I was recently asked to write a plan outlining how I’d approach my first few months in the job I’m interviewing for. A few people (a couple of recruiters among them) commented on how unusual the request was, but I think it makes a lot of sense.
The interview process can be a beauty contest, with its emphasis on scripted answers and connecting with the interviewer. This task requires the writer to demonstrate an understanding of the role (which probably requires that he or she did a good job asking questions during interviews) and of organizational needs and priorities. It also tests your writing and organizational skills and also provides some insight into your leadership and management style that may not come out through your scripted responses. I kept mine to two pages, so I was forced to balance the creation of a simple, easy-to-understand strategy with the desire to give the hiring manager a sense that I understand the scope of the challenge and will hit the ground running.
The process will also help me in future interviews with this employer — assuming I get one — because I now have additional questions that I will bring to the table, because I’ve thought through ways I’d approach different problems the organization faces, and because I will have better examples of ways I’ve resolved similar challenges that I might not have come up with in a conference-room setting.
One tip: There aren’t many good templates for this task, but Harvard professor Michael Watkins has written a great book on this subject called The First 90 Days, which provided me with a great starting point.
All in all, I will use this in the future when I’m trying to choose between qualified job applicants who want to demonstrate their ability to help us achieve our goals.
Readers, how about you? Have you been asked to do a 90- or 100-day plan? How did you approach it and what impact did it have on your candidacy?
That’s why a recent NY Times article about reinventing the MBA curriculum got my attention. As one person put it, “At business school, there was a lot of focus on ‘You’ve got a great idea; here’s how to build a business out of it.’ The d.school said, ‘Here’s how you get to that great idea.'”
The “d.school” is a reference to the growth in “design thinking,” which emphasizes a focus on human needs to decide what problems need to be addressed. There’s an engineering focus to all this (the Stanford d.school is part of the Engineering School), but that’s missing the point of today’s posting.
So here’s the point of the blog. The Stanford d.school has posted a terrific document on its site that is a fairly short primer on the various concepts that drive the development of great ideas. The D.School Bootcamp Bootleg starts with seven mindsets — including “Bias Toward Action” and “Create Clarity From Complexity” (my favorite) and “Show, Don’t Tell.” It goes on to introduce modes like “empathize,” “define,” and “test.” And then it outlines a variety of strategies (or methods) that are integral to design thinking.
Lest this sound overly academic — and some of them will lead your eyes to glaze over a bit — there are some great ideas you can use to better understand your customers or come up with that “one big thing” before you go too far down the road.
Business books seem to be getting shorter lately…and packed with more usable information. This one is less than 40 pages and well worth your time.
Read through it. Think about how you’ve used the concepts without actually knowing you were employing design thinking. Pick some things to try. Keep them if they work and try something else if they don’t.
Use this document — but think of it as a toolkit — and when the time comes perhaps you can overcome the lack of an MBA with a skill set that enables you to develop great, marketable ideas.
How about you? How have you used some of these methodologies — interviewing for empathy, powers of 10, and so on — to fine tune your ideas? What worked and what didn’t?
I was laid off nearly 11 months ago, along with a few close friends and co-workers (we were just the first wave). As we packed our boxes, I recall someone telling me that we’d have a great time spending time with our kids at the pool in July, and me responding that if I were sitting around a pool in July I’d be twitching like I’d been exposed to a nerve agent. With my experience, I figured I’d be out of work for three or four months, max.
In the past 11 months, I’ve started a blog; helped one son get his life on track and back to college; figured out my “brand;” and done some consulting on some fun and different things. I’m trying to figure out if I can make consulting work on a full-time basis (with two in college and two more at home growing very quickly) or if I need to really ratchet up my job search.
I’m really looking forward to this movie. If you haven’t seen the trailer, it’s worth clicking on.
Just wondering, how are you turning your situation into lemonade?
I’ve always had a hard-and-fast rule about typos in resumes. If I see one, the person doesn’t get an interview. I may have lost an opportunity or two along the way to find a great person, but I believe candidates with mistakes on their single most important personal marketing documents aren’t going to pay any better attention to detail on their day-to-day work assignments.
Full disclosure: I ignored this rule once with a referral. Turned out to be a bad mistake and cost me hours in performance-management time before we finally parted ways. Painfully.
I bring this bias to restaurants. It is beyond me how someone whose livelihood depends on the customer experience cannot pay attention to the one thing everyone looks at. Particularly when someone like me points it out (to the chagrin of my wife and kids) and I go back a month later and they haven’t changed it. I know, I know. Who cares, if the food is great? I do. Because it makes me wonder about their attention to detail in places I can’t see. Like kitchen cleanliness.
Bulldog Simplicity Rule #1: First impressions matter. Typos are a distraction and a big indicator of your attention to detail, whether it’s in a menu, a resume, or anything your customer sees. If you’re not good at proofreading, find someone who is. Click on this Proofreading Tips link for a Freebie from my website that may help. Many people particularly like the one about reading backwards.
Now let me get out of here and Spell Check this before I post it.
In a previous life, I was the editor of the Southern Connecticut Business Journal and was lucky enough to hire a guy right out of Columbia named Adam Bryant. We all saw great things ahead for Adam, and we weren’t wrong.
Even if I didn’t know Adam, I’d rush each week to download his Corner Office feature from the Sunday New York Times, where he interviews corporate executives about their leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses, business successes and failures, approaches to interviewing job candidates, and giving feedback and advice for their kids or people starting out in business. It’s a great read…and can provide some terrific insight for readers working on their own personal brand, preparing for job interviews, or managing their careers.
My only quibble is that I’d like to see a bit more context around why each person is worth spending time with, some context on what that person has accomplished. For most of Adam’s subjects, it’s obvious. But with others, a bit more detail would be nice.
Here’s a link to last week’s article on Maigread Eichten, who heads FRS, a maker of energy drinks. Previous profile subjects include Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, John Chambers of Cisco, Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, and Clarence Otis of Darden Restaurants. Use Corner Office in your search on the New York Times business pages and you’ll find all of them.