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Preparing for behavioral interviews May 5, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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So you next interview is confirmed to be ‘behavioral’ . Here is a run down on how you can prepare:

  • Read the job description and prepare a list of behavioral competencies the interviewer may be looking for. A reasonable list of competencies is here.
  • Prepare 6-8, 2-3 min scenario’s from experiences in your life.These experiences should map to one or more behavioral competencies relevant for the job.
  • Experiences can be from past projects, hobbies, charity work etc. Try not to take them all from one aspect of your career/life. E:g Present or last job.
  • Don’t try to make-up scenarios that just didn’t happen. It most probably wont work unless you are a adept story teller.
  • Write down the scenarios and make them interesting. Each scenario should have three parts:
  1. Situation or the task at hand
  2. Action you took
  3. Result
  • Talk to the hiring manger / agent to understand the key competencies for the job. Refine and prioritize your list of competencies based on the conversation.
  • Prioritize the scenario’s for these key competencies and refine them. Don’t ignore the rest of the scenario’s though.
  • Practice them multiple times by narrating them to friends/family.
  • Review possible behavioral questions for the key competencies you identified, to see if your scenarios hold-up to the questions. A sample list of questions is here.
  • Carry a list of scenarios mapping to competencies to the interview.
  • For every question, try to understand the competency the interviewer is looking for.
  • Play out the scenario you prepared and invite questions.
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Behavioral competencies in job seekers May 5, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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  • Communication skills
  • Listening
  • Written
  • Oral
  • Presentation
  • Analytical skills and thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Evaluating alternatives
  • Judgment
  • Attention to Detail
  • Building relationships
  • Decisiveness
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Insight
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Delivering results
  • Fact Finding-Oral
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Independence
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Influence others / Persuasiveness
  • Initiative
  • Development of Subordinates
  • Delegation
  • Vision
  • Developing short-long term goals
  • Conflict Management
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation
  • Control
  • Organizational
  • Participative
  • Sensitivity
  • Management
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Practical Learning
  • Process Operation
  • Resilience
  • Risk Taking
  • Sensitivity
  • Strategic Thinking and analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Technical/Professional Knowledge
  • Tenacity
  • Work Standards

Solution Delivery April 30, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career, Service Delivery.
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Solution Delivery is high level management function which leverages people, processes and technologies to ensure successful project/product delivery.

Key skills required to succeed in a Delivery Management role are:

  1. Collaboratively working on end-to-end solutions
  2. Client relationship,satisfaction and value management
  3. Communication management
  4. Quality management
  5. Scope and expectation management
  6. Vendor and procurement management
  7. Time and cost management
  8. Process Management
  9. Risk management
  10. Metrics management
  11. Leadership
  12. Taking initiative
  13. Strategic thinking
  14. Innovation skills
  15. Technical experience
  16. Web experience (if relevant for the role)
  17. People management

Here is a good article on the skills sets.

Performance Based Interview Questions April 30, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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Research shows that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. With PBI the interviewer defines the skills needed for the job and structures the interview process to elicit behavioral examples of past performance.

Here is a rather long list of questions that map to various behavioral competencies relevant for a position. This list is not for the faint hearted and some Q’s may be repeated / re-phrased. I will continue to refine and update this list and would welcome any inputs.

Due to the sheer number of Q’s, it may not be wise to try and prepare for all these possible scenarios. I described a technique to tackle performance based interviews here.

Communication

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion
  2. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have agreed with your perspective.
  3. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to handle an angry customer. What was the problem and what was the outcome?
  4. Tell me about a time when you and your current/previous supervisor disagreed but you still found a way to get your point across.
  5. Tell me about your efforts to “sell” a new idea to your supervisor.
  6. How do you make your feelings known when you disagree with the views of your staff?
  7. Tell me how you kept your supervisor advised of the status on projects.
  8. How have you assessed your behavioral messages and what have you learned about yourself as a result?

Listening

  1. What do you do to show people that you are listening to them?
  2. How often do you have to rely on information you have gathered from others when talking to them?
  3. What kinds of problems have you had? What happened?
  4. Give an example of a time when you made a mistake because you did not listen well to what someone had to say.
  5. When is listening important on your job? When is listening difficult?
  6. What have you done to improve your listening skills?

