How to filter the best candidates in a telephonic job interview in 20 Minutes…

Being an entrepreneur I know how critical it is to get the right candidates, but at the same time, it’s impossible to spend a lot of time interviewing and screening each candidate. Hence I started researching how to screen the best candidates in the fastest way possible.

Here are a few learnings which I started using and gave surprisingly good results the best part it requires much lesser time for screening the “A candidates” from “B & C candidates”. (Some points are taken from book WHO – The A Method for Hiring)

Target: The initial screening interview should be short, phone-based, designed to select the best-suited candidates for our requirement.

Lets first start with the “DO NOTs”

Never start the interview by telling about yourself, company, or JD (Job description).

Unless you already know the candidate is the right fit, why waste time on this?. If she is the right candidate she would have already gone thru JD and website/company etc details.

Also, I have seen once you elaborate on the JD and your expectations, the candidate revolves around it and sometimes says those exact words. Kind of killing the whole process at the start.

You will get plenty of time to sell yourself & company later once you figure she is the right fit.

Don’t ask “Tell me about yourself and your profile?”

This is an over abused question and a waste of time, the candidate is so used to this question that it never touches any new information different from CV/Resume. Moreover, once it starts it’s difficult to control the candidate not to elaborate unnecessary details wasting further time.

Now let’s start with the screening questions:

#First Question: What are your career goals, or in the next 3-4 years what you see yourself doing?

The question gives a good opening dialog for the candidate, there is also a bit of surprise element to this question. It allows her to elaborate on her dream and what she wants to do in the future.

What to expect:

Notice whether her goals are matching your requirements. For example, if she is looking as a managerial position and your requirement is more of an individual contributor role, there is a red flag.

Secondly, if she lacks a goal or is saying a copy of the job description she got from the consultant or website, screen the person out. Talented people know what they want and shouldn’t be afraid to tell us.

Lastly, this question should reflect passion and energy in the candidate, after all, it’s her career goal(s) she is talking about. If it’s dull and monotonous, I would screen out the candidate.

#Second Question: What are you really good at professionally?

The question allows the candidate to further elaborate with plenty of points to talk about. Try to get as many traits (At least 5, the more the better) with real examples in some cases, it should give us a clear picture of her strengths.

What to expect:

If there are some key strengths that do not match the job requirement, again a red flag.

For example, if she keeps coming to front-end technologies and you already have a strong person in that technology it does not makes sense to continue unless you are specifically looking at expertise in that area.

Also, look at the passion, this is her area she should ace and should come out to be impressive.

#Third Question: What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?

This gives the other side of the equation about her, directly asking whats your weakness leads to a canned and self-serving answer like “I am impatient for results” or “I work too hard” not providing any productive details.

What to expect:

Again try to identify 3-4 areas that she is not interested or good at, if required put fear of reference check into the person. Saying what will be the reaction of your manager if we ask this to her? but ensure its in a soft tone so that it doesn’t disrupt the candidate.

#Fourth Question: What is the one single product/project you would say as your best and why?

This tells us what excites her, motivates her at work. Is it a technology solution, which is exciting, or design or architecture, etc, there is no right or wrong answer for this. Also, why part tells you where she likes to pat her back and tries to excel.

What to expect:

If the product/project was done long back, let’s say 3-4 years earlier, this implies there are not many exciting things she has done in the past 3 years, which is a red flag.

The reason for success and recognition should somewhere match the strengths we are looking for. Also, the reason for the best project shouldn’t digress a lot from your job requirement.

For example, if she says her best project was delivering high performing interface for email marketing and getting good results, but you are looking at SEO digital marketing profiles. There is a mismatch, this not exactly counts to reject but gives you an alarm to grill more on the SEO side.

#Fifth Question: What is the one single product/project you would say was your worst and why?

Again this gives the other side of the balance sheet, why part is most critical.

What to expect:

Failure is an important part to understand the candidate’s approach to a problem. Did she learn from it? What happened to similar future projects and how she came back from this.

It’s important that this also be a recent project, not 3-4 years old because failure is critical for growth, and unless she is recently out of her comfort zone learning would have not been possible. A person’s resilience towards failure is an important part of learning. A really talented person will learn from failures and handle it successfully going forward.

This ends our initial screening process.

All the above questions will give you pretty good insights about the candidate. Moreover, the candidate would have gone thru a really exciting interview.

Somewhere in the middle if you don’t like what you are hearing, simply collapse the call by accelerating your questions. It can be finished in much lesser time if the initial response is not positive. On the other hand, if you hear a strong potential match to your requirement, you can continue spending more time or ask to schedule more time later.

Remember for A candidates you can give more time and for B/C candidates cut short things, you own the process. But if there are doubts, skip and go for the next candidate, we all know how much worse it becomes when we hire a mediocre.

