Week 10 – Blog Post: Most Important Thing You’ve Learned

So, this one is easy for me. The most important thing I’ve learned in this class is that recruiting and hiring isn’t an unstructured, “gut feel” process. It takes structure and protocol and persistence.

Previously, I looked at recruiting and hiring as more of a soft skill process. You network with others; you identify talent in terms of people with institutional knowledge, good skills, or strong potential; you interview these people to see what kind of a fit they would be to the organization and how they would add to the overall value of the group; you extend an offer that seems reasonable but doesn’t upset the current salary too much; and then you convince them why they need to say yes.

However, this approach can have vastly varied results, and the structure presented in the course material – specifically tying the idea of “tests” to validity – as well as the “A Method” described in the book Who, has really shown me that there is a prescriptive method to finding and hiring the very best of the best, which is really what we all are looking for.

I look back at recent recruitment and hires that I have been a part of at my current organizations, and I see very clearly some of the mistakes that happened when we made what ended up being poor decisions. I think back to those key moments and realize if I had the same understand then as I do now, we probably would not have made the same mitsakes.

I have always executed unstructured interviews. I assumed that getting to know the person in a more informal and atmosphere was a better way to assess true talent and fit. I simply figured that I could spot true talent, future success, and fit through my own intuition. What I didn’t realize was that I was not giving myself the best opportunity to truly score the individual by not providing a scorecard to lead the way and a structured interview to get us there.

I am now a big proponent of the screening interview and the structured, in-person interview. These are two tools that I had not used before, but now I totally see how and why they should be utilized in a hiring situation. I now have a much better grasp on how to work through an interview scenario with a potential applicant, and I have much more confidence in the decision making that results from the screening and the structured interviews. I will be trying out these techniques on potential candidates that are coming down the pipeline very soon.


Week 9 – Blog Post: Self-Reflection

What am I good at?

At this point in my career, I would say that I’m good at leading a team, working with clients and helping them identify their needs, and working through strategies to help fulfill those goals. In my career, I’m results-driven and focused on accountability, but in my personal life, I tend to take more joy in the journey than the accomplishments.

What do I value?

I value service toward others. I value accountability from others. We may not have a say in our circumstances, but we do have control over our response to our circumstances. I value that response and what we are doing to make things better.

How did I get here?

I got here through hard work, good fortune, and the mentorship of others. I’ve always worked with talented and gracious people who have helped me learn and experience new things. I’ve had supervisors who have supported me and advocated for me. I’ve worked in different situations where I’ve been fortunate to gain perspective at each of my stops.

Where am I going?

This is a wonderful question. The future is uncertain, but I would say that in my current trajectory, my path leads toward more opportunities to serve clients, develop relationships, and lead teams. I would like to think that I would be able to continue to take on newer responsibilities and greater roles within my company, and that my ability to impact clients and the general public would be enhanced through the work that our teams are doing.


Week 7 – Blog Post: IPIP Results & Reactions

I took the original version of the IPIP, which took about 30 minutes to complete. My scores indicated that I am high on the extraversion scale, high for agreeableness, average for conscientiousness, low for neuroticism, and high for openness to experience. These results do seem to fall in line with other personality assessments that I’ve taken in the past, such as the MBTI and the Wilson social styles. I assumed that I would score highly for extraversion, as I have scored as a very high extrovert in the MBTI in the past. I also assumed I would see a high score for openness to experience. Some of my favorites things to do include traveling to new places, experiencing new cultures, and eating new foods. I also like to read books about topics that I am unfamiliar with, and I take enjoyment out of learning new things. The fact that my neuroticism scale was low also does not surprise me. I tend to be a pretty level thinker who does not make decisions under impulse, and I try to not react very emotionally in many situations. I do not get depressed easily and I am not prone to large mood swings either. I was not sure where I would score in terms of agreeableness and conscientiousness, and I need to look into these two factors a little more in depth to truly understand what my scores mean there.

Coming form the perspective of a potential employer, I think they would see a few key items in looking at these scores. While I don’t believe the scores in and of themselves would be a good predictor of job performance, they may help the employer understand with a little more in depth how my personality might match or clash with certain people in the group, and they also might indicate what kinds of roles and work circumstances would either provide a positive experience for me and the company or a negative one.

I would probably look at the extraversion and openness to experience scores to get an understanding of where the candidate’s comfort level lies. For instance, if I am looking for a natural leader who is comfortable with working in a large and vocal group, I would likely prefer to see a high extraversion score. Similarly, if I was seeking a candidate who is challenged and enthused by trying new things, I would look for a high openness to experience score. If I had been burned in the past by overly emotional staff, I might examine the neuroticism score to get a feel for how the candidate makes decisions based on emotion rather than sound judgment. Moreover, if the position can be described as a high-stress atmosphere, I would look more favorably at a candidate who is not affected by those high-stress moments as much as a typical person would be.

