Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Atul Gawande, the gifted writer and accomplished doctor, published yet another of his must-read accounts of the health-care crisis and the innovators trying to change things for the better. One of the organizations he highlighted was a physician practice in Atlantic City, N.J., that has “reinvented the idea of a primary-care clinic in almost every way.”

The Special Care Center does all kinds of things differently from other medical practices, including hiring full-time “health coaches” who work with the doctors but spend almost all of their time with the practice’s low-income patients, helping them manage chronic illnesses and improve their lifestyles.

How does the practice’s leader, Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle, find the right people for these unusual (but critical) jobs? “We recruit for attitude and train for skill,” Dr. Fernandopulle told Dr. Gawande. “We don’t recruit from health care. This kind of care requires a very different mind-set from usual care. For example, what is the answer for a patient who walks up to the front desk with a question? The answer is ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I see a doctor?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I get help making my ultrasound appointment?’ ‘Yes.’ Health care trains people to say no to patients.”

Now that’s an effective prescription for innovation! Over the years, as I’ve studied high-impact organizations that are changing the game in their fields, they’ve adopted a range of strategies and business models. But they all agree on one core “people” proposition: They hire for attitude and train for skill. They believe that one of the biggest challenges they face is to fill their ranks with executives and front-line employees whose personal values are in sync with the values that make the organization tick. As a result, they believe that character counts for more than credentials

Arkadi Kuhlmann, founder and CEO of ING Direct USA, has invented a whole new approach to retail banking. Over the past decade, as he has recruited thousands of employees to his organization, he has made it a point not to look to his competitors as a source of talent. “If you want to renew and re-energize an industry,” he told me, “don’t hire people from that industry. You’ve got to untrain them and then retrain them. I’d rather hire a jazz musician, a dancer, or a captain in the Israeli army. They can learn about banking. It’s much harder for bankers to unlearn their bad habits.”

The game-changers at Southwest Airlines, who have prospered for nearly 40 years by challenging conventional wisdom in the airline business, have embraced the “hire for attitude” philosophy more intensely than any big organization I’ve encountered. Sherry Phelps, who spent 33 years at Southwest, and, as a top executive in the People Department, helped design many of its hiring practices, explained the philosophy to me.

“The first thing we look for is the ‘warrior spirit’,” Phelps says. “So much of our history was born out of battles — fighting for the right to be an airline, fighting off the big guys who wanted to squash us, now fighting off the low-cost airlines trying to emulate us. We are battle-born, battle-tried people. Anyone we add has to have some of that warrior spirit.”

That’s one reason Southwest, much like ING Direct, is reluctant to fill its ranks with industry veterans — people with the right skills but the wrong attitude to contribute to the cause. When it comes to flight attendants or baggage handlers, Phelps and her colleagues prefer to recruit, say, teachers or waiters or police officers (and often do) than grizzled airline veterans. “We would rather take an eager, hungry, customer-oriented mind and mold it to what works well at Southwest, than try to change the habits of someone who’s come up through an organization that views life differently,” she says. That’s not to say Southwest never hires refugees from the legacy airlines. But, notes Phelps, “It doesn’t happen as often as you might think.”

In other words, the company evaluates talent based on the proposition that who you are as a person counts for as much as what you know at any point in time — and subjects prospective employees to a barrage of character tests before they join the organization. Over the years, Southwest has elevated to something of a science the practice of identifying its star performers, understanding what makes them tick, and devising interviews, group exercises, and other techniques to probe for those same attributes in new employees. “We’re looking for what makes you who you are,” Phelps says.

It’s hard to imagine three more different fields than health care in Atlantic City, retail banking on the Internet, and airline service across the country. But Specialty Care Center, ING Direct, and Southwest Airlines all understand that you can’t create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you build something special, distinctive, compelling in the workplace. And the best way to build something special in the workplace is to hire for attitude and train for skill.


How to Show Your Personality in an Interview (but Stay Professional)

Focus on your passions

When you’re going into an interview, you should always take some time to prep beforehand. However, you should be prepared to talk about more than just your professional experiences! “It is fair game for an employer to ask a student what are her hobbies [and] interests… these responses are a great way to highlight your personality,” says Junea Williams-Edmund, associate director of civic engagement in Barnard College’s Career Development office.

When preparing for your interview, think of a couple of extracurricular activities you’re involved in. Make sure to pick ones you’re really passionate about, so you can speak about them eloquently and show your dedication. “Highlight your extracurricular activities, whether on or off campus,” Williams-Edmund says.

Discussing the things you’re interested in that aren’t necessarily related to work will give the employer a good idea of who you are as a person. “Given that we spend a great deal of time with coworkers, employers know how important it is to identify employees who will gel well with others and bring value to the company [or] organization,” Williams-Edmund says. Preparing yourself to discuss your hobbies and interests will help you effectively communicate who you are as a person.

Use real-life examples

Interview questions like, “What’s your biggest strength?” and, “How have you overcome a challenge?” can be difficult to answer. When answering tough questions like these, it’s important to use concrete examples to elaborate on your answers. Just saying you’re organized or passionate isn’t enough; you need to provide an employer with proof. You can draw from professional experiences or situations you’ve encountered in your other involvements.

