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I just released a new book, PM Interview Workbook. It’s my 2nd product management interview book after my Amazon bestseller, Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews.

You may be curious: what is the CIRCLES Method™ product design framework? To help demystify, I’ve explained it below, using excerpts from Decode and Conquer.

Introduction to CIRCLES Method™ Product Design Framework

CIRCLES method product design framework

What are product design questions?

Product design questions test your product design ability. Interviewers are assessing your ability to:

  • Define an objective for the product improvement
  • Choose and identify the most appropriate target customer
  • Empathize with the target customer
  • Articulate use cases (aka pain points)
  • Prioritize those use cases
  • Brainstorm creative ideas
  • Make a logical recommendation

Examples of product design questions include:

  • Redesign the Facebook Newsfeed for the Web.
  • How would you improve Pinterest?
  • Create an experience around Disney theme parks using your phone.
  • Design the next product that Nest will offer, focusing on mobile app design.
  • If you were the CEO of LEGO, what new product line would you come up with to increase revenues? Why? Who is the target customer? How do you reach them? How does the product function and what does it look like (UI/UX)? What’s the potential market size?

Note: Many of the above questions are featured in PM Interview Workbook with an accompanying sample answer.

What are interviewers looking for?

The interviewers are looking for six key elements in a strong response:

  • Goals and metrics. Did the candidate define objectives before answering? Were the candidate’s selections reasonable?
  • Target Persona & Pain Points. Did the candidate choose a target persona? Did the candidate explain the persona’s pain points to the extent that demonstrated true consumer insight?
  • Prioritization. Did the candidate demonstrate ability to prioritize competing use cases or pain points in a compelling way?
  • Creativity. Did the candidate demonstrate sufficient creativity? Or were the ideas copycats of competitive features and products?
  • Development Leadership. When asked, did the candidate have a reasonable explanation of how a proposed feature would be implemented?
  • Summary and Next Steps. Did the candidate summarize their main argument at the end, including clear next steps?

What is the CIRCLES Method™?

CIRCLES Method from Decode and Conquer

CIRCLES Method™ is a framework on what makes a complete, thoughtful response to any design question. It’s a memory aid that prevents us from forgetting a step in the interview. You can also think of it as a checklist or guideline.

Use it for questions on how you would design a new desktop, website, or mobile application. You can even use it to design new consumer products like a car, camera or can opener.

In case you forget, remember that designers love circles. Therefore the CIRCLES Method™ is perfect for design questions.

Comprehend the Situation

Not too long ago, I asked a candidate, “Pretend you are a Windows 10 product manager. How would you improve it?” I stopped her 45 seconds into her response. She rambled and used nonsense phrases like “Windows 10 deepens customer empowerment.”

I asked her, “Have you used Windows 10?” She sheepishly replied, “Never. I use a MacBook Air.”

Sigh. If you don’t know the product, speak up. It’s not fair for you to discuss a product you don’t know.

You’re entitled to ask the interviewer clarifying questions. What can or should you ask the interviewer?

Here’s a list:

  •       What is it?
  •       Who is it for?
  •       Why do they need it?
  •       When is it available?
  •       Where is it available?
  •       How does it work?

This list of basic questions is frequently called the “5 W’s and H.” However, the interviewer may not have patience for you to ask 101 questions about the product. To start the interview, you really just need answers for the four bolded questions: what is it, who is it for, why do they need it, and how does it work? So we’ll call our version the “3 W’s and H.”

If the interviewer refuses to answer your clarifying questions, make an assumption based on what you know. Then, give the interviewer an opportunity to correct you, in the event he thinks differently about whom it is for or how the product works.

I also recommend that you pull up the website, mobile app or application. A visual improves communication. And who knows, since we live in the world of rapid experimentation, the website that you saw yesterday may have changed today. Or if you’re talking about a product that the interviewer is working on, it’s possible they use a beta version internally, which is completely different from what you use. It would be lethal if you and the interviewer were thinking of different things.

Identify the Customer

There’s no magical device that does everything for everyone. But that hasn’t stopped companies from trying to build all-in-one devices. As sexy as they sound, all-in-ones aren’t very good.

During the interview, you want to propose an amazing product, not a mediocre one. To do so, focus and empathize with a single customer segment or persona. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, you will more likely design a solution that resolves their specific needs.

