Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Help for Ranty

This is part two of my attempt to help Ranty, who is discouraged by his slow rise out of the file room. You can find part one here.

FINE-TUNE, then PERSIST: You report you talked to your boss, and it didn’t work. You tried presenting a completed, fabulous project, and it was rejected. While I don’t advocate doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (“The definition of insanity is….”), I do suggest trying similar actions with a number of different twists before giving up. Observe your boss carefully, as suggested above, and ask trusted co-workers what works and what doesn’t, in their experience.

For example, you might want to try a more direct or indirect approach, a different time of the day or workweek, a different medium, employing more research in your pitch, or going more casual or formal based on their style. Most important, try asking your boss different questions. (What is the next step? What do I need to learn? What is holding me back? What do I need to focus on right now? Who would be a good contact for me? How can I help you? What would show you that I am ready for more responsibility? Can you tell me why you didn’t approve my idea? How can I be involved in the Miller project?)

LEARN: As far as the fated project is concerned, the one you researched and completed, only to be rejected by your boss, use it as a learning tool. Welcome to the world of work, where a lot of great ideas are met with lukewarm receptions. You can’t give up the first time, so you need to learn and move on to try again.

Ask yourself why your presentation wasn’t successful. Was your idea tied to strategic objectives? Was it something your boss would naturally warm to, or was it something that might seem to come out of left field? Was it presented effectively, in a way he/she could appreciate? Would you be more successful working with a partner or team than solo?

CONNECT: You don’t mention colleagues. Workplaces are social organizations and if you’re not already doing this, develop connections for your personal sanity and professional enrichment. Invest energy building relationships with co-workers and other departments, people who can help you understand and navigate the politics, partner with you with on projects, and maybe even champion your causes.

Ask yourself: Who can help me? Who can I ally with? Who has credibility? Who can serve as a mentor or sponsor? Who can introduce me to people I should know? Who can advise me both on this specific dilemma and my general career growth? How can I increase leadership and visibility outside my department? How can I position myself to take on projects and roles, serve on committees or work groups? Are there lateral opportunities I should consider? (And don’t forget: how can I give back to the people who have helped me with my development?)

LOOK OUTSIDE: Connect outside the company as well. Look for associations or groups to join. Connect with professionals online (Twitter, LinkedIn, industry blogs, etc.). Build your connections and accomplishments (and resume) while you decide the direction of your career. The good news is that your job is low-demand so you have plenty of energy for this! Use Ben Eubanks as a role model. You can imagine that if and when Ben decides to leave his job, he will have a range of enticing options available, and none will involve filing. You and I can’t be Ben, but we can learn a lot from what he does.

A little story to end: Today a seasoned co-worker and I brainstormed on how to bring others on board with a new technology. She said, “But I tried asking people!” I asked how she had asked, and based on her answer, suggested she take a different tact. Instead of making general requests in group settings, she could instead focus on building support one person at a time, starting with key players. She agreed, and added (quite brilliantly) that she would approach each person based on the win for them. She started teasing out what the win would be for each person.

The point? She and I have been working in a great workplace for a number of years, and still we are answering the same core questions as you: How can I get my ideas across? How can I be heard? How can I do more of what I love and less of the drudgery? Maybe this is part of the “learning” that you still need to do, and it has nothing to do with files and piles of paper.

SUMMARY: I am sorry you’re having a hard time, Ranty, and I hope you don’t think I’ve been unsympathetic. I asked a lot of questions and suggested you ask even more; if you get through most of them and still feel the advancement prognosis is poor, consider moving on. But don’t give up too quickly or too soon because you may encounter similar challenges regardless of where you work. And while you're there, learn all you can from the situation.

Good luck! Tell me how it goes and what you decide to do!

Image by lost thoughts, flickr

Help for Ranty: Getting out of a Dead End Job

HR friend and HRevolution rockstar Ben Eubanks of Upstart HR (@beneubanks on Twitter) asked for help for his reader, Ranty, who is frustrated in his first job after college, struggling to be seen as more than a filer and paper organizer. I have a number of thoughts for Ranty.

Dear Ranty,

I'm sorry that you're frustrated. Your situation is probably not quite as simple as “do I stay or do I go?” You could leave your job and move on, but you regardless of where you work, you need to be able to build credibility, sell your ideas, gain support, and try, try again in new and slightly different ways in order to be successful. And I know that you feel that you have tried, but your letter doesn't lead me to think you have exhausted all your possibilities yet.

CAUTION: I caution you not to get lost in a negative tailspin. You're frustrated and disheartened, and if that comes out in your work (which it is likely to do if you’re thinking things like “I don’t concentrate, and I can’t make myself care,”) you're in a danger zone. If you continue in this vein, you may find your boss saying sayonara before you do. Look for ways to re-energize and re-engage yourself, regardless of whether you ultimately stay or go. One suggestion is to watch what you are thinking, saying, and asking; and if your thoughts and questions are not constructive and strategic, tweak them so that they serve you best. (I am a big fan of asking questions, as you’ll see.)

CONTROL: If nothing else I say makes sense, please listen to this: I urge you to take control of your own career growth. Don’t wait for or rely on your boss. Chances are throughout your life, no matter how much your supervisor encourages your growth and provides opportunities and counsel, you will need to supplement this with your own development plan. This will be true regardless of your workplace.

Next time: Connect, Fine-Tune and Persist
Photo by juan23for

Friday, December 11, 2009

HR vs. Motherhood

My comment on Punk Rock HR’s recent blog post, “HR is not Your Mommy,” quickly got too long winded. Absolutely, as my June, 2009 post would attest, I agree HR professionals are not your hall monitor, party planner, or shrink. Or your mom, for that matter.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas of possible overlap between the worlds of “mom” and HR. Here are several.

Harder than you might think

In my carefree, childless days, I went to dinner with a friend’s family and raised my eyebrows at her preschool boys who spent most of the time scaling chairs, knocking over glasses and climbing under the table. “When I have kids,” I remember thinking, “they’ll never do that. They’ll be well-behaved.”

Oh yeah? Well, you know what? If it was easy to raise perfect kids, everyone would have perfect kids.

Being a mom is not all bedtime stories, time outs, and kissing skinned knees. Several years ago, it was learning disabilities, gangsta attitude, disgruntled calls that my son was performing parkour on the school roof. Now its preparing a new driver to hit the road rage ridden streets of DC and traversing fun subjects like local gang activity, safe sex, drugs, and college.

Similarly, people may assume HR is all bedtime stories (planning the holiday party), time-outs (policing employee behavior) and kissing skinned knees (playing nice-nice). Well, any of us that are in HR know it’s not that simple or that easy. Though we may have input in some of those areas, our true work lies in contributing to the life and continued success of the business.

