The “Let’s Catch You” Interview

ImageI had a great learning experience last month I kept on meaning to write about. I was on the other side of the table as the “interviewee”. Not totally foreign territory, especially since I do primarily contract work in change management, system overhaul, risk assessment, and policy development, for anywhere between 2weeks-2years for a single company, nevermind the policy writing and training seminars I hold on the side. However, a lot of my work has me by recommendation so the interview process is very lax and usually involves a CAO/CSO, Director, and possibly a senior management personnel or the former HR (yes, the one who either quit or was let go), and myself having lunch or a brief meeting on what my proposal for the company is, and how we can tailor it specifically for their needs. This interview however was just stellar.

I met with the CAO, and the HR Director. Originally it appeared to be laid back, however the questions were so broad and general, and yet they sought such specific details, it kind of threw me for a loop-but in a good way. The questions were designed to see if you were telling the truth. Bravo! Questions such as, What do you think your day would look like? (as opposed to, list some of your typical tasks) How do you think managing employees would be best here? (as opposed to, what’s you’re management style) What kind of retention programs would you like to implement? (as opposed to, how do you earn the trust and build relationships to keep employees) What do you think it would be like to coach our team of Executives and Floor Manufacturers? (as opposed to, how do you build relationships with people), etc…. And then mid interview they expressed that they would give me an opportunity to ask questions now, but not at the end. Huh. Interesting….. I realized they give no room for error. How great is that! It allows basic human error, as people are supposed to have nervous reactions to stressors, however it makes it much harder to bluff your way through basic tasks and responsibilities that you should already know about. I must say, this is my new favorite interview technique! Good on them!

As it was, congratulations are present, as I was offered the job. After pulling their files on interviews, I have no idea who their former trainer and change manager was, but they were a genius! The questions and programs are a goldmine. I wish more people took this initiative in their career!

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What the New Interviews say about You

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In an earlier post, I had discussed psychometrics as a new interview technique. There are more arising, especially as you increase your salary from $70k+. The interviews are not only increasingly complex, but they are designed to reveal true character. Not best character. True character.

While I had coffee with a community network of mine, he expressed to me the importance of character. This, I understand. He began telling me how he asks applicant’s how many books a year they read, what their favorite genre is, how many books they own, what kind of music they like, what their favorite cuisine is, how often do they cook, what languages can they speak, and what ones have they adopted* even if they don’t speak fluently.

“It’s all about being learned. People so often attain a degree and skip the masters only because they can’t see themselves using the masters. Not because it’s not useful- just because they don’t see it in their immediate future. And unless they have a crystal ball- that masters could have landed them a resource and know-how to get the job of their dreams. But they’ll never know.” THIS was in reference to everything- food, languages, books, and so much more. I shared with him how as a BSW, we are trained that you ask someone about where they grew up or how close they are to their immediate family. How people describe their childhood community, and refer to their parents always reveals the truth of their values, character, and relationship skills. For about an hour, we chatted about environments and the new techniques. It was nice to share with someone and learn in return what tactics are being used in the recent search for the $70k jobs. Candidates not only reflect culture, but they need to reflect the ability to learn the culture. Let’s face it, learning one culture could be more difficult than another. It is important to know which ones, and also to know how to be humble and accept the teacher/student cycle.

The final technique? Let me take you out for dinner. A final stage interview has been completed, and the boss asks you to join him for dinner to celebrate before the papers are signed. This seems pretty final right? Wrong. The boss has arranged your dinner to be messed up with the kitchen staff and carefully guages your reaction. How do you handle it? -are you upset, angry, nervous, care free, compassionate, who cares?-I’m willing to try something new, gossipy, vengeful, raging, laugh it off, and so forth. Admittedly after writing this, you can read it and attempt to predetermine your fate by deciding on a course of action now. I will tell you that the real you will reveal itself some way. It’s best to understand why your true character would react this way, and resolve it.

Happy Hunting!