Start the second step of the CIRCLES Method™ by listing potential customer personas. Here are some examples:

  •       Food lovers
  •       Soccer moms
  •       College students
  •       Small business owners

Time is limited, so choose one persona to focus on. The interviewer may not be familiar with your chosen persona; help them comprehend whom you are talking about. A 2 x 2 matrix is a powerful way to visualize it.

Kat, the traveling reader Behaviors

  • Goes on vacations with books
  • Travels four times a year
  • Carries four books per trip
Demographics

  • 55 year old, single female
  • Lives in Hoquiam, Washington
  • Income: $70,000 USD
Needs & Goals

  • Discover new books
  • Discuss books with others
  • Write a book one day

Report the Customer’s Needs

The third step of the CIRCLES Method™ is reporting the customer’s needs. You can call it user needs, user requirements, or use cases. In modern product development, the use case format is a popular way to capture user needs. A user story conveys what the end user wants to do in normal everyday language. It does not describe how the solution works. Here’s the user story template:

As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>.

Here are two examples based on our persona, Kat, our traveling reader:

Book discovery

As a traveling reader, I want to get recommendations so that I read books that are either well-written or are good examples of my favorite genres.

Write a book

As a traveling reader, I want to write 500 words a day so that I can publish my memoir.

User stories have become popular because they are concise, complete and casual. In a single sentence, we know the user, the user’s needs and the intended benefit.

It’s important to explore customer needs deeply, especially if there are hidden needs or constraints. Why? Here’s a classic anecdote from one of my students:

During her product management interview with a top 5 technology company, she was asked to, “Design the perfect airport.” She plunged into the exercise, detailing what the airport of the future would look like, including numerous runways to eliminate delays and a sprawling food court that would satisfy any palate.

As she concluded her answer, the interviewer revealed that the airport would have to fit into 100 square feet.

Needless to say, she did not get the job. But it reinforces the power digging deeper and asking the simple yet powerful question, “Why?”

Cut, Through Prioritization

Looking at our “book discovery” and “write a book” use cases above, each one screams for completely different solutions. Step four of the CIRCLES Method™ is to cut, through prioritization.

The prioritization step mimics the real world development process. You’ll have a big backlog of use cases, but you’re limited by time, money, and labor. Which one do you do first?

In the interview, you don’t have time to discuss all use cases. So you’ll have to pick one. When you make your choice, it’s an opportunity to showcase your ability to make prioritize, assess tradeoffs and make decisions.

User Story Revenue Customer Satisfaction Ease of Implementation Overall
Write a book A A A A
Book discovery C C C C

The prioritization matrix example above shows how a product manager can be thoughtful about choosing priorities.

Real world prioritization is not that different from the matrix above. That is, it’s based on subjective criteria, weights and grades. Despite some flaws, I feel the matrix is effective. I’d rather have an imperfect process than no process at all. The matrix method forces the decision maker to think and articulate what’s important. Is revenue more important? Or is customer satisfaction? Ultimately, the true arbiter of go versus no-go for a particular feature should be A/B testing.

If you’re looking for an even more thoughtful and quantitative approach to prioritization, you could estimate the revenue impact and investment, measured in engineering effort. From there, you can calculate a ROI-like metric, which I call revenue per point of effort.

User Story Revenue impact Story size Revenue per point of effort Priority
Write a book $500,000 8 $62,500 1
Book discovery $20,000 2 $10,000 2

Note: “Story size” is a metric to estimate the engineering effort necessary to complete a story.

List Solutions

Step five of the CIRCLES Method™ is to list solutions. For instance, if we wanted a solution to help consumers to reduce their junk mail, we could offer the following solutions:

  • Global do not mail list. Consumers can sign-up for the mailing list, and responsible companies can periodically check the list and opt-out consumers.
  •  Opt out Camera App. Create a mobile app that allows consumers to opt-out of junk mail by taking a picture of the junk mail they receive.
  •  SMS Opt Out. Allow consumers to opt out of junk mail by texting a special code to a SMS number.
  •  Third Party Review. Send all your mail to a third-party who will review your mail, discard your junk mail and forward the rest.
  •  Junk Mail Warning Application. Before you submit your personal information to a website, a sweepstakes, or a product warranty registration site, this application will warn you on whether or not you’re likely to receive junk mail when sharing your personal information to the site.

