Archive for March, 2012

Discrimination from social media

I observed an interesting discussion between an HR Director and his team yesterday on the ethics and legal consequences of looking at social media pages of candidates as a part of employee selection. The discussion arose from the article in the Young Island Blog I had pointed out earlier.

Facebook was a particular area of discussion simply because many people are more relaxed over the content they post on their Facebook pages. Specifically, some employers are requesting applicants to provide access to their social media accounts as a condition of employment.

Prove they weren’t discriminated against
His comment to the team was, “I’m waiting for the first gay, Muslim or another religion where the candidate hears about an employer accessing their Facebook activity, then not getting the job and making the
employer prove in court that they were not discriminating against their sexual
orientation or religious beliefs when they failed to get the job”.

Examination question
Although this topic has been discussed ast great length on-line and in the media I’m not sure that there’s been a satisfactory conclusion. Doubtless it’s a question in some HR or Law examinations. Certainly the more I’ve thought about it the more complex the answer seems to be.

Any thoughts?

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Strange interview questions that entertain interviewers

For some weeks I’ve been tweeting “Strange but true interview questions” that I’ve discovered. Interview questions such as “Why are manhole covers round?” and “If you were a salad, what type of salad dressing would you choose and why?”. Whenever I’ve asked interviewers the purpose of such questions the replies usually include “It brings some humour to the interview”, “I want to see if the candidate can think on their feet”. I’ve never been convinced by the answer.

An antidote to boredom
I was delighted to discover that Peter Honey the chartered psychologist and the founder of Peter Honey Publications Ltd agrees with me that such questions are a waste of time and could only be useful to someone trained in Psychology. In his article in People Management Peter states that It has nothing to do with assessing candidates; they have been invented
purely to entertain interviewers.They are an antidote to boredom
and I must admit I totally agree with him and the reason that I’ve recommended that my clients don’t use such questions.

Interviews are stacked against interviewee

Peter considers that interviews are being stacked against interviewees who are not well turned out, have poor body
language, are not verbally fluent and who are too honest. This is
despite the fact that he or she might be perfectly capable of meeting
the demands of the job
It is one of the reasons why my business Assimilating-Talent developed the “Interviewless Interview” process some years ago as a way of reducing prejudice and poor interview selection.

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Things team leaders say…and shouldn’t

We’ve all heard team leaders and managers say to things their teams during meetings and company briefings and accept them, no matter how trite because, they’ve become part of the tapestry of noise that makes up business speak.

The problem is that some of the things that team leaders say…they really shouldn’t.
Often the reason that they are said is to motivate and make staff feel good about themselves to increase productivity or take on more work or start a new project.

Let’s take the phrase “Staff are our greatest asset”.
It’s not a lie and is often the truth but like any valuable asset, when needs must, people can be dispensed with to increase money in the bank (Redundancy). They are only an asset when they are doing what’s expected…when not they become a liability.

Many of us will have seen a staff member or a team move from “Hero to Zero” within days of making a mistake and “the greatest asset” a few weeks before becomes a liability.

“Do this for me”
Another phrase I’ve often heard is team leaders who ask the team to “do it for me” or “Do it for the company”.
Let’s get it in context. If the staff member or the team weren’t being paid a salary they wouldn’t be doing it at all…

Email me with things you think team leaders say and shouldn’t
I’ve become so interested in the noise that some companies make that I’m developing a new talk on the topic and if you have “things that team leaders say…and shouldn’t” please feel free to email me at:

Don’t do it for me. The best email that I receive I’ll be sending a gift to!

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The Dreaded Interview Questions

I’m not surprised that I’m often I get asked for my recommended replies to specific questions but this hides the real question I’m being posed. The real question is “How do I sound different, better and more attractive than the other candidates?”. Over this last week I’ve talked to three groups of people about how to prepare and shine at interviews.