Written Communication

  1. What kinds of writing have you done? How do you prepare written communications?
  2. What are the most challenging documents have you done? What kinds of proposals have you written?
  3. How have you persuaded people through a document you prepared?
  4. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.

Oral Communication

  1. What have you done to improve your verbal communication skills?

Presentation

  1. What kinds of oral presentations have you made? How did you prepare for them? What challenges did you have?
  2. How do you prepare for a presentation to a group of technical experts in your field?
  3. Tell me about the most effective presentation you have made. What was the topic? What made it difficult? How did you handle it?
  4. How would you describe your presentation style?

Analytical Skills and thinking

Analysis skills

  1. What kinds of data and technical information do you review?
  2. How do you disseminate the information to other people? How do you decide what’s important? How do you use this information?
  3. Tell me about a time when you recognized a problem, an opportunity, when other people were not aware of it? What was the situation? What did you do? How did you see the opportunity?
  4. Have you ever done a research paper? How did you go about putting it together?
  5. How do you learn about a product or a process?

Evaluating Alternatives

  1. What are some of the major decisions you have made over the past (6, 12, 18) months?
  2. What alternatives did you develop?
  3. How did you assemble the information?
  4. How did you review the information? What process did you follow to reach a conclusion?
  5. Who made the decision?
  6. What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you? Describe one.
  7. Have you ever had a situation where you had a number of alternatives to choose from? How did you go about choosing one?
  8. When a number of different people come to you with ideas about solving a problem, how do you do about using their information? Please give an example.

Judgment / Problem Solving

  1. How do you go about developing information to make a decision? Give an example.
  2. When you have to make a highly technical decision, how do you go about doing it?
  3. Everyone has made some poor decisions or done something that just did not turn out right. Has this happened to you? What happened?
  4. What kinds of problems have you had coordinating technical projects? How did you solve them?
  5. How do you go about deciding what strategy to employ when dealing with a difficult customer
  6. Describe an instance when you had to think quickly to free yourself from a difficult situation.
  7. Tell me about a politically complex work situation in which you worked.
  8. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  9. Give me an example of a time when there was a decision to be made and procedures were not in place? What was the outcome?
  10. How do you go about solving problems at work?
  11. Tell me about a specific time when you eliminated or avoided a potential problem before it happened.
  12. What types of problems do you most enjoy tackling? Give me some examples of such problems you faced. What did you enjoy about them?
  13. To whom did you turn for help the last time you had a major problem and why did you choose that person?
  14. In some aspects of work it is important to be free of error. Can you describe a situation where you have tried to prevent errors? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  15. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem
  16. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  17. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  18. Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  19. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  20. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  21. Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  22. Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.
  23. How do you go about developing information to make a decision? Give an example.
  24. When you have to make a highly technical decision, how do you go about doing it?
  25. Everyone has made some poor decisions or done something that just did not turn out right. Has this happened to you? What happened?
  26. What kinds of problems have you had coordinating technical projects? How did you solve them?
  27. How do you go about deciding what strategy to employ when dealing with a difficult customer
  28. What are some of the problems you have faced; such as between business development and project leaders, between one department and another, between you and your peers? How did you recognize that they were there?
  29. Have you ever been caught unaware by a problem or obstacle that you had not foreseen? What happened?
  30. When was the last time something came up in a meeting that was not covered in the plan? What did you do? What were the results of your judgment?
  31. Tell me about a time when you did something completely different from the plan and/or assignment. Why? What happened?

Leadership

Initiative

  1. Give me an example of a time when you played a leadership role in an event, an activity, a department or work unit, or a project. Describe how you led the efforts. Tell me how people responded to your leadership.
  2. Tell me about a time when you accomplished something significant that wouldn’t have happened if you had not been there to make it happen.
  3. Tell me about a time when you were able to step into a situation, take charge, muster support and achieve good results.
  4. Describe for me a time when you may have been disappointed in your behavior.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to discipline or fire a friend.
  6. Tell me about a time when you’ve had to develop leaders under you.
  7. Give an example of a time in which you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates at work.
  8. Give an example of your ability to build motivation in your co-workers, classmates, and even if on a volunteer committee.
  9. Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?
  10. Have you ever been a member of a group where two of the members did not work well together? What did you do to get them to do so?
  11. What is the toughest group that you have had to get cooperation from? Describe how you handled it. What was the outcome?
  12. What are 3 effective leadership qualities you think are important? How have you demonstrated these qualities in your past/current position?
  13. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to approach things your way. At what level was the person you had to persuade?
  14. Tell me about your efforts to “sell” a new idea to your supervisor.
  15. Describe a leadership situation that you would handle differently if you had it to do over again.
  16. What one experience proved to you that you would be a capable manager?
  17. What have you done to develop the skills of your staff?
  18. Tell me about a time when you were able to provide a co-worker with recognition for the work they performed. What did you do?
  19. Tell me about a time when you reached out for additional responsibility.
  20. Tell me about a project/suggestion that you initiated. Explain how you communicated the project/suggestion.
  21. What have you done in your present/previous job that goes beyond what was required?
  22. When was the last time you successfully proposed a change ?
  23. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.

