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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Job Interview - A Few Pointers (Part A)

The Job Interview - For some a gateway to wondrous opportunities.....for others a baptism by fire.....
I say that because as an HR Manager/Consultant, I have been involved in conducting numerous job interviews for both service companies and manufacturing firms and an overwhelming number of candidates come with perceived notions, which needless to say, are almost always negative in nature. Simple discussion starters like 'Tell me something about yourself' rapidly dissolve into a 'The Simpsons' parody with the candidate making a complete fool or him/herself and pretty much dashing his/her chances of progressing to the next round within the first 3-4 minutes itself.

A Job Interview is just that, a Job Interview, nothing less and certainly nothing more.
Here are a few pointers for first time job seekers as well as those who have been in the job market for sometime and haven't yet secured a job:

Pointer 1: Treat your Job Interview Like a Dialogue

A Job Interview is not hearing for a possible Death Sentence. You either get the job, or you don't. Whatever happens you will survive, so don't look and talk like someone's pointing a gun to your head.

Always treat your interview like a professional dialogue, because that's exactly what it is, a professional discussion or a dialogue. A dialogue means that you, the Interviewee also has the right to ask questions and not just the other way round. This does not mean that you attend the interview in a condescending, rude or over-confident manner. Remember, the Interviewer is probably someone who's been there and done that and so probably has an experience and knowledge level superior to yours. So giving due respect is important, but so is showing a healthy level of confidence.

Hence, go to your interview with a view of having a mature professional discussion at a professional organization, with a professional person. Professional, Confident and Mature all the way......

Pointer 2: Dress Smart

Ok so you're really a bum at home, bermuda shorts, a loose T-shirt , and unruly hair is your mantra for relaxation.

Great, but unless it's a telephonic interview (and that's a different ball game altogether), you have to look good and smart. The first step to feeling smart is dressing smart. Dressing as smartly as possible does two things:

a. It makes you feel good, and feeling good makes up for upto 30% -40% of your confidence level.

b. It gives the interviewer a positive impression first up as soon as he/she looks at you.

But before you fire up the engine and go shopping for those expensive 'professional' looking shirts and trousers at the local mall, let me tell you that dressing smart does not necessarily mean dressing expensive.

It's all about how well (Read: Smartly) you dress up with the clothes you already possess (and I mean the FORMAL clothes you possess).

For Males: Your shirt ( plain or stripes, no glaring colors) tucked in, a sensible pair of trousers, a smart and non-glaring belt buckle, a polished pair of shoes (or if you are wearing non-leather shoes, preferably a dark colored pair instead of white or other light colors) and if possible, a tie.

For Females: A smart shirt and a pair of trousers and possibly a jacket to go with it. For shoes, ditto as for males.

That takes care of your attire, well almost. How you wear your hair is also obviously an integral part of the 'look' you give off. People ( Males or Females) who have long hair, especially long hair that's also a bit unruly, would be best served if they tied a neat knot or a pony tail etc. This advice especially goes for males who have long hair. Having long hair is not the problem, that's your personal liking, but not wearing it in a tidy manner could give off a not-so-organized first impression.

But according to me, the best option is to have a short cut, tidy hairdo!

Pointer 3:
Research the Organization

One of the major reasons candidates (even potentially deserving ones) don't do well at a job interview is that they just don't try to do even a minimal amount of research about the organization from which they have received an interview call. Knowing some basic details about the organization you are going to interview at can help you allay a lot of fears and preset notions as well as give you a sense of confidence, because now you are not going to shoot totally in the dark and have some basic information about the organization, it's culture etc under your belt.

Try to gather basic information about the company - this information is more often than not available on the company website. Information like It's year of incorporation, who it was founded by, what lines of businesses it is into, how many branches it has, how many countries it is present in, what kind of products/services it offers to it's customers in your line of specialization or area of expertise and most importantly, any Job Description that may be available in the 'Careers' section pertaining to the position you are going to interview for.

Knowing all this might help you to more than adequately answer the ' What do you know about us?' question as well as provide you with some more to talk about when answering the 'Why do you want to work for us?' question.

Pointer 4: Update your Resume and Read It!

Make sure that you update your resume and take with you atleast 2 copies of your latest update version when you attend the job interview. You might have been notified about the interview date 2-3 months in advance and the company may have a older version of your resume with it. An updated version would probably provide you with a better chance of selection.

Having a snazzy looking, 'full loaded' resume is fine, but have you actually taken the trouble to read it thoroughly? This is especially important in two scenarios:

a. When someone else has helped you create your resume either in part of in whole; he/she might know what's exactly in there but you might not, and that can be disastrous in the job interview.

b.If your resume is several months old; you might over a period of time forget what's exactly in there, especially things like books you have read, interest areas, activities participated in etc - this happens is you have embelished yor resume 'a bit' and haven't actually been involved in the activities you have mentioned.

I'll leave you to digest these four pointers for now, look out for Part B very soon.

Feel free to clarify any doubts you might have either through e-mail or on here via the comments section.....

Team Building: The Basic Dynamics of a Great Team (Part One)

Building effective teams is a corporate mantra that many preach but few actually ever achieve.

Team building is both a science and an art. It’s a science because you have to get the right people, in the right place, at the right time. It’s an art because you have to get the right ‘type’ of people in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.


Let me explain.

Tenant One: Get the Right People for the Right Job

The first tenant of building a fine team is get people who know what they are doing (Basic common sense you say? Well hasn’t come one told you that common sense isn’t all that common?).

Be it a technical team or a service oriented team or a special task force, never, as far as possible, compromise on the quality of the team members whether selecting entry level people or people at the leadership/supervisory level - This is where a comprehensive job description for each job becomes so important.