Tips to Reduce Screen Time While You’re WFH…

It’s exhausting to look at a screen all day. And yet, if we’re working remotely, it may feel unavoidable. To maintain our energy throughout the workday, let’s try to proactively disconnect from screens whenever you can.

Here are a few tips that can help:

Avoid Video calls if possible – Remember that video calls aren’t necessary for every meeting: Let’s try a regular phone call every once in a while to mix things up. Also, choose physical over digital whenever possible.

Use Pen/Paper if possible – Brainstorming ideas for an article? Write out your thoughts on paper or post-it notes. Creating a road map for a big project? Sketch the initial draft on a whiteboard or butcher paper instead of typing in a laptop.

Move around as much as possible, even if it’s just standing up and rolling your shoulders or grabbing a glass of water between meetings, take frequent breaks.

Take tech-free breaks over lunch, tea time, and find activities that don’t involve a screen to wind down.

Taking these steps will help us reduce our digital fatigue and feel more energized at the end of each day.

Work Stress Keeping You Up at Night…

Work stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Try these strategies during the day to avoid worrying about work at all hours of the night.

Make a to-do list. The act of writing down uncompleted tasks allows us to put them out of mind.

Keeping a journal, where you write down thoughts and feelings. Putting pen to paper can help process emotions and reduce anxiety.

Get some exercise. Physical activity — even a single instance — decreases rumination, which is often linked to insomnia.

Practice meditation. Researchers have found that even small amounts of mindful meditation (10 minutes before and after work for two weeks) helped calm racing minds and improved sleep quality and duration.

Lastly, be easy on yourself. Self-compassion can often break the cycle of negative thoughts that keeps you up.

Work stress may be inevitable at times, but these strategies can increase our ability to wake up feeling refreshed and able to tackle the biggest challenges.

Learning Tools…

How good are you at Google Sheet?

Can you write a query? A filter? Do you know how to install add-on tools to trim extra cells or create a mail merge? If you wanted to learn those things, do you know how to find out how?

It’s an interesting litmus test.

Google Sheet is not particularly difficult to use.

You can explore it in private, with no fear of screwing up. And it’s widely applicable to just about any career or community work you might choose to do.

If you get good at a type of technology, you’ll find yourself using it often. On the other hand, if you decide that you’re somehow untalented at it (which is untrue) or don’t take the time, then you’ll have sacrificed leverage and confidence that were offered to you.

Of course, it’s not just Sheets, or the web, or even computers. It’s a posture of possibility when it comes to the tools we’re able to use.

We can ignore the tools that we have access to. We can fear them. We can understand them.

(And, after we understand them, we’re able to hire someone else to use them on our behalf.)

We can even master them.

Decide Your Meeting Agenda Before…

A good agenda is the first step to any successful meeting. If you want to make the best use of everyone’s time, turn your bullet points into questions that drive to the outcomes you’re looking for.

For example, instead of a general topic like “Budget Problems,” try a specific question like, “How will we reduce our spending by $100,000 by the end of the fiscal year”? Or replace an item like “Strategic Planning” with a challenge like, “What is the key market threat we need to be aware of, how could it affect us, and what can we do to anticipate?” Preparing these questions before the meeting will make it easier to determine who should be there and how much time you’ll really need.

Ultimately, a questions-based approach to your agenda can bring focus, engagement, and better performance to your meetings. And if you can’t think of questions to ask, maybe you don’t need that meeting after all!

Let Daily Chores be Engaging when WFH…

When you’re working from home, you may find yourself feeling distracted by your looming personal responsibilities. You don’t have to push aside nagging thoughts such as, “I really should put in a load of laundry,” or, “Isn’t it time to do exercise?” — you can use these impulses to your advantage.

Physical chores may provide welcome relief after hours of video conferences and calls, thought work, and you can build them into your schedule. For example, if you’re having trouble starting a slide deck, decide ahead of time that you’ll walk the dog as soon as you get the first three slides done.

Weaving the daily responsibilities into your workday can help you feel more productive both personally and professionally, leaving you feeling more refreshed and energized for the days ahead.

4 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Big Data Project…

Up to 85% of big data projects fail, often because executives don’t accurately assess the project risks at the outset. Before investing in your next big data initiative, ask these four questions to determine its chances of success.

#1: Is your data valuable and rare? Not all available data is useful, nor is it unique or exclusive.

#2: Can employees use the data to create solutions on their own? You need to decentralize decision-making in order to encourage people to autonomously initiate, create, and adapt solutions.

#3: Can your technology actually deliver the solution? You can have all the data and ideas in the world, but if your technology can only deliver a prototype or a non-scalable solution, your project will fail.

#4: Is your solution compliant with laws and ethics? Even if it’s legal, if users find your solution to be “creepy,” the project is doomed from the start.

Go ahead and use these as your litmus paper test for Big Data Projects…