Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Green News Sources and Resources

I polled a few trusted clients, colleagues and friends in the green/renewable industry here in Boston on their favorite daily or weekly news sources. Almost everyone had a unique response, in that there were over two dozen favorites and virtually no duplicates. In no particular order, here they are:

www.offshorewind.com (Focused on Off-Shore wind news)
www.dsireusa.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy)
www.srectrade.com (Solar Renewable Energy Credit)
www.mass.gov/doer (The Mass. Dept of Energy Resources)
www.masscec.com (Mass. Clean Energy Center)
www.cleantech.com (Clean Tech Group)
www.eia.gov (Energy Information Agency)
http://mnorden.com (Matt Norden's blog)
www.masshightech.com (Massachusetts High Tech Business News)
www.bbj.com (Boston Business Journal)
www.heatspring.com (HeatSpring Magazine)
www.greenlightdistrikt.com (The Green Light Distrikt)
www.environment.harvard.edu (Harvard University for the Environment)
www.greenbiz.com (Green Business News)
www.ceres.org (RSS Feeds)
www.sustainablebusiness.com (Green Business, Renewable Energy)
www.grist.com (Environmental News, Commentary, Advice)
www.umassd.edu/sustainability/news/sustainabilityalmanac/ (UMass Dartmouth Sustainability Almanac)

General Resources w/ Alerts/Feeds:

www.xconomy.com (Local Boston Business)
www.google.com (Google Alerts, ie; "Corporate Sustainability")
www.zite.com (Zite Personalized Magazine "Sustain" section)
www.ap.com (AP Wires)
www.guardian.com (The Guardian)
www.salon.com (Salon online news)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hiring a Keeper - When Process Matters

"The professional must learn to be moved and touched emotionally, yet at the same time stand back objectively: I've seen a lot of damage done by tea and sympathy."
Anthony Storr

"Don't give an afternoon tea unless you've inherited a little of your grandmother's hospitality"--Effie Merriman, Modern Entertainments, 1898.

What do these quotes about Tea have to do with recruiting? And, further, what business do I have offering a blog on hiring etiquette?

First, good manners in a hiring process should be an expectation from both sides of the desk. This seems like a no-brainer, but there are many examples I can cite of a good interview gone bad, and a great candidate or client leaving the room empty handed.

Second, I suppose I'm qualified because I am usually the first person to receive a phone call after a challenging, odd or painful interview. This puts me in a pretty good position to hear all sorts of stories on the client/candidate exchange. And there are those I cannot share for the sake of confidentiality and protection of those people, but they are shocking nonetheless.

There's nothing you can do for a candidate who fumbles a perfectly good interview. It happens all the time. But as the hiring manager, a little pre-game planning can prevent a big loss for the team. This often happens when one's good judgement checks out during the meeting, when there's a lack of strategy around decision-making, or there is no post-interview feedback loop for candidates.

So, before you go inviting people over, grab your silver polish and a note pad...you may want to jot this down.

Setting the Table:

1) Give yourself a few minutes to prepare before an interview starts, and think about your concerns in advance. You'll want these addressed before they leave the office. If you are running late to the office, let someone internal know so your candidate doesn't take it as a sign of disinterest, or lack of consideration. If they are running a few minutes late, don't hold it against them but do inquire on it. If they haven't been stuck in traffic, fixing a flat tire, or had some other unforeseen circumstance delay them, this may be an indication of how they manage time, their priorities or presence of a bad personal habit.

2) Conducting a thorough interview takes time, so best not to book an interview unless you have ample time to meet the candidate. Starting the interview by saying "I have a hard stop in 30 minutes" says to the candidate "Talk fast, don't ask a lot of questions, and dazzle me while you're at it." I know you're very busy but, realistically, what will you learn about them in 30 minutes? What will you be able to absorb and internalize? Will this just serve to make you seem too busy to be bothered? Worse, if it's clear they are a superior candidate, but you failed to engage, compel or impress them, and no time was allowed for a mutual exchange of questions and answers, you risk losing them the moment they walk out the door. Great candidates ALWAYS have options.

3) Distractions are an occupational hazard. Unplug and connect across the desk. Do your best to avoid taking phone calls, looking at emails or text messages during the meeting. This can interfere with your focus and interrupt the flow of information. If you give the impression your calendar is, or you are, out of control of your professional life then one might interpret this as a lack of balance in the workplace, too.

4) If it is impossible to keep the door closed or cell phone off, at least give the candidate a heads up that you may be receiving a call you must take, then apologize for the inconvenience.

Elbows, Eyes and Ears:

1) For the sake of confidentiality, if meeting at a restaurant or cafe try selecting a place that isn't near the candidate's office, that doesn't pack people in like sardines, or requires you to yell to be heard. Also, if you called the meeting then you should also offer to pick up the tab. And tip your server even if the service isn't great. You may be interviewing someone who will be in a position of service to you, your clients and others on your team. Being kind to wait staff demonstrates respect and compassion for the people serving you.

2) When meeting at your desk be sure it is clear of sensitive material. As a hiring manager, having confidential information on your desk demonstrates a lack of sensitivity and respect for your company and employees. Save yourself the embarrassment of explaining to your HR Manager how the candidate knows the average salary of your whole team. Tuck it safely away in a file folder or drawer.

