3 Interview Questions For Hiring Remote Workers

Hiring onsite employees is tough enough, but when it comes to hiring remote workers don’t overcomplicate it.

Before considering to hire remotely, trust is monumental. Without it you’ll fail.

Managing people virtually shouldn’t be much different than in-person since what works face-to-face tends to work over video/phone.

Keep in mind retaining workers is costly when the wrong person is hired, so use the following three questions as a guide to weed out the amateurs and hire the best:

1. Why?

Start with a candidate’s character. Why questions get to the motivation behind an answer. You won’t be physically present to witness how someone spends their time during work, so figure out how driven, self-aware and organized they are ahead of time. Why questions hit at the core of who someone is. Asking past behavior scenarios tend to be the most popular during interviews, but past success doesn’t always translate smoothly to new endeavors. If you need more context watch this Simon Sinek video on why.

2. How?

You can have the most knowledgable person working for you, but if they don’t fit your culture you’ve made a bad hire. Without downplaying competence, style questions are a must when it comes to hiring the right people. If you’re unsure how to define your culture, stop and figure it out before hiring anyone. How questions really come down to identifying personal strengths. The best leaders in any industry are self-aware. That means generic answers on an interview just don’t cut it. As an employer you want to know how they prioritize, interact with others and communicate orally/written just to name a few. Most of a manager’s time is spent dealing with interpersonal issues, so if you’re seeing red flags when it comes to personality quirks don’t proceed. Another helpful exercise is hiring based on your company’s core values. They can be even more powerful than mission or vision statements because they are measurable in behaviors. Zappos is a good example if you need a place to start.

3. What? 

Typical interviews start here. Tell me about your last job. Describe a time you failed a task and what was your response. What is your biggest weakness? Candidates can rehearse these answers and interviewers can critique every detail. The truth is what questions don’t reveal nearly as much as “why” or “how” questions. When asking “what” questions find out: experience, industry knowledge and their decision making process. Interviews are just a preliminary phase to understanding on-the-job performance. Even the best questions can’t possibly cover future mistakes by workers. A judgment call must be made here: do you want to hire for experience (less training, higher salary) or potential (more training, lower salary)? The answer to this question comes back to your core values.

Consider this: treat all your future interviews as potentially remote hires. Not only is that the way our economy is headed, but if you can trust someone working virtually you definitely can in the office.

Hire the best. Don’t settle for less.

Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: Which One Is Better For You?

Digital is the obvious choice for many reasons: optimal reach, price, speed, flexibility, etc.

But this post is less about tactics and more about philosophy.

Recently I took a Digital Marketing class at General Assembly and got a brief introduction how it works. This was an intro class so few strategies were shared, but it was still helpful.

Although traditional marketing has its limits, there’s still value in it.

Talking with a friend of mine Rachel, who owns Bite Sized Media, emphasized building relationships and creating partnerships still trump all.

To answer this question it really depends on two things: your customer and type of business.

If it’s an e-commerce site then it’s clearly digital, but for my online tutoring company I’ve started more traditional because I’m leveraging my network.

At the core digital marketing is more ideal if you can master it because of this simple premise: customers are shopping for you.

That’s key because people who are searching for an answer are more ready to buy.

Traditional marketing is more about bringing attention to your product/service in hopes they can be convinced to purchase.

In my opinion both are valuable and have their place. I admit I’m no expert in marketing and am trying to learn myself, but truly understanding who I am serving and how I can meet their needs is essential.

So the more important question than “Is digital or traditional marketing better for me?” is: who is my customer and where can I find them consistently?

Once you identify that, go forth and start marketing!

3 Ways To Generate New Ideas

Most people are drawn to entrepreneurship because of the potential of new ideas, but what happens when you run out of them?

It doesn’t matter how creative you are, your mind becomes a blank canvas at some point (yes, it even happens to the best of them).

So when you’re looking for new ideas, but can’t find them what should you do?

1. Read

Most ideas are not original, so don’t put added pressure on yourself to be an inventor. My ideas tend to be inspired by what I read on platforms like Medium. Whether it’s an article, book or video tutorial, “bettering” an idea is much more efficient than creating one. Certain authors will resonate with you and you will follow them more because of their similar mindset. If it makes you feel better the most successful companies rarely create their own industry, they just dominate it with a differentiating point. When all else fails read…

2. Network

To build off reading, people are where ideas come from. Some of my best networking experiences focused less around trying to sell myself and more about just listening. True networking is simply connecting. A friend of mine said it best: “the people you keep in contact with are the ones whose point of views you find stimulating.” Networking can be the best way to learn about an industry you don’t know about. Understanding someone’s process can be a game changer. Also, if you’re a sole proprietor one of the worst things you can do is stay in isolation. No matter how introverted you are, make it a point to connect with others in person, on the phone or through the internet. Nothing great is accomplished alone so don’t be a hermit.

