Tag Archives: Talent

Breaking Out Of Long-Term Unemployment | Glassdoor.com

It’s especially difficult when one encounters HR staff and recruiters that are clueless to what happened in 2009.

Breaking Out Of Long-Term Unemployment

Posted by Yahoo! Hot Jobs • April 22nd, 2010

Long-term unemployment can wreak havoc on a person’s sense of self-worth and well-being. Worse, big resume gaps, or current unemployment, may also mark a job seeker as “damaged goods” and make a long job search even longer.

“I wouldn’t say the bias [against hiring the unemployed] is pervasive, but too many hiring managers don’t realize that the world has changed and that people have had a hard time finding jobs through no fault of their own,” says Cheryl Ferguson, president of Recruiter’s Studio and recruiter for Decision Toolbox.

Throw in the towel? Don’t even think about it, career experts say. They suggest these practical steps to help even the most discouraged unemployed job seeker get motivated and beat the odds.

1. Check your mental attitudes.
It’s a vicious circle: the longer you’re out of work, the more anxious, insecure, or depressed you may be–and this can hurt your chances of landing a job. “Attitude is a crucial part of the job search, and unfortunately it’s easy to be caught up in negative mental self-talk, especially with the media telling us how terrible everything is,” says Helaine Z. Harris, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist.

If anxiety or depression is significant, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. If that’s not an option, simple calming breaths and even meditation can be effective, Harris says. “It’s essential to relax and clear the mind, so you’ll know the right actions to take and be able to magnetize the opportunities you want.” Connecting with nurturing friends and sharing your feelings about being unemployed can also help if you’re feeling isolated.

2. Move your body.
There’s documented evidence that physical exercise improves mental health and reduces anxiety. And a gym regimen or even daily walks around the neighborhood can help your job-search efforts by adding structure to your day. “Regular exercise creates more self-discipline and shows that you can do hard things, which makes it easier to handle tasks like making difficult phone calls,” says Penelope Trunk, creator of the social network site Brazen Careerist.

3. Step away from the computer.
Job boards and social networking sites such as Twitter can be helpful, but they are not the only ways to connect. And relying on them can perpetuate the unemployment “hermit” trap. “If you’ve been out of circulation for a while, you have to remind people you’re still around,” Ferguson says. “You’re also likely to be a little rusty in networking, so it’s important to get out once or twice a week, at least, for a face-to-face meeting, lunch, or networking event.”

4. Re-examine employment strategies and tactics.
With a clearer mind, an energized body, and a fuller social calendar, you can better gauge the effectiveness of your search. Career coach and author Dr. Marty Nemko urges unemployed job hunters to not assume they’ve been doing everything right:

“Are you really spending 30 hours a week job searching? Do you have a job-search buddy, so you can be accountable to each other? Are you active in your professional association, in-person and online? After an interview, have you sent a proposal that explains what you’d do for the employer? Have you followed up relentlessly with warm leads? If you’ve done all of those things and still aren’t getting a job, you probably need to change your job target to a more in-demand job title or a lower-level job,” says Nemko.

5. Fill the resume gap.
A resume should be a history of things you’ve accomplished, not necessarily a chronology of things you’ve been paid for, according to Trunk. With that philosophy, there’s no reason to have a gap in your resume. “There are very few professions where you have to be on the payroll in order to do the work,” Trunk says. “If you’re a programmer, write a patch on your own time. If you’re a shoe designer, design your own shoes. Just do it. You’ll have something to show on the resume, and you’ll be taking back your power.” (See all HotJobs articles about resumes.)

6. Don’t be defensive about unemployment.
You’ve been out of work for a while. So what? So have many of the other candidates. “Don’t hide the fact you’ve been unemployed,” says John M. McKee, job coach and founder of BussinessSuccessCoach.net. “People won’t hire others who are prickly.”

McKee adds that you might need to stop saying the word “unemployed” if the word is getting in your way. Trunk agrees: “When someone asks what you’re doing now, don’t say you’re out of work, because you’re not. You’re just not getting paid. Talk about the projects you’ve done and what you’re learning, and then mention, ‘I’m looking for a paid position like this.’”–Larry Buhl, for Yahoo! HotJobs

via Breaking Out Of Long-Term Unemployment | Glassdoor.com Blog.

55% of Medical Device Industry Professionals Looking for New Job in New Year

I’m using the author’s headline.  The stats are 28% are “unemployed/actively looking” (aka me) + 28% are “Strong Possibility”  = 54%.  Still, that’s a lot of people that may go into play.  We won’t know until confidence picks-up.  It’s easy to say that you’re “out the door” but it’s another thing to actually walk out that door.

[I made the charts as big as I could so that you can read the data, sorry if it doesn’t look pretty]

Orlando, FL – January 8, 2010

55% of Medical Device Industry Professionals Looking for New Job in New Year
27% of Medical Device Industry Executives Will “Definitely” Pursue New Employment in 2010; 28% Indicate “Strong Possibility.”  Only 22% are committed to staying in current role.

According to a poll of 2000 medical industry professionals randomly surveyed January 4-7, 2010, more than half are looking at 2010 as the year to make a job change.

The study posed the question: “What is the likelihood you will change jobs in 2010?”

Overall, 26% of the respondents polled answered that that were either “unemployed” or “actively looking.” Thirty-one percent answered that they were happy in their current situation bur are keeping their options open.

Most telling may be the final category: only 11% expected no change in their employment under any circumstances in 2010

Paula Rutledge, President of Legacy MedSearch, a retained search firm working exclusively in medical device recruitment, was not surprised by the results.  “For the past eighteen months, professionals in all aspects of the medical industry have had to work harder – many times for less pay and with fewer resources – to make up for reductions in staff.  I’m not certain if this trend is sustainable with the first glimmers of hope in medical starting to become evident.  Many pharmaceutical and large capital equipment companies will continue to contract through 2010, evidenced the Pfizer (400) and Merck (500) layoffs announced January 7. However, with all the ‘fat’ cut away from most companies, there will be a slight increase in hiring, particularly in the customer-facing functions (sales & marketing), and those professions associated with patient-issues (quality, regulatory, compliance, and clinical affairs).”

Bureau of Labor Statistics January Report Shows Mixed Results
Even with a slight edge up in the January 2010 initial jobless claims (up 1,000 from the previous week of 433,000), the 4 week moving average continues a downward trend and jobless claims in twelve states, including California, actually declined. The unemployment rate still hovers at over 10%,1

That said, the medical device industry, with a higher employment pool of college graduates more likely mirrors the overall unemployment rate of 4.6% posted for management, professional and related occupations 2

Medical Device Sales Executives “Most Discontent”
In a breakdown of the poll results by Title, a mere 9% of healthcare sales professionals are completely satisfied with their current position – and this excludes pharmaceutical sales representatives who have seen mass lay-offs for nearly three years.

Age Makes a Difference
One anonymous respondent who had been laid off in 2009 commented: “Over 80% of the people using outplacement services were at least 50. It’s all about companies saving salary & pension dollars and so many of us are not ready or able to retire.”

In terms of the perception of job prospects, the baby boomers are split down the middle, with 51% actively looking or choosing to keep their options open.

Those options include uplifting roots and relocating to the right stable job, says an anonymous Graphics Designer.  “I am a technical designer and was laid off 3 times in 17 months. It is simply getting ridiculous. I finally found a job, but took a huge step back. I’m at the point where I’d relocate to a job (in a desirable area) if it had a stable future and the sky was the limit.”

Legacy MedSearch plans to keep the poll active through January, and the poll results can be seen here.

About Legacy MedSearch
Legacy MedSearch is a retained recruitment firm focused exclusively on Medical Device & Technology with an emphasis on Engineering, QA/RA and Clinical Affairs, Product and Marketing Management, R&D and Sales.

via 55% of Medical Device Industry Professionals Looking for New Job in New Year « Legacy MedSearch blog.

The Elusive Right Path to Offshoring Engineering

First it was IT and transactional functions. Now its Engineering’s turn.  Same horse, different rider. If you have followed the whole offshoring conversation, there is nothing new here but this article is a tight and tidy summary of the pitfalls and some of the considerations.

I’m a Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) fanatic, so I tend to remind folks that is not just about the immediate cost.  Always step and look that the big picture and the affect of “collateral damage”, remedial activity, governance, contingencies, insurance, additional overhead, etc…  All those costs are part the decision and the cost in going offshore.

Now if you’re really super-cool, you’ll also do some formal risk analysis and weigh the cost of failure(s) and value key intangibles into your decision model.  Heh, but that’s for the advanced class…

BTW, I thoroughly enjoy reading strategy+business, strongly recommend.

