Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Newest Tool in Interviewing

I posted the job opening on a Friday afternoon as I knew people preparing for the weekend, either at work or at home, would be able to find and respond to my posting. I only posted it in one spot and two weeks later I am still getting resume applications. 150 applications later and one solidly worn out printer, I felt like I was swimming in a sea of white.

I made my appropriate piles, but two-hours into my sorting and over 40 resumes in the "good" and 20 resumes in the "great" pile, I knew I did not have time to interview 20 candidates before the deadline to hire in two weeks. Final interviews with managers needed to be done the second week, leaving me either a solid week of interviewing with no client meetings or a new way to process all this paperwork.

That is when I started using the newest tool in interviewing: THE EMAIL INTERVIEW!

Based on actual things that happen in the company and that specific position, I developed four scenarios for the "great" candidates to answer. I figured that the interested people would respond back and then I could match answers with how I want that person to naturally respond to day-to-day scenarios. This reduces my need to retrain a psyche and instead focus on training the person I hire on technical things. They should naturally just react the way I want them to.

Here are the scenarios I created. Read through them and decide how you would answer.

Email Interview
The following are questions asked in our email interview. Please answer the questions to the best of your ability and email the answers back to angie.brown@angeionconsulting.com at your earliest convenience. The answers to these questions will be used along with your resume regarding the (insert company name) position of Customer Sales Assistant.
Scenario One
Please prioritize the following tasks to the best of your ability with the information provided:
·         Instruction Cards for Production
o   Instruction cards are used in the production process and are instructions about the usage of the cases. These are usually asked to be done by the Production Manager and are on an “as needed” basis.
·         Filing Customer Information
o   Customer information is to be filed twice per week and usually takes 1-2 hours to complete. This task allows the managers to find the information about their customers regarding previous orders.
·         Inputting Invoices into Database
o   Invoices need to be entered into the database to ensure that invoices are paid and production times are responded to appropriately. This is done about once a week and usually takes about an hour.
·         Responding to Manager’s Email
o   Managers email employees multiple times throughout the day regarding updates to their schedule and daily tasks for you to complete.
Please provide an explanation as to why you ordered these tasks the way you did.
Scenario Two
You are working in the office on a few high profile tasks given to you by your manager and the manager of the production department comes in and tells you that he needs 200 instruction cards as soon as possible. It is currently 11:32am and you get a one hour lunch starting at 12pm. Each step is outlined below:
1.       Print out card
2.       Cut card
3.       Laminate card
Each card takes 4 minutes to create from start to finish for one card. If you do each step in mass (i.e. print out 200 instruction cards, cut 200 instruction cards, and laminate 200 instruction cards) you can do each card in 2 minutes, however you not have any cards finished to give to production by the end of the day. What do you do? Please be sure to include verbatim what you would tell the Production Manager.
Scenario Three
Your manager asks you to hold their calls because they will be going out to the warehouse to review production details and prefer to not be interrupted. A potential client calls regarding receiving a quote from your manager. You can:
a)      Send the potential client to voicemail
b)      Send the potential client to another manager
c)       Place the potential customer on hold and go get your manager
d)      Pull up the product on the website and quote the client
e)      None of the above. Instead I would ___________(fill in the blank)_________.
Please give a reason why you chose your answer. Also, include the exact words you would use in your phone conversation with the client.
Scenario Four
The phone is ringing and you are in the middle of counting invoices and checking them for possible mistakes. Your email also informs you that you have an unread message as the production manager approaches you and tries to explain that they need 75 additional instruction cards (see description in Scenario Two). Please explain what you would do in detail.

The ideal answers are then reviewed to see how that person thinks about things. For example, a person can order filing customer information and inputting invoices into database as either three or four, it didn't matter to me as long as reading the manager's email was one and working on production cards was number two. I wanted to see why they would order one above the other and their thought process.

In scenario two, I wanted to see what the candidate would do about a solution and how they would naturally react. Since this is something that happens relatively frequently, I needed a problem solver instead of a finger pointer. The person that put the time into figuring out that the cards wouldn't be finished by the end of the day and asked the production manager how THEY would want them to complete the cards was the best answer. Also, the person that figured out that they could produce at least 100 cards within the time constraints to give to the production manager by the end of the day was another great answer. The person who also remembered they were working on high profile tasks and that those were still of importance was also considered to be thinking "big picture".

