Friday, November 27, 2009

My favorite interview question

Thanks everyone for sharing your favorite, or non-favorite question. I’m going to continue to collect them. I’m especially interested in interview questions—that would be Phase One of my project. Phase Two will be analyzing how candidates, who were hired, answered those questions, and Phase Three will be whether the hire was a success.

I’ve had a rich and varied experience myself, in both asking and answering questions. I know through analyzing my own interview performance and feedback (throw their first two reasons out, people who don’t hire you have to warm up to the process of assistance and disclosure) why I think I connected or why I did not.

I was briefly mentored by a former NIKE Human Resource manager who taught that everything you need to know about the prospective candidate is right there…if you choose to pay attention. I have not always hired the best candidate. I would like to.

While I collect the questions, I thought I’d share my favorite interview question, the one I ask every prospective candidate. Instead of just blurting it out I’d like to make this fun. This comes from a manuscript currently in progress. The scene involves Jae-Chun Lee, a California real estate developer who owns a chain of commercial sales and leasing offices in three states, his wife, the outgoing manager of one of the satellite offices, and Michael, the regional manager, who has had them both fly in to interview a candidate to replace Lee's wife. This is in the wife's voice.
I rested my interview questions that my secretary had printed on the portfolio I’d snatched from a surprised brokers desk and readied the fake Mont Blanc pen I grabbed from the hands of another. “Patricia, if Mr. Lee offered you the job, what is your plan to set the tone of the office and get off to a good start?” Start wide, Mr. Ward my mentor had taught, move in closer with each progressive question and don’t be afraid to ask something unexpected. This wasn’t vague and she better think fast.

She smiled, reached into her laptop bag and pulled out neat binders. “I thought about that and crafted a strategy.” She walked the men through it, while I said, shit, in my head.

“What would your peers say about you?” Helpful, hard working, focused. “Your manager?” Driven. “What do you like about your present manager and what would you like to change?” His abundance of knowledge, but limited time to collaborate. “What motivates you to put forth your best effort?” I like to win, I’m competitive with myself, and I want to make my dad proud. Gag.

“How do you determine or evaluate your success?” By my achievements. Let me share my past year. “What career aspiration would this job satisfy for you?” I’d get closer to Michael’s job. I observed him, he showed no sign of fear. Silly boy. “What do you do when you know you’re right and your boss doesn’t agree?” Lee’s pencil flew over his pad and he nodded a couple of times at her answers. Silly man. “What gets in the way of your job performance?” People who don’t hold my same commitment.

“When is it appropriate to steal from your employer?” That brought the room to a standstill.

Her face blanched. “I would…never… I can’t imagine.” She swallowed. “Could you repeat that?”

“Sure, when is it appropriate to steal from your employer?”

She blinked a couple of times. “I guess when you’re ready to be fired,” she paused, “Or you’re the company attorney.”

The men laughed, even if a little nervous. “You like that question, don’t you?” she asked smiling, her garnetfrost lipstick holding its perfect line.

“I do,” I said. “I’ve had some interesting answers.”
And I have!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Invite to Google Wave

I just received a message from Google Wave with a handful of invites.

I'm offering them up.

Leave a comment of your favorite interview question—either one you ask a job candidate, or a question you've had to answer in an interview.

Love or hate.

 I'll choose best responses by Thanksgiving, notify you so I can capture your email (required to submit request for invitation), and then submit your invitation order.

Invitations are not sent immediately, but should arrive as my Christmas present to you.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building a new model may require listening

After spending seven hours with brilliant, articulate people I feel bereft. I thought breaking journalists out of stank newsrooms where same-o, same-o pushes their creativity into square holes, or opening an avenue for laid off reporters to vent about what would have made the journalism world better, that we’d be humming with energy and ideas. Even if they were impossible.

What are we afraid of? What are we not seeing? What do we need to do differently, radically counter to culture, backstream, upstream, jump out of the stream that will rock this world and make rockstars out of investigative reporters, that will nurture citizen journalists to fill needed gaps, that will energize and create an engaged, vibrant community? Maybe listen.

Passionate people conceived of bringing together the journalism community to brainstorm, propose and walk away with a plan on how to create a new community-driven news project, a sustainable journalistic model.

Here’s my advice: listen, people. Listen.

When a member of the audience stood and asked the session leaders, "When I arrived I had a clear idea of what the break out sessions would cover. After hearing them speak I’m confused. Could you summarize in two sentences your topic?" The answer was, I don’t have anything to add to what I said.

Okay, say it like I’m simple. Except, you can’t?

These are the people we invest our subscription fees in to report the news, to take a world of information, break it down and serve it up in bite size doses that are thoughtful, interesting, and understandable. They work on deadline. I thought they’d be able to think on their feet. Maybe they can only type, not talk, maybe they should have been tweeting.

An outspoken participant took the organizers to task for not reaching into the community of color and marketing the event to them to draw them into the conversation. Whoa, baby. We all came with agendas, and that wasn’t mine, but at least it got people to think.

Okay, perhaps I’m being too hard. Let’s look at the break out session. I have photographs of  eight sheets of notes. The guy who spoke on behalf of our group, our facilitator, mentioned absolutely nothing that we spent an hour and half discussing. Even if everything said in the group was lame you could still put a nice spin on it, but it wasn’t lame.

We had representatives from Portland, Vancouver and Seattle media in our group, and not only from the news side but from the advertising side of the house, and not just from journalism but from the music industry. But nothing we captured was shared with the big group. Our group’s scribe jumped into the plenary session fray and tried to pull out information from one of our group members, but that got shut down by the overall facilitator who wanted to stay on time.