Adaptability, Change

An infant is a different creature than a toddler, who is unlike a preschooler, an eight-year old, pre-teen, early teen, high schooler, or young adult. When your kids hit the turbulent adolescent years, your awesome baby-rocking skills are irrelevant. The world has moved on and a completely different--and hard-earned—skillset is imperative. Add to that that kids have different personalities and needs; what worked for Michael probably won’t work for Sara, and that parenting theories continually evolve. Thus parents are constantly learning and adapting to the coming and current environment.

Kind of reminds me of HR.

The skills and abilities needed at the HR Assistant level are not the same required as an HR Generalist, which again are very different from Chief HR
A lot of what worked in human resources in 1995 changed by 2005. The HR world has experienced even more change in the four years since, and will probably see as much or more change in the coming two.

More parallels

Then there’s management skill. Or leadership ability. Many moms have plenty of one or both.

Or step-parenting. Blending two families was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, personally or otherwise, and I could talk about it in lots of business and HR terms: mergers, acquisitions, onboarding, offboarding, ROI, strategic planning, vision and mission statements, etc.

The parallels go on, but the point is that both HR and Mommy-hood are harder than they may look from the outside. To do them well, or even competently, requires acquiring ever-shifting and evolving knowledge, attitudes and skills.

image by House of Sims

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Power of the Word

Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment. --Ira Gassen

“There’s nothing worse than weak coffee,” I observed gloomily, watching the stream of tea-colored liquid splashing to fill my mug in the office kitchen.

And then I caught myself. There’s nothing worse than weak coffee: Really?


How about war, drought and starvation, murder, rape, or the exploitation of children?

Okay, I think I can think of a few things worse than weak coffee. And then I wonder: why do we do this? Why the drama, why the exaggeration?

For the rest of the day, I am more careful with my language.

What about you, my reader: What are the areas of exaggeration or drama that you fall back on? What lessons do you have to share?

Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. --Pearl Strachan
image courtesy of Marfis75

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Preaching to the Choir: Resume Help

Awhile ago, it occurred to me that I have been preaching to the choir. Still, sometimes I can’t help myself, and I find myself compulsively delivering the message to the wrong audience yet again. What am I talking about?

I am an HR professional who reviews a thousand or more resumes every year. We are a nonprofit social services agency, and more often than not, resumes could use significant help. I am not talking about a few creatively spelled words; I am talking about probable deal-breakers like these examples from this week’s in-box:

1. All contact numbers out of service or message cue full.
2. Employment history reading “2005-present” even though the last job ended in 11/08.
4. No phone number at all.
5. Omission of the only job relevant to my advertisement.
6. Complete lack of spaces between words and punctuation,like this,and/or this,which is a bit disconcerting to say the least.

Since discovering Twitter, I have often posted resume tips under the hashtag #jobsearch. Eventually it occurred to me that my efforts were misplaced; if someone is sophisticated enough to use social media at the Twitter level, they are more than capable of doing a quick Google search for resume help.

Despite this realization, I still occasionally succumb to temptation and I tweet my #jobsearch tips, even though I know I am preaching to the choir. Frankly, I don’t know how to reach the people who most need the help but I can’t stand to sit on my hands, doing nothing. Call me an HR geek, but a resume at its sublime best is a beautiful art form, a portfolio gracefully showcasing the culmination of one’s talents, accomplishments and contributions. It galls me to receive these mangled pages, like the one from the woman who spelled her name Tamara on page one and Tamera elsewhere in the document, or the six-page resumes that are a hodge-podge of cut-and-paste from years of mismatched job descriptions.

Today I am reaching out to you, my reader, in hopes that you have ideas for me. I feel driven to assist job seekers most in need of basic assistance with resume creation, and I don’t know how to reach them. What can I do? Do I contact the high schools, the County Workforce Development office, organizations that help immigrants, and/or something else?

Give me your ideas. Thanks.

image by Strabanephotos

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eat This, Not That! (Write This, Not That!)

Are you familiar with the hit book series Eat This, Not That!, guides helping tweak your food selections one choice at a time? Following the authors’ advice, you get more bang for your buck--or calorie--as you hone in on the leanest choice in the food category, whether ice cream, buffalo wings, or fast food burgers.

Eat This, Not That! sprung to mind when I clicked through Chris Ferdinandi’s social media resume.

“Write This, Not That!” I thought wistfully, mentally reviewing the stacks of resumes that flood my in-box weekly. 49% are competent but quite traditional. 49% could use a good deal of assistance and coaching (most of my applicants are low wage sector service workers, many coming from cultures that probably employ very different application procedures than we’re used to in the US).

Two percent of the resumes make me pause and sometimes even say “Wow, I like that!” But none has ever knocked my HR socks off the way that clicking on Chris Ferdinand’s resume would--if I was so lucky as to have it grace my in-box.

I’m not suggesting that you clone Chris’ resume. But I do encourage you to take a little bit of a chance. Be bold. Be creative. Or be a little bolder and a little more creative. Look at each component of the resume with a “Write This, Not That!” approach. Where can you employ technology, and add pizzazz, color and personal interest?

“I can’t take that chance!” I can hear job seekers protesting in a panic. “I’ve been told to follow all the resume rules. They’ll throw my resume out!”

I can sympathize and all I can do is agree. It is true: they might throw your resume out.But if so, is that really the kind of place you want to work? A progressive, cutting edge, forward-thinking company will be curious and intrigued, even excited, to receive your creative endeavor. An old school organization might react very differently, perhaps even feel threatened by your boldness. “This person does not follow the rules,” they might sniff dismissively. “Dangerous.”

But again: do you really want to work there? If the answer is yes, write a traditional resume. If not, throw out your old CV and start over. Take a walk on the resume wild side and Write This, Not That!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More than Just Money: Helping Charities

In the current economy, charities encounter a double-bind: increased need coupled with lower donations. You may want to support a favorite cause but have fewer financial resources. Good news: contributions of time and professional expertise are also valued. My top suggestions:

Program Services: Staff the hot line, counsel youth, build houses.

Administration: Wearing multiple hats, nonprofit staff are stretched thin but many donors shy away from financial support of overhead and administration. It still needs to get done, of course. Do you know how to get a mailing out? Manage an event? Archive, organize or file? Answer the phone? Edit a newsletter? Solicit donations? Come on in!

Technology: Regrettably nonprofit hardware, software, social media strategies, and technology budgets may lag years behind the corporate world. This slows organizational and mission effectiveness. If you are technologically adept, nonprofits will gratefully welcome your help with every aspect of managing and furthering technology.

Training and development: A charity's professional development budgets may be a fraction of that in the for-profit sector. If you love to teach, share your expertise in team-building, wellness, leadership, reading financial statements, employment law, emerging technologies, etc. HR professionals, help a charity update their employee handbook or improve their performance management system.

