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Career Change Advice

Career Change Advice: Make Your Interview Questions Count!

Here’s some good career change advice for your next job interview. When your interviewers give you the chance to ask questions, make them count! Robert Sutton’s book – “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, stresses the importance of keeping the wrong person out of an organisation.

This is essential reading for any manager responsible for hiring. But what if you are the applicant? How do you know the job is really for you? Ok, there are lots of ways to discover facts about an organisation, but how do you know if people really are happy working there?

And if they’re not, the chances are you won’t be either!

“Chief Happiness Officer”, Alexander Kjerulf, has some excellent career change advice:

“… what questions can you ask to cut through the corporate b.s. and learn whether this is an actual, honest-to-god, nice workplace?”

Our interview advice is, by all means ask questions that arise from the interview but don’t just ask “filler” questions. These may impress the panel, but don’t waste a golden opportunity to explore what it’s really like to work there. Things being equal, we all want to work in a happy environment, rather than a place filled with unhappy people. So use the interview to see what the interviewers’ own thoughts are.

Kjerulf recommends a considered approach:

“You could always ask them straight out at the interview. “Say… I was wondering… Is this a good place to work?” But you pretty much know what they’ll say, don’t you?

“Why certainly, dear applicant, this company is fully committed to the well-being of its employees. We strive to maintain a high level of employee satisfaction and employees are our number one asset.”

Riiiight!”

Career Change AdviceInstead try some open-ended questions, aimed at probing the interviewers’ experiences at that organisation. Here is Kjerulf’s career change advice – some suggestions and his explanation of the value of such questions:

  • “What’s been your best experience working at this company?
  • When do you have the most fun at work?
  • Who do you enjoy working with the most here? What do you like about them?
  • Which manager do you admire the most in this company? What do you admire about that person?
  • What’s the greatest thing your manager has done for his/her people?

What’s so great about those questions?

  • Because you’re asking about people’s own experiences, these questions are hard to dodge or to answer with platitudes and corporate flim-flam.
  • These are all positive questions. Even if the person interviewing you is a serial complainer, you will get some information on what’s great about this company.
  • If they think these questions are just waaaay off base and inappropriate, that’s probably a good sign that they’re not into the whole “happy at work” thing.
  • Answering positive questions like these puts people in a good mood, which means they’re more likely to like you and consequently more likely to hire you.”

Whether or not you could ask all of these questions is up to you. If necessary, change them to a form you’re more comfortable with. The important thing though, is that you try to find out what sort of organisation you could be joining. Asking open-ended questions about experiences is an ideal way to do just that. Sound career change advice!

Career Change Advice: Come Armed With Some Facts……

If you’re worried that these questions might send the wrong message to your interviewers, come armed with some facts. A good place to start is Alexander Kjerulf’s own book: Happy Hour is 9 to 5: Learn How To Love Your Job, Create a Great Business and Kick Butt at Work.To quote Kjerulf again:

“This book is about happiness at work. About loving your job – or finding one you can love. Because today, happiness at work is no longer a luxury – it’s essential. People are discovering, that when they love their jobs, they are more productive, creative and motivated. They’re also happier in life. Similarly, happy companies find they are more efficient, innovative and make more money than their unhappy competitors.”

Another excellent source of career change advice is: “The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want”. Over the course of thirty years, David Sirota, Louis Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer surveyed over four million workers, in 89 countries. Most recently, (between 1993 and 2003), their research indicated that there are three keys to keeping staff motivated: equity, achievement and camaraderie.

Filled with practical tips based on exhaustive evidence, this book is “pure good sense on how to keep employees happy and productive”. If your interviewer doubts the value of happiness in the workplace, show them this reader comment from Amazon:

“Why is employee enthusiasm important? A number of studies have highlighted the link between employee attitudes and performance. In their studies, the authors found that companies with high employee morale performed more than 20 percent higher than average. Those with low morale performed 5 percent lower (measured by increase in stock value for 2002). Similar results were seen with return on investments and return on assets. Other studies have found returns as high as 30 to 40 percent. (The authors point out that the relationship between enthusiasm and performance is reciprocal. Enthusiasm leads to performance, and high performance increases enthusiasm in a reinforcing cycle.)”

