Let the games begin – a guide to March Madness and work

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I’ve written several times about the phenomena known as “March Madness” (most recently in 2011).  This is the annual event marking the start of four consecutive days of college basketball playoffs beginning mid-morning and running until the wee hours of the night, with games going on all across the country.  As a result of this Super Bowl of college basketball, worker productivity takes a huge hit to the tune of over $130 million each year as workers contemplate brackets, argue about whether the Duke or Florida teams are real this year, or even sneak an extended peak at the games themselves on TV .  Some companies have thrown in the towel and will even wheel TV’s into work areas to try to get something achieved during these games.

In my prior blog, I suggested that employers embrace the concept, and for those wanting to run a pool, they should  follow a couple of simple guidelines:

1.  Make it fully optional, and don’t have anyone forced (shamed) into playing. With the office pool as a required or even “recommended” activity, you send the wrong signal to those employees who really have no interest in being involved.  It’s suppose to be a fun thing, not like those typical school fund raising activities we all seemed to get roped into even though I really don’t like popcorn or need more Christmas cards.

2.  Keep it small. For companies with multi-state operations, I wouldn’t let it get beyond the local, geographic office. This is not the time to become an entrepreneurial and begin to rival Las Vegas’ sports books by expanding the office pool to hundreds of locations.

3.  Keep it low $. The betting stakes should be low. Make March Madness a special, fun event, not something someone is looking to retire off of if they win.  A couple of dollars is one thing.  When you start getting to $20, $50, or even more per submission, things start to get way too serious which makes fertile ground for someone to get disgruntled.

4.  Don’t make a profit. Distribute all the money from the pool to the winners. The person running it should not take a cut or profit from anything that was spent on March Madness. This will ensure that the pool can only be classified as “social gambling,” which is technically legal in more states.

5.  Avoid using the Internet. The Web just opens up more chances of running into problems of all sorts of laws around online betting.


Today’s HR Resources has a “March Madness: Everything HR needs to know” story that is a very good outline for employers, HR, and managers.  Of note in the article is that you shouldn’t expect the police to come charging through the door if someone in the company is running a $10 voluntary office pool.  They have more important things to worry about these days.

Throw in the fact that it also spring break week in a lot of areas and I think that productivity impact is being understated.

So let the games begin.  And employers — relax a little.  It will all be over after a couple of days


The most unusual interview questions you may need to answer

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You may be familiar with Glassdoor, the jobs and career website, which recently unveiled its Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2013. As a recruiter, I always like to toss one or two offbeat questions into an interview just to see what the candidates reaction is – I know something like that is going to happen when they are with one of our customers, so better to find out now if that’s an issue.  Have you had to face any of these:

  1. “If you were to get rid of one      state in the U.S., which would it be and why?” – Asked at Forrester Research of a Research Associate candidate.
  2. “How many cows are in Canada?” –  sked at Google of a Local Data Quality Evaluator candidate.
  3. “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?” – Asked at JetBlue of a Pricing/Revenue Management Analyst candidate.
  4. “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” – Asked at Clark Construction Group of an Office Engineer candidate.
  5. “What songs best describe your work ethic?” – Asked at Dell of a Consumer Sales  candidate.
  6. “Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?” – Asked at Amazon of a Product Development candidate.
  7. “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?” – Asked at Gallup of an Associate Analyst candidate.
  8. “How would you rate your  memory?” – Asked at Marriott of a Front Desk Associate candidate.
  9. “Name 3 previous Nobel Prize Winners.” – Asked at BenefitsCONNECT of an Office Manager candidate.
  10. “Can you say: ’Peter Pepper  Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?” – Asked at MasterCard of a Call Center candidate.
  11. “If we came to your house for  dinner, what would you prepare for us?” – Asked at Trader Joe’s of a Crew candidate.
  12. “How would people communicate in a perfect world?” – Asked at Novell of a Software Engineer candidate.
  13. “How do you make a tuna  sandwich?” – Asked at Astron Consulting of an Office Manager candidate.
  14. “My wife and I are going on  vacation, where would you recommend?” – Asked at PricewaterhouseCoopers of an Advisory Associate candidate.
  15. “You are a head chef at a restaurant and your team has been selected to be on Iron Chef. How do you prepare      your team for the competition and how do you leverage the competition for your restaurant?” – Asked at Accenture of a Business Analyst candidate.
  16. “Estimate how many windows are in New York.” – Asked at Bain & Company of an Associate Consultant candidate.
  17. “What’s your favorite song?  Perform it for us now.” – Asked at LivingSocial of an Adventures City  Manager candidate.
  18. “Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when time is 11:50.” – Asked at Bank of America of a Software Developer candidate.
  19. “Have you ever stolen a pen from  work?” – Asked at Jiffy Software of a Software Architect candidate.
  20. “Pick  two celebrities to be your parents.” – Asked at Urban Outfitters of a Sales Associate candidate.
  21. “What kitchen utensil would you be?” – Asked at Bandwidth.com of a Marketer candidate.
  22. “If you had turned your cell      phone to silent, and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent,  what would you tell me?” – Asked at Kimberly-Clark of a Biomedical Engineer candidate.
  23. “On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.” – Asked at Kraft Foods of a General Laborer  candidate.
  24. “If  you could be anyone else, who would it be?” – Asked at Salesforce.com of a Sales Representative candidate.
  25. “How would you direct someone  else on how to cook an omelet?” – Asked at PETCO of an Analyst candidate.

