The One Interview Question You Need to Weed Out Rotten Apples

By John Warrillow | April 7, 2011 via

I’ll forgive anyone for almost anything if I get a heartfelt mea culpa — an apology with no strings attached — but, unfortunately, that’s hard to find these days. Our culture is inundated with victims who like to scapegoat:

“It wasn’t because of the steroids I was injecting — it must have been my trainer’s fault.”
“We didn’t misjudge the severity of the recession — it was those greedy Wall Street financiers who made it this bad.”
“It wasn’t because we ignored the safety warnings for years — it was a natural disaster.”
“It wasn’t that I have been stealing my country’s natural resources for years and stuffing the money into my Swiss bank account — it was Twitter that caused my people to revolt.”
“It wasn’t the third line of coke that I snorted — it was that my parents didn’t pay enough attention to me as a child.”
We’re surrounded by people passing the buck, and as hard as it is to listen to our leaders and heroes grasp for someone to blame, it is even more infuriating when an employee — someone on your payroll — plays the victim card.

You know the type. When something goes wrong, he immediately looks for something or somebody else to blame. She whines about how unreasonable the customer was. He blames his tools instead of looking in the mirror. She throws her team under the bus before she owns up to her mistake.

My bet is that you, too, dislike being around victims, in part because you’ve learned that when you’re the boss, it doesn’t matter who’s to blame; you’re left picking up the pieces regardless. Further, victims make it impossible for you to have a conversation about what they might do differently next time — meaning the same costly mistakes will just keeping happening on a repeat cycle.

In a business, you need people who are going to own up to mistakes, learn from them, and get on with their jobs. The last thing you need is Teflon Terry spending half his time covering up his mistakes and turning your employees against each other.

I’m so severely allergic to victims that I have started to use a simple, one-question test when hiring. If applicants fail the test, I don’t hire them, no matter how technically qualified they are for the job. I say: “Tell me about the last time you made a mistake.”

There are a number of possible responses to this question. Some are acceptable; others signal “victim.” Here’s what to watch out for:

The victim: Certifiable victims will be paralyzed by the question. They have been so programmed to deflect blame to others for their screw-ups that their system will overload as they search for a way to answer. They’ll fidget in their chair, request that you re-ask the question, and finally “admit” that they can’t actually remember the last time they made a mistake.

The victim-in-disguise: Some people will tell you about a mistake they made but then start to justify their actions. For example, they may say something like “Last Tuesday I shipped a customer’s order to the wrong address… I mean, I guess it was my mistake, but the guy in sales had scribbled the customer name so illegibly that it was hard to read his writing.”

Exercise caution before hiring a person who gives you a half-answer. Once on your payroll, this person will be quietly sizing up the most vulnerable people on your team to blame as easy ways to deflect criticism. If you get a half-answer from a candidate but you’re still not sure he or she has a full-blown case of victimitus, you can qualify the question further by stopping the interviewee mid sentence and saying, “I’m not looking for an example that had mitigating circumstances. I want you to tell me about a time when you made a mistake where you were 100 percent in the wrong.”

If the person still thrashes around, justifying his or her response, run, don’t walk, away from this person.

The safe responder: Some people will offer a safe answer, a benign mistake made in their personal life. For example, you might have someone answer with something like, “Yesterday, I was baking a cake at home, and I added a tablespoon of salt when the recipe called for teaspoon — the cake came out a disaster.”

They are admitting a mistake, taking full ownership and not blaming others, which is good. However, they lose a couple of points in my book for not reaching for a work-related example. Nevertheless, they answered the question honestly and would pass my test.

The leader: I love it when someone comes up with a work-related example and describes the situation, the decision made, and the reason it was a mistake in hindsight. They accept 100 percent accountability and do not reach for excuses or anyone else to blame.

I almost always hire these people. To me, they are exhibiting the essence of leadership.

Any candidate can be taught technical skills, but one who comes with a victim mentality in tow just isn’t worth the trouble.

What questions do you ask to weed out the bad apples?