Looking for an organisation that understands the importance of employee enthusiasm is more excellent career change advice!

Career Change Advice for the Happy Manager

These ideas and books are as valuable for the interviewer as for the interviewee. If you’re on the other side of the desk, remember it’s in your best interest to ensure you hire the right people, and that they’re likely to be more productive when they’re happy. Happiness and work are not mutually exclusive.

You might like to take some tips from Southwest Airlines hiring process. Providing job candidates with the opportunity to meet existing staff – not just managers – can provide insights for both parties. Consider this extract from a Babson Insights interview with Southwest’s CEO, Herb Kelleher:

“For our interviewing in general and looking for leadership in particular, we use model employees to do it. We bring in our mechanics to interview mechanics, pilots to interview pilots, flight attendants to interview flight attendants, etc. We want their insights. They’re out in the field, they know the kinds of people we want and so we involve them in the hiring process. And of course they can give us some pretty good insight.”

Getting the right staff, in the right jobs is critical. Getting the wrong staff in these jobs can be disastrous! This has to be a mutual process though. Ensuring job applicants are afforded the opportunity to explore your attitude to work is just as important as finding out about theirs. Sound career change advice indeed! Click here to read the full interview: “Herb Kelleher, Executive Chairman of Southwest Airlines Talks about Building Leaders and how their Innovative People-culture has Lifted the Airline to Success.”

The Ultimate Career Change Advice? Remember – “all that glitters is not gold….”

Here’s a story to leave you with….

An HR manager died and found himself before the Pearly Gates.

As St Peter hadn’t seen an HR manager in some time, and being in a mischievous mood, he decided to allow the manager to tour both heaven and hell before deciding which he’d prefer. Thinking he’d leave the best until last, the manager first went down to look at hell.

To his surprise, he found it was nothing like he’d imagined. Instead of the fiery inferno he’d expected, he found hell to be more like an exclusive country club. He was met by the devil himself, wearing a business suit and oozing charm and bonhomie. Taken for a tour around the luxury accommodation, across the manicured grounds, around the leisure facilities, the manager was even allowed to play a round of golf on the exquisite, championship course. For the whole day, he was pampered, served and spoiled, wanting for nothing.

The next day the manager was taken for a tour of heaven. Predictably, this was also very impressive. Clean, fresh, relaxing, wholesome, and as welcoming as he’d always envisaged. For much of the day though, he was left alone, to savour heaven’s peace and tranquility. At the end of the tour, St Peter asked the HR manager which he was going to choose. After careful reflection, the manager decided to opt for hell. “It’s not at all as bad as I’d imagined, he said, “and, as nice as heaven is, I think there’s more going on in hell. It’s a better fit for me.”

Without another word, the manager was transported to the gates of hell. As these opened he found himself standing before a hot, arid, wasteland, filled with toiling labourers. This was nothing like the hell the manager had seen the previous day. The devil greeted him again, but this time it was very different.

“Get to work!” shouted the red-cloaked devil, pushing him roughly into the crowd.

“What’s happened?” cried the manager, in anguish. “This is not what you showed me yesterday!”

“Ah,” replied the devil. “That’s because yesterday we were recruiting. Today you’re an employee….”

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Join the Conversation: 1 comment

  1. Phil
    October 11, 2012 at 8:51 am ·

    Hi,

    Just wanted to drop you a line about Career Changers. As a content manager for Onlinecollege.org, I’m responsible for researching other blogs in the field, and I liked yours. You’ve got a lot of great, informative content.

    Our sites are actually somewhat similar. We recently published an article, “History’s Most Famous Serial Career Changers”, that we think is right up your alley. Here’s the link: (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/10/10/historys-most-famous-serial-career-changers/)

    It’s our hope that if you like it, you’ll share it with your readers. Let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s anything I can do for you in the meantime. And keep up the good work!

    Thanks a bunch,
    Sophia Coppolla

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