3. Do

People have asked me, “how do you know what to write about weekly?” My honest answer: I don’t. I just write about what I’m learning currently. I mean isn’t that what a blog is? It’s a public journal of your thoughts. Sure, I like hearing success stories and formulas that have worked before, but it’s as inspiring to hear people’s journeys. I like the idea that you’re never ready; the choice is whether you’re going to start or not. I admit I’m not a ready-aim-fire guy. It takes too long. I’m learning to get better at aiming, but my natural instinct is to stop talking about it and just do it (potentially at the core of my obsession with Nike). If you wait for the perfect idea, you may never act. Failing is what the most successful companies have embraced better than others, not success.

So the next time you’re struggling to come up with new ideas try reading, networking and taking action. Chances are the idea will come to you during the process, not prior to it.

Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow The Market

Follow your passion. Follow your heart. Monetize your hobby.

Trust me, I’ve heard it all.

In an ideal world, you’d find your ideal clients and sell to them like crazy, but that’s not realistic.

I’ve learned over time that is has less to do with passion, but more about identifying what’s thriving in the market.

Now thriving isn’t a code word for trendy. It means industries that have staying power.

Just like there are very few new ideas, don’t be overly concerned with competition. The same reason why gas stations and fast food establishments purposely open locations near each other proves this point.

Each industry tends to have a giant or market leader which signifies a strong want (perceived need) in society. With so many options to choose from, positioning your idea boils down to uniqueness.

In most instances it’s your brand story, featured benefit or “patented” process.

Whatever your unique selling proposition (USP) is, it’s much wiser to bring to a visible market than an invisible one.

Take for instance coaching. I’ve been doing it for 10+ years, but it’s still not part of a thriving market. Coaching is more of a “how” than a “what” therefore I’m more focused on ideas that utilize coaching in the process, but it’s not the main offering.

Coaching is an example of being in an invisible market because every time you approach a prospective customer you’re faced with a “double sell” proposal. That means the initial sell is educating what you are selling, then you have to follow up with a secondary sell to get paid. It’s not an ideal situation to put yourself through.

Market research becomes invaluable since you want to enter an area that’s already hot. No matter how great your idea is, the uphill battle of trying to educate people about what your product/service does isn’t worth your time or investment.

We’re fortunate to live in a time where information is readily accessible at our fingertips, so take advantage of it! Don’t be discouraged about developing your idea, but before moving forward make sure there’s a clear market for it’s entrance.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, it’s already been created.

The 1 Question Managers Need To Ask

Managing people isn’t for everyone, but if taken seriously one question will give you all the answers you need to maximize productivity:

How can I best support you?

Here’s why: support isn’t defined by the giver, but the recipient.

I asked this question in my previous management role and it did wonders for morale, engagement and performance.

The best workers are self-motivated. As a professional if you need to be externally motivated to do your job, even the greatest perks/benefits won’t make a huge difference.

Once hired in a role (assuming you’re qualified), you need to be trained with the skills to do the job, but when that on-boarding process is complete it’s your turn to soar.

As a manager you don’t need to be smarter than the team you lead. In fact, if you facilitate and support well technical skills are just a bonus.

Support is something you feel. When you are being supported you know it. If you have to think about it, it’s absent.

Your job as a manager is to help your teammates shine. At a deeper level it’s making them look better than you. If there’s too much ego involved as a manager, you’re destined to be in competition with your team rather than holding hands across the finish line.

There’s a simple way to gauge if the workers under your care feel supported: ask them.

Be specific. Ask this: on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being not at all vs. 10 feeling like a champion rate the amount of support you feel?

In a performance-based world, this approach may sound soft, but that’s exactly why it works.

A manager’s job isn’t to tell their team how to do something, it’s to clarify objectives and remove all the obstacles in their way.

Going back to my “best workers” example, when giving support you also offer respect, care and autonomy. Think about the best boss you’ve had. I highly doubt they rode you like a horse. Instead I guarantee you’ll describe your relationship with them (soft skills).

Management isn’t easy, but it’s also not rocket science. Take the servant leadership approach to managing others and you’ll be amazed at how people’s strengths will rise to the top.

Why Most Managers Fail

Are managers born or made?

The politically correct answer is made, but there are certain traits that can’t be taught.

To better understand what a manager’s role entails we’ll use the image above to guide us. Disregard the industry (information systems), but focus on the three levels: operational (technical), tactical (management) and strategic (executives).

Managers fall in the middle category which places them as supervisors of the technical workers (catalysts of the employee-customer transaction).

Why most managers fail is because they don’t realize promotion equates to learning a different skill set.