Most candidates freeze when they have a design problem without a solution on the tip of their tongue. Brainstorming frameworks can help overcome designer’s block. Here are my favorites:

Reversal method. Reversing the situation helps uncover new possibilities.

Example: Create a new car buying experience.

Need: Buyers don’t have time to travel to the car dealership.

Solution based on reversal: Dealership should deliver test drives to the buyer’s home.

Attribute method. List all the product attributes. Mix and match to get interesting new combinations.

Example: Design a new laundry hamper.

Material Shape Finish Position
Wicker Square Natural Sits on floor
Plastic Cylindrical Painted On ceiling
Paper Rectangle Clear On wall
Metal Hexagonal Luminous Basement chute
Net material Cube Neon On door

Solution based on attributes: I suggest we build a rectangle, plastic hamper with a natural finish that can be mounted on the door.

Why? Method. Challenge the status quo.

Example: Design a new coffee cup.

Start by challenging the status quo: Why should coffee cups have handles? Cups are too hot to hold directly.

Solution based on Why? Method: Create a coffee mug with an insulation layer.

Reversal method. Reversing the situation helps uncover new possibilities.

Example: Create a new car buying experience.

Need: Buyers don’t have time to travel to the car dealership.

Solution based on reversal: Dealership should deliver test drives to the buyer’s home.

I have two more tips when listing potential product solutions.

Tip #1: Think big

Your typical candidate usually list solutions that fall into one of two categories:

  • Me too ideas. For example, “As the Google+ product manager, I would create a new feature that’s similar to Facebook’s groups feature.” Yawn.
  • Integration ideas. For instance, “As the Google product manager, I would integrate YouTube with Android.” Yawn.

As part of the interview, most employers are evaluating your creativity or product vision. They’re looking for product managers that can see future trends, both in technology and customer behavior. They expect those product managers to plot and execute a plan that exploits that trend, for the company’s benefit.

To help spur your thinking, consider the following big bets from the tech industry leaders:

  • In 2008, Google made a $4.6 billion bid for wireless spectrum. How did Google have the gravitas to make a multi-billion dollar bid when Google had no experience as a wireless operator? Google had guts. In the end, it was one of the biggest bluffs in business history. Google didn’t win the bid, but they didn’t want to. They got the FCC to adopt open access rules that would force the winner to allow any Google device or application to connect to this new spectrum. That privilege was worth billions to Google. And they got it for free.
  • That same year, Facebook launched Facebook Connect. Facebook encouraged developers to use Facebook as their sign-in service. Facebook positioned the feature as trustworthy and easy-to-use. Developers could now devote time that would have gone into building proprietary sign-up and sign-on systems for something else. And web and mobile applications would have access to a user’s valuable Facebook data. But Facebook had the biggest win. Facebook Connect allowed Facebook to track user behavior around the web. They knew which websites a user visited and what mobile apps they used. They could use this data to build better products, and more importantly, deliver more targeted ads. Facebook makes billions from advertising. Better ad targeting can easily lead to a 500 percent increase in revenue.

Tip #2: Have at least three ideas

Great innovators know that your first idea is rarely the best. Why? Innovation is an iterative process. As you learn more about customer needs and competitive products, your proposed solutions will be more precise and focused. You’ll avoid ideas that have failed in the marketplace.

At the interview, brainstorm at least three ideas. It’s hard but it’ll be worth it. You’ll find that idea number 2 or 3 will usually be the best of the bunch.

Also, it will help you from being defensive during the interview. The interviewer will critique your idea. If you have only one idea, you’ll take it personally. If you have multiple ideas, you’ll be more comfortable because you’ll have other solutions to prove your self-worth.

Evaluate Tradeoffs

The sixth step of the CIRCLES Method™ is to evaluate tradeoffs. The first part is optional: define your tradeoff criteria. Criteria could include customer satisfaction, implementation difficulty, and revenue potential. It’s not necessary, but it’ll keep your response organized and easier to follow.

The next part is analyzing the solution. A pro and cons list is a good way to do this.

By evaluating tradeoffs of each solution, you come across as thoughtful and analytical. You’ll also be perceived as objective.