The biggest challenge, however, is not typecasting the candidate based on their personality scores. This is one reason why I don’t personally prefer to have candidates take personality assessments as part of the hiring process, because I want to keep as open a mind as I possibly can while getting to know that person. Because these personality tests have been shown to not be highly predictive of strong performance, I don’t believe that they need to be relied upon during the recruitment and selection process. However, they can be a very strong tool in helping an employee understand one’s self, how they react to certain situations, and how others react to the same situations. If overall communication and synergy can be improved through these assessments, they can be very strong tools in the workplace.


Week 5 – Blog Post: Typical vs. Maximal Performance

In the hypothetical situation presented in the blog assignment, I would choose to hire the higher-ceiling candidate, Avery, rather than the consistent Jaime. My thought process here is that we are not often given the opportunity to work with truly high achievers. In fact, these people come around so infrequently that I believe we have begun to erode our standards of what a truly high-achieving candidate really is. In the hiring sense, when we have the opportunity to make a move on a candidate who can possibly be a differentiator for the firm, I believe we need to make that move.

Many times, what separates true high achievers, or “A Players” as the book “Who” would identify, is a lack of coaching or mentoring to make up the gap between good results with high potential to truly outstanding results. If you analyze the known variables in the equation, you understand very quickly that the one key unknown is how our organization, our people, and our culture might affect the potential candidate who maybe has not yet reached that full potential. Why settle on mere consistency when a high-achieving candidate is out there and available?

For someone like Avery, a position where the workload and responsibility can be highly variable could be best suited for him, such as when deliverables require a maximum amount of effort over short periods of time with high pressure. It is reasonable to assume that the high pressure environment would bring out the high achievement in Avery, and the organization could benefit from those short bursts of truly great work. However, this is a high-risk/high-reward proposition. Indeed, if the Avery candidate does not perform under these higher pressure situations, it can put the organization is a much bigger hole than they would otherwise be in with a more consistent person in the role.

A good role for Jaime would be one that remains fairly consistent in terms of workload, expectations, and pressure. In this way, you can budget Jaime’s production versus the known tasks and deliverables, and make sure that you are set up for success at the time of a deliverable. Jaime’s work quality is a known, and it is best to pair this known with a work environment where the needs, responsibilities, and tasks are also known. In this way, you have a low-risk/low-reward atmosphere, where you are successfully able to minimize risk with an employee like Jaime.


Week 4 – Blog Post: Critiquing a Recruitment Ad

My own unique brand as an employee would be characterized as a forward-thinking leader who enjoys the challenge of leading people toward a common goal. I would like for a prospective employer to see that I am warm, personable, and genuine in my communication style, and that I strive to be authentic in the work that I do and the way that I interact with my team. I am goal-oriented and I understand the importance of setting appropriate expectations and then delivering on those expectations, regardless of the scope of task or assignment. However, I also pay attention to culture, and I do not lose sight of the importance of the journey in pursuit of the desired destination.

My working style is collaborative. I enjoy building consensus within a team to achieve a common goal. Joys for me are landing a big project, delivering a complex task, or working with a colleague to achieve a stated goal.

If I were to present myself in a situation wanted ad, I would probably include phrases that outline my culture and describe the kind of person that I am. I would look for ways to tie in compentencies with results. If I could get potential employers to think about what successes the company can achieve by bringing me on board, that would be the goal. So instead of analyzing me as a potential candidate, they are instead thinking about how I can help the company grow into something else altogether. Maybe a list of rhetorical questions, asking if they want to see certain characterics improve at their company, or asking if they want to have better results in ceratin markets.

The wanted ad would have to have a modern and positive look and feel to it. Maybe some pictures of me presenting and conferences or working on the job with previous employers would be helpful in setting the stage. I would close the ad by asking companies what they have to lose in bringing me in for a discussion. If I could plant seed that I wouldn’t hurt to bring me in for just a 30-minute conversation, that would give me hopefully a small opportunity to get my foot in the door.


Week 3 – Blog Post: Job Descriptions

For this exercise, the job that I am referencing is my position at my current organization. I applied for a position with this organization a little under five years ago. The job description for the position that I applied for was significantly different than the position that I ended up taking, which interestingly enough did not have a formal job description developed for it. Then, about three years ago, I was promoted to another position that also did not have an explicit job position in writing. My example is probably similar to that of other folks in the engineering profession.

In my experience, many of the roles we end up taking on in the engineering industry, and specifically in the transportation infrastructure world, are not associated with black and white job descriptions in writing. Sure, there are job descriptions for the initial position when you are hired on at a firm, but your actual tasks, roles, and responsibilities end up varying dramatically, depending on what projects are ongoing at the time, where the unique needs are, or where your own career path tends to take you. For instance, a job description in my industry may include tasks like leading a design team to develop calculations for a transportation infrastructure project, assisting a lead inspector in the field on a site visit, or drafting design plans under the supervision of a senior technician or designer. But the individual tasks that the engineering professional is asked to complete no a day to day basis can vary significantly.

