The Desk

October 22, 2017

Screening: How Much Experience

It’s an awakening time – again. But this time in another area.

Mistake One: Need-based Promotion

The first awakening was in the mid 1980s when I was a supervisor saddled with several rather mindless tasks that were also time consuming. One of them could be easily delegated. The receptionist wanted to grow out of her position and into something more responsible. She politicked. She told me about her endeavors in paralegal self study and how much she was reading. It seemed putting her into that administrative role could be helpful to both her and me as well as do the firm a service. I petitioned my supervising attorney who asked me to create a job description. He cautioned that her training and supervision was my responsibility. Accepted.

Her job description was written. It was given to her and she liked it. She accepted it. I thought she was doing well because her questions became scarce and she seemed busy. I was mistaken.

I was also responsible for training the securities paralegal and our new lawyers on handling corporate matters, especially forming a corporation. In the long run, I learned the receptionist who became the keeper of the library of corporate kits, was going to the securities paralegal (a 25-year-old, chauvinistic Bostonian man) for guidance and knowledge and then began considering him as her supervisor. She forgot that she reported to me. He felt he was superior to me and he had the support of a very popular securities lawyer.

Knowledge based on training

There were many issues that brewed in the office. So many that I forgot to monitor the growth of the corporate kit keeper’s knowledge and the depth of it. I should have kept better track of her work – even though there were many times when I found myself needing to work deal miracles. Perhaps I should have done a better job of teaching her new aspects of the work. But I definitely needed to help her realize that merely reading the book was not the same as being qualified to do the work. Perhaps more of an open-door policy with regard to learning opportunities would have resulted in a better outcome.

Doomed Destiny

There were other ethical issues that plagued all of the offices of that firm. The writing was on the walls and there were no erasers. The practices fed on themselves. One example was the lateral hire who was being interviewed from one office to another while carrying his plate lunch with him. Interviews continued as the firm’s convulsed its way toward its demise. Prudence dictated that interviewing stop, but it didn’t.

I was able to get out several months ahead of the collapse. Like a scorpion, the firm killed itself. But the collapse was because of the practices of many of the lawyers. There was also too much competitiveness and too many hidden agendas. There was also an enormous number of those who (like me with the corporate kit keeper) shirked their responsibilities in deference to billable hours and trying to hold down the fort.

We all should have been paying attention to the most important things. We should have been screening for experience and had a willingness to train if there was budget to do so.

Translatable Lessons

Screening for experience is something we do in many professions. The plumber brings their apprentice with them in order to train the learner about the proper way to use their tools and to identify what the issue is. The apprentice is not set loose on a project with no supervision until the trainer is certain of the skill that is going to be applied to the job.

The learner has seen the right way to do things. The conditions are explained to them. Also explained are the consequences and outcomes of taking a wrong step or making a bad turn. Terminology is explained so that both the learner and the teacher are conversing about the same thing. In that way, they can adequately talk to the client about the job, provide an estimate, form a contract for services, and then complete the job so that the bill is paid. Communication is a very critical element in screening.


How much experience does this potential worker have? Where are their references or testimonials? How many similar projects of this type have they done? Is this the first one? (Maybe they’re a volunteer who’s in transition and building a new portfolio.) Perhaps they have lateral experience that translates to what is needed for the job that’s open. Find out. Evaluate. Have them explain why this is a valid example of the type of work that can be expected from them. At the same time, you’ll be able to evaluate their ability to communicate, comprehend instructions, convey their appreciation and assessment of a situation, and depth of knowledge.

If they’ve merely been reading a book or simply talking (networking) with others in their target career option, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the qualifications to be considered anything more than a newcomer.

Careful Evaluation

It’s one thing to read the book. That exercise provides the foundation for the knowledge. There’s more to learning than the mere visual intake of words. Learning comes in three ways: visual, auditory, and manual. Some people learn by using only one of those modalities. Others use two, and still other learners require all three.

Cementing the knowledge means actually using it. It’s best to practice the discipline before attempting to execute in the real environment. That’s why athletes and musicians practice and do drills. That why actors rehearse and block scenes. It’s why doctors and lawyers go through various stages of preparing for their discipline and developing their body of knowledge.

The motivation for getting into that career path and opportunity is evidenced by not just the portfolio of past accomplishments. That shows a history of experience. And that experience could have met with unexpected detours and interruptions. But the focused endeavors to practice the craft, science, art will have examples and work product. Where can those be found? If they’ve been deleted by some unethical hand, it’s a loss for everyone except those who actually saw or experienced it and can attest to its value. Another witness to experience is how well the candidate can discuss the project in detail. Perhaps there were no external evaluations that contained constructive critiques. Then evaluate how well the candidate did a self assessment and grew from that self counseling.

