Are you paying attention to the most important investment you ll ever make ?

I believe people are the most important assets of any company, great people can take companies to great heights. Lack of great people can seriously limit a company’s growth.

I also believe many leaders / companies realize this. But do they invest enough time in the hiring process ? What about you / your company ?

  • Do you  / folks in your company know exactly what all qualities / competencies you are looking for in a leader / manager you plan to hire ?

    (thanks to picgifs for the image)
    (thanks to picgifs for the image)
  • Do you know which one of the above are ‘must have’ (rejection criteria, base acceptance criteria) vs ‘nice-to-have’  ? These are not fancy bullet points in your JD, these are specific areas you would cover in the interview.
  • Do all your interviewers know about the ‘must-have’  and the ‘nice-to-have’ lists ?
  • Do all your interviewers know how to test for the must have qualities ? Are they sure that they can tell good answers from bad ones ? How are they so sure ?
  • Is your company rejecting candidates on the basis of lack of ‘knowledge’  ? lack of ‘skill’  ? or lack of ‘talent” ? ( Refer here for the difference I mean to highlight)
  • Do you know which one of the qualities you are looking for is a ‘talent’ vs ‘skill’ vs ‘knowledge’ ?
  • Do your interviewers know that knowledge can be acquired easily, skill too can be acquired with a bit of time and effort, but its extremely hard for folks to acquire talents ?

I mean to say, that your must-have list and interviewing should be focussed talent first, skill second and then knowledge third.  ( roughly 50% on talent, 30% on skill and 20% on knowledge) .

Lack of a specific knowledge should almost never be a criteria for rejection (.un-less the lack of knowledge in a particular area implies the lack of a specific talent which is a must have for your organization).

I have seen several organizations struggling with the inability to hire, especially leaders / managers, and one of the primary reasons have been rejecting candidates based on petty reasons. (I mean to say – the lack of knowledge of a particular area when that knowledge is not even mission critical to the company hiring that candidate). This is where interviewer ego also comes into picture. Be careful of that.

If your answer to the most of the questions above is ‘yes’ , you have very high chances of converting your candidates (And with a lot of confidence  ! 🙂 ).

Folks, who have a ‘no’ in most cases – you need to do something about it.

Would love to hear your experiences, comments.

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How to Design: Think Top Down

I have been interviewing people on software design. I cant even remember in how many interviews candidates jump into designing the data layer as soon as the requirements of the software are provided. Only a magician can do this right.

(Thanks to http://weheartit.com for the image)

A normal engineer needs to think top down. The data layer is the foundation of the system.  Go to the foundation in the very end.

You start with a requirements and start defining functional blocks of your product. Think of it like different parts of machine, say if I were to design a car, i would think of the engine, the AC, the body, the seating etc as the “functional blocks” which are directly derived from the requirements.

These components need to be able to interact with each other to make the software you need.  You can call this a  “High Level Functional Components Diagram”.

Once you have this diagram ready, ONLY then you should get into the design of each of these components.

Take a look at this nice article on a structured design thinking and different perspectives which are important in a design process – http://bit.ly/aXGVAd

Is it really so hard to understand this 1 simple thing ?

Three things that make an Employee a Superstar

superStar

First of all, apologize for the long hibernation. Have no solid excuse for the long absence apart from the lame reason  of having ‘a busy personal situation’ 😉 . Now getting back to the topic; I have been thinking about it for quite sometime.  This post is for managers who want to find potential superstars ( within the team or from outside) as well as for employees who want to become superstars.

superStar

I have worked with and seen a lot of people. A lot of people grow like anything. A lot of people who do not grow in spite of being extremely capable. A lot of people being stuck where they are in spite of having a rock solid ownership.

And so far the following is what I have come to realize.

  1. First and foremost – Ownership.  I could not find a better word which covers a lot of aspects like commitment, going beyond the areas of your direct responsibility just because you feel that a particular project/product/ is ‘owned’ by you. In a nutshell – this is something that makes an individual act like his employer is a company owned/run by him. Like his company is his very own venture. Like every penny spent by the company is going from his own pocket. Like every un-happy employee  in his team is a potential attrition risk for his company and he should do something to fix that.
  2. Values: (Sigh!) Another big fuzzy umbrella term !  This is something that makes an employee honest. That makes him a good person in general. That makes him respect his colleagues. That makes him loyal to his employer. Mostly importantly – that makes him value collective good more than individual good.
  3. Core Competencies / Capability: This is the most obvious one. But the most obvious things are the hardest to understand.  There are many scenarios in which individuals put their heart and soul into areas which are not their core job responsibilities and do really well in those areas. But unless he/she is really solid in the core competencies of the job, its very hard for him/her to be called a superstar.  Its hard to realize what wonders one could do if he /she gets the basics right.

This is no wisdom guide but just my own personal opinion.Please do share your  thoughts in the comments section.