Rents’ rising tide could lift house prices’ ships

Great artice from Builder…

The apartment folks and the for-sale “single family” folks mostly think of themselves as fierce competitors for the same universe of households. Scratch that. The Great Deleveraging of U.S. households, businesses, local governments, and eventually the Federal government is a game-changer. In fact, households, including the fact that they’ve not been forming at their hisorical pace, have been in a state of reaction to pain. Now, they’re beginning to regroup–rental vacancies are dramatically down. This means empty places to live are getting absorbed. Rents are going up. As excess supply gets tight, house prices will take their turn at stabilizing and eventually going back up. Calculated Risk has comment and pictures, and a Tom Lawler forecast bearing this out.

To read more click here:

Should you hire an overqualified candidate?

Excellent article from the Harvard Business Review

12:12 PM Thursday March 3, 2011
by Amy Gallo | Comments ( 58)

As politicians and economists puzzle over America’s jobless recovery, managers who have started to hire again face another problem: how to handle all the overqualified candidates coming through their doors. The prevailing wisdom is to avoid such applicants. But the unprecedented availability of top talent created by this recession and new research on the success of these candidates may be changing that.

What the Experts Say
Recruiters have traditionally hesitated to place overqualified candidates because of several presumed risks, says Berrin Erdogan, a professor of management at Portland State University and the lead author of a recent study on the subject. “The assumption is that the person will be bored and not motivated, so they will underperform or leave.” However, her research shows that these risks may be more perceived than real. In fact, sales associates in her study who were thought to be overqualified actually performed better. And rarely do people move on simply because they feel they’re too talented for the job. “People don’t stay or leave a company because of their skills. They stay or leave because of working conditions” she says.

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at Egon Zehnder International and the author of Great People Decisions and “The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad,” agrees that there are more benefits to hiring an overqualified employee than there are risks.”When making hiring decisions, visionary leaders don’t just focus on the current needs, but on the future,” he says.

Here are several things to consider next time you are looking at a stack of overly impressive resumes.

Overqualified or over-experienced?
Don’t assume someone is overqualified based on a quick screen of their credentials. “There is a lot of misunderstanding over what overqualified is,” says Ergodan. “We define it as meeting and exceeding the skill requirements of the job. So having a lot of education doesn’t over-qualify you.” Nor does experience, if the person’s prior positions are not directly related to the job in question. Get to know the candidate before you decide to pass. There may be reasons why he is interested in this specific position. He may want to shift industries, move to a new location, or achieve greater work/life balance. And there may be ways that you can make use of his “extra” experience.

Think bigger than the job in question
When considering a candidate who is, in fact, overqualified for the job opening, ask yourself if there is room to expand the role and make use of the skills he brings. “While the old paradigm for hiring was to determine that a job was vacant and look for the right candidate, in today’s world one should also consider the talent opportunities at hand, and try to find the jobs that may be created or open in the near future for them, in the larger organization,” says Fernández-Aráoz.

“Hiring overqualified candidates can help you achieve much higher productivity, grow, and achieve opportunities that you may not even be thinking about pursuing right now.” There are other less obvious benefits too: these employees can mentor others, challenge peers to exceed current expectations, and bring in areas of expertise that are not represented at the company.

Bring them on carefully
“Effective onboarding is essential, especially for the overqualified,” says Erdogan. “Unmet expectations are one of the more common reasons for turnover,” so you should be clear with yourself, the new hire, and the rest of the organization about what the job entails, as well as what it could become. Adds Fernández-Aráoz: “You need a clear and explicit plan for the future, whether you are thinking of a promotion, a lateral move, or a new project altogether. You need to think and discuss beyond the initial stage where he or she may be temporarily underutilized.”

Both he and Erdogan caution that recruiters need to manage an additional risk: a boss who feels threatened. “Managers often worry, ‘Can I supervise the person effectively?'” says Erdogan. A superior with less experience than the new hire might be concerned that the person will take her job, make her look bad, or be too challenging to manage. This is not reason enough to say no. Instead, focus on the future for that candidate. In cases where the boss is insecure, “you should not bring that new hire in without a plan to promote him in the near term,” says Fernández-Aráoz.