Development of subordinates

  1. Give me an example of a time when you helped a staff member accept change and make the necessary adjustments to move forward. What were the change/transition skills that you used?
  2. Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a tough morale problem.
  3. Tell me about a time when you had to take disciplinary action with someone you supervised.
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to tell a staff member that you were dissatisfied with his or her work.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to handle a highly emotional employee.
  6. Discuss a work situation in which you felt you successfully directed the work of others.
  7. Tell me about a time when your department was going through long-term changes or working on a long-term project. What did you do to keep your staff focused?
  8. What have you done to improve the skills of your subordinates?
  9. What was your biggest success in hiring someone? What did you do?
  10. What have you done to develop your subordinates? Give an example.
  11. How do you coach an employee in completing a new assignment?
  12. What was your biggest mistake in hiring someone? What happened? How did you deal with the situation?
  13. How do you let subordinates know what you expect of them?
  14. How do you go about setting goals with subordinates? How do you involve them is this process?
  15. What performance standards do you have for your unit? How have you communicated them to your subordinates?

Delegation

  1. Do you consider yourself a macro or micro manager? How do you delegate?
  2. Tell me how you go about delegating work?
  3. What was the biggest mistake you have had when delegating work? The biggest success?
  4. How do you make the decision to delegate work?

Vision

  1. Describe what steps/methods you have used to define/identify a vision for your unit/position.
  2. In your current or former position, what were your short and long-term goals? How long ago did you set them? Who else was involved in setting them? Which ones were achieved?
  3. How do you see your job relating to the overall goals of your present/previous organization?
  4. Tell me about a time when you anticipated the future and made changes to current responsibilities/operations to meet future needs.

Developing Short-Long Term goals

  1. What were your long-range plans at you most recent employer? What was your role in developing them?
  2. Did you have a strategic plan? How was it developed? How did you communicate it to the rest of your staff?
  3. What company plans have you developed? Which ones have you reached? How did you reach them? Which have you missed? Why did you miss them?
  4. What were your annual goals at you most current employer? How did you develop these goals?
  5. What goals have you met? What did you do to meet them?
  6. What goals did you miss? Why did you miss them?
  7. How do you communicate goals to subordinates? Give an example.
  8. How do you involve people in developing your unit’s goals? Give an example.

Conflict Management

  1. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when you felt the individual did not value your perspective.
  2. Tell me about a time when you and your previous supervisor disagreed but you still found a way to get your point across.
  3. Describe a time when you facilitated a creative solution to a problem between employees.
  4. Tell me about a recent success you had with an especially difficult employee/co-worker.
  5. Thinking of the most difficult person you have had to deal with, describe an interaction that illustrates that difficulty. Tell me about the last time you dealt with him/her? How did you handle the situation?
  6. Describe a time when you took personal accountability for a conflict and initiated contact with the individual(s) involved to explain your actions.
  7. Have you ever had to settle conflict between two people on the job? What was the situation and what did you do?
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to help two peers settle a dispute. How did you go about identifying the issues? What did you do? What was the result?
  9. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to settle an argument between two friends (or people you knew)? What did you do? What was the result?

Motivation

  1. How do you get subordinates to work at their peak potential? Give an example.
  2. Have you ever had a subordinate whose work was always marginal? How did you deal with that person? What happened?
  3. How do you deal with people whose work exceeds your expectations?
  4. How do you get subordinates to produce at a high level? Give an example.
  5. How do you manage cross-functional teams?

Negotiation

  1. Tell me about the last time you had to negotiate with someone.
  2. How did you prepare for it?
  3. How did you present your position?
  4. What was the most difficult part?
  5. How did you resolve it?
  6. Describe the most challenging negotiation in which you were involved. What did you do? What were
  7. the results for you? What were the results for the other party?
  8. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to bargain with someone? How did you feel about this? What did you do? Give an example.

