that you have completed a course of study or program in a focused area. Advanced coursework demonstrates in-depth knowledge in a specific technical field. All of these steps demonstrate a higher level of achievement than your peers.

What’s the single most important point to make on a resume?

That’s simple. Show that you have achieved measureable results. Stating that you have “…reduced costs through process improvement” is not enough. Leverage your candidacy by stating, “Upgraded performance and reduced costs by 8.5% through process improvement”.

What are the most important points to make in an interview?

Hiring managers want to know two things: “What are you going to do for me?” “Will you fit into my team in a positive way?” If there is no connection between your past results and the needs of his organization, he’s taking a big risk. If the hiring manager sees you are a disruptive force to his “team”, he won’t hire you.

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. What are the questions you would ask? Then prepare yourself to answer these same questions as they fit the position description of the open position.

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Posted on: October 4th, 2016 by
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Can you name an event in your life, career or education that you could hide and remain undiscovered if someone looked hard enough? Chances are you can’t or if you think you can, you’re just kidding yourself. There’s always a paper trail, a time-line, an Internet search, or someone who was with you that can pull the curtain back. So why do some people fabricate information on their resume? Several reasons:

  • They believe they’re smarter than everyone else
  • They think that companies or bosses are lazy and won’t dig too deep
  • They believe they can finesse answers around any issue during an interview

You need to remember: The higher you go in an organization, or the more sensitive the information you would be handling, the greater the scrutiny of your background, references, associates, friends and family. A lot of politicians and executives have been brought down by “hidden” revelations they tried to hide.

Can you put on your resume that you graduated from Gladstone University in 2002, when it was really 1999? No. Can you fudge on your major? No. It’s all too easily checked. Can you put the same information on your resume without the date of graduation? Yes.   But be prepared for the question of why it was left off. Just don’t put that you graduated if you didn’t.

What about the time you didn’t have a job? Can that hurt your resume? It all depends on the reason why. Anything that is reasonable and can easily be understood by the hiring organization is likely to be acceptable. Here are some OK reasons:

  • Your company was merged into another. You were given the option of staying or given a severance for 6 months. You decided to leave for a better opportunity.
  • You were a contractor on a big project. The project ended and you’re looking for full-time work.
  • A close family member was critically ill. There was no one else to take care of them. Now that you are free to pursue your career, you want to move back into the workforce.

Some not-OK reasons:

  • You spent 6 months getting unemployment benefits due to the downturn. On your resume you cover up the 6 moths of unemployment as if you were still employed.
  • You quit because the company was about to terminate you due to your performance. The resume says you quit because of “unethical practices” on the part of the company.
  • You fudge information about your education, experience, title, military service, missing employment history, current or past compensation levels, or a host of other misinformation.

Most situations can be worked around or explained without fabricating information that is untrue. It’s just a matter of finding the right words and rationale. For situations where you have to lie, I can’t help you.

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Posted on: September 27th, 2016 by
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Some people fall short of their ultimate potential without really understanding the why or how. Each of us needs to know when we’re stalling out and what to do about it. Here are some thoughts:

TECHNOLOGY SHORTFALL – Of all the reasons why some people fall behind, this is one that can be easily fixed. Keeping up to date and ahead of your contemporaries is a sure way to maintain leadership in your field. There’s no faster way to become obsolete then to stop learning.

YOU DON’T FIT – Sometimes you feel like a round peg in a square hole. The culture or goals of the organization may be inconsistent with your values or contribution. You may have been hired for all the wrong reasons. However, you need to fix it by finding a more compatible fit, either somewhere else from within, or another organization. Find the best fit for you.

YOU DON’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS – Teamwork is a requirement for most hiring managers when filling an open job. If the candidate can’t work effectively with co-workers, problems will increase rather than decrease. If you’re an individual contributor, don’t seek a team-oriented job.

UNDERMINING YOUR BOSS – I haven’t met many people who intentionally undermine their boss, but some do it without knowing it. Make sure you know the expectations of your boss. Most of the “undermining” happens by conveying closely held or inappropriately shared information to others outside of the immediate work group.

YOUR PERFORMANCE UNDERWHELMS – An anemic performer is always vulnerable in the workplace. Make sure you have performance objectives you understand, with a time-line you can meet and the resources you need. Not knowing what is expected of you is the beginning of a problem performer

YOU’RE THE WEAK LINK – In a fast paced accelerating organization, achieving operating objectives is paramount. There’s always someone who is the weakest link to results. Find out what you need to do to become more productive and equal to the task. Let the spotlight shine on someone else as the drag on the effectiveness within the organization.

SHIFT FROM HARD TO SOFT SKILLS – As you move up the organization, your skill sets move away from the hard skills of hands-on implementation to the soft skills of supervision, management and strategy. Some make the transition with ease while others never make the shift and never understand why.

Many of today’s problems start as small deficiencies early in your history and can be remedied with small adjustments. The longer a fault lingers without correction, the more difficult it is to correct later on. So what can you do about it? Identify your shortfalls early and develop a plan to fix them. If you can’t, find ways to work around them. If you cant, settle in for the long haul as you aren’t going anywhere.

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