Rewrite the hiring script

Rewrite the hiring script

The disconnect between how many companies claim that they only hire the best and how they try to actually do that is perverse. A depressing number of job postings are barely more than a list of technology or process requirements paired with an arbitrary desire for years of irrelevance. That’s then fluffed up by a bunch of trite rah-rah bullshit about the supposed glory of hiring company. Ugh.

… taking the time to describe the role, the work, and the organization with clarity and honesty matters so much. The vast majority of potential candidates in this world are not going to apply to your position in any case. The aim of a great job posting is to expand the pool in awareness of that fact. To entice those complimentary candidates to apply who might otherwise wouldn’t have. Dropping this “the best” nonsense is a start.

So that’s what we’ve tried to do with renewed vigor over the past few months here. We’ve been in an uncommon hiring spree with five open positions recently. Every single one of those involved a prolonged, careful process of crafting the best job posting we knew how. Yes, some of the framing is similar between the posts, but each one was written for that particular position. Then subjected to critique, review, and editing by a broad cross-section of future coworkers. I think it shows.

It shows. I am so impressed with Basecamp’s job descriptions. Also, props to Basecamp for highlighting and posting this on their company blog!

Practice hard. Practice well

Practice hard. Practice well.

When I started writing this blog in 2003, I was not a strong writer. Sixteen years later, I am a better writer. Doing something every day is the best way to improve at something.

I think everyone can improve at things they are not good at and become competent, even excellent, at them. I am not going to win a Pulitzer Prize, but I can write well and have become a strong communicator by practicing it routinely. Practice really works.

It has been over 10 years of practice for my relationship. Pretty damn solid now. On to the next thing to practice.

Healthy solitude

Nicholas Bate, always a favourite

With healthy solitude comes profound insight. Seek more of the former and make life easier.

As work rushes on, and I overwork again. It’s the quiet and alone moments, when time is allocated to sit still and pat the needy cat, that some form of clarity awakens. Then I realise that the path is so clear.

As the meaningless options fade away.

What is complex becomes simple.

Too big to care

Too big to care.

As brands get bigger (and bigger might be as small as an organization with just two people in it), policies kick in. Policies and budgets and bureaucracy.

The brand has become too big to care. I mean, it might be big enough to pretend to care. To have policies that appear to set things right. But they don’t really care.

The only way to really care is to have human beings who care (and to give them the authority and resources to demonstrate that.)

Once you’ve got that, it’s pretty easy to show that you do.

A sexism questionnaire to filter sexist candidates

How the female CEO of a mechanical engineering Indian startup dealing in menstrual hygiene solutions avoids hiring sexist candidates.

“We have very abstract questions to check for sexism,” says Mohan, who refers to the questionnaire as a “sexism filter.”

…more nuanced questions—one, for instance, that presents a scenario of inequality, and asks how the employee would behave in it—are more useful for identifying whether the candidates are indeed feminists, or just playing the part in the interview. The questions also draw from news and current affairs, trying to gauge the candidate’s opinions on socially-divisive issues, such as caste politics or sexist religious practices.

The best evidence is in the numbers of unfit candidates it helped identify. “We have actually rejected a lot of technically good candidates because of it,” she says. “When there is a cultural misfit, it creates conflict sooner or later,” she explains. “So, from past experience, we prefer waiting to find the right fit, rather than hiring someone and asking them to leave.”

How social separation leads to tribalism and affects not just those ostracised, but the world.

But as measles cases in the U.S. climb to an all-time high after the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, U.S. public health officials have been looking for ways to address the problem.

As a researcher on religious politics and health, I believe that Nigeria’s highly mobilized efforts to eliminate polio can teach America how to reverse the increase in measles cases and shore up its public health infrastructure. Working with international partners, Nigerians have combated misinformation, suspicion of vaccine science and religion-based boycotts to go from ground zero for polio on the African continent in 2003 to nearly polio-free in 2019.

Nigerians understood that simply ostracizing religious communities would not work. Anti-vaxx politics tapped into mistrust of government and “others” that ran deep in a diverse but divided society, where religious, regional and ethnic loyalties took priority over national unity.

To foster reconciliation, Nigerians engaged in efforts to break down tribalism. One experiment, started in 1973 and still going, is compulsory service of college graduates in the National Youth Service Corps in “states other than their own and outside their cultural boundaries to learn the ways of life of other Nigerians.”

… we should work to depoliticize public health. Scapegoating religious communities evokes ugly histories of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

As different people, we have different mindsets. A way forward is agreeing to disagree and keep civilised communication going.

