The Desk

July 15, 2017

Evaluating Character

There are candidates who present themselves and proclaim that they have a passion about a particular cause that makes them uniquely qualified because of the insights that passion caused them to discover. For the most part, this is a very real facet of gaining knowledge and expertise. It supplements knowledge of the primary discipline that, in turn, creates the ability to forecast consequences of one act compared with another on future outcomes.

Sometimes the interview will aid in discovering the candidate’s growing interest in their passion and how it’s applicable to the work they seek. Some will be insightful and bring this interest into the conversation at some strategic time. Caution needs to be used if the added awareness and qualification for the position is couched on this passion and not direct experience.

Sometimes this “passion” is fleeting; it exists only for the sake of gaining a better position over the competition. One sign of a fleeting passion is the inability to have a detailed conversation about it as it relates to the position, the work, the overall direction of the company and its target. Or there may be detailed knowledge. The false passion is more like a moving target as discussion of it evolves in relation to the position – or anything else. Scrutiny comes into play to discern whether the knowledge is tantamount to merely parroting marketplace rhetoric. One with real passion will be able to offer unique insights; they have ideas that are more than the typical hyperbole.

We all have biases of one type or another. It’s important to be aware of them and to admit to them so that those biases can be put aside when making critical decisions, especially about hiring qualified talent. That’s why evaluating a candidate who professes a special interest that makes them more qualified than others needs special care.

Melania Trump’s passion about children, especially abused children, became a matter for closer scrutiny and an example of necessary care when evaluating a candidate. Because of her association with an unpopular, high-profile figure (not to mention some very public gaffes), she does not have the usual adoring audience. In fact, her background shows behavior that’s been quite the opposite of the reaction that is usually expected of someone in her position.

We look at the woman who is noted as having a favorable university education. A rare quality is that she speaks seven foreign languages. She is noted as having a strong interest in art, architecture, and design. On paper, it’s expected that she would be the one making decisions about her destiny and being very outspoken in that area. Yet, the public gaffes that follow and haunt her show she has poor discretion and depends on others to do her speech writing.

She has declared FLOTUS causes that are vogue since the late days of the campaign only to abandon one for something else that seems to be taking public attention by storm and then abandoning that cause as well. Does this FLOTUS have a cause, a passion?

There is a consistency in her behavior. Using recent audio clips of statements she’s made, we find she is noted for her defense of her controversial husband with the averment, “while her husband is fair and treats everyone equally, he will ‘punch back ten times harder’ if he is attacked.” Perhaps that defense was pulled from a statement her husband made a year earlier.

Those who speculated about her refusal to move into the White House in January. She made a campaign declaration that she wears the color of the place where she lives. Many thought that meant she eagerly looked forward living in the White House. After hearing one fabricated-sounding excuse after another for keeping her distance from her husband’s new domicile for five months, speculation rose that she may be suffering from abuse and wanted to keep the distance for whatever reason could be manufactured.

In May, the President and his wife took their first official trip outside of the United States. In the initial days of the trip, the relationship showed strain. It wasn’t until the flight that brought the couple home to the White House that the tension dissipated. Uncharacteristic of previous behavior, she seemed animated and happy, even in the presence of her husband. That was also the day when Melania’s interest in fostering her FLOTUS cause was announced, care for children of abuse.

Attention to children of abuse seems like a legitimate cause. The speculation about the atmosphere in the First Family home points to the possibility that this is the cause that will endure. However, the reasoning for her absence from the home evaporated when it was reported that she had Secret Service escort her son to and from school while she stayed in the Trump Tower penthouse alone. Yet she seemed to blossom when in the company of abused children in foreign countries.

The legitimacy of her cause to support abuse victims also wears thin when we hear that campaign support of her husband repeated in speeches after the inauguration and as more damaging headlines emerge about the leadership abilities of her husband. “. . . he will ‘punch back ten times harder’ if he is attacked.” Has Melania developed Stockholm Syndrome and it’s being evidenced by way of this repeated statement in his defense?

This candidate is stellar on paper. But once the background investigation begins, the visage falls apart. Perhaps the abused children cause is yet another cause du jour.


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October 30, 2014

Having an Impact – Appearance

Do looks matter when vying for a new position or even when seeking acceptance? The larger man and ‪woman face many challenges when they endeavor to ‪dress the part and be accepted as a leader in their industry. It can become a challenge in many ways. In particular, finding fashion that makes the right statement, is affordable, and flatters the physique can be difficult.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new job interview that requires the right attire. It can also be a matter of commanding the necessary level of respect when making a presentation, teaching, doing public speaking, or just appearing before cameras.

To what extent are we missing one of the best by ignoring the larger sized person? This isn’t a constant phenomenon but it is an obstacle that confronts much of our population. Perhaps it isn’t so much the size of the person that becomes a hiring deterrent as much as the health risks the larger person carries and the resulting impact on health insurance premiums. It could be that a subsidized fitness center membership could be included among the cafeteria benefits offered in order to allay those issues. Just a thought.

Let’s consider the special challenges women face when it comes to vying for upper management and leadership positions. We’re told that they find it useful to dress for power, the better to gain the influence they seek. The more likely they will not become mired in a support position they outgrew decades before. A New York Times article considers this proposition and concludes that the higher one climbs, the more limited the fashion choices become. After all, there are only so many ways to wear a suit (or especially a dress) without a masculine cut and avoid having a soft, pushover image. Women, by necessity, are forced to make bolder strides in fashion so that their voices, identity, and authority can override the traditional perspective of being weak and subservient.