Gallery

Taking Interviews:Small things which make a big difference

It has been about 4 years since I have been taking interviews and for different roles, positions with candidates of varied backgrounds . There are a few things which I think most of the interviewers miss out, but make a lot of difference. This is no guide to interviewing, but just a few points which people don’t necessarily keep in mind before they get into the interview room.

On a high level, these things can make a difference in

  • the level to which a candidate performs in an interview,
  • the image that he builds in his mind about you, the company and its people and finally
  • the chances of his joining your company if you make an offer.

I would say that these things make sense for big companies as well as start-ups who are struggling to find good talent.

  1. Be very straight about what you are expecting.
  2. Keep your ego away.
  3. Spare enough time for candidate’s questions.
  4. Try to be a good listener, do not interrupt the candidate too many times while he is thinking aloud.
  5. Use appropriate courtesy.

Lets get into a little bit of detail now:

1. Be very straight about what you are expecting.

Just after you have finished your question, or just described a problem that you want him/her to solve, do let him know what exactly you are looking for. This makes sense for both the situations – when you are looking for a particular direction in his thought process as well as you want him to explore as much as he can. Tell him that you want him to explore as far as he can, or tell him that you want him to focus on, say, performance aspect of a particular design.
Keep pushing if he does not get the point in one shot. For example, I usually ask a QA candidate to come up with negative test cases and I tell him to think negative, think like a hacker, think like an enemy of the person who has developed the application. Not only he gets motivated, many a times he gets what exactly what I m looking for and does not wander around.
This way

  • You save a lot of time
  • Your candidate would, in most cases, get straight to the point.
  • You don’t make wrong judgements if he does not answer what you were looking for.
  • Most important: you get the best out of him by forcing him to be on the same page as you.

2. Keep your ego away.

Many interviewers don’t even realize when their ego gets into their conversation with the candidate. This typically happens when you are trying to make a point or trying to get the candidate to think in a particular direction but the he/she is not driving the same direction. Or worse, when you try to give a hint but the candidate is adamant at not taking the hint or challenges you about the hint, approach.
Beware about it! When you don’t let your ego get in:

  • You don’t  lose the ability to make the right judgement.
  • You don’t waste your time, trying to prove your point.
  • You don’t  disturb the candidate in his thought process totally. Also, in an ego conflict situation, the candidate would get defensive and then you can totally forget about getting the best out of your candidate.

3. Spare enough time for candidate’s questions.

Ok, this is where you do the most of the talking. When your candidate asks questions, he is not asking that question from you, but from your company and you want to do a great job at answering that question with patience and right state of mind.Yeah, I know, most of us have ton of work to do and don’t want to spend 15 long minutes explaining our business case to a small new guy who may or may not join your company. But trust me,

  • This is where you can make an outstanding impression. I never miss this opportunity to make an impression about my company, including myself by showing him that I care about him even though he could not answer a few questions in the interview.
  • This is where you are investing in not only in the long term branding of your company but also in yourself and making an impression as a “everyone-wants-to-work-with” professional. You might change companies, change ventures, change locations and might end up interacting with the same guy few months or few years down the line. The world is really small.

4. Try to be a good listener, do not interrupt the candidate too many times while he is thinking aloud.

So this is where you can help him stay at the highest speed of his brain. Do not give him too many speed breakers. Wait for the right time to interrupt, and when you do give him enough pointers so that he takes the right turn and you don’t have to interrupt him almost immediately.

The idea is to let him do most of the talking. But yeah, you want him to talk relevant stuff, so do push him to the right track, but you should not have to do this too many times.  If you have to, it clearly means that either your candidate is thinking a lot out of the box or you are not communicating your expectation very clearly.   And you would know which one happened after a little bit of thinking just after the interview. Do better homework next time and make sure the drive of the interview is smooth and steady with very few speed breakers and surprises.

I guess you can clearly see the implications of not being steady

  • Bad candidate performance
  • Bad candidate experience and
  • The worst – he might think that people in this company are so confused – they don’t even know what they want. This point is kind of related to the first one but something to keep in mind even if you have tried communicating the expectations very clearly.


5. Use appropriate courtesy.

Very simple things like offering tea, coffee or asking if he/she wants to visit the restroom make a lot of difference.You know, these things may sound very superficial do remember that it is you who is representing the whole company and you want to make sure that you leave a good impression. An impression of a company who cares for its employees.

  • Also, these initial 15 seconds you spend will go a long way in making the candidate comfortable and getting the best out of him during the whole interview. (You don’t want to him be feeling hungry or thirsty while you are waiting for him to crack your favorite interview problem)
  • Hell wouldn’t break loose if you don’t do this, but believe it or not – your chances of getting the best out of your man and his chances of accepting the offer( if u make one) increase.

Overall, I would say, these are really small things which one can adopt really easily and will help you and your company in a long run.