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...

Three Ways to Answer “Tell Me Something No One Knows About You”

Hiring managers who haven’t read Hiring Geeks That Fit are now asking another irrelevant question: Tell me something no one else knows about you. Now, in case you aren’t sure, this is an irrelevant question. It doesn’t directly help an interviewer learn how the candidate can perform the work or fit with the team. It doesn’t help the candidate learn about the job. That means it’s irrelevant. However, if you are looking for a job, you can use this question. I would focus the question back at the work. Here are some ways to answer this question: Tell a personal story about how you exhibited problem-solving or fit with a team. Something that you know or suspect the interviewer is looking for. If this is a first question, ask the interviewer, “What does success look like for this job? I can tell you how I did something like that in the past.” If you do have that experience on your resume, point to it. Think back to the value you bring to an organization. Now, think of a personal story that shows one or more of those values. Answer this question with a story. Your interviewer is looking for something personal. If you’re not sure how to answer or define your value, look at Manage Your Job Search. I have a number of examples of how to answer irrelevant...

Managing Expectations Between Two Internal Candidates

You have an open position. You have two internal candidates. You’re going to hire one of them. (See Two Candidates, One Position.) Now you have a problem. You have one person who will not be happy. This often occurs when you have two candidates for technical leadership or management positions. You might have a political problem. You certainly have a challenge. How can you “save” both people? This is a management and expectation problem. You need to clarify to yourself first, why you want to hire one person over the other. Once you understand your thinking, you can set expectations with both candidates. Here are some scenarios: One candidate is ready for the new position. That candidate has demonstrated that he or she can already do the work required. The other candidate is not quite ready. In this case, you owe the not-quite-ready candidate coaching, if the candidate wants it. You also owe the candidate specific examples of what he or she can do to be ready the next time. Neither candidate is quite ready, but you think one candidate has more potential. In this case, you might need to change the job description. You will have to coach the candidate you hire. You will have to manage expectations with the other candidate and offer coaching. Neither candidate is good enough for the role. You will expand the search outside the organization. In this case, both candidates need feedback and coaching. Note that in all cases, you can reset expectations and “save” the other candidate with feedback and coaching. That’s just the first step. You can fix these problems if...

Series on Hiring Technical People

Have you seen Nick Korbel’s series about hiring techies? See On Hiring Techies. There are several posts: Evaluate Potential, Not Accomplishments. He’s talking about evaluating qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills. Coding Challenge: A pre-interview audition. The cool thing is that they then discuss the audition in the interview. The Team Interview. I dislike panel interviews. It sounds as if Nick has some positive experience with it. I prefer one-on-one interviews with an interview matrix to organize the interviewing. One thing I do like is that Nick says the entire team must agree with the hire. (Yes—Fist pump!) Hire For Cultural Fit. Nick says, “I can teach someone a new technology. I cannot teach someone how to fit into our culture.” Believe it. If you want to see some of my posts, check out: Skills for 2013: It’s Not About Tools or Technology Three Tips to Streamline Your Interviews and Auditions, Part 4. Also, check out my audition tag. Assign Roles for Group/Panel Interviews and Plan for an Interview with an Interview Matrix My own cultural fit posts: Series on Cultural Fit Posted How to Hire for Cultural Fit Without Becoming Insular or Mediocre Hiring for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Women, pt 1  You can always get your own copy of Hiring Geeks That Fit. It explains everything all in one...