Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dressing for Success at Interviews

The first and most important advice you will get from this article is to dress your best for all your interviews, regardless of the dress code for the organisation.

For example for a guy, it’s a lot easier to remove your tie or jacket upon invitation from the interviewer, whereas it’s next to impossible to suddenly acquire a jacket or tie. The ideas that follow, come from many years of experience as a senior HR manager and more recently as a consultant with a thriving recruitment and executive search business.

I am frequently appalled by the lack of dress sense, and even courtesy, displayed by some candidates. I wonder how they can possibly expect to be taken seriously. Not so long ago, I interviewed a very well qualified candidate for a senior corporate position in a well known multi-national. I doubt his shoes had ever been polished, nor his ties dry cleaned. When I looked at his grubby finger nails, I determined straight away to close the interview without any further questions. He was taken aback and asked why so short. I told him, or rather, advised him what he needed to do to be taken seriously.

Here's what we advise trainees at our Interviewing Skills course:

♦ Wear a solid colour, conservative suit with a coordinated shirt or blouse, or of course, your country’s national dress if this is appropriate

♦ Wear moderate shoes and make sure they are clean and well polished.

♦ Make sure your hair is well groomed and neat; check your finger-nails, are they clean and tidy?

♦ Don't overdo the perfume, makeup, or after-shave, and use no more than a light fragrance

♦ Limit your jewelry

♦ Make sure to try on your outfit BEFORE the day of the interview if you’ve not worn it for a while. If shoes are new, probably not a good idea to wear, but if you do, make sure the price label is removed from the sole!

♦ Bring a portfolio, or briefcase, pad and pen

1. Your clothes are your image, check the mirror and see what others see, better still ask a trusted friend or family member to advise you
2. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed
3. If it's too tight or too loose - don't wear it!
4. Girls, most male interviewers are NOT impressed (at least not professionally!) with a very short skirt – save it for the disco! That transparent blouse, yes we know the boyfriend likes it, but do you really want to let the (male) interviewer think you’re trying to impress him with your lingerie? You won’t impress, you’ll turn him off, professionally at least.
5. Guys, the medallion might be a hit with “the in-crowd”, but it’ll not impress an interviewer, lose it for the interview. Same goes for loud colours. Even if the tie was a present from Auntie, unless it is relatively conservative, save it for the next visit to Auntie’s house.

At my consultancy ( we have whole training programme on Interview Skills – don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re interested in it being run for your company.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

....and now for something completely different!

Cooking for me is therapy. I get away from the strains of the workday, and once I'm in the kitchen, fortified no doubt with a glass of a good Merlot, I forget about the trials and tribulations of the office.

As Mrs Z will tell you, I'm always searching for new ways to prepare dishes, and very occasionally come up with something, following no recipe at all, which really does taste very good.

OK, this is what I did with a whole chicken.

Cut the chicken into the usual pieces, ie drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts, ribs etc, and put it into a marinade, made as follows:
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilis with seeds
  • A large finger of fresh young ginger
  • 3 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 table spoons of Chinese rice wine (or use dry sherry if you don't have the rice wine)
  • 4 table spoons of pouring honey
  • 2 table spoons of dijon mustard
  • 1 table spoon of demerara sugar
  • Half a tea spoon of sea salt
  • Half a tea spoon of freshly ground black pepper

Blitz it all in a blender or food processor and pour into a large freezer bag, already containing the chicken. Close bag and massage it well before putting into the fridge for about 2 hours minimum - overnight is even better.

Take out of the fridge and pour it all into a roasting tin, but cover the tin with aluminium foil. Put into the oven, pre-heated to 230c (450F) for about 20 mins, turning down to 210c (400F) for a further 20 mins, then, after pouring off all the juice and retaining it, and drizzling olive oil over the chicken, put back into the oven, turned back up to 230c for a further 15 mins to crisp the skin.

Pour the juice into a pan and boil to reduce by half, adding a couple of knobs of butter to thicken, and letting it simmer for a couple of minutes.

It's all ready for serving, which I did with steamed rice, and choy sum (stir fried and served in oyster sauce).


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Core Competencies for Asian Companies

In an ideal world, each and every company would spend a great deal of time, effort and money to identify those traits, skills and attributes which together, as Core Competencies, make for a successful managerial or supervisory level employee within their company.

However, we don't live in an ideal world. We live in one where the majority of companies need to find ways and means of identifying and introducing human resource management and development practices which more than adequately meet their requirements, without breaking their budget.

To meet this need, I have designed for several local and regional companies, a set of Generic Core Competencies which can fit into just about any Asian company's culture with little or no customisation. Naturally, I’ve always made myself available to assist companies requiring some customisation and probably half have taken advantage of this.

Why should companies use Core Competencies?

By identifying those traits, skills and attributes which make for a successful employee, it becomes so much easier, and far more cost effective, to:

* Recruit and retain employees
* Appraise employees
* Train employees
* Develop employees
* Succession plan

Being easier and more effective translates into cost savings and increased profitability. When a company's HRM and HRD practices have a consistent measuring tool, they are able to significantly reduce subjectivity in HR decision making processes, visibly demonstrate fairness, have a common language which all employees can understand, and as a result create and maintain a highly motivated workforce.

