Tips for your job interview

interviewThe basics of interview technique are pretty well covered; arrive on time, dress appropriately for the job, research the company, don’t take calls during the interview (wait – people need to be told that?).  These are the things that you need to get right to stay in the running for the job. I’ve just been through a round of recruiting and found a great person to hire. Here are some of the things candidates did that made them stand out.

  1. Show Some Personality
    In how you dress, how you speak, how you behave, and in the stories you tell.
    One of the questions we asked related to working with people resistant to change.  Most people gave a textbook answer about change management. The stand out answer was from the person who began “It cost me a lot of pizza” with a laugh.
  2. Be Enthusiastic
    About the company, the role, what you can bring to it, what it can bring you.This goes beyond research the company, find a way to connect something personal or from your work history to the company. And for goodness sake know which products or services you use. We asked everyone we interviewed what products they had in their home from our company – I didn’t have a predefined “perfect answer” for this, but the guy who recalled seeing an old radio from our company at his grandfather’s house scored bonus points for showing some knowledge of the company’s legacy
  3. Interview the Company
    Think of an interview as a date in that both sides need to learn about each other – you both need to know that this is a relationship worth pursuing. I was at an all day interview a while ago, half way through the day I realised that this was not the right company for me. Frankly it was a relief when they turned me down. Ask questions about work expectations, career advancement, company  values by all means. But ask more, ask your future boss how she (or he) likes to work, ask about the company’s most recent success, ask how they correct mistakes. As about the ambitions of the company, the department and the team you’ll be joining. You’ll learn more about whether this is a match for you from those answers.

You’re going to spend a lot of time with the company working with the people there, it needs to be a match.

Tweet: Go beyond a professional confidence – Dare to be yourself (http://ctt.ec/423yc+) #jobinterview

As the candidates had been screened based on their CVs and an initial phone interview the people I met were all strong candidates. Following the interviews there were several I would have been happy to bring on board, and one outstanding candidate who starts next month.

The candidates who stood out in the interviews I’ve conducted in the last six weeks showed something beyond a professional confidence – they dared to be themselves.

Image; Beast of a Job Interview / Mike Licht / CC BY 2.0

 

 

Single Source of Truth

Although this sounds vaguely poetic, it has a specific meaning in the world of information systems. It has particular relevance for large systems.

Done well, it makes content management a whole lot easier.

I’ve heard this used most often in relation to company intranets – large companies where the intranet must serve a mass of information to thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees.

In many large companies intranets grew rather randomly, each business line created their own intranet site, as connectivity improved these were joined together allowing employees to browse from one site to another. But the business retained control of all the information that was available on their site, and employees tended to enter the maze of the the company intranet via their business line home page. Very often this works out well.

In companies of this size there are a policies and defined processes on a wide variety of subjects. Many relate to the employee’s own situation; holiday/vacation entitlement, performance review processes or claiming expenses. Others relate to the company’s operations; finance, brand guidelines, recruitment. Often there is a potential legal penalty if the employee does not follow the policy.

In an intranet that is a collection of connected sites the policies tend to be copied and republished multiple times. Which means keeping those versions up-to-date and consistent becomes difficult and introduces operational risk. Imagine an employee in a far-flung office following the finance policy she has downloaded from her local intranet, relying on it to conduct business, and finding out later that it’s months out of date.

The idea behind the single source of truth relies on improved connectivity between local intranets, and a strong information architecture so that a piece of content – in this case a policy – is published in just one place. It may appear in more than one place across the intranet, but in fact each appearance of it is drawing from the same place; that single source of truth.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 12.29.46To deliver this companies must have a connected intranet, a fully thought-out information architecture, a good content managements systems, technical know-how, and governance on the publication and storage of documents. It’s not easy to put this in place in large companies, particularly as intranets are often the “poor cousin” in terms of digital spend.

Obviously the content management should become easier and cheaper, but the really big benefit comes from a risk and compliance stand-point. Having a single source of truth means that you know people are using the same policy across the company, this lowers the risk of errors being made, errors that might leave the company financially liable or create a reputation error. It’s a cost avoidance benefit that can be hard to quantify – until such an event occurs in your company.

Image: truth / Jon Starbuck / CC BY-NC-SA-2.0

 

 

 

The Social Employee

socialemployeeThe Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work
Cheryl Burgess, Mark Burgess

The Social Employee goes beyond theory and discusses examples of social media success in detail. This book is packed with ideas.

