Interview: How not to Suck when asked “Do You Have any Questions”

6a0133f30ae399970b014e88179ee5970d-piTowards the end of interviews it is the norm for the interviewer to ask “Do you have any questions?”. The common response from candidates is a “ No, not right now” or something to that effect.

Per-se there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that answer. It seems to be polite, courteous and modest. All good traits to display.

But think about it, why wouldn’t you have any questions?.

You will spend a chunk of your waking time at this place if things work out. Would’nt it be good to have complete clarity on what you will be doing, how you will be doing and maybe even why?

It is an opportunity. Take it.

So, lets get into the details of the Why, What and How to respond to the query “ Do you have any questions”

Lets start with Why?

Why you should have questions to Ask? The benefits are multiple, and the three most important ones are –

  1. These questions help to build clarity on your role, the company, and your boss.Interview is a 2 way process. As you are being interviewed you have an opportunity to evaluate the company environment, and the work. These questions will help you do just and put you in a position to take a more informed decision.
  2. Building rapport with the interviewer is a major objective for any candidate. Rapport happens with engaging conversations and the right questions asked sincerely are the lubricants to ensure a smooth conversation.
  3. The third point is a by-product. Relevant questions will mark you out as a well-prepared and keen candidate, who has done his homework.

Those are the 3 key reasons as to why you should use the opportunity to Ask. Now lets move on to the what?.

What to Ask?

Once there is clarity about the objective of asking questions – deciding on what to ask becomes simple. These questions fall into 3 broad categories

  • Role related.
    • Ask questions to get clarity about the role in case there are areas that you feel have not been thoroughly covered in the earlier part of interview. Sample questions could be –
      • Can you share more about the day to day responsibilities of the position?
      • If I am hired, what would be expected of me in the first 90 days? ..
  • Culture related.
    • We spend a majority of our waking hours at work. You are more likely to enjoy your time at the workplace if you fit into the workculture. You are likely to develop better relationships and be more productive at work. A few sample questions are –
    • Can you share your thoughts about the company culture?
    • What is the culture like?
    • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Boss/hiring manager related
    • These would be questions relating to your prospective Boss’s working style, how does he prefer his reports whether email or face to face, or phone. How often does he prefer being reported to. Is he a micromanager or a hands-off chief . A straightforward question to ask would be –
    • How would you describe your working style?

And as he responds you could ask questions to probe further.

These are just a few sample questions to ask, they are not an exhaustive list. You will find enough resources on line which provide such lists. The thing is that with a clear understanding of why you are asking – the what to Ask becomes easy. Infact the best questions come to you as you answer the questions the interviewer asks. So when a question pops up, jot it down in a pad to ask at the end.

What not to Ask?

Just like there are questions that are good to ask, there are also questions to avoid asking. This would be –

  • Question relating to Personal topics, family or last working assignment.
  • Queries about happy hours, non- work activities, lunch and vacation times.
  • Salary is a topic which is best left to the interviewer to bring up.
  • Filler questions. Avoid asking questions for which you can get the response by Googling.
  • Lastly avoid too many questions. And what is too many? If the interviewer is getting restless or is subtly giving indications of the interview being, take the hint. At best 2-3 well thought out questions should be good enough.

That brings us to the How?.

How to Ask?

Let the questions be open ended. For example you could phrase the questions as .. “Can you tell me about …?, “How would you describe ….?. Framing the question in such a manner makes it easier to probe further, thus opening up the conversation. Avoid yes and no questions.

Further, open ended questions set you up for follow up questions. Based on the interviewers response these help you to dig deeper. Follow-up questions give us greater insight, letting us form a clear opinion.

A key aspect about asking questions is waiting for response. A thing to remember is that it is not just about asking questions it is about building conversations. Let the interviewer take his time in responding. Don’t interject or try to fill in the silence in anyway. Get comfortable with silences. And don’t interrupt when the interviewer is speaking. For one it interrupts his train of thought and the other it is disrespectful. Not quite your objective.  deer-in-headlights

Moral of the story is when asked “Do you have any Questions” – don’t be like a dear caught in the headlights. Be prepared with a list and ask 2 to 3 relevant questions. Art of the Ask is in engaging the other person in this case the interviewer. It is about building rapport and getting clarity.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition expert based in Bangalore.