The Elusive Right Path to Engineering Offshoring
Farming out product design and development can be a risky venture, as many organizations have learned the hard way. Here are five steps to making it work.

Few companies today would hesitate to outsource routine operations like IT services, call centers, or back office functions, but farming out engineering and product development is difficult or off-limits for most companies, and rightfully so. By their very nature, engineering and R&D are mission critical. What comes out of these units — the hits or misses, the innovation or lack of it — often determines the future of the larger organization. Letting another company, particularly an enterprise thousands of miles away, handle engineering tasks could be an invitation to disaster. Everything from knowledge transfer — dispensing a company’s design and development procedures and preferences to an outsourcing firm — to quality of work may suffer when the supervision of far-flung engineers in offshore locations is left to vendors often woefully ill-equipped to manage complex projects or adequately meet the client company’s needs.

Yet, despite its clear downside, engineering outsourcing has been slowly gaining in popularity over the past decade and is expected to be a business worth US$150 billion a year by 2020, which would make it five times larger than it is today. In most cases, companies are seeking to cut costs for an expensive activity. Engineering R&D can run anywhere from 3 to 10 percent of revenues, depending on the industry.

Western companies are also increasingly interested in tapping local engineers in emerging nations to develop products suited in culture and language to the needs of consumers in areas of the world where sales are growing. When companies fail to outsource these activities to regional operators, wasteful errors occur that would be laughable if they weren’t so expensive to mitigate. For example, a German machine tool company recently attempted to design, entirely in Europe, a product destined for the Brazilian market. As a result, drawings, service manuals, and equipment tags were improperly translated. One instruction was supposed to read, “Advance the ram,” but was translated into Portuguese as “Squeeze the goat.” That mistake and many similar ones ended up costing the German company dearly in reworking tags, text boxes, callouts, and service manuals and hindered sales of the new product in Brazil.

The largest engineering offshoring country is India, with about 25 percent market share, but China is also a big player and its influence in the sector will increase in the coming years; together, India and China graduate more than 800,000 new engineers each year, most of whom are willing to work at pay scales far below those enjoyed by their Western counterparts. The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Hungary, Ireland, and the Czech Republic are also notable engineering outsourcing countries. As for client firms, North American companies are the primary engineering outsourcers, accounting for 70 percent of the business, with Europe and Japan responsible for the rest.

Given that more and more companies will likely see the financial virtues in engineering outsourcing, which will overtake their hesitation about entering into such an arrangement, it’s worth considering what it takes to do it right. A successful program is predicated on doing five things well.

1. Choosing the Right Project
The best candidates for offshoring are engineering jobs whose scope, roles and responsibilities, and hardware and software needs are clearly delineated; that require minimal face-to-face interaction between clients and offshore resources; that require no interaction between offshore resources and end customers; that have carefully documented task maps and testing procedures; and that do not involve proprietary or classified activities.

Many companies make the mistake of picking projects to offshore by cost or complexity — the most expensive and tedious are farmed out. Unfortunately, it is only by luck that these criteria can produce successful projects. This was borne out recently when a consumer goods company decided that only the most costly engineering activities should automatically qualify for outsourcing, in part because the company believed their high price indicated that they were arduous and difficult to manage internally. But the project failed, producing no cost savings, precisely because the company was unable to grasp that managing the complexity of the engineering tasks required significant in-person interaction between client and vendor, as well as substantial vendor-supplied on-site resources. Moreover, the offshore vendor was attempting these difficult engineering tasks for the first time, adding a greater dimension of risk to the project.

2. Identifying the Appropriate Business Model
Typically, offshoring models for IT services or business processes are either vendor-run operations or captive arrangements, in which a company opens up its own offshore subsidiary. However, because engineering is a core function, many more models are possible that give companies a bigger stake in the remote operations and more control over the R&D activities. Besides vendor and captive sites, other approaches include captive with staff augmentation resource (a company has its own remote engineering facility that employs some staff from outside vendors); closed JV (a joint venture that exists only to serve the client company); tripartite JV (a joint venture among three companies — the client, the outsourcer, and an engineering design firm); open JV (a joint venture that serves the client company as well as other outfits); BOT (build, operate, and transfer — a vendor builds, runs, and staffs the outsourcing operation for the client for a period of time before selling it to the company); and reverse BOT or R-BOT (the client builds, runs, and staffs the outsourcing operation for a period of time before selling it off to a vendor to continue to operate it).

Each model has its pros and cons. For example, although concerns about protecting intellectual capital can be allayed by choosing the captive or the closed JV model, the level of investment and management to oversee either of these arrangements is often significantly higher than a straight vendor-run approach. As a result, companies that choose vendor-run models often do so for strategic value, such as tapping into the outsourcer’s mechanical engineering skills or to get access to an emerging market. In those cases, to the greatest degree possible, the client company would likely allow only in-house personnel to access intellectual property.

3. Teaming Up with the Right Vendors
The capabilities of the engineering services company should matter even more than price in selecting outsourcing partners. A low bid by itself is a poor predictor of whether a vendor can actually meet the requirements of the project. Companies considering engineering outsourcing should do a capabilities assessment through a carefully designed request for quotation (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP) that includes questions about the vendor’s expertise in supporting the engineering processes required in the project; the number of full-time employees and the skill sets they possess; employee attrition; the vendor’s business model, experience, and pricing structure; and the anticipated number of resources needed on-site at the client’s facilities to learn the culture and tasks and transfer them to the outsourcing location (if many people are needed to support this aspect of the venture, it could raise the cost of the project significantly).

In a perfect example of how not to put together an RFQ/RFP, a U.S.-based Tier One automotive supplier distributed a skimpy, single-page questionnaire to seven offshore and onshore engineering vendors. Because the company showed little eagerness to have the vendors detail their true capabilities in a uniform way so they could be compared with one another, the exploratory process had little value. As a result, incumbent onshore vendors that were well known to the client won the bid and offshore companies that were considered the top experts in the field were shut out.

But the RFP is just one step in picking the right vendor. Once the top five vendors are identified through the questionnaire process, a robust interviewing and negotiating effort must follow. Companies should closely review vendor presentations related directly to the job at hand, visit vendor sites at offshore locations, and have numerous rounds of discussion relating to process, task completion, price, and ability.

4. Creating Iron-Clad Performance Metrics
Just as employees on the job are evaluated, the performance of contract companies must also be assessed. Surprisingly, in only rare instances do clients and vendors establish specific criteria for measuring performance, and when they do, the criteria are hardly ever enforced. Two approaches to metrics should be employed: service-level agreements (SLAs), which include incentives for good performance and penalties for underachievers, and key performance indicators (KPIs), which lack incentive plans. In general, it’s best to limit the SLA to three or four tangible and measurable items, such as project timing and scheduling or budget performance. By contrast, KPIs should reflect aspects of the job that can be readily monitored, such as employee attrition or the length of time it takes to resolve a problem. If improvements are needed in KPIs, they should be negotiated in collegial, not legalistic or contentious, discussions.

To their detriment, many companies define SLAs loosely and leave too much to interpretation, making these agreements difficult to enforce. Alternatively, client companies feel that negotiating or determining the best metrics to track is too time-consuming, so they choose easily achievable benchmarks or agree to the performance levels proposed by the vendors. Either way, the relationship sours when a couple of projects fail and the client company attempts to penalize the contracting outfit for failing to live up to the SLAs.

It is critical that SLAs and KPIs are planned, negotiated, and agreed on before the contract is signed. Contracts should include clear and concise definitions of expected work and performance levels; quantifiable and measurable benchmarks; who tracks performance, when, and how; how frequently these agreements are reviewed and perhaps renegotiated; and, in the case of SLAs, incentives and penalties.

5. Establishing a Strong Governance Structure
Governance is the most important pillar. Strategic and cost initiatives, including engineering outsourcing, are better managed when they are supervised by an executive who champions the project. In the case of engineering, the vice president of engineering or product development is the likely candidate to take on this job.

But the governance structure must go beyond just a single individual assigned to the effort. The most effective setup for an engineering outsourcing initiative includes a steering committee composed of key executives from both the client and vendor companies; a program management office made up of senior managers from IT, finance, engineering, and purchasing, among others, to review the project monthly or quarterly; and at the bottom of the pyramid, execution teams, including the client’s project managers and the vendor’s project team, to oversee daily and weekly activities.

