Monday, January 28, 2008

Hiring Without Firing

Hiring Without Firing: Key ideas from the Harvard Business Review article by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

The Idea
Astonishingly, between 30% and 50% of all executive hires end in firing or resignation. Why is hiring particularly problematic—and critical—today? Global hypercompetition, the breakneck pace of economic and technological change, and ever-shifting organizational structures are key reasons.

Also, today’s work success depends increasingly on intangible competencies—like flexibility and cross-cultural literacy—rarely found on résumés. And as demand for talent is sharply increasing, supply is steadily shrinking.

Most companies make ten dangerous mistakes during the executive-search process, including having unrealistic expectations, believing references, and conducting seat-of-your-pants interviews.

Here’s how to systematically avoid these traps.
The Idea in Practice
Ten Deadly Traps
1. Reacting: hiring someone too different from the problem person just fired.
2. Unrealistic expectations: demanding many contradictory qualities, like “high-energy doer and thoughtful analyst.”
3. Evaluating people in absolute terms: “Joe is a good manager”—without clarifying that he manages processes well, but not people.
4. Accepting people at face value: not getting the full story of a candidate’s background.
5. Believing references: trusting references’ input without determining their credibility.
6. “Just like me” bias: highly rating candidates who are like you.
7. Delegation gaffes: assigning critical steps in the search process to ill-prepared staff.
8. Unstructured interviews: no prepared questions to reveal candidates’ competencies.
9. Ignoring emotional intelligence: failing to assess candidates’ self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
10. Political pressures: inappropriate agendas, such as pressure to hire a VIP’s friend.

Hiring Well
Successful—and systematic—hiring requires these three steps:
1. Define the problem you need to solve through hiring.
• Clarify the position’s current and future requirements, driven by your firm’s strategy. Translate them into needed skills (e.g., comfort with uncertainty).
• List required competencies in behavioral terms and get consensus on the list (e.g., “strategic vision” means the ability to inspire and guide others).
2. Creatively generate a candidate list.
• Contact people who can recommend several quality candidates (e.g., a major supplier CEO to recommend sales leaders).
• Consider unconventional candidate sources. (One president hired a director whom his predecessor had fired!)
3. Methodically evaluate the candidates.
• Conduct structured interviews in which you assess candidates’ competencies through behavior-based questions (e.g., to measure team skills, ask, “Tell me about a time you led a particularly challenging team project.”).
• Meet with references in person if possible. Describe the open job and ask pointed questions (e.g., “How has the candidate performed while facing similar challenges?”).
This HBR in Brief presents key ideas from a full-length Harvard Business Review article.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking for Good Questions for Interviewing Job Applicants?

Want to ask good job interview questions?

Traditional questions often fail to get at the most important information when evaluating candidates. Everyone knows what the typical job interview questions are, the two most ridiculous are:

What do you want to do in 5 years?
What are your weaknesses?

Also very unhelpful, any question that could be answered with a yes or no. Do you have much management experience? What does yes or no mean – it is all in the interpretation. How about please describe the management experience you have had.

These questions may have been valuable at one point in time, but they certainly aren’t very useful now.

Can you believe that we are still asking these questions? They haven’t been updated in decades. I have been talking to people about the need to rewrite our interview questions for better hiring, and then I saw an article in the Harvard Business Review about the lack of success in hiring Executives. They focused on the problems with traditional interview processes and how to improve them. I’ll post this in a future blog post. For now, let’s look at these traditional questions again.

Who knows what they want to do in 5 years? How is asking this useful? I have always interpreted the reason for asking this question was that the interviewers wanted to see if what someone wants to do now, (the job they are applying for) makes sense or seems to go toward what they say they want to do in the future (in the next 5 years). Why? To see if there is a higher likelihood that the candidate would stay in the job if they got it.

Maybe when jobs were more stable and predictable that might have been a useful question. Now, all the major changes in the global economy and the workplace have made the future totally unpredictable, and not a linear progression from the past. There are many statistics about how many careers the average adult will have – (the last I heard was 7) and how the changes as a result of the globalization of the world economy have made many jobs obsolete or endangered species. I heard the other day that the jobs kids in kindergarten are being educated for now -- will not exist when they graduate.

What is the usefulness of asking about someone’s weaknesses? This is an example of our culture’s obsession with what isn’t working, a function of the scarcity and deficit paradigm so dominating our culture that it seems to be in the air. What useful information do you get from this question?

Most people know to answer this with a weakness that is actually a strength or a benefit for an employer, i.e. “I work too much” “I am too responsible.” If anyone doesn’t know to do this, does it mean they won’t be a good employee? I don’t think so, it just means no one helped prepare them.

