Retired Government Worker Syndrome: Why You Can’t Land a Job Interview

older worker HIRE ME

What? You’re still here???? You need to reset your link to leadershipbuilding.wordpress.com.  That’s where I’m posting all new content now. 

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How to Position Your Branded Value and Expertise with the Two Most-Dreaded Interview Questions

nervous candidate in office

I should file this post under “More Nonsensical Advice from (Former) Recruiters” but I won’t. I just watched a couple YouTube videos from “career experts” that claimed two of the worst interview questions a decision maker can toss your way are these:

  • “So, tell me something about yourself…”
  • “What’s your worst work habit or greatest weakness?”

They are only the worst questions if you aren’t prepared because most candidates don’t anticipate these questions or don’t know how to respond by promoting their branded value and expertise.

Let’s begin with Question 1: “So, tell me something about yourself.” This is NOT the time to respond with “uh…what do you want to know?” or reciting your résumé…for crying out loud, the decision maker probably has your résumé on his or her desk and has looked at more than a couple times if you’ve been called in for an interview. You’ve been given a golden opportunity to promote your branded expertise and value (“branded expertise and value” is a key phrase I use a lot, so learn what it is and how to apply it). I enjoyed asking this question because I wanted to see if the candidates really got the idea behind it.

Here’s a template for your response: “I’m a <personal fact No. 1>, a <personal fact No. 2>, a <personal fact No. 3>, a darn good <position for which you are interviewing>, and I have an eye on your <No. 1 key item of importance to decision maker> and your <No. 2 key item of importance to decision maker>.  Here’s a real-life response from an Android platform programmer I interviewed back around 2009 (I hired him on the spot):

“I’m a cello playing kids’ soccer coach, a member of the PTA; I’m a darn good Android programmer who has an eye on your project schedule and project budget.”

Wow! He nailed it. I learned that he, like myself, played classical music, was involved with his kids and the community, and he knew two things that were important to ME: project schedule and budget. And he did it in one sentence that took less than 15 seconds! He didn’t recite his experience or education; he didn’t “brag” (I don’t consider self-confidence as “bragging” because he had the background to back it up), and he didn’t beg or plead for the job. He positioned his branded expertise and value in such a way that influenced the hiring decision.

Let’s look at Question No. 2:  “What’s your worst work habit or greatest weakness?” Why on earth would ANYONE give a “brutally honest” answer to this question? If a compulsive liar says that he’s a compulsive liar, how will that influence whether or not he gets a job offer? It’s almost a trick question and no interviewer worth his or her credentials would ask such a question of candidates, but they do. You can try to soften the response with something like, “My co-workers would say that I’m tenacious at problem-solving and won’t quit until I have the solution” which is a softball-type of response that (1) decision makers are wise to; and (2) it’s not really a “worst” work habit.

I once responded to this question with: “Only my wife and my pastor know what my greatest weakness is, but for my worst work habit, my references are in a better position to provide unbiased assessments.” That response didn’t hurt my chances of moving forward in the hiring process at all because it showed that I protected my branded expertise and value by not blurting out some stupid response that would have stopped my progress cold! It’s 5-star impression management!

So, that’s how you respond to those two most-dreaded questions that not only preserve your value, but better position you to influence a decision to hire you or buy from you. I teach these techniques in my “Power of Presence” seminars that reveal the steps behind engaging –> positioning –> influencing –> and converting decision makers to become your ally, advocate, champion, client, customer or whatever your end goal is.

What are your experiences with such questions? Any other good responses?

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Are you a meeting professional with an upcoming conference that needs a dynamic speaker with a program that offers high energy and high takeaway value? Give me a call at (512) 797-3035 and let’s see whether my programs would be a good fit.

Speaker, award-winning author, and positioning/influence strategist Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years experience in various leadership and management positions with such Fortune 100 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, and Intel Corp., the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA), and academia (adjunct faculty, University of Houston Downtown College, Dept. of Natural Sciences and Mathematics). He is the author of two award-winning books on professional development positioning and influence strategies and a popular conference keynote and seminar speaker. He holds certifications as a “Certified Fraud Examiner” (CFE) and in “Project Risk Management” and “Managing Projects in Large Organizations” from George Washington University. 

Request Donn’s free e-book, ACCESS GRANTED: A 10-Step Social Media Plan for Gaining Access to Decision Makers

 

“One Million…One BILLION Résumés Reviewed!” And Other Recruiter Nonsense Claims

 

Dr. Evil

I found this statement on a career expert’s blog (he’s actually a former recruiter):

“I’ve reviewed more than 500,000 resumes during my career and have developed an optimal resume format that works for 95% of the workforce.”

horse wagon fertilzer

Sorry, but that’s a load of horse fertilizer. Let’s look at the math first: It doesn’t really lend itself to the actual idea of “reviewing” in detail all those résumés. Let’s assume this person has reviewed 500,000 résumés over a 30-year career. That comes out to 16,666 résumés reviewed per year, or 320 per week for 52 weeks (no vacations). Taking it down one more step, that’s 64 résumés per day or 8 per hour.

Is that possible? Well, MAYBE, if that’s all you ever do day in and day out every year for 30 years.