Supporting charities doesn’t solely mean writing checks or ladling lunch at a soup kitchen--as appreciated as both of those actions are. Your professional skills go a long way toward supporting the necessary infrastructure to do good in the world. And if you are between jobs, why not lend a hand to a good cause while also preparing for that later interview question, "So, how have you been spending your time?"

To find volunteer opportunities, try Idealist or Volunteer Match. Good luck and have fun!

photo by moonjazz

Stand Out...In a Good Way

On Thursday, DC’s Hot 99.5 radio host Kane mentioned a product marketed as helpful for hot dates and job interviews: bra inserts giving women the appearance of being—how shall I say this?—highly enthusiastic. Talk about making your interview outfit POP!

Is this really a good thing, Kane asked doubtfully? Will it help land the job?

A former recruiter called in and assured him it was a bad idea. She also mentioned she's not shy and would probably suggest band aids to an interviewee arriving in that state.

Most interviewers won't give you such blunt feedback on your appearance, but skimpy interview attire can absolutely cost you the job. Obviously there are a few jobs in niche industries paying women to flaunt their wares. If that’s the case, dress accordingly. But most of us are applying for a regular job in a regular setting. You can be a woman* but show your sexuality in an understated way appropriate to a business environment. Your attire should be not too short, too tight, too low-cut; and certainly, not all three or you only compound things.

Focus on showcasing your talents, degree, successes, references. To be taken seriously, flaunt your brains, not what’s in your blouse.

photo by fabiogis50, flickr

*I am focusing on women since I’ve never had a man come to an interview provocatively dressed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Romance Your Employees

I’m often struck by parallels between love and work. Interviewing mirrors dating; accepting a job is like moving in; and resigning or being asked fired is so reminiscent of breaking up!

Recently, Roberta Chinsky Matuson and others warn many employees plan to leave as soon as the market rebounds.

A lover with an inflated sense of security sometimes becomes complacent or lazy, only to be left when least expected. Maybe HR professionals and managers should not get too comfortable, either. Maybe we need to continually wow our employees as we might woo a romantic partner.

Sometimes managers are impatient when employees aren’t perfect on Day Three. They expect a high level of performance with little investment. That is just not reality; it is not how relationships work. Neither our partners nor our employees can read our minds; we cannot assume they share our expectations or goals, much less anything else.

If you quickly and without discussion leave lovers for small differences and imperfections, you will go through a whole lot of partners. Ditto employees. Even the best, most perfect and self-directed employee needs direction, attention, and tools to produce rock star work

Reality will hit soon enough, so let's not let the economy seduce us into thinking employees are easily replaceable. The market is not an excuse to take employees for granted. Short-sighted shortcuts are likely to lead to being dumped as soon as the grass is greener on the other side of the employment fence.

Go woo, romance, and remind them why they fell in love with you.

photo by jacknet, flickr

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Practice to Avoid This Common Interview Mistake

After interviewing thousands of job applicants, the most common error I observe is talking too much. A candidate starts to talk and five or ten minutes later, they are deep into left field as one thought leads them to another. A hiring manager may start to think that you dominate conversation, don’t listen very well, may talk more than you work, and even that you’re undisciplined. All things you want to avoid, of course.

Some people subscribe to the philosophy “answer the question you wish you were asked,” and that’s fine--as long as you still answer my question, too. In case you’re wondering, I do notice when you don’t answer my question and most of the time, it won’t work in your favor.

If you know that you’re a big talker or tend to ramble when nervous, you need to practice, practice, practice.

Listening for the question.
Jot down a few key words if needed. Practice giving a complete answer succinctly. Glance down at that note to make sure you’re on track and you’ve answered what was asked.

Different kinds of questions
gathered from a number of sources. Include some off-the-wall ones, e.g. “Which movie is a metaphor for your life?” or “If you were an animal, what would you be?” You are not trying to memorize answers; you are practicing to observe your thought proces and finetune your response under pressure.

With different people. Not just your best friend, but someone you don’t know as well; perhaps even someone who intimidates you. Or try using your family as a panel interview.

Using different media.
Writing or diagramming responses can be invaluable especially when questions involve a decision tree. You ensure you cover all bases and give the tightest, most thorough response. Then practice your answer in spoken conversation.

Place holders
to buy time. For example, “That’s an excellent question, how have I contributed to the bottom line at ABC Company.” As you’re saying that, your mind is preparing your response. If your mind is completely blank, ask to return to the question later.

What are your best tips for interview practice? I’d love to know.

image by Darren Moore

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'll Settle for Less-Paper HR

Like many, last December found me humming holiday songs. But while others dreamed of a white Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah, I dreamed of paperless HR. Yep, I'm an HR Nerd; I admit it!

I work at a nonprofit, where resources, time and budgets are tight. As I compare technology in the nonprofit and the business worlds, I see the latter forging ahead while I fear nonprofits fall behind at an exponential rate. It's a bit alarming to contemplate the lag that expands relentlessly every year. Many of us don't have IT departments. We don't have much money for consultants or new technology. What we have is a great work environment, the World Wide Web (free or almost free), our connections (free), and our ingenuity, resourcefulness and persistence (free, free, free).

Less-Paper HR

It is in this context that I try to reduce the amount of paper I amass, track, store, and ultimately shred. At the moment, Paperless HR is a pipe dream, but for now I can happily settle for "Less-Paper HR." Some thoughts for other nonprofits who may agree:

1. Consider Scanning to your HRIS. Think about the cost/benefit ratio not just now but later; in what electronic format will those documents be stored, and how will that impact conversion/implemention costs when and if you choose a new HRIS down the line?

2. Consider Less-Paper Recruiting. Rather than relying on paper applications or emailed resumes, use free or low cost Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to post positions, house resumes, and respond to candidates. Some possibilities I've started to play with: Resumator, Simplicant, and Credentify (thanks @FrankBoese of Twitter for the tips). Each has its own spin, whether posting, automatic/canned email responses, or screening capabilities. Check them out!

3. Force a Change. To implement #2 may require culture change. Believe it or not, a small but significant proportion of my staff and applicant pool don't regularly use the Internet or have a Yahoo email account. At some point, that's gotta change. I'm deciding that point is 2009.

4. Shorten Forms. I just shortened my HR Coordinator interview format by 75%. I now only print resumes of candidates I'm interviewing. If I could similarly reduce all paperwork, my file cabinets would start to fear being put out to pasture! What can you shorten or eliminate?

5. Go Online Whenever You Can. Enroll benefits online. Have new employee enter their information into the state New Hire database rather than completing, faxing and filing a form. Store Workers Comp, FMLA, correspondence and other records online whenever possible.

