Infographic: The Real Cost of a Bad Hire

Infographic: The Real Cost of a Bad Hire

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Dear Failure, Happy Teacher’s Day!

Why Failure Is Good for Success

The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, to fight with everything you’ve got, to be willing to leave everything out there on the battlefield—without knowing, until that do-or-die moment, if your heroic effort will be enough.

Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Unlike Edison, many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity. When we do make missteps, we gloss over them, selectively editing out the miscalculations or mistakes in our life’s résumé.

“Failure is not an option,” NASA flight controller Jerry C. Bostick reportedly stated during the mission to bring the damaged Apollo 13 back to Earth, and that phrase has been etched into the collective memory ever since.

To many in our success-driven society, failure isn’t just considered a non-option—it’s deemed a deficiency, says Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. “Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list,” Schulz says. “It is our meta-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.”

Life’s Greatest Teacher

When we take a closer look at the great thinkers throughout history, a willingness to take on failure isn’t a new or extraordinary thought at all. From the likes of Augustine, Darwin and Freud to the business mavericks and sports legends of today, failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success.

“Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there,” says Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. “Instead they choose to play it safe, to fly below the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they generally never attempt anything great at which they could possibly fail (or succeed).”

However, in today’s post-recession economy, some employers are no longer shying away from failure—they’re embracing it. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing that those who have been in the trenches, survived battle and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance. They’re veterans of failure.

The prevailing school of thought in progressive companies—such as Intuit, General Electric, Corning and Virgin Atlantic—is that great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common byproduct. Executives of such organizations don’t mourn their mistakes but instead parlay them into future gains.

“The quickest road to success is to possess an attitude toward failure of ‘no fear,’ ” says Heath. “To do their work well, to be successful and to keep their companies competitive, leaders and workers on the front lines need to stick their necks out a mile every day. They have to deliver risky, edgy, breakthrough ideas, plans, presentations, advice, technology, products, leadership, bills and more. And they have to deliver all this fearlessly—without any fear whatsoever of failure, rejection or punishment.”

Reaching Your Potential

The same holds true for personal quests, whether in overcoming some specific challenge or reaching your full potential in all aspects of life. To achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you have to push yourself.

When we think of people with this mindset, we imagine the daredevils, the pioneers, the inventors, the explorers: They embrace failure as a necessary step to unprecedented success.

But you don’t have to walk a tightrope, climb Mount Everest or cure polio to employ this mindset in your own life. When the rewards of success are great, embracing possible failure is key to taking on a variety of challenges, whether you’re reinventing yourself by starting a new business or allowing yourself to trust another person to build a deeper relationship.

“To achieve any worthy goal, you must take risks,” says writer and speaker John C. Maxwell. In his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, he points to the example of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who set several records and achieved many firsts in her lifetime, including being the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Although her final flight proved fateful, Maxwell believes she knew the risk—and that the potential reward was worth it. “[Earhart’s] advice when it came to risk was simple and direct: ‘Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.’ ”

Of course, the risks you take should be calculated; you shouldn’t fly blindly into the night and simply hope for the best. Achieving the goal or at least waging a heroic effort requires preparation, practice and some awareness of your skills and talents.

Easing Into a Fearless Mindset

“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone,” Heath says. Although you might fail incredibly, you might succeed incredibly—and that’s why incredible risk and courage are requisite. Either way, you’ll learn more than ever about your strengths, talents and resolve, and you’ll strengthen your will for the next challenge.

If this sounds like dangerous territory, it can be. But there are ways to ease into this fearless mindset. The first is to consciously maintain a positive attitude so that, no matter what you encounter, you’ll be able to see the lessons of the experience and continue to push forward.