The amount of experience a person has is also evidenced in whether they’re capable of coming up with adaptations. Whether they’re successful or not is not the initial consideration as much as they have sufficient appreciation of the circumstances to enable them to come up with alternative methods of attack in order to reach the desired goal – ethically. It’s because they have a deep appreciation of the foundation principles that they will be able to identify a reasonable facsimile or substitute if the proper tool simply isn’t in the toolbox. They’re almost like MacGyver. Even if there are no longer work samples available, the knowledge (even long unused) is still there to benefit those who need and want it.

Enhancements, such as continuing education or next grade level training, will make the candidate even more valuable. Age is not so much a factor as is adaptability and depth of knowledge, as ability to move with change – or cause it because of that underlying experience.

Also keep in mind that now that we are a global society, we still use different terms (or labels) for things depending on where we are. What is call “The Plough” in the United Kingdom is known as Ursa Major elsewhere. So it’s important that the terminology or jargon is matching up between the parties.

How Much Experience Do You Have?

It would be nice to find credibility and proof of ability on the store shelf. Unfortunately, it takes time and practice to properly evaluate a candidate. Application of knowledge in projects directly related to the present goal or indirectly via a similar or lateral endeavor can prove to have enduring benefits. Repeated practice, with successes, build on the portfolio. Sending your employees off to a training and then never having them put into practice what they learned at the training is money thrown out the window three times over. There was the cost of the training, the cost of the personnel who covered the absence, and the wages paid while the employee was attending the training but left with no way to use it. Make that thrown out the window four times.

I’m not certain how a candidate can adequately convey knowledge and experience gained from being in the trenches. That type of insight provides a very deep awareness and appreciation of what the customer/audience wants and needs. It also gives a deeper appreciation of why one tactic will work compared with what the textbook said. Being in the trenches gives the practitioner more genuineness. When you pull out of the trenches, the landscape may still look the way it did when you entered it. But there have been changes on both sides of the picture.


Incidentally, I’m finally about to embark on a long delayed step in my professional endeavors (which has spawned some of this writing). The handouts for a talk I’m doing later this month will be created as digital content. I’m learning about creating and publishing an ebook. The simple act of talking about “front matter” became a six-hour exercise of following instructions based on old technology and obsolete protocols. The updated information is now available. Meanwhile, there’s been searching for what was discussed under the old protocols. There’s been applying the principles to test runs. And there’s been time to recognize distractions and time management issues – in addition to the need for trial runs.

The term “front matter” is not the same in every genre. Which brings me back to terminology and jargon. Make certain you’re talking about the same thing as the experience is being discussed or described. Also be certain of what is considered proficient and standard in that part of the world compared with where the work is to be performed. Avoid throwing out the proverbial baby.


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May 14, 2017

Conflict: Metrics cf. Performance

Filed under: Ethics,Management,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 1:57 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The idea for it was probably spawned by fitness tracking appliances. Whether it becomes a standard practice embraced by employees remains to be seen. Right now electronic badges worn by employees can track their physiology and provide information about their performance and engagement in the workplace. The badges are also equipped with two speakers that track the quality of vocalizations (not the words) in order to detect tension. The only time the speakers aren’t in operation is when an employee enters the bathroom.

Employers and managers use the data provided by these trackers in order to determine who is performing and at what level. The question is whether these badges are then useful for determining who needs additional training or coaching or maybe even a transfer to a different department where the employee skills are better used.

What the trackers do provide is feedback to the employees who elected to use them. The data also provides them with information about what may have contributed to a good, productive day compared with one of those days when their performance wasn’t as stellar.

What are the ethics in using this type of tracked information? One argument is the badges are only issued to employees who are willing to use them. That is the PR statement. It doesn’t address the matter of how many employees submit to using the badges because they fear retaliation or negative consequences if they refuse.

Another thing to consider with regard to performance is the degree to which outside factors, such as family stresses, influence a worker’s performance or reaction to various stimuli. Health conditions can also figure into how people manage situations, health conditions that were previously a private matter. Still another critical issue is the level of ethical practices an employee uses in executing their job. An aggressive sales person will use many questionable tactics in order to close the deal. Concerns about consequences after the fact are negligible, if they exist at all. Obviously, those more aggressive tactics are not going to be reported to the supervisor or manager. And it may be that the manager is the one who set the example for the strategy.

Still, we are told it’s the data that is the payload for the founder of Humanyze. So there’s little incentive to make these badges a pricey item to add to the management toolbox and increases its desirability for increasing productivity, engagement, and more informed management strategies. It provides more information, metrics, insight into what makes the worker tick.

