Performing with Purpose

 

When reflecting on my career progression, I recall the early years when I first started working. I relied on delegated orders, would dutifully fulfill them and wait for new assigned tasks. It was an endless cycle of repetitiveness and I often found myself on autopilot. Sometimes I even found myself disengaged when I couldn’t identify the intent of some of my responsibilities. But, being young and not feeling like I was experienced enough to have a voice, I continued performing without ever questioning it…that was a mistake.

As I’ve made my way through my career, obtained a degree and became more involved in understanding business and organizational development, I started to see that never questioning anything has done a disservice to my growth and a disservice to the betterment of the organization I was working at. Asking thought-provoking and well-structured questions won’t make anyone question your competency (as I often feared it would), but it gives you a chance to perform better. At this stage of my career, I make it a point to perform with purpose. And to do this, you have to start with one simple question – Why?

  • Asking questions: Once I started to know why certain tasks relevant, I was able to get a bigger picture. Asking what or how always helped too, but I felt the “why” was the most important thing to know. Questioning this allowed me to gain insight into the overall purpose of each function, what the expected outcome was, etc. Knowing this information not only helps you do your job better, but also sets you up to do MORE.
  • Performing better: knowing key details as to the purpose of your task and what’s the expected outcome can help drive the direction of your performance: It gives you a starting point, a path and a goal that you are aiming to meet or exceed.
  • Continuous innovation: set up time regularly to review the information you gathered from asking questions and critically analyze it. With the fast changes in business, it’s important to constantly reevaluate processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Even if you aren’t in a role to implement change, your analysis and suggestions can help leadership see ways to positively impact the business.

No matter what level employee you are or how swamped you are at work, I urge you to take the time to ask questions, find ways to perform better and look for opportunities to innovate. I’d personally rather take the time to do these things and ensure every function I’m performing has a purpose than keep my head down. To help your professional growth and your organization’s growth, its things like this that can help move everything forward.

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Be a Leader Worth Following

Nothing like a little healthy discussion about leadership on #Tchat last week. Of course, there are plenty of leaders out there providing their advice on how to be an effective leader, but I don’t think leader-to-leader advice is the best way to consider all angles. In this chat, we were able to get some employee/follower insights about what we would want out of our leaders. It was very interesting to get their responses and discover the attributes that they value in a leader and also what they think needs some improvement.

Are you missing the mark?

  • Stop walking too far ahead: of course, a leader’s main objective is to pave the way for the future. But are they pushing through the obstacles and trudging ahead without a glance backwards? It’s important to provide direction to your people but you need to also be involved in the group, otherwise you’ll never know if you’re being as effective as you could be.
  • You can dish it out, but you can’t take it: a big thing that is valued in the world of work is continuous feedback. But it shouldn’t only be one-way. Sometimes people need to be led differently. A leader will never know the greatest way to lead his/her people to the best of their abilities if they don’t open up to two-way communication and feedback.
  • No one’s perfect and you’re not an exception: the quickest way a leader can lose faith from their followers/employees is to act like they know everything. We don’t want to hear, “It’s my way and that’s final” or “This is how it’s always been done and we’re sticking to that.” Things in business change pretty quickly and so should you. We will respect leaders who are open to continuous learning even if they experience some failure along the way. Why would anyone want to follow someone who seems to be out of touch with the current state of things?
  • Are you using the tools forced upon us: companies are adopting all sorts of new procedures or technology to help collaborative efforts. Additionally, these things are supposed to help with communication. But what good is it if the people that can make a change (cough, leaders) don’t actually utilize these things? So, basically, we’re wasting our time going through these motions without being heard.

We’re not out there pointing fingers at leaders and telling them they’re at fault for something. Honestly, we just really all want to work together in the best way that we can, which will take equal effort on both our parts. Sure, things can get messy and sometimes our attempts won’t always pan out. But even if that’s the case, are you still a leader worth following?

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The Candidate Experience Faux Pas

SmartRecruiters

Last week on #tchat, we discussed the importance of the candidate experience. A few job seekers and candidates were very interested in hearing what this all meant. Some have been out of the job hunting scene for several years so they didn’t realize how the whole interviewing experience had changed into something more than simply submitting a resume and having a quick interview or two. These days, landing a job is a process and candidates may come into contact with several different people throughout the interview cycle. In the end, a candidate may decide whether or not they accept employment at your company due to their experiences. If this is the case, how do you think your company would stack up?

There are so many scenarios that a candidate can face while applying and interviewing for a job. Is your company an offender of any of these things:

  • The black hole: a candidate applies to a job posting and never hears back from anyone. Several months still pass by and there is not even so much as a generic email letting them know the status of their resume.
  • The disengaged recruiter: sometimes, recruiters are so overwhelmed with candidates that they only have a few minutes to chat to each one before determining if they’re going to move them forward or not. Sometimes, recruiters may realize within the first few minutes of their conversation that the candidates are not a match. In these circumstances, there are plenty of times that candidates can blatantly tell that the recruiter is rushing through the interview, not completely listening, or only half-heartedly conversing with them.
  • “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”: a candidate might make it to the phone interview round or even make it through several steps of the interview process. The recruiters or hiring managers will promise to give them an update, provide feedback, or set them up with the next step and suddenly fall off the face of the earth. A candidate may reach out to find out when to expect an update and the recruiter becomes unresponsive, leaving the candidate to come up with their own conclusions.
  • The unrealistic job preview: candidates may speak to the recruiters and hiring managers about the job, expectations, company culture, and so on, which may have been displayed in a glorified version. The candidate gets hyped up about the opportunity and excitedly accepts a job offer only to discover that it was not at all like it was advertised.

