Wednesday, April 21, 2010

“Who Moved My Cheese?” - Spencer Johnson MD


Change Happens - They keep moving the cheese

Anticipate Change - Get ready for the cheese to move

Monitor Change - Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old

Adapt To Change Quickly - The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese

Change - Move with the cheese

Enjoy Change! - Savour the adventure and enjoy the new taste of new cheese!

Be Ready To Quickly Change & Enjoy It, Again - They keep moving the cheese

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is Your Résumé a Summary of, “What’s In It For Me?” or “What’s In It For Them?”

It’s time to look at your résumé with an objective eye. Does your résumé talk about you, the candidate, or does it talk about what you can do for your potential employer? Does your résumé highlight your skills, knowledge and attributes, or, does it demonstrate to potential employers that you have the ability, expertise and intestinal fortitude to solve the company’s problems and make positive contributions to their bottom line?

When the candidate pool is deep, those candidates who can demonstrate that they have solved similar company/organizational challenges in the past are more likely to get interviews and land the career opportunities they seek.

Optimizing opportunities for success necessitates that candidates be able to make the transform their tradition résumé i.e. a summary of, “What’s In It For Me?” to one that is able to help hiring managers immediately recognize and glean the many ways that you can solve problems and help increase revenue.
The “What’s In It For Me?” résumé is easily identified because it typically contains the following elements:
  • An Objective Statement e.g. “To obtain a position at the XYZ company that will enable me to use my strong organizational skills, educational background, and ability to work well with people.

  • Job Responsibilities that describe what the candidate believes to be the most important elements of the job

  • A profound lack of quantifiable evidence to verify accomplishments

The easiest way to transform your résumé from “What’s In It for Me?” to “What’s In It For Them?” would be to do the following:
  • Replace the ‘Objective Statement” with the job title

  • List the skills that have been acquired throughout your career history

  • Use numbers wherever possible

Hiring managers care about what’s in it for you only as an afterthought. When you can solve a problem for them, your chances of being hired increase significantly.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Do Employers Look For in Candidates?

Have you ever wondered what employers are looking for when they have a position to fill? The answer is very straightforward:

Employers first see the candidate in terms of how they are represented via their résumé and their cover letter:

  • Résumés are viewed as a skill set summary

  • Cover letters are used to verify that the candidate can communicate effectively in a grammatically correct manner

Once you get called in for an interview, you, as the candidate will be judged on a number of things including:
  • Your appearance - Will you be able to represent the company in a favourable fashion?

  • Your interpersonal skills - Are you personable?

  • Your knowledge - Do you have in-depth knowledge about the company and the business including the latest trends and/or challenges facing the industry?

All businesses, profit or non-profit are interested in revenue generation. It doesn’t matter if the company’s main objective is altruistic or not; revenue will allow the company and/or organization to continue to exist. If you, as the candidate, can position yourself so that you can either make money for the company/organization or save money for the company/organization, you will rise to the top of the candidate pool.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reference Letters Demystified

Regardless of where you are in your career, a critical component to your arsenal of marketing collateral is the ‘Letter of Reference’.
Reference letters fall into six categories:

  • Academic Letters of Recommendation - These letters are used by students during the college admissions process. During admissions phase of the application, most schools, undergraduate and graduate, alike, expect to see at least one, preferably two or three, recommendation letters for each applicant.

    Normally, these college-related recommendation letters are written at the request of the program applicant by people who know the person making the request and are familiar with their academic career to date, and their future education and career aspirations. These people typically include former teachers, community leaders, school faculty members, administrators, academic supervisors, and/or employers.

  • Employment Letters of Recommendation - These letters are used by jobseekers during employment interviews. Most employers ask job candidates for at least three references. Therefore, it's a good idea for jobseekers to have at least three recommendation letters.

    Generally, employment recommendation letters include information about employment history, job performance, work ethic, and personal accomplishments. The person the letter is being written about specifically requests this type of employment-related letter. These letters are usually positive in nature, and written by someone who knows the subject well enough to comment on the skills, abilities, and specific work attributes of the individual making the request.

    Typically, an employment-related recommendation letter conveys a supervisor’s view of the work performance and general workplace demeanour of the person making the request. The requestor of this type of letter will use it when applying for a promotion or a new job.

    These letters are usually addressed to a specific person to whom the requestor has been asked to submit the letter.

  • Employment Reference Letters - These letters, sometimes called ‘tombstone reference letters’ are more general letters that are often requested by employees when they leave the employ of an organization. These letters are typically issued from the human resources department, are factual in nature, and they are usually addressed, "To whom it may concern".

    These letters provide basic information such as work history, dates of employment, positions held, in-house training, academic credentials, etc.

