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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May 4, 2016

Interests and Hobbies for Distinction

Filed under: Hiring,Job Search,Recruiting — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:38 PM
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An article recently came to my attention. The recommendations were dubious. Then an opportunity to share the knowledge with a group of recruiters arose. The group shared my reservations. The recommendation was to include one’s interests and hobbies on the resume and profile in order to distinguish special skills and stand out among the competition. The article proposed that the interests and hobbies would indicate particular strengths and abilities that can be used as indicia of success in the job that needs to be filled. dreamstimefree_14073429

The group of recruiters voiced opinions on the matter:

  • “I don’t normally pay attention to that section.”
  • It doesn’t really have any relevance to the job that’s on my desk
  • “I don’t use it.”

Job seekers are looking for whatever they can use to set themselves apart in a positive way. No doubt they will read that same article and believe that the advice applies to all job searches of whatever type and all manner of positions. After a lot of research in order to re-locate the correct article, one rose to the surface that made some distinguishing points about using hobbies and interests. They are helpful when the position is in a more esoteric area that requires unique skills that indicate traits such as perseverance, attention to detail, impervious to high levels of stress.

But what about the company that needs to fill a vacancy for a position in a special needs school? The person who knows and is able to use sign language may list that as a language skill and hobby in light of the fact that they do volunteer work at the John Tracy Clinic.

When we speak of job search, there’s an automatic default to ideas about jobs in the office. However, there are many types of jobs in different industries. A person could have a strong interest in health and medicine but they don’t want to be involved in working on people. There are also animals that require similar services. What about forestry as an option. Or that same person simply doesn’t want to be involved in health services but has a strong interest and keen skills in computers and programming. Perhaps their path to success is in the health sciences arena at a hospital or health facility.

So the candidate loves DIY projects. Could that mean they’re good a analysis, have strong concentration and focus skills, and are good at interpreting diagrams? Maybe there’s a niche for them in some form of construction or machine work.

The world of work is becoming increasingly complicated in regard to qualifying for a position and simply getting in the door. Occupations that you wouldn’t think of as requiring a resume now use that tool as part of the entry point. Do hobbies and extracurricular activities have a place and purpose on the resume or application? At times, they do. But they need to be used strategically if they are used at all. Sometimes they can become the bullet that shot the high school cheerleader who is applying for a mid-level management position in the foot. She’s remembered decades after leaving her application but not for the reasons she intended.

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July 23, 2012

Qualified and Disabled

QUESTION:

After making formal application for an advertised opportunity, I was invited to interview. When the interviewer saw that I am blind and use a wheelchair, she exclaimed that she could not see how I would be of benefit to that company [in light of my disabilities].

I got the job but I would like to know what to do the next time I interview and face a similar negative attitude.

ANSWER:

I’m glad that this sounds as though the outcome was positive. It shows that you demonstrated some excellent skills and ability to do the job. Congratulations. It also sounds as though you did a very good job of creating a sense of credibility for yourself through doing well during the interview. Possibly, you said empowering things that you did not even realize you were saying.

In answering your question, let me start then by discussing the most essential presentation during an interview.

  • your skills and qualifications for the opportunity
  • quantifiable evidence of how you are qualified
  • how those skills and qualifications will help the business function as well or better with you in the position.

You already pointed out that you were early for the appointment. That is good. It shows that you appreciate timeliness and that worked in your favor. No doubt, you took with you two extra copies of your resume so that they were ready in case your interviewer did not have it on top of her desk and you had one for yourself to pull out and discuss with them. You demonstrated being well prepared and skill in foreseeing and making contingency plans for unforseen circumstances. You showed diplomacy and tact.

The focus should not be on your shortcomings nor your disability (please note that those are two different things) but on you, how and why you are qualified. Discuss your direct, on-the-job experience that relates to the new opportunity. Discuss how well you performed in your last situation and how your input was beneficial to the customer and the company. If there were things or situations that were done better because of your involvement, talk about them.

Your speech should be cordial, business-like and professional. It should be at a good volume – not loud nor apologetic. Make certain your voice does not sound whiney – don’t be a martyr nor a cry baby. You are a strong, intelligent professional person. Show that in your deportment and presentation.

Finally (for this writing), openly discuss your disabilities. However, do not apologize for them. Discuss how adaptive you are to many situations and in short order so that you have several approaches to situations. These are not disabilities; they are opportunities for new ways of doing things. They are abilities that others do not have. Sometimes being in a chair makes you better suited for doing certain things better or more easily than others. Having low vision or no vision affords you with still other advantages. Point them out.

And having a disability is not the same as not being able. It is merely a different way of handling life and business situations. Two of your fellow South Africans have discussed coming into meaningful contributions to business and society by realizing how those “disabilities” proved to be assets and empowerment. Likewise, they point out how that South Africa’s (as well as India’s) relatively recent affirmative action legislation has created new legal bases for opening doors.

Although it positively states that those with disabilities are entitled to vie for opportunities, there is still a long way to go as far as making that new legislation meaningful for there is still the critical element of educating employers about the opportunities that are available to them through using all of the diverse population – diverse in age, sex, race and abilities. Likewise, there is still the matter of educating employers about the fact that employing those with “disabilities” is not a costly proposition and does not mean extraordinary expense to include that segment of candidates in the considered roster of candidates and personnel.

You did well and it appears you did so without realizing you did so. Focus on how you will be an asset to the company and will save money, enhance the business opportunities, have abilities that your co-workers may not have because of the issues that others see as shortcomings. Affirmatively show how you are qualified and “disabled.”

