How to Get a Job


 THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN.THE NEW YORK TIMES. May 28, 2013

Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America.

Thomas L. Friedman .Josh Haner/The New York Times

Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?

 

One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt (www.hireart.com): Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”

The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt culls through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.

With 50,000 registered job-seekers on HireArt’s platform, the company receives about 500 applicants per job opening, said Sharef, adding: “While it’s great that the Internet allows people to apply to lots of jobs, it has led to some very unhealthy behavior. Job-seekers tell me that they apply to as many as 500 jobs in four to five months without doing almost any research. One candidate told me he had written a computer program that allowed him to auto-apply to every single job on Craigslist in a certain city. Given that candidates don’t self-select, recruiters think of résumés as ‘mostly spam,’ and their approach is to ‘wade through the mess’ to find the treasures. Of these, only one person gets hired — one out of 500 — so the ‘success rate’ is very low for us and for our candidates.”

How are people tested? HireArt asks candidates to do tasks that mimic the work they would do on the job. If it is for a Web analytics job, HireArt might ask: “You are hired as the marketing manager at an e-commerce company and asked to set up a Web site analytics system. What are the key performance indicators you would measure? How would you measure them?”

Or, if you want to be a social media manager, said Sharef, “you will have to demonstrate familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, HTML, On-Page SEO and Key Word Analysis.” Sample question: “Kanye West just released a new fashion collection. You can see it here. Imagine you had to write a tweet promoting this collection. What would your tweet be?” Someone applying for a sales job would have to record a sales pitch over video.

Added Sharef: “What surprises me most about people’s skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can’t get the basics right, there is a real problem.” Still, she adds, HireArt sees many talented people who are just “confused about what jobs they are qualified for, what jobs are out there and where they fit in.”

So what does she advise? Sharef pointed to one applicant, a Detroit woman who had worked as a cashier at Borders. She realized that that had no future, so she taught herself Excel. “We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”

People get rejected for jobs for two main reasons, said Sharef. One, “you’re not showing the employer how you will help them add value,” and, two, “you don’t know what you want, and it comes through because you have not learned the skills that are needed.” The most successful job candidates, she added, are “inventors and solution-finders,” who are relentlessly “entrepreneurial” because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your résumé, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do.

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Think Functionally, Act Strategically


Deniz Caglar, Namit Kapoor, and Thomas Ripsam.S+B February 26, 2013

 / Spring 2013 / Issue 70

Illustration by Keith Negley

When a company competes on capabilities, its specialist leaders—in HR, IT, finance, and elsewhere—play a new, influential role.

What should the role of the corporate support function be in business strategy? Until recently, the answer was relatively straightforward. System-wide, service-oriented functions existed to carry out the many specialized tasks that every corporation needs to have done. Human resources (HR) recruited employees, managed benefits transactions, and oversaw evaluation and promotion practices. Information technology (IT) ran and helped support the company’s computer systems. Finance carried out all processes related to accounts, debts, and taxes. Learning and organizational development offered training programs tagged to the skills the company needed. Legal vetted contracts and managed issues related to compliance. And so on.

The New Functional Leaders: Gaining a Stronger Seat at the Table
   

Find out how functions like HR, IT, and finance can balance a new strategic role while still managing their own house.

Though much has been written over the years about the strategic importance of HR, IT, finance, and other support functions, in most companies their roles have been primarily transactional. They fulfilled day-to-day needs, met legal and regulatory requirements, accommodated requests from business units, and put out the inevitable fires that erupted when there was a conflict or urgency. When functional leaders were asked to make improvements, it meant doing the same things more efficiently and at a greater cost savings.

Recently, however, there has been a leap in expectations. Over the past few years, CEOs, business unit leaders, and functional leaders themselves have been asking support functions to deliver more value to the organization at large. Instead of balancing services among all business units equally, or striving to be best in class in everything, support functions such as HR, IT, and finance are asked to be “fit for purpose”: more closely aligned to the enterprise strategy. Functions that are more directly related to individual brands and business units—which may include operations, sourcing, marketing, sales, and R&D—have also been affected, though not always in the same way as their counterparts at corporate headquarters. This leap is occurring for several reasons.

First, market environments and patterns have become less stable, and competitive intensity has increased. Many companies—facing changes in customer demand, the emergence of innovative new competitors from around the world, and greater macroeconomic uncertainty—are raising expectations accordingly. Today’s functions must provide a far more complex set of activities and expertise than they ever had to manage in the past. For example, IT must design systems that mine “big data” to support real-time consumer offers that change on the fly; HR must recruit a broad range of people from around the world and design flexible career tracks to match their diversity.

There is also a new opportunity to raise the return on discretionary investment. Over the past decade, through outsourcing and process improvement, many functions have become more efficient in performing their day-to-day activities. Therefore, the resources dedicated to routine, transactional tasks—managing HR benefits, dispensing IT equipment, resolving finance discrepancies, maintaining mailing lists, and so on—have been dropping. Such tasks now consume perhaps 35 percent of staff time, whereas they once consumed 70 percent. This development enables functional leaders to allocate more time, attention, and money to discretionary activities, the strategic tasks that can make an organization more competitive.

In addition, the pressure to execute flawlessly is increasing. Most functional departments have made great strides in maximizing efficiency and improving operations. But they usually still have a lot of room for improvement, forcing many functional leaders to look for new paths to operational excellence and greater value, usually while reducing costs.

Finally, many companies have become aware of the power of distinctive capabilities, that is, the advantage held by companies that do only a few things in the market, but do them exceptionally well. Amazon’s success is based on its skill with online user interfaces, logistics, and technology. Coca-Cola’s success depends on its prowess in beverage creation, brand proposition, and global consumer insight. Hyundai gained its enviable foothold in the U.S. automobile market through stylish car design and marketing combined with disciplined quality improvement . Functional leaders face the difficult challenge of supporting these complex new capabilities while not compromising what they already do.

New Zeland reveals list of banned baby names


Sapa-AFP | 01 May, 2013 11:27

New Zealand officials on Wednesday released a list of baby names put forward by parents that were rejected because they were too bizarre or offensive, including “Lucifer” and “Mafia No Fear”.

The list of 77 names reveals one child was set to be called “Anal” before the Department of Internal Affairs vetoed the proposal, while another narrowly avoided being dubbed “.” or full stop.

Other names on the list included “4Real”, “V8”, and “Queen Victoria”.

In some cases, parents appeared to have lost any inspiration for coming up with a moniker for their offspring, wanting to call the latest addition to the family simply “2nd”, “3rd” or “5th”.

The department’s rules forbid any name that might imply a child holds an official title or rank, so “King”, “Duke” and “Princess” were among those that had been turned down most since 2001.

“Justice” was the most popular, having been rejected 62 times, although “Justus” and “Juztice” also failed to gain official approval.

In 2008, New Zealand’s family court ordered that a nine-year-old girl whose parents had called her “Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii” should have her name changed because it was embarrassing and “makes a fool of the child”.

At the time, judge Rob Murfitt criticised parents who gave their children bizarre names, citing examples such as “Number 16 Bus Shelter”, “Midnight Chardonnay” and twins called “Benson” and “Hedges”.