Pay what they are worth
Although it’s tempting in a bad job market to buy top talent on the cheap, Fernández-Aráoz disapproves of the strategy. “While my experience shows that you can get candidates for up to 25% less in the middle of a big recession, I would not recommend underpaying an overqualified candidate,” he says. “We all have the expectation to be rewarded in a way which is reasonably proportional to our effort and contribution, and fair.” And if the candidate is as strong as you think, you are likely competing with other employers for her. If you can’t afford her, Fernández-Aráoz says it’s better to pass than to underpay. If she wants the job anyway, simply have a frank conversation about her future prospects in terms of promotion and compensation so that she fully understands what she’s getting into.

Principles to Remember


Think broadly about your organization and its overall talent needs now and in the future
Consider how you could accommodate a promising candidate’s skill set by shaping the job
Onboard carefully and be clear about your plans for the new employee


Narrowly define the hiring process as finding one person for one role
Confuse education and experience with skills; a candidate with lots of experience still may not have the capabilities to do the job
Try to pay an overqualified candidate less than he’s worth

Case Study: The hiring risk pays off
In 2009 Lara Galinsky, senior vice president at Echoing Green, needed to hire a finance director for the young, but growing, global non-profit. She thought the ideal applicant would be someone relatively young but with a few years of non-profit finance experience. She was not expecting a candidate like John Walker.

John had most recently worked for a venture capital fund that was forced to lay people off because of the economy. Prior to that, he had spent over ten years in the defense industry in a variety of senior design and management roles. “I didn’t have a background in social enterprise or non-profit. I didn’t know anything about 501(c)(3)s,” he says. But he did have deep experience in running, buying, and selling companies.

This was not an unusual situation for Echoing Green. “We get a lot of resumes from people who want to do a sector switch,” Lara explains. They have a lot of work experience but not necessarily a lot of experience in the sector.” She had previously ruled out candidates who were overqualified for certain positions or who didn’t bring enough relevant experience.

But John had been referred by a friend of the organization, and since Echoing Green straddles the world of for-profit business and non-profit organizations, she thought his experience might be applicable.

Lara and her team talk about the risks and the opportunities of hiring each candidate. They knew that there were risks with John because he had never worked in the sector. But they saw many upsides too. “We didn’t have anyone on staff with private equity experience and yet we work in that space. We knew we could use a for-profit lens,” explains Lara.

In the end, Lara thought the benefits outweighed the risks. They had been impressed with John’s willingness to learn what he didn’t know. “Hunger and potential are the most important factors we look for in candidates,” she explains. “We hire for talent, not necessarily for acumen. I look for people who can grow, mesh, and evolve.”

John came on board in early 2009. Lara encouraged and incented him to network with finance directors from other organizations, so that he could gain insight from experts in the field. The learning curve was steep but he was able to come up to speed quickly and is now thriving in the position. As Echoing Green moves into impact investing they have also been able to tap directly into his previous VC experience. While John wasn’t the person Lara initially envisioned hiring, she hadn’t imagined what someone like him could do in the position. “We have evolved with him – and used his skills in ways we didn’t anticipate.”

More on hiring: Too often, managers look to hire clones of themselves. Sharon Jordan-Evans explains in this video taken from the Hiring Module of Harvard ManageMentor how breaking free from that impulse can improve performance and retention rates.

Thank you to our 1000th LinkedIn Group Member!

“Joseph Chris Partners Connection”, our Company Group on Linked In just reached it’s 1000th member today!  If you are in the real estate, development and construction industries and you are on LinkedIn, be sure to join “Joseph Chris Partners Connection” group to read the latest industry news, forecasts, market intelligence, and to learn about new job opportunities!

See you there!