How useful is the information that comes out of these questions in making a hiring decision? Not very, and we see this all around us as so often the hiring process does not result in the best match between candidates and jobs. Most people are not using their strengths in their jobs. Strengthfinders 2.0 describes Gallup’s work developing a tool to help people identify their strengths, and their survey findings that 70% of people are not using their strengths at work. This is the real talent crisis in our country. There is a lot of talk about the leadership gap when the boomers retire. What about all the people who have gifts and talents they aren’t being allowed to use in their jobs?

What questions might be better to ask?

Asking questions that actually provide more useful information to the employer is possible. What might they be? I have listed some. Many of these were told to me by friends and colleagues who actually use them.

Sample Asset Based Job Interview Questions

Question 1. What would your best friend say about you?

(How is this for a great way to start an interview?)

Question 2. Please tell me a story about what you did in your current job that you are most proud of? Follow up questions – What do you most value about yourself and your contribution?

(These will yield rich information about what this person finds meaningful and what their strengths are.)

Question 3.
Describe a situation that the person will be faced with in the job they are applying for. Then ask the person how they would approach this.

(Again, this will yield rich information on how the person thinks. What they tell you in terms of how they will approach something will give you great insight on what they might be like as an employee.)

Question 4. Describe a time that you worked with others on a project that everyone was using their strengths, and people complemented each other. What did you bring, what did the others bring?

(Again, this will allow you to see how they work well in a team, what they bring, and what they find valuable from the contributions of other people.)

Asking these types of questions will provide much more useful information than the typical interview questions.

Asking people what their strengths are as a cold question is often difficult for people to answer. Gallup developed the strengthfinders assessment to help people find the answer this question. They have found that people aren’t often able to identify their strengths.

An easy way to access peoples strengths is by asking them what they are proud of that they have done, and then what they value about their contribution, ( see Question 2.) This gets directly at their strengths in a way that is much more brain friendly than what is commonly done. AND this can be done all the time, not just at a job interview. Asking these types of questions will help uncover hidden assets and strengths that can benefit employees and employers.

For more positive questions see The Encyclopedia of Positive Questions by Diana Whitney, David Cooperrider, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Brian Kaplin.

Cassandra O'Neill

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Article in the NYT - More Foundations Questioning Project-Based Funding Approach

More Foundations Questioning Project-Based Funding Approach

As directors, trustees, and advisors from corporate America continue to urge foundations to do more to measure the return on their charitable investments, a small but increasingly vocal group of foundation leaders is challenging the rationale behind that approach, the New York Times reports.

"In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a huge push for private philanthropy to be more accountable and to spend more time being goal-driven," said Kathleen Enright, executive director of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of foundations that promotes effective grantmaking. As a consequence, added Enright, many nonprofits were forced to sacrifice long-term effectiveness and a focus on strategic activities for short-term efficiency.

"The reason the nonprofit sector exists at all is because it can fund and invest in social issues that the for-profit market can't touch because they can't be measured," said Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners Seattle and a GEO board member. "The nonprofit 'market' is not designed to be efficient in that way. Yet, we're applying the same efficiency metrics to both sectors."

And there are other downsides to the approach, say its critics. According to a 2006 study from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, many foundations allow nonprofits to count only 10 percent to 30 percent of direct project costs toward overhead, while some refuse to support operational costs at all. The resulting financial strain can challenge even the most efficient nonprofit, forcing them to take on additional projects, which in turn increases the amount of capital they need - "a vicious cycle," says Thomas Tierney, chairman and co-founder of the Bridgespan Group, "that perpetually starves them of capacity."

A number of recent studies have concluded that providing general operating as opposed to project support yields better results for foundations and grantees alike. Those findings echo the experiences of funders like the William and Flora Hewlett, Edna McConnell Clark, and Philadelphia foundations, which are at the vanguard of the movement to provide more operating support to their grantees.

Still, the majority of grantmakers continue to focus on project support,preferring its ability to generate concrete results and demonstrate a funder's impact in a specific funding area. "The presumption is that the donor knows more about how to address a given problem than its grantees, and I think that's usually not a correct presumption," GEO's Enright said. "More operating support can shift the locus of action and ideas to the people who are closest to the problem."

Caruso, Denise. "Can Foundations Take the Long View Again?." New York Times 1/06/08.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ethan video

I have attached a link to download the Ethan Video that is on our blog.

If you click on this link you can download it.

Also here is a link to other Ethan videos on youtube.

Click here to see other Ethan videos.