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November 8, 2014

Telltale Signs: Company Profile

A young man stood on the bus stop wearing a navy blue suit. He held a notebook-sized portfolio. His attire was impeccable. I ventured a guess and decided to test it.

“So how did the interview go?”

“Okay. But I’m not sure about them.”

“Just okay? Do you think you’ll accept the position?”

The more he spoke, the more I noticed excellent articulation and vocabulary. There were some physical features that were not very attractive. However, they were quickly dismissed as he continued his discussion of the interview and his analysis of the company and how he would fit into the organization, if he chose to. It was a restaurant and he was to be the host.

He talked about the glowing interview and the very attractive offer that was made. He expressed uncertainty about the acceptance and I questioned him, again.

“I’m not sure about them. There’s a lot of talk but they make me nervous. They’re cutting too many corners.”

Just as important to the recruiter is not only the candidate’s appearance on paper and in person but also how the client looks. And just as the candidate needs to present a good appearance and profile, so does the client. Care needs to be devoted to the quality that goes into the product in addition to the running of the company. Selection of those who appreciate those imperatives and can deliver in a professional, ethical manner is what needs to be reached.

The recruiter is looking for the best match for both sides. Very important to their livelihood is the client who has desirable attributes. A savvy executive management candidate, as well as the recruiter, will consider things such as amount of time in business, success record, office atmosphere, profit and loss statement, vision, planning, industry ranking and reputation, management, turnover rate, timely payment of debts and debt management, to mention just a few factors.

Cutting corners shows, no matter what the corners. When recruiting for the best, it’s important to put forth the best image possible. In the long run, you’ll attract the best and most loyal customers as well as the best candidates who will serve them to keep your business alive and profitable.

What is your interviewing style saying about your company?

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Republished from Career and Executive Recruiting Advice (October 31, 2002)
Republished from (June 5, 2001)

September 13, 2009

Social Responsibility

The September 11 observances were so moving. Some of the people who posted to my Comments on another site shared remarkable things. Some who wrote to me privately told of things that can be proven. Their statements show the bad faith and puppeteering of the day’s events. Just as with learning that the re-election of Bush the Younger was an inevitability, I was disappointed but no longer shocked at the news.

Explanations for the Inaction

Perhaps that loss of shock and social indignation is the reason so many of us allowed the snowballing effect of allowing our rights to be usurped. That was probably accompanied by (as in the Nixon regime) being overwhelmed with so many social, economic, and career upheavals that the only thing we could do was simply try to make the band-aid work to patch the gaping hole in our social fabric and livelihood.

I received many posts from a fellow in Morocco. The posts show the effects of the bombings and uranium that contaminates the environment. The quotes he provided and the anecdotes of life in the war zone(s) make me hate the fact that we, like sheep, accepted the increasingly fascist rule under the Reagan/Bush/Bush regimes and that we never had the motivation to exercise our rights as citizens to remove the ones (especially the last one) from office for failure to do the will of the people. Indeed, the majority of the people were willing to swallow the swill passed off as patriotism and a worthy national cause as truth. We blindly marched to the edge of the cliff and our own destruction in lemming style.

Racial Damnation

The fact that minorities, especially Blacks who are doomed to live out their lives in the ghetto, existing with poor education, lackluster values, their only hope contained in the deals they’re able to do to earn more than minimum wage and overcome the restrictions of welfare is consciously devastating to me. The fact that there are those who would, by example and deportment, damn others who are not of that ilk (and never were) is also disappointing to me.

The fact that Blacks carry such a burden from one generation to the next for eternity is not a curse but a test of how resilient the race can be. It is a test of each person with any part of an identity with that race to show the best of who they are. We are leaders, all of us, and we must lead by example.

When can we stop and relax? Only when behind our own doors and still being the best we can be for our own selves and for the sake of proving to our God that He has made a good steward in us to carry out His works in marvelous ways. Each time we go slack, we invite those who would keep us under their foot and in social bondage, we confirm their low opinion of us. We sin against ourselves. More importantly, we confirm that we are an example of what can be expected of the race — the poorest in personal habits, language, work product, knowledge, and everything else.

I still remember the words of my Second Grade teacher. I can’t remember what caused her to make the pronouncement. And in the mid 1950s, elementary school classes were a mix of colors and races, all children simply there to learn and be part of the mix without regard to the differences. But she told her charges, “. . . because you are Negro, you will have to be twice as good [as the Whites] in order to be considered half as good.” Her words were to encourage us to learn as much as we could and to put that knowledge to use in all aspects of our lives.