“It’s true that not everyone is positive by nature,” says Maxwell, who cites his father as someone who would describe himself as a negative person by nature. “Here’s how my dad changed his attitude. First he made a choice: He continually chooses to have a positive attitude. Second, he’s continually reading and listening to materials that bolster that attitude. For example, he’s read The Power of Positive Thinking many times. I didn’t get it at first, so once I asked him why. His response: ‘Son, I need to keep filling the tank so I can stay positive.’ ”

Heath recommends studying the failures and subsequent reactions of successful people and, within a business context, repeating such histories for others. “Reward them and applaud their efforts in front of the entire organization so everyone understands it is OK to fail. So employees say to themselves, ‘I see that Bill, the vice president of widgets, who the president adores, failed, and he is not only back at work, but he is driving a hot new sports car. I can fail and come to work the next day. Bill is proof of it.’ ”

Finally, Heath stays motivated by the thought that, “if I become complacent and don’t take risks, someone will notice what I am doing and improve upon my efforts over time, and put me out of work. You’ve got to keep finding better ways to run your life, or someone will take what you’ve accomplished, improve upon it, and be very pleased with the results. Keep moving forward or die.”

Credits: This article appears in SUCCESS magazine and can be viewed on their website here ]

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Startup Hiring – Mistakes You Might Tend To make

For startups, hiring remains a perennial problem area. If you are an entrepreneur and are looking to hire for your startup, there are some mistakes which you need to avoid. The Power of Ideas website from Economic Times has listed the top 10 mistakes in startup hiring. Reproducing the list below:

  1. Hiring too many employees because of miscalculated revenues & underestimated cost of hiring. Rather start with just one or two and then add as your needs increase.
  2. Taking on board someone just because you known them —family, friends, wife. They’d expect different treatment
  3. Hiring a jack-of-all-trades instead of specialists for a particular job. Startups need specialists in specific roles
  4. Not having clarity on what you are hiring for. Startups should clearly define roles for new hires.
  5. Not knowing if you are looking for a follower or a leader. Every business needs a mix of both
  6. Giving someone equity just because you cannot pay a hefty salary. Then you get a partner not an employee
  7. Not taking reference checks seriously. Do not just go by the candidate’s resume
  8. Hiring just to help someone out.
  9. Hiring to create bench strength. Big companies can afford that. You need to create a high performance team
  10. Emphasizing too much on cost per hire rather than on quality of hire.

If you have any more to add to this list, please share in the comments.

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The Whys and Hows of Student Entrepreneurship

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak with a few aspiring entrepreneurs from my alma mater in Mumbai. The event was on the lines of Startup Weekend and was organised by a bunch of bright students from VJTI, Mumbai. Here’s their website. Now, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of other entrepreneurs. This occasion, however, was special because it combined three things which hold an important place in my heart – entrepreneurship, starting early and VESIT.

Since what I had to say that day is what I feel strongly about, I decided to sum up the key points here. It would be interesting to know your views about this, so feel free to comment.

There are a few questions that keep popping up when I discuss startups and entrepreneurship with students. There are some ‘Whys’ and some ‘Hows’. Today, I will try to put forth my answers to these questions.

The WHYs

Why Entrepreneurship?
On two different levels, entrepreneurship is extremely important. On a macro level, entrepreneurs are the growth engines of a nation’s economy. Without enterprising businessmen, who dared to dream, huge industries like construction and shipping might not have been in existence. And without today’s startups, industries of the new economy would not be taking shape as you read this.
On a personal level, it has the potential to generate immense wealth for you and enable you to have a huge impact on the ecosystem – in terms of taxes, infrastructure and jobs. A huge payoff and creating lasting wealth in the long term is what every entrepreneur has the chance of achieving.

Why Me?
It has to be you – because you are brilliantly positioned to make a mark in the world of startups. You belong to a fabulous educational institution with teachers who can be good mentors, peers who can be amazing sounding boards and alumni who can be your stepping stones as you venture out. You have access to resources that others would give an arm and a leg for. You are also part of the age bracket where most of today’s early adopters and tommorrow’s highest spenders come from. You think and live like them and are thus best placed to design products and services that would appeal to them. In short, you have a crucial connect with the market.