You’ll also protect yourself from being defensive. If you’ve taken the initiative to critique your own solutions, the interviewer has fewer things to criticize. You’ll also mentally prepare yourself for criticism by critiquing yourself.

Summarize Your Recommendation

The seventh step of the CIRCLES Method™ is to summarize your recommendation. This is an optional step; sometimes the interviewer is satisfied with a brainstorm and the pro and con analysis.

But others want to test your communication and decision making skills. That is, can you present a short 20 to 30 second summary of your product proposal? And can you make the hard decision to suggest just one solution?

Summarize with this three-step approach:

  1.     Tell the interviewer which product or feature you’d recommend.
  2.     Recap on what it is and why it’s beneficial to the user and/or company.
  3.     Explain why you preferred this solution vs. others.

Tip on using the CIRCLES Method™

My clients often struggle with design questions because they’re uncomfortable exploring customers and needs without a solution. If that’s the case, it’s okay to have a solution in mind and lead your CIRCLES Method™ discussion toward it.

It’s important for you to exude confidence during the design discussion, and if this is what makes you feel better, fantastic. I also find that having a solution in mind can help constrain the realm of potential personas, needs, and solutions, which can improve the quality of your responses.

Ultimately, I would love for you to embrace the great unknown and enjoy a design problem without having a solution in mind.

 

GoogleProductManagerInterview

SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Google product managers (PMs) are an elite and successful group. Here are the six signs that indicate you have a great chance of getting in:

Go to a Top University and Major in Computer Science

Review the LinkedIn profiles of current Google PMs , and you’ll find several common themes:

Schools

  • Stanford
  • UC Berkeley
  • MIT
  • Ivy League schools, including Harvard and Yale

Majors

  • Computer science

This is not to say that those who don’t go to a particular school or major in computer science can’t be PMs. However, Google does get thousands of resumes for its PM program. Going to a top school and majoring in computer science can’t hurt your chances of getting an interview.

Have a Track Record of Entrepreneurship

There’s a prevailing sentiment that if Google PMs weren’t working at Google, they’d start their own company. Thus, it’s no surprise that many Google PMs have demonstrated entrepreneurial experience either during or before college.

Entrepreneurial experience doesn’t have to be a software start-up or a profitable small business. Instead, it can also be any extracurricular activity that showcases your intellectual curiosity, flawless execution, and propensity for achievement.

Some entrepreneurial examples include contributions to an open-source movement, completing a successful Kickstarter campaign, or creating a popular smartphone app.

Have Teaching Experience

Many Google PMs are former teaching assistants (TAs) for their university’s computer science courses. Marissa Mayer, widely known as the caretaker of Google’s PM program, was the head teaching assistant for my CS 106 course at Stanford. Google continues to tap CS 106 section leaders as potential PM candidates. Why are former TAs attractive PM candidates? Excellent communication skills and technical mastery.

Get Referred into Google

The most effective way to get an PM interview? Get an existing Googler to refer you. Your resume will make it to top of the recruiter’s review stack. And within 1–2 weeks, you’ll likely get a call for a phone interview.

Why? It’s the similarity principle. A+ PMs are friends with A+ candidates. You can take your chances by submitting your resume online, but you’ll have to compete with thousands of unsolicited submissions.

And no need to be bashful about getting a referral. Google has a generous referral fee for employees that land top candidates. So bug your friend, have them submit your resume, get hired, and have them take you to a nice non-Google lunch after they get the referral bonus.

Show Passion for Google and the PM program

It doesn’t matter if it’s Google or another company, hiring managers want employees who dedicate themselves to the job and give 120%.

Why? It’s a lot of work for managers to prod employees to do their work, take initiative, and / or think outside of the box. Managers pray for candidates who are just rockstars — without constant nudging. Most rock stars are those who are passionate about the company they work for and the work that they do — every single day. What’s the best way to do this? Give your 120% even before you get the job. If you can code, write an Android app using the Google Maps API. If you can’t or don’t have time to code, do a product teardown and offer recommendations on how to improve it. Just imagine sharing your pre-interview homework at the interview. I’d be impressed. And there will be less time for those pesky Google Interview Questions.

