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.

Examples

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.

Epiphanies

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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January 2, 2016

Exposure and Expertise

Businessman giving an used book to another businessman, learning to survive

Businessman giving a used book to another businessman, learning to survive

There’s a constant search for the best qualified candidate to be added to your workforce. They come to the table with all the education that’s required by the job description. They have the right amount of experience performing the tasks that need to be done. They are aware of the terminology and use it in appropriate context. They are wonderful when it comes to timely execution and speed. Why do they have all of these gifts? Where can you find more of them?

No doubt some of these skills were gained in the classes they took. Still others were developed with exposure to various technologies. Still other things were learned through conversations and reading all manner of trade and recreational content.

How useful all of this knowledge proves to be depends on its source and the amount and type of education that accompanied it. If it was merely parroting something without any appreciation of what the expression means or its history, not to mention the why of its use, then it’s simply doing because you were told to do so when x, y, or z occurred.

You can break a contract but taken literally, it’s difficult to see how a piece of paper can be broken. How many who don’t have exposure to that term understand that violating the terms of the agreement can result in losing the benefits of the association? We can talk about algorithms. That’s a fine and fancy name for having different bases of measuring things that are already in daily use. We count denominations of money using a base of 10. However, we measure distances, space, and time with a base of 12. All of those are algorithms. Does the neophyte realize this? Perhaps not. They’re simply intimidated by this new word and concept that’s been put before them with no explanation.

Taking a skills test can be similar to taking a classroom evaluation of the last section that was taught. However, screening and selection tests such as the LSAT or the SAT are an entirely different thing. If the applicant has never experienced an evaluation process of that type, it shouldn’t be expected that they will perform well on literally their first exposure – unless, of course, there’s some form of genius lurking in those brain cells.

Scalia recently opined that Blacks should not be put into the better educational institutions because they have poor learning skills. That might be true were it not for the fact that educating Blacks has historically been an after thought (if that much). Like women, they were to be kept uneducated in order to have better control over the population and keep them in a state of being disenfranchised. And even in that ethnicity, plus the combinations that created racial and ethnic Creoles, there have been those who found patrons who saw the benefits of providing quality education to them. In the alternative, the population found ways to gain even the rudimentary gems of education in order to propel them into something more.

Education is a prized aspired to by all races and ethnicities. Each family sees it as the tool that will bring fulfillment of the promise of a better life and empowerment. But that promise cannot be realized if the mentoring and educating to create the employable candidate is not provided.

So develop your employee education programs to your advantage. Also develop mentoring programs with an eye toward reducing apathy while increasing engagement and productivity. The exposure to the concepts and terminology will provide you with more than just the ideal candidate for the next step on the ladder.

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November 2, 2014

Do the Research

Entrances is a 360 networking forum on LinkedIn. It’s for an exchange of information and for networking with others in order to develop new connections and awareness of new opportunities. The purpose is to gain better insights about another part of the employment sector other than your own space so that better choices are made based in feedback from the other players. One goal is developing relationships that can lead to referrals.

Entrances-Faces of the workplace

Entrances – Making sound choices based on informed networking

While it isn’t a forum for political speech, there are a series of videos running that are produced by ColorofChange.org based on their #IfTheySpeakForMe theme . They show by various examples of what ensues if others make choices for you because you didn’t do your research; instead, you were passive and took whatever you got. In this weekend before midterm elections, the videos emphasize the importance of doing good research before embarking on an endeavor or entering into relationships.

With those compelling ColorofChange messages are scenarios of hair care dictated by a stranger and being hijacked in a taxi. Those are similar to taking on employment with a client or employer you haven’t researched.

I encourage you to do the research this weekend that will help you make the right choice for you in the voting booth. Remember to vote. Exercise your rights.

Who Is This

That being said, remember to do some research, ask meaningful questions, about where your livelihood is or will be. Find out who the potential employer is. Determine whether the recruiter is the right one for you. What does the recruiter want in terms of a “qualified candidate” and how can the resume writer or the career coach help you them reach your goals. Maybe they simply are not the right fit. Maybe their philosophies are (and never will be) in consonance with your own ethics or beliefs in good practices. Consider the video wherein the hairstyle of several women is determined by a total stranger who contravenes the women’s wishes and relationship with their hairdresser.

We’ve talked about hair in Entrances from the perspective of what is accepted by the other side of the employment desk. It was intended to look at the various styles, colors, whether it constituted good grooming, and whether hairstyle is a valid hiring criteria. A few interesting views were expressed.