This can be very difficult for entry-level applicants whose experience has been shaped by their studies in college with very finite and specific tasks and assignments. These tasks are not so cut and dried in the real world, which creates some struggle and opportunities for learning when the less experienced staff realize that sometimes they need to define the problems and possible solutions themselves.


Week 2 – Blog Post: Experiences with Discrimination

The hypothetical sitiation to examine here is the case where a favorite company of mine has been accused of discriminatory practices.

A situation like this would have lasting effects on me. Regardless of whether or not the ethnicity, culture, or belief system discriminated against was something that I associated with, the knowledge that a certain group of people were discriminated against would certainly change my assessment of the organization.

First though, it would be important to review the situation from all sides. Many times, cases of discrimination at first appear to be damning for the organization or the particular persons involved, but then once all of the facts are revealed it is shown that a situation may have been blown out of proportion or simply misrepresented. However, once the facts have been reviewed and the discrimination is indeed verified, there are serious implications.

An organization is similar to a living organism in that it has a personality, value system, beliefs, and culture. We tend to favor companies that share values and belief system with ourselves, as this provides an alignment and serves as the backdrop for a matching of individual values with organizational values. When we find that there are stark differences in value systems and culture brought on by organizational discrimination, it creates a chasm between who we proclaim to be and the organization that we have aligned ourselves with. When it becomes clear that this chasm exists, the relationship is doomed.

To me, it can be compared to a similar situation when relationship is being developed between two people. Decisions, preferences, styles, and other somewhat superficial characteristics can reasonably differ, but these differences do not create sharp divides between the two people because they are not core, foundational beliefs and values. When a hidden discrimination surfaces in one person, and those backwards beliefs aren’t shared with the other person, it creates an unbridgeable chasm. This is similar with organizations.


Week 1 – Blog Post: The Case for Recruitment & Selection

Many organizations focus on the “what” rather than the “who”. This can be because of a variety of reasons. Sometimes organizations can only see the main problem or issue in front of them, and are not able to decipher why the issue is occurring. For instance, the marketing information they may be receiving is unreliable, and they do not consider that possibly the people in charge of directing the marketing efforts do not have the necessary experience or understanding. Instead of making a change at the staffing level, they simply work with the marketing manager to implement a new strategy.

Other times, an emphasis can be placed on an outward, client-focused strategy rather than understanding the need or process (and staffing) improvement. In a vacuum, a client-focused strategy is generally the best option for an organization. The firm is able to first understand the unique needs of the potential client before crafting an offering that provides value. However, if this is attempted with the wrong people in place within the organization, the offering has a far greater probability in falling apart.

One possible strength in not prioritizing recruitment and selection in favor of other aspects of the business can be a sharper focus on the product offering, especially in a commodities or basic services market. If all the energy is spent on process improvement, product refinement, and positioning, sometimes this strategy can be successful even when the staffing isn’t right, simply because of the demands of the unique market, offering, or state of economy. However, this strength can vanish quickly when the situation changes and the firm does not have the people in place to react to changing conditions.

Weaknesses inherent in not prioritizing staffing and recruitment are many and varied. In most cases, the ability to reach potential clients, develop and refine the product or service offering, and deliver value for the client is entirely dependent on the quality of the people behind the production. Moreover, in good economic times with heavy competition, the organization that resources itself with the best people will stand above the rest.


Week 1 – Post 1

As a job applicant, the last job that I applied to was my current position as a structural engineer.  The actual position that I applied to was turned out to be a little different than where I initially landed, but it served to start the conversation between myself and my employer.  I found out about the company through some initial online research.  As an East Coast resident, I didn’t have much familiarity with the company as they tended to operate in a more West Coast space.  I had to do some initial online research to get a good feel for what the company was all about.  It was through that initial research that I began to realize the “why” behind the firm, what was really important to them, and what they stood for.  Everything that I discovered through my online research was positive and caused me to investigate further.

After my initial application, I had a phone interview scheduled with three individuals.  The interview was good, and the discussion was positive and informative, for the most part, but I wanted to talk to more folks at the firm to get a better understanding of what kind of opportunities would be available for me.

Throughout the application process, I spoke with three more individuals in the firm, with progressing levels of leadership and responsibility.  I begun to understand where their needs were, and how my strengths could help fill in those gaps.  I was able to get a broader understanding of the firm and their practice, and how my specific skill set filled a need.

Throughout the application process, I became more and more excited about the prospects of working with this firm, and seeing how my strengths and passions fit a unique need for the company.  By the time I had accepted an offer and then started my employment, I was fully engaged and ready to hit the ground running.  The key conversations that I had with the decision makers during the application process were critical in me understanding the firm and them understanding what I could bring to the table.