Why Now?
As students, your brain is currently in a phase of discovery and innovation. Devoid of conditioning by a job routine, you can think up creative solutions to problems and needs. With time to spare after classes are over and a ready pool of talent and test customers, you can launch and iterate your startup quickly. And is there a downside? What if your startup fails? I can assure you that having the experience of launching and running your own startup will be an amazing addition to your resume.

Why Not?
There are some reasons why you should NOT pursue entrepreneurship. Do not launch a startup because it is ‘cool’ to do so. Do not do it because your friends are doing it and do not do it because you think you can do a better job of running a company than your next-door neighbour. The main reasons you should ‘do a startup’ is if you have the passion, ambition and drive to pursue a dream.

The HOWs

I have listed 6 steps that form the crux of how a startup should be launched and run. These are by no means the only steps involved nor does it mean that each startup has to pass through each step. Consider it a short checklist for your entrepreneurial journey.

  1. Ideate – An idea can be an epiphany or may be born out of a personal need or brainstorming. Think through your idea and be very clear about each aspect of it.
  2. Plan – Once your idea is in place, create a business plan. Your B-plan can be an elaborate 50-page document or a simple two-pager listing your significant objectives, strategies and milestones. The plan will help keep you focussed.
  3. Validate – You need to validate your idea and your plan. Do some market research through personal conversations and surveys; carry out test runs on small groups of users. Solicit feedback and really listen to what they have to say.
  4. Execute – Don’t get stuck in a vicious cycle of reading and planning. You need to get out and test the waters. Unless you execute and bring your idea to life, you will never know whether it will work or fail.
  5. Evaluate – Look at your plan periodically and check if your startup is meeting expectations. This will tell you if you are losing the way and need to re-focus your energies.
  6. Refine or Pivot – If your evaluation tells you that you are falling behind on your milestones, you have to work smarter and harder to make up for it. If, however, it keeps happening frequently, it might be time for your team to pivot to an idea more suited to you.

So, if you are a student who want to start up but is unsure, take a deep breath and go out and startup.


The author is Director, Virtual Ladder HR Solutions Pvt. Ltd. and Founder – Jobs In A Jiffy. Views expressed are personal.

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Recruiters – A Better, Faster Interview

Dear Recruiter,

Do you go into an interview with a plan in your mind? Or do you just decide to wing it most of the times? If you are like most recruiters, you will have taken both approaches at some point of time. Think back to those occasions and try to recollect which interview went better and got you more insight in a shorter time!

Chances are very high that you will remember the planned interviews having been shorter and better. It has been observed that preparing for an interview for as little as 15 minutes can cut the interview duration by up to 60 minutes. So, if you want a more meaningful evaluation of an employee in a shorter interview, here are a few things you can do:-

  1. Split your job requirements into “Must-have” skills and “Good-to-have” skills. Go through the candidate’s resume and put a tick against all the tangible skills she has listed on her resume.
  2. Note down all the information that you need to collect to make a decision on whether to hire the candidate or not. This includes information about work skills, soft skills, location preferences, flexibility and salary requirements.
  3. Create the questions which will help you elicit this information. Remember, the key to getting more accurate information is to get the candidate to express his thoughts rather than give a simple Yes-No answer. Follow up the candidate’s answer with more questions if required to get specifics.
    Some examples of such open-ended questions are:-
    a. Please describe your relationship with your immediate boss
    Insight: Candidate’s initiative and need for supervision
    b. Please tell us about a hectic period of your job
    Insight: Candidate’s ability to multitask and handle stress

There is also a strong case for going beyond the resume to seek out the facets of the candidate’s personality which determine suitability for the job. This is especially true in the case of startups. That will be the subject of our next post on this blog.

If you have any more tips to make the interview shorter yet better, please comment and share with us.

