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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Job interview advice – especially for Gen Y

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of not judging job applicants, especially Gen Yers, by initial outward appearances or perceptions.  I still believe that is important.  However, that blog inspired some healthy discussion with colleagues and business leaders about how difficult it is to change perception, and inspired me to write about tips for job applicants as well.

Written and electronic contact tips

Make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors, and please don’t use text lingo like LOL or TIA (“thanks in advance” for Gen Xers like myself) on your cover letter or email.  Recruiters and Managers want to know that you can fit into the business world, and unless you’re applying for a role that communicates strictly through text, you’ll need to demonstrate proper use of the english language.

What’s your email address?  If it’s something like “hotbabe69@hotmail.com”, create a more professional email address for business use.

Customize your cover letter to the job.  A very common mistake that I’ve seen is applicants who send a cover letter or a cut-and-pasted email that makes reference to the wrong company.  Take the extra time to mention specific things about the company or job that you’re applying for and why you would be ideal.

What will a recruiter find if they google you, or look you up on Facebook or Twitter?  It may be too late to undo those drunken photos, but get busy un-tagging yourself, and remember that everything you post online will exist in cyber-space forever.  So
think twice before you tweet.

Prepping for the interview

Think about situations that you have handled in a positive way, that you would be proud to tell someone about.  You may not have had a ton of working experience, but there are likely conflicts you’ve been in, problems you’ve solved, and people you have helped, through school, sports, or other associations or experiences, that have given you the opportunity to practice skills that will be useful in the business world.  Log the situations and include details such as:

  • How the situation was caused or came about
  • What you did personally (vs your team or others)
  • What you were thinking and feeling at the time
  • What the outcome was
  • What you learned from it or would do differently next time

This type of log will help you to think of positive situations that you can use when asked behavioural interview questions.  

Research the company and think about what else you would want to know about the organization and the role itself.  Remember, the interview is your chance to evaluate the company just as much as it’s their chance to evaluate you.

The day of the interview – what to wear and bring

The general rule that I was always taught was to dress a step up from the job you want.  If the company you’re applying to dresses business casual, wear a suit.  If they wear jeans, wear dress pants or khakis.

Hair, makeup and jewelry.  Again, think of the company you’re applying to.  A retailer like skateboard shop West 49 will be much more accepting of piercings and funky hairstyles than most office jobs.  In any case, though, make sure that you’ve done your hair and make up that day, and you aren’t sporting the look from last night’s party (I don’t mean to be insulting – I’ve seen this).

Bring a pen and notebook, with the questions you would like to ask prepared already.

At the interview

Smile and be friendly.  Regardless of how nervous you are, this will help to portray confidence.  And remember to be friendly even to the receptionist or clerk who you speak to on your way in.  You never know what that person’s involvement might be in the hiring process or providing feedback to the recruiter.

Watch your language.  Never swear, even if the recruiter does.  Try not to speak negatively about past companies or bosses.

Answer the questions.  Seems to go without saying, doesn’t it?  But in truth, sometimes it’s more difficult that it seems.  Think about your answer before you start talking.  If you need to stall, repeat the question as you think.  Then answer, and watch out for babbling or getting off track.  Check that you’ve answered the questions adequately when you’re done.

Be yourself

If you feel like you have to be someone you’re not when you apply for a certain job, chances are it’s not right for you.  You don’t want to find a job where you will be uncomfortable or have to act in ways that are contrary to your own beliefs.  In the same breath, though, you will learn and grow the most when you are challenged to change.  It’s up to you what level of accommodation you can make – whether it’s removing a nose ring, covering a tattoo, or simply behaving in a professional way.

What other tips might you offer to job seekers, especially Gen Y?  Add your comments or tweet them to me!

Pic via freedigitalphotos user Dundee Photographic

 

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Fun gets results!

“The most wasted day is one in which we have not laughed”
– Anonymous

Some may scoff at this quote and insert “produces widgets/sales/results” instead of “laughed”, but fun can actually have a very positive impact on your business.   Take a look at successful organizations such as Zappos, SouthWest Airlines, Westjet, and of course, Pike Place Fish Market, where fun with customers and each other are part of what has made them successful.

There have been several studies on humour and fun in the workplace, and while I won’t quote them all here, a couple of points stuck with me:

A survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humor to those without.

Research by Still showed that a 13 percent increase in morale can lead to a 40 percent increase in productivity.

Check out this website dedicated to making the world a more fun place, created by Volkswagen: The Fun Theory.  Each example proves that fun can improve people’s lives.  I don’t know about you, but if I was CEO, I would be investigating options for integrating fun into my workplace. I can’t wait to visit Sweden and walk up the musical stairs.

I have seen fun in action and believe that not only can it improve morale, but it also improves productivity.  In my roles in human resources in a variety of companies each with unique cultures, I have worked with some great CEOs and we have found ways to integrate fun into the workplace.  Here are some examples of things we’ve done.