Prepare for the Google Interview

There’s no way you can opt out of the interview, unfortunately. And the interview is tough. You’ll get hypothetical case questions used to assess your skills in product design, analytics, and technical. For more information on what to expect at the Google PM interview and how to prepare, refer to this article: How to Prepare for the Google Product Manager Interview.

SEE ALSO: Google Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Photo credit: YouTube

 

Salary Negotiation Book

Here’s a nice freebie for Labor Day weekend, Lewis C. Lin’s salary negotiation book, Five Minutes to a Higher Salary.

The offer expires tomorrow. Don’t miss out on your chance to grab it!

Words That Get The Job Offer

July 29th, 2015 by lewis

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On a job interview, chemistry and rapport with the interviewer is important. Why? Interviewers hire candidates they like!

 

There are a lot of ways you can get the interviewer to like you. My favorite is to tell an entertaining story. When it comes to telling entertaining stories, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This morning I came across Richard Bayan’s book, More Words That Sell. Bayan makes several good points about how one should tell their story, and I’ve picked a couple of tips that I feel are most applicable to job candidates:

  • Favor the specific over the general. Most stand-up comics would agree that New Jersey is funnier and more evocative than a Middle Atlantic state. The more specific you can make your language, the more impact it will have. I can’t overemphasize the importance of creating sharp, well-defined images in the reader’s mind.
  • Use colorful words to energize (the listener). Make a habit of combining your copy and substituting colorful words for limp or fuzzy ones. Short, lean, gritty native English words (like short, lean, and gritty) still pack a wallop. Words derived from Latin and Greek (such as efficient, productive, and harmonious) tend to sound more abstract and cerebral. Favor the native English vocabulary when you want to create a dramatic impression. Turn to our Greco-Latin heritage when you strive for erudition and precision.
  • Be aware of rhythm. Vary your sentence structure to create a lively, flowing movement that carries the reader effortlessly downstream. Use dashes here and there to introduce exciting shifts and turns. For dramatic impact, follow a long sentence with a short, taut one. Or inject an occassional sentence fragment. For emphasis. Copy rhythm is an intuitive matter, so it’s not easy to learn or teach. Like jazz, it’s something you have to feel.
  • Put the emphasis on clarity. This is more important that word magic. (Listeners) can’t act until they understand you. And they won’t be able to understand you unless you explain it clearly. Seasoned copywriters swallow their pride and opt for clarity over creative expression.

Photo credit: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu

Facebook

SEE ALSO: Facebook Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

For those of you with an upcoming Facebook PM (FB PM) interview, here’s what you should expect at the interview along with tips to prepare.

We also have a Facebook PM interview class video that reviews actual FB PM questions and provides sample answers. Read on for more information.

What to Expect at the Facebook Product Manager Interview

The Facebook PM interview has standardized across three components:

Product Sense

Product sense is Facebook’s term for product design interview questions. Good Facebook PMs innovate beautiful products that solve big, messy user problems.

Example questions include:

  • How would you improve the Facebook Newsfeed?
  • How would you design Facebook Events 2.0?
  • How would you redesign Facebook Pages?

Execution

Good Facebook PMs get things done and make critical decisions. Facebook’s term for this competency is called execution. Facebook interviewers test for executive skills by understanding:

  • Fit. Is the candidate a good fit for the company? Is the candidate aligned with Facebook’s mission and values? And are the candidate’s skills and experiences aligned with Facebook?
  • Scrappy. Can the candidate get things done?
  • Decision-making. Can the candidate evaluate data and make decisions, especially when the situation is murky and the decision is far from being unanimous?
  • Focused on the big picture. Can the candidate select an appropriate product goal that factors in the needs of the user, team, and / or company?
  • Analyze, diagnose, and evaluate. Can the candidate troubleshoot a problem by analyzing the root cause and suggesting a course of action?

Example questions include:

  • We’ve outsourced a critical mobile app to a third-party developer. How do we decide when to take that development in house?
  • What are the goals for Facebook’s News Feed?
  • How would you decide between showing more ads on the Facebook News Feed vs. showing a People You May Know recommendation widget?
  • Weekly active users (WAU) for Facebook’s iPhone dropped. What happened?

