Terrific Question for Assessing Culture in a Job Search

In The One Question You Should Ask About Every New Job, Grant says, Ask people to tell you a story about something that happened at their organization but wouldn’t elsewhere. There are four categories of stories: The human-ness of senior management (or not) Promotion opportunities for anyone How the organization fires/lays off The consequences for mistakes A terrific question for cultural fit. Does this organization make decisions the way you want a potential employer to make decisions? Grant goes on to ask about the one universal practice: How does this organization have meetings?  (See Ask Questions of the Hiring Manager and the Interview Team for this and other questions.) If you have not articulated your values—what culture means for you—consider drawing a timeline of your career. (I have more guidance in Manage Your Job Search, but the blog post is a good start.) If you interview with enough people, you can ask these questions during your interview. You can ask the questions on a phone screen. Don’t wait to ask until the interviewing is over and you already have an offer to ask. That’s a little late. You can rule out toxic cultures before...

Certifications in Hiring, Part 3: Hiring Tips

How can you use certifications in your hiring? In Part 1 and Part 2, I discussed the value of certifications and hiring traps. Let’s see how to be positive about certifications and use them during the hiring process. I’ve already said that a certification might be a sign of perseverance and interest in the field. I think of those as positive qualities for a candidate. I’ve also said that certifications might be shorthand for what you want in a candidate. Let’s consider what you want when you do a job analysis. (Download all the Templates from Hiring Geeks That Fit.) Analyze the job Consider your certification specification as a kind of job description (or management) debt. (Tip of the hat to Dave Gordon for suggesting that metaphor.) You have a certification defined, how can you refine that and manage the risks of too many resumes, not finding the right person, and the cost to hire? Let’s try an example. If you want a CSM (Certified Scrum Master), do you want someone who: Can facilitate an agile team? Can coach members of an agile team? Can remove impediments for an agile team? Looks for/helps define the goal of a sprint? Has successful agile experience? Can help a team retrospect and improve its process? Has agile understanding, interest, and practice? You might be looking for other qualities, preferences, or non-technical skills. You might have reasons for what you specify. Notice that when you start to specify these items, you can see there is a big difference between agile understanding, interest, and practice and the ability to facilitate or coach agile teams....

Certifications in Hiring, Part 2: Hiring Traps

In Part 1, I discussed the issue of certification vs. experience. One of the problems in using certifications to discriminate for or against people is that some people might have the experience you want, and might not have the certification paper that represents that experience to you. Here’s an example. I coached a project manager as she was looking for a job several years ago. She had used timeboxes, asked her project teams to develop with small features, and insisted on continuous integration. That allowed the project to show progress every one to three weeks. (She didn’t use timeboxes in the sense that many agile teams do. She helped the teams timebox their daily work, so they could integrate at least every day, not once every two weeks. She had figured out kanban by using stickies for “this week’s work,” and rolling wave deliverable-based planning.) She had discovered a reasonable successful way to shepherd projects to completion. She did not use retrospectives or demos, but she and her teams were close to agile. She loved her job. The project teams appeared to love her. When we met, she had received 17 or 18 recommendations on LinkedIn. The recommendations actually said words such as, “servant leadership,” “facilitation,” and “coaching.” She was an agile project manager, or if you will, a Scrum Master. Not in the classic sense, but once she read the Scrum Guide, she realized what she was. Her company merged with another, and she was laid off. She was having a terrible time getting a job. She did not have a CSM. Her previous job title was “Project Manager.”...

Certifications in Hiring, Part 1: A Certificate’s Value

There are a ton of certifications these days. Many demand only that you sit through a 2-day or even 1-week class and then take an exam. Some certifications demand that you prove you have worked in the field for some number of weeks/hours the previous year or so. Most certifications do not demand that you show proof of your successful expertise in action. Let me tell you a story about the last certification exam I attempted. It was the ASQ Software Quality Manager, back in the early 90’s or so. I had been a Manager and then Director of software quality for several years. My companies appreciated my work. I helped the testers learn to improve their skills, which helped everyone. The developers were happy because they believed the testers helped. The testers were happy because developers and other managers took them seriously. I was happy (as well as our customers and managers) because we had fewer defects and were able to release faster. We had systems that worked for us. I took the exam. I got all the multiple choice answers right, except for one or two about ISO. The problem was this: you couldn’t pass the exam and receive the certification unless you got some credit for the open response questions. There were two open response questions. People marked those questions. I got zero (0, null, nil, nada) credit. When I called ASQ to understand the problem, I asked for my exam. I wanted to learn from it. The woman told me she could not send me my exam. She would kindly offer me 50% off the...

Interview with FogCreek About Hiring for Technical Fit

Several weeks ago, the nice folks at FogCreek interviewed me. It’s here: Technical Hiring and Cultural Fit – Interview with Johanna Rothman. The interview ranged over many topics: Cultural fit Diversity What to do when you look for a job Much more I hope you enjoy it. If you want to read more about how to hire, check out Hiring Geeks That Fit. To read more about how to find a job, see Manage Your Job...

Differences Between Hiring a Contractor or Consultant

In my session at Agile 2015, (Agile Hiring: It’s a Team Sport) one participant asked me if I hire contractors the same way I hire employees. I do. I use the same approaches for reviewing resumes, phone screens, interviews and decisions. The one difference is the offer—instead of a yearly salary paid in some form of incremental approach, contractors get a dollar/hour over a timeboxed period. One of the people in my session called contractors “consultants” and tweeted about it. She wanted to make sure the contractor had the same respect as a consultant. That concern goes to why the hiring manager hires a contractor or a consultant. If I need an extra pair of hands for a limited period of time, I hire a contractor. If I need guidance—which might include some hands-on work—I hire a consultant. You might like this perspective on how consultants work, from Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation, by Champion, Kiel and McLendon: What’s important to me is who has the responsibility for client growth. I expect a consultant to help me (or my team or organization) grow in some way. I expect a contractor to provide extra pair-of-hands services. I do not expect them to help me grow. I might get that, but I definitely don’t expect it, especially when hiring a developer, tester, project manager, Scrum Master, or some other individual contributor position. To me, that is a big difference between contractors and consultants. I don’t expect contractors to contribute to anyone’s growth. I do expect consultants to contribute to growth. That’s why I expect to...