Williams-Edmund says you can show off your personality by “highlighting examples from your work in extracurricular activities, community service or similar tasks” when answering these kinds of tough questions. “Use personal stories, and when doing so, emphasize your interactions with others and/or ways you resolved a particular issue,” she says.

For example, let’s say your biggest strength is your ability to communicate effectively. It’s not enough to simply state that. Think about a time that you used your impressive communication skills to solve a problem. Maybe there was a time you disagreed with a group member about a project and you went out of your way to address the issue and come to an agreement. Tell an employer about this specific example to show him or her exactly how you would handle a situation at work.

Using real-life scenarios to answer questions will provide employers with a more complete sense of who you are, how you think and how you interact with others. Show them proof that you’re a fabulous collegiette and they’ll be dying to have you on the team!

Get de-stressed

One of the best ways to go into an interview feeling like yourself is to get in the right frame of mind. When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to trip up and present yourself in a way that isn’t necessarily representative of whom you really are.

According to Reyna Gobel, author of CliffsNotes Graduation Debt, “More important than the questions to show off your personality is the attitude you bring into the meeting.” So what does Gobel do before her own big meetings? “I make sure I smile first,” she says. “Then I’m in the right mood to enjoy myself and make sure the other person knows I want to be there.”

It may sound trivial, but your attitude and mindset will directly affect your ability to speak about yourself and convey your personality to an employer. Taking a minute before going into your interview to breathe deeply and just smile to yourself will make you feel so much better!

If that’s not enough to get you in a good mood, try jamming out to your favorite tunes before you head to the interview. Pharrell’s “Happy” is an obvious go-to, as well as Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You.” Dance it out in your room, have a healthy snack or take a nice long bubble bath before getting ready for your interview. Do whatever makes you happy! You’ll relax and be able to show your stuff when the tough questions are thrown your way.

Find shared interests with your interviewer

Finding mutual interests with your interviewer makes it easy to express your personality while impressing him or her. Lesley Mitler, president of the career coaching service Priority Candidates, Inc., says, “Research the people you are meeting using social media… to identify commonalities.”

With Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s impossible not to find at least a little information about someone online. Do a quick search and see if you can find some interesting things you have in common.

If you manage to find some similarities between you and your interviewer, slip them into your conversation. It’s okay to say that you saw it online—it will actually be impressive that you’ve done some research for your interview, even if it feels a little creepy to you. You might be crossing a line if you can tell the interviewer his or her entire life story, but dropping one or two facts you found online will show you cared enough to do a little research.

If you can’t seem to find anything through social media, there are other ways to find commonalities during an interview. “Don’t just talk about yourself,” Mitler says. “Ask the interviewer questions that might unveil some similarities or common interests.” Asking things like “What drew you to this company?” or “Why did you choose a career in Industry X?” will show your interest and reveal some things about the employer.

Additionally, you can draw information from the interviewer’s office. Mitler says that asking about a vacation photo or interesting office décor will “show that you are interested and take a personal interest in the person you are meeting.” Asking about your interviewer is a great way to start a more natural conversation and express your personality.

Know the company

This is an essential interview tip every collegiette needs to know! Your interviewer is going to be looking for evidence that you really want the job. The best way to show that is to demonstrate a real interest in the particular company and the industry as a whole.

“Show your passion and interest in the job, company and industry by doing your research on current issues, trends [and] competitors,” Mitler says. “[Be] able to speak about the company and about how they fit into the competitive landscape.”

A simple way to keep up with a company is to follow it on Twitter or like it on Facebook as soon as you apply for a position, if not earlier. That way, you’ll keep up with what it’s doing without even trying. Being aware of anything from rebranding to a new CEO will show that you put in some effort and you care about the field.

Taking this step to learn about the company will always impress an interviewer. When you slip little tidbits you picked up about the company or the industry into your conversation, the interviewer will see you as a passionate, organized and truly dedicated candidate. Plus, you’ll be able to truthfully answer questions he or she might ask you relating to the company and position, such as why you wanted to apply there in the first place.

Keep your goals in mind

Employers are looking for specific information about you during an interview. “[Keep] in mind that the employer is analyzing your answers to see what type of person you are,” says Williams-Edmund. “Are you personable? Are you dependable? Can you work alongside teams and also work independently? Have you articulated a specific interest in working for that employer?” These are the kinds of questions employers are trying to answer through an interview.

You want to show off your personality in an interview, but you have to remember that you’re showing how you’d be a great for the job as well. An interviewer is not trying to figure out if the two of you could be best friends; he or she is trying to decide if you’re the right fit for a position at the company.

When preparing answers to interview questions, ask yourself if your answer shows that you’re outgoing, reliable, responsible and so on. You want to show an interviewer your professional personality. For example, talking about your volunteer work will show dedication, or explaining your role as your sorority’s social chair will show organization. If your answers demonstrate qualities like these, you’ll definitely show your interviewer what a qualified collegiette you are!

While it’s important to get along with whoever is interviewing you, the point of the interview is to show how well you could work at this company. You can be as hilarious and charming as you want, but if you don’t demonstrate an ability to thrive in a work environment, you’re wasting your time and your interviewer’s.

Interviews can be stressful, but don’t let your nerves get in the way of showing your personality. Use these tips to prepare yourself for your interviews and you’ll be able to show your interviewer who you really are. Just relax, be yourself and show the interviewer what you’ve got!