Control

  1. How do you keep track of what your subordinates are doing?
  2. How do you evaluate the productivity / effectiveness of your subordinates?
  3. How do you get data for performance reviews?
  4. How did you keep track of delegated assignments?
  5. What administrative paperwork do you have? Is it useful? Why/why not?

Risk taking:

  1. Give and example of how you handled a strategic risk ?
  2. What risks did you take in your present/previous job? Tell me about it.

Flexibility / Adaptability

  1. Describe a change in your work you have personally had to make in the last couple years. At the time, how did you feel about making the change? What did you do to make the change? How do you feel about the change now? Would you do anything differently if you had to do it again?
  2. Tell me about the last new procedure you had to learn in your job. Tell me what specifically was the hardest aspect of learning the new procedure. Tell me specifically what you liked best about learning the new procedure. How well is the new procedure working now?
  3. Describe a situation where you were responsible for getting others to make a change. What role did you play and what actions did you take? What was the outcome? If you had to do it again, would you do anything differently?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with two very different employees that could not be treated the same way. How did you deal with each? How did you decide what you were going to do? How well did your intervention with each employee work?
  5. Tell me about a specific time when staff reductions required restructuring of the workload. How did you do the restructuring? Who specifically did you involve? How did you involve them? Why did you involve those whom you did?
  6. Convince me/us that you are an effective change agent by describing an experience or experiences from your past.
  7. Describe a major change that occurred in a job that you held. How did you adapt to this change?
  8. Tell us about a situation in which you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?
  9. Tell us about a time that you had to adapt to a difficult situation ?
  10. What do you do when priorities change quickly? Give one example of when this happened.
  11. By providing examples, demonstrate that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and/or environments.
  12. Tell me about a decision you made while under a lot of pressure.
  13. Tell me about a specific time when you were given new information that affected a decision that you had already made.
  14. Give me an example of a time when there was a decision to be made and procedures were not in place? What was the outcome?
  15. When was the last time you felt pressure on a job? How did the situation come about? How did you react? What made you decide to handle it that way? What effect, if any, did this have on your other responsibilities?
  16. What are some of the things your last employer could have done to keep you?

Innovation / Creative thinking

  1. Tell two suggestions you have made to your manager/companyin the past year. How did you come up with the ideas? What happened? How do you feel about the way things went?
  2. Tell me about a specific time when you made a suggestion to improve the quality of the work done in your unit. Tell me about a specific time when you made a suggestion to improve the efficiency of your unit.
  3. Give examples to illustrate how you have generated ideas that represent thinking “outside the box.” How were your ideas received by others? What became of the ideas?
  4. Tell me about a time when a co-worker had a good idea and you agreed but no one else was willing to listen. How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?
  5. Explain the approach you use for performance improvement. Explain specifically how you identify problems, what strategies you incorporate to measure the impact of the problems, how you deal with the problems, and how you measure success or failure. Track one problem you have dealt with from identification to closure.
  6. Describe a creative endeavor you can take ownership for that impacted on the efficiency or effectiveness of your organization
  7. When was the last time you were involved in an innovation ?
  8. Did you ever experience an situation where your innovation was stifled?
  9. Describe the most significant or creative presentation/idea that you developed/implemented.
  10. Describe a time when you came up with a creative solution/idea/project/report to a problem in your past work.
  11. Tell me about a time when you created a new process or program that was considered risky. that was the situation and what did you do?
  12. Can you give me an example of how you have been creative in completing your responsibilities?
  13. Can you think of a situation where innovation was required at work? What did you do in this situation?

Teamwork

  1. Gaining the cooperation of others can be difficult. Give a specific example of when you had to do that and what challenges you faced. What was the outcome? What was the long-term impact on your ability to work with this person?
  2. Please give me your best example of working cooperatively as a team member to accomplish an important goal. What was the goal or objective? What was your role in achieving this objective? To what extent did you interact with others on this project?
  3. Tell me about a time when your coworkers gave you feedback about your actions. How did you respond? What changes did you make?
  4. Describe a project you were responsible for that required a lot of interaction with people over a long period of time.
  5. How have you recognized and rewarded a team player in the past? What was the situation?
  6. Tell me about a course, work experience, or extracurricular activity where you had to work closely with others. How did it go? How did you overcome any difficulties?
  7. Describe a problem you had in your life when someone else’s help was very important to you.