Let’s say your company makes widgets. Technical workers get better at their job when they figure out how to be more efficient (increasing productivity). But when a technical role shifts to a leadership role, it doesn’t matter how well you were able to produce widgets anymore.

Your job as a manager is to lead people who make widgets. A subtle, but powerful change that most companies overlook.

The same skills that made you a great widget maker do not translate to being a manager. If you’re trying to out-do your subordinates you’re not actually fulfilling your new job duties.

A manager’s responsibility is to oversee, support and make his/her workers under them better. This takes skills such as: motivation, empathy, time management, conflict resolution, etc.

Managerial duties are vastly different than technical skills.

Can they be taught? Yes, but the real issue is most managers weren’t hired for their leadership abilities, rather their technical prowess.

In my last role this is where my boss failed. She believed telling me what to do and keeping me on a short leash was her job. Instead what she lacked was listening skills, innovation and vision to name a few.

My message to managers is this: clarify what is expected of you.

Using a sports analogy, most managers want to be all-stars (individual high performers), but what your organization really needs from you is to be MVP (making your teammates better around you).

Managers need to be self-aware about what they can and cannot do. The quicker you realize that, the more effective your company will be moving forward.

3 Ways To Slay Your Next Interview

Resumes don’t get you hired, interviews do.

A solid resume is like having a driver’s license. It doesn’t mean you’re a good driver, but it qualifies you to be on the road.

As the traditional resume fades out, the need for strong interview skills becomes even more important.

Here are 3 ways to prepare for your next interview:

1. Do Your Research – This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Viewing the company website, about us page and mission statement is a good place to start, but not enough. Search LinkedIn for current employees from the company, connect and ask them about their experience. While you’re there locate the recruiter posting the position and request a connection to increase your chances of your application being seen. Do informational interviews with workers in similar roles. Look on Glassdoor for company reviews, both pros and cons. Browse their social media presence to observe the culture and what current issues are being discussed. There’s too much public information out there to go into an interview blindly. Finding a role that fits today is as much about the cultural fit as it is about being your “dream job.”

2. Improve Self-Awareness – One question you’re guaranteed to be asked is “Tell me about your strengths” or “What is your greatest weakness?” (sometimes both) This comes down to how well you really know yourself. If you have a hard time answering either of these questions you clearly didn’t do your homework. No matter what role you’re applying for your strengths and weaknesses shouldn’t change. In fact, if you truly want to be remembered illustrate your strengths in a past example then spin your weakness into a strength. If you’re having trouble articulating what you do well take the StrengthsFinder assessment. It will give you 5 things you excel at and their belief is there is no such thing as weaknesses, just overdone strengths. The most successful leaders in any industry are self-aware. Let that marinate in your mind for a second.

3. Lengthen the ConversationWant to know when your chances of landing the role decrease the most? When your interview ends quickly. The dynamic of a strong interview can be dictated by you the interviewee IF facilitated right. Most applicants focus on answering the questions right, but once you realize it’s a conversation it becomes more about engagement than sheer information. There’s usually a point where the interviewer asks if you have any questions. This is your time to shine. Questions such as, “How did you find this company? What does a successful candidate look like in this role? What’s a great cultural fit here?” takes the focus off you and reveals what they’re truly looking for in a fit. The last position I got hired for included 4 interviews, the first 3 being fairly short (thought I was out of the running), but the final one lasted 90 minutes in which I was offered a contract on the spot. Treat your interviews like grabbing coffee with a friend. The more you have to talk about the less it is about what you say, but how you say it that people remember. Let’s be honest, if the interviewer(s) don’t like you, even if you’re a strong candidate, there’s no way you’re getting hired. Being likable won’t land you a job, but it also can give you a leg up on the competition.

Interviews can be tough, but your mental preparation can make the greatest difference. Like most things in life, practice may not result in perfect, but it sure makes for better. Remember confidence is built over time. Follow the steps above before your next interview and expect the best outcome to happen!

Decoding The Corporate Perks Facade: What It Really Means

Google is the pioneer of offering perks to attract top talent and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

A friend of mine works at Google HQ and describes his situation as “too good to walk away from” even when he gets bored. Free food, snacks, shuttle, laundry, etc will do that.

The startup scene has escalated to the point where if you don’t offer perks, you’re not relevant. But what if I told you it’s all a facade?

I love to eat. What makes food taste even better is when it’s free. But unlimited snacks and catered lunches are a nice bonus, but far from the mission of the company.

Now I’m not knocking perks as an enhancement to the employee experience, but what I am saying is how much does it affect your decision to stay?

Look at it from a financial standpoint: free food for the entire company is cheaper than giving a raise to one (of course you have to factor in size of staff though, but you get the drift).