Most of the easy to find articles and books on social media focus on the success of a social media campaign, it can be difficult to imagine how you could do something similar in your own company or industry. The reasons are often simply that your company is not organised to accomodate social practices, and your employees are not ready to be active in the social sphere on behalf of a company.

In The Social Employee the writers have spoken to some of the biggest companies who have made social work for them, often in the more challenging area of business-to-business. They look at how a company changed their organisation, activities and business culture to deliver business results.

The IBM example points to an expansive use of social media inside and outside the company; an enterprise social network, blogs, hackathons, adoption programme and digital jams. I believe the major reason for their success in an early decision to trust employees. This was backed up with good training and tools, but that act of trust makes a difference for employees.

Dell was an early adopter, and motivated by wanting to be closer to customers “We wanted to feel that customers were walking the hallways” according to Cory Edwards, Director, Social Media & Corporate Reputation at Dell. To do this it was essential to empower employees, and have built a comprehensive training programme for all employees to understand social media. This is seen as so important that CEO is active in the training programme community.

There are examples from Adobe, Cisco and SouthWest, with SouthWest being the most employee centric.

The final part of the book looks at steps a company should take in establishing themselves in social media effectively. There is a short discussion of tool for internal use but more time is spent on building communities, content strategy and building engagement and relationships with customers.

I found the company examples more useful than the theory or the analysis, it was really interesting to see how companies had evolved a presence in social media, and how much of that came out internal change. Challenging but effective.

Highlights from the first 14 days

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 20.01.19Starting at a new job is always a learning curve, as I hadn’t done it in a while I’ve kept a journal of things I notice. Here are some of the moments from the first fourteen days.

Day 1 Can I remember everyone’s names? A colleague draws a mini-organogram which helps. Another colleague shows me where the bathrooms are.
Day 2 I take a selfie of myself looking at the company’s new logo for the internal social network – this attracts attention – am I the fastest person to adopt the brand?
Day 3 My first conference call has 72 participants. I understand little of what is said, it’s the detail I have yet to read about.
Day 4 It seems overwhelming, the change process I’m working on is huge – I have a moment of feeling daunted… and then give myself a virtual slap; it’s day four. Anyway there are team drinks at the end of the day.
Day 5 In a status meeting, as we go around the table I start to put together the pieces of what we’re doing and how my work will fit in. In terms of scale it’s like building a colosseum, but it’s digital so completely invisible. I have a long way to go but at least I can see the next steps now.

I go home early, via the doctor – who diagnoses an ear infection. Too much listening?

Day 6 All part of the learning curve; my new work phone is windows… #newjob
Day 7 Find myself interviewing a candidate for a new position. I cheerfully introduce myself, adding “day 7″ as an explanation for my new status. Candidate frowns, oh dear.
Day 8 I spend some time digging through the internal social media platform, I’m impressed by the obvious pride people have in the company and the products.
Day 9 Today’s tough work assignment; Playing with Google Glass #geekheaven
Day 10 I have a virtual “one-on-one” with a member of my team who is based in the US. I’ll only see her for about a week every two months, we’re figuring out how to work with that.
Day 11 A proposal comes back with “yes” against most items, but “no, no, NO” against one. As a new person I’m asking a lot of questions. #StillLearning
Day 12 A conversation with some of the legal experts, the issues are familiar. They express relief.
Day 13 Solved a bunch of stuff for a company internal community – more ways for employees to show their pride in working here.
Day 14 The learning curve stretches onwards and upwards, my motivation level is super high. And it gets higher after a conversation with my boss.

At the end of the day I’m on a roof terrace with my colleagues, looking across Amsterdam and sharing a glass of wine. #GreatStart

 Image; 14 Blue / Craig Sunter / CC BY-ND 2.0

 

 

 

Just Stop It

Some things are really annoying me in my digital life, here’s a short list of the most annoying.

Please add yours in the comments.

1; Facebook, stop giving me a pointless warning page when I click a link

It’s a link to the New York Times and there isn’t a problem. If this is supposed to be preventing us from opening dodgy websites it fails since it happens on every link so the user (ie; me) learns to click past it very quickly.

Stop it.

facebookmobile

2 Content Publishers, don’t make me download an app to read your content.

Given that they could use responsive design I don’t care about one piece of your content enough to use my data limit to download your app.