Making Impressions

Has someone impressed you with their words? What did they do to make that impression? How reliable are they? Would you be willing to refer them to something that may be a good match for what they have to offer?

Bottom Line

Which is the more important emphasis? Know who the employer is. Know their product or service before going on the interview or taking them on as a client. Recruiters are held liable for the misdeeds of their clients. It is a recruiter’s duty to guide a client along the more ethical path if they are erring in their decisions or execution of their business practices. But it’s imperative to know all of these things before getting involved or else having a delicate but compelling reason for taking a different, better path to open the right door and make better entrances.

March 13, 2009

Job Search Effectiveness

Filed under: Job Search,Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:03 AM
Tags: , , ,

There are so many in the media who are more than enthusiastic about jumping on the “tight labor market” bandwagon. It seems like everyone and his neighbor is harping about how hard it is to find a job and the extraordinary lengths to which people need to go in order to find one.

Are you having trouble finding candidates who are qualified to fill your reqs?

On yesterday’s news, a guy was interviewed. He stands on a street corner everyday at 5:30 AM with a sheaf of his resume under his arm. He passes out his resume until 7:30 AM and then goes elsewhere to do other job search activities. He said he highlights a few things here and there in his resume and relies on the person who’s reading it to do some intuitive, active reading to draw lineals from one experience to another.

There’s a flaw in that thinking. Recruiters who review resumes only have about one minute, at best two, to see the matches for the job req they have on their desk. If it doesn’t jump out at them within that time, it goes into the slush pile until the next time they’re looking for that same generic job title.

The other thing this guy who stands on the street corner does is yet another of the sins he’s committing against himself. In the discussions, we’ve shared about the one-minute impressionand how that boils down into the 15- or 30-second elevator pitch. Apparently the resume distributor has those first three elements of the positive impression down pat.

But when it came to talking about what he wants, he dismally failed. The reporter was adept at asking what he’d done before. We got a vague answer about management here and supervision there but nothing we could sink our teeth into. (Maybe I wanted to go see this guy. I may have something to offer him.)

The reporter pressed on. The next question was what type of job the resume distributor wants. This was the moment. He was asking for the world and the world was at his feet. His answer was, “well, I’ll take whatever is out there at this point in time.” After going through all of the efforts, he had no specific job he is angling to get.

I have to wonder how his resume points anyone to the precise thing they want let alone what he wants. No matter what shape our economy is in, there are certain things that are just basics. They have to be there in order for us to get started on a good job search. The resume distributor has put together a job history on paper and made thousands of copies of it which he diligently gives away to every passerby. But he hasn’t done any type of evaluation of this document nor attempted to tailor it to his search. In fact, he hasn’t even shaped his search!

Resume Distributor had the opportunity of a lifetime dropped into his lap. The reporter for statewide radio news asked him what type of job he wanted. His 10 seconds of fame and opportunity were there. All he could come up with was “I’m open to anything right now.”

Maybe he should have said, “. . . anything related to XYZ industry.”

I’ll bet I could have gone to the Occupational Outlook Handbook and found at least a dozen job titles that are related to this guy’s last job. From there, we could have worked on finding some things that are good matches for his personality and background and started a job search for him.

Since Resume Distributor didn’t give any clues about his background, let’s choose a generic job title and see if we can brainstorm some related job titles.

Accountant
bookkeeper
tax preparer
auditor
financial analyst
financial advisor
IRS agent
inventory taker
stock clerk

It might be fun to try some other job titles and see what alternates come up. At least we’d have some things to think about in case, during these times of change, some categories are simply being phased out.

January 29, 2009

Testing cf. Knowledge

Filed under: Education and Training — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:34 AM
Tags: , , , ,

One of the good things about laundry day is that I’m given the opportunity to get out and be social for at least three hours that day. It gives me the chance to meet other people, share in conversation with them, learn something from them, gain new knowledge. And this past Monday was no different.

This time, my laundry buddy (I’ll call her Shelly) and I struck up a conversation because she was wearing a dress that looked like one I recently bought but haven’t had the courage to wear yet. She confirmed that we’d bought from the same store and that it was probably the same style. And then we started getting acquainted.

She has a young child and is concerned about the quality of education that she’ll receive when she needs to go from the nursery school she’s presently attending and into First Grade. The child is already writing in cursive as well as reading and writing sentences. We talked about the private school options available in the neighborhood and in the community. One thing we both observed is that the Los Angeles Unified School District in our community is not serving its constituents well. Sending the child to a public school is causing Shelly great concern.

