It Takes Eight Interviews To Work For Apple

A few days ago Mark Rogers, the UK General Manager for Apple Computers, told me that for a job at Apple and above Manager level there will be around eight interviews.

Actually this came as no surprise. The energy that Apple put into selecting the right individual for their senior appointments is indicative of the energy that they put into everything they do!

However, when mentioning this to some of my business friends, they thought this process too long and protracted and would take up too much valuable time. Yet my argument would be that it’s better to expend valuable time at the start of the process and to get it right than to have to waste it later in clearing up a mess!

This latest video may help you decide



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Only the future can deliver results

Last week I was talking to a Sales Director about recruiting people for his sales team.

I looked through the job specification to see that almost every phrase was unrelated to sales.
“To submit monthly sales forecast”
“To attend weekly meeting”
and so on

Then there were the skills required:
“Good communicator”
“Five years sales experience”

I pointed out that top talented sales people would be turned off by the job descriptions because they were barriers to making sales.”Must be a good communicator” was a wasted phrase because to have become a top talent salesperson the individual must have excellent communication skills.The descriptions were bland and unexciting

“What you need is something that will draw in top talent, not put it off”
Was my advice and together we went about restructuring the documents. I was keen to show that job descriptions and specifications should be future focussed, attractive to the target candidate and avoid applications from candidates that were obviously NOT suited for the role.

Together we rejected the bland and unexciting language and replaced it with the following:
“The successful candidate will have penetrated two new clients and concluded half a million pounds worth of sales within twelve months of assuming the role”
Other phrases were designed to reflect the new focus and today he phoned me to say that a candidate had complimented him on having an “exciting and easily understood job role”.

For more info on effective job role design tel: (44) 01727 838321

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66% of hiring managers regret their decision

This week I’ve been talking to two businesses that are expanding about their interview programmes.

66% of hiring managers regret their decision
Both were surprised when I told them that 66% of hiring managers regret their interview based decisions. When you consider the vast sums of money that organisations invest in their recruitment process one has to wonder what’s wrong. The problem is that, despite some having very prescriptive systems, most companies interview and select their new hires very badly. In fact around 40% of new hires go on to fail to deliver the results anticipated.

Top talent walks away
The biggest problem is that many managers will hire on whether they like the person. Then again I know of some interviewers that like to place a lot of pressure on candidates. Only a desperate job hunter will put up with this technique and most “top talent” will simply walk away. The lesson here is that asking questions to make them squirm is ineffective and counter productive.

Future tense questions reveals capability more effectively
Then again most questions are “past tense” and historical questions and a well prepared candidate can shine.
I always suggest asking most quwestions in the future tense that include actions that they would use in the job on offer. It becomes easier to to assess capability for the job that needs doing.

Much, much more revealing
Posing a top talent candidate a real and actual business problem and holding a discussion and debate with them using a white board to record detail and thought processes will reveal much more about “thinking, compatability and ability” than just posing questions. It may take longer, it may be less structured than you currently use but it is also likely to be much, much more revealing.

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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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Why do they still do it?

It’s Halloween but twice last week I came across a gory story that sent a shiver down my back. They were both business teams that were failing because the leaders of the team had recruited people without establishing or following procedures.

I won’t go into the blood curdling details of each story, just to say that they were messy, very messy. The results were taking up more management time than would have been needed had the leader made correct employment checks, developed need assessments and written work briefs and so on.

Is it laziness, desire to save money or a feeling that “It’ll probably be OK”?.
I don’t know the answer, except that team leaders with such problems are often surprised when they’re told that that it’s their fault the problem exists!

The costs?
Classically between 10 to 25 times the salary of the failed individual or the whole team if that fails.
So a salary of £40,000 can cost up to a whopping £1,000,000.
Now if that’s not an incentive for CEO’s and company recruiters to get it right first time then nothing will be

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Unproductive workers rights

What a storm the report proposing change the rules regarding unfair dismissal has had. This is despite the fact that any changes, in the current climate, are unlikely.

Unproductive workers should lose rights
As reported by the BBC The report, commissioned by the prime minister, argues that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal”. The Daily Telegraph
quotes the report as saying that under the current rules workers are
allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack.

Sarah Veale head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC said that there were less than a million unfair dismissal claims last
year which was “absolutely nothing” out of a large workforce. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The clue is in
the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair
dismissals”. I find myself agreeing with Mr Barber! The only problem is that almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence.

Informal discussions
I believe that employers should have the right to informally discuss with their staff issues surrounding employment, such as retirement plans, production and productivity without the fear of having to face an industrial tribunal. To do so would allows the employer to plan staffing needs, recruitment and other issues that make a business profitable.

In fact, if done properly, can’t an employer have these discussions already?

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Business leaders should learn kitchen skills

After answering a question on leadership on LinkedIn I was advised that it would make a great blog entry. So here goes!

Building a great team is similar to opening a restaurant
I’ve spent thirteen years working with team leaders to make them effective and I often make the analogy that building a successful business team is similar to opening a restaurant to serve great food. It needs a capable, stable and motivated brigade in the kitchen as well as a team of people to serve the food and make the eating experience memorable.

