Friday, June 24, 2011

Importance of Good Covering Letters

The subject of this column isn’t new. And what I’m about to say has been said before, but it all bears repeating. Most of the people I’ve spoken to who sift through cover letters tell me that way too many are just boring, vague or ineffective. Those land in the trash.

So what does a cover letter need to get noticed? Here are 7 tips:

1. Remember to sell yourself. A cover letter is a sales pitch. And while you may think you are too good to sell yourself, get over it. All of us who believe in something important are selling – be it a proposition, an idea, or maybe ourselves. This, by the way, doesn’t mean you steal credit–just that you emphasize your very real accomplishments.

2. Demonstrate interest in the job. Sounds obvious, right? But so many people don’t bother to do homework on the company at which they are applying. Reference something about what you have learned in your cover letter. This is where you can tailor the needs of the company to the capabilities you offer.

3. Be declarative. A good cover letter is a page. Get to the point quickly, telling what you’ve accomplished. “This is what I have accomplished…”

4. Omit the conditional. Avoid statements such as, “As conditions warranted..,” or “Given the circumstances…” Conditionals detract from the power of your message. Drop them.

5. Avoid the passive voice. Using the passive voice makes you sound like a bystander. Instead of “Our effort was led by me,” write, “I led our effort.” Remember, you are the initiator.

6. Proof it. Take it from me, a Class D proof reader: don’t click send until you have a trusted friend or your spouse read your letter over to check for clarity – did you mean to say that? — and typos – Oops!

7. Be humble. This is a caveat to the first item on this list. You are pitching yourself but remember that as a leader you achieve good results through the efforts of others. It is always good to mention how you work well with and through others.

For those of you who were just checking to see that you already knew what I was going to write, give yourself a pat on the back. For anyone else, I hope these tips point you in the right direction.

Good luck, and good writing. Your next job may depend upon it… but of course you already know that.

Read more:

Ways Bosses Make Our Jobs Harder

a good manager provides employees with:

Direction, tools, and training they need to do their job effectively.

A challenging, engaging, and rewarding work environment.

Freedom from management politics and other assorted BS.

Notice there’s nothing in there that reads, “Make everyone’s job harder by acting like a self-important, egotistical, micromanaging control freak.” That’s because that’s not what good managers do. That’s what dysfunctional managers do.

It’s not even a rare occurrence. In my management and consulting experience, it’s entirely too common. And here’s the thing that’s going to piss off a lot of people. It’s really common in the middle management ranks.

That’s because, unlike senior executives, middle managers haven’t yet “arrived,” so proving themselves is first and foremost on their minds and they’re not always sensitive to who they step on in the process of getting there. In other words, their own needs and wants come ahead of the group.

I know that sounds harsh, but who among you is beyond the need for improvement? That’s right, nobody. And guess what? If getting ahead and “making it” is your top priority, you’ll get there a lot faster by taking your job and your responsibility seriously. And that means not doing these:

7 Ways Managers Make Employee’s Jobs Harder:

Give cryptic or incomplete direction and expect people to read your mind. You’re in a hurry because your time is so important - more important than anyone else’s - which of course gives you a license to tell people half of what they need to know and then beat them up when they guess wrong on the rest.

Stay in your comfort zone and don’t push the envelope. When you sign up for high-risk and high-visibility projects or stick your neck out for your group, it clears the way for all your people to grow and shine with everyone watching. High priority stuff gets attention, resources, and raises, too.

Control or limit information flow. “Always go through me,” “Don’t cc him,” “You don’t have a need to know that,” “You’ll find out when I think it’s time” - classic micromanaging and controlling behavior that reduces employee effectiveness.

Let your employees take the heat when you should be accountable. This is inexcusable for the simple reason that your people are your responsibility. When they succeed, it reflects well on you. And when they fail or screw up, that should reflect poorly on you. You were hired and you’re paid to be held accountable, not to be scarce when management is beating up on your people.

Be a coward when it comes to delivering bad news and criticism. One of the most challenging but important management functions is to spend time teaching people how to improve and deliver bad news that affects them. I know nobody wants to be the “bad guy,” but when you’re tough and straightforward, you’re actually being the “good guy.”