Metrics Management

  1. Tell me about a specific benchmark study that you assisted with and how that study was applied within your organization.

Practical Learning / Continuous Development

  1. Describe a decision you made or a situation that you would have handled differently if you had to do it over again.
  2. When you have been made aware of, or have discovered for yourself, a problem in your work performance, what was your course of action? Can you give me an example?
  3. Tell me about a time when your supervisor/co-workers gave you feedback about your work/actions. What did you learn about yourself?
  4. What have you done to further your own professional development in the last 5 years?
  5. Tell me about a job that you had which required you to learn new things.
  6. Tell me about a recent job or experience that you would describe as a real learning experience. What did you learn from the job or the experience?
  7. Tell me about a time when you were asked to complete a difficult assignment even though the odds were against you. What did you learn from that experience?
  8. Discuss the highlights of your most recent educational experience. Did you accomplish any special achievements? What were your most difficult challenges?
  9. I noticed on your resume that you attended _____________ training program. Please describe the training program. How have you applied what you learned to your current job?

Other Questions

  1. Give me a example of when you handled a complex operation ?
  2. Over your career who was the worst of the bosses you had ? Why ?
  3. Give me an example of when you have to strike a work-life balance ?
  4. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  5. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  6. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree
  7. Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete
  8. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks
  9. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  10. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  11. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  12. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  13. Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  14. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  15. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  16. Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).

Source for some of these questions is here and here and also here

Strong words for CV April 30, 2008

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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Uncovered

Created

Scheduled

Cut

Serviced

Delegated

Strengthened

Edited

Invented

Unified

Launched

Unraveled

Maintained

Utilised

Managed

Vacated

Motivated

Verified

Negotiated

Widened

Operated

Withdrew

Organised

Won

Originated

Worked

Performed

Wrote

Persuaded

Eliminated

Stressed

Established

Stretched

Evaluated

Structured

Expanded

Succeeded

Financed

Generated

Terminated

Headed

Traced

Implemented

Tracked

Improved

Traded

Improvised

Trained

Increased

Transferred

Influenced

Transformed

Innovated

Translated

Installed

Trimmed

Instituted

Tripled

Introduced

Set up

Delivered

Simplified

Demonstrated

Sold

Designed

Solved

Developed

Sparked

Devised

Spearheaded

Directed

Staffed

Doubled

Started

Earned

Streamlined

Accelerated

Planned

Accomplished

Presented

Achieved

Processed

Administered

Produced

Analysed

Programmed

Approved

Promoted

Budgeted

Proposed

Built

Provided

Completed

Purchased

Conceived

Recommended

Conducted

Recruited

Consolidated

Redesigned

Controlled

Reduced

Converted

Reorganised

Convinced

Researched

Coordinated

Revised

Summarised

Forecast

Superseded

Formulated

Supervised

Founded

Systematised

Tips to be a good CIO September 28, 2007

Posted by Coolguy in IT Career.
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1 – CIOs should become business people

Learn about general management, demonstrate enthusiasm for business matters and acquire knowledge of your industry sector. CIOs should talk business language not technical jargon. Focus on driving revenues up rather than cutting costs. And, don’t forget you cannot network enough. CIO’s who moved onto become CEOs, when in the top IT job, typically spent over 50% of their time communicating with non-IT people both within and outside their organisations.

2 – CIOs need a vision

Find out what is going on in the outside world read, talk to suppliers and peers in other organisations, and know where technology is taking the world. CIOs should demonstrate original thinking and be bringers of change and inspiration and make things interesting. Grab the attention of your CEO. Lift horizons and excite the board with possibilities rather than portraying problems.

3 – CIOs must become a “can do” people

Learn the “art of the possible” think “out of the box”, look for alternatives, never sit back, hold that failure is not an option, and learn to trust your experience and to deal with uncertainty. Also remember that in today’s world, speed is an imperative so CIOs should learn to adopt the “80-20” rule. And above all, remember that it is better to ask for forgiveness than to seek permission.

4 – CIOs must be prepared to take risks

Be prepared to take a risk. Learn to trust your “gut” and your heart and go out on a limb for what you believe in be prepared to challenge accepted wisdom or authority. As one CEO succinctly put it: “If you are too cautious or conservative you will never achieve anything you won’t even get noticed.”