Tenant Two: Know the Thinkers and the Doers

I believe that every team, no matter its purpose or the situation, can broadly be said to comprise of two types of people: The Thinkers and The Doers.

The Thinkers are those who are good at, well, thinking! These people are good at putting their imagination, knowledge, experience, unique point of views etc to use to come up with sound, workable or in other words practical ideas or solutions either verbally or on paper. Though they may be great at generating workable ideas, they may not be very good at actually executing these ideas themselves. That’s where the Doers come in.

The Doers as you must have realised by now are those people in the team who are great at executing ideas or possibilities. These team members usually are great at working at the or from the ground level and actually converting a possibility on paper to reality. Many a times these members are the ‘quietly confident’ types. They may not be as verbose as ‘The Thinkers’, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less confident and competent.

But ofcourse I am sure that many of you must have come across those who are pretty good at coming up with ideas and actually executing them too. These are the ‘All Rounders’. But these are few and far between. (One good example would be the special operations or commando teams like the Navy Seals, Green Berets, Black Cats etc. who have to constantly plan and re-plan on the go when in a battle situation and put those plans into action in a matter of minutes sometimes.)

It’s important for a manager, when he/she’s putting a team together, to know who are the Thinkers, the Doers and the All Rounders so that a team is balanced as far as possible, and both the ideas and the actions of the team are of the highest quality possible with the minimum possible turn around time.

Tenant Three: Take Time to Know the Team

A lot of managers or team leaders simply leave the ‘knowing your team’ part to the ‘Ill -get-to-know-them-as -we –go -along’ syndrome. That’s the biggest mistake you can make as a team lead, especially if it’s a team that’s going to be together for a long term project or is a permanent one. That’s because sometimes small misunderstandings between the team members can develop into almost unmanageable problems later on and more often than not result out of or lead to groupism – which is a lot like smoking, kills slowly, but kills for sure.

Another big issue could be the build of resentment against you – the team lead and other senior members of the team over a period of time, or worse still, right at the beginning. This could happen because either all or most of the team members might not be very clear of the purpose of the team; it’s method of functioning, or their individual responsibilities.

It’s thus paramount to have a ‘huddle’ or sit the team down before the commencement of any serious activity and to have a ‘semi-formal’ debriefing session that clarifies all of the above and also imparts to the team a sense of definite purpose, importance and togetherness.
To be Continued......

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Continuous HR Process - An Argument for Effective HR

Does your company have a continuous or a seamless HR practice?

Ok now you might want to know what really is a continuous or a seamless HR practice?

Well, simply put, a Continuous/Seamless HR practice is a well structured, well paced involvement of a company's HR department/team into the company's tactical (Read: Day-to-Day) and strategic (Read: Long Term) functioning.

It's a concept that is unfortunately quite lost on the upper management/leadership teams of many organizations around the globe. It is especially prevalent amongst the small to mid-sized organizations for whom the HR Team is essentially not much more than an extension of the staffing and general administration function. This is all the more accentuated in companies that belong to the manufacturing/technical industry where in a lot of cases HR is put on a 'need-to-know' basis. That is, HR's involvement is strictly relegated to certain areas and work situations, in effect sidelining the HR team to a great extent and hence immediately giving away or compromising upon potentially atleast on 20% of organizational effectiveness.

There are also instances I have come across where even though the company has invested heavily in building up a great HR team, it has consistently failed to capitalize on harvesting and utilizing the capabilities of the team in bringing about the requisite organizational changes, creating and streamlining work processes and initiating necessary training and development activities which from an essential part of the 'Learning Curve' for each individual employee and forms an integral part of the employee retention process (apart from the company's Performance Management System and it's rewards and incentives policy).

This phenomena of under utilizing of HR exists inspite of recognition of the fact that the 'Human Resource' is an organization's greatest and the most valuable resource. This under utilization (and in some cases sheer miss-utilization) occurs basically because of any or all of the following broad reasons:

  1. Improper understanding of the HR process and its strategic significance by the top management which more often than not percolates down to the middle management as well.

  2. Autocratic management culture where actual control even for day-today functioning rests with a few individuals. This phenomena is more common amongst family run/controlled businesses.

  3. Company management culture that has essentially evolved from a factory management mindset. This is especially the case with a lot of small to mid-sized Asian firms where HR was traditionally a 'welfare' function.

  4. Selection of senior HR personnel who are essentially from an 'administrative' background rather than from a core strategic HR background.

  5. A specific function oriented company where the focus is primarily on one or two types of very specific functional areas and the all other functions come to be treated like minor support functions. (Ex: a Marketing Services company or a Financial Research Firm

  6. Simply hiring the wrong people for the wrong job - inexperienced or ill equipped HR personnel ( lower and upper level) who simply cannot help make HR a seamless process for the organization.

A continuous HR process essentially means that the HR is involved intrinsically not only in administrative or specific day-today activities like staffing, on-boarding, payroll, compensation and benefits but also employee engagement activities, strategically focused training and development activities, employee career planning/counselling and coaching activities, the short and long term manpower planning process, tactical and strategic policy decision making and most importantly be an integral part of the company's medium to long term goal setting process.

Hence, it is all about a sustained and well integrated involvement in both the day-to-day functioning of the company and it's planning for the future so that the company's most important resource is not only effective on a daily basis but is also ready to grow with the company and face bigger and greater challenges in the future. It makes both for a happy employee and a stronger organization.

A lack of continuous HR process or climate leads to HR becoming stagnant over a period of time which in turn breeds a poor work atmosphere mostly due to poor or reduced stress coping abilities amongst the organization's employees along with over a period of time, the development of an un-patriotic, detached attitude. The negative effect this can have on productivity and the company's power to attract top grade talent cannot be overstated.

Now the obvious question is how to create a seamless/continuous HR process in an organization?

Keep an eye out for another post articulating the same.