6. Think Before You Print. Regardless of the task, think twice. When you print, you have to collate, organize, file, track and shred.

Good luck! Less-Paper HR, here we come! Please share any Less-Paper HR ideas in the comment section below.

flicker pic by Howard Roark

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shelter Me!

Hoping to add a second dog to our family, I stopped by a local shelter at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. I had no obligations until a 5 p.m. family birthday party, so I thought I had plenty of time to submit an adoption application.

I was wrong.

A cute Chihuahua mix caught my eye. I waited for slip to visit with him. Then I waited at the kennel for the introduction. When I decided the pup wasn't right for us, I had to start the process over for the scrappy little black and white terrier mix.

He was perfect; I immediately decided I wanted him! But not so fast, Bucko: after waiting to meet him, the next step was to take a number, deli counter style, and wait for 45 minutes for an application. (The kennel staff apparently aren't trusted to give them out?) When the worker reviewed the application instructions, she stressed that I couldn't just leave the form; my signature must be witnessed by shelter staff.

Long story short, at 4:55, 20 applicants were ahead of me. I gave up, thinking I didn't want to adopt from a facility with the apparent philosophy that applicants aren't "pet-worthy" unless willing to jump through multiple hoops, withstanding considerable, needless inconvenience. I've stopped by pet store adoption shows with a more consumer-friendly approach. Applications are displayed for the taking; better yet, you may submit one online for pre-approval. Animals are freely accessible to visitors. What a different experience!

I've been thinking of the needless rigmarole at the animal shelter as it may parallel HR and employment processes. While I understand doing the best one can on a shoestring budget, it highlights the dangers of not stopping to evaluate processes and ask whether each step assists--or hinders--one's goals. And I wonder: Are there ways in which we as HR professionals unknowingly construct unnecessary obstacles to employment? Are we (God forbid) displaying that attitude that you're not job-worthy if you won’t put up with needless and annoying bureaucracy?

I hope not. But to be sure, let's all audit our own hiring processes and eliminate unnecessary steps, delays, and other inconveniences along the way.

image by katsuma, flickr

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So You Want to be in HR? My Suggestions

HR professionals are often approached by people wanting to get into the profession. We also meet HR newbies wanting advice and guidance to move ahead.

I love mentoring new HR professionals, so I’m happy to offer advice, most of which falls in to these categories: Find your voice and use it. Get connected. Embrace life-long learning. And new on the scene: start creating your digital resume.

How do you get started in HR? Well, sometimes the perfect HR opportunity does fall from the sky with no prior planning. It happens. However, it’s more likely that you will have to demonstrate you’re serious about the profession before you land the dream job or launch into HR rockstardom. Here are some ways to show that you’re serious:

1. Continual learning:

If you have a degree in an unrelated field, such as psychology, don’t rely on learning HR via Google. Go to seminars. Take classes. Try your community college to get started quickly and inexpensively while you figure out long-term educational goals. Don’t stop with Intro to Human Resource Management; take a business class, Intro to Accounting, Economics, etc. You will be taken more seriously with business coursework under your belt.

If your degree is in HR, you still need the habit of lifelong learning. Employment law constantly changes, management theory evolves, recruiters are always onto something new. There is no such thing as mastering HR once and for all; if you don’t enjoy the need to constantly learn new material, this is probably not the field for you.

2. Get certified: Consider testing for your PHR. Even if you aren’t yet eligible, start studying and using the information now. And expect to stay up on a ongoing changes over the years.

3. Network: Join SHRM. If it’s too pricey, check to see if your local chapter allows joining without a national membership. If that doesn’t work, look for other professional and business associations. Or hey--start your own.

4. Join twitter. I am a huge twitter fan for many reasons; two of the more compelling for you:

-The opportunity to connect with people that might ordinarily be outside your circle: VPs of HR, HR Directors, SPHRs, CEOs, SHRM officials, nationally known HR bloggers, great minds on the cutting edge of the new HR. They are almost without exception approachable and delighted to share thoughts and expertise.

-Constant exposure to HR, recruiting, talent management articles, blogs and ideas. If you connect to a decent-sized group of dynamic HR professionals, you are virtually swimming in a sea of creativity and new information, an evironment that continually challenges you forward.

5. Join LinkedIn. Don’t just join; connect to others, give and get recommendations; join groups and discussions, share your reading list.

6. Blog and read blogs: If you enjoy writing, try your hand at blogging. Whether or not that’s for you, develop a list of HR and business blogs to follow and read. Look for authors that challenge the HR status quo. Don’t just read, jump in the discussion. Find your voice, add your comments.

7. As you tweet, blog and chat on LinkedIn, remember all this content is searchable. You are building your ‘digital resume’, your online career portfolio. Does this sound scary? I hope not; it can be exciting. The sky’s the limit!

8. Bonus tip: While you explore social media and emerging technologies, don’t forget your ‘old school foundation,’ e.g. MS Office Suite. Employers want you to efficiently solve real world challenges through technology; e.g. how do we get these 400 names on name tags without retyping them one at a time? True story: I ask candidates about Word skills and they often quickly say they are intermediate or advanced. So I ask how to do a mail merge. More often than not, they answer, “A what?” Lesson: don’t forget the basics. Get good at them so you can handle those everyday challenges.

In my last post, I mentioned that new HR folks often define their jobs as “helping people.” If you take the time to involve yourself in the HR community in some of the ways I describe, you will quickly learn that yes, we help people, but the profession is so much more. If you implement some of my suggestions, you will probably find yourself moving in a direction of greater understanding of the evolving HR profession, greater visibility within it, and bigger and better opportunities.

Good luck!

Want advice on your new HR career? Email me and I’ll give you my two cents and/or look for someone else who can help.
flickr photo by Gary Hayes

Five Weeks Into My Search for an HR Assistant

Looking for an HR Assistant in 2009 has been interesting to say the least!

I ask candidates to share their favorite HR discipline and the most frequent answer is, “Helping people.” I’m sure they really do love helping people; so do I. But helping people is not one of the established HR disciplines. (I'm also thinking: if you want to help people, start with me, your future boss!)

Seriously, don’t tell me you love people, explain how you will advance our organization’s business objectives through your mastery of benefits, compensation, technology, etc. Show me you 'get' what HR is, that your understand your role. Tell me how you'll crank out the work, 'cuz there's a lot of it.

Why do I bring this up? Because if applicants were doing more of activities recommended in my next post, they would have the HR foundation to give an answer that has me thinking “yes, yes, yes” instead of “next, next, next.”

Another angle is the social media boom since I last hired an HR assistant. This time around, I check out web footprints of promising candidates. I stay away from FaceBook, but I google to see if they blog or are on LinkedIn or Twitter.

