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This is one of a series of posts based on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions’ Guide: 30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Identify High-Potential Candidates.

Here’s the list of the qualities managers value:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture add
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth potential
  6. Prioritization

The term Culture Add caught my eye when I first read it. Don’t they mean culture fit? I asked myself. But it turns out the managers LinkedIn surveyed had something much better in mind. Here’s what the LinkedIn guide says:

“When we talk about culture fit, we don’t mean falling into a “hire like me” mentality. If all of your employees act and think the same, your company won’t thrive. Instead, look for candidates who share the same beliefs and values as your organization, but also bring diversity of thought and experience that will drive your company forward.”

Culture Add came in #2 in the attributes high potential hires have. I love the definition above, because it’s the real basis for diversity (not just the usual trope of different racial qualities or gender.)  Diversity is really about (or should be) very different people coming together under shared values or a shared vision. We agree on what we want or want to do (build a successful new product, for example), but we come with different ideas on how to get it done.  That’s where creativity and innovation happen. Assuming the discussion doesn’t devolve into Group Think.

So how do you determine if someone is going to fit in to your culture (the first step to cultural add)? First, make sure they come to the interview knowing something about who you are as a company. A candidate should always take the time to research a company before the interview, and “What do you know about our company?” is a good starting question. Ask what attracted them to the company or the team. Even if they don’t know much about your core values (which should be easy to find on your website), if they show a passion for the work you do or the people you serve, that’s a good start.

Be honest about your company. Don’t sugar coast the work or the stressors. If you have a fast-paced, chaotic workplace, ask questions not only about how the candidate functions in that kind of environment, but also how he recovers.

Here are the questions managers suggested to get information about Cultural Add:

  • What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?
  • What would make you choose our company over others?
  • What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?

If you can determine that a new hire will be a Culture Add, you’ll do more than strengthen your team. You’ll save money on turnover as well. According to the LinkedIn guide, “research shows that employees who are a good culture fit are more likely to stay with your company and will have greater performance and job satisfaction.”

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This is one of a series of posts based on LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions’ Guide: 30 Behavioral Interview Questions to Identify High-Potential Candidates.

Finding a new hire that’s the right fit for a team is a manager’s most important job. But as LinkedIn’s guide to Behavioral Interviewing says: “screening candidates for potential is the toughest part of an interview. Oftentimes you assess someone’s potential by looking at their soft skills and unique perspectives. Yet in a 30 minute conversation, it’s really difficult to fully understand the person behind the profile.”

LinkedIn has survey employers to find the most important qualities they look for in an employee. Then asked over 1,300 managers for their best questions to help interviewers determine if a candidate has the quality and knows how to bring it to the workplace.

Here’s the list of the qualities managers value:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Culture add
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth potential
  6. Prioritization

Adaptability is the number one asset businesses want in an employee (with 69% of hiring managers saying it is the most important soft skill they screen for.) It’s not surprising. Technology, markets and business practices are changing rapidly on a daily basis, and companies need people who are willing to adapt. Ideally, you’ll find one that is not only open to change, but can thrive.

Of course, flexibility is one of the most important attributes of someone adaptable. So is the ability to tolerate ambiguity. If a worker is fixated on THE RIGHT WAY to do things, she will hate the idea that what worked yesterday doesn’t apply today. It might shake her self-image to realize that everyone’s an amateur under a new system. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun.

Adaptable people also need to be more generalist than specialist. One of the measures of intelligence is the ability to see patterns and use previous knowledge to respond to a new problem. This reminds me of that, so I’ll try what worked in another situation, even if they don’t seem to be related. That’s the adaptable mindset.

Adaptable people react to their environment, rather than staying on course no matter what signals they’re receiving. We admire grit and determination, until they send us deep into hostile territory. We should have seen it coming, but we were too focused on what we said we were going to do.

Here are some of the Behavioral Interview questions managers use to uncover these traits:

  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?
  • Recall a time when you were assigned a task outside of your job description. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives

I would add this one: Tell me about how you approach a brand new task – something you’ve never done before.  What steps do you take to organize your thinking? How do you decide what to do first?

And maybe this: How do you know when something’s not working? How does that make you feel? How do you usually handle it?

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been asked these questions (or used them in an interview.) Leave a comment if you have.

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Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. – Oscar Wilde

You’re getting a vague, uneasy feeling that things are not right at work. You just found out that you were left off the list for the project launch meeting. Your manager says you won’t be going to the annual conference this year. She’s also cancelled your last two weekly check in meetings at the last minute.

Should you be worried about losing your job? Maybe. Here are some signs you might be on the way out.