  • When communicating a change in policy or rollout of a new benefit, the CEO and HR Director would load up a cart with treats and the letters, and go around the office to mingle with everyone, giving them a brief heads up about what was being communicated
  • Many companies who allow people to go home early on Fridays before long weekends.  Often times, a Leader sends out an email telling everyone to enjoy the day.  One in particular would use fun in her emails, for example, telling everyone that “Spring Fever has arrived, and telling employees that if they were experiencing certain symptoms (like a desire to run in the field beside the office, putting on sunscreen for no reason, etc), then they must leave work at 2 pm.  The teams working for her were certainly more excited about getting a slightly longer weekend.
  •  At meetings or conferences, kicking off after breaks with a “Minute to Win It” game – it only takes a minute, breaks the ice and improves mood.
  • Holding a mini putt tournament in the office – Employees were to work in their departments to create their own mini putt hole, linking it to their function.  We gave them an hour of work time to create it.  Most teams stayed late and came in early to plan and build their holes.  When it came time to play, we extended the lunch hour by one hour, and everyone went around the office, playing all 9 holes, and interacting and asking questions of people they normally wouldn’t speak with.  The morale was visibly higher, and no productivity was lost.
  • Showing a video like “Fish” (I still enjoy it, even after seeing it more than 100 times) to all teams, and having them come up with ways they can have fun at work.  This is where the real magic comes, as employees are involved in creating the culture of the workplace.

The ways in which you have fun in your organization will depend on your culture, but I think that whether you work for a bank, a restaurant, or a manufacturing company, there are ways to add fun and see improved morale and productivity. 

What do you do to have fun at work?

A few links related to fun at work:
http://www.playfair.com/index.htm
http://www.workplaceissues.com/arhumor.htm
http://www.projectmagazine.com/leadership-skills/271-how-to-make-work-fun
 
Pic from Ookaboo user en:Coasterman1234 from English Wikipedia
 

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HR is essential for business success

As I was reviewing recent “Answers” on Linked In, I came across one that inspired this post.  An HR pro had posted a question asking what others would recommend as focus areas when starting or reviving HR in an organization.  An Operations Manager had answered the question by saying “None”, and going on to clarify that it sounded like the organization was smaller and therefore wouldn’t actually need a Full Time HR person, so they should probably simply contract out for services. 

Now first, let me say, there are a lot of services that I think it makes sense to contract out at times.  However, I also think that even in a smaller organization, having a dedicated HR professional helping to develop strategy and people practices is essential to success.  The unfortunate thing is that many managers don’t understand the full value of HR and what a true HR leader can bring to the organization.  There could be many reasons for this, including perhaps only having experience with non-strategic HR administrators.  In a world where change is the only constant, and companies are emerging from recession, the old days of HR as a service or administrative function are in the past.  Having a strong strategic HR partner dedicated to your business is critical.

Some examples of the value a true strategic HR professional can bring to an organization:

  • In changing times, HR pros become change agents – they work with leaders to develop the strategy for the change, how to accomplish the change, how to engage employees in the change to ensure it is sustainable
  • HR works with C-suite leaders to determine the capabilities needed to drive the organization’s strategy.  They are the experts in evaluating and developing talent, and can help leaders make decisions to ensure the right talent is getting the right develoment in order to reach the organization’s goals.
  • HR will lead the sustainability and/or change of the organization’s culture.  They will examine all areas of people processes and practices that help to communicate culture, and work with leaders to ensure all are aligned and delivering the right messages.
  • For companies looking to expand into new or emerging markets, HR will help you determine how to source and develop talent in these new markets, and how to ensure the best parts of your culture are maintained.
  • On a more basic level, HR will help to ensure your people practices are legislatively compliant, reducing risk to the organization.

I could go on (and on), but I would love to hear from others – what other value do you think strategic HR professionals add to an organization, or do you disagree?  Comment here or tweet to me at http://twitter.com/pamelamaeross.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Human Resources

 

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Recruiting? Watch your red flags, especially with Gen Y

This morning I was facilitating an introduction to recruitment and selection for restaurant managers, and there was one particular “a-ha” moment for the group that I thought I’d share.

It was about the “red flags” or preconceived notions that managers traditionally based hiring decisions on during the selection process.  Here are some of the things that these managers had been screening out when candidates applied for jobs, and the challenges I posed to them.

No Pen.  Why would an applicant come to apply for a job and not bring a pen with them?  Many managers thought that if they need to hire someone who is organized and prepared, this is a big red flag, and that they would automatically take these candidates out of the running for the job.  My challenge: In an age of blackberries and iPhones, what Gen Yer is carrying a pen with them?  They use computers at school and text to communicate across distance.  They likely aren’t thinking about our antiquated process of having someone fill out an application.