Where are those values today? Do we teach those values to the youth of today? I think not. I believe we teach them to expect to be subjugated and cut out of the race to be best. They then opt for their own entrepreneurial path, not realizing they do not have the training and knowledge to embark on such an endeavor. Thus, they stumble and do business in a poor and slipshod way, thereby setting an example that minority, and especially Black, business people are not a good choice for goods, services, advice and so on.

How should we survive? Will we overcome?

October 13, 2008

Candidate Face Off

Filed under: Hiring — Yvonne LaRose @ 9:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

These presidential debates and Town Halls are starting to move me back into Total Immersion. Everything I see has some relationship to job search, sourcing, recruiting, candidate development, retention, and promotion. They have me thinking quite a bit about diversity and legitimate qualifications. And they’ve got me thinking a lot about interviewing.

I’m at the stage where I’m thinking what if we had a face-off between the last two or last three contenders for a C-level position. Instead of keeping the candidates away from one another and their responses to our many questions about “what if” and “how would you” or “where would you” we did things much differently. We would put them in a conference room with the members of the Hiring Committee, the full Board, and the Officers. The members of this auspicious audience would pose questions to the candidates. The questions would be based on specific topics that are pertinent to the governance and welfare of the company. A la Town Hall style debate, the candidates would respond to the questions and also be allowed additional time to respond to or refute the answer their opponent gave.

I’ve been frustrated this election year with the fact that I’m not able to easily take in the debates. Even more frustrating is the fact that it appears the candidates are falling back on speechifying and spouting rhetoric rather than delving into talking about the difficult issues and coming up with projected plans and workable designs for this nation and its people.

The frustration is exacerbated by the overwhelming amount of dysfunction impacting us due to the fascist regime under which we’ve labored for the past eight years. It is a regime that feels it is answerable to no one and is completely privileged and untouchable. It’s use of the many economic tools is without knowledge and appreciation of the inevitable outcomes from mismanagement. We shouldn’t be surprised and shocked at the pervasive amount of fallout impacting us at this date.

Why would we do something that’s this far off the traditional path of interviewing and screening? These types of debate interviews or face-offs would allow the stakeholders to see the full strengths each candidate brings to the table on a pro rata basis. These face-offs could have the advantage of showing which candidate has the strengths the company needs at this time and provide insight into how those strengths would actually be used to get the desired results.

Aren’t interviews and their content supposed to be private? That’s what we’ve been told for centuries. Perhaps it’s time to break the mold. No one has given us solid reasons why the types of responses we seek from these candidates should be obscure and occult. In fact, this is the level at which the enterprise needs to know from the outset whether the potential leader is one who is ethical and how well they articulate the goals and agenda of the company.

There are so many times when the same question is not posed to all the candidates. Therefore, how they would have answered compared with their competition is still a mystery. Yet decisions are made based on what was said, who seemed to provide the best answers, and recollections that strive to retain what was said by the other candidate some three to five weeks before. And these recollections are beside the point that there have been many unrelated meetings and negotiations and other business that has overriden this minor step in the hiring process.

Additionally, this alternative interviewing style affords us with a new perspective of the candidates. C-level workers are the leaders of the corporation. They are the vision of not only where the company is going but the best way to get there. They set the tone for the style and manner in which things are done. They are the role models. How they handle challenges, pick up theirselves when there’s a misstep, their communication strength, and graciousness are all part and parcel of what we’re trying to get right. Having these candidates face one another is a true test of how well they can handle the challenge of facing any opposition.

This is a time when the stakeholders can get a very accurate picture of what the candidates see as the major emphasis and focus for the company. It is also the time when everyone can see and hear how well the candidate has prepared himself with knowledge of the company, its standing, and other important aspects that relate to making decisions on behalf of the company.

Does the candidate play to his or her own strengths or does s/he use denigration to gain position over their contender? How solid is the candidate’s knowledge of the issues facing the company? It’s important to know whether the person appreciates the competition’s brand compared with that of the company as well as whether they have ideas about how to enhance that image. Having them discuss these matters on a page for page basis is much better than getting caught up in something that takes us off in another direction that simply does not compare.

If nothing else, having these simultaneous interviews does something very important for the company. It allows the contenders to know who the other is. Wherever the also ran goes, there also goes a new contact and a relationship and respect that was built on clear and open communication.

Perhaps this proposed final interview of C-level candidates is over simplified. Maybe it wouldn’t work because the human factor in any situation is always the one that simply cannot be predicted. It is always possible that between the two final contenders, one is more ruthless and unethical and will then turn back to their competitor’s company and let the word slip that they met the other candidate while having talks with the company about a mission critical vacancy.

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