About the Author:

Yvonne LaRose was a Disabilities Accommodation Provider in the Bay Area of California from 1993 to 1997 as well as one of the founding members of Bay Area Disabilities Coalition (BADC). In addition, she was a news reader for Broadcast Services for the Blind (BSB) (a private band radio station based in the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind that reaches 13,000 listeners in 13 counties) from 1993 to 1997. From BSB, she produced and hosted her bi-weekly radio features and newscast, “Legally Speaking” from 1994 to 1996.

Originally published December 25, 2001

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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.

August 20, 2010

Career Tip: Uniqueness and Replications

All over the world there are trillions of people. Some of them have similar experiences while others have more or less experience with such things. At some point in time, they all will have some introduction to the situation and learn the same thing but in their part of the world and environment.

It makes sense, then, that these people will discuss those experiences with others. Sometimes the conversation will happen at approximately the same time as their counterpart in another part of the globe or some time in the future. The point is there is a similarity of thought and conversation in many places. Such is the nature of the universal mind. They are spreading and sharing knowleged, most likely for the benefit of others.

While there are instances where someone who is near us (either physically, in reading matter, or via some online conversation) will intentionally repeat what they’ve heard us say and claim ownership of the unique thought. There are other times when the universal mind has not played a part in the repetition. Know the distinction between the two. In the first instance the pretender will expose their lack of unique knowledge. It will be difficult for them to support a conversation about the subject matter, come up with unique approaches to the task, or explain how to execute the responsibilities.

Applicant Uniqueness

In job search, an employer will gather a group of applicants who all have very similar qualifications that match the job description. What the employer is seeking is the one candidate (sometimes more) who is most qualified to do the work and who has the best personality fit with the company brand, enterprise personnel, and corporate clientele.

Many job seekers think of their fellow applicants as competition that needs to be, like a political foe, undermined in some what in order to cut them out of picture. This is a short-sighted approach to qualifying your own self for the position in order to be hired.

Just as a business makes itself stand out from other brands because of something they have that meets the consumer’s needs or preferences, so it goes with the applicants for the job. It’s your responsibility to get to know who you are and what makes you specially suited for the job — or not suited for the job. You need to know your brand and why employers want your special additive for the productivity requirements they have.

Rather than browbeat your competition by panning their unique expertise, differentiate yourself by talking about how they are very good but what you have to offer is even better because of its uniqueness. Give examples of when and where it paid off. Leave the interviewers with the impression that they just got through talking to a winner who’s also up to date on being a solution to their problems.

You’re not a replication, you’re unique. You are part of the universal mind and knowledge but you have a unique approach to it. One day you’ll collaborate with others of that mind in order to create something really great. It will be magnificent because of the many perspectives and experiences that formulated solving the problem and producing good results.

March 16, 2009

All It Takes

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

July 27, 2007

Recruiting Tip: Learning the Qualifications

Throughout the past ten years, we’ve been talking about the war for talent and the lack of qualified candidates. At least, the rhetoric is that they’re so sparse that they come at a premium. To get that prize is the same as churning because you simply keep going through the same spare number who are already in the marketplace and seem to be very satisfied with where they are and with what they’re doing. And all the others go to the waste can.

There have been many times that I’ve watched a conversation evolve and dissolve about screening applicants. There’s the perusal of the resume for the desired background and skills. Some things look interesting. Some things just don’t seem to be a match. Still, this “comer” seems as though they’re worth expending a little coaching time on in order to develop them for the next time. Some recruiters offer resume restructuring advice without disclosing the fact that the applicant’s qualifications (which are more than the minimum required) didn’t jump out and bite them. Other recruiters will ask leading questions in order to get the applicant to self-disqualify. I call this brainwashing into mediocrity (or less). Still other recruiters simply blast off a cursory email (does anyone still write letters?) saying the background was impressive but not a match, we’ll keep your resume on file . . . blah, blah, blah. And the last portion will simply toss the resume and keep looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

One thing all four of these types of recruiters have in common is that they need to know more about the particular industry in which they’re recruiting. Usually these are generalists who have a “soft” feel for what the position is about, the general requirements, a rhetorical stab at years of experience necessary. Since they have no background in that particular field, there is little to no familiarity with terms of the trade, steps involved in moving from one rung on the experience ladder to the next, matters involved in the execution of certain tasks and how those can translate into another field as lateral experience.

There are many reasons why the recruiter does not ask about these things. And time is the highest reason for not researching the position in order to learn about these matters. That is “time to fill” the order, “time to place” the candidate, time to get paid for doing the work, time to do this day’s cold calling. Therefore, the extremely qualified candidate gets passed over because their shorthand presentation of the junior steps toward being qualified for the opportunity are mere fluff to them.

Starting a conversation with this applicant about why they are not qualified is a bit like spitting in their face. No one wins. One walks away thoroughly insulted; the other with a false belief that they have done a good turn. In an industry where building relationships is premium, it is crucial to frame conversations with applicants so that the applicant can maintain their self esteem. No one wants their experience or their work to be minimized or discounted. And the last thing on a priority list is for the applicant to go away with the impression that the recruiter doesn’t know what they’re doing — or worse, are simply crude. That means not only is the contact lost but also any referrals they may have sent are vanished with them.

There are qualifications for a position. Those merits were earned in a particular way and made the person qualified for a reason. Find out what they are and why they’re important. Discover which tasks are not as important and which that are superfluous.

In other words when you’re doing the recruiting for this specialized position, become a specialist in the position that’s being recruited. Gain the extra knowledge. You will not only be doing your client a good service. You’ll also be helping yourself win the talent war because you took the time to learn the qualifications for the position, which skills are needed, and why they’re meaningful. Not only that, you’ll immediately (or very soon) recognize the qualified candidate.

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