How to show your positive attitude to employers

Employers say they like to hire people with positive attitudes. They rate this employability skill so highly that you have a good chance of getting a job if you’re enthusiastic, even if you don’t quite have the required experience.

A positive attitude is more than just being cheerful and easygoing. It’s about being keen to take on the work you’re asked to do, being willing to try new things and not getting angry and defensive when you make a mistake.

How do you make your fantastic attitude and personality shine in your cover letter and CV, and during an interview?

Show your positive attitude in your cover letter

Your cover letter should shout out that you’ve got the skills for the job and you’d be a great person to work with. Here are some tips for showing your positive attitude in your cover letter.

  • Keep your words upbeat

Instead of: I’m interested in a role that uses my coding skills.

Use: I’m passionate about using my coding skills to create good programs.

  • Be enthusiastic about working for the employer

Instead of: I’m interested in the position of call centre operator.

Use: I’m excited to have the opportunity to use my experience in customer service to work as a call centre operator in your business.

  • Make sure your cover letter matches the job requirements

Show your positive attitude in your CV

Here are some tips for boosting your CV to make it reflect your personality.

  • Use positive action words

Instead of: I had to mow my neighbour’s lawns and do their gardens. The paths were swept and flowers put in and I cleaned up the plants and rubbish.

Use: Cleared, streamlined and maintained my neighbour’s garden, groomed their lawns and created flower beds.

  • Use examples of when you went the extra mile in the achievements or work history section.
  • Show you have a passion for something outside of work in the interests section.
  • Match up your CV with the job to show you really want it.

Show your positive attitude in your interview

Turn up to your interview with the attitude that you’re going to win them over, and don’t forget about these important tips.

  • Keep your head up – good posture and eye contact are a must.
  • Never badmouth your previous employer.
  • Ask questions about the work and show you know about the company and are interested in it.
  • Give examples of when you did something extra to get the work done, such as:

Tell us about a time when you went the extra mile…

I was asked to stay late when a busload of customers came into the cafe 10 minutes before closing. I stayed to help until they had all been served and then helped the cleaners for three hours. The boss was pleased and said I’d been friendly and welcoming even though I was about to finish my shift.


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Master the One-on-One Meeting

Whether you’re a CEO or a line manager, your team is just as important as a group as its members are as individuals. Today’s tech companies offer many perks to attract and retain the best employees. We offer competitive salaries, training and the promise of success—professionally and financially. But how we treat them as individuals can determine the way their DNA will impact the fabric of your organization. What are you doing, as their manager, to make sure they are satisfied and making the best contribution to your organization?

I have managed over 100 direct reports over the course of my career. From the nerdiest, most introverted engineer to the highly extroverted sales executive. They’ve been on either side of up to 20 years senior or junior to me, varying genders and from as far away as India and China to as near as the office next door. No matter what their role, experience, proximity or personality, I have always made their one-on-ones (1:1’s) a priority. Why are 1:1’s so important?

  • Whether it’s an hour a week or 30 minutes once a month, making time for an individual says you give a damn about them as a person.
  • The 1:1 is the only forum where you can have an honest, private, conversation with each other about what’s really going on—professionally and personally.
  • This is a routine opportunity for you, as a manager, to assess the parts (your employees) that lead to the productive whole (your team)—which we all know is more powerful than the sum of said parts.
  • A leader who makes time for their team members—especially those who are also leaders—is less likely to suffer poor team performance because of ambiguity and mistrust. Each 1:1 is an opportunity to clarify the goals of the organization, your performance expectations and build a trusting relationship with your employees by getting to know them as people, not just workers.
  • Finally, constructive 1:1s throughout the year makes performance reviews a breeze. With routine 1:1s, review time can be more about goals and the year ahead instead of constructive feedback from the past.

Don’t just schedule these important meetings with your direct reports, be thoughtful about how these sessions play out. Below is the guidance I give to new managers on conducting 1:1’s.

Be thoughtful about how your one-on-one meetings sessions might play out.Source: Yuri_Arcurs

Set expectations
Whether your employee has worked for you for awhile and you’re just kicking off 1:1s, or they are a new hire and you’re rolling them into the fold, set expectations up front.

  • I am a big believer in being clear about behavior changes. If this is a new process you are putting in place at your company/in your team, be transparent about it. Otherwise, people worry something bad is going to happen (getting fired) if you all of sudden start scheduling 1:1s. Announce it at a team meeting/all-hands or send out an email/slack being clear about why these are important to do.
  • This meeting is for them as much as it is for you. Be clear that you do this with all employees who work directly for you. No one is being singled out.
  • Book a regular cadence of 1:1s. They should not be ad-hoc. It’s ok to skip one every once and awhile, but having it locked into the calendar is your commitment to being there for your employee.
  • Decide the best cadence with them (weekly or every other week? 30 minutes or an hour?) and what the format should be—your office or theirs, a walk, or maybe grabbing coffee. Different formats work for different employees and they can always be changed as you get into a groove. [see below on remote employees]. Just don’t do after work drinks—that suggests a less serious discussion.

The agenda
If a meeting is important enough to have, it should have an agenda.