One of the common mistakes that companies make in engineering outsourcing is failing to create a separate governance structure. More often than not, these initiatives are led by a vice president with multiple responsibilities and little time to pay much attention to the offshoring program. As a result, outsourcing-related issues are dealt with perhaps once a quarter under the umbrella of an operational meeting, which includes a slew of other organizational issues. The amount of time spent discussing any of these issues is usually driven by the urgency of the matter — projects in crisis get the most attention — and not its long-term importance. Such omnibus operational meetings are the wrong venues for granular discussions about outsourcing and whether it is delivering the anticipated value to the company.

A clear governance process not only increases the efficiency of sourcing initiatives but also ensures that objectives are met and financial benefits are realized. In addition, it can ensure that disputes and conflicts involving the engineering outsourcing agreement are resolved quickly, with little strain on the organization, and that the long-term relationships with contract companies are strong.

Clearly, engineering outsourcing comes with an array of risks that make it unpalatable for some companies. However, used wisely, engineering offshoring can give a company significant leverage over competitors, not only in lower labor costs but also in product and process innovation and through gaining a foothold in emerging markets. But given how critical engineering is to product design and development, offshoring and outsourcing cannot be taken lightly. By following the right steps, a robust and productive offshore engineering initiative can be built that will deliver the right outcome.

Author Profile:

  • Vikas Sehgal is a partner with Booz & Company based in Chicago. He specializes in product strategy, innovation, emerging markets strategy, and globalization for automotive, transportation, and industrial companies.
  • Sunil Sachan is a principal with Booz & Company based in Chicago. He specializes in engineering offshoring, globalization, product development, and innovation, with a focus on emerging markets.
  • Ron Kyslinger is general manager of manufacturing and director of corporate strategy for Comau Inc. Previously he was the senior manager of business strategy for Chrysler Corporation reporting to the office of the chairman.

via The Elusive Right Path to Engineering Offshoring.

  • Also contributing to this article were Heral Mehta, an associate with Booz & Company in Mumbai, and Sreedhar Vangavolu, a contractor with Booz & Company in Detroit.
  • Practical Job Search Advice: Give up salary history?

    I just love Liz.  She is so practical and down to Earth. There are just so many half-baked ideas out there on how to forecast performance of a new hire.

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Give up salary history?

    Hi Liz,

    I learned about a position of interest and I emailed several LinkedIn
    connections asking about the co. and if they knew of an appropriate contact, to (tactfully) avoid the HR black hole. Each time I was told to contact their HR. I contacted HR and was told to complete an online app. I completed the app and drafted a very tailored cover/pain letter, customized my resume and submitted both online. I exceeded their experience by more than double and met their ed preference for a grad degree. At the bottom of the app after completing everything as I went to submit it, I was informed that I was subject to a background check and verification of salary/experience. I wasn’t thrilled about it but had invested a lot of time so I submitted the app. I received a call from
    HR asking me for my salary requirements – I gave the range and was told it was high and asked would I flex $10K? I wasn’t excited but said depending on their compensation package, I would. Then in spite of the years of direct experience I exceeded vs. their requirements, she
    commented that it had been several years since I’d performed the management areas needed by them ( in spite of having documented solid results for 4 companies on my resume), vs. what I’ve done with consulting the past few years.
    From her comments, it sounded as if they haven’t found the right person  – now I know why. I was starting to feel like I was getting attacked to bring me down.
    While I could commute, it would be 2-3 hours commute each way, so I told her I’d need to relo and wouldn’t commute. Right now I’m honestly ambivalent about this whole situation.

    Since I submitted the app acknowledging past salary/employment verification,  if I am contacted re: an interview or additional info, in spite of my favoring your recommendations to not disclose past salaries, do I have to provide company HR contacts for salary verification  or- can I provide an employee reference to verify salary? I won’t lie but I want to avoid HR.
    I also don’t want to disclose consulting income – do I say that’s privileged as part of my  tax reporting information?
    What else would you recommend addressing with this co. upfront before I commit to more time/meetings with them?

    Thanks, Liz,


    ———————- NOTE FROM LIZ:—————————

    Dear Carmen,

    You filled out an online application, and in that process you gave the employer permission to contact your past employers. That approval has NOTHING to do with your own disclosure of your past salaries or your consulting income. It is entirely up to you whether to say anything about that, or not.

    As you mentioned, I don’t see any reason for an employer to ask about your past salary, and I encourage job-seekers to keep that info to themselves. Here’s a little script for that conversation:

    THEM: So Carmen, what did you earn at ABC Plastics?
    YOU: I’m focusing on jobs in the $55K range, so if this position is in that
    ballpark, it makes sense for us to talk about it.
    THEM: But what were you earning at ABC Plastics?
    YOU (big smile in your voice): I think it’s important for us to determine
    together whether the job opening is in a range that works for me, and whether my skills and background work for you and would command a $55K job in your pay structure. Do you think that is something we could figure out in this phone call?
    YOU: Well, that number is in our range — it’s at the high end.
    YOU: That’s great, then, if you feel I’ve got the background that you’re looking for, let’s figure out what the next step is.

    You are already ambivalent about the job, and who can blame you? Who wants to commute hours every day? Your on-the-fence-ishness is one more reason to keep your past salary info to yourself. Don’t worry about giving the employer ways to verify your past salary. If you’ve already given them permission to get that info from your past employers, it’s up to them to do that spadework. Lots of them won’t bother, if your background fits the job requisition.

    As for consulting income, you don’t have to spill the beans on that, either. Why should you?

    Before you agree to more meetings, I’d get a straight answer on these questions:

    1) Is your desired salary in their target hiring range?
    2) Is there an opportunity for relo, or for you to telecommute, at least part of the time?
    3) Given the concerns that they expressed about your past management experience, what is about your background that makes you still a candidate for this job? (If they won’t give you a clear answer on this one, RUN!)

    Carmen, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to trust your gut. If you’re qualified, you’re qualified. If you’re not, you’re not. Companies who put down their job candidates are not generally companies that anyone enjoys working for.



    via Practical Job Search Advice: Give up salary history?.

    Top Oddball Interview Questions Of 2009

    Just when you think that the job market could not get any more…

    Top Oddball Interview Questions Of 2009

    Posted by Glassdoor Team • December 30th, 2009


    For anyone who has gone through a job interview lately – or perhaps in the past 40 years – you can expect certain questions like: ‘What are your greatest strengths?… and weaknesses?’ or ‘What are your career goals in the next five years?’. While any interviewee should be prepared to answer staple interview questions, in this market you had better be prepared to stand out and tackle the more thoughtful – and sometimes odd – questions.  Glassdoor.com career expert and HR veteran Rusty Rueff reminds us that interviews can be unpredictable and it’s important to be quick on your feet, express what’s important for the employer to know and beyond everything else, stay on your message.(Rusty provides some tips on Glassdoor blog on how to control the interview whether you receive a direct or curveball question.

    As we wrap up 2009 and its job-related ups and downs that look like a Richter scale report, we have identified our Top 25  oddball interview questions from the more than  14,000 interview questions submitted by job candidates through  Glassdoor.com Interview Reviews:

    1. What was your best McGuyver moment? – Schlumberger Junior Field Engineer
    2. How many tennis balls are in this room and why? – Yahoo Customer Service Rep
    3. If you were a brick in a wall which brick would you be and why? – Nestle USA Procurement Intern
    4. How would you move Mount Fuji? – Microsoft Software Development Engineer in Test
    5. If two cars are traveling in a two lap race on a track of any length, one going 60 mph and the other going 30mph, how fast will the slower car have to go to finish at the same car to finish at the same time? – Morgan Stanley Trader
    6. Are your parents disappointed with your career aspirations? – Fisher Investments Client Service Associate
    7. Tell me how you would determine how many house painters there are in the United States? –Acquity Group Business Analyst
    8. What should it cost to rent Central Park for commercial purposes? – Bain & Co Business Analyst
    9. If I put you in a sealed room with a phone that had no dial tone, how would you fix it? – Apple Software Engineer
    10. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? – Pacific Sunwear Sales Associate
    11. How many hair salons are there in Japan? – Boston Consulting Associate
    12. If both a taxi and a limo were priced the exact same, which one would you choose? – Best Buy Customer Service
    13. How to measure 9 minutes using only a 4 minute and 7 minute hourglass? – Bank of America Quantitative Developer
    14. What are 5 uncommon uses of a brick, not including building, layering, or a paper-weight? – Kaplan Higher Education Data Analyst
    15. What is the probability of throwing 11 and over with 2 dices – American Airlines Financial Analyst
    16. What is your favorite food? – Apple Store Manager
    17. Say you are dead- what do you think your eulogy would say about you. – Nationwide Product Manager
    18. Given a dictionary of words, how do you calculate the anagrams for a new word? – Amazon Software Development Engineer
    19. How many lightbulbs are in this building? – Monitor Group Entry Interview
    20. Given a square grid of numbers, considering all the numbers at the boundary as one layer and numbers just inside as another layer and so on how would you rotate each of the layers of the numbers by a given amount. – Microsoft Engineer
    21. How would you sell me eggnog in Florida in the summer? – Expedia Market Manager
    22. Develop an algorithm for finding the shortest distance between two words in a document.  After the phone interview is over, take a few hours to develop a working example in C++ and send it to the manager. – Google Software Engineer
    23. Given a fleet of 50 trucks, each with a full fuel tank and a range of 100 miles, how far can you deliver a payload?  You can transfer the payload from truck to truck, and you can transfer fuel from truck to truck.  Extend your answer for n trucks. – Palantir Technologies Business Development Engineer
    24. You are in a room with 3 switches which correspond to 3 bulbs in another room and you don’t know which switch corresponds to which bulb. You can only enter the room with the bulbs once. You can NOT use any external equipment (power supplies, resistors, etc.). How do you find out which bulb corresponds to which switch? – Goldman Sachs X-Div/Back Office
    25. If you saw someone steal a quarter. Would you report it? – Amazon Shipping Manifest Clerk

