Category Archives: Getting Hired

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

 

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“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

“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.

Millennial Job Interview FAIL: TBH, It’s the Fault of the Pre-Frontal Cortex…I Can’t Even…

millenial-job-interview-fail

If you’ve seen the YouTube video, “Sh!t Millennials Say…in the Workplace” (http://bit.ly/2hMajbM) you know you laughed at the banal facial and verbal expressions (betraying misfires in social cognitive factors) because we’ve all seen them and heard them in the workplace. We’ve been told in recent publications that the whole Millennial characterization craze is simply another episode of how different generations approach work, and it’s alot of noise about nothing. In fact, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute reviewed 18 years worth of data from 115,000 employees and discovered that “individual characteristics, such as personality traits, job autonomy, and manager relationships accounted for 98 to 99 percent of the differences across employees, whereas generation accounts for just 0 to 2 percent.” (http://ibm.co/2hMeCnA)

Not buying it….completely anyway.

Remember “relationship marketing“?  That’s still a viable approach to courting clients and customers because, if I like you, I’m inclined to do business with you. However, the term “cognitive-focused marketing strategies” is being touted as the next level of market research because of how different generations process information. For example, marketers should target messages for the still-developing millennial brain – specifically, the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and moderating social behavior. That may explain why many decisions by younger millennials have to first be run through their social network for approval/acceptance/validation. That’s decision making by consensus, not critical thinking – something companies want in new hires.

But the “moderating social behavior” function of the pre-frontal cortex often misfires, thus creating fodder for such aforementioned YouTube videos on millennials in the workplace. While I mostly chalk up Millennial workplace characterizations to generational differences and try to set aside stereotypes, I sometimes pause to reconsider that position when clients relate stories of job interviews with millennials. Such as….

  • While interviewing a young Millennial applicant for a writer position, the interviewer asked, “What writing accomplishment do you consider your greatest success?” The applicant responded with, “Writing masters theses and doctoral dissertations for students…” The applicant was completely unaware of the ethical issue with such an endeavor. Oh…did I mention that she was interviewing for a position with a global anti-fraud organization that is BIG on ethics and compliance?
  • Candidate asked the interviewer is she could use some of the hand lotion that was on the interviewer’s desk. “Sure,” the interviewer replied. The candidate then pumped out a palm full of hand lotion, hiked up her skirt, and applied the lotion to the inside of her thighs. How do you continued an interview after that?
  • A young attractive Millennial was hired for a front desk/receptionist position. After several weeks on the job, she requested a move to a different position because “the front desk activity interferes with my online shopping.”

What’s worrisome is that such awkward or inappropriate social behavior often is not recognized as such by these individuals. Inappropriate responses to social situations are legitimate causes of concern to hiring managers and employers who may feel that such candidates, if hired, may inflict injury to the company brand or reputation, or at worse, be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

MILLENIALS WANT MEANINGFUL PROJECT WORK: EMPLOYERS WANT MEANINGFUL RESULTS

While Millennials are eager to contribute to meaningful project work, they are just as eager to be rewarded for those contributions. Millennials often seek that reward by job hopping, which is then perceived as an absence of loyalty to an employer. Employer loyalty isn’t what it once was, but what offers more significant upward mobility for any employee is the development and application of new and needed skills lead to meaningful contributions to project work.

But “meaningful contribution” is something above and beyond daily task completions and duties/responsibilties. Your reward for those “contributions” is your paycheck (most of the time).  It’s not a one- or two-time event, because even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. Doesn’t mean we can crown him “The Acorn Hunter.”  Meaningful contribution from the company perspective (the company, after all, is who provides the paycheck and sets the rules) can be thought of as a track record of demonstrated accomplishment that significantly contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization; it is a history of solving problems and providing resolutions to issues that impact the revenue or mission goals of the organization consistently over time.

The Society for Human Resource Management (https://www.SHRM.org) performed a study in 2016 that showed Millennials over Boomers preferring job-specific training (95% to 83%), career development (88% to 76%), and career advancement opportunities (89% to 73%). Those results are not surprising given they represent the demographic endpoints of the workforce. In those respects, Millennials are like other generations in the workforce; But if I’m a Boomer (and I am), I’m looking forward to golfing at Doral, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, or cruising down the Danube River on any weekday afternoon.

THE WORKPLACE IS A HETEROGENEOUS DEMOGRAPHIC ENVIRONMENT

The workplace environment is a community of multi-generational workers, not segregated tribes of Millennials, Gen Y people, or Boomers. A company’s hiring, training, and operations policy must balance the needs of a heterogeneous workforce with the financial or missional goals of the organization. Any top-to-bottom corporate-wide re-architecting to accommodate the needs of a particular generation is “wagging the dog” and such an action would not find favor on Wall Street (or shareholders).