  • Topics in a 1:1 should be about professional growth, personal connection and for giving each other feedback. Do not use the meeting to re-hash things from a group meeting or standup unless there are specific things you took off-line in that meeting or need to provide/get constructive feedback.
  • 24 hours or so before the meeting, email the employee a list of what you’d like to cover. Try to do a split between strategic, tactical and personal items and always ask your employee what they want to cover too. For efficiency, let them know if you need them to bring/read/do something before the meeting. For example:

    Jessica, for our 1:1 tomorrow, I’d like to cover the following:

      • Review a potential change to the product roadmap for next quarter and how that might impact your team. Please bring the latest roadmap with you.
      • Walk through the training presentation deck you are preparing for your new hires. Please send me your latest version tonight if you can?
      • Get feedback on whether the budget changes I made for you were helpful. Let me know if there are new numbers I should look at before we meet.
      • Hear about your vacation! Your pics looked awesome.

    Let me know what else you’d like to cover. Looking forward to catching up!

The 1:1 meeting
With an agenda set and materials pre-reviewed/in-hand, you are ready for a productive session.

  • Walk through the agenda. Ask if there’s anything else to add before you dig in. Always leave a door open—sometimes an employee is holding back on something.
  • If there are hard things to discuss (maybe some tough performance feedback), try to bookend it with two positive topics. That way, the close of the meeting doesn’t leave your employee feeling down. You’ve given them good feedback and some things to work on.
  • Do not monopolize the conversation. This is for you each to get time to talk. Pause often and make sure there is opportunity for discussion and questions.
  • Always end the meeting asking them how things are going overall and if there is anything else you can do to make them successful. Sounds awkward, but that’s your job! If your employees are a success, you are success.

After the meeting
It is important to always follow up any 1:1 (or scheduled meeting, for that matter) with notes on what was discussed, decisions made and, if relevant, any constructive feedback that will be measured going forward. Keep it short and sweet:

Jessica, good meeting today! From what we discussed:

    • Sounds like the roadmap change won’t slip the schedule much. Please share the new schedule on slack so the team can digest it before our Product group meeting.
    • Love the training deck! Let me know if you want to practice with me before you present next week. You’re going to crush it.
    • Sounds like those budget tweaks aren’t cutting it for your team’s needs. I’ll try to adjust next quarter, but right now you are going to have to work with what you have. Manage your spend carefully.
    • Thanks for letting me know you’re working on a personnel issue on your team. Let me know if I can help. Otherwise, keep me posted on how it plays out.

A recap ensures that you’re both on the same page and it serves as an audit trail if/when anything goes off the rails. Do this with ALL your employees. Otherwise, some may wonder why they’re getting follow up emails and others are not. Consistency in leadership is critical!

Remote employees and non-Directs

  • 1:1s with remote employees can be tricky. I recommend using video whenever possible and, if possible, 1-2 in-person 1:1s a year to maintain the personal connection. All other suggestions above apply for the remote employee.
  • It is perfectly OK to have 1:1s with junior people who do not work directly for you. Just remember, you are NOT their manager. Be clear about why you are requesting the meeting.

    Perhaps you are the CEO and want to have a 1:1 with a lead engineer to get a better understanding of a product challenge:

    • Make sure the engineer’s manager knows why you want to have the meeting.
    • Make sure the engineer understands you would like to get the detail directly vs. through other people. You are not going around their boss who knows you are requesting this meeting.
    • Be very careful about feedback. Always end such meetings with next steps being how you’ll follow up with the employee’s manager if there are any action items. Never undermine someone’s manager by giving specific direction without consulting with their manager. Especially if you are the CEO/CTO or other senior position. Often, the most simple “that sounds cool” can be heard as “do it!” from someone more senior than your boss.

Invest in your team
One-on-ones can make all the difference in how you lead. Your time invested in doing them right will pay off not only with each individual, but with how your organization functions as a team.

Have other tips on running successful 1:1s or good lessons learned from not having them? Please share in the comments.

Reprinted with permission from the author’s blog post, Mastering the 1:1.

Original Article – Harvard Business School

Swift Momentum Charity Day

Swift Momentum & The Playstation are teaming up to give back to the Cape Town community.

The Sponsors

Swift Momentum

Swift Momentum will be sponsoring the party packets, face painting and transport for the children to the venue.

The Playstation

The Playstation will be sponsoring the venue, 1 session inside the park and an awesome time.



The Run4Schools Foundation

The Run4Schools Foundation started more than a decade ago in township Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. Founder is Leslie Pangemanan from The Netherlands, an experienced Two Oceans Ultrarunner (14x). The Run4Schools program runs at – what’s in a name – three primary schools: Alpine, Northwood and Tafelsig and soon to be one high school. Activities like sports, dance and singing during and at the end of the school day, keep children sheltered from gangsterism and crime infesting the local communities. Over 5000 learners are participating in the Run4Schools programmers. Through their programmer, the children have developed more self-esteem, motivating them to finish school and simply have more fun and joy in their lives. Thanks to their dedicated coaches, volunteers, events, partnerships and runners like you.

Swift Momentum & The Playstation are teaming up to give back to the Cape Town community.

The Sponsors

Swift Momentum

Swift Momentum will be sponsoring the party packets, face painting and transport for the children to the venue.

The Playstation

The Playstation will be sponsoring the venue, 1 session inside the park and an awesome time.



