Saturday, November 06, 2010

Roadmap to Interviewing A Candidate

With unemployment at over 10%, the candidate pool is rich. More than ever though, it's crucial to higher well and far too often managers fail to filter for awesome candidates. For my direct hires, I am looking for a great fit. I want to be surround with people who are better than myself in at least some capacities; it's almost always good thing; the converse is almost always true too. "A" players higher "A" players, B players higher the rest. Don't risk highering weak-links, it may kill it for you and your department.
I liken an interview to being in the pilot seat with the candidate as a co-pilot. I want to learn who they are, test them, learn their weaknesses, how well they know themselves; I'm hoping that they succeed with little effort on my part and in the end I'll determine if they're ready to command on their own. Interviews should be conducted with your own documented flight plan with notes along the way on how well it was fulfilled.

Here is my typical process:
Intro (me)

Tell them that it's an open dialog, they can ask questions at any time; followed by "start by tell me about yourself"

Let them provide any banter dialog; most interested in people who have something meaningful vs. just the typical rhetoric. If they ask what I want to hear, I re-assure them that they can take it in any direction they want.

Rapid Fire
Ask a few quick questions that should be 10-60 seconds per answer. I'll ask them to identify tools the use, places they've been to and websites visited, what ISP and type of internet connection they have. In any position I hire for these days, if someone can't name off at least 5 websites they travel to on a regular basis, I'm not interested in them.

Recent Details
Let them tout their most recent success. I don't want a track record story, but details on something specific. If one case isn't good enough for me, I'll ask them to go back to a prior experience. Hint: If I have to go all the way back, it's probably not a good thing.

Specific Questions
Ensure competency in their role. You should have a few of these prepared before starting. It is best if this covers a written test so that you can see their non-verbal abilities.

Impossible Question
No exact answer, looking to hear thinking. To engineers I've asked things like "how many planes are there in the sky on a normal day", "how far away is the sun", "how much carbon did you've produce into environment the last year". The point isn't to get the answer, but see if they can even consider a way to closely estimate it with their own abilities.

Identifying out-of-the-box creativity, things like:
  "How would you design a kitchen cabinets for the handicapped".
Most people tend to think of handicapped people in wheelchairs; bonus points if they think about multiple use-cases, like using braille labels for blind people.

  "What type of fruits grow on palm trees".

I especially like to push buttons to get them off of easy one-work answers like "coconuts" but telling them that a coconut isn't really a fruit, but a nut (which is actually false), just to see their reaction.

This is a good time to ask if they do anything interesting offline; or focus on meaningful extra-curricular activities on their resume, I'll ask about their habits/hobbies; boring people make for a company that doesn't mature.

At some point in the interview I contrast something they seemed certain about and see how easy they shake from their ground. Non-assertive people can allow bad decisions to become disasters.

This is the last check on gauging compatibility. Depending on the position and who else is interviewing I may need to ask other details; for example about compensation alignment. I also quickly go over their resume for anything interesting and personal interests. If I can't see myself being a friendly with the person, it's a problem.

Sell Company
Even if I already know someone isn't a fit, I let them know about our company, mission, history and culture. This can go well beyond the person through referrals and good will.