What is an employee’s most important need?

Self-fulfillment is the most important parameter for candidates considering a switch.

Gallup the global workplace monitor asked employees to indicate attributes they consider when deciding to change their jobs. 60% of a sample of US based employees ticked as most important –  the ability to do their  the best in the job. According to Gallup it effectively means that employees do their best when their roles are seamlessly integrated with their talent (the natural capacity for excellence), skills (what they can do) and knowledge (what they know).

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs
Employees aspire to Self Fulfillment

It comes as no surprise that employees want to reach their full potential. Self actualization is the mantra – as Maslow stated.

For hiring managers the key takeaway from this survey would be to make it clear to candidates that the company values their strengths and their new role will help them to hone those talents, knowledge & skills.

Prakash Francis helps organisations in hiring , developing and engaging talent. He is based in Bangalore.

Manage Your Boss – 2

Manage the BossThe phrase – Manage your Boss might sound unusual or suspicious. You might be thinking that I am pulling a fast one. Hoodwink you. But no. This is the truth. Your success on your Job is dependent on your relationship with your Boss.

And this relationship is  something which you need to take responsibility for.

Fact is most of us do influence or manage the relationship  to some extent – in bits and pieces. But to be effective you might have to delve deeper.

Before we go into the how of it – lets get into the why.

Let me share with you a story –

Many moons ago…. there were two Team  members – Rajesh and Rajan. These members reported to a Boss who had an informal and intuitive style of working. He did not believe in written reports – he was more into informal discussions and Brainstorming.

This Boss moved on to a different job and a new Boss took over.

This new Boss happened to have a more systematic approach. He preferred  written reports and liked to see things written down to ensure follow thrrough.

Rajesh quickly realised that the wind had changed and adapted his style to suit the new Boss. He regularly updated his Boss with mail updates and short written reports. Infact he would send down the agenda to his boss before a meeting – which the new Boss particularly liked. It improved the quality of the meetings and made decision making more effective.

Rajan on the other hand chose to continue with the original informal reporting style. This got him into problems with his Boss.

His Boss felt he was not getting enough information and had to spend a lot of time questioning Rajan about the work he was doing. While Rajan in turn did not like the constant prying .  He did good work and wanted to be respected and accepted for that. During the meetings the boss found it frustrating being unable to take any decisions with lack of clarity and Rajan in turn felt stifled.

After a few months Rajan decided to leave the firm.

Rajan did not realize that he needed to adapt to a different style He just assumed that the earlier Boss’s work style would be continued by the New Boss –

Assumptions they say – are the termites of relationships”.

I hope you realise how a slightly different approach can create an entirely different relationship.

My earlier post  covers this topic in greater detail.

Here is a quick Checklist for Managing your Boss-

Understand him/her

  • Understand his Goals & objectives
  • His/her pressures
  • Strengths Weaknesses & Blind Spots
  • Work style

Assess yourself

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” 

Understand Your Strengths and weaknesses

Your personal style

And how do you respond to authority

Create a relationship that

Fits both your styles and needs

Characterized by mutual expectations

Transparency.

it is worth remembering this quote –

More power than all the success slogans ever penned by human hand

is the realization for every man

that he has but one boss.

That boss is the man –

he – himself.

 

Look forward to your comments , or you could drop a mail to prakash.francis at ehirings.net.

 

 

Tips to be a Better Follower/Leader

“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”

Aristotle

The best examples of Leadership are found in the Armed forces.Leading soldiers into battle requires a strong, trustworthy and dependable leader. No doubt armed forces present us with exceptional examples of leadership under the most extreme circumstances. A key practice amongst all combat forces is the training aspect in which the obedience of the subordinate to his superior is established as paramount. The Junior officer learns to comply to his chiefs decision without any reservation.