Steps to De-stress – an RX for Crazy

StressedWoman_shutterstock_59328619-1024x682Stress from both professional and personal lives can be overwhelming. It can leave you dreading a single toe to leave the bed in the morning, to finding excuses not to return home at night. So when another weekend passes you by, and you have been counting down the hours until your return, it’s time to start planning a little you time.

Schedule a NO Stress Zone Scheduling a time away, and in a place in your home where stress “is not allowed” can be surprisingly rewarding and fulfilling. Many readers are probably thinking of their spinning classes, krav maga classes, walking club, and so forth. -but that’s not the time away I am talking about. If you recharge by being with someone, then maybe ask your partner or a loved one to partake in these activities with you. If you are an introvert like myself, then we thrive on alone time, and the next person to walk through that doorway will find the giant rolling ball from Indiana Jones chasing them. I’m talking about lessening your stimulus intake to destress your body’s sensors emotionally, mentally, and physically. Every Thursday night my home gets cleaned. Especially the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and my bathroom. How your surroundings look represent how you feel on the inside, and can add to stress that may already be simmering. Your home does not need to be spotless. In fact if you are anything like myself, you will want it to look like someone is living there, so not so organized it feels like a hotel. Rather, tidy, neat, and the basics done so I am not worried about having clean dishes or laundry for the weekend. The garbage is changed, my fridge is stocked, my tub is clean for spontaneous baths, etc… This way, when Friday comes and I am too tired to clean and just want to go to the bar and meet up with my neighbours, I can come home to a clean home and wake up Saturday morning to a clean home. Then all day Saturday I get to enjoy my home, even if I have to go into the office, or work from home- it takes a burden off my plate. Saturday night is sacred to me though. Nothing interrupts Saturday night. No clubbing, no dancing, no noise. It’s just me, a bottle of white, some candles, a soft blanket, bacon bits, and Svengoolie. Yes, that’s right, I watch Svengoolie (a Movie Jockey who commentates and hosts old black & white horror movies like Frankenstein and Cult of the Cobra). I take the SIM card out of my phone, turn off all possible alerts on my laptop, and completely shut out the outside world. This night, I look forward to every week. It is my reward for working overtime, long hours, and under stress. I let the cares of the world take care of themselves, and tell myself to be lazy until Sunday morning. There is something so fantastically ritual about it, that it pleases my every senses. The next morning I wake to take on the world long before Monday can even begin to drag itself out of bed.

Stop Taking Work Home So many of us take work home. We answer our cell phones, check our email, write reports, and take on extra tasks when we are off the clock. This tends to happen rarely, every now and again. But if you are doing this regularly it means it’s happening for one of two reasons: you either have an extremely high profile job and complex responsibilities (which typically you are compensated by in other ways), or (this is the most common one) you have bad boundaries. The number one reason employees are stressed about taking work home with them is because they feel it is their duty to do the work. Part of this comes from a low laying level of desire to have continued drama in ones life (examine your past, youth, and childhood, if it was always “go!go!go!” mentality, most likely you have brought this into your work life today by doing too much), or you are fearful of losing your job (feelings of inadequacy, needing constant approval, needing to be constantly needed), or you are a micro-manager and find it very difficult to let go at the end of the day because you want every day to be your best foot forward for the company. Remember, think back to your employment contract. You are being paid for X amount of hours a week, which equates to a monthly salaried budget for the agency. This means, whatever it is, you have at least one week to one month to ensure full project completion. Don’t stress. This is also why as workers we are generally working in teams, with peers, and have a supervisor for counsel, and hopefully a few people we manage to help us carry our workloads. Draw firm boundaries. Unless you are a designated facilities or emergency manager, even if the building burns down at 2am. It is not your concern until 9am. Do not “Wear Your Stress”. Your stress and worry should not be like the sweater you are wearing that you take everywhere. Whatever it is, leave it at work. There are enough worries in one day without having to worry about the next. Let the cares of work take care of themselves in your absence.