Leadership + Drive

Top-notch Facebook PMs are driven leaders. Facebook interviewers test for leadership + drive by evaluating the following:

  • Is the candidate self-aware, especially of their own flaws?
  • Does the candidate get along with others? In other words, how is their EQ (emotional intelligence)?
  • Does the candidate like leading others and building teams?
  • Lastly, does the candidate get excited about technology and have the capacity to set forth a bold and inspiring vision?

Example questions include:

  • What’s a self-development area that needs improvement?
  • Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?
  • What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?
  • What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?

Ice Breakers

As with any interview, expect standard ice breaker questions during the beginning of the interview process including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your favorite project you’ve worked on recently?

What’s No Longer Covered in the Facebook PM interview

In the past, Facebook included a technical portion in the PM interview. They’ve phased that out now. For those of you who are rusty on technical concepts, you’ll be happy that you’ll no longer have to answer questions about recursion or object-oriented programming.

Keep in mind that interviewers are always free to ask whatever question they want. So while technical questions are not prescribed as part of their PM hiring process, some interviewers may choose to operate outside of those boundaries.

How to Prepare for the Facebook Product Manager Interview

To prepare for the three interview components, I would recommend the following:

Product Sense

Practice leading product design discussions using a design framework like the CIRCLES Method™.  Explore possible personas and articulate the use cases. Prioritize the use cases and then brainstorm solutions.  Most candidates fail the product design interview because they jump straight into solutions.

Facebook interviewers say that it’s not critical for candidates to wireframe their ideas. However, effective communication counts, and pictures communicate more effectively and elegantly than a bunch of words. Download a wireframing tool like Balsamiq, and get comfortable sketching UI designs on the whiteboard.

Execution

When tackling questions in the execution bucket, I’d recommend using a couple of different frameworks:

  • ROI estimation
  • AARM Method™
  • Root cause analysis
  • Behavioral interview framework
  • Rule of Three

ROI estimation

For interview questions around evaluating or comparing tradeoffs between different features or decisions, the Facebook interviewer wants to see that your decision is grounded in data. And that inevitably means evaluating the net benefit to the company. Now that Facebook is a profit-making, publicly-traded company — net benefit and even user engagement — can be measured in terms of revenues and costs.

For your different feature choices, calculate the ROI impact of your various options. You can also evaluate the options qualitatively by drawing up a pros and cons list. However, a qualitative comparison is rarely sufficient at the Facebook PM interview.

AARM Method™

AARM Method™ stands for four sets of metrics: acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization. It’s a handy metrics checklist when answering questions about appropriate goals and metrics to track as a product manager. For more details on the AARM Method™, refer to Decode and Conquer: Answers to Product Management Interviews.

Root cause analysis

When asked to identify the cause of a WAU drop in the Facebook iPhone app, brainstorm, as best (and quickly) as possible, all the potential causes. Then systematically investigate and rule out each cause to get the root issue. A fishbone diagram may help organize your thoughts, brainstorm a more complete list, and impress the interviewer with your visual communication skills.

Behavioral interview framework

When answering FB PM interview questions such as, “Tell me a time when you needed to complete a deadline, but didn’t have the resources” use a storytelling framework. My personal favorite is the DIGS Method™ featured in Decode and Conquer; the STAR method is a decent alternative.

Rule of Three

For cultural fit questions, such as Why FB? or Why PM?, I highly recommend using the Rule of Three. It worked for exceptional communicators like Steve Jobs and Thomas Jefferson. It’ll work for you too.

Leadership + Drive

To get ready for interview questions in the Leadership + Drive bucket, I’d recommend using many of the frameworks I’ve introduced previously:

Behavioral interview framework

Use STAR or the DIGS Method™ to answer questions such as “Tell me a time when you disagreed with an engineer. How did you convince him or her?”

Rule of Three

Use it to answer questions like “What’s your favorite project where you played a leadership role?”

CIRCLES Method™

Use the CIRCLES Method™ as a checklist for answering questions such as “What’s a technology trend that you’re excited about?” Key areas to emphasize: the customer problem, the technology trend or solution that will address that problem, and a thorough discussion of feasibility including technical, cost, and consumer adoption.

Weakness framework

Use this framework to answer questions about what is your biggest weakness and other personal development areas.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Product Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Photo credit: Christoph Aigner

JobInterviewDealingWithNegativeQuestions

How would you answer these questions at the job interview?