In work life too, the very same concepts apply. To be able to Lead one has to be able to follow and follow well. At times the follower may not have the complete picture and believe the leaders decision to be wrong. He may not understand the logic behind the decision – yet if he is patient, in time he might be able to understand the logic.

Leadership starts with good followership. Men who become leaders too soon – too early end up becoming tyrants – history is replete with many such examples.

iStock_000014793457SmallTo be a good follower here are some ways –

Decision

It starts with the decision – the decision to follow. Good followers decide on the Leader they want to follow and then totally embrace that decision. They completely understand what this decision entails. It might mean giving up on other competing leaders and leadership styles. At work your choice is limited to choosing the place of work. Once that is decided – the ability to choose your Boss or superior is quite restricted – almost absent. In such a situation this decision has to be taken to ensure a smooth and effective working relationship.

Obedience

Obedience is a term which we don’t get to hear in the modern day management lexicon and something which is hard to accept. Perhaps that is because obedience harks back to the days of zamindars and landlords with their fiefdoms – which implied unquestioning obedience. The modern day obedience need not be that case. It is obedience nevertheless. To be a good follower – this might be a necessary criteria. Infact there should a law that someone who can’t obey orders should not be allowed to give orders. If a leader cannot display obedience – he cannot be a good role model for his followers.

Trustworthy   

When given an assignment, a leader can be sure that the job will get done. Dependability is a key trait and incredibly important.  The litmus test for a follower lies in his dependability. Followers take projects across the finish line. They make things happen.

Self Lead

The ability to be disciplined and to be able to lead oneself can be sited as another of the key requisites of a good team member. A member who imbibes the vision and mission of his superior – is an undeniable asset to any team. They are the most sought after for their Team skills. Such a follower will align himself or herself to the Leaders goals not waiting to be Lead.

Humility

Humility as against arrogance is an essential Hall Mark for a good follower. Humility helps one to accept his/her role as a team member. Even if on any given occasion you have done something outstanding or substantial – Instead of trying to garner attention – giving it up to your Boss and let him take the credit makes for an enlightened follower – let the light shine on your Boss for a while. Your turn will come – infact your boss might be forced to return the favour.

These are but a few useful to have traits for the diligent follower. You might have some other traits in mind. Please feel free to share them in the comments or drop a mail to prakash.francis at ehirings.net.

 

 

 

 

Status Quo & Learned Behaviour

What is learned behaviour?

A behaviour or action that is acquired is called learned behaviour. For example children learn to tie their shoes by watching their parents or classmates. Eating with a spoon and fork is another behaviour that happens by watching and practice. There are many such instances which we learn by observing the environment.

Learned behaviours have played a key role in the survival and thriving of our human race. But there is a flipside. They say too much of a good thing can be dangerous and the same goes with these behavioural mechanisms.

We pick up and hold on to behaviours that have outlived their purpose. Theorists call it cultural baggage and organisations are littered with instances of systems and process which continue to be followed – without no apparent reason. The clichéd statement – it has been always done this way – is a key indicator of the existence of learned yet meaningless organisational behaviors.

Let share with you a story which brings out the stark nature of learned behaviours.

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Image Courtesy – Google

This is a story of five monkeys – who found themselves in cage 30 ft by 30 ft square and around 15 feet in height. From the ceiling of the cage hangs a big banana bunch. And right under this juicy bunch of bananas is a folding type ladder. The kind you get in the home depot – used for doing work around the house.

So here is the scene – five monkeys, a bunch of bananas and a ladder.

What do you think the monkeys will do?

Only a matter of time one of them climbs the ladder and goes for the bunch.

Right. But here is the twist.

The moment a monkey touches the ladder  – ice cold water sprays on all the monkeys.

This monkey is zapped. Its totally startled – but the bananas are juicy – he goes for another try and – again ice cold water sprays.