In scenario three, the main point was to catch the word "prefer". What does the manager mean by this? The person that went to the manager to clarify that meaning scored major points as a client could potentially be very important. I also made sure to include a major problem in the company with people quoting wrong quotes as a letter they could choose. A person who naturally feels they can quote would be problematic.

Scenario four addresses how people can multitask relatively quickly. The people that thought to mark the place they were at in the invoices, answer the phone and place the person on hold and then responding to the manager, knew that there was a process to the madness, but also an efficient solution.

Basically out of the 20 people that were sent an email interview, 9 responded. NINE! I thought there would be more than that, but there weren't. This made my job even easier because out of the nine people, only four had really exceptional answers. Out of those four, only two I felt were good enough to pass onto the company. These two were the best of the best and cream of the crop. I would send them to Top Gun!

In all honesty though, this process helped me see into a person before actually conducting an interview face-to-face and spending 1-2 hours of my time. We have all been there where the interviewer decides that the interviewee isn't all that interested and the interviewee has already decided they don't want to work for the interviewer, but because of formalities, you still end up in an hour interview.

Feel free to comment about what you think about this new type of interviewing. Would you find it helpful?

Monday, June 11, 2012

You're the Boss...and Everyone Knows It!

Situation: A company I work with decided to offer a new facet of service in their industry and tasked that job out to an existing employee. Since this is a new service, no employees in the company have experience or can even categorize this under their current description. The boss put out a memo describing the new job and placed the new task on the desk of an existing employee. At the same time, the boss decided to hire a new employee to fulfill this position without informing his team.

Employee's Point of View: John was relatively excited to take on the new position. It meant time learning how to operate the new software, but also let him engage with the customer more, which was part of his current job. John went home that night and bragged to his wife about how the boss had senta memo out to the entire team about how HE was the right person to handle this workload and maintain his current schedule. He felt very proud of the new addition and stayed up late working with the new software to better understand his new task. He even mentioned to his wife about the possible raise this might incur because, if done strategically, John could make a lot of new revenue for the company, which would eventually come his way!!

This late night at-home working continued for two weeks as John learned more about the software and the customers started calling. He felt he was managing both jobs well and thought his boss was pleased after his boss said, "You're doing a great job, John. We can't thank you enough for doing this right now." He knew in the end that his hard work would pay off, even though the boss seemed too busy to mention how well he was doing.

Later the following week, John was introduced to Scott at the weekly team meeting. Scott was the man in charge of the new software. Disgruntled, John quickly introduced himself and left the meeting before any further words were exchanged.

Boss' Point of View: Terry felt he was putting immense pressure on John by asking him to take on this task. He felt John was great at taking on new tasks and he would deliver, but with the current amount of work on his desk, how could John ever continue doing both jobs at the same time? Stressed to find a solution to John's probability to become overwhelmed, Terry quickly began finding a new employee to take over the new software task. He knew the sooner the better and found a solid replacement in just three weeks after back to back interviews and meetings. The new employee received their background check and accepted the offer in record time. Terry was thrilled and knew John would be relieved to know he had worked so hard to look out for John's wellbeing.

At the meeting, Terry beamed as he made the announcement and stared right at John to read the relief, but it didn't seem to be there; in fact, John seemed almost upset! Terry thought that he would eventually come around and until then, knew John would be the right person t train the new employee to do a great job.


Here we see a form of boss miscommunication, BUT this is also in a form that many bosses never see!! Being the boss means that many employees do not want to bring things to your attention and "deal" with the process of being an employee. Their friends and family usually know about the problems or goals they set for themselves, but as the boss you only know a part of their story. Always keep in mind that no matter what you might know, there is usually something else there that you can learn about your employees.

Terry thought he was doing John a favor and John felt that he was receiving recognition from Terry that he was the man for the job based on how well he had performed previously. The new employee was a slap to the face and Terry was right in sensing that John was upset by his actions. However, John would never boldly go up to Terry and admit his feelings...that doesn't happen in a workplace and surely not between men!!

So how do you rectify the situation?

Terry needs to recognize that something went wrong. Let me stop here and say that no one is WRONG, but the realization that something did go wrong is the first step to rectifying the situation...any situation...with employees!!

A simple question about the matter is perfect.

Terry: Hey John, noticed you were a bit frustrated in the meeting this morning. Am I putting too much pressure on you?