    Would  you be prepared or ready to answer some of these questions?

    You can see how others answer these and other interview questions on Glassdoor.com job interview reviews, because keep in mind that according to Glassdoor users, 45% of those who made it to the interview process did not receive an offer. In addition you may need to speak with a number of different interviewers before you reach the person who has the authority to decide who gets hired. In fact we found that in order to get an interview, 42% had to detail their past job experience through online applications, 14% discussed their background with a recruiter and 3% percent went over past professional highlights with a staffing agency.

    Via: http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/top-oddball-interview-questions-2009

    Rethinking Happiness | PBS Video [free until 21-Jan-2010]

    Enjoyed seeing this one. Great timing.  Some interesting tools to cope and some fascinating insight on what does and does not help make us happy.

    One segment focused on a Lehman Brothers analyst and how he’s been coping with sudden unemployment and being forced into the Mr. Mom role.  I can relate to this one.

    Program: This Emotional Life

    Episode: Rethinking Happiness

    The last episode explores happiness. It is so critical to our well-being, and, yet, it remains such an elusive goal for many of us.

    Positive strategies to help us build resilience and lead fuller, happier lives

    Duration: (1:54:33)
    Premiere Date: 01/05/2010
    Episode Expires: Thu 21 Jan 2010
    TV Rating: NR

    Rethinking Happiness | This Emotional Life | PBS Video.

    Yes Virginia, there are legitimate biz uses for YouTube

    The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline delivered his report card via YouTube.  That sure beats sending an email or paper document.  I’m sure that an order of magnitude more staff and investors heard his message via this medium.  They have may actually listened and heard this time.

    This YouTube video is a fine example of what all this Web 2.0 hubbub can do for you and your business.  As a leader, this is  a great medium for getting your message out to the entire staff.  Let’s face it, people want/need to feel connected with their leader.  A very brief video does the trick…better than glossy handouts ,  emails, and information cascade meetings.

    Of course, if this method of communication catches on, it will be interesting to see how IT depts respond.  YouTube and all forms of video have been on IT blacklists since day one.  The perception is that: 1)  there is no business need,  2) they devour bandwidth, and 3) it complicates the architecture.

    My hope is that CIOs and IT depts take this foreshadowing and embrace it; that they initiate the conversation and be proactive.  I hope that there isn’t a repeat of what I’ve seen done with videoteleconference.  Wherein, some IT depts just installed systems and then threw it all over the wall to the “business”; whether anything was used or not was not their concern.  What a great disservice.

    So I hope that with this one, we don’t just look at the gadgets and software; but instead,  work with corporate communications (PR), investor relations, and HR to LEAD them to create some killer applications of this information channel.

    So,  we will see.

    GlaxoSmithkline CEO offers his report card…via Youtube « Beaker’s Blog.

    Career & HR Experts Debate: Is Corporate Recruiting Broken?

    The article stands on its own; its a nice exchange of ideas.

    Clearview Counterpoint: Is Corporate Recruiting Broken? Career & HR Experts Debate

    Posted by Clearview Team • October 22nd, 2009

    Moderator: Liz Ryan

    Here’s the issue: Observers of the current organizational recruiting-and-selection process, in place at most employers, have noted that it’s a contender for the dubious ‘least functional corporate process’ award.

    While Six Sigma and LEAN principles are in place in large and small organizations, governing processes from new-product design to the ordering of paper clips, the recruiting function too often sits in a slow, bureaucratic, talent-unfriendly realm of its own. A few of the symptoms include:

    1. Candidates wait for weeks to hear from employers after what seemed like promising job interviews.

    2. Candidates are treated like third-class citizens during the selection process as they go through the tedious and even insulting screening steps, also known as the Seven Trials of Hercules routine. (”Here’s our online personality test key, and when that’s done, we’ve got an honesty test, a writing test and a little math test for you to take…”).

    3. Employers ask candidates to trust in them (that the company will stay in business, that the managers are ethical) but show less and less trust in candidates (”We’ll be needing W-2s for the last five years of employment … ”)

    4. More and more selection processes are ‘front-loaded’ (”Before an interview, we’ll need three references, a credit check, and a ten-page business plan that you’ll write for us…”)

    We asked the Clearview Bloggers panel:

    What’s your take on this issue:

    Is corporate recruiting broken?  If so, how would you fix it?

    Here’s what they said:

    John Sumser:

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk up to a potential boyfriend, propose marriage and get an immediate answer? It would be fantastic if you could decide you wanted a new house and then immediately go and buy it. Adoption would be vastly improved if you could see a child on the streets and take her home with you.


    Changes in demographics, technology and management create unforeseen opportunities to supplement and improve the process of finding and filling jobs. It is easy to confuse the fact that the process can be improved with the notion that it should be improved. Virtually all of the people who argue that recruiting is defective just happen to have something to sell that improves the process.

    Today, employers have amazing levels of instant access to information about every size and stripe of potential employee. Those same potential employees find a wealth of opportunity and information on their desktops. Far from being broken, the hiring process offers plenty of choice for both sides of the equation.

    Hank Stringer:

    Broken and busted…

    The systems that support corporate recruiting, primarily sourcing and applicant tracking systems are not designed to support efficient recruiting. The sourcing solutions today post positions that are aggregated, scraped and spread all over resulting in a talent flow of qualified and unqualified talent that cannot be dealt with effectively.  Ask any candidate who has submitted their resume to a corporate site if they expect to hear ‘anything’…you know the drill, submit, wait, hear nothing. The sourced flow is stored in the ATS – a system built primarily for compliance not for a gracious recruiting relationship. The corporate recruiting department won’t respond – they don’t expect to because they can’t.

    The problem is serious and requires new approaches to the way we source, filter, assess and recruit/deliver talent. And I mean new approaches, new technology focused on solving the problem supported by businesses models with the same goal. Increased advertising dollars based on page views and clicks is not the sourcing goal – connecting the right talent with the right opportunity is. And forcing corporate recruiting departments to use technology to comply first VS attracting and hiring the best talent at all costs continues to be the focus of too many HR Departments.

    Some companies get it right, they invest and use whatever resources (internal and external) are necessary to work talent through the process efficiently and they reap financial benefits of attracting and retaining better talent than the competition. The truth however is that most don’t. Broken….but a great opportunity to get it right – quality talent will appreciate the companies that get corporate recruiting right.

    Jeff Hunter:

    As the sole member of the Clearview team with direct responsibility for a corporate recruiting department I feel that I should rise to the defense of my chosen profession. After all, every day I get the privilege of seeing great people working hard to find and hire people. Recruiters usually get into recruiting because their heart is in the right place: helping people find work is a good thing to do. But when I read the list of indictments, I had to agree that we have a long way to go.

    Corporate recruiting is broken. This is how we can fix it:

    Let’s start by asking ourselves the simplest question: how does the corporate recruiting department think of itself? Most companies treat their recruiting departments like an extension of their purchasing departments. Purchasing departments exist to make multiple vendors bid against each other to ensure that the company gets the best price. When you think about it that is how recruiting usually acts: treating candidates like vendors bidding against each other so that the company can get the lowest price. I think this is at the root of our problem. I propose a different way of thinking about corporate recruiting: A recruiting department should be just as strategic as sales: no customers, no company… no talent, no company.