In my 30 years in management and leadership positions with hiring authority for Fortune 100 companies, I will guess that I’ve reviewed somewhere between 1200 and 1500 résumés TOTAL, mostly for positions on my team or in my department. Let’s do the math on the 1500 over 30 years. That comes out to 50 per year, a little over 4 per month, and slightly over 1 per week. That’s probably a little high, but close. But it came in spurts. I might have reviewed 10 to 12 résumés over the course of a week and perhaps called in a couple of candidates for interviews. Then I might not see another résumé for 6 or 7 months. That’s in addition to managing people, projects, stakeholders, in-person interviews, meetings, travel, etc.

But, a recruiter doesn’t “review” résumés in the true sense; they “scan” them for defined criteria sent to them by the company that hired them to screen applicants. They may receive a shopping list from a client company that states, “Send me only candidates with MBA or MS degrees, 7 years experience, and knowledge of XYZ.” A three-second glance can tell recruiters if they need to review any further.  Recruiters may also conduct phone screens or preliminary in-person interviews to brief the candidate on the background of their client and what they are looking for.

If a client wants people with MBA degrees, any résumé that crosses a recruiter’s desk without that MBA degree listed is quickly discarded. Does that count as a “reviewed résumé”? One former recruiter told me, “If I touch it, it’s been reviewed.”

But consider the compensation structure for many recruiters: the more candidate résumés a recruiter can forward to the client that come close to meeting the criteria for the position, the higher the odds the client will find one or two candidates to interview and offer a position to one of them, and the sooner the recruiter gets paid the commission.

Let’s look at the other problem with that recruiter’s statement: That he has “an optimal résumé format for 95% of the workforce.” Second load of horse fertilizer.

There is NO SUCH THING as an optimal résumé “format.” There are, however, certain criteria every résumé should have once you get past the education or “years experience” requirement: How you convey your branded expertise and value through accomplishments and achievements that contributed to the higher strategic objectives of your previous employers. Forget “duties and responsibilities” (well, don’t omit them, just don’t think they will differentiate you from others) because everyone with a job has duties and responsibilities.

I have spoken and written about this many times: if you are changing jobs within an industry or profession, use a reverse-chronological style résumé that focuses on what you did and accomplished for each employer starting from your current or most recent employer.

If you are re-entering the workforce after a long absence or changing careers altogether, a functional style résumé best serves your purpose because it focuses on the transferable functional skills you can bring to that new career. There’s less importance on previous activities with former employers and positions (you won’t find bullet lists of “duties and responsibilities” on such formats).

If you’re seeking a full-time teaching position at a university, the curriculum vitae (or CV) style will address that purpose, though some institutions request a résumé. The CV is a multi-page document (often 10+ pages) that details your education history, your teaching experience, publications you’ve written, edited, contributed to (you’d better have more than a few books or peer-reviewed journal articles on that list), and lots of references.  Some legal and medical positions require CVs instead of résumés, and in England and other countries, the term “CV” is used interchangeably with “résumé” where they are considered different documents in the United States.

There are also composite or “blended” résumé versions that contain elements of both the reverse-chronological and functional formats.

YOU are the expert on YOUR experience and expertise. Be very careful about allowing a recruiter to edit/revise/enhance your résumé without first getting approval from you and THEN getting approval AFTER they make any changes. The compensation model has just enough incentive built in for some unscrupulous recruiter to modify your experience to make you look better than your actual skills or experience. That could doom you to failure at your next employer.

One last consideration: recruiters can and do expedite the onboarding process for client companies. I’ve worked with some great professional recruiters who were tuned in to the type of candidates I wanted; however, recruiters are removed from the final hiring decision because that’s the client’s domain. The decision maker that counts is the one with the most direct knowledge of the position, and that’s often a manager or executive with hiring authority.

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Speaker, award-winning author, and positioning/influence strategist Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years experience in various leadership and management positions with such Fortune 100 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, and Intel Corp., the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA), and academia (adjunct faculty, University of Houston Downtown College, Dept. of Natural Sciences and Mathematics). He is the author of two award-winning books on professional development positioning and influence strategies and a popular conference keynote and seminar speaker. He holds certifications as a “Certified Fraud Examiner” (CFE) and in “Project Risk Management” and “Managing Projects in Large Organizations” from George Washington University. 

Request Donn’s free e-book, ACCESS GRANTED: A 10-Step Social Media Plan for Gaining Access to Decision Makers

5 Reasons Why “We Don’t Hire Outside Speakers” is Bad Policy for Your Members and Association

same old thinking same old results

It’s a mantra heard (or read in email) regularly by speaking professionals: “We don’t hire outside speakers for our conference.” That justification is totally understandable for many small conferences that must rely largely on the efforts of volunteers responsible for nearly everything, from selecting a meeting site to food menus. Regardless of the association conference size and scope, continued professional development remains a top priority for attendees.

The 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report (Marketing General Incorporated) received responses from 870 executives and 1,005 unique associations that revealed the top four reasons members join professional associations and attend conferences:

  • Networking with others in the field
  • Continuing education
  • Access to specialized and/or current information
  • Learning best practices in their profession

Given (1) the above member priorities and (2) associations struggling with gaining new members, retaining existing members, and engaging all members as mentioned in the above-referenced report, the elephant in the room seems to be ignored in the conversation.