Get Immediate Debriefing Support A lot of employees don’t know that most Human Resources in agencies provide counsel and support, such as soundboarding for employees who just need to vent about their days. Most likely you have a supervisor who oversees you and provides you with support. Sometimes employees feel judged, or cautious that they might seem incompetent if they go to their supervisors for support, so HR is a good option. It’s true that having a friend to talk to about your work can be helpful when it comes to destressing. Sometimes though, when a friend does not work in the same environment, it can be difficult to relate to the specifics of the politics and systems. If you have a group or a few work colleagues that you can grab a beer with after work, or even grab lunch with once a week- this will help time fly by a lot faster to feel as if you are truly being heard and understood. If you can find good supports this way you will feel better about the work you are doing.

Use Rewards When I am really stressed, ready to fly off the deep end, and am unsure if I can muster the strength to get out of bed and complete the last week of long term project that has me working 70hr weeks for the last month… I use rewards. I promise myself in the morning to get an extra large gourmet coffee of my choice, accompanied by a sweet treat. Then for a few days in a row I do a cheap lunch out. I promise myself that on Friday I am getting take away for a dinner party with friends at mine, splurging on my favorite beer, and permitting myself to be super lazy all weekend. Oh yes, and I might take Monday off. As you can see, I use food to reward myself. However once it is all spent and done, it’s a couple hundred dollars on food and a dinner party. So for those of you who don’t relish food as much as myself, perhaps a couple pairs of new shoes, clothes, a night away at a fancy hotel, a piece of furniture, bed sheets, books (my second favorite reward), and so forth could be your reward. Or maybe, it’s just having that whole weekend plus Monday off. When we know what we are working towards, we feel better about it, have more confidence, accept rather than reject the stress levels, and are more apt to not crashing so hard when it’s done. It also provides a sense of closure so you feel some gain from all the work you had done.

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Good Luck! Happy De-Stress!

Why Feeding Your Staff Could Be the Best Employee Retention Plan Ever

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When free coffee hit the office, it was the best thing since jams and jellies. But when work began providing snacks, lunches, and treats here and there- it tied over more employees through rough company patches than any other tactic. 

  • 70% of the workforce is actively or passively engaged.
  • 41% of employees understand what defines their business against competitors.
  • Companies like Ross, Google, and Amazon have some the highest turnover with the average employee staying between 10months-1.2years. Lowest turnover companies include, Kodak, Xerox, and General Motors.
  • One study for women found that 42% would leave their job for increased compensation, 35% to develop new skills or competencies, and 33% to pursue greater advancement opportunities. The same study for men found that 51% would leave for increased compensation, 32% to accept a new opportunity promising development for skills and competencies, and 30% to pursue greater advancement opportunities. 

Specific Form of Unfairness Experienced % Who left workplace

Public humiliation-14.8%

Passed over for a promotion-14.9%

Being compared to a terrorist-18.8%

Being asked to attend more recruiting or community related events-15.6%

Bullied on the job-13.5%

Having your identity mistaken-12.7%

Unwelcome questions about skin, hair, or ethnic attire-12.8%

Everyone knows you make more money when you make your employees happy. So why are 59% of employees sitting around twiddling their thumbs, not knowing why their organization is different from all the others? In this article, we will blame incentive. My personal belief is at least 1/3 is to blame poor hiring practices, however that’s a discussion for another time. Food makes the stomach churn, the tastebuds dance, the nose perk, the body warm and happy. It’s reliable, consistent, and takes care of a basic need in tough economic times. So when you consider providing regular lunch for staff, consider these reasons:

Productivity. Employees who stay onsite for lunch are more likely to eat faster, spend less time walking to and from lunch, in couple with catching up with coworkers, and may possibly eat while working. Do not discount the importance of regular breaks from work, but those breaks are better spent in small chunks. Taking an hour for lunch is more than one person needs everyday. By offering lunch onsite, you give the option to stick close and get back to work faster. Typically if an employee can take a 20-30minute break for lunch and if they have an untaken 30-40min remaining, they are happy to leave early- but feel fair about it because they had a short lunch but were rewarded for their efforts because it was provided for them. Staff who have busy personal lives will especially appreciate this, as this is one less thing off their plate, literally, when it comes to self care. One less thing they need to worry about, and feel bad about spending money on when they realize they forgot to brown bag it.