My point is if perks are one of the highest ranking factors in retaining your services it’s putting your faith in fool’s gold. Perks are like purchasing the newest toy. After a while it gets old, you get bored and want more.

For example when I first started working for my current company the idea of catered lunches twice a week blew my mind. Now I still appreciate it, but I found myself getting pickier with selection of choices. If it happens to be a meal I love, free lunch is great! If not, I wish I didn’t have to sit through the company meeting during lunch.

Culture is a huge factor in retention, but perks shouldn’t be too high on your list of reasons to apply/stay. Times have changed where “what you get” is as important as “what you give,” yet ultimately what your company strives for and what role you play will always outshine any perk offered.

Work wisely.

3 Ways Managing Remotely Made Me A Better Leader

Managing people is hard enough, but try doing it remotely.

On a weekly basis I spend the bulk of my hours at work meeting 30 individuals via Zoom for 30 minute check-ins. During that time we cover a myriad of different metrics that rate their performance, but I choose to focus on 3 things solely:

1. Connecting – technology has widened the talent pool, but also breeds disconnection. Instead of being concerned about physical location as a barrier, I try to immerse myself in a session as if we were in the same room. Human connection is a powerful thing no matter where you are. Relationships are formed over time through trust regardless of distance. Working remotely can present challenges yet with empathy, active listening and genuine care the virtual gap can be closed. Think of having a conversation with a friend over coffee. The same principles of building a friendship apply here. Connection is the foundation for any working relationship to thrive.

2. Community – working from home sounds glorious until you look around and realize you’re alone. If employees can feel isolated in an office full of co-workers imagine how remote employees feel. The concept of a “virtual water cooler” has been talked about, but how do you make it happen? As a suggestion, Slack is a great place to start. The platform you choose isn’t as important as it’s function. In this case it’s to organically build relationships during personal time. Instead of gathering at the lunch table or local bar, it’s responding to someone’s question, comment, photo or video. It’s not something that can be forced, nor in some cases facilitated. It takes several people in the group to take initiative and put in the effort to communicate. In fact the best interactions are when the manager isn’t involved. The voluntary part of it makes it real.

3. Cultivate – the uniqueness of each member of the team makes the whole together special. Most managers try to control employees working remotely because they have trust issues. The problem is the more policies and procedures you enforce, the more anarchy is created. Trust is built via connecting so everything grows out of that. Don’t try to mold everyone to be the same, celebrate their differences. When each person brings their unique talents and strengths to the table, why would a manager quell them? A manager’s role is to bring out the best in each person by leveraging personal strengths. If you’re not developing people as a manager you’re crushing their spirit. It’s not enough to have the right people on the bus. Each person has to be on the right seat in order to reach the promise land. My job is to allow my team to shine by getting out of their way.

As a leader managing people remotely is challenging, but a true test of your abilities. Similar to organizing volunteers, when you are stripped of power, money and resources all you have is your relationships. My belief is if you can lead others remotely, you can lead any team anywhere. If you want to test your leadership capabilities manage people from a distance. You’ll be forced to give up control, ego and certainty…and that’s not a bad thing at all.

A Manager’s Secret Weapon (Yet Rarely Used)

Most bosses don’t get it.

Middle management’s main job is to manage people, not tasks.

Tasks need to be completed, but it’s how you manage your people that makes all the difference.

If your workers aren’t getting things done, the first finger pointed should be at you (the manager).

Have you clearly communicated your expectations? 

Are your people properly trained?

Are you putting them in a place to succeed?

Most managers don’t understand when the role changes, your responsibilities do too. If you don’t want to spend the majority of your time and energy dealing with interpersonal issues, don’t take the job!

I truly believe leadership skills can be taught to anyone, but that doesn’t make an effective leader. There are many traits that make a great leader, but the simplest one with the greatest ROI is:

Positive feedback.

Did you know it takes 5 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative one?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the ratio, except by saying your workers evaluate you. Performance reviews are held for employees all the time, but what about managers? Is your boss held to the same standards as the people they lead?  

If not, that’s a culture problem. Hypocrisy is the most visible sin in a business. It’s the one fault that causes morale to plummet and turnover to skyrocket.

If you work for someone else, you’re supporting another person’s dream. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since not everyone can run a successful business. But when people don’t feel heard or treated unfairly it can signal the beginning of the end.

Managers who rarely dish out positive feedback are both insecure and focused on the wrong things. They haven’t bought into the fact their impact is determined by the team’s output, not theirs.

Being positive is similar to active listening. It can be taught, but usually if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

The best leaders know metrics and data can only measure so much. Just like companies create a brand experience, managers create employee experiences. With power comes great responsibility; a willingness to model service to your team so it’s passed down to customers.

A positive comment can go a long way, but only if you actually say it.