Below are some examples of a few Generic Core Competencies. These are given here for illustration. The complete profile contains some twenty five Core Competencies, split among five Managerial Attributes. The full set has been arrived at after considerable research amongst local and regional companies across a wide range of industries. The definitions are not complete, but are provided to give an appreciation

The five managerial attributes are:
* Performance of Duties
* Management and Leadership Skills
* Decision Making Skills
* Communication Skills
* Personal Qualities

Competency Examples (just ten of twenty five)

Responsibility - Displaying maturity, reacting positively to constructive feedback, setting a good example, profit and cost conscious.

Leadership - An ability to share the corporate vision with the team, give clear and confident direction to the team, whilst taking a consultative and delegative approach, without abdicating responsibility.

Management of Resources and People - Knowing the skills, qualities and attributes of direct reports and using this knowledge to maximise output and gain through them the most effective use of material resources.

Judgement - Demonstrates the ability to evaluate behaviours, situations and opportunities and arrive at a sensible conclusion.

Problem solving - Possessing the ability to use both objective analysis and creativity in approaching solutions to problems.

Interpersonal Skills - The ability to create rapport easily and build relationships quickly. Having an awareness of the sensitivities of others and a diplomatic astuteness in responding to them.

Initiative and drive - The ambition to strive for achievement within the company seeking business opportunities and displaying an energetic pro-activity.

Co-operativeness and Teamworking - Shows a willingness to assist colleagues (within own department and outside it) even when personally under pressure.

Dependability - Can be relied upon to consistently support team colleagues throughout the organisation.

Creativity - Can see an issue from different perspectives and is able to provide a number of alternative solutions to problems which are practical as well as innovative.

Major Advantages
One of the major advantages of using Core Competencies across a framework of HRM and HRD activities, is the consistency they provide. What better than to:

* Recruit against the competencies
* Train against the competencies
* Select, develop and promote against the competencies
* Appraise against the competencies
* Use the competencies in manpower and succession planning

Not only is this approach extremely cost effective, it provides employees with a very clear picture of career progression opportunities and the confidence that their performance appraisals, training/development needs and suitability for promotion, are objectively assessed.

I do urge companies to take great care when introducing a competencies framework, to ensure that the attributes and definitions really do match the company’s culture and philosophies. Unless your HR department has the skills within to ensure that this happens, I strongly recommend that the company seeks professional assistance, from consultancies like my own.

Performance Management - Making Appraisals Work

I once saw a quote in a book by Tom Clancy, called "Net Force" (Published by Headline Book Publishing, a Division of Hodder Headline PLC, ISBN 0 7472 6040 0). The quote read:

"Remember the Rule of the 5Ps
- Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance"

I could not agree more! (Actually the quote was the 6Ps - I left out the four-letter expletive that went before the word 'poor'!) In my view, the essence of the a good performance management system revolves around planning - in this case individual performance planning, derived from organisational planning. When this model is followed, not only will planned business goals be more effectively achieved, individuals will be more motivated, as they know with greater clarity than ever before, exactly what is expected of them, and what their part has been in the company's success. Organisations that are better able to reward good performances, are planning for their future success.

The Performance Management System (PMS) which I have designed for a number of companies here, has two distinct parts A and B, and is the means by which individual managerial or supervisory performance is linked to an organisation’s business objectives and operating plans (Part A) and to the organisation’s future through assessing the potential of each managerial or executive level employee(Part B). For any company to be successful every Manager must establish and agree precise, measurable and objective standards and goals for individual performance that will in turn lead to improved performance by the company as a whole.

This Performance Management System (and its sister system, covering clerical and operator level employees), is put together after many years of experience with performance management, both as a Corporate Human Resource Manager and as a Consultant. Our aim is to provide our clients with all the company needs to introduce a simple, but effective system of measuring and rewarding employee performances.
The Aims of PMS
· PMS aims to make every managerial and supervisory level employee completely aware of the company's business plans, and through the cascading of those plans to individuals, provide them with the motivation to achieve, and then, the ownership of success
· PMS is concerned with improvement - organisationally through increased contribution by each individual and personally through the broadening of experience and career opportunities.
· It aims to make the appraisal of Managers and Supervisors as fair as possible and less subjective, by focusing on planning, performance, priorities and key result areas.
· It seeks to provide rigorous and current information about an executive in order to activate appropriate training and development opportunities and to facilitate career progression.
The Role of PMS
PMS is central not only to a need to develop, train and motivate employees, but also to its continued business success. It provides a structure to focus the resources and activities of all Managers on achieving the company's major business objectives. PMS is the basis for assessment of performance, ability and potential and an essential source of data on employees for manpower and succession planning purposes.

Completion of Parts A and B are separated in time by six months. When the two quite different objectives of each part are separated in time, experience of many major companies has been that far more effective attention is given to the assessment of individuals’ potential, development and training needs.

However, if a company so chooses, there is nothing to prevent them carrying out Parts A and B at the same time, say both at the end of the year. But we do urge such companies to hold two separate discussions between Appraiser and Appraisee, in order that sufficient focus is directed to the employee's longer-term potential and training and development needs.
There is so much that can be said and written about performance appraisals, and I'll let this suffice for now, but will return to the topic again in the future.