Monkeys don’t particularly enjoy being sprayed with cold water. Now all the monkeys are wary. They don’t allow any monkey to move towards the ladder.

After a while another monkey gives in to the temptation and tries to go for the bananas. Immediately the other monkeys pounce on it – and prevent it from touching the ladder.

Pretty soon the monkeys become smart and stop any monkey from moving towards or touching the ladder.

Now we change the setting. The cold water spray goes. One of the monkeys is removed and a new one is introduced. The new one doesn’t know the story. He comes in sees the banana and off he goes. But to his surprise and horror all the other monkeys attack him and beat him up. Things cool off and the monkey makes another attempt – same result – he gets bashed up – and he has learnt his lesson.

Which is that if he tries climbing again he is going to be assaulted.   

Next we remove one more monkey and introduce a new one. The same situation repeats. Infact now even the previous new comer enjoys bashing up this poor fellow. Without knowing why. This is learned Learned behaviour at its best. 

One by one all the original monkeys are replaced with new ones and all the new entrants pick up the rules very quickly. They have no idea why they are beating up the new fellow , despite none of them have ever been sprayed with cold water.

The upshot is that no monkey approaches the ladder. The bananas are safe.

Suppose if we were to ask one one of the monkeys in – monkey language offcourse – as to why they were beating up the fellows who went for the ladder ? what would they reply ?

Any guesses.

The reply would most likely be “because that’s the way it has always been done.”

Perhaps all it needed to break this chain of events was for one of the later monkeys to ask why?.

But I guess that would be asking for too much.

We encounter learned behaviours everyday: processes, procedures, policies, best practices, design patterns, standards, etc. These are behaviors that developed as a result of a certain environmental need.

…but over time the environment changed. But the behaviour continued.

Only by challenging our old assumptions will we ever develop new ideas else it will be Status Quo.

Workplace Relationships

Yesterday I was sitting with a few friends and the topic drifted to relationships at work. One of my friends, lets call him Prasad, mentioned that relationships at his office overtook performance. People who maintained good relationships with some key decision makers at his office managed to get away with huge bonuses at the end of the year(he comes from the Banking sector –so Bonuses are Huge).

Fact is that this is not only applicable in the Banking segment – it is the norm everywhere. In positions where performance of an individual can’t be pinned down to clearly measurable criteria – relationships take precedence in appraisals. Even in other positions like sales or Software development where the results are measurable – this might not have such a huge influence. Yet the ability to build and maintain relationships cannot be undermined.

Another friend who is in the sales line had this instance to share about the efficacy of building strong relationships.  It was one of the lean months and his collections fell drastically. He was facing intense pressure to show numbers. In desperate straits he approached one of his good clients and explained the situation to him. His client came to his help – made a cheque for 2 crores, off-course the whole thing was regularised later – with proper documentation.  But, my friend stressed that it was only his relationship with his client that helped him bail out of the tough situation.

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Though my sympathies are with Prasad as I know him to be very sincere and puts 100% to his job, my vote goes to the approach of my Sales friend. By building strong relationships he has stacked the deck in his favour.

My take on this situation is whatever position you be in – give 100% to your work but give an additional 25% to building and maintaining relationships at work and not only with your superiors.

So how does workplace relationships help us?

Well a simple reason is that without decent relationships the work itself can get boring. A friendly work environment will keep everyone happy to stick around.

Good workplace relationships does not mean having to give in to every demand from your co- workers. You have the choice how to balance the two demands – your family and that of your work.

The key to maintaining good work relationships lie in a few simple techniques.

a)     Maintain a Cordial Tone with all peers, superiors & subordinates

b)     Flexible Nature

c)      Offer to help

Cordial Tone : It is quite easy to maintain more than just a cordial tone with people whom  you like. The challenge is to maintain cordial relationships with people whom you don’t like. And invariably there will be people at office whom you don’t particularly look forward to meet. If you are able to master this ability you are half way to cementing your place in your office team. Combine it with good listening skills and you will become the go to guy for any office related advice.   