  • Scored Notes - Keep notes during the interview on how each of the plan topics was handled. Use a numeric score or Yes/No indicator so you have an objective way to remember it. I tend to grade on a curve; the more significant a position, the more shrewd my evaluation.
  • Decision - immediately after the interview I should make my decision; even if it's not a strong feeling. I'll keep to that initial vote when meeting with the other decision makers.
  • Friendly - If the candidate was referred, I almost never bring it up as it only tends to distract the process. If I am interested, I'll talk about it at the end of the interview so it doesn't bias me. The relationship was to get this interview, not the job and any thoughts about being a "shoe-in" are exactly the opposite in my book.
  • Distracted - if the person can't hold attention or look straight at me, I ask if they need something.
  • Resume - (a whole topic could be dedicated to this)
First off, a candidate must bring it. Even though I already have a copy of it, I ask the candidate just to see if they prepared me another copy. A digital copy or just a single copy provided to HR is not adequate; not having it in my hands upon demand is unprofessional and ill-prepared.
I tend to not focus on the resume but may use it for reference. I scan it for formatting errors and ask if they know about them. If you can't use a Word Processor you're probably not fit for most jobs I'm hiring for. The size and content of a resume isn't that important during the interview (though it got the candidate this far). I may ask look for a small detail to see if it has any substance; for example being in the Chess Club in high school is great; but if all you did was play a game or two; please don't waste the ink.
  • Huh? If at any point during the interview they lose my understanding by using insider lingo or acronyms, I ask them to start over and explain it in terms my aunt Vicky could understand.
  • Compensation - If the candidate brought it up great - I always turn the question back to the candidate by asking what they would expect or what is their current comp level; if pressed I give the low figure for the range to a double-digit percentage above that (this tests their math skills); but if they didn't bring compensation up (and if I need to), I'll ask "I want to ensure we have an alignment; what is your expect or history of compensation?"
  • Baggage - if there is any negativity during the interview, it's almost certainly a decision not to hire. Examples: "I've not been able to do XYZ because my {fill in the blank: car, ex-wife, child}", "my last company was really screwed up", "my boss was a monster", "the department didn't know what they we're doing". This is showing multiple problematic signals including their inability to help contribute to solutions and a desire to promote negative information. People tend to repeat behaviors and I don't want to help in creating the next chapter in that novel.

Good luck on surrounding yourself with the right people on the next leg of your journey.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SES & Google Dance

Looking forward to talking to partners at SES including:
Merchant Circle
Don Willis, Local Marketing Expert

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Grads: 3 things they don't teach you in school

Congratulations, graduates! Now your real education begins. Here are three of the most important secrets to success in real life that they didn't teach you in school.
1 - You can't get there alone. Start strengthening your relationships now, before you really need them later.
In the classroom it was mostly about your individual performance. But even if you graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Ivy League, success in real life will require relationships. Who you know determines how effectively you can apply what you know.
So stay in touch. This is a perfect time to send an email to everyone that you and your family know to update them on your accomplishments, what your goals are for the future, and what kind of help you could use.
2 - There's more than one valedictorian in real life. You'll succeed by helping others succeed, too.
In school everyone's striving for the same honor. But with so many different paths available in real life, you'll get further by helping others achieve their dreams, too, rather than trying to outdo them.
If you're starting college, look for ways to help your classmates succeed in your new surroundings. Form study groups. Share your research on potential career paths. If you're starting your first job, maybe you could help your new boss's child with college admissions advice.

3 - Advisors will not be assigned to you. You should actively seek your own mentors.
Your college may have provided an academic advisor from the time you first set foot on campus. However, once you step off campus, it's your responsibility to find the guidance you need. Start connecting with people you respect who can help you get a leg up in each aspect of your life, personal and professional. Make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to talk with you, and always look for ways to contribute to their success, too.
Excerpts taken from Keith Ferrazzi's, author of 'Never Eat Alone'

Keith Ferrazzi is a great motivational speaker and coach. I highly recommend his book "Never Eat Alone" as well as subscribing to his email tips. Here is a summary from

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

LinkedIn Needs to Get Connected: Top 5 Ways to Improve

  After teaching at CSULB Business School, I was writing a blog and needed to reference the teacher. Their public LinkedIn Profile seemed fitting, but as I was amazed to discover that the hyperlink is not optimal for search engines. In fact the LinkedIn site is very, very flawed with respect to SEO. It upset me; much of the reason that I link is for referral value; LinkedIn, I thought, would have recognized and embraced that. However, I do realize that SEO is like Brain Surgery.
  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE LinkedIn, but it has a long way to go. LinkedIn is getting just a fraction of the traction that they could. I hope that they recognize several aspects to improve upon, especially in light of their recent capitalization of 12.8MM by Bessemer. However Reid Hoffman, Chairman, stated that the funds would fuel new products and international growth. I'm sure that there will be great strategies and territories to cover; but LinkedIn, before venturing off too far, please make your U.S. property look good so we can come there more often. LinkedIn current and past success is monumental, a testament to the value of their community application and unique tools; however they are seriously leaving a lot on the table as far as exposure and user contributed content go.

