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Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to get hired?

A reader sent me an e-mail and a link to Jason Calacanis' article: How to Hire--and Get Hired in a Recession.

Calacanis advises the candidate to make it clear that you are a super hard worker. You keep up with the industry trends. You give your all to your company. He gives 8 questions he likes to ask.

1. Do you live to work or work to live?
2. Do you consider yourself a workaholic? Do you think there is anything wrong with being a workaholic?
3. Are you able to turn it off at 6 p.m. and on Friday for the weekend? You don't get obsessed by work, do you? (Trick question!)
4. Do you consider yourself a balanced person?
5. How would you feel if we all needed to come in on the weekend to make a deadline?
6. How would you feel if this happened two weekends in a row?
7. It's a tough time right now, and we're super short-staffed—how would you feel if I
asked you to cover for [insert job lower than candidate's experience] when they're on vacation?
8. Speaking of vacation, do you bring your BlackBerry and laptop with you to check in? Or do you like to unplug completely?


He gives examples of ideal answers to questions: ("Finally, I've made a philosophy of not leaving the office until my boss does…. I think that's the honorable thing to do.")

Readers, are, predictably, in totally disagreement. He's described as pompous and out of touch.

My reader, however, agrees with this position and asks me: "Am I crazy for appreciating the sense Jason makes in his article, or is he draconian as the readers make him out to be?"

My answer is yes. Jason makes sense and he is draconian. (And yippee for the chance to use the word "draconian" in a post. Twice. Although technically one is in a quote.)

Now, first of all, I want to work with hard working people. I don't want any slackers on the same team I am working on. I've had slackers and they are not appreciated. However, getting in before everyone else and leaving after everyone else does not make one a non-slacker.

Jason is confusing "hard work" for "long hours." He places a lot of emphasis on face time.

I think face time is important to your career. I also think results are more important. Yes, there is a correlation between lots of hours and high performance. But it's just a correlation, not necessarily a causation. We all know people who put in a ton of hours, but are slow in their actual work. They take too long on the wrong things.

I had a coworker once who would spend numerous hours writing detailed criticisms on the formatting of reports. (Change this to font sized 12. Increase the thickness of the line at column G. Widen column H by 2 points. Highlight row 4, except for column B. And so on and so forth. A one page Excel report could have 25 items she wanted changed. None of them substantive.) She worked long hours. But, writing up these criticisms (which changed every month, so you could never use last month's criticism as a guide for this month's report) took longer than making the changes herself ever could.

She was about as inefficient as the day was long. Yet, she could have answered the questions to this man's questions "correctly" and received a job offer. And she would have been the first in and the last to leave and gotten no more than half the work done that an efficient employee who worked an 8 hour day did.

My point in all of this is that Calacanis is right, and Calacanis is wrong. Hard work is important. Smart work is important. Philosophies of work are important. I DON'T want employees who feel like they are tethered to their blackberries/laptops on vacation. I DO want ones that take a break. But, I also do want to be assured that if a crunch comes, everyone will be willing to come in on a weekend.

That's a culture thing. But, if crunches keep coming, well then, that's bad management. So, no I wouldn't be willing to come in every weekend.

One more note: In his example he mentions the person applying for a VP position. In my experience, smart work and long hours are both required to rise to that type of position. So, yeah, sacrifice of other things are necessary for success at that level. I don't want to be a VP of anything, so there is my bias.

I bet the readers who objected so strongly don't want to be VPs either. At least, they aren't willing to pay the price.

Fortunately, companies function best when not everyone wants to be the boss.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree. Jason is correct in some ways - you do want your VP to put in the hours required to get the job done but horribly wrong in others he seems to scoff at the idea that a work/life balance is even an option.

I've had many co-workers who saw putting in long hours as a requirement of being recognised by senior management to the point where they would never leave the office before anyone else even if that meant essentially sitting there browsing the web for the last 2 hours of their day.

class-factotum said...