  1. You are passed over for important assignments or not included in meetings.
  2. Your boss or your peers seem uncomfortable or start avoiding you.
  3. Projects you’ve been handling are reassigned without explanation, or with an explanation that seems weak or contrived.
  4. A peer gets assigned to your project so she can “review what’s been done so far,” or for some other vague oversight purpose.

Here are some ideas on how to save the situation:

If your performance has been discussed before (for example, in a less than stellar performance review), you can ask for a formal meeting to review your progress.  If this is the first time you’ve felt that your competence was in question, ask for an informal meeting with your supervisor.  Cite specific examples of times when you felt as though you were being excluded or questioned, and ask directly, “Is there some concern about my ability to handle this project?”  Ask for honest and direct feedback, and watch carefully for signs your supervisor may be uncomfortable or not very forthcoming.

Offer to work on what she perceives as your weakness by creating a plan of action to correct what’s wrong.  If she seems to waiver about this, ask directly, “is this (situation or error or perception) fatal?” If she reveals that she doesn’t believe that you’re the right fit for the job or assignment, it’s natural to feel angry and embarrassed.  But you may be able to salvage your reputation and buy some time if you remain calm and contrite.

Take responsibility for your performance; don’t give in to the temptation to blame lack of resources or training or other people. “I am so sorry it’s not working out. I want you to know that I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me and I worked hard to be successful. Thanks for being honest with me; this feedback, difficult as it is to hear, will help me grow.”

Ask if you can begin the process of looking for another position to avoid being terminated.  The best possible outcome is her agreeing to let you leave of your own accord as soon as you find another job. Set a deadline together, a date by which you’ll leave even if you don’t have another job lined up. Resigning is a much better alternative to being fired for cause. During your last few weeks with the company, continue to do your best work. You can repair your reputation, leave on good terms and make a fresh start at a new company. Be sure to pack your new hard-won wisdom.

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@work: a career blog by Candacemoody - 3w ago

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If you’ve flown on a plane, you’ve heard this phrase: in an emergency, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, then offer assistance. Why? The simple answer is that you need to take care of yourself before you’ll be able to care for anyone else. You’re no good to anyone if you’re in distress.

Kevin N. Lawrence is the author of Your Oxygen Mask First; 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive in Leadership & Life. He’s a Vancouver, Canada-based executive coach who says he’s read and tested just about every leadership and management theory published. He wanted to write a leadership book designed to help executives cope with their fast-paced and high pressure lives. He writes, “high-achievers have unique needs that require a distinct way of thinking.”

Along with the highs of success and accomplishment, Lawrence says that leaders also experience the dark side of achievement. “The harsh truth is, leadership can crush people made of steel. You experience moments so intense you seriously wonder if you will make it out alive— much less with your business intact.” If you don’t take care of yourself, he writes, you may not survive your own success.

“If you’re like most leaders, you’re used to planning for achievement— or what I like to call ‘head success’. But this is only half of the equation. Head success is about reaching goals you set like revenue growth, profit, market share, personal wealth, possessions and vacations. If you want a sense of satisfaction, you need to plan for enjoyment and fulfillment— aka ‘heart success.’”

Lawrence offers 17 rules for self-care and success, including “Deal with your emotional junk” and “Take care of your mental health.” One of my favorites is “Stop being the chief problem-solver.” A leader’s job, he says, is to train your team how to think for themselves. “Your ego loves to answer questions and solve problems, but you’re doing yourself and your team a major disservice if this is how you spend your days.” If you’ve ever led a team, you know it’s faster to answer the question and move on than it is to teach someone what they need to know. But if you spend your days answering questions, your team mostly learns that you have all the answers.

And, he says, guess what? Your team probably already knew the answer anyway. They just check in so they can feel more secure. They are afraid of getting it wrong, or of disappointing you. Your job is to transfer that feeling of security away from you. Empower them to think of their own solutions, test them, and gain confidence through experience. Give them an assignment and allow them to figure it out themselves.

This is harder for some of us than others. Giving up control means, well, giving up control. It’ll get done, but will it get done right? Will it get done the way I would have done it? Ah, there’s the rub. Probably not, at least not at first. Maybe it will be okay anyway. Here’s the interesting part: maybe – just maybe – it will be even a bit better. Innovation, after all, is sometimes just a mistake that somehow worked better than the first time you tried something.

Lawrence’s advice is written in short, easy to digest chapters, and each one offers a slight mind shift that may make you re-think your position on how to take care of business  – and take care of you. Including his tip to “Lick your Toads.” You’re on your own with that one.  Find the book here.