Top 5 way to improve LinkedIn
1) Faulty SEO internal linking strategy. The site is a mess in terms of linking. Permalinks are attempted, but not published or redirect to. For example the custom profile URL option is great, but each and every link to my public profile should be either changed or at least redirect to my custom URL. The long URL (querystring) kills much of the SEO. There are other aspect to the ontology and internal linking that are too lengthy to elaborate in on this. NOTE: I can't even find my own LinkedIn profile in the top 10 pages SERPs. They are missing out on the honey pot of search.

2) Deepen Value through Recommendations. LinkedIn does not provide a benefit for regularly using the site, nor do they encourage repeat visits. The site provides a nice search and browsing opportunities, but most of the linking in actually happens outside via email. Over a year ago, I proposed a mechanism for LinkedIn auto-connection. Alternatively, let me be a match maker (mensch); putting two together has a way of making three, four and more... Indeed, there are several ways that the site could breath in a much bigger way rather than being speechless. The system would be much more meaningful if it triggered an email upon detecting a new opportunity. Give me a reason to come back!

3) Leverage Structured Information. They obviously have a large and rich information repository. I know because I've browser it. To bad I can't effectively search it outside their tool. I discuss more about data publishing here.

4) LinkedIn Email Alias. For example, I attempted to sending a note to Dan Nye on this webform (btw- another horrible, useless for SEO, URL) instead of my comfortable Outlook (or Gmail, etc). Instead - Create alias addresses for each user (i.e. The LI service could rule route the message based upon connections, approval/authorization and forward, retain a webmail backup copy. At the very least, it would effectively allow for a perma-email address. That way, even if Dan moves companies, his Linked connections can keep an consistent email address. It might even be a better spam controlled email address than any others, because messages would be "from" valid connections. Moreover though, it could be a great way to track and monitor offsite usage.

5) Open the hood. Several of the social networking hubs have opened APIs. The internet community of technology companies and software developers breeds creative usage. Having an API would allow for innovative mashups that I can only begin to ponder such as with Google Maps, Pay-per-call/Lead generation, widgets and blogging. This alone might be enough to provide an overnight viral growth in usage.

  While LinkedIn is currently leading the pack in professional social networking, it has not fortified itself as a brand. While they have a considerable registration rate, they are leaving a lot on the table due to lack-luster recurring usage. I truly hope that the change in leadership and funding will supply LinkedIn not only fantastic growth opportunities, but amazing social value.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What's wrong with Dave Pasternack

  I became familiar with Dave Pasternack in 2004 while at Interchange. We operated a operating a pay-per-click search engine called ePilot and Pasternack became known for masterminding the PPC game. Dave Pasternack is the genius behind Did-It and not only has he devise a great SEM methodology, but he's automated it into an artificial intelligence engine.

Controversy Start
  While Dave is well established in sponsored marketing, he has picked a fight with the SEO industry Making broad statements like "SEO is not rocket science" and that it is a one-time effort (see my responses to both of these below).
  SEO Help and Return Fire. Googles prevention of Google Bomb's has left the industry looking for another global example of SEO. In light of this and Pasternack, ThreadWatch has introduce a contest rewarding anyone that can get the #1 Google search result for "Dave Pasternack". War has started and it's creating quite a stir with 100's of people creating sites for him. Infact, RelevantAds has got into the game with this site, but with a slightly different twist as you can read about below.
  Side note: It's funny to consider that the $1,000 prize has created this much excitement and stir in the online community. This might be the most cost effective Web Development expirement. Consider the possibilities of this capitalizing on this sort guerrilla marketing effort...

Where's the Beef
  Is Pasternack off his rocker? In his interview, he indicated that only SEOs are offended by him, convenient since that is who is trying to offend. As you may know, my companys product RelevantYellow has an SEO component. Should we also take offense to Pasternacks despise for SEO? Lets evaluate what he's actually said...