Introductions first.
Yesterday I was talking to a university student that hopes to gain a placement at a large technology firm and defer the last year of his degree to gain experience in a job. I’m sure that he will do well but first he must pass a day long interview where he’s bound to have to introduce himself to a group of people.
Most introductions are either it’s too short such as “I’m an accountant” and gives no further information on expertise or capability or it results in a ramble of words that has little impact and even less meaning for the listener.
For real impact candidates need to develop a twenty to twenty five word description of yourself and your skills that you can memorise and deliver with confidence. The objective is to gain the listeners interest and engage in further conversation. It’s no different from the elevator pitch used by business people (too often very badly!)

Think through the questions you will be asked
Another group I was talking to were in sales and wanting to know how to look different. My advice was to write down the questions you expect to be asked and then ask a friend to ask them and then listen to your answer and make suggestions for improvement. Practice the answers time and again until they sound right to you and answers the underlying questions the interviewer is wanting to discover. (Many interview questions are wanting two or three points addressed)

What questions will you ask the interviewer?
This is an important area because it shows interest and reflects the research made into the future employer (you should have looked at and studied the corporate history, products and their prices and so on)
Consider asking questions on what the company would expect you to have contributed, learned and achieved by the end of the first year

Sales and Marketing interview questions
Have a look at my YouTube channel for further interview films

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That Goldman Sachs Letter, Revenge or public service?

Greg Smith isn’t the first person to write an article about their past employer that is less than flattering and he won’t be the last. As a Goldman Sachs executive director
and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in
Europe, the Middle East and Africa he’s bound to be listened to and will cause more than a few intakes of breath in Goldman Sachs offices.

What Greg said in New York Times
The firm changed the way it thought about
leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and
doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and
are not currently an axe murderer) you will be promoted into a position
of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader?
a) Execute on the firm’s
“axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in
the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because
they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit.
b) “Hunt
Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are
sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring
the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like
selling my clients a product that is wrong for them.
c) Find yourself
sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque
product with a three-letter acronym.

Disgruntled or upset
It’s obvious that Greg is leaving Goldman Sachs a very disgruntled individual. Upset at how he’s been treated or genuinely upset at how customers are treated. Whatever the reason some will support him and others will be “appalled”.

Badly managed exit
Whatever you think of Greg and whether you agree with his point of view or not one can only assume that Goldman Sachs have mishandled his exit from the business. Here you have a senior executive that has potential to harm the business.

In my experience there will have been warning signs and these should have been picked up at an early stage.
Generally these include internal conflict, poor management of the individual, inappropriate blame, confusion over change programme, change in leadership that results in the individual being sidelined, change in corporate direction or values.


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Is There A Business Revolution?

Over the past two weeks I’ve spoken to two groups about business changes happening in the UK and thought I’d share some of the discussion.

As we all know the past few years has been full of stories of greed, corruption and poor business practice. MP’s expenses, Bonuses for failure, phone hacking, payments to officials by journalists and even match-fixing in sport. No wonder some people wonder if the whole world in on the make!

Marketing being reviewed
So it’s come as no surprise to me that many business teams are looking at their marketing and highlighting their ethical and moral values image to customers and to each other. It includes behaviour of staff both inside and outside of work, guarantee of product satisfaction, standards of production, client handling, remuneration and so on.

Extravagant displays of wealth
But how will this translate in the future? I think that extravagant displays of wealth by companies and their employees are a thing of the past in order to avoid this reflecting badly on companies. Gone are the days when bankers will be photographed swilling Krug after their bonus payments. Not because they aren’t buying Krug or getting a bonus but because the Bank doesn’t want such photographed splashed all over the media and causing adverse comment from clients and regulators. Teams are being warned to avoid displays of wealth that may reflect badly on the employer.

Future displays
One wonders how business will display to clients in the future?
Will offices be more spartanly decorated, how much will be spent on flowers and art, whether to have leather or plastic visitors chairs for reception and how will employees dress?

I also suspect that in the future customers will favour businesses that look as if they don’t spend too much on employee comfort. This will be especially true of professional firms such as solicitors and accountants that charge fees and supply a service. On the other hand they won’t want to look as if they are short of money!

Yet I can’t see the customer abandoning their desire for the latest Apple Iphone and even the latest fashion clothing item.

It looks like being an interesting balancing act for business.

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