    Let’s keep asking ourselves tough questions: what does a sales department do that a purchasing department doesn’t? Cultivate relationships, even when the buyer isn’t interested. A company brings out new products and they want to know which prospects may be interested in buying. Sales needs to keep every prospect warm for just such an occurrence. Similarly, a recruiting department gets a new opening and needs to know which candidates may be interested in applying.

    Purchasing departments wait until they have a need and then let the vendors come to them. Sales departments get as much information as possible so that they are ready when a new opportunity presents itself. Recruiting needs to be like sales.

    Next question: how does a sales department treat is prospects? Like gold. No prospects, no sales. No sales, no company. How does a purchasing department treat its vendors? Like cattle – all pushing to get to the trough. No cattle, no big deal – more will be on the way. There are always more cattle. Recruiting needs to treat candidates like gold. No candidates, no talent. No talent, no company.

    Rusty Rueff:

    It’s hard to say that something is broken that was never built correctly in the first place, so I guess, yes corporate recruiting is broken.

    My reasoning on why it is broken, and always has been, is that the process that has been built in most corporations does not align with the way real-life relationships are built.  When was the last time that we acquired a new personal friend by having someone else sit down and write a friend specification, distribute that friend wanted request through a bunch of other people and sources that we have never heard of, then have people apply and use a sorting process or technology to cull through the applications, then have someone that we don’t even know well, sit with these applicants and determine whether or not we will like our new friends?  Nope, we don’t acquire any relationship in our life this way other than those who are going to spend 40-80 hours a week with us on the job. BTW, that’s way more time a week than we spend with our friends and maybe even more waking time than we spend with our family.

    Hank and I write in our book, Talent Force, about why we believe that corporate recruiting is broken and that is because of a foundational philosophical problem. That problem being, that most corporations have what we call an “arrogance of supply.”  This is a silly notion that there is always more than enough great talent out there and it causes much of these further sillier process barriers and hurdles that companies put on prospective talent.

    I was talking to a person the other day who turned down a job at Facebook because after, in his words, he “endured the five hours of grilling” he didn’t know any more about where Facebook was going than he did before he interviewed with them.  So, he turned down the job.  No one took the time in those five hours to answer his questions about the company’s future or business model.  So, he punted the offer back when it came his way.  He felt he was treated like they believed they were giving him a gift of working at Facebook.  I suspect there is an arrogance of supply at Facebook.

    Liz Ryan:

    I think that corporate recruiting is broken, and maybe, as Rusty points out, it was never built correctly in the first place. When I think of my own experiences filling jobs in my department, what strikes me is the realization that at some point in every successful selection process the person sitting in front of me could do the job. I believed in him, or her. That belief didn’t arise because of a weighted list of essential requirements for the job, or some point-factor analysis that convinced me Candidate A was stronger than Candidate B. Belief comes from a different place – a terribly important, valid place, let me be quick to say. In each interview round, I talked to six or seven people, and one of them jumped out at me as the person for the job – or sometimes, sadly, two of them did, and in those cases I’d have a hard choice to make.

    The corporate recruiting process breaks down job requirements into teeny, discrete parts that somehow don’t add up to a whole. The recruiting process demands that candidates crawl over broken glass to get an interview, or, more likely, wait forever for a friendly note, even a No-Thank-You note, that never arrives. Worst of all, it treats complex and worthy human beings like commodities. That’s unethical.

    The only people I know who don’t find the standard recruiting process to be badly broken are the people whose jobs are made easier by its rigor and process: namely, corporate recruiters. Third-party headhunters denounce it. Candidates decry it. Hiring managers write to me every day to tell me how the recruiting process in their shops slows down their ability to hire great people.

    I’d like to scrap the job-requisition/essential-requirements/online-job-ad process and start again, building a process that addresses the real need: something in a hiring manager’s domain that isn’t working. If we could start there instead of with the endless list of Essential and Preferred, nitpicky requirements, we’d be way ahead of where we are now.

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    via Clearview Counterpoint: Is Corporate Recruiting Broken? Career & HR Experts Debate | Glassdoor.com Blog.

    Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired | Liz Ryan

    Liz is one of my favorite authors; perhaps because she’s an iconoclast…like me.

    My favorite is when an online application requires three references and their contact information.  My references are all very busy, high level executives in multibillion dollar public companies.  Do you really think that I’m putting their names and contact information into the “black hole”?  What are these people thinking?  You haven’t evened phone screened me but you expect me to jeopardize my greatest asset: 3 rock solid executives that will vouch for what I bring to the table…please…get a clue.

    Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired

    Posted by Liz Ryan • October 21st, 2009

    “Employers call me and wail, “So many job candidates, and no one to fill my job.” They say that the recent economic woes haven’t made it much easier for them to hire talent. “We get flooded with applications,” they tell me, “and most of them are dreck.”

    Your applications are dreck? That’s a shock. Gee, all you’re doing is asking every single person who would throw his hat in the ring for a job in your company to:

    1. Waste 45 minutes filling out a cumbersome, 1999-vintage online application form;

    2. Recall and convey every hiring date (year AND month) and departure date (ditto) for every job a job-seeker has ever held; AND remember every salary and every supervisor’s name;

    3. Agree to an upfront background check, credit check, and reference check before the applicant has received so much as the courtesy of a return email message; and

    4. Send all this personal information into the void, on the off chance that the employer might stoop to respond with a phone call, an email message or an off-handed auto-responder that says “Don’t call us; we’ll call you – or else we won’t.”

    Job application processes are insulting. And employers wonder why they can’t fill jobs?

    What self-respecting person is willing to put up with this demeaning routine? If employers can’t show more respect to the talented people applying for work in their companies, why would any job seeker with other options sign up for this galley-slave treatment?

    I tell job seekers that applying for jobs online at Monster and CareerBuilder is less reliable, outcome-wise, than playing the lottery. At least the state lottery is legally bound to give someone the prize. Corporations aren’t legally required to give someone the job. They aren’t even legally required to HAVE a job opening, when they run an ad online. They could be fishing to see who’s around and what they’d need to pay to find an Online Marketing Manager, an HRIS Specialist or a Business Analyst, if they should decide to hire one in the future.

    There are talented people everywhere. Lots of them are consulting. They experienced one too many ‘three-interviews-gee-this-looks-promising-we’re-about-to-check-references’ scenarios followed by radio silence, the kind where your calls don’t get returned. Have corporate recruiting managers no shame? How do you sit down with a person three or four times, talk with his or her spouse on the phone, share stories and ideas together and then – poof! The door shuts.

    I have half a dozen personal friends who are entrepreneurs, doing quite well. I ask them “Would you ever go back to the corporate world?” and they say, “Sure, if the right opportunity arose, and someone called me, and I didn’t have to go through that whole HR rigmarole—- No, I wouldn’t.”

    HR people don’t see the problem, although it’s staring them in the face. They’re so used to the filthy water they’re swimming in that they can’t see the candidate-fish choking and dying all around them. In what other adult conversation would we dare to ask a person “What is your greatest weakness?” That’s an insulting, juvenile question on top of being nobody’s business. Yet this and other insulting, archaic artifacts of the 1950’s recruiting process linger on. (A good answer to the question, by the way, is “Chocolate.”)

    Every day I hear of new, reprehensible bricks mortared onto the already-imposing wall between most employers and the talent population. “Hey Liz,” writes one reader, “I just saw a job ad that requires candidates to submit a four-page business plan along with their resume. It’s a business plan for the employer’s new product, of course. That’d take me a weekend to complete. You think I should spend a weekend on this unpaid project?” Hell no, was my reply. Why would you waste three seconds on these people, who show so little respect for your time? You’d lob that business plan over the wall, and most likely hear nothing from them – ever. You don’t need to trifle with people like that. Your information, your instincts, and your energy are too valuable. Save ‘em for an employer who will value them.

    Smart job seekers are locating and contacting those employers who are most attuned to the value of their talents – very often, they’re startup organizations rather than large employers – and avoiding the corporate Black Hole altogether. Who can blame them? The more bricks we put in the wall, the more our Employer Brand will resemble this one:

    Come and work with us at Acme Corp! We hire the most docile and doormat-ish employees on the planet. Why, if you can make it through three online personality tests, weeks of no communication, five in-person interviews and an exhaustive background check without getting your most basic questions answered or your phone calls returned, you may be just the right person for us! If you’re a lucky selected candidate, we’ll run you through the interview wringer at great personal inconvenience to you, you’ll hear nothing from us, and eleven weeks later you’ll receive our offer letter (with your name spelled wrong) in the mail! You’d better accept that offer on the spot, too, because if you don’t, there are six other doormats waiting in line behind you!