Although there are plenty of other situations that candidates experience aside from the ones listed above, the important thing to remember is that none of these things are good. A candidate experience is crucial when it comes to attracting talent. This experience can even affect candidates other than the ones that have applied to your jobs or have interviewed with you. A candidate’s experience with you can define how external individuals review your employer brand. What’s more, their experiences can be easily shared with others thanks to social media, blogs, technology, and sites like Glassdoor.

So maybe that candidate wasn’t a fit for your job. That’s completely fine, not everyone is going to be. But how did you treat them? Did you leave them feeling positive about your organization or job regardless if they didn’t get it? Do you feel like they would tell others to apply to your company? Would they want to give you referrals?

If they did accept a job after having a bad experience, how do you think they would perform? Would they lose respect for your organization? Would they be disengaged? Would they already be looking for other opportunities, ready to abandon ship once they found something better?

How you treat your candidates matters in more ways than just for those who you’ve directly interviewed with. It affects your organization’s brand and reputation. It affects your internal employees’ morale. It can help or hurt your engaged and interested talent pool. It can aid or hinder your ability to reel in passive candidates.

Being a job seeker is tough these days. Keep this in mind and think of how you would feel if the roles were reversed. It can help you provide an experience that these candidates deserve.

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Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

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Early Career Lesson: The Thing I Wish I Knew

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More often than not, my friends like to joke around saying that I have a tendency to interview everyone I meet (I guess it’s naturally in my blood). I suppose that could be true but it’s mainly because I’m generally intrigued by people. It’s a common occurrence for me to ask probing questions to someone I’ve just met. Where are they from? Why are they here? What do they do for a living? Is it something they love? How did they fall into that? A simple story of someone’s life, no matter how boring it might seem to them, is actually one of the most interesting things I can come across. After one of these conversations over the weekend, I finally had the chance for someone else to turn the tables and ask me some thought-provoking questions. The one that stuck out the most to me was: what do you wish you knew getting into your career?

I met a younger woman this weekend who was just starting out in the full time, professional working world. She was smart, hopeful, ambitious, and driven, which just impressed me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when she asked me about a life lesson I wish I knew when I was first starting out. I know all those sayings: hindsight is 20-20; the lesson is in the journey; and so on and so forth. Yes, I agree that sometimes you need to stumble and fall in order to learn what you can do better. But if I had a chance to pass on some life lessons to someone that was eager to learn, I definitely wasn’t going to waste that opportunity.

I remember being extremely frustrated early on in my career. Just like the young woman I met, I was hopeful, ambitious, and driven. I wanted to do great things and I wanted to be given the opportunity to contribute something to the company that I worked for. I wanted to leave something behind if I ever felt the need to move on. Those feelings and dreams were soon crushed after a little while of working at my former employers. I waited…and waited…and waited. And finally, I was so disengaged and disheartened by my employers’ lack of opportunity, that I would find myself leaving places to see if I had better luck elsewhere.

After years of this, I quickly realized that I shouldn’t be so dependent on my employer. It wasn’t up to them to offer me projects, education, or promotions. I shouldn’t have believed that they were the only way I could progress in my career or expand my learnings. My lack of growth wasn’t their issue, it was mine. My employer isn’t my only resource for career development and knowledge building. If I truly cared about my progression, it was my job to make that happen.

If the opportunities to partake in conferences, take classes, or network with industry professionals weren’t an option at my company, I needed to make the effort to do that on my own. If there wasn’t a stretch project that I could do that would enhance my career, I needed to pitch it to my employer and make it happen. Sometimes, you need to go outside of your immediate circle (aka organization) to grow and then bring back that value. You need to take initiative to take control of your own future and position yourself within your company. You need to find your worth and not wait for someone to hand it to you. Define yourself.

When I finally realized this, I found that my confidence had skyrocketed. I found a voice, I began to offer opinions, and I felt like they mattered. I’ve learned so much that it makes my head hurt some days. It’s indescribable when my managers now come to me for suggestions or advice. I felt like I did myself a favor.

Some days I wonder what would have happened if I realized I was in control of my development sooner. Would I have progressed further than where I am now? Would I be an industry expert or consultant? I’m not really sure but I am glad that I figured this out early enough to make a decent impact throughout my professional career so far. So, if there was one thing I could teach early careerists (or really anyone), it would be that you need to take initiative to develop your own career. We live in a time where resources are infinite and possibilities to do this are endless. Do yourself a favor and make the effort as soon as possible. You’ll be happy that you did.