Ask for stuff people have already given you. This is a classic sign of dysfunctional management. What you’re really saying is that, because you’re so much more valuable than everyone else, it’s more productive for them to do something twice than for you to look for it once. What a load of crap.

Let everyone walk all over you. If you’re a wimpy doormat, then more assertive and aggressive peers will more effectively sell their ideas and get budget and resources for their programs and people. If you don’t fight for your people, it’s all downhill - not just for you, for everyone in your group.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Are There Critical Interview Questions to Ask?

Most job candidates feel interview questions can be decoded and hacked, letting them respond to those questions with “perfect” answers.

Guess what: They’re right, especially if you insist on asking terrible job interview questions.

(Quick aside: Is there really a perfect answer to a silly question like, “What do you feel is your biggest weakness?” I think there is: “If that’s the kind of question you typically ask… I don’t want to work for you.”)

I’ve interviewed over a thousand people for positions ranging from part-time to skilled to executive. While I’ve actively repressed a lot of my experiences, I have learned two things:

Candidates I think are the most likely to succeed almost always turn out to be the worst performers, and

Asking opinion-based questions is a complete waste of time. Every candidate comes prepared to answer general questions about teamwork, initiative, interpersonal skills, leadership, etc.

Interviewing is an imprecise process, but you can improve your ability to evaluate candidates by asking interview questions that elicit facts instead of opinions.

Why? I can never rely on what you claim you will do, but I can learn a lot from what you have already done. The past is a fairly reliable indication of the future where employee behavior and attitude is concerned.

How do you get to the facts? You have to ask. Ask an initial question, then put on your 60 Minutes investigative hat and follow up: Fully understand the situation described, determine exactly what the candidate did (and did not do), and find out how things turned out.

Follow-up questions don’t need to be complicated: “Really?” “Wow - what did he do?” “What did she say?” “What happened next?” “How did that go over?” All you have to do is keep the conversation going. Remember, an interview is really just a conversation.

With that in mind, here are four of my favorite behavioral interview questions:

1. “Tell me about the last time a customer or coworker got mad at you.”

Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s interpersonal skills and ability to deal with conflict.

Remember, make sure you find out why the customer or coworker was mad, what the interviewee did in response, and how the situation turned out both in the short- and long-term.

Red flag: The interviewee pushes all the blame — and responsibility for rectifying the situation — on the other person.

Good: The interviewee focuses on how they addressed and fixed the problem, not on who was to blame.

Great: The interviewee admits they caused the other person to be upset, took responsibility, and worked to make a bad situation better. That’s the trifecta of answers: You are willing to admit when you are wrong, you take responsibility for fixing your mistakes, and you learn from experience. (Remember, every mistake is just training in disguise as long as the same mistake isn’t repeated over and over again, of course.)

2. “Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.”

Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s ability to reason, problem solving skills, judgment, and sometimes even willingness to take intelligent risks.

Red flag: No answer. Everyone makes tough decisions regardless of their position. My daughter works part-time as a server at a local restaurant and makes difficult decisions every night, like the best way to deal with a regular customer whose behavior constitutes borderline harassment.

Good: Made a difficult analytical or reasoning-based decision. For example, wading through reams of data to determine the best solution to a problem.

Great: Made a difficult interpersonal decision, or better yet a difficult data-driven decision that included interpersonal considerations and ramifications. Making decisions based on data is essential, but almost every decision has an impact on people as well. The best candidates naturally weigh all sides of an issue, not just the business or human side exclusively.

3. “Tell me about a time you knew you were right… but you still had to follow directions or guidelines.”

Intent: Evaluate the candidate’s ability to follow… and possibly to lead.

Red flag: Found a way to circumvent guidelines “… because I know I was right,” or followed the rules but allowed their performance to suffer. (Believe it or not, if you ask enough questions, some people will tell you they were angry or felt stifled and didn’t work hard as a result, especially when they think you empathize with their “plight.”)

Good: Did what needed to be done, especially in a time-critical situation, then found an appropriate time and place to raise issues and work to improve the status quo.