    It’s no secret why employers are wailing and gnashing their teeth over talent shortages. Maybe our schools are failing us, they say. The schools aren’t failing them – they’re failing themselves. If you’re a corporate recruiting manager, you might take this opportunity to ’staple yourself to a resume’ and imagine the process by which you bring newcomers onto the payroll. If your firm is typical, the waiting time, unreturned calls, increasingly onerous recruiting demands and general disdain for candidates’ time and intelligence will be an eye-opener for you. The ability to recruit talent – not just bodies – is a competitive differentiator. Will your company grab it, and start pulling bricks out of the wall?”

    via Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired | Glassdoor.com Blog.

    Neuroscience research is revealing the social nature of the high-performance workplace

    This is a terrific article that provides a synopsis of that took me 24+ years to learn about management.  Well worth the time investment to read.  I particularly value the SCARF acronym: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

    The model does support my learnings and views on merger and acquisition integration (See “Tough Love” about Acquisitions and the tag label: “Merger & Acquisition Integration”). Specifically, there’s the  threat response to un-Certainty, perceptions of reduced Autonomy, imposed un-Relatedness, residual feelings of un-Fairness, and the expectation of more impending un-Fairness .

    While reading it, I experienced flashbacks to many other situations in my career.  This model has helped me to see why perhaps some situations resulted in success and acceptance while others flopped.

    Enjoy…and please share your thoughts here.

    Managing with the Brain in Mind

    Neuroscience research is revealing the social nature of the high-performance workplace.

    by David Rock

    Naomi Eisenberger, a leading social neuroscience researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), wanted to understand what goes on in the brain when people feel rejected by others. She designed an experiment in which volunteers played a computer game called Cyberball while having their brains scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. Cyberball hearkens back to the nastiness of the school playground. “People thought they were playing a ball-tossing game over the Internet with two other people,” Eisenberger explains. “They could see an avatar that represented themselves, and avatars [ostensibly] for two other people. Then, about halfway through this game of catch among the three of them, the subjects stopped receiving the ball and the two other supposed players threw the ball only to each other.” Even after they learned that no other human players were involved, the game players spoke of feeling angry, snubbed, or judged, as if the other avatars excluded them because they didn’t like something about them.

    This reaction could be traced directly to the brain’s responses. “When people felt excluded,” says Eisenberger, “we saw activity in the dorsal portion of the anterior cingulate cortex — the neural region involved in the distressing component of pain, or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘suffering’ component of pain. Those people who felt the most rejected had the highest levels of activity in this region.” In other words, the feeling of being excluded provoked the same sort of reaction in the brain that physical pain might cause. (See Exhibit 1.)

    Eisenberger’s fellow researcher Matthew Lieberman, also of UCLA, hypothesizes that human beings evolved this link between social connection and physical discomfort within the brain “because, to a mammal, being socially connected to caregivers is necessary for survival.” This study and many others now emerging have made one thing clear: The human brain is a social organ. Its physiological and neurological reactions are directly and profoundly shaped by social interaction. Indeed, as Lieberman puts it, “Most processes operating in the background when your brain is at rest are involved in thinking about other people and yourself.”

    This presents enormous challenges to managers. Although a job is often regarded as a purely economic transaction, in which people exchange their labor for financial compensation, the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system. Like the experiment participants whose avatars were left out of the game, people who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work — for example, when they are reprimanded, given an assignment that seems unworthy, or told to take a pay cut — experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head. Most people who work in companies learn to rationalize or temper their reactions; they “suck it up,” as the common parlance puts it. But they also limit their commitment and engagement. They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way.

    Leaders who understand this dynamic can more effectively engage their employees’ best talents, support collaborative teams, and create an environment that fosters productive change. Indeed, the ability to intentionally address the social brain in the service of optimal performance will be a distinguishing leadership capability in the years ahead.

    Triggering the Threat Response

    One critical thread of research on the social brain starts with the “threat and reward” response, a neurological mechanism that governs a great deal of human behavior. When you encounter something unexpected — a shadow seen from the corner of your eye or a new colleague moving into the office next door — the limbic system (a relatively primitive part of the brain, common to many animals) is aroused. Neuroscientist Evian Gordon refers to this as the “minimize danger, maximize reward” response; he calls it “the fundamental organizing principle of the brain.” Neurons are activated and hormones are released as you seek to learn whether this new entity represents a chance for reward or a potential danger. If the perception is danger, then the response becomes a pure threat response — also known as the fight or flight response, the avoid response, and, in its extreme form, the amygdala hijack, named for a part of the limbic system that can be aroused rapidly and in an emotionally overwhelming way.

    Recently, researchers have documented that the threat response is often triggered in social situations, and it tends to be more intense and longer-lasting than the reward response. Data gathered through measures of brain activity — by using fMRI and electroencephalograph (EEG) machines or by gauging hormonal secretions — suggests that the same neural responses that drive us toward food or away from predators are triggered by our perception of the way we are treated by other people. These findings are reframing the prevailing view of the role that social drivers play in influencing how humans behave. Matthew Lieberman notes that Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” theory may have been wrong in this respect. Maslow proposed that humans tend to satisfy their needs in sequence, starting with physical survival and moving up the ladder toward self-actualization at the top. In this hierarchy, social needs sit in the middle. But many studies now show that the brain equates social needs with survival; for example, being hungry and being ostracized activate similar neural responses.

    The threat response is both mentally taxing and deadly to the productivity of a person — or of an organization. Because this response uses up oxygen and glucose from the blood, they are diverted from other parts of the brain, including the working memory function, which processes new information and ideas. This impairs analytic thinking, creative insight, and problem solving; in other words, just when people most need their sophisticated mental capabilities, the brain’s internal resources are taken away from them.

    The impact of this neural dynamic is often visible in organizations. For example, when leaders trigger a threat response, employees’ brains become much less efficient. But when leaders make people feel good about themselves, clearly communicate their expectations, give employees latitude to make decisions, support people’s efforts to build good relationships, and treat the whole organization fairly, it prompts a reward response. Others in the organization become more effective, more open to ideas, and more creative. They notice the kind of information that passes them by when fear or resentment makes it difficult to focus their attention. They are less susceptible to burnout because they are able to manage their stress. They feel intrinsically rewarded.

    Understanding the threat and reward response can also help leaders who are trying to implement large-scale change. The track record of failed efforts to spark higher-perfomance behavior has led many managers to conclude that human nature is simply intractable: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Yet neuroscience has also discovered that the human brain is highly plastic. Neural connections can be reformed, new behaviors can be learned, and even the most entrenched behaviors can be modified at any age. The brain will make these shifts only when it is engaged in mindful attention. This is the state of thought associated with observing one’s own mental processes (or, in an organization, stepping back to observe the flow of a conversation as it is happening). Mindfulness requires both serenity and concentration; in a threatened state, people are much more likely to be “mindless.” Their attention is diverted by the threat, and they cannot easily move to self-discovery.

    In a previous article (“The Neuroscience of Leadership,” s+b, Summer 2006), brain scientist Jeffrey Schwartz and I proposed that organizations could marshal mindful attention to create organizational change. They could do this over time by putting in place regular routines in which people would watch the patterns of their thoughts and feelings as they worked and thus develop greater self-awareness. We argued that this was the only way to change organizational behavior; that the “carrots and sticks” of incentives (and behavioral psychology) did not work, and that the counseling and empathy of much organizational development was not efficient enough to make a difference.

    Research into the social nature of the brain suggests another piece of this puzzle. Five particular qualities enable employees and executives alike to minimize the threat response and instead enable the reward response. These five social qualities are status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness: Because they can be expressed with the acronym scarf, I sometimes think of them as a kind of headgear that an organization can wear to prevent exposure to dysfunction. To understand how the scarf model works, let’s look at each characteristic in turn.

    Status and Its Discontents

    As humans, we are constantly assessing how social encounters either enhance or diminish our status. Research published by Hidehiko Takahashi et al. in 2009 shows that when people realize that they might compare unfavorably to someone else, the threat response kicks in, releasing cortisol and other stress-related hormones. (Cortisol is an accurate biological marker of the threat response; within the brain, feelings of low status provoke the kind of cortisol elevation associated with sleep deprivation and chronic anxiety.)