Glassdoor has released other sets of oddball interview questions candidates have had to field from companies in the past. Some of my favorites:

  • If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it? (Hewlett-Packard)
  • Room, desk and car — which do  you clean first? (Pinkberry)
  • Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer? (Deloitte)
  • Please spell “diverticulitis.”      (EMSI Engineering)
  • How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? (Horizon Group Properties)
  • Are you exhaling warm air?      (Walker Marketing)
  • How would you cure world hunger?      (Amazon.com)
  • Is your college GPA reflective of your potential? (Advisory Board)
  • Just entertain me for five minutes; I’m not going to talk. (Acosta)
  • If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be? (Summit Racing Equipment)
  • What do you think of garden gnomes? (Trader Joe’s)


How would you respond if asked one of these?

Job searches and recruiting doesn’t stop during the holidays

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While your main focus this time of year may be finding the perfect gift for someone or your upcoming travels to be with family over the holiday season, don’t assume that all hiring stops during this festive season.  Just the opposite.

December is usually one of our busiest times of the year at Names & Numbers.  Having been a recruiter for nearly 10 years now, I can tell you it’s no exaggeration to say that I have often seen job offers on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas so the paperwork can be done to have an employee ready to start January 2nd.

Are you a believer in some of these common Holiday job-search myths I have seen:

1)      Nobody hires in December

This is perhaps the biggest myth there is.  December can be a fun, busy, even stressful period, but it’s still a month employees are being paid to work. Why would companies hire in December:

  • Companies must spend the money in their 2007 budgets before the end of the year. Many hiring managers are trying to reach deadlines to use those budgets. .
  • Strategic plans are in place for 2013 – and that means companies need good people.  The fall is traditionally a period for setting plans, objectives, making decisions on new markets, etc.  With the plans now completed and developed, now these companies need the people to implement them. Hence, there are unfilled positions that managers want to fill — NOW.
  • The holidays don’t affect change the pace of some businesses. There may be holiday decorations and parties, but the business doesn’t stop just because it’s December.
  • Positions open up in late November or early December because many professionals quit their jobs this time of year. Yes, the holidays can bring a longing to be closer to family, roots, people we know and love. If no bonus is involved, many unhappy professionals who have been looking to leave a company will plan their resignations in order to start a job right after the New Year after a couple of weeks of down time so that they can be with family for the holidays.

2)      Nothing ever happens after Dec. 15, so you might as well leave town

It can be a trickier time of year to schedule interviews and meetings around the holidays, so job seekers do need to be more flexible. But we are working straight through the holidays — I will be tyring to schedule people for interviews during the week between Christmas and New Years, for that first week of the New Year.