Sneakers and other dress code no-no’s.  This one is a tough one to get past for many.  For those of us in Gen X or the Boomer generation, it seems like simple common sense for people to dress up when they are applying for jobs.  Why would I give someone a second glance who walked in to hand in a resume in sneakers or jeans?  A few things to consider:  First of all, especially in an industry like the restaurant industry, people are often applying for their first job, and nobody has taught them how to dress.  One manager said to me “My mother wouldn’t have let me out of the house to apply for a job in running shoes”.  My response: If you judge them on their clothing, you may be finding more out about the applicant’s parent than about how they themselves will actually fit into your culture or serve your customers.  Some other things to consider before you cross these sneaker-clad folks off your list: Perhaps they thought they were only going to drop off a resume and didn’t expect to see a manager.  Perhaps they have been watching leading companies like Google and Zappos and have seen the dress code there (not business casual), so thought jeans were the norm.  At the end of the day, it’s likely you have a uniform or a dress code in your business, so you can easily set the expectation for dress code with the right person.

Applying for a job during a peak revenue period.  Talk about a no-no!  Granted, if you’re managing a restaurant, you are likely busy during the lunch and dinner periods.  My watch out here, though, is twofold.  First, in my mind, it is most important to find someone with the personaliy that fits your culture and values, who will genuinely care about serving your customers, rather than someone who has a wealth of experience in your industry.  So this may be a candidate who doesn’t know that Friday night between 5-8 is a bad time to apply.  In fact, on the contrary, they may think that this is the best time to apply, since it’s likely a manager will be in the restaurant.

At the end of the day, my advice to these managers was to focus on the personality traits of the person and whether they are a fit with what you’re looking for.  You can train them on your expectations and the job responsibilities.  Always remember that a job applicatn is also a potential customer, and that the way you treat them is what their impression of your business will be.  Whenever possible (always) take 2 minutes to at least meet them, introduce yourself, and ask a few general screening questions to see whether you should take further time later to interview them.  Be careful how you judge some of the traditional red flags.  You never know when your next superstar is going to walk into your restaurant, and the worst thing you can do is turn them away because of a missing pen, poor clothing choice, or bad timing.  Your competitor may be the winner in this situation, as the superstar walks across the street and gets hired.

What do you think?  What “red flags” do you screen candidates out of the running for? 

Pic from Flicr user rvw

 

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Lessons in corporate culture from the Royal Wedding

Joanne Royce, An HR colleague from the HRPA Halton recently posted a great blog about lessons from the Royal Wedding.  Here are my thoughts:

There are lots of ways that companies could have taken advantage of the Royal Wedding to engage employees. I heard of companies having “Royal Hat” day, and serving afternoon tea. At my company, we have TVs through our atrium, and the wedding was playing on them, so as employees were walking through, they would stop and watch. Although it wasn’t formal, it was great to see people who wouldn’t usually work together or probably speak to each other often connecting over their thoughts on the wedding.
As for lessons learned from the wedding itself, I think there’s a great lesson on corporate culture to be learned. Culture is built on the little things that leaders do, which are seen by others. Too often, leaders’ actions don’t demonstrate the culture they have decreed or written on the wall. I thought William and Kate’s wedding was a great demonstration of the “people’s” royal family that is Diana’s legacy. This was seen in the little things that helped to make them more like “real” people. The little joke that William shared with Kate’s father when they arrived, the smile on Harry’s face as he watched his big brother, the little stuffed toy in one of the flower girl’s hands in the wedding photo. And if you haven’t checked out what the Lip Reader said the Royal family was saying throughout the wedding, check out this article- http://huff.to/l3CtRd . All of these things help to communicate the culture of this new generation of Royal Family, and are great lessons about demonstrating the culture you want to lead in your company.

What do you think?  Did your company do something special to bring employees together through the Royal Wedding?

 
 

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Want to motivate people? Don’t pay more…

If you are a compensation professional or a leader in any capacity, you need to watch this video  from Ted Talks, and read Drive by Dan Pink. 

Talk about engaging hearts and minds! 

For me, this helps to build a case for re-evaluating my company’s bonus structure and for the need for things like flex time, socially conscious programs, and autonomy at work.

What do you think?  Post your thoughts as comments or tweet them to me at http://twitter.com/pamelamaeross.

 

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Serving your Internal Customers

I think most leaders realize how important it is to provide great service to clients or customers. I often find, though, that some organizations forget about engaging and “serving” their internal customers – their employees. In fact, I would argue that the relationship that leaders cultivate with their employees is actually more important than the one they have with their customers, especially in industries where employees work directly with customers.

I recently attended a workshop led by Ari Weinzweig, of Zingerman’s businesses in Michigan.  He spoke about Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business, and one of them hits this point about serving your internal customers.

If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff. 

I liked Ari’s way of defining this.  He said “the service your staff gives will never be better than the service you give your staff”.  Zingerman’s leaders use their same principles for serving customers for serving staff:

1.  Figure out what the customer wants.
2.  Get it for them: Accurately, Politely and Enthusiastically.
3.  Go the extra mile. 
 

Guess what?  Zingerman’s has been so successful that even in the past couple of years of uncertain economy, they have surpassed their annual planned sales.  And in 1994, they developed a business called ZingTrain, and have actually added revenue by teaching other businesses about their service model.

What do you think?  How do you and your organization serve your internal customers?

 

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