Monday 30 May 2011 at 1:39 pm
We have all heard the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, most of us have said it at one time or another. It infers that a large amount of information can be conveyed through a single image or picture. However, sometimes even a picture is insufficient for example, photos of the tornado destruction in Joplin, Missouri. You may think you have an idea of the tragedy but I guarantee you the camera cannot capture what the people in Joplin have experienced.
Several years ago, I was working in Miami, Florida when Hurricane Andrew hit. It was the first named storm of the season and was a Category 5 hurricane, the highest classification with wind gusts of 175 miles per hour. It hit just south of Miami and caused $27 billion dollars in damage. It was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Fortunately, there was little loss of life because the storm struck a less populated area and there was advance warning and people were able to evacuate.
I remember Hurricane Andrew well because 12 of our employees lost their entire home, including my boss. For the month following the hurricane, our focus was on assisting our employees with the basics, food, water, and shelter. During that month, we did our best to help our employees cope. It was a very emotional time. Everyone wanted to get back to normal but normal was not going to happen for quite a while. Eventually, the families without homes obtained housing and could slowly begin the process of rebuilding. It took 3 years to recover from the storm and for some they never rebuilt but began fresh in a new area of Miami.
I remember the images of the flattened homes and debris piled high but I was moved more by our employees whose lives had been turned upside down. I remember I could not go to the affected area for several weeks. One, because we were busy assisting our employees and two, I couldn't bear to see what happened to the homes of the people I cared about deeply. The emotion was overwhelming.
However, when I visited the area and saw a foundation was all that remained of an employee's home it was then I realized how a picture was inadequate to convey the damage this storm had caused. It wasn't the fact that the house was missing which was plenty. It was seeing and knowing the affect it had on the people whose house was missing.
That is the thought I have every time I see an area ravaged by a wildfire, flood, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake. There is always more than meets the eye.
Sunday 15 May 2011 at 6:13 pm
Imagine you are on a job interview and the interviewer asks you to describe on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird are you? Your initial reaction is you are kidding, right? As you hesitate, you realize they are serious, so your second reaction is how honest should I be.
I love this interview question. How weird are you? This question is asked of every Zappos job candidate. For those who are not familiar with Zappos (derived from the Spanish word zapatos, meaning shoes) they are an online shoe and apparel company.
In 2008, Zappos hit $1 billion in revenue and were number 23 of the top 100 companies to work for. Zappos was bought by Amazon in 2009; however, they remain an independent operation.
When CEO Tony Hseih, a corporate drop out, joined Zappos in 1999, he determined that the key to success would be a strong company culture and values. The staff helped construct the values. Further, employees are responsible for assuring the values are maintained. To that end, the company publishes a "culture book" every year.
All employees are asked to write a paragraph about what the Zappos culture means to them. The Culture Book (over 400-pages) is published unedited, except for obvious typos. A copy is given to each employee and is available to anyone outside the company who would like a copy. I ordered one.
One of their core values is to "create fun and a little weirdness." Thus, the interview question, on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you. The candidate's reaction to the question is just as important as their answer. They are seeking a response somewhere between straight-laced and psychotic.
I guarantee this is a question most job candidates have not prepared a response. However, any Zappos job candidate should expect this question for it is well publicized and is not a secret. Having said that, I would wager there are candidates showing up for interviews at Zappos who have not prepared for this question. Why, because very few job applicants research the companies they are applying in preparation for their job interview. If they do any research, it is superficial.
For example, if a candidate researches Zappos they will learn that every candidate is asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you. Great, they can stop and think I will answer 5 or 6. Case closed, final answer, perhaps, but what if they Zappos is looking for people who are a 7, 8, 3, or 4. What if they want you to give an example of a time when you created fun or a little weirdness? That requires a little more preparation otherwise you run the risk of trying to guess the "right" answer.
A little research will show you that Zappos wants people somewhere between 2 and 9. That does not narrow it down much. However, there is an additional piece of information that could help. I mentioned it before and that is the Culture Book. The Culture Book is loaded with examples of fun and weirdness. This should be extremely helpful in formulating your responses.