Maybe John will be open about wanting the position, but either way it creates a line of communication. No matter how John sees it, Terry should NEVER expect his employees to try to see everything from his point of view. As a manager, your goal should always to be to see it from the employee's point of view first and then try to use their words to convey what you can do to help them. If you only try to convey your point of view, you will frustrate your employees and many are good at compartmentizing and acting like they care...when they dont!

Employees have a tendency to open up to a third party if they believe it will help them succeed. Why does this matter to you? The more your employees feel they will succeed, the more productive and effecient they will be...that translates into more revenue and a higher morale meaning more success for your company.

Consider learning what your employees keep secret and use that information to catapult them and you to SUCCESS!!

Do you have any situations that you want to see "the other point of view"? Write them as a comment and we can discuss!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Customer Communication = Marketing Success

Sometimes you have to listen past the words begin said
to communicate effectively.
Listening is the key to success in any form of communication and marketing is an important form of communication, but if you do not know how your customers communicate then you are not reaching them effectively.

Well that was a lot of wisdom in such a compact little space. What does that mean?

Your customers are extensions of your marketing.

1) They talk about your brand.
2) They recommend your brand.
3) They buy your brand.

Just as helpful as they might be, they can also be as detramental to the success of your brand as well.

But what does understanding their communication have to do with your success? Easy! You must be an integral part of their communication and to do that you need to be top-of-mind.

Consider this...if a customer is decidingly looking for coupons, but only has access to the internet, then they are totally passing up the direct mail campaign you just spent $1,300 implementing! Likewise, if you have a group that is speaking on home phones and still gets the paper each Sunday and you are launching a Facebook campaign, then you are not part of their conversation.

Pretty simple things, but they have such a huge impact on sales. People say you have to do direct mail, you have to do newspaper ads, you need to have a yellow pages presence, you have to have a Facebook page...but until you know your audience and have figured out how, when, and why they communicate with you, you won't be as successful with your marketing campaigns.

Remember, people want to be the expert and your company will allow that to happen! (more on that later)

For updates and tips on communication and marketing, please feel free to follow our Facebook page.

Please consider leaving a comment.

Monday, April 9, 2012



I have heard this word thrown around so much lately that I had to write something about it. Mostly the word "entitlement" shows up with the words "younger generation". Having fit into that description myself once before, I have to discuss what and why these words co-mingle.

After graduating college, I was offered a $27,000 job with a non-profit in Hawaii. I felt excited at the opportunity and with college debt looming in the background, I knew it was something I should be thankful for. Unfortunately, that deal fell through and instead I took a job with a corporate conglomerate for for $9,000 more.

The first couple of years I was substantially happy and pursued my MBA, but after I acquired my MBA and still was operating under the same position/title, I became discouraged. I had been made to believe by society and the educational system that holding a higher degree would get me promoted. Three years later and owning my own company, it has. However at the time I felt entitled to a different position/title and instead was offered a small raise with the knowledge that I was capped at the highest they could pay that position.

So why am I telling you all this? Is it because I felt entitled to more money, a raise, or a trophy to put on my desk? No. Simply put, I am saying that educated people have been taught that the more education they have, the more entitlement they have.

Now the younger generation also feels the same way. They have been told, much as you and I were told before them, that they are a special generation and are paving the way for the rest of the generations to come AND with their knowledge, are fixing the problems our generation has created. That is what they are being told. I never said I am telling them this, however whether they believe it or not sets the terms for how "entitled" they feel.

You can also have a wonderful new employee that you try to encourage through praise and recognition, but be careful. While this helps some people out, too much praise and recognition too soon in the game can also create a sense of entitlement in the employee. Think about it...

"I just started at a small company as their intern and bounce around from department to department. I write and do odd end jobs, but the company really seems to need me. I know no one is currently getting paid, however I know they really need me because they don't have anyone with my level of talent. The boss has told me time and time again how thankful he is to have me in the company and even awarded me with the very first recognition trophy in the company. I feel as though I will have a job here and maybe will even be the first to be paid. ;) My parents are already super proud of me!!"

Imagine that person's anger when they find out that their internship is over and they are bid well wishes without a job satisfying their hunger. Can you feel it yourself? Maybe their professor and parents even told them that they were doing a great job and have put in enough time to be brought into the company. When the final day of the internship is over and their excitement causes grief and anguish, how do they react? Pompous and full of unfulfilled entitlement.

Whether or not a person feels entitled is really not the key to the problem. The key is to figure out how much of their entitlement needs to be fulfilled in order to keep them a happy employee. The answer to this is interview screening. Figure out what they feel entitled to in the beginning before you hire them. Figure out if you can support that type of requirement BEFORE you decide if they are a good enough employee to  be hired.