Yes, we started on time and we ended on time. We ended with 25% of the original participants.

Here is the bad news: journalism is not what it was. Newspapers television, and radio are not what they were. And the really bad news: the legacy media will never be what they were again. Ever. That means that we need to be different.

What are we going to do, to be the new media, the new journalism, the new future? And how are we going to get there if we're not paying attention?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My intentional conversation with an unintended audience

In an office environment communication commonly follows a sequential pattern of interaction. The boss says something, the employees listen—occasionally take notes—and take action.

Only it doesn’t work that way.

When I first became a supervisor I realized the best tactic for our group to stay on track during a meeting was to have an agenda. I carefully crafted the notes, boiled them down to an easy to follow agenda, typed the neat schedule and passed it out to each attendee. I thought if the staff knew how faraway we were from the end, it would limit the odd duck question and verbal meandering, and give them a visual clue of how close we were to concluding, thus assuring them the meeting would eventually end.

Only it didn’t last.

I got comfortable with my role, maybe too comfortable, still typed my notes, but stopped preparing an agenda. Here’s what I discovered--I had inactive listeners, I had overactive participants, I had meetings that went on too long, and no one was taking notes. In addition, I found I had to repeat the same things approximately every three to four months. ‘Yes, you can. No, you can’t.’

I decided to create a record of our meeting notes and filed them in a folder on a shared drive. This was an unending WORD document that I added to each week. This was boring. No one references boring, (except me to prove the point, “Yes, I did tell you that. I announced that on February 19, 2009”). I thought making the meeting notes more interesting would solve the not-paying-attention issue. I created a blog: If it's in writing, we'll remember. Because proprietary information was shared on the blog, I locked the public out and announced to the staff they needed to sign up for a free gmail account to access the site.

Oh, my lord, that was a HUGE issue.

Granted, a couple (two, to be exact) jumped on board and said, “This is great!” The others didn’t want to do it. Somehow, having too many passwords floating around in the internet-sphere would cause funds to leach out of their savings. Seriously, a staff member confessed that to me. A handful more got together and made a pact that they wouldn’t sign up. Only one followed through with the pact. Gawh. I had no idea a blog could create that much dissension. A blog, folks, a blog.  Look at it. Does it look divisive?

I decided I would keep doing what I was doing and eventually the staff would figure it out. I decided I would make the online experience fun and add a Twitter account and tweet their successes. Thus, the birth of @TheClassicCarol.

Only I was the only one on Twitter.

@TheClassicCarol started gathering followers. Sheesh, now what do I do? I decided I ought to tweet something that might be interesting to someone other than my intended audience. Then my new un-intended audience wondered why the blog posted on Twitter went nowhere.

After a half year of excluding you I decided to create 360 Convos, my outlet to have an intentional conversation with the unintended.  Welcome, blog visitor!

Now, what have you tried at work that had unexpected outcome?

Oh, and by the way, I’m preparing an agenda for that afternoon sales rep meeting.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bio Carol Doane

Hot pursuit of a career in advertising landed Carol a job in one of the largest newspapers in Southwest Washington. After numerous years of hacking out ad copy, selling print and online ads, and making friends with everyone in her path, she can now claim connections in the highest echelons of covert government (former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency) Hollywood (VP at MGM) and the janitorial staff (she works late).

She led a sales team of high powered media reps at the newspaper, moved to a start-up which can be summarized in one word: chaos. And looking for renewal she reinvented herself and emerged in the digital world of online advertising. Amazing stuff.

Not content to leave her future in the hands of what some say is a perishing industry—legacy mdeia—she decided to take advantage of everything she's learned (seriously) and throw her hat into the 'safety' of the book publishing arena. She's finished her first second women's upscale, multicultural (Asian) fiction manuscript, and launched herself like a Kamikaze pilot into an historical fiction novel. The history of the Pacific Northwest offers abundant ground for her story about a young Native American woman.

She spent a college summer on the road in a performance group (yay, song and dance!) which steered her away from a career in the music industry. Her art is on public display in a permanent installation in Vancouver, Washington (see photo). It is a portrait of her daughter.

A cum laude graduate of a private college in Oregon, she's been around the world, living in Europe, and traveling in Asia and throughout North America, which has nothing to do with her current manuscript or her job.

You'll find Carol on Twitter as The Classic Carol, on LinkedIn, on Facebook and on Google phone: 503.893.4609.

Last updated August 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I should have learned in management school

My current reading includes how leading organizations use social media to engage employees. That was not the topic when I studied management. We were focused on Kaizen, the Japanese strategy of continuious improvement, on human resources law, on the costs to train new employees versus investing in current staff. After we slogged through the technical stuff, including creating work flow charts, we were told to relax and be real--interject humor into the workplace. Hence my foray into publication, a chapter in Laughing Nine to Five: The Quest for Humor in the Workplace.

What we should have studied? Strategies to ferry companies through the information deluge, tactics to survive reorganization, i.e., Chapter 11, or skills to retain Gen Y's attention so they can get some work done before they leave to go home and call in sick tomorrow to go skiing.

We should have been taught Plan B, what to do when sound marketing practices are shattered by everyone scampering into social media. We should have been raised to scrooge every penny for a rainy day. Today. The day of the new economy.

Or, not.

If we knew the future we wouldn't like it. If I was building a house from scratch I wouldn't enjoy it as much as remodeling. How creative can I get with this space?

That remains to be seen, by you.

Welcome to my blog, 360 Convos.

Let's see who changes who first.