Tag Archives: business

Screening away talent. Why the phone screen is a bad idea.

Life is just getting faster and faster.  One of the ways organizations are trying to make the job search faster is with the ‘phone screen’.  The phone screen is something of a pre-interview, done over the phone to screen out applicants who are not qualified.  While I understand the reasons behind doing this, I don’t agree with them, and I’ll explain why.

The interview is a business meeting between two parties.  The potential employer being one party and the prospective employee being the other.  You are negotiating a business arrangement.   I’ve been on both sides of the table, interviewing potential hires and being grilled by a hiring panel.  Regardless of which side I’m working from, I want to be able to look that person in the eye as I dialog with them.  I want to read their body language.  I want to get a feel for whether I want to do business with that person.  If you are looking for a job, don’t go in with an attitude of just hoping that someone will hire you.  You’ve got to have an attitude that you  bring something to the table that a potential employer wants.  You have to know what you bring to the party and be prepared to communicate to them why you in particular will solve the problem they have.  In essence, you are a business owner and the service you are selling is you.  In order to do that, you need to be able to get a read on them, and they need to be able to see the message you are delivering.   That is just not as effective over the phone.  When I’m interviewing for a position, I want to see the next place I could be working.  Is the environment nice?  Do the employees look like they are genuinely happy to be there or do they look like they’ve just had an injection of pickle juice?  Is the place well kept?  These are things that must be seen with ones eyes.

As a manager, I’ve never been a fan of the phone screen.  Again, I want to look that candidate in the eye and see what they are made of.  I want to see how they carry themselves.  I want to see how they react under stress.  I want to know the things that I can’t know in a phone call.   Often the best candidate is not the most qualified candidate.  The best candidate is the person that will best fit in the company and help solve the problem at hand, as perceived by the person doing the hiring.  The best candidate is a complex decision that involves many factors and discarding potential candidates over a phone call is a great way to ‘let the big one get away’.  Now, granted there are exceptions.  Before you spend the money to fly someone across the country (or possibly across the globe), you should do some initial homework.  A tough look at the résumé and a phone call would be wise.  Also, if you’ve got a very large applicant pool, then maybe some simple filtering would be good, but in most cases, the résumé and cover letter are going to tell me whether I want to see this person or not.

As someone familiar with both chairs, I prefer to drop the phone and head straight to face to face dialog.  Trying to establish candidacy over the phone short changes both parties.  Lets go back to using the phone in the proper way.  Let’s use the phone to set up a face to face meeting.


Personal Insecurity; the problem with smartphones

We spend a lot of time talking about avoiding viruses, phishing scams, and laptop security.  These things are all very important.   But, if you own a smartphone, chances are, you’ve got a much bigger security risk in your hands.  Consider how easy it is to lose your phone or have it stolen.  It’s compact and fits neatly into the palm of your hand, or a bad guy’s hand.  It’s easily set down and easily walked away from.  It’s easy to pull from a pocket or purse.  It’s easy to have knocked off of your belt in a crowded area.  In short, it’s easy to be separated from your mobile phone.

So, what’s so bad?  I call my carrier and they lock the phone right?  Well, kind of.  Part of that depends on how quickly you can get to your carrier and just because they can clamp down on somebody sending calls out, can they stop them from using WiFi?   Let’s say you give a thief just one hour.  What can they do?  Well, if you store your username and password in your web browser or apps and you haven’t locked your phone, they can do plenty.   People are doing real work on their mobile devices these days.   As an example, let’s suppose that I stored my credentials in all of my apps, then left my phone on the table at a restaurant.  I know, shame on me for even having it out at a place of dining!  What could you do with my phone?  Well, depending on the apps I have installed, you could take all of your friends to the movies on me, drop in on my brokerage account, drain my checking account and saving account, wreak havoc on all of my social networks, take over my satellite receiver, make changes to my mobile phone account, and worst of all you could run amok on this blog!  That’s some serious damage pretty fast!  All of those are just examples.  Depending on what apps you are running, the damage to you could be much worse.  We haven’t even talked about storing your username and password to your most frequented websites or that all of your contact’s information such as work and mobile numbers has just been given up!

So, what to do?  Well, first, take an inventory.  What apps have you installed?  What websites are in your history and your list of favorites?  What is your risk if your phone is lost or stolen?  If you are uncomfortable in the least at that thought, you have a couple of options.  First option is just to not save credentials.  Don’t allow any of your apps or the websites you visit to remember your login information.  That won’t make your friends any happier when some creep is calling them on their mobile phone because they got it from your phone, but that’s your call.  If you absolutely must store information, you’ll need to set a password for unlocking your phone.  This is going to be less convenient than not storing your credentials because you will have to enter that code to use your phone for anything, including simply making a phone call (who does that?).  There are multiple levels here.  Some phones will only let you enter a four digit numeric pin.  Better than nothing, but for the more paranoid (used in a good way here) some phones allow you to use numbers and letters.  Using a combination of numbers, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters makes the password harder to crack.  In addition, some phones allow you to hard lock the phone after a certain number of failed login attempts, which means the phone will no longer accept a password attempt and is therefore useless.  The iPhone has a setting that will erase the phone after 10 failed password attempts.  Both of these options mean you will want to backup your phone to your computer very regularly.  If your phone is locked or erased, chances are it’s going to end up in a dumpster somewhere and not back in your hands.  If you want full on paranoia, opt for a solid password using a combination of numbers and letters, lock down or erase after a number of failed attempts, and don’t store your credentials in apps or the web browser.  That is certainly not going to be the most convenient phone to use, but if you do lose it, you’ll be able to breath a little easier.   You will have to find the level of balance that is most comfortable for you.  Just don’t make it easy for the bad people.   You could just drop the data plan altogether and not worry about it, but that would be just icky!  And of course getting a smartphone without a data plan is becoming increasingly difficult.