Social media big topic at Fusion conference

For executives looking to integrate rapidly evolving social media technology into their day-to-day work, this year’s Fusion conference, which opened today in Hollywood, Calif., is probably the place to be. The conference kicked off this morning with a “Fusion Academy” presentation titled “Using Social Media to Lease your Property.” It is one thing to use social media in your social life, but it is becoming an indispensable tool for leasing, management and marketing executives, noted the presenters of the session, Jen Augustyn, principal and director of New Media for The Dealey Group, a marketing and design company based in Dallas, and Corbett Guest, CEO of Imaginuity Interactive, a Dallas marketing agency.

Social media will be the subject of a presentation tomorrow too, when IDC Retail Insights, a Framingham, Mass.–based marketing and consultation firm, explains what role mobile phone technology and social media played in the 2010 holiday shopping season and — more to the point — how it will influence retail this coming Christmas. Shoppers using mobile phone and social media technology accounted for 28 percent — or $127 billion — of the $447 billion consumers spent last Christmas, said Greg Girard, IDC’s program director for merchandise strategies.

On Thursday, delegates will hear how social media and online marketing are influencing the way people shop, dine and socialize, in a discussion panel that includes Cherilyn Megill, SCMD, vice president, marketing, at Inland Western Retail Real Estate Trust, and a variety of other marketing executives.

The conference wraps up Thursday with the presentation of the annual Maxi Awards to honor innovative shopping center marketing programs.

Compiled by the staff of Shopping Centers Today. © March 29, 2011 International Council of Shopping Centers.

The Billion Dollar Taylor Wimpey Deal—Behind the Headlines

Taylor Morrison’s president says the deal won’t change the company’s strategy or operational model, at least in the near term.
By:John McManus

For the three diversified, global financial interests who teamed together officially last night to ante up 1.04 times book value for Taylor Wimpey PLC’s North American operations, the clock sets at zero hour at the end of May on just under a $1 billion bet.

That’s when the $955 million purchase of Taylor Morrison’s U.S. operations and Monarch Homes’ Canadian operations by TPG Capital, Oaktree Capital Management, and JH Investments is set to close.

Sheryl Palmer, Taylor Morrison president and CEO, tells Big Builder she expects near term that it’s “business as usual” and that the deal affirms her team’s management strategy, its low-overhead structure, its hybrid merchant builder-land developer operational model, and above all, its land position in challenged, but high-potential Sun Belt markets.

The new owners, for whom the transaction—facilitated by J.P.Morgan as financial advisor to Taylor Wimpey PLC—gives them a buy-low, sell-higher platform, will decide all of that after they get time on the board of the new entity, which will retain the current brand names Taylor Morrison in the United States and Monarch Homes in Canada.

It’s too soon to tell whether they’ll look at the next stretch of months as a time to offer a vote of confidence to current senior management or bring in fresh blood; to expand capital resources for investment, or stay away from adding debt while the operation’s U.S. divisions tread close to negative cash flow as it is.

Their goal, as financial players, is to make money, and they’ll get a bit of a tailwind on that objective right out of the shoot since Monarch Homes, one of the Top 5 home builders in Ontario, Canada, is making money, and Taylor Morrison is said to be about break-even.

Beyond the present moment, as Canada’s hot home building cycle is widely expected to lose steam and the U.S. market is equally widely expected to make at best an anemic go at gaining steam, the three financial partners have to figure that their entry point is just about as good as they’re going to get.

In the macro housing context, a billion dollar mergers and acquisitions transaction affirms that cyclical forces of housing will sooner or later reassert themselves despite a number of profound housing finance policy-related issues hovering in the atmosphere that fundamentally could change the demand universe over the next five years.

For now, though, TPG, Oaktree, and JH Investments (which is parent to a Western Canada-based real estate and home building operator called IntraCorp) wanted into the possibility that one-time book value could easily ride cyclical traction to one-and-a-half or two times book value within the next two or three years.

While both strategic (home builder operators) and financial (private equity and hedge fund) players indicated a strong interest in the Taylor Wimpey North American assets, financial players prevailed–i.e., bid higher at the end of the day–because their return timelines allow for a bit more play at the outset than the crop of today’s land-prudent public home builder operators can afford to be.