The Run4Schools Foundation

The Run4Schools Foundation started more than a decade ago in township Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. Founder is Leslie Pangemanan from The Netherlands, an experienced Two Oceans Ultrarunner (14x). The Run4Schools program runs at – what’s in a name – three primary schools: Alpine, Northwood and Tafelsig and soon to be one high school. Activities like sports, dance and singing during and at the end of the school day, keep children sheltered from gangsterism and crime infesting the local communities. Over 5000 learners are participating in the Run4Schools programmers. Through their programmer, the children have developed more self-esteem, motivating them to finish school and simply have more fun and joy in their lives. Thanks to their dedicated coaches, volunteers, events, partnerships and runners like you.


Swift Momentum Charity Day Photos

Swift Momentum & The Playstation teamed up to give back to the Cape Town community.

The Sponsors

Swift Momentum

Swift Momentum sponsored the party packets, face painting and transport for the children to the venue.

The Playstation

The Playstation sponsored the venue, 1 session inside the park and an awesome time.


The Run4Schools Foundation

The Run4Schools Foundation started more than a decade ago in township Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. Founder is Leslie Pangemanan from The Netherlands, an experienced Two Oceans Ultrarunner (14x). The Run4Schools program runs at – what’s in a name – three primary schools: Alpine, Northwood and Tafelsig and soon to be one high school. Activities like sports, dance and singing during and at the end of the school day, keep children sheltered from gangsterism and crime infesting the local communities. Over 5000 learners are participating in the Run4Schools programmers. Through their programmer, the children have developed more self-esteem, motivating them to finish school and simply have more fun and joy in their lives. Thanks to their dedicated coaches, volunteers, events, partnerships and runners like you.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Do You Dare Ask in an Interview?

Flexible work arrangements are growing in popularity. An increasing number of employees work remotely, have flexible schedules, or work compressed workweeks. Flexible work arrangements can be attractive not only to employees, but also to employers who want to prevent burnout and improve employee retention.

Basecamp, the popular online project tool, is a Chicago-based company that has found great success with a team of employees who are all free to work remotely. Taking flexible work beyond simple telecommuting, the company allows employees to work a 32-hour week for a third of the year. Basecamp ardently believes that productivity is heightened, not hampered, by flexible work arrangements.

It would seem that employees at many companies would agree with Basecamp’s belief. One study found workplace flexibility was a top job consideration for workers across generations, ranking right under salary and benefits. Another study by PwC, the University of Southern California, and the London Business School found that “a significant number of employees from all generations feel so strongly about wanting a flexible work schedule that they would be willing to give up pay and delay promotions in order to get it.”

Broaching the Subject of Flexible Work in the Job Search

If you value flexible work arrangements and are on the job hunt, how do you ascertain whether a potential employer would be open to giving you the work arrangement you want? Is it wise to inquire about flexible options in an interview, or will doing so reduce your chance of landing the position?

There are two key questions to ask yourself before you ask a potential employer about flexible work:

  1. How important is it to them? Is this a company that values predictability and face time? Is a centralized team integral to smooth operations? More traditional companies will be slower to change, while startups are more likely to have flexible options from the outset. Some international companies may even prefer you keep a shifted schedule to align better with work hours in another part of the world. Understand how work arrangements fit into a company’s overall values and structures.
  2. How important is it to you? What are your priorities in a work arrangement? If you will be unhappy in a rigid work environment, you aren’t doing yourself or the company any favors by punting the discussion. It’s worth sitting down to make a list of your priorities to understand where flexibility falls. Ask yourself if you would want to work at this company even if you had to keep a traditional schedule. Underlying this issue is the kind of work culture you want to join. That is a key consideration in selecting a position that will be a good fit for the long term.

You’ve Decided to Ask: How Should You Do It?

A job interview is a protracted dialogue. Flexible work arrangements are one data point among many that you and the potential employer will be investigating. You want to ask questions in a way that shows you are invested in the mission of the company and in establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.

The best way to understand the lay of the land is to inquire about how teams function best in the organization. Your questions should be organically related to learning about the organization of the company. Asking, “Can I work from home?” can seem abrupt, and it may suggest you are less invested in the position than other candidates are.

A more savvy question would be, “How are your teams structured? What work arrangements have you found best serve your mission?” From there, you can move to more specific questions about the hours  employees keep.

Insight From the Employer’s Answer

If an employer has a flexible work program or expresses openness to the idea, great! If they are adamantly against it or express hesitation, the reason behind the answer is as important as the answer itself.

If the company is committed to doing things the way they have always been done simply because they’ve always been done that way, it should raise a red flag. A recalcitrant management style will not create an environment where you or your career will flourish.

If the company has been burned by employees in the past who abused a flexible work program or is hesitant out of concern for how flexible work might affect productivity or client experience, those are concerns you may ease by proving your dedication as an employee.


New Zealand company to trial four-day work week

A New Zealand firm will be testing out a four-day work week in March and implement it in July if trials are successful, local reports said.

Perpetual Guardian, a trustee company, is purportedly the first major business in the country to do so, The Guardian reported on Friday (Feb 9).

The trial will take place for more than 200 employees in 16 offices in New Zealand over a period of six weeks, the NZ Herald said in a report.

Those who take part will not have any changes to their salaries, and they will not work longer hours for the four work days of the week – instead of working 40 hours a week, they will work for 32 hours.

“We have seen cases where employees work longer hours for fewer days of the week or they earn 75 per cent of their full-time salary, but that is not what we are doing here,” Perpetual Guardian founder Andrew Barnes told the NZ Herald.