Notice where this feminine fashion dynamic is happening in the NYT article? There are an important lessons to be derived from this. It isn’t “sexy”, per se, that’s driving the advancement. Being attractive, even alluring, gains attention and a desire to have this person around. But those aren’t necessarily the same magnets that garner respect and regard for being extremely talented. They’re merely part of marketing and branding. But the overriding emphasis is on knowledge and ability. A woman’s attire needs to communicate those skills without her making exaggerated demonstrations of them in other ways. They become part of her brand.

In this instance, brand represents gaining success and being able to have improved status by association. The critical ingredient to all of this is having and using good knowledge and wisdom. Then fashion is merely the window dressing for the ultimate prize.

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November 21, 2010

Career Tip: My Insufferable Boss

D-Day has happened in your career life. Your boss, your unfulfilling job, the long commute, the incredibly long hours, the overwhelming amount of endless work finally got to you. You’re looking for a new job. Interviews are scheduled at discrete times and you’re preparing for each one.

What’s your history been at your place of employment? One of the questions you’ll be asked during at least one of those interviews is what your former employer will say about you. Another surprising question will be what you think about your former place of employment. This is when how tactful you have been will come into play.

It’s one thing to be circumspect and keep your grousing to yourself. The bitter comments you want to share with your “vowed to silence” best friends, chummy co-workers, and relatives may come back to haunt you if you say them aloud to someone else. The pent-up complaints that you key to your journal on Facebook could be read by some unsuspected eyes. Your image rides on how you say the positive as well as express the negative.

Your boss seemed to be out of touch with the job. They needed to be led by the nose through the simplest of things. Even though you were new to the industry, you provided the 20-year veteran through the most common sense strategies. What you say is, “I was a key support person and helped build the business in a lot of critical ways.” Have success stories to demonstrate your insightful additions and statistics available to show growth of business revenue.

You’re talking to the person on the bus or train about the type of day you had. You don’t know this person from the proverbial Adam. They may be the best friend of some person at your office who’s in a critical position. They may be your supervisor’s best friend or neighbor. If you must express your exasperation, talk about how overwhelmed you are with the volume of the work. Share that you see developing a better strategy with getting things done. Take into account that you need to get better organized and keep a schedule or check list. Definitely do not blame your boss for your ills; don’t engage in name calling. Remember, this stranger may be your interviewer the next day – or the friend of that person.

There are ways to say the boss isn’t one you’d keep on your top ten favorites list. The better route is to talk about whatever positives there are. They can then be countered with a tactful reason why they simply don’t amount to enough to keep you at the company.

Reasons that don’t keep you can be the firm is cutting back or the culture simply isn’t a match. This last one will need to be backed up with some of the knowledge you have about the place where you’re interviewing as well as the positive things it has demonstrated as being a desirable place for a person who has your skills and talents that are being offered.

You’re probably getting the picture by this point. Definitely don’t bad mouth your last place of employment nor the boss. Let the fact that you are mature, tactful, and discrete be part of the pluses you bring to the table that aren’t documented on your resume. Let’s leave the talk about my insufferable boss to the comedy show.

March 16, 2009

All It Takes

Filed under: Job Search,Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 9:01 PM
Tags: , ,

As if I don’t have enough to do, I have a series of meetings with government agencies the rest of this week. It seems they’ve stopped doing something very vital (paying me) and it’s causing a compromise in my agenda (paying my bills). Today’s meeting was striking because of the couple of questions that were asked asked. It was as though some angel were listening and watching and giving signals on what the job seeker should be doing during their interviews.

The precipitating questions were, “What is the highest grade you’ve completed in school?” and “Do you have any special education or training?”

In response to the first question, I answered two years of law school. In the back of my mind I was screaming and saying, “It wasn’t a grade as in high school. It was actual advanced studies.” But I just mildly responded without commentary. Commentary wasn’t necessary.

Things blossomed when I answered the second question. The litany went something on the order of:

  • Mediation. In response to when, I said 1994.
  • Tutoring. Literacy tutoring as well as youth tutoring. I wasn’t asked for the years in which these activities occurred and did not volunteer them.
  • Disability accommodations for the visually impaired and through the Arthritis Foundation, learning disabilities, and several others that I can’t remember right now.
  • Domestic violence. I’m a domestic violence advocate as well as a legal domestic violence advocate.

By that time, it was difficult to remember whether there was any additional “special training or education.” But that list that rolled off the top of my head begged the question,

“So do I get the job?”

The interviewer and I both laughed. With all of those qualifications, it was more than appropriate to ask. Yet how many job seekers do so? Scant to none is the answer I’d venture. Why so few who will ask for the job after more than qualifying theirselves for it? Perhaps modesty is the answer. Then again, perhaps it’s due to fear. But there’s nothing to fear. Fear of failure? No. With that list, there were only successes and those under one’s control who would sneak to be reunited with you in order to stay with the program and keep growing. There were not litanies of failure.

Job seekers need to rethink their interviewing strategies. Maybe all it takes to get the job is to ask for it.

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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