A Problem with Using Only Members as Conference Presenters

Three of those four top responses (I would say all) involve breakout sessions, keynote addresses, panel discussions, Q & A sessions, pre- and post-conference seminars and workshops. And what happens at most conferences? Many of the speaking slots are filled with the same association member presenters, some (perhaps many, depending on the conference) of whom aren’t interesting. Why aren’t they interesting? Because their content-only, busy Powerpoint slides distance and disconnect them from the audience who expects to be informed, educated, and enlightened in a manner that is also interesting. It’s never the audience’s fault for being bored; it’s the speaker’s fault for not being interesting.

These presenters often aren’t aware of their communication blind spots that affect the way they connect (i.e., being interesting) with larger audiences they are trying to inform, educate, and enlighten because such experts often excel in conversations, not presentations. In fact, the most important element to be built in to conference presentations is enhancing the experience of the listening audience. Wrap those facts and numbers in a story or anecdote, and they have a better chance of being embedded in audience memory. Show a Powerpoint slide with tables and charts, and that information is forgotten as soon as the next slide appears on the screen.

Many of these member presenters simply don’t know how to tell stories to make the facts interesting, memorable, and pertinent.

Bringing in Outside Speaking Experts

It’s no surprise that meeting and conference professionals hold one of the most stressful jobs today. I have several friends who are meeting professionals and have personally witnessed how hard they work when it’s showtime for them (I’ve also worked on conference committees for national conferences). Having to juggle a variety of tasks involved with large-scale meetings and conferences (not to mention doing it all with fewer resources) is today a Herculean effort that demands patience, comfortable shoes, a knack for balancing necessary expenditures with return on investment (ROI).

A critical factor for such large conferences is outside speaker selection; someone who can set the opening tone and tenor for the meeting, provide seminars/workshops with a perspective or insight external to the group collective wisdom, or bottle up the excitement and energy from the conference to finish the closing ceremony on a high note. That’s a tall order for a speaking professional, but that’s why they get hired: to shift paradigms, motivate audiences to action and, as a by-product, promote association value and the value of membership in that association.

I recently heard of a conference that stated it doesn’t pay outside speakers or expenses, but would provide a discount on conference registration. There would be 3,000 attendees paying $1800 for a three-day conference, bringing in $5.4 million just in registration fees alone. Other lesser sources of income might be realized from selling exhibit hall space, bookstore sales, subscriptions for streaming conference sessions for those unable to attend, etc.

“Discount on registration fee” might be OK for people presenting breakout or poster sessions, or serving on a panel because (1) their employer is likely covering expenses and registration; and (2) speaking at conferences is an infrequent and minor responsibility. But what self-employed business owners or consultants who want to present and have great ideas to share with attendees? Registration fee discounts may not amount to much incentive for them.

Coffee and Bagels Cost More Than a Top-Notch Speaker

A top-notch, non-celebrity speaking professional’s fee will fall between 0.002% and 0.004% of that $5.4 million registration revenue. That’s it! I’ve done the math: The conference organizers will spend more on one morning’s coffee, bagels, and pastries for 2,000 or 3,000 attendees than for a great speaker who can take the audience to the next level of their personal or professional lives. In fact, they’ll spend a lot more if the conference is held in a “tier 1” conference location such as New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, or Los Angeles. If you’re stressing about whether attendees prefer blueberry or cinnamon bagels, you (and your organization) are missing the value of what’s really going to feed attendees well beyond breakfast.

So, where’s the problem seeing the value difference here? Seems to be a disconnect between the parties “owning” the conference and those implementing the task-heavy responsibilities to pull everything off without any hitches. All too often the person delivering the “we don’t hire outside speakers” news is a hard-working conference committee volunteer who is just following handed-down protocol from previous years.

But not always.

After inquiring about a main-stage speaking opportunity for a large national association conference, last week a board member serving as conference chair responded to me with an email that included a link to the “speaker abstract submission form.” Most professional speaker/experts don’t fill out such forms since the decision to hire them for the specific function they will serve is usually much higher up in the organization.

I replied back to this board member with: “Is there a different process for selecting main-stage speakers? I’m sure that if Tony Robbins, Oprah, or former GE CEO Jack Welsh were interested in addressing your conference, a different process would be involved…” Her succinct reply: “ALL soliciting presenters must submit an abstract…”

Well, there you go. Can you picture Oprah filling in that form? That was either a clueless response or I was getting the brush-off from this board member, which is too bad for all potential speaker experts outside this association who have something of value to share with attendees.

“We don’t pay outside speakers, but you’ll get so much exposure…”

That’s a typical justification given for paying your own travel expenses, registration, and speaking for free. A non-compensated speaking gig can work in a target-rich environment, such as a conference hall full of meeting professionals or CEOs, but for the most part, the promise of “so much exposure” reminds me of a cold-weather warning: “Exposure kills people.” (One speaking expert I know when promised “more exposure” told a conference organizer: “I don’t need exposure…after all, you called me…”). You can’t deposit “exposure” in the bank, either.

So, lets look at five reasons why a “we don’t hire outside speakers” policy is a bad one for members and associations.

1.            It smacks of the “IKEA effect”

The “IKEA effect” (named after the Swedish furniture manufacturer that requires purchasers to assemble their purchased furniture with a few simple household tools) is a cognitive bias where consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. It’s a variation of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome. Behavioral economics researchers found out that people become smitten with their IKEA creations. Even when parts are missing and the items are assembled incorrectly, customers in the IKEA study still loved the fruits of their labors, Frankenstein creations notwithstanding.