The encouragement here is that job interviews are less a game of hide and seek when you prepare in advance. Preparation is not that complicated if you simply take the time to do it.
Monday 09 May 2011 at 1:16 pm
What did David Gregory, Christiane Amanpour, and Chris Wallace have in common on Mother's Day? Yes, I know they each have a mother and they each host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings. In fact, their programs air at the same time on competing networks. This Mother's Day morning was a little unique because each host was interviewing the same person at the same time made possible by the magic of prerecording. They were each interviewing Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor to President Obama. It was easy to catch because Donilon was wearing the same suit and red tie. I guess neither host wanted to be pre-empted by the other. Thus, they each ran the interview at the same time.
Obviously, this was a huge week for the United States and the war on terror and everyone wanted to learn more about what actually happened last Sunday evening. As I jumped between channels, I noticed that none of the hosts was able to get answers to their probing questions. In fact, as each tried they were met with "I can't get into the details" and "I can't provide any specifics on that" or "this is what I can tell you."
I thought what if someone gave similar responses on a job interview. For example, please tell me how you were able to reduce expenses by 10% or what exactly did you do to resolve the conflict between marketing and production? Imagine "I can't get into the details on that" or "if I tell you I will have to shoot you." I made the last one up.
What the interview with Donilon did demonstrate was that he had prepared responses to the questions he anticipated being asked and responses to the questions he did not plan to answer. In fact, his "I can't provide the specifics" was accepted as a satisfactory response. He was asked pretty much the same questions by each host and he gave the same response to each.
Many job seekers neglect to prepare responses to questions they know they will be asked on an interview let alone the questions they don't want to answer. One thing this interview with Donilon demonstrates is that the host/interviewer may be different but the questions are usually the same. If you prepare for one interview, it will carry you through multiple interviews. Many interviewee's make the mistake thinking they need a different answer to the same question for each interviewer. In addition, you need to be prepared with a credible response to the tough questions. Your response needs to be brief and not lead to further probing.
Thursday 05 May 2011 at 6:57 pm
I had a conversation with someone recently who asked if I had anything exciting planned for the weekend. I said it depends on your definition of exciting. She replied something like a movie. I asked her if she had any recommendations. She said she rented the film 127 Hours and liked it. She then went on to say she also liked horror movies. However, she said most people don't. I told her I was one of those people.
However, I asked her what she liked about horror movies. She said she liked being scared. Honest answer and we went on to discussing other things. However, I did not think fast enough to ask why she liked to be scared. But it gave me ideas.
I have since learned there are two theories behind why people like horror movies. One, the person is actually not afraid but excited by the movie. Two, the person endures terror in order to experience relief at the end.
The first one make sense because as much as the filmmaker tries to draw you into the movie you are safe in your theatre seat or couch. At least that is what you believe, until the movie is over and you have to drive, walk, or run home in the dark.
Some people have trouble accepting the second explanation citing how can the most fearful event become a pleasant moment. Sounds reasonable, take away the possibliity of a positive outcome and you are back to the first explanation that some people just like being scared.
Without debating, the redemptive value of horror movies because personally I donít see any. I asked the same question. Why do you like horror movies of someone else and they told me they were intrigued by the special effects and wanted to know how they were produced. He was a film student.
When you stop to think about it we need people who are not easily frightened. In fact, we need people who thrive on the possibility of danger and are excited by it in a good way. The classic examples would be a soldier, EMT, firefighter, or law enforcement. The truth is we need leaders in every walk of life who are not frightened for example by an economic downturn, a natural disaster, plane engine failure, rising gas prices, declining sales, increased competition, or budget deficits, etc. These events are not for the faint of heart. Maybe a good question on a job interview might be, what's the scariest movie you have seen? If they say, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory you should be impressed because it is ranked in the Top 50 of scariest movies. Remember, you are not trying to determine their taste in movies. You want to know if they easily frightened by sudden changes. Do they run from it or run towards it?