  • Did you get fired?
  • Did you not get promoted in seven years due to poor performance?

It’s easy to get tongue-tied when you’re on the receiving end of these questions. However, Dan Broden reminds us that job seekers can deal with these questions elegantly. He recommends two different types of phrases when answering a negative question.

When You Can Comfortably and Credibly Deny the Negative Question

Consider beginning your answer with these phrases:

  • No
  • Not at all
  • That’s not accurate
  • I disagree
  • Absolutely not
  • It’s quite the opposite
  • To the contrary

When You Cannot Comfortably and Credibly Deny the Negative Question

Begin your answer with these phrases instead:

  • We see it differently
  • I wouldn’t use those words
  • I wouldn’t put it that way
  • That’s not the way we see it
  • I take issue with your contention
  • That hasn’t been our area of focus

What Happens Next

After using these phrases to assertively respond to the question, bridge to a message that provides more context for your assertion.

Photo credit: Model UN

NervousBiting

I’ve been reading Lou Adler’s Hire With Your Head. Adler has a good section detailing how ten nervous traits can be interpreted negatively by the interviewer. Here’s the list of nervous traits, along with the corresponding negative interpretation.

  1. Shallow responses can be interpreted as being not very intelligent, no sense of humor, or lack of judgment.
  2. Sweaty palms can be seen as being weak, soft, or nerdy. Definitely not someone you’d want making a presentation to a customer or executive.
  3. Twitching can show that a candidate is nervous, uncomfortable with people, and possibly not a team player.
  4. Too chatty can be perceived as being dumb and superficial.
  5. Lack of confidence can appear mislabeled as passive.
  6. No eye contact can be interpreted as untrustworthy.
  7. Saying stupid things can demonstrate that one is a real jerk, a weak team player, or insensitive to others.
  8. Lack of warmth can be seen as arrogant.
  9. Superficial questions shows that a candidate has wrong priorities or no character.
  10. A dry throat, strained voice, or coughing can show that one lacks confidence, is unprepared, or doesn’t possess insight.

Photo credit: Freddie Peña

Lindsey Dal PortoLindsey Dal Porto is the technical recruiter and sourcer for BetterWorks. BetterWorks is an enterprise goals platform for driving operational excellence and providing powerful insights about how work gets done.Before BetterWorks, Lindsey worked at FitBit and Living Social. Lindsey graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Italian. I had a chance to chat with Lindsey about a unique recruiting tool she uses called the Legends List and how candidates can get on that list.

Lindsey, thanks for taking the time to be with us today. Can we start with a little background on yourself?

I’m one of many recruiters here that works for a small startup, BetterWorks. There are 35 people at the company, and I’m in charge of recruiting all of our engineers. Before that, I was at FitBit and KIXEYE, which was a gaming studio. Before that, I was an outdoor active travel trip leader. I took a lot of people on biking trips around the world. I’m from the Bay Area, and I went to school at Berkeley.

The reason I reached out to you: the Entelo blog referenced a fascinating concept called the Legends List. Can you tell us more about it?

Legends List is a list of people who I want to keep on top my network. It could be candidates that I work with in the past. It could be people that I meet at a meet-up. It could be network or industry professional. It could be people that I’m introduced too. It could be other industry professionals such as other recruiters of agencies who do something totally different than I do. So the people in my list is a way to maximize my recruitment funnel and to help me do my job as well. It contains people who are very well networked, and people who are very well vested. It includes people who I am looking for. It includes people who I can learn from and teach to. It consists of people where we can have a mutually special relationship.

Can you give us some examples?

The other day I meet a guy who has a company. We had a great conversation, and I put him down on my Legends List. He’s one of the top candidates I want to work with. Maybe down the line, he and I can connect. I’ve also got top candidates who I want to work with. Let’s say I’ve got a candidate who turned down our [job] offer but continuously sends us referrals. They are definitely on my Legends List. There are some brilliant senior engineers at KIXEYE that I am constantly reaching out to for referrals.

It sounds like you are collecting legends from a variety of different sources. What is your Legends List process like?