The research conducted by Yale University and Harvard Business School also discovered such a condition is widespread in business. Organizations have this propensity to fall in love with what they create, often bypassing the step in the creativity/self-assessment process that asks: “Are we really that good? What can we do better or different this time?” (“Do we really need that extra nut and bolt to put this bookcase together? Nah…”) All too often they seek counsel from their own internal wisdom, which just seems to affirm their “awesomeness.”

When that attitude is adopted, it starts the downward spiral into becoming a…

2.            Closed-loop information and idea exchange

When a policy of not hiring outside speaker experts for conferences is in place year after year, the conference is at risk for degenerating into a closed-loop information and idea exchange; same breakout speakers, same panelists, which leads to…

3.            Idea inbreeding

When people’s ideas become more similar with little diversity within a community, a type of “inbreeding” of ideas happens whereby committee, board, and team decisions become impoverished, leading to “group think.” Such a phenomenon is well documented in organizational psychology. Because we all adapt to the environment in which we find ourselves, without the stimulus of conscious external intervention – something to punctuate the association or conference equilibrium – we all adjust to the newfound surroundings. We reach a new level of stasis (stability), which is a state of “same old, same old.”

Without the interjection of outside thinking, tangential ideas, or total paradigm shifts, the closed community will soon suffer from…

4.            Member value degradation

Remove those paradigm-shifting ideas, strategies, and approaches offered by speaker experts outside the association that challenge attendee and member assumptions (and stasis), and members will likely start to: (1) question the value of their (or their employer’s) investment in membership in that association; and (2) forego attending future conferences if the real and perceived value is lacking or absent.

And when members perceive little or no value to membership in the organization, then what’s left is…

 

 

 

5.            Association value degradation

And when members ― the lifeblood of any association ― start heading for the life boats, it’s difficult to stave off the looming titanic disaster.

Given these previous considerations…

What Impact Does Such a Policy NOW Have on Your Conference Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Event (ROE)?

The answer is obvious.

But it’s not easy breaking out of an association comfort zone; some associations are comfortable with the status quo. But, how else does the oyster cultivate the pearl without a single grain of sand (the intervention by something external) to act as an irritant? ROI provides some level of quantitative feedback on the financial investment for the conference, but what about ROE? ROE is the pearl to be cultivated: Your outside speaker expert is the grain of sand needed ― the necessary external intervention ― for your conference and association to cultivate its own pearl.

Not many meeting professionals have heard of ROE. Ira Kerns, Managing Director of GuideStar Research and Meeting Metrics, described the term “Return on Event” in 1991 to explain the perceived benefits expected before a conference or meeting with post-event results from various measurements and attendee feedback.

I use the term “extended ROE” or eROE in short form to better explain what happens. Extended ROE is the value conference attendees take with them (and even more so when a speaking expert provides post-conference followup) when they return to their work environments. When they begin implementing those mind-shifting strategies, jaw-dropping ideas, and insightful solutions presented by outside speaker experts that YOU brought in for your conference, YOU look the hero. And in turn, so does the association sponsoring the conference.

A strong eROE usually indicates the conference event has a long tail; in other words, its value remains high as measured over time after the event through what’s termed the “extended chain of impact.” Are attendees still implementing ideas they got during the conference and through any speaker expert followup three or six months later? If so, that’s HUGE eROE. (You can read more in my white paper entitled, “How Return on Event (ROE) Boosts Member Value, Member Retention Rates, and Member Engagement” on the Member’s Page at my website.)

And Finally: It’s Not a “Speaking Fee”

Associations don’t hire outside speaker experts just to dole out information; Google will feed everyone with free information forever and a day. Associations that do hire external speaker experts do so for their pattern-breaking insights that make them agents for change. If you continue to view the “speaking fee” as an expense item, then you have a misconception of what it truly represents: It’s an investment in moving your audience to the next level of their personal or professional potential while also bringing more value to membership and your organization. The old expression “you get what you pay for” is rings true for conference speakers; free could just turn out to be the most expensive choice you can make for many reasons.

Next time, skip the blueberry bagels for one morning and put that money into hiring a speaking expert who can provide insightful breakthroughs to success for attendees. There’s no time like the present to start cultivating that pearl for your next conference.

 

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© 2018. Donn LeVie Jr. STRATEGIES. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint and distribute is freely given so long as the information remains complete and unchanged in its current form and the following information (with links) is included.

Speaker, success expeditor, positioning/influence strategist, and award-winning author Donn LeVie Jr., has nearly three decades in management and leadership positions for Fortune 100 companies (Phillips 66, Motorola, Intel Corp.), academia (University of Houston Downtown College), government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA), and is the author of two award-winning professional success strategy books. 

Donn LeVie Jr is the speaking expert you want to help elevate your conference ROI and extend the Return on Event for enhancing association value and member value. His E.P.I.C. RESULTS™: The Power of Leadership Presence program teaches new and up-and-coming leaders the Four Pillars of Leadership Presence: Engagement, Positioning, Influence, and Conversion that help them turn any and all decision makers into advocates, allies, champions, clients, or customers.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) where he holds the “Certified Fraud Examiner” designation. Donn holds certifications from George Washington University in “Managing Projects in Organizations” and “Project Risk Assessment.”