5 – CIOs must understand people

Do not underestimate the importance of people skills enough you need to understand what makes people tick and how to get the best out of them on an individual basis. Before you can do this you need to truly understand yourself. Don’t recruit in your own likeness but do learn to value diversity. CIOs will need to weed out non-team players and ensure they place round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes. Praise rather than criticize, give credit and take the blame. Build relationships upwards, downwards and sideways and become “gossip central”.

6 – CIOs must learn to trust and delegate

Learn to use and value the team to trust, delegate and let go. CIOs do not have the time to get involved in the day-to-day stuff. Your focus should be on the strategic stuff so you can contribute at the business transformation level. Have the courage to hire people better than yourself, and to nurture and reward talent. Take account of other people’s feelings, and learn how to influence and communicate openly and honestly.

7- CIOs need to get the “right” bossYou need the support of your boss. If you are not getting it, the advice is to “stop beating your head against a brick wall and move on to more fertile ground find a new job with a new boss who will support you.”

8 – CIOs should develop a sense of humour

Humour is an essential ingredient in the workplace, it diffuses tension, bonds people, aids creativity and understanding and oils the wheels of conversation. It increases the impact of your words and it makes you “clubbable” remember we associate with, consult and confide in people we like being with!

Get Your Boss’s Job September 27, 2007

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If the next rung on your corporate ladder belongs to your boss, you’re probably not going to get promoted until your boss does, and Wired’s How To Wiki details how to secure this kind of promotion.

In a nutshell, it’s a two-step process:

1) Learn your boss’s job, and

2) Train your replacement.

If you give your boss the opportunity to look good by helping him/her do a better job, your boss is more likely to get a promotion, which frees up your prospective job. If you’ve already been grooming a replacement, who better to slip into your boss’s position than you?

Learn the Culture of a New Employer January 11, 2007

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Switching jobs can be exciting, but new hires must be prepared to learn the unwritten rules of a new corporate culture. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, learning a workplace’s customs can indeed be a major challenge, and regardless of prior work experience, people often struggle to discern protocols, etiquette and culture when they change employers.
“It’s like going to a different country,” said Michael Kanazawa, chief executive of Dissero Partners, an Oakland, Calif., management consulting firm. “There are cultural norms of behavior that go way beyond what anybody would have the capability to write in a job description.”
One big issue is tolerance for questioning the boss, the article pointed. Some companies encourage it, believing that confrontation can generate sharp, creative thinking; others consider disagreement disrespectful. Even mundane issues, such as how to lean on administrative support, can present hazards.
Ben Dattner, a principal with Dattner Consulting, an organizational-effectiveness consulting firm, cautions that there can be lasting consequences to breaking unwritten rules. For example, co-workers may label the newcomer as an outsider who doesn’t fit into corporate culture and is “not meant to be taken seriously,” he said.
Career experts urge newcomers to take advantage of their “grace period” by asking lots of questions in their first months on the job. It may feel embarrassing, but it’s worse to remain ignorant a year later, according to the article.
Another good strategy is to watch others and follow their lead. Newcomers should also try to enlist a friend or office assistant from whom they can seek guidance. That’s what Lyria Charles did after discovering many unwritten rules at her new employer, a technology company in Virginia.
Her new post was a vice president job, directly supervising about 12 project managers. During her first week, she asked her assistant to set-up meet-and-greets with staffers. She was surprised to see that her assistant arranged the meetings at the subordinates’ cubicles – not Charles’ office. “That’s how it’s done,” Charles recalls her assistant telling her; she was grateful for the guidance. “If I had done the reverse and insisted they come to my office, that would have set a tone of, “You don’t really understand how things work here and you’re not a team player.’”
Charles learned other mores through careful observation, or trial and error. For example, she noticed that co-workers preferred to send instant messages to colleagues before calling them. She also learned she was supposed to check email over the weekend after missing an email about a project task.
Kevin Hall, a mortgage banker, said he learned cultural nuances partly by observing others. About three months into a new job, while finding himself bogged down making his own travel arrangements, he noticed some higher-up executives asking the receptionists if they could help with travel booking. So he approached some of the administrative staffers to ask for help too. “You feel your way as you go,” he told the newspaper. “I’m still learning new things, but the learning curve has slowed down.”
Here from Forbes.com are some additional tips for employees to consider during the first 90 days at a new job:
Do your homework. Learn all you can about your new employer and its industry through careful research. This way you’ll be knowledgeable in your initial assignments and in your daily contact with colleagues.
Know your strengths. By focusing on what you’re good at, you can use your strengths to quickly make an impact in your new position.
Say it right. It’s important to know what to say and how to say it. If you’re not a good speaker, practice or get a coach. With good speaking skills, you can seek out opportunities where you can gain visibility.
Get in shape. Because the early days of any new job can be a grind, it’s important to be physically prepared. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, do anything you can to keep your energy level up.
Get a mentor. Besides forming early relationships with a few knowledgeable co-workers who can help bring you up to speed, it’s vital to have an ongoing dialogue with somebody who knows the company very well and can help you navigate the organization.
Understand how things work. Find out about office policies, how to weave your way through politics that predate you, and how most communications occur in the company. Most importantly, though, find out how the company operates before you start trying to change things