This applies to any form of interaction, including work and home.

Playing to your strengths as a leader doesn’t make you a good boss – in fact, it can make you a bad boss.

So, you have to ask yourself: Are your actions feeding your team, or your ego?

Focus on what you’re good at, and the team never becomes good at it themselves. Focus on what you’re good at, and you never see things for what they really are.

Resist viewing your strengths as the only way to make the team strong. Resist falling in love with the short-term results of doing what feels good to be doing.

Find someone who will tell you the truth. Your co-founder, your coworkers. Ask them if what you’re doing that you’re good at is really helping move the team forward.

Our strengths are our weakness, our weakness our strengths.

Also, the entire Know Your Team blog is amazing.

Tracking job applications for metrics

In a past iteration of tracking job applications, I kept an uber long note in Simplenote, with simple information like:

  1. Job title
  2. Company
  3. Link to job posting
  4. Date of application

In this iteration of applications, I decided something had to change and decided to spreadsheet the applications. Since the Internetz has probably done it, I decided to not start afresh.

Zen Ren, from Zapier, really knocked it out of the park with this fantastic article.

The biggest thing I changed this time was realizing that, much like a real job, I had to track my work and pin down what was efficient for me and what wasn’t, and keep re-adjusting my strategy. Reading a hundred guides on how to write a standout resume or kill it at an interview wasn’t going to help me if my application strategy was all wrong.

By focusing on the tactics I was using and tracking numbers, I could quickly fine-tune what was working and cut out tasks that were wasting time with no results.

As for me, I had a lot of soft skills across diverse industries, which can be tough. Because of this, I had three resumes that I had tailored for the three different kinds of jobs I was applying to: Sales Management, Business Operations Analyst, and Tier 1 Support.

Amen. I too was applying to different types of roles that suited different resumes, and yet it was getting really time consuming to tailor my resume to every single role.

Hope this helps someone and good luck to you too!

8 questions to ask at job interviews

This post is for me to archive general interview questions that I tend to ask, and maybe someone will find them useful!

So I’ve been going to job interviews these past few years. Interviews give me such a bag of nerves that when it comes to “do you have any questions?”, I just remember 1 or 2 of the questions that I had prepared.

As I get more comfortable and confident going for interviews, now I have no qualms about fishing out my notebook or phone (depending on where the prepared questions were noted down), whilst saying, “give me a moment to check my questions”.

The questions are loosely organised in chronological order as the interview progresses. Meaning that questions that should be asked earlier are listed first.

1. What does your ideal candidate look like?

A job description has so many requirements. Generally, interviewers will list their key requirements in response to this question. Then you’ll be able to cite relevant experiences that directly fit the role.

2. What is the growth path of this role?

This shows that you’re keen on staying and growing with the company for awhile (which I sure hope you are!). Also it helps you figure out if the planned growth path suits your long-term goals. If not, there’s still time to communicate that to the interviewer and see if there could be an alternative growth path.

3. What are the short and long-term plans of the department/company?

This is different from question #2. This shows that you’re interested in the environment around you (you better be cos it definitely has an impact on you!). You can also see if the plans tie in with your growth. If it does, communicate it with the interviewer so this shows that you’re personally invested and motivated in being successful in this role.

4. What is your working style?

Being able to work well with your boss is so important! When you get to talk to your direct reporting manager, it’s good to find out what they’re like. If you’re similar, or appreciate their style, tell them! It builds rapport. Also, bosses, like anyone are just looking for people that they can work well with.

5. What is your managerial style?

This is different from question #4. If they have experience managing staff, it will be evident after this question. You’ll be able to tell how they care, how they lead and how they expect work to be done.

6. Could you share any concerns that you have about me regarding this role?

Such an important question! Ask this towards the end of the interview. Then you’ll be able to (hopefully) address any lingering doubts about you.

7. What are the next steps of the interview process and the expected timeline?

This will help you manage your expectations on how short or long the interview process will be. You’ll also know when to ask HR or the recruiter for updates without being pushy.

8. Do you have any feedback for me?

I asked this question on a whim when I felt a really good rapport with the interviewer. The answer was invaluable. Please ask this when possible!

Good luck!

PS: I can’t emphasise the usefulness of bringing a notebook/scribble pad to an interview. An interviewer suggested using “pieces of paper” to help with organising thoughts (after I asked “do you have any general feedback”), I acted on it in a subsequent interview, and used it to organise an answer to an on-the-spot scenario-based question. So good!

PPS: After writing this post, I realised that I could have done so much better at past interviews. Then again, that’s why I blog – to reflect, learn and grow.