"SEO is not Rocket Science"

  Pasternack has got a lot of exposure with the assertion that SEO is not rocket science. Take a look at Pasternacks SEM technical white papers; is that rocket science? To 99% of the world, yes, but to me and probably anyone with a B.S. degree can see that he's simple applied basic mathematical principles to an auction model. Not genius, but that sure is a cleaver approach. I agree, it is not rocket science; after all, that was a good term 50 years ago, but today, even my 10 year old nephew can build and launch a rockets.

SEO is Brain Surgery
  The problem is that probably none of these SEO brain surgeons are actually certified, nor are they invited to work on their patient. So, think twice about the African voodoo doctor perform open skull surgery on your headache. While it might fix your headache, it will undoubtedly lead to secondary infection. See my article SEO is Brain Surgery.

"SEO is one-time"
  For a few percentage of the Worlds population, this might be true. The fact is that your data is growing, evolving and thereby the organization of your information will change. SEO is Information Organization. The search engines try to organize the Worlds information (in fact that is Googles Mission). Site owners, are the king of their own content and are best equipped to organize it. Googles algorithm, in general, rewards sites that are well organized. Providing detail when called for and grouped summaries at the top levels. Unless you are dead, your information is constantly growing and so should your organization of that information. Bottom line even for the most basic website, it should be tuned and organized on a regular basis.

ThreadWatch Contest and RelevantYellow
  RelevantYellow has entered the contest by submitting Pasternacks company, Did-It. They should be a great business client example for us too, infact, Did-It does not exist in the core business directory; so we've got what is considered a new business on our hands. Unfortunately we have entered the race a bit late, nevertheless, it will hopefully get Did-It on the local map.
BTW- the Did-It client page for Dave Pasternack is here. RelevantYellow's purpose in this competition is to promote the use of local search optimization and promotion of business data. For more information please see the RelevantAds Dave Pasternack disclaimer.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Collaboration Tycoon - Richard Lusk, Foldera

Richard Lusk is CEO of Foldera, a cutting edge messaging and collaboration company. They've created quite the buzz with over 400,000 eagerly awaiting their next generation email & collaboration product.

I'd like to connect with Foldera and how they've constructed their next generation infrastructure and interfaces. Though most don't even recognize it, the email industry is in it's infancy. Today's systems are very much the same as when the Internet first started. Besides the visual upgrades, nothing has really taken us to the next level.

The advancement of communication is marked with progression in society. Each technology tool has brought us a more effective means of conveying information to others. New solutions in online collaboration will share information through various applications such as Instant Messenger, Calendar, Voice, and email furthermore they will helps users organize that information so that it can be digested, stored and used more rapidly. The evolution of digital communication will truly make todays systems look like antiquated smoke signals.

As an example, I've been slinging my PocketPC with IM, VM, email, voice capture & recognition, video and photo as many for over a year. In order for me to effectively share that information with todays services requires a combination like: YouTube, Flickr, and Sharepoint; taking dozens of minutes to publish each time and the information isn't contiguous, but in completely disconnected silos. Using these sort of features in a combined, organized way is the future I look forward to.

And while that future might be just off the horizon, the advances that Richard's Foldera provides are proported to be a significant step in the future of online collaboration and unified communication.

About Richard:
Richard is known to be known to being communicative and open with the blogging community. He has an obvious genius for information organization and has successfully raised capital, bringing Folder OTC. See more on the Foldera management team site.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Eating with Keith Ferrazzi

Keith is known world-wide for being the master-networker. His company Ferrazzi Greenlight offers consulting and coaching to organizations. Keith's bio is so impressive, yet his personal charisma is electrifying and stands for itself.

See his Microsoft Small Business Summit speaking engagement. This is motivational for the entrapeneur, office worker, student or house wife. For Keith, it is apparent that networking comes natural; we can only hope to emulate him in social sucess. Pick up a few tips from him by reading "Never Eat Alone". This is loaded with good information; I won't even attempt to review it since so many reputable persons have reviewed it already.

If your fortunate to meet meet (or eat!) with Keith, make sure you talk from the heart. But the same goes for all relationships. One of the biggest values I relish from Keith is "Put yourself out on the table":
  • what is it that you want,
  • what can you offer,
  • what are you afraid of
  • what is the big picture (or dream) you're going after and how do I fit in?