I was asked the question "How do you feel about long hours and short deadlines?" at an interview a few years ago.

My silent answer in my head was, "It's a sign of bad management." Out loud, I said, "Of course, sometimes emergencies come up and everyone has to pitch in to get the job done."

Just another HR lady... said...

I do agree that it's a time management and dedication behavior that you're trying to uncover in an interview, not necessarily whether or not someone "just puts in a lot of time". I once had an employee who worked an inordinate amount of overtime regularly, and was still unable to meet deadlines, was frazzled, etc. Finally she left, and lo and behold, the person who took over her job came to tell me she was "bored", and did I have more work for her to do to fill her time.

That being said, yes, typically executives work long hours because we simply have a lot on our plate all the time, and not just from our own department.

But I think that my question in an interview to uncover this behavior would probably be "have you ever missed a deadline or tell me about a time when you had a deadline looming that you might miss and what you did to meet it".

By the way, for my employees, I expect that when they're not working, that they are not working and enjoying their time off. They need the time to rejuvinate. When they check in, I ask them what the heck they are doing working while on vacation. Funny, they don't ask me the same thing when I check in. :-)

RJ said...

This is so frustrating to read. What he's asking for is a recipe for low productivity, burnout, a lack of creativity, a lack of touch with the real-world customers, bad family life, unhealthy employees, and bad management.

In short - that's the sort of schedule expected of people who worked in the banking industry, and look where that got us.

I live in a country where we have laws requiring people to take lunch breaks. If I had a subordinate who wanted to work through lunch on a regular basis I'd refuse. I don't want to be paying for crappy-quality work that they're doing when they lose perspective from staring at the screen for more than four hours. You get much better quality work from someone if you pay them and they work for 7.5 hours a day, and then bounce in the next morning full of energy.

Yes, when you get to a more senior role more issues arise, and you need to get the job done, but being burnt out lowers the quality of decision making in everyone.

Also, that down-time, family -time is where people get new ideas, and pay attention to the market place.

A post-it was invented because someone in GM sang in a choir, not because they were slaving at their desk.

This guy is a blowhard.

williamthecoroner said...

I'm a professional. This is good and bad. The down side is, I work 50-60 hour weeks. The up side is, I can work with my laptop at a coffee shop or at a picnic table if I want to. I'm paid to think and to get results.

I'm perfectly willing to do things for the good of the job. People get sick, people go on leave, things happen. OF COURSE I will cover for people in emergencies. This goes both ways though. 1. There is a reservoir of my good will. Don't go through it. 2. If I think you are taking advantage of me, I'm not going to be so willing to re-arrange my schedule at the drop of a hat. Once or twice is an emergency. 3. If you can't get your act together, or are avoiding paying another person's salary--fuggedaboudit.

Finally, my life is not my job. My God, my health, my family are more important than any one job. It's the old hierarchy from sailing ship days: "Messmates before shipmates, shipmates before lubbers, lubbers before dogs."

Charles said...

RJ - you are so right - "This guy is a blowhard."

Evil HR Lady - Your post, as usual, is a good read. However, I really had to force myself to read through that entire piece of crap by Jason.

Office Humorist said...

The "face time" component of being a "hard worker" is one of the biggest frustrations as a Gen Y person. I understand the point of face-to-face interaction, but I don't agree with "if I don't see them at their desk, they aren't working."

As long as I get the job done, whether it's from smart work, long hours, working on vacation, or turning it off at 6pm shouldn't matter.

KellyK said...

I think this says it all:

Hard work is important. Smart work is important. Philosophies of work are important. I DON'T want employees who feel like they are tethered to their blackberries/laptops on vacation. I DO want ones that take a break. But, I also do want to be assured that if a crunch comes, everyone will be willing to come in on a weekend.