Four-day work weeks have been tested in several countries such as Japan and the United States and in companies such as Amazon, Google and Deloitte.

In July last year, The Straits Times published a report about several Japanese companies offering such work weeks, with employees clocking the standard 40 hours a week over four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.

IBM Japan has offered reduced hours since 2004. Employees may choose to work either 60 per cent or 80 per cent of the standard 40-hour workweek, with their salaries pro-rated accordingly.

In 2016, e-commerce Giant Amazon reportedly tested 30-hour work weeks for some employees at its Seattle headquarters.

Workers under the trials had the option to work Mondays to Thursdays and had to be in the office only from 10am to 2pm. The workers were paid as part-time employees, but received the benefits of a full-time employee who worked 40 hours per week.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s statistics site, the annual average for total paid hours worked per employee in Singapore in 2016 was 45.5.

The figure was 45.1 as at September last year. Figures for the full year have not been released.


19 questions you should never ask in an interview – and what you should ask instead

  • Job interviews provide job seekers with an excellent opportunity to learn more about the organisation and role they’re going for.
  • But asking certain questions during an interview might hurt your chances of landing the gig.
  • Business Insider compiled some questions to cross off your list, and some good replacements you can ask instead.

Job interviews can get pretty stressful.

Not only do you have to answer the interviewer’s questions, but you have to come up with a bunch of questions yourself. Do yourself a favour and prepare some questions to ask beforehand. And think about what other queries you’re better off avoiding.
Here are some awkward or off-putting questions you should steering clear, along with some decent replacement questions you can ask instead.

Don’t ask: ‘What does your company do?’

Questions like this will make you look unprepared. To avoid that, never ask anything that can easily be answered with a Google search.

Ask: ‘How would you describe the company’s culture?’

Talent Zoo EVP Amy Hoover said this question gives you a broad view on the corporate philosophy of a company and on whether it prioritizes employee happiness and development.

Or ask: ‘Who do you consider your major competitors? How are you better?’

This question is not for the faint of heart, but it shows that you are already thinking about how you can help the company rise to meet some of its bigger goals, said Peter Harrison, CEO of Snagajob.

Don’t ask: ‘What will my salary be?’

Hold off on the money talk.

“Candidates have to walk a thin line between gathering information they need about a company and assuming they are going to get the position,” Jesse Siegal, a senior managing director at The Execu|Search Group staffing firm, told Business Insider.

If compensation comes up naturally, that’s fine. But you don’t want to bring up the subject yourself during initial screeners.

Ask: ‘Can you tell me what steps need to be completed before your company can generate an offer?’

“Any opportunity to learn the timeline for a hire is crucial information for you,” Hoover said.

Asking about an “offer” rather than a “decision” will give you a better sense of the timeline because “decision” is a broad term, while an “offer” refers to the point when they’re ready to hand over the contract.

Plus, if you’re desperate to learn more about compensation, this question might prompt a discussion about how your pay will be determined.

Don’t ask: ‘What are the hours?’

Asking this question betrays a punch-the-clock mentality. It’s better to go over details like this once you have the job in hand.

Ask: ‘How would you describe the company’s values around work-life balance?’

It’s not unreasonable to want to know how many hours you’ll be clocking in every week. This is just a gentler way of getting to that topic.

Definitely don’t ask: ‘Will I have to work long hours?’

This one is even more of a red flag to interviewers than simply asking about your hours. It will almost certainly be perceived negatively.

Ask: ‘If you were to hire me, what might I expect in a typical day?’

Obviously this shows your eagerness about the position, Harrison said, but it also gives you a better idea about what the job will be like on a daily basis so you can decide whether you really want to pursue it. “A frank conversation about position expectations and responsibilities will ensure not only that this is a job you want, but also one that you have the skills to be successful in,” he said.

Don’t ask: ‘Will I have my own office?’

Does it really matter?

Instead, ask: ‘How has this position evolved?’

Basically, this question just lets you know whether this job is a dead end or a stepping-stone.

Don’t ask: ‘Can I make personal calls during the day?’

This one says that you’re not 100% focused on your work.

And definitely don’t ask: ‘Do you monitor emails or internet usage?’

This question will raise red flags — something you definitely don’t want to do in the interview.

Ask: ‘Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?’

While this question puts you in a vulnerable position, it shows that you are confident enough to openly bring up and discuss your weaknesses with your potential employer.

Don’t ask: ‘How soon can I take a vacation?’

Planning your time off before you’ve even gotten the job sends the message that you’re not committed to the work.

Also skip: ‘Will I have an expense account?’

There’s really no reason to ask this in the interview. Plus, it sends the wrong message.

Ask: ‘If hired, what are the three most important things you’d like me to accomplish in the first six to 12 months at the company?’

The interviewer wants to hear what you can do for their company. “Think of every open position as a problem or pain point the company is hoping to solve with the right hire,” Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert for TopResume, told Business Insider . “The more you know about the hiring manager’s expectations and metrics for success, the easier it will be for you to tailor the conversation to demonstrate your fit for the role.”

Don’t ask: ‘When will I be eligible for a raise?’

This may tell the interviewer that money is the only thing you care about.

Ask: ‘What type of employee tends to succeed here? What qualities are the most important for doing well and advancing at the firm?’