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How Human Resources Will Rely More on Technology Now

The HR profession has seen a dramatic shift over the past few years. From the days of personnel management, HR has now become a significant ‘Board’ function. HR professionals are today looked upon to provide strategic business partnership and play key roles in developing better business leaders and shaping world-class organisations.

Here are five key trends prevailing in the human resource space today.

1. The changing face of HR talent

Gone are the days when HR was considered a ‘second option’ function vs marketing and finance. We now see some of the sharpest brains opting for a career in human resource management given the infinite opportunities to learn and excel.

The need for qualified HR professionals who are technology savvy and have sharp business acumen is on the rise. The tremendous insight and expertise that professionals with such backgrounds bring adds significant value to organisations.

There is however, a dearth of such professionals and institutions need to scale up to meet the shortfall of such qualified talent with solid HR related education too.

2. Increased use of technology

There is an increasing realisation that investing in better technology can help make HR more efficient and impactful. The focus of HR systems is evolving rapidly from mere employee databases to higher order human capital analytics.

From competency maps to career frameworks, training hours to employee engagement scores, HR systems today are expected to record thousands of bits of data and provide leading indicators of impact to business.

3. Leveraging social media

People management succeeds where there is free interaction and exchange of information and ideas. When social media is all the rage among the Gen-Y population, even the knowledge industry cannot be immune to its influence.

In addition to external social media like Facebook and Twitter, internal social media is also evolving.

Meetings will soon become passe as discussions can be held and decisions taken in online forums. In this age, social media can also be a great tool for HR professionals especially the area of talent acquisition for reaching out, connecting with and attracting great talent.

4. HR as a business partner

The HR business partner role will get more and more polished to be very specialised (which is contrary to the ‘generalist’ concept). She/he will be expected to very close to the business and it’s challenges and then provides solutions which will directly touch the business goals.

The competition from people from the business side of the house, interested in an HR career will increase.

5. Outsourced centers of excellence

As organisations evolve and increase focus on their core line of business, traditional centers of excellence functions like organisation development, learning and rewards are most likely to see increased outsourcing and external partnerships.

HR professionals wanting to specialise may find themselves opting for careers in HR consulting organisations rather than within the business organisations.

Author: Niketh Sundar – Head, Global HR, UST Global

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Are you cut out for a startup job?

Working for a startup is more than just a job – it is a way of life.

Being an employee in a startup is not everybody’s cup of tea. Startups need employees of a particular mindset. Though it might be wrong to generalize and knowing that each startup job will have some unique requirements, I can at least list down some characteristics which are common to successful startup employees.

  1. Have No Fear
    A startup employee should be brave even before she joins a startup. It takes some amount of courage to forego a job at a more established company with a higher fixed salary and more security. Once she has started working in a startup, the same fearlessness has to be carried forward in all aspects. She should not be afraid to try new techniques and implement solutions at the risk of failing. Fear of failure is a sure recipe for a mediocre career in a startup.
  2. Take Initiative
    There will be no hand-holding in a startup. Somebody from the team will show the employee around once – but only once. She might be told what needs to be done, but no one will tell her how to do it. They assume that she either knows how to do it or will figure it out. She has to take the initiative to find out a way to get things done. She will also be appreciated for voicing her opinion and coming out with ideas to help the startup.
  3. Have The Drive
    Most startups will have impossible deadlines – the startup employee has to have enough passion and commitment to burn the mid-night oil, if required, in order to achieve the impossible. Doing this without complaints and maybe even enjoying it can be a bonus.
  4. No I in Team
    If the startup employee cannot gel with the rest of the (typically small) team, she will not find the environment very conducive to doing productive work. In a small team, even a single person who does not mesh with the rest is enough to cause an imbalance. So, she should ideally be friendly and have a personality that is easy to get along with.
  5. Be Perseverant
    A startup tends to do a lot of things wrong before getting it right. She should have the perseverance to stick to the cause, no matter what.

There are more characteristics that employees working in a startup should have, but these are the absolute essentials according to me. If you have more to share, feel free to comment.

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