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In a previous post,  I wrote about Seth Godin’s theory of team contributions. One level is called the Craftsperson. Here’s how Godin defines this kind of contribution: using hands or a keyboard to do unique work that others can’t (or won’t). Craftspeople are essential to most endeavors; they’re the experts or creative drivers who serve as the final arbiter of getting it right or declaring the project finished.

What defines a craftsperson from other workers? Passion is one quality; a craftsperson would do the work even if no one paid him. In fact, that’s how a craftsperson becomes so skilled or so specialized  – hours and hours of research, practice or experimentation on her own time, just because she cares so much about the work.

Craftspeople take their work seriously and personally; they consider their work an extension of themselves. There’s no such thing as “good enough” work, even when their customers don’t demand the best – or even understand it. A craftsperson will spend time and effort on things the customer may never see or appreciate, simply because he understand and appreciates it. The mindful selection of materials, using the best tools and latest methods, or adding unique and creative touches to products or services are signs you’re working with a true craftsperson.

In business, a craftsperson will insist on good process design from the beginning, and fight against shortcuts of any kind. Part of their passion for doing it right the first time is the knowledge that they’ll be the ones asked to fix it if it’s done wrong.

Craftspeople are the ones who bring concepts to life and make ordinary products extraordinary. This is how Robert Pirsig the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, defines Quality with a capital Q: “Quality. It’s when someone is so completely present for and dedicated to his or her act that they become hard to separate; they become one.” Caring, he says is the core of quality; no one can create true quality without caring deeply.

Who is the craftsperson on your team? If you can’t identify one, you probably have a problem, whether or not it has become evident. If no one on your team cares deeply, passionately, and personally about their work, you’ll always be just average at best, and you risk lapsing into mediocrity. Find someone who cares that much, and make them feel valued and welcome.

Read that last sentence again, slowly. Craftspersons may not always conform to conventional rules; they may be quirky and challenging to manage. But they’re worth the effort. Make sure everyone understands the value they bring; discourage eye rolling and pained sighs when they get passionate. Remind everyone to honor what it takes to master a skill.

“Mastery is a mindset: It requires the capacity to see your abilities not as finite, but as infinitely improvable.”

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

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In a previous post, I wrote about Seth Godin’s theory of team contributions. One contributor is the Salesperson. Here’s how Godin describes the work: “Turning a maybe into a yes, enrolling prospects in the long-term journey of value creation.”

Salespeople are arguably the most essential contributors, because they create the relationships that generate revenue. Nothing happens until somebody sells something. But for some reason, the sales function is perceived as a necessary evil; no one wants to have the reputation of a natural salesperson. In Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, he says that 9 out of 10 people have negative impressions of salespeople.

In my experience, there are two kinds of salespeople: the ones driven by winning, and the True Believers. The ones driven by winning can sell almost anything; they have a natural talent for persuasion and they are students of human nature, able to quickly analyze what motivates potential buyers. All they need is a pretty good product and enough information on features and benefits; you can set them loose in the market and they will close with gratifying regularity.

They love the challenge, and every close feels like a win. It’s fun for them, and they are often rewarded well for their skills (they’re also great negotiators.) They also move around a lot; they’re guns for hire who can walk into any company and demand top dollar.

The true believers are more rare, but often more effective. And they don’t necessarily limit themselves to products. They can be found in nonprofits, universities, politics, and movements. They’re often founders of companies with a burning vision and the ability to bring you into that vision.

Sales consultant and author Jeffrey Gitomer says: “As you’re preparing for a sale, your belief system is so powerful it will dominate your desire to get ready to win.”

Gitomer says a true believer mindset consists of three core beliefs:

  1. You have to believe you work for the greatest company in the world.
  2. You have to believe your products and services are the greatest in the world.
  3. You have to believe in yourself.

The challenge with True Believers as salespeople is that once they lose their belief, they lose their power to persuade. A discouraged True Believer cannot be effective, and can’t be motivated extrinsically. They don’t care about winning; they care about helping people or solving problems that matter. If you’re managing a True Believer sales force, you’ve got to keep a constant eye on quality, morale, and culture. If one of these is not where it should be, you’ll need to fix it before your sales team will be able to perform.

If you’re in sales, are you driven by winning? Or are you a True Believer?

Or are you a Contributor?

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In a previous post, I wrote about Seth Godin’s theory of team contributions. One level is simply called the Contributor. Here’s how Godin describes them: “Showing up and doing what you’re asked to do, keeping promises made on your behalf.”

In other words, a great follower. Michael Hyatt writes that great leaders have almost always started as followers; he goes on to say that great followers share characteristics. First, he writes, they are clear on their role. He writes, “everyone has a boss—including you. Great followers not only accept this fact, they embrace it.”