What am I finding online? Not as much as you’d think. No carousing, profanity, offensive behavior….but not much of anything else, either. Most had a LinkedIn profile, but none was especially robust or active. Some applicants’ information was outdated, most had few connections and few if any group affiliations or other signs of life. I found a couple people on Twitter, one person who started a yahoo HR group, and no blogs, not a single comment on anyone else's blog, either.

This was a bit surprising to me. I meet so many earnest people who want to get into HR and profess to be absolutely passionate about it. Yet many of them don’t seem to be taking advantage of the technology that would connect them to HR leaders, colleagues and groups at great advantage to their careers.

As you can imagine, I have some thoughts about that and also five tips (plus a freebie) for developing your young HR career. More about all that in my next post: So You Want to Work in HR?

flickr photo by Michelle13

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What my Ride Can Teach About the New Leadership

I admit this may be just a cheap way to work my scooter into my professional blog. But humor me: the other day while I putt-putted along, thinking about the joys and benefits of scootering, it occurred to me that some of the lessons apply to the cuurent lessons we are learning about leadership, after scandals, bankruptcies, meltdowns, and more.

Riding a scooter can remind us to:

See the world in new ways. Participate: Maybe you’re taking a new route, or driving five mph slower than before. You might notice landmarks you wouldn’t otherwise come across. Or be forced to learn some new skills and habits. Your whole world feels different.

Take-Away: How can I be more present to both what is and what is possible? How can I, open up my creativity and spark it in my team? How would that benefit my organization, the bottom line, my industry, the world?

Be more resourceful, tighten our belts.
You might save some money on a scooter…and not just from the obvious: 100+/- MPG. Savings may derive from critically evaluating the need for every trip. Or because you plan your routes in advance, look at all the contingencies, weigh every expenditure.

Take-Away: Many of us need to tighten organizational belts. Organizations who are truly lean and green have an advantage. How can we plan, execute and evaluate to get the most bang for our bucks?

Be an original. Be yourself. I don’t know anyone else with a scooter; I bought mine because it met a need and sounded like a whole lot of fun. I’m not saying you should duplicate what I did; I’m suggesting you think for yourself! Have your own identity, color outside the lines.

Take-Away: An adventurous quality is needed more than ever, don’t you think? The old way is gone. The status quo will sink your ship. Think beyond what was done before, do something unexpected, make your mark.

Move through adversity. The other day, I expected eighty degrees and sunny, but it was cold, or foggy, or wet and stormy. I could suck it up—or I can look for plan B or C. Either choice is more interesting—and challenging--than sitting in my car in rush hour traffic. When I’m challenged, I’m alive and present and at my best.

Take-Away: We live in tough times. Do you make the most of challenges? Does adversity kick start your creativity muscle or send you scrambling for cover?

Be more transparent. The first time I rode my scooter, I felt nekkid! Occupants of vehicles have at least a modicum of privacy to lip-synch to their favorite song, apply eyeliner, or argue with their spouse. On a scooter or motorcycle, there’s nothing to hide behind. You are on display for the world; not for the faint of heart of the extremely shy.!

Take-Away: In the last few years, we’ve realized we need leaders to be more transparent. Hiding away making decisions for people without participation hasn’t served anyone. Tell us, show us the way. Involve us. Go out on a limb. Get out there.

Be an ambassador. Be visible. Be accountable. Within days of buying my first scooter, I learned there was no private citizen status, no anonymity. I am routinely cornered in parking lots, peppered with questions. “Where did you get that? Is it hard to ride? Do you need a special license? What’s the MPG?” And yes, without fail, they ask: “How much did it cost?” One day, a commuter even flagged me down to interrogate me about my shiny new red Kymco. I stopped only because I thought something was wrong, i.e. it was on FIRE. I was running late, but I did not mind the interruption too much: She was so excited as she launched into her questions. And I am an ambassador for what I love.

Take-Away: Can we bring that excitement, that ambassador nature, to our work? Can we be “on” even when we’d otherwise be “off?” Can we become comfortable expanding the the borders of our transparency?

Have fun! Many adults rarely have laugh-out-loud good times. Scootering is the most exhilaration I’ve found in my own daily, grown up world. But you don’t have to scoot to have a good time: the point is: are you *having* fun? Fun, of any type?

Take-Away: Understanding that non one has good times all the time, in the broad sense, if it ain’t fun, why do it? So: are you having fun? If not, can you make it fun or move to a situation that is? How can you add more humor, exhilaration and joy to what you do? What benefits would a more joyful vocation provide?

So there you have it. What scootering can teacher us about the new leadership. Tomorrow, what kayaking can teach us about the new HR.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Uneaten Donuts: Influencing Culture Change

I was recently struck by Jan Aylsworth's blog post on the Organizational Psychology (http://z.pe/fv4). She said this social science can be used to "Try – notice I said 'try' to implement culture change." Culture is not an easy thing to influence; even the science of O.P. doesn't have it the bag.

After being hammered with yearly double-digit health insurance premium hikes, the agency I work for has been trying to increase the health of our employees for years now. We've put into place a wellness committee, Stategic Plan initiatives, walking challenge, health articles, healthy cooking classes, subsidized gym memberships, Weight Watchers at Work. Have these efforts been successful? Definitive ROI would come from claims data, but since these efforts are longterm, we don't expect to see an impact on claims and premiums for several years.
While we wait, my next indicator of culture change is behavior. See exhibit A: the photo of uneaten donuts. At my office we love to eat! But recently, some kind soul brought donuts on a Tuesday morning and at noon on Wednesday, I snapped this photo of these poor dejected uneaten pastries. No one wanted to waste calories or points. Culture change? I hope so.
More about our wellness efforts in future posts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Rocky aka "Party Like Rockstar"

My dogs are gone.

The kids left the gate open. Sometime during the night, Rocky and Lucky jumped through the dog door and in their happy-go-lucky fashion, took advantage of the breech in security. By the time we caught on, they were hours and miles away.

Despite their tags, no-one has called. They are not at Animal Control. Our puppies are missing in action.

Earlier this year, one of the kids left the gate open with tragic consequences. Our border collie Boomerang was hit by a car. With his severe head trauma, we had little choice but to put him down: a wrenching proposition, to say the least. So it is not easy now when my dogs are missing for almost 24 hours. I am trying not to obsess.

I am remembering some really dark days in my life, when I struggled with pervading grief and loss. But one day, serendipitously and by the grace of God, I noticed that I laughed about something.

This observation was startling, life changing, and something that could have been so easily missed: I felt 95% despair and 5% joy. Wow. Five percent joy. Somehow, God willing, despite my pain, I had the presence of mind to focus on the five percent rather than the reverse.