This question shows the interviewer that you care about your future at the company, and it will also help you decide if you’re a good fit for the position, Vicky Oliver wrote in her book, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.” “Once the interviewer tells you what she’s looking for in a candidate, picture that person in your mind’s eye,” she said. “She or he should look a lot like you.”

Don’t ask: ‘Can I arrive early or leave late as long as I get my work done?’

Don’t try to make adjustments to the schedule before you’ve even been offered the job.

Ask: ‘How do you evaluate success here?’

Knowing how a company measures its employees’ success is important. It will help you understand what it would take to advance in your career there. Plus, the interviewer’s answer can help you decide if the employer’s values align with your own.

Don’t ask: ‘How quickly could I be considered for a promotion?’

Trying to climb the ladder? Well, you haven’t even been hired yet. You’re not even in the same room as the ladder yet! Focus on the task at hand, which is landing the job. If you want to learn more about whether the company promotes from within, scour LinkedIn.

Ask: ‘What have past employees done to succeed in this position?’

The main point of this question is to get your interviewer to reveal how the company measures success.

Don’t ask: ‘Who should I avoid in the office?’

This query won’t make you sound particularly well-adjusted. Don’t embroil yourself in coworker drama before you’ve even stepped foot in the office.

And don’t ask: ‘What happens if I don’t get along with my boss or coworkers?’

Avoid this ominous question. The interviewer may wonder if you’ve had problems with colleagues in the past — and they may even assume that you’re difficult to work with.

Ask: ‘Who would I be reporting to?’

It’s important to ask about the pecking order of a company in case you have several bosses, Oliver wrote. If you’re going to be working for several people, you need to know “the lay of the internal land,” she wrote, or if you’re going to be over several people, then you probably want to get to know them before accepting the position.

Or ask: ‘Can you give me an example of how I would collaborate with my manager?’

Knowing how managers use their employees is important so you can decide whether they are the type of boss that will let you use your strengths to help the company succeed.

And ask: ‘When your staff comes to you with conflicts, how do you respond?’

Knowing how a company deals with conflicts gives you a clearer picture about the company’s culture, Harrison said. But more importantly, asking about conflict resolution shows that you know dealing with disagreements in a professional manner is essential to the company’s growth and success.

Don’t ask: ‘Are you married?/Do you have kids?/etc.’

Never ask the interviewer any personal questions.

Ask: ‘What was your career plan before you got into this role, and how has that changed since you’ve been here?’

Most people love to talk about themselves. Toward the end of your conversation, try engaging your interviewer with a discussion about their own professional path. It certainly worked for Cameron Haberman, who, along with his twin Tyler, landed a gig at Apple.

Or ask: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’

Becca Brown, the cofounder of the women’s shoe-care company Solemates, interviewed 20 to 30 job candidates a year in her various roles at Goldman Sachs. She told Business Insider she wished candidates would have asked her this question.

“I like this question, and yet no one ever asked it because it’s difficult to answer,” she said. “It’s an important question for anyone to be asking him or herself, and so if ever a candidate were to ask this question, it would have stood out.”

She continued: “I think this is a good question for interviewees to ask because as a candidate if you see where the person interviewing you is headed, you can decide if that trajectory is in line with your career objectives. While they don’t have to be completely correlated, it’s helpful for the candidate to have some indication of the interviewer’s direction.”

Also ask: ‘What’s one of the most interesting projects or opportunities that you’ve worked on?’

“I like this question because it gets me thinking about my own experiences, and my response changes depending on what I was or am working on — and in theory, should always be changing if I’m challenging myself and advancing,” Brown told Business Insider .

Brown said that by asking for a specific example, candidates can get a better picture of what the job entails and how people function in certain roles.

“I always liked getting this question because it would make me reflect on what experiences I was excited about or proud of at the time, and it would make me want to create more of these types of opportunities and experiences,” she said.

Don’t ask: ‘Do you check social media accounts?’

Job seekers should always assume that their prospective employers will find and view their social-media accounts.

And don’t ask: ‘Do you do background checks?’

This one may also make the interviewer suspicious.

Ask: ‘Is there anything else I can provide to help you make your decision?’

This simple question is polite to ask and it can give you peace of mind to know that you’ve covered all your bases, Hoover said. “It shows enthusiasm and eagerness but with polish.”

And ask: ‘Beyond the hard skills required to successfully perform this job, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?’

Knowing what skills the company thinks are important will give you more insight into its culture and its management values, Hoover said, so you can evaluate whether you would fit in.

Don’t ask: ‘I heard this wild rumor about the CEO. Is it true?’

You should never bring gossip into a job interview. It’s highly unprofessional.

Instead, ask: ‘How would you score the company on living up to its core values? What’s the one thing you’re working to improve on?’

Harrison said this is a respectful way to ask about shortcomings within the company — which you should definitely be aware of before joining a company. As a bonus, he said it shows that you are being proactive in wanting to understand more about the internal workings of the company before joining it.

Or ask: ‘I read this story about your company. Can you tell me more about this?’

Oliver said questions like this simply show you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the company and its leaders. Just make sure it’s not a salacious rumor.

Don’t ask: ‘What are grounds for termination?’

It’s not a good idea to get the interviewer thinking about firing you before they’ve even hired you.

Ask: ‘What’s your staff turnover rate and what are you doing to reduce it?’