Victim of Love. Some Thoughts on ‘Antennagate’.

Some Thoughts on ‘Antennagate’

There is no question. Steve Jobs is a master of his craft. There is also no question that Apple makes some very fine products. That’s what makes iPhone 4 antenna issue so intriguing. There is no doubt that when you consistently release products that are perceived as high quality, expectations go up. I’m not sure just how big this ‘problem’ is. According to Apple’s own data, it’s very small. However, we can’t verify that information, and protected statistics are easily “massaged” to present a desired outcome. Given that Consumer Reports can’t recommend the iPhone4 without a case, I’ve got to think it’s something more than what Apple or AT&T are willing to admit. Whether the problem is truth or hype, there is a perceived problem, and that certainly will cause problems for Apple. The amount of publicity really gave Jobs no choice but to publicly address the issue. As we did with the earlier post on the Gulf spill we will take some lessons from this crazy drama.

Note: If you have not been keeping up with this saga, you should start with at the very least, a timeline and Apple’s press conference to address the issue.

After watching the press conference, I came away impressed with how Jobs is able to downplay the problem and turn his product’s ‘issue’ into an industry wide issue at the same time. This was something that was quickly countered by some of Apple’s competitors. Here is what we see in the handling of this issue from the launch of the phone to the 7/16/2010 press conference:

Let’s start with the good:

  1. Admitting you aren’t perfect. Getting companies (or people for that matter) to admit to anything not seen in a positive light is really tough these days. Apple coming out saying they aren’t perfect is a great move.
  2. Reacting quickly. Apple could have sat on this, denied it, or tried hard to bury it. They didn’t. They took it on and addressed it quickly. Bravo!
  3. Verbalizing your commitment to customer satisfaction. People need to hear this once and a while, but if they don’t see it lived out it can be thrown below in the fluff pile.
  4. Offering a solution to the problem that reaches beyond the minimum, regardless of whether or not it is a problem of perception or reality. Without this, number 3 above is useless. I think this really does a lot to diffuse the negative image ‘antennagate’ has given them. Giving away a case with each phone, refunding the purchase price of the bumper cases already purchased, and offering to purchase certain third party cases for customers because they can’t make enough of their own cases is the probably best thing they could do. Wiping restocking fees for unsatisfied customers was bonus. It’s really, really nice to see a company not stopping at the minimum to make their customers happy. This puts some teeth into saying they want all of their users happy. At the end of the day, it’s a very classy move.

Now, the bad:

  1. Mocking the problem / taking it lightly. Soon after the story broke about the iPhone 4 reception issues, Apple seemed very dismissive of the whole thing. It recommended holding the phone differently or buying one of their cases. Really? I don’t buy for a second that Jobs would accept that kind of response from a company that sold him a home theater system. How do you feel if you purchase a product that does not live up to requirements, and when you complain about it, you are told to purchase something additional to make it right? That’s insane! They didn’t let up either. The first thing we see in the press conference video is a music video blaming the problem on the media and generally making light of the issues. Is that really the juvenile image you want to start with?
  2. Coming off as arrogant when addressing the problem. As far as the recommendation to hold the phone differently, it really smacked of arrogance and provided ample fodder for Apple’s competitors. Nokia for one wasted no time jumping on the opportunity. Suppose I bought a car that sometimes wouldn’t turn left. Would Steve Jobs tell me to stop taking left turns? This is ridiculous.
  3. Trying to make your problem look acceptable by pointing to holes in your customer’s products. This isn’t about their phones. It’s about your phones. What are you doing about fixing your phones? Let the competition fall to the wolves on their own. Note: This includes fixing the algorithm to calculate the number of bars. My favorite line from the press conference is this “…some of these other phones might be being a little bit too liberal on their algorithms too.” How it sounds to me – “It’s OK that we lie, everyone else is doing it too.”
  4. Not admitting your product has a problem. Jobs admits that all phones have problems. That’s not the same thing, that’s dodging the bullet.

Finally, the fluff:

  1. They are working their butts off. Gee. That’s great. You are in a highly competitive market and you are working hard. If you ever read this Mr. Jobs, here’s a tip for you; “Your competitors are working their butts off too. Get used to it.” These days, working hard is expected. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how hard you are working. People don’t care. Right or wrong, the market rewards results. That’s the bottom line.
  2. You’ve got really expensive facilities and really smart people. If you are this good and your phone has a problem, that can make you look worse than you would if you had never brought it up in the first place.

The iPhone4 antenna issue will be a story for years to come. With a truly unique marketing machine and a history of delivering quality products, even the smallest issue will be magnified. When people love your products, they expect perfection. Apple seems to be a victim of it’s it’s own hype in this case. However, if handled properly, this problem for Apple could turn out to be a positive for them. We know that well handled customer problems actually increase the customer retention rate. Time will tell whether Jobs and his crew have handled this well enough.