“Non-strategics are going to pay more for this now because they want a platform,” commented an executive familiar with such transactions. Strategics–i.e., home building companies who are already up to their eyeballs in land “opportunities” and are wringing their hands over when and how what is obviously pent-up demand will begin to manifest itself–were less willing to value the 14,000-lot asset package at about $70,000 per lot.

For private equity and hedge fund players, there’s real money in being able to front a big play for an even bigger return that could come relatively quick if the cycle behaves as industry veterans believe it should.

Do TPG, Oaktree, and JH have an exit timeline? According to an executive who’s qualified to give such a characterization, the answer is, “Yes, but …”

In fact, the answer is, “It could be five years or it could be five minutes, it’s just a matter of how fast they make their money.”

John McManus is editorial director of Big Builder.

Post Formats is a theme feature introduced with Version 3.1. Post Formats can be used by a theme to customize its presentation of a post.

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Joseph Chris Personnel Services Inc Receives 2010 Best of Business Award


Small Business Commerce Association’s Award Honors the Achievement

SAN FRANCISCO, January 16, 2010, Joseph Chris Personnel Services Inc has been selected for the 2010 Best of Business Award in the Management consulting services category by the Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA)

The Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA) is pleased to announce that Joseph Chris Personnel Svcs Inc has been selected for the 2010 Best of Business Award in the Management consulting services category.

The SBCA 2010 Award Program recognizes the top 5% of small businesses throughout the country. Using statistical research and consumer feedback, the SBCA identifies companies that we believe have demonstrated what makes small businesses a vital part of the American economy. The selection committee chooses the award winners from nominees based off statistical research and also information taken from monthly surveys administered by the SBCA, a review of consumer rankings, and other consumer reports. Award winners are a valuable asset to their community and exemplify what makes small businesses great.

About Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA)
Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA) is a San Francisco based organization. The SBCA is a private sector entity that aims to provide tactical guidance with many day to day issues that small business owners face. In addition to our main goal of providing a central repository of small business operational advice; we use consumer feedback to identify companies that exemplify what makes small business a vital part of the American economy.

How to: Pasta

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Press Release: Joseph Chris Partners and MPKA form Alliance

Joseph Chris Partners is excited to announce that we have formed an alliance in our real estate division with MPKA. This partnership will allow us to fully service the residential, development and construction industries. MPKA owners include: Bill Albers, David McCain and Joe Walsh.

Bill Albers was formerly an Executive Vice President for Centex Homes where he also served as Corporate CFO. Most recently, Bill was a Partner with IHP Capital Partners. David McCain previously led Lennar Financial Services as CEO and was formerly General Counsel and Secretary for Lennar Corporation. Joe Walsh, led one of the most geographically diverse and profitable regions at US Home and Lennar Corporation as a Regional President.

By partnering with MPKA, Joseph Chris Partners now offers expanded services which include capital sourcing as well as debt restructuring which include: renegotiating the terms of existing debt and personal guarantees. MPKA has successfully restructured more than $1.5 billion of homebuilder and developer debt over the last 24 months. Further, MPKA provides strategic advice, including board advisory services and services related to Mergers and Acquisitions, Land and Project Acquisition & Disposition, and Model Sale Leaseback Programs.

In addition, MPKA provides Operational Consulting based upon your Company’s strengths and challenges.
No matter your needs, MPKA’s team of experienced homebuilders will analyze your operations, recommend practical solutions for improvement, and work with you and your management team on implementation.

Together, Joseph Chris Partners’ 33 years of driving business connections by recruiting and consulting in the Real Estate, Development and Construction industry in combination with MPKA’s expertise and services, look forward to working with you, by collaborating, creating, and developing meaningful and rewarding partnerships.

For inquiries about MPKA and their services, please call Claire Spence, Executive Partner, at 281.359.2127.

Veronica Ramirez, CEO
Joseph Chris Partners