    Separately, researcher Michael Marmot, in his book The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity (Times Books, 2004), has shown that high status correlates with human longevity and health, even when factors like income and education are controlled for. In short, we are biologically programmed to care about status because it favors our survival.

    As anyone who has lived in a modest house in a high-priced neighborhood knows, the feeling of status is always comparative. And an executive with a salary of US$500,000 may feel elevated…until he or she is assigned to work with an executive making $2.5 million. A study by Joan Chiao in 2003 found that the neural circuitry that assesses status is similar to that which processes numbers; the circuitry operates even when the stakes are meaningless, which is why winning a board game or being the first off the mark at a green light feels so satisfying. Competing against ourselves in games like solitaire triggers the same circuitry, which may help explain the phenomenal popularity of video games.

    Understanding the role of status as a core concern can help leaders avoid organizational practices that stir counterproductive threat responses among employees. For example, performance reviews often provoke a threat response; people being reviewed feel that the exercise itself encroaches on their status. This makes 360-degree reviews, unless extremely participative and well-designed, ineffective at generating positive behavioral change. Another common status threat is the custom of offering feedback, a standard practice for both managers and coaches. The mere phrase “Can I give you some advice?” puts people on the defensive because they perceive the person offering advice as claiming superiority. It is the cortisol equivalent of hearing footsteps in the dark.

    Organizations often assume that the only way to raise an employee’s status is to award a promotion. Yet status can also be enhanced in less-costly ways. For example, the perception of status increases when people are given praise. Experiments conducted by Keise Izuma in 2008 show that a programmed status-related stimulus, in the form of a computer saying “good job,” lights up the same reward regions of the brain as a financial windfall. The perception of status also increases when people master a new skill; paying employees more for the skills they have acquired, rather than for their seniority, is a status booster in itself.

    Values have a strong impact on status. An organization that appears to value money and rank more than a basic sense of respect for all employees will stimulate threat responses among employees who aren’t at the top of the heap. Similarly, organizations that try to pit people against one another on the theory that it will make them work harder reinforce the idea that there are only winners and losers, which undermines the standing of people below the top 10 percent.

    A Craving for Certainty

    When an individual encounters a familiar situation, his or her brain conserves its own energy by shifting into a kind of automatic pilot: it relies on long-established neural connections in the basal ganglia and motor cortex that have, in effect, hardwired this situation and the individual’s response to it. This makes it easy to do what the person has done in the past, and it frees that person to do two things at once; for example, to talk while driving. But the minute the brain registers ambiguity or confusion — if, for example, the car ahead of the driver slams on its brakes — the brain flashes an error signal. With the threat response aroused and working memory diminished, the driver must stop talking and shift full attention to the road.

    Uncertainty registers (in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex) as an error, gap, or tension: something that must be corrected before one can feel comfortable again. That is why people crave certainty. Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy. This diminishes memory, undermines performance, and disengages people from the present.

    Of course, uncertainty is not necessarily debilitating. Mild uncertainty attracts interest and attention: New and challenging situations create a mild threat response, increasing levels of adrenalin and dopamine just enough to spark curiosity and energize people to solve problems. Moreover, different people respond to uncertainty in the world around them in different ways, depending in part on their existing patterns of thought. For example, when that car ahead stops suddenly, the driver who thinks, “What should I do?” is likely to be ineffective, whereas the driver who frames the incident as manageable — “I need to swerve left now because there’s a car on the right” — is well equipped to respond. All of life is uncertain; it is the perception of too much uncertainty that undercuts focus and performance. When perceived uncertainty gets out of hand, people panic and make bad decisions.

    Leaders and managers must thus work to create a perception of certainty to build confident and dedicated teams. Sharing business plans, rationales for change, and accurate maps of an organization’s structure promotes this perception. Giving specifics about organizational restructuring helps people feel more confident about a plan, and articulating how decisions are made increases trust. Transparent practices are the foundation on which the perception of certainty rests.

    Breaking complex projects down into small steps can also help create the feeling of certainty. Although it’s highly unlikely everything will go as planned, people function better because the project now seems less ambiguous. Like the driver on the road who has enough information to calculate his or her response, an employee focused on a single, manageable aspect of a task is unlikely to be overwhelmed by threat responses.

    The Autonomy Factor

    Studies by Steven Maier at the University of Boulder show that the degree of control available to an animal confronted by stressful situations determines whether or not that stressor undermines the ability to function. Similarly, in an organization, as long as people feel they can execute their own decisions without much oversight, stress remains under control. Because human brains evolved in response to stressors over thousands of years, they are constantly attuned, usually at a subconscious level, to the ways in which social encounters threaten or support the capacity for choice.

    A perception of reduced autonomy — for example, because of being micromanaged — can easily generate a threat response. When an employee experiences a lack of control, or agency, his or her perception of uncertainty is also aroused, further raising stress levels. By contrast, the perception of greater autonomy increases the feeling of certainty and reduces stress.

    Leaders who want to support their people’s need for autonomy must give them latitude to make choices, especially when they are part of a team or working with a supervisor. Presenting people with options, or allowing them to organize their own work and set their own hours, provokes a much less stressed response than forcing them to follow rigid instructions and schedules. In 1977, a well-known study of nursing homes by Judith Rodin and Ellen Langer found that residents who were given more control over decision making lived longer and healthier lives than residents in a control group who had everything selected for them. The choices themselves were insignificant; it was the perception of autonomy that mattered.

    Another study, this time of the franchise industry, identified work–life balance as the number one reason that people left corporations and moved into a franchise. Yet other data showed that franchise owners actually worked far longer hours (often for less money) than they had in corporate life. They nevertheless perceived themselves to have a better work–life balance because they had greater scope to make their own choices. Leaders who know how to satisfy the need for autonomy among their people can reap substantial benefits — without losing their best people to the entrepreneurial ranks.

    Relating to Relatedness

    Fruitful collaboration depends on healthy relationships, which require trust and empathy. But in the brain, the ability to feel trust and empathy about others is shaped by whether they are perceived to be part of the same social group. This pattern is visible in many domains: in sports (“I hate the other team”), in organizational silos (“the ‘suits’ are the problem”), and in communities (“those people on the other side of town always mess things up”).

    Each time a person meets someone new, the brain automatically makes quick friend-or-foe distinctions and then experiences the friends and foes in ways that are colored by those distinctions. When the new person is perceived as different, the information travels along neural pathways that are associated with uncomfortable feelings (different from the neural pathways triggered by people who are perceived as similar to oneself).

    Leaders who understand this phenomenon will find many ways to apply it in business. For example, teams of diverse people cannot be thrown together. They must be deliberately put together in a way that minimizes the potential for threat responses. Trust cannot be assumed or mandated, nor can empathy or even goodwill be compelled. These qualities develop only when people’s brains start to recognize former strangers as friends. This requires time and repeated social interaction.

    Once people make a stronger social connection, their brains begin to secrete a hormone called oxytocin in one another’s presence. This chemical, which has been linked with affection, maternal behavior, sexual arousal, and generosity, disarms the threat response and further activates the neural networks that permit us to perceive someone as “just like us.” Research by Michael Kosfeld et al. in 2005 shows that a shot of oxytocin delivered by means of a nasal spray decreases threat arousal. But so may a handshake and a shared glance over something funny.

    Conversely, the human threat response is aroused when people feel cut off from social interaction. Loneliness and isolation are profoundly stressful. John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick showed in 2008 that loneliness is itself a threat response to lack of social contact, activating the same neurochemicals that flood the system when one is subjected to physical pain. Leaders who strive for inclusion and minimize situations in which people feel rejected create an environment that supports maximum performance. This of course raises a challenge for organizations: How can they foster relatedness among people who are competing with one another or who may be laid off?

    Playing for Fairness

    The perception that an event has been unfair generates a strong response in the limbic system, stirring hostility and undermining trust. As with status, people perceive fairness in relative terms, feeling more satisfied with a fair exchange that offers a minimal reward than an unfair exchange in which the reward is substantial. Studies conducted by Matthew Lieberman and Golnaz Tabibnia found that people respond more positively to being given 50 cents from a dollar split between them and another person than to receiving $8 out of a total of $25. Another study found that the experience of fairness produces reward responses in the brain similar to those that occur from eating chocolate.

    The cognitive need for fairness is so strong that some people are willing to fight and die for causes they believe are just — or commit themselves wholeheartedly to an organization they recognize as fair. An executive told me he had stayed with his company for 22 years simply because “they always did the right thing.” People often engage in volunteer work for similar reasons: They perceive their actions as increasing the fairness quotient in the world.