Additional Resources

  • Gluten-free positioning and influence strategies for the hungry on Donn’s blog.
  • Get cool micro-ideas on Twitter to accelerate your business/professional goals.
  • Tap into Donn’s 500+ LinkedIn
  • Download “7 Reasons Why You Should Hire Donn for Your Next Event.”
  • Download Donn’s Speaker One-Sheet

Want to have a short conversation with Donn on how he can help make your next event a huge hit with attendees? Schedule a call with Donn today!

Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: THE FINAL CHAPTER (Part 2 of 2)

justice league2

There’s a Better Way to “Screen” Conference Presenters than with Inclusion/Social Identity Check Boxes

(Be sure to read “Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: Is This a Good Thing?” first.)

Not long ago, if you were a female musician who wanted to audition for an open orchestra position, you were at a distinct disadvantage, especially if it was for any of the more renowned European orchestras. In 1970, fewer than 5% of orchestras had any female musicians, largely due to strong gender bias exhibited by old-school male orchestra conductors. In the early 1980s, auditions behind screens were becoming more common. These “blind auditions” focused attention on the music performance, and not on visual first impressions that would color the entire audition, often well before the musician removed the instrument from its case.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell details the story of classical musician Abbie Conant (see photo). After applying for eleven trombone vacancies in orchestras across Europe, she heard only from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, who invited her to audition. As luck would have it, the auditions were held in a Munich museum because construction had not been completed on the orchestra’s cultural center. A blind audition was used for the first round of auditions because another applicant was the son of a standing Munich Philharmonic member.

Of the the 33 applicants selected, Abbie was number sixteen. Long story short: When it was her turn to audition, she nailed it so well that the committee sent the remaining 17 applicants home without hearing them. The conductor, Sergiu Celibidache was ecstatic, until Abbie appeared from behind the screen to accept the congratulations, Maestro Celibidache was mildly apoplectic. He believed that a woman could not play the trombone; however, the Munich Philharmonic had two women (a violinist and oboist) only because those were “feminine” instruments. The trombone is considered a “masculine” instrument thanks to the imagery associated with military marching bands of Old Europe.

Abbie passed two additional rounds of auditions, and was hired, but faced continue bias from Celibidache (probationary periods for no reason, demotion to second trombone despite her excellent performances, false claims of unprofessionalism). She eventually had to take him and the Munich Philharmonic to court, where she prevailed on every count. Eight years later, she was reinstated to first trombone.

Here’s the point: Maestro Celibidache, her chief complainer, had listened to her play some of the most difficult trombone repertoire ever written, and “under conditions of perfect objectivity and in that unbiased moment, he had said, ‘That’s who we want!’ and sent the remaining trombonists packing,” writes Gladwell.

But when Celibidache and the committee got their first look at Abbie after that first-round audition, all those age-old prejudices and biases reared their ugly heads, and began to shove aside the amazing audible first impression of her performance. Now, imagine if Abbie had to audition without a screen and in full view of Celibidache and the committee: What chance do you think she would have had moving on being a female auditioning on a “masculine” instrument? What if she had to check the “gender” box or the “audition instrument” box first before anyone heard her perform?

The (average) percentage of female orchestra musicians has risen from less than 5% in 1970 to more than 50% in the country’s top 250 orchestras. The blind audition has demonstrated its viability not only for orchestras, but also for blind reviews of journal submission articles. Articles are judged solely on the merit of content, not on celebrity, reputation, author familiarity, gender, race, social identity or other checked boxes.

Many companies use blind résumé reviews (no candidate names) as a first-impression strategy to combat conscious or unconscious bias a decision maker displays if a candidate’s name reveals gender and/or racial or ethnic origin. Read Blink to learn how pervasive bias is, even when we think we believe we hold inclusive, unbiased perspectives.

You Can’t Escape Human Bias

There are certain inherent biases present in all human interactions, from auditions and job interviews, to first dates and even the field of work (or musical instrument) to which one drawn. These intrinsic assumptions are blind spots that can mask meaningful perceptions that can have significance or contribute to something greater. Harvard University social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji affirms the struggle with inherent bias:

Even the most well-intentioned person unwittingly allows unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence apparently objective decisions.

Academia is another place where bias often runs rampant. A Swedish study discovered female candidates applying for post-doctoral fellowships needed substantially more publications than male candidates to achieve the same rating, unless they were acquainted with a panel member (source: “Nepotism and Sexism in Peer Review,” Nature, 387, 341-343).

Blind Screenings for Conference Presenters Can Provide Objective Evaluation of Presentation Proposals

In an attempt to be more inclusive of members/conference presenters in certain demographics, the article entitled, “Other/Wise” in the October-November issue of CONVENE magazine proposes several ideas that claim to promote diversity and inclusion. However, as has been demonstrated in research and real life, those ideas mistakenly would create additional bias and exclusion because of the segmented categorization such check-box approaches (and mentalities) create.