Stay Flexible

Stay flexible to the demands of your workplace, even if they appear to be unreasonable. Be willing to let go of your point of you at times and go with the team decision. This is a difficult advice to take. But pays huge dividends in terms of getting acceptance as a team player. Sticking to your guns over any issue or getting people to enrol to your point of view – doesn’t pass the team spirit test.

Offer to Help

Offer to help others when you have free time and you see they are overwhelmed or bogged down. Ask for help when you need it too. By admitting that you don’t know all the answers and need the expertise or support of your co-workers, you establish a foundation on which you can build respect, one of the main ingredients for good relationships. A co-worker asking for help when it is time to leave or the boss dumping something on Friday evening. Offering to be of help is one thing but being able to help when the other person needs you – really boosts up your ratings as a Mr dependable.

Whatever be the industry you are in – you are likely to be working with people. To be able to work easily with a range of people with different temperaments and different socio –cultural backgrounds will be a great asset to develop. 

Do you have any workplace stories to share – whether on relationships or otherwise. Mail me – prakash.francis@ehirings.net

5 Habits to avoid at your Work Place

Character is long-standing habit.
Plutarch

You would agree if I say that people make snap judgments about others. They notice your one bad habit, then, something else happens in which you are not fully involved – and they connect. Before you know it, voila !  you are labeled a misfit, or a tantrum artist or whatever. A single bad habit is not likely to have any significant impact on your career immediately, but clubbed with something else even partially – it can. The below mentioned set of 5 habits can go a long way in preventing you from getting hitched to the wrong label.

Hold your criticism

Dont Criticize Condemn ComplainThis is a very simple yet  extremely useful advice.  And, one that is very difficult to follow. We all tend to whine and complain. But, the problem is that this trait is not taken lightly by organizations. And there is a good reason. Organizations are spending a lot of time and effort in building morale in their teams. They really don’t want someone finding faults and whining in public. It is going to reflect poorly on their efforts. Besides, there is enough negativity outside in the economy for the leadership to handle,why add to their woes? Best advice – Hold your criticism. And, in-case you have a serious enough complaint, discuss it directly with your manager, face to face.

Missing Deadlines

In a team environment missing deadlines can pull down the entire team effort.Do it too often and you will get marked as someone who can’t be trusted with work. You need to remember that you are not working in isolation. Everything is going to be a team effort and people are relying on you to do your part of the job. Trying to be perfect in what you do is no excuse.

Funny Man

I have seen some very smart colleagues of mine – falling flat on their face – over doing this bit. Being popular helps. But trying to be the funny guy – invariably backfires. And an impersonation of your boss, however mild, in the presence of other office members – is asking for trouble. You are counting on your boss to accept being belittled in public. Aren’t you asking for too much? Same goes for your team mates too. He/she might not be able to able to impact your career right away. But over time these things add up.  Save this type of fun for your college pals.

Inattentiveness

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Do not be Inattentive to yourself and to the workplace situation.You have got to be attentive – it is your career at stake.  Having a total disregard for the workplace culture and style, the dress code, or the hierarchy  creates needless tension and marks you out as a misfit.You don’t want that to happen. You want the organisational support system to be stacked in your favor. Why make it more difficult on yourself?

Working in an office setting demands that you be sensitive to co-workers. Be mindful of your body odor, the type of food you bring to office (especially if you are eating in an air-conditioned setting) strong-smelling food can be a major put off. Another thing to avoid – speaking loudly over your phone.

Staying aloof

aloof_feline_ipad_case-r5866999576d74ac9ae4c5c0bcda1f641_w8wqf_8byvr_512You are spending 8+ hours at work – the best part of your day with these folks. Might as well work on it and try to make it pleasant for everyone. Staying aloof at the work place runs the risk of being perceived as arrogance. And arrogance as we all know is a recipe for failure. By all means stay aloof from office politics. That is a definite plus. But having your lunch alone or not participating in other office get togethers – can actually bring unnecessary attention on you, not the kind that will help your career.