Job Hunting Tips October 31, 2005

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For your benefit/general amusement, here are things I’ve learned in my last year of IT contracting…

(1) Tell everyone that you know that you’re on the market. Everyone has a brother, friend, mother, etc, and some of them are hiring managers that would consider you for assignments.

(2) Get a portfolio. When you do get an interview, you’ll have to show the hiring manager that you’ve been there and done that, and a resume is not going to cut it. I have a laptop with my work (that previous employers have given permission for me to show) so I can give them a live demo. Even if you are a student fresh out of college, there MUST be some class project that you can show to an employer to demonstrate your skills.

(3) Get your own website, and put your resume on it. I get tons of emails from recruiters who ask for my resume, and many mail systems have anti-virus software that replaces resumes with a text file in the email. Then the recruiter has to ask you for it again, which makes you look bad. Instead, you can say ‘You can download my resume off of my website at …’. Mine is at http://www.jimhorn.biz/resume.doc.

(4) Get your own business cards and brochures. Now that you’re independant, you can create the ‘best looking business card’ of anyone and not be bound by any guidelines. If you have any graphic artist experience, design your own, front and back, and go to vistaprint.com to have them print it for you. This way, you can say you created your own business cards, too.

(5) Some recruiters will only want to talk to you so they can fill their quota of talking to (x) number of prospects a day. Get used to initial meetings with recruiters that do not provide immediate benefits.

(6) Some recruiters (I wont mention any names, like Advecta, TEKSystems) often post for positions they aren’t even close to having, just to draw people out to increase the number of people in their database. See above.

(7) Find out who the hiring manager is. Then talk to them directly. The best leads/offers I’ve had were for positions that were never posted.

(8) Avoid HR people like the plague. They often get 200+ resumes, are under pressure to find someone who meets ALL of their requirements, and must fill someone within a certain salary range. If you’re responding to a newspaper ad, monster.com, dice.com, etc. ad, this is unavoidable, but otherwise try your best to stay away.

(9) If you don’t have work lined up before you ‘cut the cord’ (whether voluntary or involuntary) from your present employer, expect things to be slow at first. A lot of the work I pick up is from employers I’ve worked for before, and contracting companies I’ve worked with before.

(10) If at all possible, stay in touch with your previous boss. This may sound strange, and be about as exciting as eating a horse blanket, but there’s a good chance that they’ll give you a good reference as long as you left on good terms, especially if they feel somewhat guilty about having to let you go in the first place.

(11) If you were part of a bulk layoff, keep in touch with the other people that were laid off with you. They’re in the same boat your are in, and as long as you’re not competing for the same jobs, they will be more than interested in helping you out. If you’ve been referred to LHH, then chances are they’re in the LHH Resume Reserve.

(12) If you’re targeting a company, use the LHH Resume Reserve to look for people that have worked there before. Call them up and use the ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m with LHH and am looking at (insert company name), and saw in the Resume Reserve that you’ve worked there. Can we talk?’ approach. Works (almost) every time, and you’re likely to get some great dirt, er knowledge about the company, department, and hiring manager.

(13) If you have the time, volunteer your services to a non-profit group. Some of the other volunteers will be hiring managers, many others will be good sources of information, and you can put the experience on your resume.

(14) If at all possible, get your health benefits through your spouse, as COBRA costs about a grand a month for a family of four, and you don’t want to switch health insurance every time you switch assignments.