While this question may seem forward, Harrison said it’s a smart question to ask because it shows that you understand the importance of landing a secure position. “It is a black and white way to get to the heart of what kind of company this is and if people like to work here,” he said.

Or ask: ‘Can you tell me where the company is going?’

“If you’re talking to the leader of a company, that’s a great question to ask them, because they’re the best position to tell you that,” Robert Hohman, the CEO of Glassdoor, previously told Business Insider. “They should be able to articulate that really clearly. And it should be inspiring.”

And ask: ‘What makes people stay at this company?’

April Boykin-Huchko, HR manager at marketing firm Affect, told Business Insider that it’s always a good idea to get a broader sense of the company’s culture.

Don’t ask: ‘How did I do?’ or ‘Did I get the job?’

This one puts the interviewer on the spot. If you really want feedback, wait until you get the offer or rejection, and then ask in an email what you did well or could have done better.

Ask: ‘Who do you think would be the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare?’

Hoover recommended this question because it’s a quick way to figure out whether your skills align with what the company is currently looking for. If they don’t match up, then you know to walk away instead of wasting time pursuing the wrong position for yourself, she said.

Ask: ‘Is there anyone else I need to meet with?/Is there anyone else you would like me to meet with?’

Hoover said knowing if they want you to meet with potential coworkers or not will give you insight into how much the company values building team synergy. In addition, if the interviewer says you have four more interviews to go, then you’ve gained a better sense of the hiring timeline as well, she said.

Ask: ‘Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff/my manager during the interview process?’

Getting the chance to meet with potential teammates or managers is essential to any professional interview process, Hoover said. If they don’t give that chance, “proceed with caution,” she advised.

And, finally, ask: ‘Have I answered all your questions?’

Before you begin asking your questions, find out if there’s anything they’d like you to elaborate on. You can do this by saying something like: “Yes, I do have a few questions for you — but before I get into those, I am wondering if I’ve sufficiently answered all of your questions. Would you like me to explain anything further or give any examples?”

Not only will they appreciate the offer, but it may be a good chance for you to gauge how well you’re doing, said Bill York, an executive recruiter with over 30 years of experience and the founder of the executive search firm Tudor Lewis.

If they say, “No, you answered all of my questions very well,” then this may tell you you’re in good shape. If they respond with, “Actually, could you tell me more about X?” or “Would you be able to clarify what you meant when you said Y?” this is your chance for a redo.

Don’t ask: ‘How long are you going to take to get back to me?’

It’s understandable to be eager to learn whether or not you landed the job. But there’s a nicer way of asking this question.

Ask: ‘What’s your timeline for making a decision, and when can I expect to hear back from you?’

This one tells them you’re interested in the role and eager to hear their decision. “Knowing a company’s timeline should be your ultimate goal during an interview process after determining your fit for the position and whether you like the company’s culture,” Hoover said. It will help you determine how and when to follow up, and how long to wait before “moving on.”


Remote Workers Are Outperforming Office Workers-Here’s Why

Have you seen any of these gimmicky office designs? Candy dispensers in conference rooms. Hammocks and indoor treehouses. Tech companies tend to be the worst offenders with the startup favorites: beer taps and table tennis.

Maybe there is fun for a moment when the candy bar drops — but does all that money spent on gimmicks deliver anything meaningful for the people who work there?

I have to wonder why company founders are trying so hard with these in-office “perks.” I get that the goal is to create collaboration and fun. But I think this is doing more harm than good. And research shows that the problem is only getting worse.

In fact, one study found that the number of people who say they cannot concentrate at their desk has increased by 16 percent since 2008. Also startling: The number of workers who say they do not have access to quiet places to do focused work is up by 13 percent.

It should not matter where people are getting the work done — as long as they are focused and working hard each day. This is one of the reasons why we founded Aha! on the premise and promise of remote work. Remote work is working for us. We are one of the fastest-growing software companies in the U.S. and a 100 percent distributed team.

I am not alone in this belief. Plenty of studies and surveys show the power of remote work when it comes to productivity.

Here are three reasons remote workers outperform office workers:

1. Productivity

With no office distractions and greater autonomy, remote workers have the freedom to get more done. This is something most people crave. According to a nationwide survey, 65 percent of workers said that remote work would give their productivity a boost. Another 86 percent said that working alone allows them to hit maximum productivity.

2. Teamwork

Despite the distance, remote workers make the best teammates. This is because that distance demands more communication. Without being able to lean on physical proximity, remote workers must reach out to one another frequently and with purpose. This leads to stronger collaboration and camaraderie. And all those long-distance video chats? An astounding 92 percent of workers say the video collaboration actually improves their teamwork.

3. Presence

Office life is littered with absences — workers who are calling in sick or sneaking out early to run an errand or get to an event on time. But remote workers do not need to make excuses. Since they are not tied to an office, they can design their workday to meet the demands of their lives. If they have a cold, they can work from home without spreading the germs to others. And if they need to run an errand, they can handle it quickly without losing a workday. This ultimately makes remote workers more present for their work and team.

These are just a few of the reasons that I say the most effective workers are the ones who do not work in an office. Remote workers are able to cut through the noise and focus on what really matters: meaningful work and being happy doing it.

No beer taps or hammocks necessary.

Remote workers or office workers — who do you think is more effective?