Great: Not only did what needed to be done, but stayed motivated and helped motivate others as well. In a peer setting, an employee who is able to say, “Hey, I’m not sure this makes sense either, but for now let’s just do our best and get it done…” is priceless. In a supervisory setting, good leaders are able to debate and argue behind closed doors and then fully support a decision in public even if they privately disagree with that decision.

4. “Tell me about the last time your workday ended before you were able to get everything done.”

Intent: Evaluate commitment, ability to prioritize, ability to communicate effectively.

Red flag: “I just do what I can and get the heck out of there. I keep telling my boss I can only do so much but he won’t listen…. “

Good: Stayed a few minutes late to finish a critical task, or prioritized before the end of the workday to ensure critical tasks were completed. You shouldn’t expect heroic efforts every day, but some level of dedication is certainly nice.

Great: Stayed late and/or prioritized… but most importantly communicated early on that deadlines were in jeopardy. Good employees take care of things; great employees take care of things and make sure others are aware of potential problems ahead of time just in case other proactive decisions make sense.

Note: Keep in mind there are a number of good and great answers to this question. “I stayed until midnight to get it done” can sometimes be a great answer, but doing so night after night indicates there are other organizational or productivity issues the employee should raise. (I may sometimes be glad you stayed late, but I will always be glad when help me spot chronic problems or bottlenecks.) Evaluate a candidate’s answers to this question based on your company’s culture and organizational needs.

There are plenty of others questions you can use; these are just my favorites.

Stick to facts-based questions and you quickly get past a candidate’s “interview armor” since few candidates can bluff their way through more than one or two questions. Plus you’ll easily identify potential disconnects between a candidate’s resume and their actual experience, qualifications, and accomplishments.

Best of all you’ll have a much better chance of identifying potentially great employees. An awesome candidates will shine in a fact-based interview.

دليل المدير الذكى فى الحفاظ على الثورة

الثورات لاتخضع لإيقاع الحياة العادى .. يفور البركان بحمم تتدافع بقوة من فوهته ثم تسيل مندفعه تكتسح فى طريقها كل مايعترضها فتحرقه وتبتلعه وتظل فى اندفاعها وقوتها إلى أن تبرد وتهدأ لتبدأ مرحلة حصر الخسائر وإعادة البنيان والتعايش مع الوضع الجديد الذى ينشأ لكى يفرض واقعا جديدا على أنقاض الوضع القديم .. وطبيعى أن يكون هناك أخطاء ترتكب وقرارات متسرعة تأتى نتيجة لردود أفعال وضغوط تفرضها وتحركها قوة الدفع لحركة الثورة وخلافات فى الرأى والتوجه بين قيادات الثورة وأطياف المجتمع التى شاركت فيها وساندتها وتدافع عنها .. لذلك لايقلقنى ولايخفينى كل مايدور على الساحة فى مصر حاليا من تصارع بين القوى المختلفة، ومايحاك فى الخفاء والعلن من مؤامرات تستهدف "تبريد" الثورة وإعادة تشكيلها والإيحاء بأن الحمم الباردة للبركان يمكن أن تتمحور إلى محاريب وتماثيل يتم نحتها وتوزيعها تذكارات ينتغى بجمالها ومهارة صانعيها وننسى الأصل الذى جاد بالمادة الخام التى صنعنا منها التذكارات.