She shared her experience with East Coast universities compared with what she experienced here in California. She admitted that the East gave her much more of a challenge. I didn’t ask if the challenge could have been attributed to her freshness to Life and inexperience but took her words at face value. She also shared that CSUN offered very little challenge. Her academic exposure has been in one of the more difficult sciences, pharmacology, and urban planning. She’s also worked at City Hall and gained insight into how things operate there. Now she works part time as a tutor.

I told her it’s as though the teachers either don’t care about their charges or else are so overwhelmed that they cannot do what they were hired to accomplish. The other explanation is that the teachers aren’t qualified to handle the work. Shelly felt the observations were entirely correct but was slightly reticent to admit as much. She just kept praising the excellence of the preschool she’s found and looks forward to finding the next school that will present as much challenge and learning as it does.

At the risk of sounding pompous in that previous paragraph, I’ll supply a little background to my words. I was a candidate for the School Board in South Pasadena in 1989. During the campaign, I interviewed several of the teachers in the district to get a feel for their needs. Likewise, I paid close attention at the School Board meeting when the exchange students from Germany provided their feedback on their experience with American schools (especially upper middle class schools such as South Pasadena, a close rival of San Marino and La Canada). Additionally, I listened carefully as I talked to students about their impression of their learning experience. I was interested in the types of young people I was meeting and what the schools were producing.

The teachers complained that they’re given so much administrative work that they can’t do what they were hired to do — teach. There’s not enough time to do it. The next complaint was insufficient supplies and equipment in order to deliver state of the art instruction on equipment that is currently part of the work world. Even with a classroom aide, the teachers were being stretched to the point of snapping. Still, the South Pasadena schools were measuring up on the Stanford 9 exams and going toe to toe with San Marino year after year.

Parents in the community complained about the fact that they were reaching into their own pockets to keep the schools on par. They spoke of the dollars spent on public education for their children and wondered whether it would be more cost effective to simply give up on South Pasadena schools and send the youth to private schools instead. Financially speaking, it was becoming the same as doing so without the assurance that the charges would succeed as well as in the other environment. But then by choosing a private school, the youth no longer had that distinction of saying they were South Pas grads.

The exchange students were quite direct in their assessment and very unreserved in expressing it. They were bewildered at the amount of homework required every night. Several said it was as though the amount of learning was measured by the volume of homework assigned. But the homework was poor in quality and taught very little. At home, they would have about 20 minutes of homework that was rich in challenge compared with one hour or more of American homework that was very easy and quite repetitious.

How interesting it was to finally have power in the house again this morning and the ability to hear the news. The story that caught my attention most was the one regarding schools and how much training the students actually receive compared with the volume of homework that is meaningless in content. Students withstood volumes of testing that didn’t seem to justify the basis for the testing. It was merely to test in order to say that the students were tested. Did Shelly share our conversation with someone in the media? That wasn’t possible. Why would a reporter want that story? What newsworthiness could there be in a laundromat conversation about education? But there was the story, complete with an expert who has conducted a study of the topic and who had come to the same conclusion.

What does this say about the education we’re providing our youth? What does this say about the workforce readiness of those who seek careers and high positions? It says we’re not properly training them. It says we’re not providing the types of meaningful challenges that will benefit them in the real world. Thus, when it comes time for them to perform at peak levels, they will crumple as they reach. They will crumple for many reason.

  • They were not prepared
  • They didn’t understand the fundamentals of the task, therefore, they overlooked many small details
  • They weren’t sure of when to ask questions
  • They weren’t sure of what questions to ask
  • They relied on the advice of friends and comrades
  • They overlooked the advice and counsel of veterans
  • They took the easiest way
  • They did not plan
  • They waited for someone else to do for them
  • They had the impression that “professional” meant stylish
  • They had the impression that “leadership” mean bullying and forcefulness

Even if they do not gain these skills and knowledge sets in school, the reinforcement (or procurement) needs to happen in the workplace. To the extent there are supervisors who also do not know (or remember) the whys of the practices nor take the time to explain the bases for doing things in a particular order, we will continue with the losses and setbacks that are part of the talent loss and corporate guerrilla warfare for qualified workers.

Whether in school or in the workplace, the lack of proper training, homework anemic in content, challenges bereft of meaningful achievement and comprehension will take a toll on the social fabric. No miracle savior of any magnitude will be able to turn the tides nor save us from our destruction.

It all starts with proper training, sound education, testing that searches for meaningful measures of learning — not testing for the sake of testing.

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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