Millennials entering the workforce or changing jobs must understand that getting hired isn’t about them; it’s about what the hiring manager needs; it’s about speaking that hiring manager’s language and not in memes, acronyms, emojis, or GIFs; it’s communicating and promoting the future benefits of your expertise and less so the features of your past experience.

So long as the hiring process involves interactions with people, hiring decisions will be strongly influenced by (1) the candidate’s use of impression management language in cover letters, résumés, and interviews; and history of accomplishments (when available); and (2) the hiring manager’s bias (aka “positive prejudice”), “gut reaction” (intuition) about a candidate’s potential for future success, and who best fits in with an existing smooth-running team.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

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 (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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Leap of Faith: Why I Turned Down a Lucrative Job Offer (long post)

refuse-job-offer

Several years ago I had an amazing opportunity come my way from someone in my professional network, while I patiently awaited a long-delayed approval on a six-month extension of a high-paying part-time contract I was working on.

An engineering manager friend contacted me to see if I’d be interested in a director-level position with his company (a former employer of mine). I wasn’t interested initially as it didn’t figure into my career strategy. I passed along several names of other candidates for his consideration, but he was persistent in wanting me to think about the position: “We need someone with a passion for excellent customer documentation and your name keeps coming to the top of the list,” he told me.

Part of the reason for my reluctance to accept the position was that I was winding down my career for working for someone else. I had written two successful career strategy books with others in the works, and was giving keynotes and presenting seminars at conferences (part time). I wanted to pursue that direction full time when my six-month contract extension (if approved) expired.

Another reason for my reluctance was that I had been working from my home office on contracts for the past four years, supporting microprocessor design projects for companies in the U.S. and China. Working from home, as you might expect, offers so many conveniences and savings. I was sure that this director-level position would demand my presence on site five days a week plus occasional travel.

So, I agreed to speak with him and his manager about the director position. I had a slew of questions for them that were critical to my giving serious consideration to the position, which was Director of Technical Publications for a particular line of microprocessors. After our hour-long meeting, I came away convinced that I would have a difficult time being successful if I accepted the position.

Here are a few of the considerations that would be problematic for me:

  • No existing customer documentation (functional specs, programmers reference manuals; design specs, architecture specs, application notes) was available for the past 15 years
  • Engineering documentation resided on an internal wiki site and SharePoint with little navigation structure and resembled “notes to self” more than true documentation that wasn’t available to customers (thankfully!–no documentation is much better than poor documentation)
  • The existing documentation was written by design engineers, who are more focused on how the microprocessor works – not on how customers would program and configure the chip for their consumer products
  • Design engineers are notoriously reluctant to document anything (generally)

When I asked about the general attitude of the engineering team to start providing better documentation, the engineering director told me, “No one gives a hoot about writing documentation.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear but what I expected to hear.

I saw this situation as a time-consuming, slow implementation of change, and an exercise in futility. I had been in similar situations with other companies over my career and I just wasn’t going to push that boulder up another hill. And it would mean setting my book and speaking projects on the shelf for several years. I didn’t want to do that as I had been developing some momentum in those areas.

Then I asked about salary. “Name your number…,” they said, so I did. A big one; much larger than anything I’d earned in the past. It had to account for all the pain and suffering I saw that laid ahead. They didn’t bat an eye.

I discussed the position and the salary with my awesome supportive wife, who essentially left the decision up to me. I knew that I would regret not pursuing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life if I accepted the position (with all its attendant issues) just because of the big bag of money they dangled before me (we were fortunate in that we worked hard over the years to already have a solid financial position).

So I declined the offer.

But in so doing, I explained to my engineering manager friend the issues I saw with the position (and he agreed with them). I also suggested to him…

“The person you need with a passion for excellent customer documentation is an engineering director, not a technical publications expert. Engineers don’t report to the technical publications manager, so there’s no incentive to embrace and comply with what’s needed for developing any customer documentation. Without a revised vision from engineering of the importance of documentation as a critical business asset, the documentation director will be confronted with a continuously uphill battle to fulfill those responsibilities to the company’s customers and shareholders.”

I offered to help get them started with defining the process for creating customer documentation (working from home as a contractor, of course), but they declined. Four months later, the position was still unfilled, but the company was now running ads for a “Director of Applications Engineering” based on my suggestion.

Nine months after my interview, that company’s business unit underwent a reduction in workforce. Two weeks after my interview, that six-month contract extension came through and I didn’t look back.