(15) Re-design your resume to emphasize your past experiences, and de-emphasize education and certifications. This really sounds crazy, but a general consensus of contractors states that all employers care about in a contractor is experience.

Also, in a down economy, many HR people will take whatever certification/formal education you have, look up the salary range in their book/online reference/salary survey, realize that the average for someone with your certification is more than they want to pay you, and drop you from consideration. Sounds bass-ackwards, but I’ve heard this scenario play out for many other IT contractors who did not get work and were extremely qualified.

(16) Consider teaching in your skillsets. There are plenty of small schools such as Capella University, Hennepin Technical College, Academy College, National American University, and Benchmark Learning who have specific, sporatic needs for adjunct instructors. They don’t pay well, but it’s great when people ask you if you have experience in an area and you can say ‘Yes, and I even taught it at (school name).’

(17) Help your fellow LHH friends out. Chances are, they’ll help you out too.

(18) Call/email people you’ve done business for blind and ask them about any availability. A lined up a surprising amount of work that way.

(19) If the companies you do get assignments from are relatively small (say, smaller than 100 employees), then make sure payment terms, and consequences of late payment, are in writing in your contract. I had a company that had the impression of payment terms was ‘Net/whenever we feel like paying you’, and I ended up not being paid for $2,700 worth of work when they closed their doors with no ‘We’ve moved’ sign out front, and went under.

Introduction to Case Interviews September 12, 2005

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The case interviewing style is particularly common among management consulting firms, law firms, counseling and social work organizations, police departments, and other organizations that place a premium on understanding your thought process.

The case interview consists of presenting you with a typical set of “facts” that you might encounter in a real-life work situation and observing how you analyze, conclude, and act or recommend actions to be taken.

The facts presented can range from a brief snapshot (“Suppose a client came anxiously into your office, hoping to find a solution to a desperate cash-flow problem caused by an unusually severe seasonal slowdown in his business”) or an elaborate maze of information including charts, graphs, numbers, and correlations—some relevant and some perhaps not.

Your job is to become the professional in the situation, making further inquiries to clarify the facts, developing and presenting a framework for thinking about the issues, and then working within the framework to come to conclusions.

What do we mean by a framework? In the cash-flow situation stated above, the framework might be an exploration of the bigger picture (“What has your sales history been over the past two years?”), then a look at potential causes, the testing of hypotheses, and finally consideration of short- and long-term remediation possibilities

If the case presented requires formulating actions in order to implement a strategy, the framework you use might be a two-by-two matrix, in which you classify possible actions in terms of their relevance to the strategy (high or low) and their difficulty of implementation (high or low). The high-impact, low-difficulty quadrant would be the first area to address.

The interviewer is generally more interested in how you explain your assumptions, your reasons for selecting the framework you use, and how you say you would go about operating within that framework than in whether you arrive at a “correct” answer (Tip: There usually is none).

Your objective should be to show how you think, and that you think in a clear and reasoned manner.

A fair number of case questions cover operations issues. Broadly speaking, “operations” refers to all the things involved in running a business and getting product out the door.

Tips to help you crack the case every time

Listen carefully to the material presented. Take notes if you want to, and be sure to ask questions if you are unsure about details

Take your time. You’re not expected to have a brilliant solution to a complex problem on the tip of your tongue. If you need a minute or two to collect your thoughts and work through your answer, say so

Offer a general statement or framework up front to serve as an outline for your answer. Although the framework can be something as elaborate as a 3C (customer, company, competition) model, it need not be anything more than something like: If you’re asking about declining profits, then I’d want to check into factors affecting cost, and factors affecting revenues. On the cost side…” As you proceed with your answer, draw on the outline of your framework.

Home in on key issues. Many interviewers will be checking to see if you operate by the 80-20 rule, which means you should first address the broader issues that will get you 80 percent of the way to a
good solution.

Orient your answer toward action. Theory is good for the classroom, but it won’t fly in a boardroom. Clients want to know what steps they can take to solve a problem, not pie-in-the-sky philosophy.

Think out loud. The interviewer is looking as much for evidence of a logical thought process as for a brilliant conclusion to the case problem.

Be conscious of resources. A lot of consulting work involves figuring out how you are going to collect the information you need to answer a question—without costing the client a fortune. If it relates to the problem, ask your interviewer about the budget, capital, and other resources that the client can allocate to the solution