محترفو الألعاب القذرة من "مرتزقة النظام" الذين احترفوا تلك المهنة لمدة طولة وتمرسوا عليها كانوا وسيظلوا هم أصحاب المصلحة الحقيقية فى تأجيج الخلافات بين الثوار، وإشعال الفتن، واختلاق الأزمات ، وبث روح الفرقة والصدام .. لن يستسلموا بسهولة لطوفان التغيير الذى يهدد كل مانهبوه لأكثر من ثلاثين عاما ، ولايمكن أن يقبلوا بسهولة أن يتنازلوا عنه أو يسلموا بجرائم تضعهم خلف القضبان وقد تودى ببعضهم إلى الإعدام جزاء على جرائم القتل المنظم التى ارتكبوها فى حق أصحاب مصر الحقيقيين .. عصابات الحزب الوطنى تستخدم أقوى سلاح يملكونه الآن بعد أن فشلت تجارب البلطجة المنظمة فى إخافة الناس وإشاعة الإحساس بعدم الأمان والخوف والفزع بين الناس، وذلك بتشتيت "قوة الدفع الثورى" لإضعاف قوتها وتفرقها شيعا وأحزابا وجماعات "وائتلافات" تتنازع فيما بينها على أيها أحق بتمثيل الثورة والكلام باسمها وفرض إرادتها وتحقيق أهدافها كاملة .. وطبيعى حين يحدث ذلك – دون وجود قيادة موحدة يجتمع تحت لواءها كافة الإئتلافات _ ألا يتحقق الإجماع على رأى ولا توجه ولا استراتيجية ولا حتى تكتيكات تحقق أهداف أنبل ثورة فى التاريخ .. أعداء الثورة من عصابات وفلول الحزب الوطنى لديهم قنابل موقوتة مخبأة فى كل مكان يرتاده الثوار، وهم يشعلون فتائل تلك القنابل فى أكثر من مكان فى توقيتات محسوبة ومخطط لها بعقلية الإرهابيين المتمرسين فى أحداث أكبر ضرر ممكن حين تنفجر القنابل مرة على شكل فتنة طائفية تذرع بذور الكراهية والحقد والرغبة فى الإنتقام بين المصريين، ومرة على شكل "بلطجة شعبية" تقطع الطرق وتخرب المنشئات، وتعطل مصالح الناس حتى تتحقق مطالبهم، ومرة على شكل اعتصامات وإضرابات تشل حركة الحياة وتدفع فى اتجاه الصدام بين الشعب والجيش تمهيدا لحرب أهلية.

تأجيج المشاعر والإتجاه بالثورة فى مناح تحيد بها عن أقصر الطرق لتحقيق الأهداف والعمل على ألا يجتمع الثوار على كلمة أو قيادة تمثلهم كلها كروت يلعب بها مقامرون خطيرون وصلوا إلى مرحلة الحيوان الجريح المحاط بصياديه، وأنهم لن يخسروا شيئا لو قامروا بما تبقى لديهم – وهو كثير – لكى يستعيدوا جزءا مما كانوا فيه ، أو توسيع نطاق التخريب قبل أن يودعوا حياة الرفاهية والتكبر والتجبر والتعالى التى كانوا يعيشونها.. وكلما هدأت الأمور قليلا دعوا إلى مؤتمر موسع يرفع لافتة "الحوار" ويحشدون فيه بلطجية يتخفون فى ملابس الشرفاء ويحملون أسماءهم يتآمرون فى العلن ويثيرون قضايا تخرج عن سياق الأحداث مستخدمين سلاح "الرفض" لكل ماتم حتى الآن والرجوع إلى المربع واحد من جديد وكأن الثورة لم تقم وكأن شيئا لم يتحقق على الإطلاق منذ أن قامت .. يستدرجون إلى جلسات "مؤامراتهم" حسنى النية من الوطنيين الذين ينادون بالحوار مع كافة الأطياف دون إقصاء لأحد متناسين دم آلاف الشهداء والمعتقلين والمنهوبين وحق القصاص العادل لشعب سلب ونهب وتم إذلاله ولايزال من فعلوا ذلك يتمسكون بحقهم فى حجز كراسيهم على طاولة الحوار رفض كل شيئ يؤدى إلى تحقيق أهداف الثورة.

ياشباب الثورة ، جبهة واحدة قوية بقيادات تتحدث باسمكم هى السبيل الوحيد لاستكمال مسيرة الثورة. ولايمكن لعاقل أن يتخيل أن هناك أكثر من مائتى إئتلاف يمثل الثورة، وتتوه الحقيقة بين نبل المقاصد وشرعية المطالب ، وينفرط عقد الإجماع، وتتشتت القوى، وتتصارع الأهداف ، وتندس العناصر التى تجيد التخفى فى مسوح الثوار لكى تفسد الصورة الجميلة وتنفث سمومها بين الصفوف تدبر لانقلاب على الثورة بقيادة مماليك الحزب الوطنى المنحل رسميا النشط فعليا والمتربص بمن أذاقوه من نفس الكأس التى كان يفرض تجرعها على شعب مصر على أنها العسل وهى فى حقيقة الأمر سما زعافا.