Hyatt also believes that great followers are obedient – and claims that this is also an essential leadership skills. “No one should be allowed to give orders who can’t obey orders.” He also believes that great followers are servants; they see what needs to be done – “Then they do it—joyfully, without grumbling or complaining.”

Think about how much better the world would be if our leaders took turns being followers and practicing humility – a sort of followership sabbatical. In a world filled with hubris, humility in our leaders would be like a long drink of cool, refreshing water.

The other important part of Seth Godin’s definition is keeping promises made on your behalf. That means that you even if you have not made the promise, you’re willing to honor it. We’re promising less and less these days, it seems. The concepts of oaths and commitments of honor have fallen out of fashion; we live together without committing to marriage, and less than 0.5 percent of the population has served in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II.

One of the things that military members feel sets them apart if their oath to serve and protect our country. No one enlists in the armed forces without explicitly saying what they are committing to do:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Every 18-year old who joins up takes that oath. And they mean it. Contrast that to your last staff meeting, where a colleague comments on a tight deadline: “I can’t make any promises, but I’ll give it a shot.”

Following is as hard as leading, and doesn’t come with a lot of perks. Contrary to what you may think, it takes great strength and great courage to follow. Great followers make great things possible.

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Barbara Sher, the best selling author and life coach, titled her second book “I Could Do Anything, If Only I Knew What it Was.”  Sher writes that many of us don’t know what life goals to strive for – making it hard to know when you’ve been successful.  This same phenomenon is a challenge for jobseekers.  It’s frustrating for those seeking a new job and for those who are trying to help them.

Career transition is a time of uncertainty. You’re not sure where to look for opportunity, when you’ll have your next interview, what questions you’ll be asked, and most importantly, how long it will be before you land a great job.  There’s one thing you should never be uncertain about – what it is you’re looking for.  The worst answers to “What kind of job do you want?” are: “I don’t know” or “Anything.”  Either answer makes you sound unprepared for a serious job search.

Almost any answer would be better than “I don’t know,” but what if you really don’t know what you’re looking for?  It may also indicate that you want to stay open to possibilities – or that you’re afraid to state your case.  Try scripting your response like this: “Although most of my previous experience has been in customer service, I’m open to almost any opportunity that will allow me to use my strong sales skills and lets me interact with people all day – that was my favorite part of the job.”

Note how this answer does double duty; you position yourself as open to possibilities while also marketing your skills.  Keep this formula in mind as you speak to people about what you want to do.  Another variation: “I have experience in a variety of industries, from shipping and logistics to restaurants.  I hope to go back to a position where I can use my administrative and bookkeeping skills.”  If you’re unsure about what job title you’ll end up with, talking about your skill sets helps your network understand what you do. The next time they hear “shipping” or “bookkeeping skills” in connection with employment, they may think of you.

The “I can do anything” syndrome afflicts both entry level and advanced job seekers.  Most recruiters despair when they hear it in an interview; they know from long experience that no applicant can do anything.  They decide that “anything” applicants haven’t done any serious research into jobs at their company.  They might also think that the candidates are desperate enough to take any job as a temporary measure. But they’ll be out the door as soon as the right opportunity comes along.  In either case, most “anything” applicants are never seriously considered.

There are effective variations of the “anything” response.  You might add it to your networking introduction: “I have experience in almost every aspect of publishing, and I’d consider any position that gets me back into the industry.”  In this case, your enthusiasm for any job is backed up by your strong experience in the industry.  You can also generalize about your skills without referencing a specific industry.  “One of my strengths is my passion for working with kids – I seem to really connect with them. I’d consider any job that lets me work with young children.”

As always, the key to talking to people about your job search is knowing what you  do well.  Take some quiet time alone or with a trusted adviser and list your personal, professional and educational assets.  Then practice putting them together in a sentence or two that describes who you are and what you’re looking for.  Build up confidence by talking to people about what you’d like to do.  Even if your next job title is still a mystery, what you can contribute to a team should be very clear. The difference between being able to do “anything” and being able to do one thing very well may just be the difference that gets you a job offer.

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Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. Oscar Wilde

You’re getting a vague, uneasy feeling that things are not right at work. You just found out that you were left off the list for the project launch meeting. Your manager says you won’t be going to the annual conference this year. She’s also cancelled your last two weekly check in meetings at the last minute.

Should you be worried about losing your job? Maybe. Here are some signs you might be on the way out.