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Donn LeVie Jr., CFE, is a keynote speaker, seminar presenter, and career/business positioning strategist who shows audiences how to engage, position, influence, and convert decision makers into clients and customers. Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Careers. He also wrote Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the American Society of Association Executives. www.donnleviejrstrategies.com; donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Conference Professionals As Social Justice Warriors: Is This a Good Thing? (Part 1 of 2 Posts)

justice league

On a recent flight back to Austin from Philadelphia, I happened across an article in the October 2017 issue of CONVENE, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), entitled, “Other/Wise: You Might be Making Some People Feel Like They Don’t Belong at Your Meeting – Without Even Realizing It.

convene cover

The piece, penned by contributing editor Sarah Beauchamp from what seems to be a not-so-hidden perspective, points a finger at conference professionals for conference attendees who feel “otherized” (the author’s term). It falls on conference professionals, therefore, when the speaker/presenter/panelist lineup fails to include a particular demographic, when marketing collateral uses politically incorrect pronouns (and speakers do the same in their PowerPoint presentations), or when the choice of venue city doesn’t consider whether attendees will feel welcome and safe there.

It’s All YOUR Fault!

According to Beauchamp and those quoted in the article:

  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault presenters/panelists are too white and too male for some sessions, even though you may not have received any proposals from non-white, non-male individuals. (Some industries, such as microprocessor design and manufacturing, are dominated by males. From that population, a certain percentage of submitted conference proposals is accepted, and it’s likely those selected for presentation will be from males.)
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault your marketing collateral uses the universal “he” a little too often.
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault that conference chairs are too wide/narrow or have/don’t have side arms to accommodate different body types.
  • It’s possible that it’s YOUR fault the venue city was selected not because it had enough hotel rooms to accommodate registered attendees, a sufficiently large convention center, easy airport access, or lots of great nearby restaurants and attractions – yes, it’s YOUR fault you didn’t select another venue city where some attendees would feel welcome or safe there.
  • Even though YOUR conference registration process includes special needs requests (interpreter for hearing-impaired attendees; ramps for those who are wheelchair bound; special religious/other dietary restrictions; etc.), it’s possible that it’s YOUR fault if some black swan situation arises with someone because you didn’t anticipate the 100-year corner case.

The irony strikes early in the article as the lead-in paragraph ends with “Here’s how to open your program to your entire community” but in truth, the advice peppered throughout creates obstacles to that end.

Does Checking the “Right” Boxes Now Serve as a Filter for Presenter Selection?

Here’s my concern: Beauchamp’s piece proposes more “check the box” diversity and social justice considerations for speakers, panelists, exhibitors, and others participating in conference events. Does this suggest that the top 3 reasons people attend conferences be relegated to a secondary consideration? Attendees want to learn best practices, network with others in their industry or profession, and continue their education in breakout sessions and seminars (source: 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report).

As a keynote speaker and seminar leader who works with associations, I know they want to see and hear the very best ideas from the best available presenters who can add value to the conference and to membership in an association. For most attendees, that consideration is likely the most important – regardless of the obvious or self-identity characteristics of the presenter.

Who or what is served by requiring presenters and panelists to self-identify their gender, race, or sexual identity? Social justice criteria would seem to serve as additional filters, potentially removing from consideration an expert speaker with a trending topic or expertise that would be of interest to attendees because: (1) the speaker is male; (2) the speaker is white; (3) the speaker is something else on the “least favored” list. What we don’t want to hear is something like, “Sorry….we did not select Tony Robbins as a speaker because we already have too many white males presenting on the main stage…”

If conferences pursue that direction, do ROI, Return on Event (ROE), and other success measures become consigned to lesser importance in favor of check-box analytics? I wholeheartedly agree that ROI and ROE are “directly affected by a diverse and welcoming event,” but will social/self-identity filters end up promoting segregation rather than integration? How do you assign ROI to a check-box self-identity options?

Diversity has many different definitions based on who you ask but one thing underlies all perspectives: diversity does not automatically imply an integrated community – in the workplace, in the conference hall or breakout room, or even in large cities. Brown University’s “American Communities” Project shows that the most diverse cities in fact have the most segregated neighborhoods. Most American cities fail in balancing diversity with integration.

“…To open your program to your entire community” as stated in the lead-in paragraph means everyone enters through the same portal. But Beauchamp’s position seems to paint a different picture: one of separate and preferred lanes (filters or check boxes) set up to funnel people into the community ahead of/ or in place of others.

The Failure of Mandated Diversity Programs is Well Documented

The July-August 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review was dedicated to the topic of diversity and why most workplace diversity programs don’t work. The primary reason for failure: Force-fitting people into compliance and categories actually activates bias rather than diminishes it. Bias is part of the human being operating system; you can’t avoid it. Box checking is a type of control tactic; interestingly, the diversity approaches that were successful in the article were those not deemed “diversity initiatives.” Instead, mentoring, self-managed teams, targeted recruiting of women and minorities, and cross-training naturally and without mandated compliance brought diverse individuals together for common goals and better results. This topic is just too large to fully address in this short article but it’s clear most diversity training labeled as such doesn’t work. Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet talks about what is working—and what is not—when it comes to building a more equitable workplace. Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet talks about what is working—and what is not—when it comes to building a more equitable workplace in this brief video.

The successful approaches mentioned previously removed the box-checking control tactics because they used bridging social capital (across different groups), which is associated with both diversity and higher levels of innovation, whereas bonding social capital (within a homogeneous group) leads to self-segregation, and is negatively associated with diversity and innovation. Calling for “Diversity and Inclusion” criteria on presenter proposal forms (such as, “all fields must be completed” = mandatory compliance) may have the opposite effect, as has been demonstrated countless times and referenced in the HBR issue.