A camping aficionado, I found myself visualizing that tiny percentage as a fledgling flame. As one would patiently start a campfire, I gently blew on the coals to coax the tiny flames to life. With intense focus, five percent joy gradually became seven, then nine, then twelve, twenty-five, fifty-one percent. A miracle! The fire took over and positive emotion pervaded once again.

I've never forgotten that lesson, and that's what I think about now when my beloved Rocky and Lucky are gone. Yes, I am the dog lover of the family. I am the mom and caregiver. The dogs seek me out for food, companionship and affection, while my boys are pretty oblivious. I love my dogs and I'm heart-broken, and I could beat the guys up for the mistake, and go into a downward spiral...but you know what? If I agonize about it, I only experience agony.

Yes, I'm sad and concerned. I hope for the best, though I realize the best may not transpire. And through it all, I choose instead to focus on the 2%, 20%, 35% good.

And I hope that there is someone out there who can identify with--and benefit from--my five percent analogy. We experience so many emotions simultanteously and when down, we tend to focus on the negative ones almost exclusively. But if you focus only on the negative, that is all you'll see and feel. If you take time to notice and experience the myriad of feelings, including the [sometimes admittedly minority] positive emotions interspersed in during difficult times, you may experience a deeper, richer, happier tapestry of life.
Maybe it's only 2%, or .5%, but hold on to that, don't give up, focus on it, believe in it, coddle it, grow it into something that trips the balance so that joy and purpose reign again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lucky Engagement

Several times I've posted Lucky Dube videos on FaceBook and Twitter. Most posts probably get lost in the stream, but one or two people might wonder, "What is this obsession Krista has with this guy?"

In a word, engagement.

Lucky Dube was a South African musician whose name some might say failed him; he was murdered in 2008. But while he was alive, he was fully engaged in his art. Incidentally, it was said he eschewed coffee, alcohol, and drugs; the energy and passion you see is all from inside.

He was passionate, alive, full of joy and energy! He was in his element on stage.

And notice from these videos that his back-up singers and musicians are fully engaged, smiling and dancing and loving every minute.

And his audience is in heaven: thrilled to be there, fully in the moment.

We could all ask: Do I have half the energy, passion, playfulness, self-expression, love of life that Lucky had? Can I find joy in each performance, each day, each task? Can I share the stage, inspire harmony, coordinate to make beautiful music with others? Do I give people their money's worth--and then some? Do I leave my customers thrilled and happy and always wanting more? Do I inspire others and leave a lasting legacy?

Lucky was an artist, a performer; I am not suggesting that we dance and sing around the office. But home and work might be happier places if we could find ways to translate such passion and energy into HR, teaching, parenting, social work, management, nursing!

One final video. The quality is not great, but I chose to include it under the theory that engagement does not require perfect circumstances.

Thanks for indulging my tribute to a favorite artist and role model. Now, go engage with life!

(Lucky, RIP--if you wish to rest, which I doubt. You're probably dancing and singing in your afterlife.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Express Yourself

We used to be artistic.

We used to paint, dance, journal, draw, play music, photograph, write.

Now we just look for creative ways to balance the demands of our busy lives, to prevent a toddler's meltdown, or magically pull dinner out of a hat after a hectic day. We create moments of artistry on the fly by wordsmithing the Winsmith proposal 'til it's a thing of beauty. Or we rearrange plantings to perfect the perennial bed.

flickr by Amy2008

Such ran the conversation with a group of parent friends.

And there's nothing wrong with any of it. Your priorities and resources shift with the seasons. When you're sleep-deprived with an infant or coping with the long term disability of your child, you don't get much 'me time,' much less consciously think about creative expression.

But for the rest of us whose situations are busy but not quite so intense, it's a bit of a shame when creativity falls by the wayside. Perhaps creating [whatever we are called to create] should be as much part of our daily routines as exercising, eating, or brushing teeth.

Creating something new or beautiful feels good.

It lifts your mood.

It generates energy, opens you to possibilities, makes you feel vibrant, vital, and alive, spawns additional ideas and project possibilities. Just like physical exercise, you build your creativity muscles and the effort fuels the rest of your life, so that you more effective in other areas of your life. For example, interspersing creative moments during your workday may make other more mundane tasks feel less of a chore. If nothing else, it gives you something to look forward to, e.g. 'after I correct these infernal invoices, I'll spend 15 minutes on my blog.'

So get out those oil paints, tune up the piano, sign up for dance class, and write that poem. Do what you used to do. Or try something new. Either way, the rewards can spill over to enrich the rest of your life with renewed passion and energy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twitter, Offline

Though many friends and acquaintances are on LinkedIn or FaceBook, Twitter is still a novelty to most in my circle. I’ve often heard Twitter “non-adopters” make dismissive remarks. My husband went so far as to suggest that I was addicted to the application, and he sometimes seems to imagine he’s in some sort of competition with my followers. I didn't take it too personally; I know I have probably failed to adequately communicate just how deeply I’ve benefited from living in the “Twitterverse.” For example, I am in daily contact with hundreds of bright, talented, high-energy people who are the forefront of their industries or professions. It’s extremely egalitarian; I can follow and be followed by everyone from intern to CEO, and we all have much to offer each other. Twitter is a living, breathing, dynamic laboratory for learning and exploring; synergy, sharing and collaboration abound, and creative ideas begat more creativity.

Needless to say, many people would probably not describe their own life experience or their own workplace as glowingly as I described the Twitterverse. Which got me wondering how we could adapt twitter principles to quote, unquote real life; how can we "tweet offline," so to speak?

Questions to consider about taking the Twitterverse offline:

RT (Re-Tweeting or forwarding others posts): Away from social media, how often do you pass on other’s great ideas, blogs, articles and contributions? Doing so is an integral part of the twitter culture.

Tweeting (Posting): Are you talking to yourself in a monologue, or are you engaging in two way conversation, building connections and relationships? Does what you say add value to others’ lives? If not, on Twitter, you’ll eventually be un-followed. Offline, people just tune you out or fail to take you seriously.

Follow Friday (Recommending other people to your following, typically done on Fridays): How often do you recommend others to increase their sphere of influence, realizing that it detracts nothing from your own stature and in fact adds to it?

Trending Topics: Do you staying current with emerging trends in your field?

Followers: Are you actively seeking out new people to add to your circle of contacts? Are you networking? Can you see every interaction (lunch counter, elevator, train station, etc.) as an opportunity to reach out to others? Are you able to learn from everyone you meet, not just those who are at or above your perceived social standing?

Twitter & Me. For me, joining Twitter has been a shot in the arm of creativity. I’ve met fantastic minds and I’m loving swimming in a sea of knowledge, new ideas, with unlimited opportunity for self-expression. And I’ve been more intentional about increasing my network away from my computer, tweeting offline. I hope your own experience has been similarly positive.