Retention. When you offer free lunch, you are giving your employees a bonus because they will spend less money on meals every month. When recruiters approach your employees, or your competition tries to steal them away, they will start asking if free lunch is offered. Since most companies do not offer free lunch, you’ll find your employees are less likely to leave. Retention is a huge cost saver to your company, even if you only keep an employee for an extra six months.

Tax Benefits. Both you and the employee will benefit from your free lunches. Consult your accountant first, but in most cases buying your staff lunch is a tax deduction for your company.

Talent Acquisition. Even in today’s market, finding and hiring the best talent is a challenge. Giving your hiring manager as many perks as possible will increase your chances of snagging hot prospects. The faster you hire the best employees, the more productive and profitable your company will be.

Stronger Teams. Instead of wandering off on their own, employees who eat in one central location tend to spend more time getting to know one another. This brings them closer together, strengthens your teams and boosts your company culture. By offering free lunch, you help facilitate conversations and team building. Because food is personal, your employees will feel that more initiative is being taken towards their care, well-being, and keeps them bonded with their coworkers and surroundings.

Can’t Afford Lunches at Work? No problem. As an HR professional, I advocate for my workers well-being regularly. A part of that is when I go to Starbucks and request a portion of their weekly donations go to my hard working staff, or when I go to Chapters and ask them for coupons and gift cards at Christmas, don’t forget Subway, Quizno’s, Safeway, and your local restaurants. All to often they have vouchers for me to give to my staff so everyone gets a minimum of 4 free meals a month, and that doesn’t include gift cards we receive from Ardene’s, Reitman’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, and more. In addition to this, I hit the local flower shops and ask them for their disposed flowers, the one’s that have minor imperfections that they throw out because they can’t make a full sale on them. Then I make bouquets with a couple volunteers like reception or another manager, and we make flower arrangements for the office and other employees. When people care, it’s amazing how it impacts the office environment.

 

Creative Benefits to Ask for when Negotiating Your Contract

flying-buddahWorking in an economic period where cutbacks are no longer the words of non-profits, and turnover is sky high, employers are paying on average 40% of an annual salary to interview, hire, and replace employees who are either let go, or walk out. This means that benefits are at a premium, highly coveted, and not easily given away. So when you are negotiating your employment contract, either for first time hire, or renewal, maybe suggest one or more of these to your employer.

Transit Pass

Companies can provide you with bus tickets and transit passes every month in compensation for other missing benefits. In reality, it is not an expense for the employer, however it helps to remove a heavy burden from yourself. Just be sure to negotiate the number of zones!

12% In Lieu of Benefits

Perhaps the benefits plan at the agency is geared towards long term disability leave and extended benefits. But these may not be the things you need. Negotiate receiving 12% increase in wages while opting out on formal benefits. For part time workers, the typical in lieu of benefits plan is 4%. This is best suited to full time workers.

Cost of Living Wage Increase, minimum $1k every 9 months

The cost of living goes up, and wages drag lifelessly behind. This is a good opportunity to pre-negotiate your wage increases. A common negotiation is $1k every 9 months, minimum. Of course, your job capacity may impact this. Typically this is for supervisor positions and managers. However, be creative.

Flex Time

Flex time is fabulous for employees who don’t mind kicking back every second Friday. Usually, an employee will work a half hour later every day, and take fifteen minutes off of their lunch break, in return they can get every second friday off with pay. Or, you can simply negotiate to work an hour more each day, so an 8hr day, as opposed to 7hrs and so forth.

Work Out of Office

Some employers, dependent on the work you do, will let you work from home, or once you check in at the office, for a change of atmosphere, wander down to the local coffee shop and do your online paperwork there. It’s not a bad option for people who have a hectic office environment, or perhaps too mundane, and desperately need a change of scenery.

A Day Off With Pay on Your Birthday

Enough said, right?

Mental Health Days

This was originally introduced in social services when front line workers felt as though if they were to see one more client, they would become a client at the agency themselves. Mental Health days are typically unpaid, however they are a great get out of jail free card. Why? Because you do not have to lie about anything. When you call in to work, as opposed to that fake cough into the phone because if you see one more invoice you’re going to scream, you simply tell your boss, I’m taking a Mental Health Day, and no questions asked. You can negotiate a certain amount paid by your boss, perhaps 1 Mental Health Day every 2 months or something of the sort.