Leave the community portal open so that knowledge, wisdom, and experience can be made available to everyone by anyone with value to add. No labels. No mandates. No self-identity filters. Just everyone working together with bridging social capital for the benefit of all conference attendees and the organization.

(Be sure to read the followup post: Conference Professionals as Social Justice Warriors: THE FINAL CHAPTER)

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Donn LeVie Jr., CFE, is a keynote speaker, seminar presenter, and career/business positioning strategist who shows audiences how to engage, position, influence, and convert decision makers into clients and customers. Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for Careers. He also wrote Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award.

Donn is a member of the National Speakers Association, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the American Society of Association Executives.  www.donnleviejrstrategies.com; donnleviejr@gmail.com.

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For a good concise history of diversity initiatives, see The Houston Lawyer.

5 Reasons Diversity and Inclusion Fails (Forbes article).

No, You CAN’T Pick My Brain!

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Like many other consultants and strategists, I’m constantly asked by friends and strangers if they can “pick my brain over lunch” or just flat out email me for my advice on a business strategy matter after reading one of my books, LinkedIn articles, or articles in a number of other publications. This subject has been addressed in many forums by many different authors and experts. In fact, there’s a book with the title, No, You Can’t Pick My Brain: It Costs Too Much! Love it…

How to Avoid Being the Smartest Consultant in the Poor House

I provide free valuable information through several channels and that information has helped lots of others. Most people would never think of asking their attorney or CPA for a brain-picking session camouflaged as a pretense for “doing lunch.” But those who don’t want to invest the time or money for expert advice, but want to get it from me for free – need to be educated or at least made aware of their bonehead requests.

One of my best friends is a realtor, and in one of our real estate investment deals, we worked through the motivated seller’s broker with an all-cash offer. My friend offered to represent our interests at no charge (he wasn’t going to get a commission because of how the deal was set up), but we insisted on paying him the standard commission anyway. We needed his expertise, and we gladly paid for it. Professional courtesy all the way around.

When conference coordinators and meeting planners hire me to provide a keynote, a seminar, or even breakout sessions, I’m always available to answer questions, sit down with an attendee to address some business issue –  I even give away many copies of my books wherever I speak. If I’m being paid for speaking over several days, those same freebies apply.

Think about this: If brain pickers already knew the answers to their questions or the solutions to their problems, they wouldn’t be engaging you. Likewise, if they didn’t have to open their wallets to get a solution to that problem, why would they need any help in the first place!

Whenever I find a brain-picking request in my in-box or on voice mail from someone local, I usually respond with a question: “Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you just want to have lunch?” For all others, I’ll ask only if they are interested in becoming a client. If not, I point them to my books, this blog, my website with free articles and downloads, my Twitter feed, etc. That usually separates the professionals from the amateurs (or, as one of my marketing/speaking coaches calls them, “broke-ass losers”).

Solving their particular problems or challenges requires an investment on their part for the expert’s wisdom, experience, and knowledge. To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, there’s a time for charity, and a time for business. You have to decide where to draw that line for your own purposes.

Many years ago, I agreed to meet a former co-worker for coffee to discuss a business issue he was wrestling with. An hour later, I walked away thinking: “That cup of coffee just cost me $300.00…I have to stop doing this.” And I did, but I changed the rule to make it work for me.

I can’t claim original ownership to this approach, but I agreed to exchange some of my time only if the person requesting free advice would provide a video testimonial about the ease with which I solved their problem and the value of my solution. Such video testimonials become another example of social proof of your expertise that you can leverage and distribute in many channels.

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.”

Nuff said.

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Speaker, positioning/engagement strategist, and former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award and RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award for Careers), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award and WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). 

His next book, The Mindworm Contagion, addresses strategies for consultants and business owners for pre-engaging decision makers using social media. It is slated for Spring 2018 release. 

 

 

“Résumés? We don’t need no stinkin’ résumés!”

we don't need no stinkin' badges

“I’m too busy to be updating my résumé…” “I think résumés are a waste of time when I can use social media to promote my expertise…” “Who needs résumés today when we all have LinkedIn profiles?” (Recent comments from LinkedIn posts.)

Who needs résumés today? Recruiters and hiring managers, to start with. Regardless of your opinion about résumés, they are still the de facto document for most professional positions in most industries and fields. Look at all the posts from career coaches and résumé writers on LinkedIn if you have any doubt about the importance of an achievement-focused résumé. Not the “duties and responsibilities” kind that testify to your being just another employee, because hiring managers have too many employees just doing their assigned tasks and duties.

An achievement-focused résumé takes planning and more than a few drafts to get it right. Hiring managers (and recruiters screening résumés for hiring managers) want game changers, solutions providers, and problem solvers who can demonstrate or prove a track record of accomplishment (usually backed up quantitative evidence). If you write in a cover letter, “I have a track record of proven accomplishment” or some other similar cliché, you’d better be able to back it up on a résumé with revenues generated, costs avoided, percent efficiency improvement, or some other objective measure instead of lightweight, subjective verbiage.

The question of the value of résumés is a moot one because it doesn’t matter at all what you think, believe, or feel about their worth. For now, and into the foreseeable future, résumés are what hiring managers and recruiters want to see from candidates. Even if résumés were no longer required, they still are another weapon in your arsenal that attest to your value, brand, and expertise to others having a need for it.