3) Drinking coffee, water, tea or other beverages can make it easier to talk longer as this will keep you hydrated. It's also a nice touch to offer a hot or cold beverage to a candidate if your office is climate-challenged.

4) Consider the WHOLE person. Look at your candidate objectively. Observe their image, mannerisms, eye contact, body language. Do they seem credible, honest, confident and comfortable with themselves? Can you picture yourself working with them day to day, managing them, sharing a cross country flight with them? If that feels like a stretch, your gut may be tuning into something your intellect hasn't caught up with yet. Write it down, figure it out, then weigh it against all of their other attributes. But, at the end of the day, don't settle. The right person will come along if you are willing to be patient.

Watch Your Language!!

1) Don't oversell your company, let the candidate sell you on why you should hire them. If you are doing more talking then listening, don't be surprised if you walk away from the interview with no insight on how this person fits into this position or organization.

Entrepreneurs/Founders are great at selling the vision, plans and goals for the company, but that's what makes them perfect for the "final blessing" interview. Until this last leg of the process, your candidate of choice should be closing you.

2) Do get to know your candidate, and not just their resume. Strive for a flowing conversation, an equal exchange, instead of an inquisition. And, allow time for their questions. The exchange should be informational and inspirational. Focus on finding both the requisite hard and soft skills represented by the candidate...along with a balance of professional and personal experiences that are relevant and well aligned to the role, and overall corporate culture. Even a little repartee can indicate a comfort level and rapport that separates this candidate from others.

3) If you like someone be sure to let them know they've done well with you, but don't make any promises. Offering premature buying signals, ie., discussing references, start dates, compensation, and using sentences starting with "You will really enjoy working with...." risks giving a false impression of the company's interest in their candidacy. Apply caution and enthusiasm with equal measure, especially if there are other decision makers involved. You may have had a great interview, but your co-founder may have found them lacking in some way. No one on the team should commit to another round, or offer of employment, until you are certain there is internal agreement.

The other risk in tipping your hand too soon may mean surrendering your position of strength in the process. Occasionally I have witnessed a candidate becoming either too confident or somewhat anxious upon receiving premature buying signs. Keep expectations in check and your hand close to your vest until you are certain they are "The One".

Is this A Duel?

1) Look for a challenge! If someone is asking you tough questions, don't take it as an offensive approach. If it's clear they have done their homework, and their questions are relevant and well thought out, chances are they are just being as selective as you. This is a good thing, in particular if you are hiring sales people.

A strong, experienced salesperson will be very thorough in their due diligence process with a customer. They know how to separate a viable lead from a tire-kicker, and their inquisitive nature is a part of what makes them good in a consultative or solution sales role. You want the person driving revenues for your company objectively evaluating whatever opportunities are presented. This means you will be fielding deeper, broader, and sometimes exhaustive questions during the interview. Provided the questions are not repetitive or neurotic, this should give you a sense of comfort that they know how to flush out real clients.

2) When interviewing partner or VP level candidates for your young company, don't be afraid if you don't have all the answers. Chances are, they know you haven't got it all figured out yet, and there are some financial questions you cannot answer until further along in the process. This is also a good time to test a candidate's tolerance for risk. If they are unwilling to commit to the unknowns, likely they will not be able to handle the natural ups and downs of an early stage company.

Bidding Adieu!

1) Follow up in a timely fashion! Giving a candidate feedback or closure is something every candidate deserves, whether it's a first or final round. In the past five years it seems we have all come to expect less from the interview process. Current trends indicate that most people who interview and get passed over have no idea why they didn't get the job, and never hear from the company again. This is particularly confusing if they left the interview thinking they did very well, or received premature buying signals (i.e., a tour of the facility, copy of the corporate benefits packet, deep salary discussion, promise of another round) A complete lack of feedback is not helpful for the candidate and can leave them with a sour taste in their mouth. Giving a candidate some feedback immediately following the interview can go a long way to preventing confusion, multiple follow up calls/emails from them, or an ugly backlash that today's social media can easily assist.

2) The power of networking and "reporting" on bad experiences is not limited to word of mouth anymore. A candidate who was treated poorly during an interview, thought the process was unfair, or didn't receive closure following what seemed like a stellar interview may take their frustrations out on Facebook, YELP or some other social networking site where your other potential clients, vendors or candidates may visit to perform due diligence. If you are an officer of a company trying to hire for a very senior role, but you keep losing top candidates because your company is perceived as having poor hiring practices...well, you can see where this is going, right?

3) Ask your Human Resources department to set up a formal feedback policy, even if it's a two line email indicating the position has been filled, put on hold, or re-evaluated. For those candidates with whom you really enjoyed meeting and struck a great rapport, call them directly and let them know your decision, and why. You never know when you may need them in the future!

4) Look for a thank you note from your candidate. If you don't receive one, think twice about whether this is someone who is tuned into proper social cues and etiquette. Can you trust this person not to offend or alienate your best clients? Will they know how to treat their staff in a courteous and respectful manner? Will they be diplomatic in management meetings? These are all good questions to ask about your potential candidate. If you don't get a thank you note, email or follow up call, maybe there's a good reason...a very, very good reason, I hope.