If you focus on scoring the candidate on an entitlement spectrum according to the company's fulfillment policy, then YOU can ensure you are hiring someone that you can please in the long term.

Because face it...we all have a sense of entitlement to something. Money, fairness, work time, holidays, paid leave, sick time, pregnancy leave, etc. Find your entitlement.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Coffee House Worker

Early on a Wednesday morning in your favorite coffee house you refill your halfway cold coffee and add a fuse of half and half before splashing back down at your normal table to regroup your thoughts. While you sit there thinking of how you are going to plan out your day, there is someone just getting up and reluctantly slamming their sleepy hand down on the alarm clock that beckons their lifeless body to get up and drag itself to work. They dream about your ideal lifestyle while you dream about accomplishing the relevant revenue you want to bring in for the day. What is the difference between these people?

Both these employees dream about success and are self-motivated. One employee has taken the plunge to work outside of the office, but...WAIT! Are they really "taking the plunge"? No! This is the new lifestyle of working for many young adults and preferable in the younger generation within small to medium sized businesses. They are being managed, but given the freedom of working on their own schedule.

The younger generation, called the Y-Generation, has used technology throughout their life from the moment they became aware of their surroundings. Because of this constant availability of knowledge and communication, they view their work availability as a 24/7 process in a virtual setting. Working at odd hours and from unique locations, this generation has a tendency to excel in these situations, however their downfall is that these hours tend to be spread around their lifestyle. While work is important, work is integrated into their lifestyle and becomes a part of who they are internally. When the dissonance between work and lifestyle differ too greatly, you will see turnover. And most of the time, when given the freedom to work outside of the office, this generation will put in more time than a normal 9a-5p employee.

So, you need to hire younger employees to move your company to the next level, but only have a "normal" sense of the word "job" available. What now? To reduce a high percentage of cognitive dissonance, an employee within this generation should be given the creative freedom to perform their job to the best of their ability. While you might find them texting or on a social media site during work, you have to remind yourself of their desire to mix pleasure with work and then turn the question back to yourself and your company. Am I providing enough social and creative stimulation for this person? What can I do to further learn how this person is motivated? If you slap their hands and reprimand them, you are bound to lose this employee over time, especially if there is no upward movement available in your company within the next two years.

How you manage this generation will determine how they function within your company in the end. Stick them in a cubicle and throw filing at an astute, recent graduate with the ability to self-motivate themselves to the top and you will whisk the desire right out of them and they will start shopping around for another  job. Give them a cubicle and filing with the freedom to develop systems and think creatively and they might just eliminate the need for filing altogether.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Integrating New Employees Successfully

New Employee:
You walk into the workplace and head for your desk while taking in a good dose of your surroundings. Hesitant, but with a sense of readiness, you make small conversation with the other employees on the way. "Colleagues" that a few weeks ago were just interviewers you so desperately wanted to impress and knew that you could, if they would just give you the chance. Your thought bubble at the interview being, "LOOK PAST THE RESUME!" as you hurtled idea after idea at them hoping at least one of them played catcher in their previous days. Smooth entrance, you settle in at your desk, ready to start the day, full of life, coffee placed on the right side of the computer within reach of the mouse, chair positioned for maximum comfort, stapler in the top drawer, pencils in the cup... you drone on and on trying to sound productive in a world where you actually have no idea where to start.

Manager of New Employee:
You have made your final decision and picked a candidate you think will showcase their strengths best in your company (and hopefully make you look good for your choice). You sure do not want to go through that process anytime soon. The desk was set-up the previous day and you looked it over to make sure everything they needed was available. Stapler, computer, mouse, pens, pencils, CHECK! You just hope they do their best to assimilate themselves in this rather eclectic environment. You see them come in and walk over to one of your other employees and let them know they are to train the new employee today, making a mental note to take them both out to lunch later on today.

So what's next? How does a new employee assimilate themselves? Is it through manager guidance or is the best idea really to let the other employees train the new one? Assimilation is an important part of employee satisfaction and loyalty to a company. Chances are, if a new employee does not assimilate themselves actively after a year, they will be disgruntled and probably produce 60% of their actual ability. They might seem fine on the surface, but something might be brewing just below the smiles and facade of their compartmentalization.