The same goes for cover letters. It doesn’t matter what you think about who reads them; The cover letter is another arrow in your expert quiver that testifies to your ability as the hiring manager’s problem solving, go-to professional. The cover letter is not a summary of your résumé. Omit them at your own peril.

As for LinkedIn profiles, I used to use them as a confirmation tool that the candidate presented as a professional on a résumé likewise did the same on LinkedIn. Social media can be a double-edged sword, where some hiring managers eliminate potential candidates by what they find on social media sites.

I imagine the people bemoaning the need for updated résumés have either been unemployed or underemployed for some time; it might be a result of having a poor attitude — or a poor résumé.

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Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years in various hiring manager positions for Fortune 500 companies in the earth/space sciences, software development, and microprocessor design support. He is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 and Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, both Global eBook Award and International Book Award winners. Today, he is a keynote speaker and seminar leader on positioning and engagement strategies for professionals seeking greater career and business trajectories.

Are There Really Generational Differences in the Workplace?

graphic for generational differences blog post

We keep reading about soft skill generational differences among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials and whether these real and perceived differences should be accommodated by employers. The truth is that each generation arrives in the workplace strongly influenced by whatever technology drivers are current for them as well as the influence of pop culture.

As a career strategist and former Fortune 500 hiring manager, I personally never bought into the idea of a business or company accommodating a particular generation’s work ethic (“soft skills”, however, are a different animal) over those of other generations. To me, that’s the tail wagging the dog. It contributes to vertical silo social/organization structures rather than horizontal structures.

Instead, what I have found to be more effective for accommodating the workforce generational difference and the bottom line is a combination of several factors, primarily aligning/re-aligning people across generations based on their particular work styles and perspectives.

Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry that identifies four primary work styles (Drivers, Guardians, Pioneers, and Integrators), and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Existing personality tests aren’t tailored to the workplace and rely too much on personal introspection. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other personality assessments put people in one category or another, but the brain isn’t wired like that and even the Myers-Briggs Foundation cautions against integrating results with hiring decisions. The Business Chemistry process, which is based on neural chemistry, pulls diverse work styles together – regardless of generation. These four primary work styles are found across all generations, not just within one age group.

According to the research, organizations that emphasize cognitive diversity rather than generational or even racial diversity can harvest the catalytic benefits such organizing work styles offer. In it’s search for effective value-driven diversity in the workplace, could neuro-diversity base on cognitive assortment be The Answer?

Want to know if you’re a Driver, Guardian, Pioneer, or Integrator? Email me and I’ll send you the Business Chemistry self-assessment worksheet as found in the Harvard Business Review March/April 2017 edition.

So, what about those soft skills?

Here’s a scary statistic: Only 23% of employers measure quality of hire, a metric that has been shown to be critical to understanding the effectiveness of an organization’s hiring process (source: SHRM Research, 2016). When employers complain about bad hires, it’s sounding more like the echo of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t at least look for soft skills proficiency, well…you get what you pay for.

The higher up one advances in the organization, the greater the need for soft skills execution (see my previous post for more of soft skills). While some assessments can provide a window into a candidate’s soft skills inventory and application, most companies will have to select those soft skills that do the best job reinforcing their particular business process. HR and hiring managers will have to work together to determine which soft skills to look for and assess.

Work environments must establish an atmosphere that provides opportunities for people to succeed with hard and soft skills. While a person’s core personality core can’t be changed, they can learn strategies for engagement and influence to better manage the daily interactions with peers and upper management.

YOUR TURN: what are you strategies and tactics for addressing generational work style differences in the workplace? Are they working, or are you looking for something else? 

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring/Strategist programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

Cultural Fitness: Are You in the Right Shape to Get Hired?

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In today’s ever-morphing hiring landscape, employers are devoting more energy for determining if a candidate is a good cultural fit. Beyond just assessing whether a potential employee will be a squeaky wheel, cultural fit is an important element for succession planning as more Baby Boomers exit the workforce.

What is “cultural fit” anyway? Cultural fit addresses ideas of shared assumptions in a workplace environment, such as how to treat others, how time is managed, how work gets done, how to communicate, how to dress, which behavior isn’t tolerated, how resources are allocated, etc. When hiring managers or decision makers ask themselves, “Do I like you?”, that question encompasses all the above-mentioned criteria.

Soft Skills

Cultural fit includes the possession of such “soft skills” as collaboration, creativity, curiosity, problem solving, communication, conflict management, strong work ethic, adaptability, social awareness, empathy, emotional intelligence, clear and concise self-presentation. These soft skills apply to not only the day-to-day job, but to cultural fit because they represent core values and drive the business agenda.

But these skills are difficult to teach and can be very challenging to screen for in just one or two interviews. An Adecco Staffing survey found that 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce. Another survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, Office Team, and HR.com discovered that HR managers said they would hire someone with strong soft skills even if the technical skills were lacking because you can always teach technical skills. The mantra today is “Hire for attitude; train for aptitude.”

There’s no simple across-the-board answer that can apply to all jobs in all industries or professions. Multiple interviews and engaging discussions, as well as observed behaviors, help employers measure how well these factors match the organization’s core beliefs.

Here are some other approaches to cultural fit and the cost of the wrong hire.

http://www.jobscience.com/blog/avoiding-bad-hires-with-cultural-fit-assessments/

http://essencerecruitment.ca/testing-cultural-fit/

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at donnleviejr@gmail.com.

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