Stop it…. (cute turtles though).

usatoday_mobile

3; Website designers, stop assuming I want Dutch content

I type in domainname.com and am flipped into the Dutch site, based on my IP address. Lots of guilty sites; google, expedia, msn to name three. I do understand the reason behind this, but make it easy for me to switch languages. Do not do what Kobo does – lets me change the platform language but still delivers content in Dutch (even with a login, it go so annoying that I deleted my account).

Just stop it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 20.12.56Thanks I feel better for letting that out. So much better that this might become a series.

What are your digital “stop it” messages?

My Sabbatical is Over

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 19.27.28 After 9 months of relaxing, travelling, research and writing my sabbatical has come to an end.

Today I start a new job; it’s a new role with a new company in a new industry. I’m excited, I guess I’ll be learning all those first day things; how do I get into the building, what is everyone’s name, where is the photocopier, where is the bathroom. Luckily I have already figured out where the coffee machine is.

I’d planned on a six month sabbatical, so in May I started analysing what I’d want in a new role, I was looking for a company that had innovation at its heart, one that was ambitious about its digital presence. I want a role that provides a learning curve, delivers visible change for the company and gives me the chance to lead a team. As luck would have it a job meeting all those criteria came up in June, I took a deep breath and applied.

Today is my first day as Corporate Social Strategist at Philips based here in Amsterdam. It’s a company that is recognised for innovation, and they – I mean we – are working on an ambitious programme to improve Philip’s digital presence. I’m sure I’ll have more to share on it in the months to come.

Image: In the Office / Chris / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

Finance and Innovation

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 01.16.20Fast Company listed their most innovative companies for the year, including a top ten for innovation in financial services, companies who are building great things for their customers; new services and new platforms.

There were very few on the list I’d ever heard of so I started reading through the list and the company profiles; I started to wonder (a) how new are these companies? and (b) why is it so hard for incumbents, despite their resources, to innovate their way onto this list?

Answering that first question, here’s list of the companies in the top ten with the year they were established. Only two of the ten are more than ten years old.

Company Name  Established  Service Provided
 Nice systems  1986 Consumer service for mobile, including within apps.
 Square  2009 Send money via email.
 Bitcoin  2009 Cryptocurrency, removing all the middlemen in financial services.
 GiveDirectly  2008 Donate via cellphone, direct to the recipient.
 Dwolla  2008 Building a better banking network and launching a credit card.
 Transferwise  2011 Peer-to-peer international currency transfers.
 OneID  2011 Creating a single login – no more remembering multiple passwords.
 Mastercard  1966 Re-imagining the mobile-payment network with MasterPass.
 Estimize  2011 Crowd-sourcing estimates on company performance, and doing better than most of the pros.
 Etoro  2007 A social network for traders, lets you copy the investment of other traders.

All of these innovations take advantage of something in the digital space, some on the growing world of mobile. To be fair the banks have also been active and innovative in this space – just not at the same rate. Some of the innovations above support and use

There’s already some discussion on why it’s so hard for large companies in established industries to innovate. Even the best techniques from Silicon Valley aren’t a magic path to increasing innovation according to this HBR article. It comes down to culture; the things that make a company successful at execution at scale aren’t the things that make a company naturally great at innovation. There are companies that are able to innovate and to scale their operations, but it’s a rare combination.

Is there something about the financial sector that makes it even harder? Perhaps, some sectors (music, travel) show a similar batch of relatively young companies, but the energy sector has more than twice the number of companies over 10 years.

I think there are two things that make it harder for financial services companies to innovate. The first is the risk mindset, in theory financial services companies should be expert at assessing risk and take decisions that maximise return for an accepted risk. In my experience the growing pressure of public opinion and increasing regulation have reduced whatever appetite there was for risk since the global financial crisis. And that’s the second thing – the global financial crisis began in 2007 and during the crisis and in the years since affected financial institutions have had to focus on legal cases,  restructuring, cost control and divestment. All of that left little room and few resources for innovation. It’s probably not a co-incidence that half of the companies in the top ten were started between 2007 and 2009.

It’s great that there’s innovation in finance, and many of the solutions are customer-focused either as improved service or as de-mystifying the world of finance. I hope it inspires the “old” banks; there are more opportunities for more innovation.

Image; Fixing the Money Pipeline / ShellyS / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Digital | Social | Innovation

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