Tag Archives: practice

Skill Development is About Practice

“How different is this new department?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s different. The department I run now is full of technicians. This new role is all about merchandising and promotion. I will have to learn a lot,” Marsha replied.

“But, it sounds interesting to you?”

Marsha nodded. “Yes, it sounds interesting. More than that, I have always had an interest in marketing. I mean, I know I am in charge of a technical department, so this would be a challenge for me.”

“What will have to change?”

“There will be a learning curve, to get up to speed. There are lots of things I don’t know,” she admitted.

“Here’s the thing about any skill. There is always technical knowledge you need to know. But technical knowledge is learn-able. And, to get good at it, you have to practice. You may have an interest in marketing. You may have read a couple of books about it, but you have not practiced it. If you want to get good at it, you have to commit to practice.”

Candidates Talk the Talk

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I’ve conducted interviews where we’ve asked behavioral questions, like “Please share a specific example in your last position where you led a team in accomplishing a specific task. Share what steps you took and any processes you put in place to be successful. What were any of your challenges?” These questions did help us see how the candidate thinks and leads and whether s/he’s innovative. But in the end, we have had some candidates who are really great at interviewing and talking the talk but when they get in the position they are not effective. So, are there any other questions or exercises we should use in interviews to further test the veracity of the candidate and their experience?

It’s all about the work. I see three possible problems.

Failure to Identify the Level of Work
The biggest mistake most companies make is underestimating the level of work. I see this over and over, so much so, that I finally wrote a book about it, Hiring Talent, Decoding Levels of Work in the Behavioral Interview. There is a level of problem solving and a level of decision making in every role. Here is my fast list of problem solving levels –

  • Level I – Trial and error
  • Level II – Experience, best practices
  • Level III – Root cause or comparative analysis
  • Level IV – Systems analysis, reinforcing and balancing systems
  • Level V – Internal systems and external systems analysis

Your candidate may have solved a problem in a former role, but what was the level of work required to solve the problem?

Failure to Get Specific
The manager-once-removed and the hiring manager have to spend time to truly think through the work. If the critical role requirement is to be the leader of a group of 13 software engineers, the interviewer has to listen for details, like how many people on the team? Full-time managerial role or limited project length? Match the details in the candidate’s experience with the details in the critical role requirements.

Failure to Practice
Most managers don’t get enough practice. They don’t interview candidates often enough to get good at it, and are seldom trained to conduct effective interviews. The candidates they face have been coached by headhunters, trained through role play, and are intent on beating the manager in a game of cat and mouse. Practice, practice, practice.