And to my husband: honey, I’ll be more than glad to follow you online or off!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life is Short: Eat More Chocolate

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." The Dalai Lama.

This week, Michael Jackson's death is all over the news. In fact, several U.S. celebrities in their fifties passed away in quick succession. Also this week, the Internet reunited me with a close childhood friend I'd lost touch with after leaving boarding school in Africa. In her second e-mail, Piper caught me up on her life and mentioned her husband "left 10 years ago for an older woman with a large backside."

"If only I'd known," she declared, "I'd have eaten more chocolate!"

Both events got me thinking about the lack of guarantees in this human life. Life is short, too short. A loved one passes before we can say all we wished we had spoken. Or hubby is here today, gone tomorrow, leaving the wife regretting missed confectionery opportunities. In fact, Piper suggests, she could have kept her man by indulging her tastes. Her sacrifice was all for nothing.

How often do we put something off, hide our true selves, delay our dreams, all for a relationship or in the delusion that we have all the time in the world?

The fact is that all we have is today. More accurately, all we have is the present moment. What are you going to do with it?

Me, I'm going to savor a square of exquisite chocolate, cuddle up to my husband, and contemplate my dreams.
photo by FUNKYA, flickr

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Basic Resume Tips

I’ve said it before: I’m not a purist, and I’m not a perfectionist. Still, I’m surprised every day at the some of the really basic mistakes I see in resumes, cover letters, and e-mails from applicants.

Following these quick tips would take care of some of the most glaring errors and help your resume be taken seriously.

1. So much information is available on the Internet, including free resume templates arranged by job title. Use it rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. College Grad.com and Resume Templates.org
are two I found in five seconds with Google. There are a zillion others; compare a few and see what works for you.

2. Someone in your circle of influence—maybe your cousin, former co-worker, or ex-boyfriend’s mom—knows how to find a job. Find that person and take advantage of their expertise! They will probably be glad to help you.

3. If speak English as a second or third language, I applaud your linguistic abilities because many of us in the U.S. speak only one language. But it’s all the more reason to double-check that spelling is correct, phrasing sounds natural, and that you've followed resume protocols of your new culture. Have someone read and edit for you.

3. Native English speakers, spell-check. And it never hurts to have someone proofread.

4. Cutting and pasting your job descriptions into your resume makes for a long document, much of which does not pertain to the job for which you’re applying. (What are COADD reports in PDD-format, anyway?) Keep it short and concise, two pages maximum. For each job, focus on your biggest accomplishments and the most critical job responsibilities. Stay away from minutiae.

5. If you are applying for different kinds of jobs, e.g. both administrative and social work, have different resumes for each. Further customize resumes with key words from the position description.

6. Know that in larger companies, a computer will probably have the first pass at your resume. It’s best not to get too fancy with your format, and key words are all the more crucial.

7. HR folks and recruiters are on the fence about “Career Objective” statements. They don’t have much meaning to me, and it seems to be an easy place to make mistakes. For example, many candidates forget to update it for their current job search. My bias is leave it off your resume and treat your cover letter as an opportunity to expand on your objective.

8. When e-mailing the recruiter, use more formal language than you might with your friends. Capitalize, use full sentences, spell-check.

Free bonus tip

9. If you use the phrase “detail-oriented,” if will only make any errors all the more glaring. Consider leaving that one out and let your flawless resume speak for itself.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

13 Things Your HR Person Won't Tell You

Have you read the Readers Digest series: Things your (hairdresser/waiter/boss) won't tell you?

Let's do thirteen things your HR manager won't tell you. Write your comments below and maybe if we get good response, we can send them on to Readers Digest.

For example:

I'm human and it is not easy to give people bad news or to see people suffer after making mistakes. For example, I have seen people waive health insurance and later change their mind but it's too late; the carrier won't let them on. And on my desk right now is a request for an employment verification concerning a previous employee. The person was termed for falsifying timesheets. Maybe he is hoping I can spin it, but I can't. It is what it is.

Follow-Up to Resume: Quality vs. Quantity

The question of follow-up is about as heated as any other I’ve seen on career advice and human resources sites. Jobseekers complain bitterly about deplorable lack of communication from potential employers, while HR folks with share scary stories candidates who call and show up unannounced with stalker-like flavor.

Even in the HR world, perspectives vary widely. A recent recruiter blog urged “Call, follow-up; otherwise, how else will I know you’re interested?” My opinion, which is mine alone and not necessarily aligned with the rest of the HR world is this: follow-up conservatively and with intention. Quality over quantity any day. But do consider your job function in the equation; for example, if you are expected to be aggressive on the job (think sales) you probably want to be more aggressive with your resume follow-up than might otherwise be the case.

As you plan your follow-up strategy remember that HR people, especially those who wear multiple hats, truly are very busy people. I won't bore you with the long list of tasks on my to-do list, but I do get busy, and honestly, the issues are sometimes life or death material. Keep that in mind when you pick up the phone to follow-up with an HR contact.

I’m not saying don’t call, I’m just saying plan your strategy. When I attempting to expeditiate, say, a life insurance claim, and the phone rings and the following transpires, it is both a disruption and a source of frustration.

“Ah, hi, this is Annabelle Smith. I’m just calling to follow-up on my resume.”

“How are you,” I answer, “this is Krista Francis.” A moment of silence. You say you are calling to follow-up, so I am waiting for you to follow-up. This is your moment. A few more seconds of silence pass. But for some reason, you seem to think the ball is in my court, and you wait for me to speak.

So that’s what NOT to do. You want to stand out in a positive way; in other words, no offense, but give me a reason to be glad I put something else on hold to answer your call.

Let me give you an example of a ‘value-added’ follow-up. The phone rings and I answer. You say: “Hi, this is Janella Kohn! The receptionist said you just got out of a meeting, so I thank you for taking a minute to talk. I have three years experience at a similar nonprofit in Pennsylvania, and I would love to come to work for you! I say that because I spent some time on your website and I’m so excited about everything I saw. I sent a resume earlier this week. Do you have time to talk now, or can we schedule a time later?”

Halfway through that speech, I am salivating. The life insurance issue is momentarily on hold and I am jumping up and down while--no joke--the song “I’m Walking on Sunshine!” is starting to play in the background like a movie soundtrack!

Now that’s a follow-up!

And it doesn’t have to be by phone; an email is very unobtrusive and works just as well, often better.

Interview as a Conversation, Not a Contest

We all have defining moments, and this was mine. As an HR newbie, I chatted with another nonprofit manager during a seminar break. My colleague, who also worked at a disability agency, generously shared her hiring approach with me:

“I don’t consider the interview to be complete until the applicant is in tears.”