That's a culture thing. But, if crunches keep coming, well then, that's bad management. So, no I wouldn't be willing to come in every weekend.
Wanting people to be "available in a crunch" often translates to wanting them to drop everything in their personal life because someone else planned poorly. Genuine emergencies are one thing--unnecessary fire drills are another.

Also, one thing that's important to me about work ethics is how it relates to how you're paid. That is, if I'm paid a salary and expected to work long hours in a crunch, I shouldn't get grief about a long lunch or an early afternoon to go to the dentist when things aren't busy.

It also really has to be based on measurable results. If you get done what needs to be done in 8 hours, why stay longer just to "look" like a hard worker?

Anonymous said...

I had a job for three years where I worked on the midnight shift. Our day shift was frequently short staffed, so I stayed over and worked a lot of overtime.

My work was physically demanding, and the only way I could put in those kind of hours was because the night shift was usually quiet for several hours. We could relax, take naps, watch TV, what have you. No joke.

Then there were days where I would work my butt off for 8 straight hours and all I wanted to do was go home at the end of my shift.

We weren't getting away with anything, but it did reinforce the concept that "face time" isn't always productive time.

My current company is a government contractor. We're "salaried" and required to account for 40 hours per week. The beautiful thing is that if we work beyond 40 hours, we get paid straight time for every hour we work.

Hayli @ Transition Concierge said...

Has anyone seen a company go to a four-day work week with any successful results? I've heard of this as a strategy to survive the recession, but am unaware whether it is really feasible in American culture. And for organizations that expect ample "face time," the four-day work week truly seems like a pipe dream.

Anonymous said...

I remember a note written years ago by some business observer saying a lot of companies preferred to hire divorced family men as they needed money and had no reason to go home at night.

Brutal!

Lois Gory

Anonymous said...

Q: Are you tethered to your phone/laptop on vacation?

A: My last vacation was a 7-day backpacking trip in the Eagle Cap Wilderness... I suppose I could have brought my phone and laptop but being 30 miles from the nearest forest service road generally means no cell reception.

In all seriousness (actually the above is totally true) if that answer would mean you wouldn't hire I would be freaking delighted to not work for you... so there you go.

--Lexy

Anonymous said...

Calacanis sounds like a former employers, although nowhere in the post do you mention whether he regularly calls his employees 'worthless POS'.

Jason McCabe Calacanis said...

My personal experience is that older folks with families tend to be much more efficient with their time and don't put in as many hours. They don't dilly dally at the water cooler like young folks, and they don't "read the trades" instead of doing things that hit the bottom line.

Young folks on the other hand, again in my personal experience, are a little less efficient with their time, prone to falling down rabbit holes to build out their education (nothing wrong with that), and in generally make up for their lack of experience with more raw hours.

It's important to note that my piece you reference is basically advice for how to hire and get hired--it's not advice for how to have a health life.

In a market like today's seeming like a maniac that works themselves to death, doesn't have a life and lives for their work is a better strategy to get one of the few positions out there than coming in the door saying "i'm a balanced person."

It's an unbalanced market right now and companies on the brink need unbalanced people to save their companies. That's just the reality in a lot of businesses that are on the brink... I wish it wasn't that way.

best jason

marathonrunner said...

These are definitely great questions to consider when looking for a job and it seems if you have the right mindset you can probably get one very easily!

ChowJobs said...

'Agree that hard work and smart work is important. 'Worked long hours for a law firm, never kissed-a__, and got recognized for my commitment to getting things done. In most companies, it's simply a matter of getting things done.

Mark Bregman said...

Among my clients, I find that companies that keep more regular hours, where executives are actually allowed to have a home life, seem to be more efficient, productive and profitable. I agree that smart work is better than long hours.

Anonymous said...

These arguments are the sign of incredibly poor management. There are flat out indicative that management has no idea what it is doing or how to do it and only further proves the point that the more incompetent you are the further you can go in almost every corp. I have ever had the bad luck to work for. Corp. America disgusts me.