As a manager, it is your job to assimilate this new employee, but to do it tacticfully enough that the new employee does not see you as "the rule maker". Introduce the employee to your work culture and the unwritten rules of your office. Nothing is more embarassing than breaking or not understanding a rule that is unwritten, especially within that delicate first year of work. As a new employee, I broke plenty of rules my first year and was sizeably embarassed, so I made it my duty to make sure the new employees knew about the bosses, managers, and fellow co-workers' attitudes, likes, and dislikes, as well as the "rules" HR didn't know or understand. In fact, my first year I was laughed at for wearing professional clothes on a casual day, for wearing too light of jeans on my next casual day, and for choosing shoes that didn't have enough sequines to be determined as "office attire". (As a side note, I was in Hawaii working at the time and "casual" has a very different meaning there versus on the mainland.) Coffee runs were also acceptable in my workplace, but only at certain times. Unfortunately, I discovered all the times it was not acceptable and felt embarassed when I was pulled into my bosses office to discuss simple systems of work productivity. Simply, get coffee between 8:15am and 8:30am when there is a weekly meeting planned, but it doesn't matter after that unless the boss decides there should be another meeting later in the week and plans it at the exact time you are gone; bring your cell phone!

To properly assimilate a new employee, start taking note of your office culture and what norms are acceptable and which are agreed upon, but not stated. Sit down and discuss these cultures and norms with the employees that you plan to use to train the new employee. Then assign certain tasks to make sure the new employee understands these cultures and norms, along with colleagues' attitudes and likes/dislikes. This is a great start to creating the loyalty you need in your workplace.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where is my motivation?

You know the story. It is a Monday, coffee in hand soon to be consumed and hopefully before Monday consumes you! The weekend is wearing heavy on your mind as you sit in your chair reminiscing about the weekend that could have lasted even an hour longer. 

What is it about this job that you just can't seem to get over? Sighing, you place your coffee down on the same place you always set your drinks down. You know this because of the white dried ring left by your iced drink on Friday afternoon as you tried to fuel yourself through the last few hours before your weekend.

Motivation is something that is innately found in each employee. Everyone has motivation, but what motivates a person differs based on gender and generation with generation playing a key role in the motivational factor. As we are in the Informational Age, we find that many younger employees from the Y-generation almost fight the "norm" presented in many companies across the nation. They leave jobs searching for a newer, cooler place to work that empowers them and gives them what they are looking for, but what is that exactly?

Jobs are viewed by the Y-generation as just that...a job. This job pays the way to enjoy better life things. And things and a social lifestyle are definitely two things held dearly by them. However to encourage more than just an employee doing a job that they wished could be "cooler", the Baby Boomer generation MUST develop new concepts to keep the Y-generation involved. You see, corporate America was founded based on people who were workers and who wanted to work hard to do just that...WORK HARD! The rules, culture, and specifics of working in a company were hashed out and implemented LONG before this generation came into play. And they just don't play by those rules! Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about the rules, so you think...

Your job as a boss, manager, or owner is to empower these employees to take ownership in their jobs. To give them the creative power to develop and manage tools that even you can't imagine. They will take your company to the next level, if you place your faith in them. Yes, they seem a bit wild, uncharted, and in your mind, all over the road, but this generation has the ability to multi-task and develop. Cultivate that desire to grow, but also understand that if 5pm rolls around and you haven't properly motivated them, they will pick up and waltz out that door faster than you can watch the second hand pass twelve. However, if you bypass the rules of corporate and give them some leeway to practice a few ideas with your support, they will begin to take ownership of what you have given them and you will see a swift worker-bee. Don't be surprised if they elect to take the work home and do it at 2am after they have had a fun night out with their friends. They will find time to do it and you need to be aware that they are working hard.

Praise is another key influence that can help the Y-generation feel motivated into becoming a hard worker. Feel free to give them raises, if you can afford it. If you can't, lunch every once in a while, tickets to an exclusive event, or even a handshake or award can do justice to a failing employee. There is still a thick line between employee and boss, but the closer you toe the line, the more open the younger employee will feel and ideas will begin to flow.

Now one thing to remember is this, your idea of a perfect employee is a FAR CRY from what they believe a perfect employee is. You will see bits and pieces of what you want, but never push your idea so hard on them that they crack. Remember, even though you don't see them working at their desk for overtime, this does NOT mean that they are not working at home. If they have enough ownership and praise and enjoy working for YOU (remember these guys do not work for a company, they work for a manager), then you will start seeing the outcome you desire.