My response is forgotten, but her words are embedded in my brain. I was aghast. Tears? Tears are required to determine whether the candidate is the right fit for your agency? What does that say about your organization? And why would the candidate even want to work there after such an ordeal?

I decided on the spot to take an opposite approach. First of all, no trick questions. (Well, I admit I’ve experimented with asking “Tell me about a time someone did you wrong. How did you handle it?” Here I’m looking for someone who doesn’t have a long list of stories and a pile of bones to pick.) I don’t ask you what books are on your nightstand or what animal you embody, I ask behavioral questions about your experience and the job in question.

Secondly, I’m Mr. Nice Guy. I believe that the more relaxed someone is, the more likely it is they will share what I need to know. And they may also notice that it's not just me who is 'nice;' the front desk staff were welcoming, other counselors stopped by and introduced themselves, and that people are generally smiling and happy to be at work.

Thirdly, I believe an interview is a conversation, not a contest.

None of this should suggest that I’m an easy interviewer. I’ve interviewed thousands of people—mostly would-be counselors to support people with disabilities—and I know vey quickly how applicants stack up against all others who have come before.

I am pleasant, I ask questions that relate to the job, I watch and I listen to what they say and what they don’t say. A person can memorize answers but they can’t change their fundamental language patterns. Their use of language tells me all I need to know.

And what is it that I need to know? Sorry, I can’t give all my secrets away!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ace the Interview by Being the Right Person for the Job—

(Not by Memorizing Answers to “10 Interview Questions You Absolutely Must be Prepared to Answer Right Now in the Current Economic Climate.”)

Articles coaching candidates to ace employment interviews sometimes leave me feeling a bit alarmed.

Sure, it’s great to be well-prepared. It’s essential to know resume and interview protocol. But I often feel the articles are somehow missing the point. Beyond the basics, the best way to ace the interview is to be the right person for the job. But in what seems like a short-sighted move, many job search articles tell you how to be the right person for the interview. As an HR person, I wonder: So what if you’re the best person for the interview? The interview only lasts an hour! But the job, if you land it, continues for months or years; are you going to keep up your perfect interview persona for the duration of your job?

Lets think first interview as analogous to first date. What would happen if you were coached through the first date (think Will Smith in Hitched), with no regard to the truth or to the reality of your life? When they ask “ABC?” it’s as easy as spitting out your memorized “XYZ!”

You practice and you role play and you get it right. "Why did your last relationship end?" Truth: "She caught me with her sister." Cleaned up date answer: “I love to spoil a woman. I found that I was giving, and giving, and giving; and eventually I had to face up to the fact that the balance of reciprocation was just not, uh, balanced.”

“What do you do in your spare time?” Truth: “I watch a lot of reality TV, I chew my nails, I surf porn.” New and improved first date answer: “I research cancer cures and I read Tolstoy when not preparing for my next triathlon.”

I don’t think I need to spell out how destructive it is to start a relationship based on deceit or even half-truths or white lies.

Well, guess what? Employment is a relationship, and the same principle applies!

As an HR person in charge of both recruitment and retention, I want to know if you’re the right person for the job, not just the interview. An interview is only one step in the process, and I’m well aware that the skills you use every day on the job don’t necessarily correspond to acing a job interview. Would you believe that I have hired applicants who committed one or more of gaffes?

1. Arrived late.
2. Forgot to bring their resume
3. Weren’t wearing a suit. (Hired a lot of those.)
4. Stumbled over an answer.
5. Totally blew a question.
6. Didn’t submit a cover letter even though I expressly asked for one.
7. Had two or more spelling or grammatical errors on application materials.
8. Were a little socially awkward.
9. Hadn’t researched the company.
10. Didn’t send a thank you letter.

I’m not saying you should fail to prepare or that you should flout convention, I am just saying that I see our interview as a conversation, not a contest. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to make stuff up in order to work for me. Not only have I hired people who made the above ‘mistakes,’ but some of them turned out to be pretty darn good employees!

It’s easy to forget the big picture in the current job market, but the truth remains: you need to be the right person for the position, not just the interview.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What HR *is*

Yesterday we had a little fun talking about what HR is not. I'm not your hall monitor, concierge, therapist, or minute-taker!

Today let's talk about what HR *is*. Tell me, in your own words: how do you see your role/function/job? Don't give me a textbook or classroom answer, use your gut, tell me from your heart! Why do you do what you do? What drives you? What's the job all about?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Not Your Late Nite Foodie Call

When my husband suggested I run out for a speciality food item, I burst into song: "I'm not your late night foodie call."

I'm not sure he was impressed with my cleverness, but the tune got me thinking about work. Specifically, my role in human resources; what my job is--and isn't, since confusion seems to abound about the purpose and role of Human Resources. In this post, I thought I would elaborate on and invite other HR professionals to chime in about what HR isn't. In another post, we can talk about what HR is.

Here goes:

I'm not your concierge.
I'm not your therapist.
I'm not your party-planner.
I'm not your golden ticket.
I'm not your Fairy Godmother.
I'm not your knight in shining armor, swooping in to solve all your problems for you.

HR folks, let's hear from you!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Giving Thanks: An Easy Way to Stand Out

Want an easy way to stand out from other job applicants? It may sound 'old school,' but send a thank you note after your interview.

I get so few: believe me, I notice each one.

In addition to satisying any questions of etiquette, you can use a thank you note to reinforce key points from your interview--or to introduce brilliant answers that escaped you in the pressure of the moment.

With a thank you note, you check in and you also communicate continued interest. And it's one more opportunity to market your gifts and potential contributions.

It doesn't have to be long; doesn't have to be fancy. Three or five sentences by e-mail should suffice. It's quick, much easier than your cover letter, and a lot of bang for the buck.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finding a Job in Nonprofits: your Cover Letter

With the changes in the economy, I'm inundated with resumes. About a third use the shotgun approach: apply for anything and everything.

I recommend being more strategic. Honestly, unqualified resumes clutter up my in-box and do nothing but cause me more work.

In addition, my standard "How to Apply" line is: "Send cover letter and resume to kfrancis@. I've noticed that many applicants who don't meet our qualifications also neglect to send a cover.

You're shooting yourself in the foot when you skip the cover when asked. One: you have shown that you don't follow instructions--even when the stakes are high. Two (and even more importantly): you have missed a golden opportunity to market yourself.

If you don't have the experience or the education, but you're perfect for my job, how will I know it unless you explain? Most nonprofits are mission-based; explain how you are passionate about our mission, and at least you have a chance. Skip the cover, and I don't mean this unkindly, but the opportunity will be skipping you.

So see the cover letter as an opportunity rather than a chore...and best wishes with your job search!