That decision proved to be the right one because I chose what was my passion instead of what would have been a temporary financial reward.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






Donn LeVie Jr. (The ONE Hire Authority) is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). Donn is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

Donn leads career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. He also offers a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners/meeting organizers: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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5 “Soft Skills” Interview Questions You Must Prepare For

softskills

In a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 40 percent of business unit executives stated that candidates lack critical communication competencies; 39 percent stated that candidates were also deficient in critical evaluation/critical thinking skills and leadership and navigation.  That is what is known as a leadership crisis.

When hiring managers ask probing questions that relate to your ability to communicate the value of your expertise, they are looking not only for communication and critical thinking skills, they are looking for evidence of leadership potential. It’s the “soft skills” portion of your responses that provide an inkling as to that potential. Teaching soft skills (problem solving, collaboration, organization, communication, delegation to name a few) not only is a daunting task, but also increasingly difficult to find among candidates because of the subjective nature and how these soft skill priorities and types vary across organizations and industries. Hiring managers (and HR in particular) must have a grasp of those soft skills that reinforce the company culture prior to conducting candidate interviews.

But there’s no question that a command of these soft skills helps companies development competitive advantages in the market – maybe even a market dominance.

So, here are some sample questions a hiring manager may pose to extract hints of the presence of soft skills – and leadership potential – in your response.

  1. “What is it that gets you up in the morning and inspires or motivates you to come to work every day?” Most of us have heard this one a few times, and I’ve asked it many times. Your response helps the hiring manager get a feel for your thoughts on collaborating with others or whether you’re more suited for a more task-oriented role. It’s another one of those questions designed to know a little more about who you are and what drives your ambition.
  2. “Tell me about a difficult project when you were tasked with not enough people/time/budget and how you executed the project…” Another popular hiring manager question designed to get a glimpse of your ability to organize, delegate, crisis manage, and juggle multiple priorities. If some approach you took didn’t work, provide a brief hindsight analysis as to why and what you should have done differently. It shows the hiring manager that you can close the loop.
  3. “Describe for me when you’re firing on all cylinders…what does that look like and how are you engaged in the job or task with/without a team?” Another question designed to get look at your “inner” workings that you consider important for personal on-the-job satisfaction either working solo or with others in a collaborative effort.
  4. “From your experience, what does a successful team look like? What does an unsuccessful team look like?” Again, this question helps hiring managers understand your approach to successful collaboration, delegation, project management, and communication by comparing and contrasting previous team involvement.
  5. “How would you rank these qualities in order of importance: communication, collaboration, delegation, critical thinking, and organization?” You may have a clue as to what the organization values by studying the job posting or company website as this question may be one designed to determine how well your list order coincides with the organization’s priorities. 

Such questions help hiring managers identify soft skills gaps, and when a candidate is hired, contribute to shaping shaping the necessary training to close those gaps. Managers with strong soft skills help boost their team or department’s performance by as much as 30% because people feel their work is valued and rewarded, clarifies the sense of corporate culture standards, and provides an incentive for motivation., according to research by the Hay Group.

As one global business owner friend confided in me years ago, “I hire for attitude; I train for aptitude. It’s much easier than the other way around.”

What other soft skills do you feel are critical for leadership development? Contribute to the conversation.

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Download a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets for your association members. You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss to help your association’s professional development/member benefits efforts.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority.  I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, Silver Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Conference planners: Do you need an informative and entertaining keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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If You Don’t Like the Hiring Game, Change the Rules

Kobayashi_maru_st2

Most of us have never been faced with a no-win scenario. In the Star Trek movies, Captain Kirk,when a student at Star Fleet, beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation scenario (which was specifically designed as a no-win scenario) by secretly reprogramming the simulation to provide him with a viable way out of the predicament.

He changed the rules of the game because he didn’t believe in the no-win scenario.

You can do the same thing with the unwritten, invisible, or non-existent “rules” of the hiring process. Here are three examples (long post).

Several years ago, I was driving past the main entrance to a large high-tech company here in Austin. Standing on the median outside the entrance to the employee parking area was a gentleman dressed in a sharp-looking suit, wearing a large sandwich board sign that said “Will design advanced microprocessors for food. Free résumé.” Nearly every other driver in the left-turn lane to enter the employee parking area rolled down the window to take a copy of this individual’s résumé as they drove past him.