  • Character Reference Letters - These letters are often used for housing accommodations, legal situations, child adoption, and other similar situations where character may be called into question. These recommendation letters are often written by former employers, landlords, business associates, neighbours, doctors, acquaintances, etc. The most appropriate person to ask for a character reference letter varies depending upon for what the letter of recommendation will be used.

    Character reference letters are sometimes required by employers when hiring individuals to perform personal or residential services such as child care, domestic services, etc.

    These letters are usually drafted by a former employer and deal with such attributes as honesty, dependability, and work ethic/performance.

  • Letters of Commendation – These are normally unsolicited letters, which typically commend an employee to their supervisor for something outstanding or noteworthy that the employee has done. Usually, the employee would have to do something “above and beyond” what is normally expected of them in their job to warrant such a letter.

    Commendation letters are also used to nominate individuals for special awards of recognition for outstanding public service. These letters are usually written by co-workers, or managers from another area of the organization who were suitably impressed while supervising the person on a short- term project

  • Performance evaluation – These are usually detailed assessments of an employee's work performance as part of an organization's regular employee review process. Typically, these letters are written by the employee's supervisor and are attached to the individual's performance appraisal and placed in their personnel file.

    The format and structure for this type of letter is usually dictated by the employee performance evaluation system or process that is in-place wherever the subject of the letter is employed.

Regardless of the terminology, all letters, written either on a personal or business basis, are critical because they directly influence the workplace or community. Therefore, it is best to know what you are asking for and from whom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I have Been Called In For An Interview. What Can I Expect?

Now that you have made the shortlist, know that you have already cleared three of the obligatory hurdles before you get hired. The three hurdles that you have already cleared include the following:

  • A résumé that lists the skill set desired by the employer

  • A solid cover letter that speaks to how your experience matches the ‘wish list’ of the employer

  • A Google search of your name that hasn’t uncovered any concerns that could have a negative impact on your future employer [GUIDELINE: Post nothing on the Internet that you don’t want your grandmother to see.]

Interviews typically fall into one of three camps:

  • Traditional Interviews

  • Behavioural Interviews

  • Combination of both the Traditional and Behaviour Interviews

It is important to remember that you won't know what type of interview will take place until you are sitting in the interview with the hiring manager. Therefore, it is important to prepare to respond to both traditional interview questions and behavioural interview questions.

In a traditional interview, the questions have straight forward answers. Typical questions would include the following:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

  • "Why should we hire you?”

  • “What have been your most satisfying and most disappointing school or work experiences?”

  • “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Behaviour Interview question require a little more preparation on the part of the candidate. In a behavioural interview, an employer has decided what skills are needed in the person they would like to hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future i.e. past performance predicts future performance.

Behavioural Interview questions usually begin with the words, ‘Tell me about a time when you…

…were creative in solving a problem
…were unable to complete a project on time
…persuaded team members to do things your way
…made a bad decision
…were forced to make an unpopular decision

During a behavioural interview, you will have to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, by giving specific examples from your past experiences. The interviewer wants to know, not that you can do something, but that you have done it.

The most difficult part of the behavioural interview lays in your preparation. When you are asked to respond to a behavioural question, know that there is no right or wrong answer. Behaviour-based questions require detail, but not too much. Your answer should be clear and concise. In this case, the 90-second rule works well. Strive to answer the question in 90 seconds or less. If more information needed, the interviewer will ask for it.

As a guideline to answering behavioural questions, it is helpful to think of the STAR technique of responding. Ideally, your response should be delivered using the following format:

Situation - Describe a specific event or situation from your past that needed to be resolved

Task – Describe what were you trying to achieve.

Action – Describe what you did to achieve your results.

Result – Describe the outcome in terms of how or what the event contributed to the solution of the situation, i.e. what did you accomplish, and/or, what did you learn?

This approach will help you to focus on the relevant points of the situation without going into unnecessary detail.

Good Luck!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Robert Heller's Checklist for Success

  1. IMPROVE basic, measured efficiencies continuously

  2. THINK simply and directly about what you are doing and why

  3. BEHAVE towards others as you wish them to behave towards you

  4. EVALUATE each business and business opportunity with total, fact-based objectivity

  5. CONCENTRATE on what you do well

  6. ASK questions ceaselessly about performance, markets and objectives

  7. MAKE MONEY- know that if you don't, you can't make anything else

  8. ECONOMIZE always seek LIMO (Least Input for Most Output)

  9. FLATTEN the organization to spread authority and responsibility

  10. ADMIT to your own failings and shortcomings and correct them

  11. SHARE the benefits of success with all those who helped to achieve it

  12. TIGHTEN up the organization wherever and whenever you can because familiarity breeds slackness

  13. ENABLE everybody to optimize his or her individual and group contribution

  14. SERVE your customers with all their requirements to standards of perceived excellence in quality

  15. TRANSFORM performance by innovating creatively in products and processes including the processes of management