It is a monthly process for me. I have a calendar reminder to check my Legends List, which is an Excel document. I recalibrate it during that monthly process. For each person, I include names, emails, who they work for, etc. One of the most important things is to figure out what’s the best way to follow up, which is different for each person. I also include in my spreadsheet how I met that person.

The personal connection is important. Even the year I met them is very helpful. I think that if you take the time to follow up, even twice, you’re already going above and beyond what [other] people usually do.

During the follow-up, what kind of things are you reaching out to them with?

Let’s say I met someone who I really want to bring on our team. I think they are a fantastic engineer. They have a great background. I’m not going to hit them up on Facebook just to bring them on the site to be with our team right away. Instead, follow up with a simple “Wonderful to meet you,” “Let’s keep in touch,” or “Keep me posted to how things are going.” Or perhaps it’s “We have a company game night. We’ll love for you to come.” Even stuff like, “What is [a common acquaintance] up to?” or “How is life treating you?” helps. Making a personal connection with people is the way to go.

Your description reminds me of dating. Does that analogy apply?

That’s so funny you say that! I think it’s so similar. Taking the time, the extra 5 minutes out of your day to really tell them something meaningful. You don’t want to give them the feeling that you’re emailing 20 people an hour. Even something as simple as “Oh, I love your website, those pictures of Southeast Asia you have there were awesome” letting people know that you invested your time into them. Because ultimately, people love to be flattered, and they love to be complimented.

Who makes it to your Legends List? Do they have to be software engineers? Can they be a non-software engineer? What’s the criteria? Do you have different tiers? Are there A-list people? B-list people? C-list people?

No, they don’t have to be technical to make it to my list. Some folks – I’ve worked with in the past. Other folks – we’ve made an offer, and they’ve turned it down. I add a lot of people I’ve met at Meetups. I also like Hired.com. It is one of my favorite recruiting tools. You have pay fee, but it is people who are active in the market.

Do you share your Legends List with others?

My network is very open, but I don’t necessarily show people my list.

You don’t want to show your scratch notes.

Exactly. I love introducing people to others in ways that is a little bit less invasive. With that being said, I refer hopeful candidates that I’ve not been able to hire. Actually, I just talked to an engineer about 2 weeks ago. I thought [he] was a great candidate, so I sent him to a couple of different recruiting agencies that I’ve worked with.

How many people are on your Legends List?

85.

Do you recalibrate or take people off the Legends List?

I do review the Legends List from time to time. It makes it easier to manage, and it keeps me on my toes a little bit more.

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One of the biggest challenges for any hiring manager is identifying ambition and passion in a candidate. Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot, has identified a clever interview question to evaluate those two traits: How would you describe your ideal retirement?

Hurst classifies answers into three buckets:

The TGIF Crowd: This group sees work as a means to an end — nothing more, nothing less. They’re always looking forward to the weekend and would almost definitely quit their jobs if they won the lottery.

The Status-Seekers: These people see work as a way of gaining social status and prestige. They’re working to give themselves a positive identity and to show their peers how well they’re doing.

The Purpose-Driven Employees: These people find work meaningful in and of itself, and see their careers as a way of creating good in the world. They can’t stand the idea of not working.

Which bucket are you in?

Photo credit: Taproot Foundation

Introducing JobScan

December 4th, 2014 by lewis

When a job search tool, JobScan gets 1.1k Facebook likes, they must be doing something right. JobScan is easily one of my favorite job search tools out there. With the proliferation of applicant tracking systems like Taleo, it’s important that your resume reflects the same keywords listed in the job description. JobScan is a free tool that helps candidates do just that. I had a chance to chat with James Hu, the founder, about JobScan and he was kind enough to provide some additional context below. Try it out!

Jobscan tool aims to better equip job seekers by analyzing job descriptions and helping applicants easily identify what skills and keywords are most important to a given employer. By ranking the most important and most frequently-occurring keywords per job description, this tool can help give applicants a competitive edge in their job search efforts. Here’s a testimonial from one of our customers, fresh from my email inbox.

“Jobscan allowed me to customize my resume for a specific job well beyond what I had considered as sufficient. After using this tool, I was able to land the interest of several potential employers within a short time for several positions at various firms. I highly recommend Jobscan for everyone!”

Marcus W.  Electrical Engineer, Houston, TX

 

JobScan screenshot

JobScan screenshot