The ingredients good or bad are often immediately noticeable by customers. If the team, in both the kitchen and front-of-house areas can’t work together then either the food or service will suffer and customers will IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves. 

Staff turnover a universal problem
The first task is to have a stable team. Staff turnover is a universal problem, and not just in the catering sector. Each new appointment seems to carry with it a high risk of failure.  Let’s explore why this is …

There seems to be three common mistakes that team leaders can make. The first is failing to communicate the results that are required from the team. Job descriptions provide an indication of the required results but success in a job depends upon the boss’s assessment. The team, therefore, needs to understand what constitutes a success in the boss’ eyes and how such success will be measured.

Gaining a clear understanding of what success looks like can be achieved by holding a series of meetings with the the team. As such they are best undertaken as formal 1:1 discussions, as opposed to short conversations over the coffee machine or at a team meeting.

The types of questions that need to be asked include:

·    How has the current situation reached this point?
·    What problems have been identified if the situation is not improved?
·    What actions the leader expects in the short and medium term?
·    What would constitute success in the leaders’ eyes?
·    How and when will performance be measured?

Understanding the leader
The second mistake is failing to communicate the boss’s management style. This means understanding how the leader likes to be communicated with and how often? What decisions the leader likes to make personally and what decisions are clearly delegated to individuals in the team?

Culture a major ingredient
A big mistake a leader can make is to ignore the culture of the business or not to consciously develop a culture for a new team. To ignore culture makes introducing change more difficult. In addition the leader needs to consider that all change will have an affect on other people, particularly in other areas in the organisation, so prior to making changes it’s important to consider the consequences both upstream and downstream.

Then there’s the aspect of training. A leader wanting to build a strong team needs to ensure that the team can deliver what’s expected. One of the lessons from Restaurants is that there’s little point in placing Duck a la Normande on the menu if the kitchen brigade haven’t the ability to cook it properly and restaurant team don’t know how to serve it.  (Or what it is).

Now, isn’t that a recipe for business success?

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Coping with BIG egos

I was thinking today of some of the egos I worked in past jobs. Like Sales Director that at their first team meeting announced, “I’ve come to save the company”, which came as a surprise to all who didn’t think that the business needed saving.

And the HR Manager who, on being appointed, introduced herself to her well qualified team by saying “I’m a fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) and I’m a professional!”

Tricky things to handle
Huge egos are tricky things to handle and handle them we all have to do. Teams that are expanding want
strong characters, who are self-motivated and who have a 
desire to win! But too often the appointment of a new leader can go to their already big
heads and makes them tough to deal with? So I was fascinated to come across this article in Management Today that addresses the topic. Not in much the detail and doesn’t provide too much that’s of help but the article makes you think.

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Gifted employees need not be hard to find

despite the high levels of unemployment many of the businesses that I talk to are finding difficulties in hiring gifted and talented people to join their teams.

This is backed up by the recent research from the CIPD talent planning survey 2011 that found that 52% of businesses are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions with the talent they need to do the job. The CBI suggests that more than half of their members aren’t confident of finding talent to meet their needs.

So what can a business do to find gifted employees?

  1. Consider using job boards such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook
  2. Consider using on-line groups and forums to say you are seeking talent
  3. Ensure that you are looking for the talent that will match the business strategy
  4. Consider internal candidates
  5. Consider if the job, benefits and profile of your business will attract the very best and if not then restructure the position so that it will be attractive to the talent you are looking for
  6. Calculate your talent needs for the present, medium and long-term and create strategies to deliver these
  7. Don’t be too rigid in recruiting the “very best”. The perfect employee doesn’t exist. But make sure you capture the “best available” before your competitors.
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Rightsizing, Downsizing, Normalizing…

I do hate it when business use phrases to hide actions in order to reduce the potential impact and effects and one that I find increasingly annoying is “Rightsizing”. This is partly because it’s so often used to replace more accurate descriptions such as Redundancy.

It was used in Management Today “UBS is far from being the only bank which has announced
job cuts recently – everyone from HSBC to Credit Suisse has been busy
‘rightsizing’ their workforces…The job cuts at UBS amount to over 5% of its total workforce

Now, I know that “Rightsizing” has been used for some years but surely it’s poor management to have “Wrongsized” in the first place (see Tony Miller descriptions below) but I doubt that it’s the management jobs that are about to be rightsized! You can imagine the  press release from UBS HR was at pains to seem to be “normalizing” the situation but is the term “Rightsizing” the correct one.
Thanks to Tony Miller  for giving a reasonable explanation so that we can all make up our own mind!:

Is simply reducing the number of reporting layers in the business to produce a better line of communication and efficiency…Downsizing is a stressful and risky business and should not be carried out by anyone who has not experienced this technique.

Involves reducing the organisation by a small percentage. By doing this you can keep the organisation trim and in better condition. It can be achieved by a number of painless means such as:
Freezing recruitment
Releasing the long-term sick
Releasing poor performers


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