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Job Seekers: Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a Job

There are plenty of articles, books, infographics, and videos which discuss the best interview tips for job seekers. They provide insightful ways to research companies before the interviews. They teach you about the different interviewing steps. They provide interviewing blunders so seekers can learn from them. And they give suggestions on how to make a candidate stand out in the interview process. Mostly, these are all great resources for job seekers to use, but what about teaching them how NOT to talk themselves out of an opportunity during an interview?

Although I’m in a recruiting role now, I have also dealt with the ups and downs of being a job seeker. As I perfect my recruiting skills and collaborate with other recruiters, I’ve learned some of the mistakes I’ve made when I was searching for a job. I realized that sometimes saying too much could actually work against a candidate and extra information could cause a recruiter to think the following things:

  • You’re all over the place: I completely understand when a candidate wants to talk about all of their experiences in detail because it shows some additional skills and initiative that they believe will add value. Sometimes this is true, but if you present it wrong or overelaborate these experiences, you may take away from the core point that you were trying to make. The purpose of the interview is to show the recruiter that you are perfect for that specific position. If you clutter it up with other details, it might cause some confusion.
  • You’re not as skilled as they initially thought: Your resume might say you have five years of experience in a specific position, but if you go off on a tangent about all the other duties you preformed while in that role, the recruiter might believe that your job didn’t focus solely on the function they’re looking for. You may have gained those skills through additional side projects. If this is the case, make sure you present it in a way so recruiters know that it was something extra that you did and that your previous job fully-involved all of the duties that the recruiter is targeting.
  • You don’t know what you want: One of the biggest things I’ve seen when it comes to this is the fact that candidates tend to talk a lot about irrelevant experiences and skills they have. They may think it helps show their diverse skill-set and years of professional experience, but it can make a recruiter wonder where your true passion lies. Are you just taking this job because you have enough experience to meet the requirements or will this job keep you engaged enough?
  • You talked yourself into a corner: make sure you ask the recruiter questions in regard to what they’re looking for in a candidate and what the expectations are. The last thing you want to do is have to backtrack a previous statement you made about why you didn’t like a specific job/duty or what you thought you were the weakest at. It’s extremely hard to recover from that.

I won’t lie, I’ve been this type of candidate before. I was excited to land an interview and wanted to tell the recruiter everything I possibly could about my professional experience so they thought I could be an asset to their company. I thought my broad skill-set would help them see that I was adaptable and flexible. Unfortunately for me, it was quite the opposite. Instead, the recruiter received a jumbled amount of information that didn’t help them easily see how my skills perfectly matched their job opening. Even if I did have a great match of skills, they couldn’t determine that with all the additional chatter about “this” and “that”.

I strongly suggest for candidates to take the time to really re-read details about the job and the company and then consider great examples from their previous experiences that fluidly matches what the recruiter is looking for. Think of these answers beforehand so you can get straight to the point effectively and don’t include any unnecessary details that isn’t relevant. As a candidate, you want to paint the best picture for the recruiter so they can see that your transition into this position will be a smooth one.

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Do You Have an Internal Employer Brand?

 

Last week, I took a trip out to Seattle to spend some time working, exploring, and learning about the city. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Amazon.com, one of the many corporate campuses that are located in the area. I had never explored a “campus” in the past but I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading the many articles that are out about it. Needless to say- I was impressed. But I wasn’t just impressed by the immensity of the campus, I was blown away by the branding located around the campus which had me thinking about the whole “employer branding” thing. I know HR is struggling to implement a strong brand to attract external candidates, but what about their internal brand?

One of HR’s main functions is to recruit and attract quality talent to their organization but it’s also about retaining the talent that is currently there. What are we doing to keep our employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t going to be the only option to keep an employee from walking. Maybe you aren’t an enormous organization like Amazon.com, Google, or Linkedin who are notorious for having awesome internal brands, campuses, and culture, but there are ways to adopt some of these things to fit with your organization:

  • What vibe does your workspace give off?: One of the most notable things I think of when it comes to campuses like these are the different workspace options that are available. Yes- I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubical rows with the occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create these areas but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.
  • What internal recruitment marketing do you have in place?: As I was riding an elevator in one of the Amazon buildings, I noticed a vibrant poster marketing one of their departments that currently was recruiting for Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, and fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below both posters had the team manager’s contact information that you could rip off and take with you. I absolutely loved it. Amazon is huge so having marketing options like that could really make it easy to recruit for internal candidates that didn’t know about your team. Makes sense for a company that’s as large as that, right? Here’s the kicker- even employees in small organizations admit that they aren’t aware that specific jobs exist or they don’t know about internal job openings within the organization. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true and their perception of this might just be due to lack of information.
  • Are you too scared to adapt?: I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is a perfectly reasonable one. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it but what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees, sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives; and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to provide to their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.
  • Is it a place of hierarchy or community?: There most definitely needs to be order within an organization but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past. Your employees want their voice to be heard, they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I’ve worked in an organization where the President and Directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to hold conversations, even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or hold a casual conversation with someone higher up. It has created a great sense of community within the organization which has helped it be more progressive than other companies who haven’t adopted this.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your company is a great place to work, but it’s also about making sure your current employees also love working there to the point where no other company or job offer seems more attractive.