Emergency Fund

You have the ability to negotiate with your boss, as a part of benefits, that they put aside a small percentage of money every pay cheque that can be used if lets say, you fall on tough times, or become suddenly ill. Recommended percentages are 4-9% per cheque.

Botox Leave

This may sound a bit crazy, but after a firm in Britain had employees taking a day off all within the same week before Christmas break, the executive staff learned that the employees were getting their beauty regiments done, (spa, haircuts, mani’s/pedi’s, and botox). So once they learned that the bulk of the staff was actually making appointments for botox, they dubbed it, “Botox Leave”, where everyone could have one paid day off before Christmas (date decided by management, and taken by everyone at once), so everyone could become beautiful for Christmas and not worry about lying to the boss for the real reason they were taking time away.

 

Why Psychometrics is Driving Us cRAzY

The latest HR trend is using psychometrics testing. Oh no. This as bad as telling a racial minority to look “less coloured”. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Psychometrics is a variety of tests performed to evaluate the competency of an applicant or employee. It involves tests such as knowledge tests, personality traits, educational assessments, and personality assessments. Let’s examine why this is a great idea, and why it will prove majority wrong in most evaluations.

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1) It’s based off of psychology. There’s our first problem. Psychology is the study of the brain, cognitive ability, and circumstance that make the brain respond and react in different ways. Ultimately, it is the science of the brain. This is why if you want a good counselor, you avoid psychology majors at all costs. Why? Because psychology major’s use a lot of branding terms, and are very diagnoses driven. Without a diagnoses, a psych major is mostly useless at their job. So in a counseling session, they will want to do genograms, discuss your childhood, and want you to talk about your past trauma. This can be very dangerous. It’s great for the psych major because they are trained they need this information in order to calculate a diagnoses, however there are many other ways of uncovering why a person behaves a certain way without bringing up trauma for them. This is why the best counselors, therapists, and workers are always Social Workers. Once you complete your C-6 training, you can do anything. Why? Because they teach you more about circumstance and how you can outrun your genetics, and your past does not necessarily determine a one way ticket in your future. They are also more focused on problem solving and lateral thinking as opposed to linear thinking and hard evidence.

2) It’s HR using assessment tools. Oh no. Would you give your copy repair guy some lessons in assessment and then let them hire and fire in your agency? No. HR education is so conveniently wrapped around administrative work, they can learn all they want about assessment, however unless they know their strengths themselves, have been through counseling and worked on themselves, overcome their personal issues, and have a developed sense of empathy and compassion. This is like giving a banana milk shake maker to a clan of monkeys. It’s gonna get used and abused. This power can go to your head pretty quick. So who is counseling them on using this, keeping them accountable, and making sure they are not using these skills for their own agenda?

3) It’s not reliable. Personality testing and knowledge testing is hugely complex. It’s possible for someone to get a low score on an IQ test, and yet be brilliant. So much is culture specific, experience specific, and of course encompassing both of those- what information has made itself available to them. Furthermore, personality testing is not necessarily going to reveal to me if an applicant is drugging, heavy alcoholing, has anger issues, draws out complex pathology, etc… It’s just going to tell me if they’re an introvert, extrovert, aggressive, passive, creative, high achiever, low achiever, etc…. It’s kind of like a glamorous cosmo quiz for employees.

4) It’s online. The majority of testing is online. Especially for large organizations such as the Fairmont or RBC. We all know how accurate computer testing is. I adore what a special bond my computer and I have, and how I have a limited number of answers, none of which encompass my true personality. It’s just so much more fun that way.

I would take my final example from Frobes who recently published an article on hiring NCO’s over anyone else. I would agree. Next time hire the war studies major. They will be devoted, loyal, goal oriented, and will cut through all the personality nonsense like a crew cut.

Want good psychometrics?- Make sure your HR has some experience managing crazy. That’ll do it.