    In organizations, the perception of unfairness creates an environment in which trust and collaboration cannot flourish. Leaders who play favorites or who appear to reserve privileges for people who are like them arouse a threat response in employees who are outside their circle. The old boys’ network provides an egregious example; those who are not a part of it always perceive their organizations as fundamentally unfair, no matter how many mentoring programs are put in place.

    Like certainty, fairness is served by transparency. Leaders who share information in a timely manner can keep people engaged and motivated, even during staff reductions. Morale remains relatively high when people perceive that cutbacks are being handled fairly — that no one group is treated with preference and that there is a rationale for every cut.

    Putting on the SCARF

    If you are a leader, every action you take and every decision you make either supports or undermines the perceived levels of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness in your enterprise. In fact, this is why leading is so difficult. Your every word and glance is freighted with social meaning. Your sentences and gestures are noticed and interpreted, magnified and combed for meanings you may never have intended.

    The SCARF model provides a means of bringing conscious awareness to all these potentially fraught interactions. It helps alert you to people’s core concerns (which they may not even understand themselves) and shows you how to calibrate your words and actions to better effect.

    Start by reducing the threats inherent in your company and in its leaders’ behavior. Just as the animal brain is wired to respond to a predator before it can focus attention on the hunt for food, so is the social brain wired to respond to dangers that threaten its core concerns before it can perform other functions. Threat always trumps reward because the threat response is strong, immediate, and hard to ignore. Once aroused, it is hard to displace, which is why an unpleasant encounter in traffic on the morning drive to work can distract attention and impair performance all day. Humans cannot think creatively, work well with others, or make informed decisions when their threat responses are on high alert. Skilled leaders understand this and act accordingly.

    A business reorganization provides a good example. Reorganizations generate massive amounts of uncertainty, which can paralyze people’s ability to perform. A leader attuned to SCARF principles therefore makes reducing the threat of uncertainty the first order of business. For example, a leader might kick off the process by sharing as much information as possible about the reasons for the reorganization, painting a picture of the future company and explaining what the specific implications will be for the people who work there. Much will be unknown, but being clear about what is known and willing to acknowledge what is not goes a long way toward ameliorating uncertainty threats.

    Reorganizations also stir up threats to autonomy, because people feel they lack control over their future. An astute leader will address these threats by giving people latitude to make as many of their own decisions as possible — for example, when the budget must be cut, involving the people closest to the work in deciding what must go. Because many reorganizations entail information technology upgrades that undermine people’s perception of autonomy by foisting new systems on them without their consent, it is essential to provide continuous support and solicit employees’ participation in the design of new systems.

    Top-down strategic planning is often inimical to SCARF-related reactions. Having a few key leaders come up with a plan and then expecting people to buy into it is a recipe for failure, because it does not take the threat response into account. People rarely support initiatives they had no part in designing; doing so would undermine both autonomy and status. Proactively addressing these concerns by adopting an inclusive planning process can prevent the kind of unconscious sabotage that results when people feel they have played no part in a change that affects them every day.

    Leaders often underestimate the importance of addressing threats to fairness. This is especially true when it comes to compensation. Although most people are not motivated primarily by money, they are profoundly de-motivated when they believe they are being unfairly paid or that others are overpaid by comparison. Leaders who recognize fairness as a core concern understand that disproportionately increasing compensation at the top makes it impossible to fully engage people at the middle or lower end of the pay scale. Declaring that a highly paid executive is “doing a great job” is counterproductive in this situation because those who are paid less will interpret it to mean that they are perceived to be poor performers.

    For years, economists have argued that people will change their behavior if they have sufficient incentives. But these economists have defined incentives almost exclusively in economic terms. We now have reason to believe that economic incentives are effective only when people perceive them as supporting their social needs. Status can also be enhanced by giving an employee greater scope to plan his or her schedule or the chance to develop meaningful relationships with those at different levels in the organization. The SCARF model thus provides leaders with more nuanced and cost-effective ways to expand the definition of reward. In doing so, SCARF principles also provide a more granular understanding of the state of engagement, in which employees give their best performance. Engagement can be induced when people working toward objectives feel rewarded by their efforts, with a manageable level of threat: in short, when the brain is generating rewards in several SCARF-related dimensions.

    Leaders themselves are not immune to the SCARF dynamic; like everyone else, they react when they feel their status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fair treatment are threatened. However, their reactions have more impact, because they are picked up and amplified by others throughout the company. (If a company’s executive salaries are excessive, it may be because others are following the leader’s intuitive emphasis, driven by subconscious cognition, on anything that adds status.)

    If you are an executive leader, the more practiced you are at reading yourself, the more effective you will be. For example, if you understand that micromanaging threatens status and autonomy, you will resist your own impulse to gain certainty by dictating every detail. Instead, you’ll seek to disarm people by giving them latitude to make their own mistakes. If you have felt the hairs on the back of your own neck rise when someone says, “Can I offer you some feedback?” you will know it’s best to create opportunities for people to do the hard work of self-assessment rather than insisting they depend on performance reviews.

    When a leader is self-aware, it gives others a feeling of safety even in uncertain environments. It makes it easier for employees to focus on their work, which leads to improved performance. The same principle is evident in other groups of mammals, where a skilled pack leader keeps members at peace so they can perform their functions. A self-aware leader modulates his or her behavior to alleviate organizational stress and creates an environment in which motivation and creativity flourish. One great advantage of neuroscience is that it provides hard data to vouch for the efficacy and value of so-called soft skills. It also shows the danger of being a hard-charging leader whose best efforts to move people along also set up a threat response that puts others on guard.

    Similarly, many leaders try to repress their emotions in order to enhance their leadership presence, but this only confuses people and undermines morale. Experiments by Kevin Ochsner and James Gross show that when someone tries not to let other people see what he or she is feeling, the other party tends to experience a threat response. That’s why being spontaneous is key to creating an authentic leadership presence. This approach is likely to minimize status threats, increase certainty, and create a sense of relatedness and fairness.

    Finally, the SCARF model helps explain why intelligence, in itself, isn’t sufficient for a good leader. Matthew Lieberman’s research suggests that high intelligence often corresponds with low self-awareness. The neural networks involved in information holding, planning, and cognitive problem solving reside in the lateral, or outer, portions of the brain, whereas the middle regions support self-awareness, social skills, and empathy. These regions are inversely correlated. As Lieberman notes, “If you spend a lot of time in cognitive tasks, your ability to have empathy for people is reduced simply because that part of your circuitry doesn’t get much use.”

    Perhaps the greatest challenge facing leaders of business or government is to create the kind of atmosphere that promotes status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. When historians look back, their judgment of this period in time may rise or fall on how organizations, and society as a whole, operated. Did they treat people fairly, draw people together to solve problems, promote entrepreneurship and autonomy, foster certainty wherever possible, and find ways to raise the perceived status of everyone? If so, the brains of the future will salute them.

    Reprint No. 09306

    Author Profile:

    • David Rock is the founding president of the NeuroLeadership Institute. He is also the CEO of Results Coaching Systems, which helps global organizations grow their leadership teams, using brain research as a base for self-awareness and social awareness. He is the author of Your Brain at Work (HarperBusiness, 2009) and Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work (Collins, 2006).


    1. John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (W.W. Norton, 2008): A scientific look at the causes and effects of emotional isolation.
    2. Michael Marmot, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity (Times Books, 2004): An epidemiologist shows that people live longer when they have status, autonomy, and relatedness, even if they lack money.
    3. David Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long (HarperBusiness, 2009): Neuroscience explanations for workplace challenges and dilemmas, and strategies for managing them.
    4. David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” s+b, Summer 2006: Applying breakthroughs in brain research, this article explains the value of neuroplasticity in organizational change.
    5. David Rock, “SCARF: A Brain-based Model for Collaborating with and Influencing Others,” NeuroLeadership Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, December 2008, 44: Overview of research on the five factors described in this article, and contains bibliographic references for research quoted in this article.
    6. Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman, with K.D. Williams, “Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion,” Science, vol. 302, no. 5643, October 2003, 290–292: Covers the Cyberball experiment.
    7. Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman, “The Pains and Pleasures of Social Life,” Science, vol. 323, no. 5916, February 2009, 890–891: Explication of social pain and social pleasure, and the impact of fairness, status, and autonomy on brain response.
    8. NeuroLeadership Institute Web site: Institute bringing together research scientists and management experts to explore the transformation of organizational development and performance.

    via Managing with the Brain in Mind.