Someone contacted the local news stations about this fellow, and later he was on the evening news being interviewed while he handed résumés to drivers. He followed this routine for several days at different high-tech companies. Within the week, he was hired. His creative approach—and probably some excellent TV exposure—helped him get the attention of hiring managers.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

My cousin lost her job in the finance department of a high-tech company based in New England. I helped her create a professional skills, knowledge, and expertise portfolio  (“PSKE Portfolio” as I refer to it in my books) and revised her cover letter. Less than two months later, she was on the short list for a vacant slot in the finance department at a major corporation that packaged and sold seafood around the world. Prior to being called for a second interview, she learned from the hiring manager’s executive assistant what his favorite cookies were. She showed up for her second interview with a batch of fresh-baked cookies—and got hired.

Bribery? Some may see it that way but the cookies were offered to others in the office—the cookies just happened to be the hiring manager’s favorite kind. What a creative coincidence. Was it the cookies that got her hired? Hardly. It was, after all, her second interview; the cookies simply reinforced her name and her PSKE Portfolio with the hiring manager.

She changed the rules of the hiring process to her advantage. She made herself memorable.

My friend Eric found himself in a similar situation. He asked me for any last-minute suggestions (other than baking cookies) just before his interview. I suggested he pay attention to the personal items displayed on the hiring manager’s desk or wall. They often provide clues to the things that are important outside of the hiring manager’s work environment, and may help establish some rapport with the hiring manager beyond the normal small talk preceding the harder interview questions. We all want to work with people we like and who have things in common with us, and that includes hiring managers.

Eric later told me that the hiring manager was a Houston Astros baseball fan and Eric (a New York Yankees fan) was able to engage him in some banter about a subject they both had an interest in. After Eric’s very positive interview, he purchased two tickets (less than $30) to a Round Rock Express game, which is a local Triple A farm team for the Texas Rangers, and dropped them off at the hiring manager’s office. Eric mentioned to the hiring manager that he would not be able to attend the game, so he thought the hiring manager would know someone else who might be interested in using the tickets. Eric purchased the tickets after his initial interview as a strategy for getting the hiring manager to remember him from among the other candidates.

Enticement? Not really because the tickets made their way into someone else’s hands (Eric knew the hiring manager could not accept the gift), so there was no intentional or perceived quid pro quo from such a transaction—other than the hiring manager remembering Eric’s positive interview and, of course, the gesture with the baseball game tickets.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

Eric’s strategy of doing something different to be remembered paid off. He did receive a job offer from this company, but he turned it down for a more rewarding out-of-state position.

To be clear: these three examples of creative rule changing were not cheap tricks. None of these examples would have been successful if these individuals did not already have strong cover letters, résumés, and interviews. They simply used cookies, baseball tickets, and off-the-wall approach as outside-the-box mnemonic devices in their overall strategy to keep their names and their qualifications at the front of the line.

# # #

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






(portions of this post excerpted from my book, Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0, Second Edition.)

My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority.  I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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Career Plan vs. Career Strategy: What’s the Difference?

strategy vs. plan

When it comes to the terms “career plan” versus “career strategy” is there a difference? It depends on who you ask. Some see the plan subservient to the strategy; others (like me) see just the opposite. While to some, it may be a matter of semantics, a career plan in today’s economy and job market is like sailing from Galveston to Tampa using dead reckoning as navigation. You have a plan, you know from standing on the bow of your sailboat in Galveston Bay with a compass, sailing charts, LORAN, and GPS at the ready that Tampa is “out there, a few degrees south of due east.” Well, that kind of planning will get you just beyond the Texas coastline, but even with such great tools, you still have to make adjustments along the way to account for currents, tides, wind, storms, angry white whales, and other navigational obstacles to end up in Tampa and not Havana.

How you account for these weather and navigation challenges is your strategy, and each involves specific tactics to be successful.

where-will-you-be-in-5-yearsNowadays you don’t hear the question: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” much anymore. That’s an interview question about planning. “Still working” would be an acceptable answer in this job market, but having a plan with well thought out steps along the way for contingencies is, of course, a wise move. I always expected to have a career in the earth sciences when I graduated and worked as a research geological oceanographer for NOAA and then on to Phillips Petroleum as an exploration geologist. But then conditions beyond my control intervened, even with my best laid plans, and I was forced to consider other options when the price for a barrel of oil fell to around $10.00. Time for a complete career change, which took about one year to land that first job in a new career (not my first career change, either).

What are those tangible and intangible qualities that could translate into another career if you were forced into such a situation due to layoffs or the desire to do something else? What skills, knowledge, and expertise (don’t forget “soft” skills) that you now possess can add value to a secondary area of interest should it have to be a primary one? Take inventory now of those tools in the toolbox that can be a lifesaver should the need arise.

Even the best sailboat captain has an orange life vest stowed away down below.

# # #

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

 

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