  • You are passed over for important assignments or not included in meetings.
  • Your boss or your peers seem uncomfortable or start avoiding you.
  • Projects you’ve been handling are reassigned without explanation, or with an explanation that seems weak or contrived.
  • A peer gets assigned to your project so she can “review what’s been done so far,” or for some other vague oversight purpose.

Here are some ideas on how to save the situation:

If your performance has been discussed before (for example, in a less than stellar performance review), you can ask for a formal meeting to review your progress. If this is the first time you’ve felt that your competence was in question, ask for an informal meeting with your supervisor. Cite specific examples of times when you felt as though you were being excluded or questioned, and ask directly, “Is there some concern about my ability to handle this project?” Ask for honest and direct feedback, and watch carefully for signs your supervisor may be uncomfortable or not very forthcoming.

Offer to work on what she perceives as your weakness by creating a plan of action to correct what’s wrong. If she seems to waiver about this, ask directly, “is this (situation or error or perception) fatal?” If she reveals that she doesn’t believe that you’re the right fit for the job or assignment, it’s natural to feel angry and embarrassed. But you may be able to salvage your reputation and buy some time if you remain calm and contrite.

Take responsibility for your performance; don’t give in to the temptation to blame lack of resources or training or other people. “I am so sorry it’s not working out. I want you to know that I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me and I worked hard to be successful. Thanks for being honest with me; this feedback, difficult as it is to hear, will help me grow.”

Ask if you can begin the process of looking for another position to avoid being terminated. The best possible outcome is her agreeing to let you leave of your own accord as soon as you find another job. Set a deadline together, a date by which you’ll leave even if you don’t have another job lined up. Resigning is a much better alternative to being fired for cause.

During your last few weeks with the company, continue to do your best work. You can repair your reputation, leave on good terms and make a fresh start at a new company. Be sure to pack your new hard-won wisdom.

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Russell Tuckerton wants to do you a favor. He’s the author of 15 Minutes to a Better Interview: What I Wish EVERY Job Candidate Knew. In his 20 plus years of experience in tech, he’s served in management at several companies, ranging from Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, to small startups.

He starts out by saying “I’ve lost count of the number of times I really wanted to halt an interview and provide coaching to a job candidate.” He’s seen too many candidates blow their chances at great jobs, not because of their skills, but because they haven’t mastered the basics of interviewing well.

And because he knows you’re busy and impatient, he’s put all his best advice into a quick 15-minute read. Here’s what he has to say.

Most of his advice is pretty basic. For instance, he starts out with “Dress up.” No matter what the job is, taking time to dress up shows respect for the company and the opportunity. He also says, “Whether this is your dream job or not, act as though it is.” If this job is your second or third choice, it will show, and you’ll never be a strong candidate.  I agree completely, and here’s why: The job isn’t your dream job, based on what you know about it right now. The interview is a chance to learn more, and maybe even shape it into a better fit. Give it your all, because your interviewer may recommend you to others in the company or the industry. Let him see you at your best.

He also tells candidates to do some research about the company and start thinking about what you could do to add value. This isn’t about you, he says – it’s about my company and what we need. Provide examples of what you’ve done, emphasizing teamwork – we want to see how well you play with others.  Confidence is attractive, he writes, but arrogance isn’t. Be nice to everyone you meet at the company, including the security guards and receptionists; they’ll be asked for their first impressions of you too.

Next, Tuckerton goes into how to respond. “How you respond,” he writes, “refers to the pause between the question and your response, the tone of your voice, the length of the response, and how concise the answer was. Always pause after a question and look thoughtful [2-4 seconds is good, depending on the complexity of the question]. Candidates who reply too quickly come across as not thinking about the question or not taking it seriously, and mentally, I am already set to hear a canned or unrelated response.”

He’s right about that. I also find that candidates who rush into answers may not even get the context right. Interviewers want to see how your thought process goes; they want to evaluate how you think. If you’re jumping to a quick answer, it may reveal that you’re not a good listener or a deep thinker. In some fields, that’s a red flag.   Taking a moment to gather your thoughts is never a bad thing, and you’ll probably give better answers as well.

By “better answers,” Tuckerton means brief, concise, and relevant. Rambling is symptomatic of unorganized thinking (or arrogance again – presuming everything you have to say is amazing.) He also says you need to take note when you hear the same question, slightly rephrased, more than once. It’s a sign you’re not paying enough attention to an important factor. Think carefully about how you might expand your answer, or you’re almost certainly out of the running.

Tuckerton spends a good part of his 44 pages giving examples of good interview answers and how to tell stories that illustrate your strengths.  The advice is solid for anyone, but essential if you have a young person who will be graduating and beginning a job search soon. Short, on point, and straight from a hiring manager who’s seen it all.

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