3)      You’ll have a better chance if you wait until the first of the year

In reality you’re just as likely to find the job you really want in December as in any other month. If employers have a need, they don’t care whether it’s January or December.  Because so many people believe in this myth, it’s a perfect time to be out there – there is less competition.


We are looking for experienced B2B sales professionals in many of our markets in Texas, Arkansas and other places in our footprint which spans 11 states.  Please consider this:

  • We are an established leader in local advertising across the 11 state area we serve.  For over 38 years our team of Account Executive has worked with local companies on innovative print, online, and mobile Yellow Page programs.  Is your current company this established, stable, and STILL GROWING?
  • Typical first year earnings are in the $70,000+ range, but commissions are only limited by your desire to make money.  For example, we had several AE’s over $150,000 last year.  Did anyone in your company make that much last year?  How about you?
  • Career advancement opportunities (we prefer to promote from within).  We don’t just say it, we mean it.  As we add additional markets, we WILL need more managers.  They will come from within our team.  Has that happened in your current company?
  • Health, dental, vision, life and 401K benefits after 90 days.  And your monthly contributions to health care go DOWN each year that you are employed with us.  Has that ever happened at your current employer?
  • Paid professional sales training.  I’m sure you have great sales skills – that’s why I am sending you this note.  Does additional sales training ever hurt?  Has your current company provided any training over the last year?


So don’t wait.  Contact me now, even if its the holidays at kclark@namesandnumbers.com.

And pass the egg nog please, when you have a chance……



What do successful people do on weekends


I’ve seen and read a lot of commentary about what successful people do/how they become successful business people.  People have built careers on that single subject.  But it wasn’t until I saw this commentary with the same title of  “What successful people do on weekends” (recently appeared on a CBS MoneyWatch post) that I had read much about weekends.  Since we all do have weekends no matter what industry we working in or how successful we are, I was curious as to what “successful people” really do on a weekend (or perhaps just nosey as to how their weekends are different than mine).

In reality, the author actually provided no actual examples of “successful people” that we should be modeling our world after, but she did provide a couple of good suggestions on how to maximize your weekend that might we worth considering.

But one of her comments did strike a chord for me: there are just 60 hours between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. If you take out 24 of those hours for sleep (isn’t that what a weekend is for?), that leaves only 36 hours for everything else. However, how many times have you started a Monday morning with a defeated sense of having somehow squandered your precious downtime on activities/stuff/things that didn’t help us recharge, grow, and get reset?  In our highly competitive, fast paced worlds, we all need that time.

Part two on this topic (if I haven’t already depressed you) comes from an interview I happened upon from of all people, actor Sylvester Stallone who in 2005 started a magazine.  Given the recent tragedy of his sons death, this is a really relevant piece right now in his life.

In the magazine Sly, Stallone, who has never been known as a deep thinker despite typically generating at least $150 million in revenue for any movie he is involved in, made the following comment:

“…A while back, I heard a story that will affect you: The average person lives out 75 years. Now, if you multiply 75 years times 52 weeks, you come up with 3,900 weeks of life.  That’s it.  That’s all the average person has. Then I thought, hell, I’m 58 ((Editor:  he actually just turned 66)). Which means I have roughly 884 weekends left. Eight hundred and eighty four weekends?

Damn! Talk about a wake up call.

Brothers and sisters, it seems it’s all over in the blink of an eye. So let’s be more selfish with who, or where, we spend our precious time. With 884 weekends left, I now only do things that make my heart and soul feel satisfied. I take that trip, buy that car, call that friend, tell that special someone I love them when they least expect it.

Pay attention to the really important things in life. Be the guy who tells the joke, not the recipient of the punch line. Be the predator, not the food source. Gorge yourself at that banquet of life until the only thing left on the table are crumbs. In other words, you’re an army of one. So, it’s up to you to either lead the charge with conquest on your mind… or sound the trumpets of retreat….”

Now when I shared this thinking with my loving bride, she thought I was being a bit morbid.  I thought I was being insightful as it just goes to show how precious that weekend time is.

Add it all up and where does that leave you?   That same author I quote initially suggested that you “…Spend at least one of your weekend days focused on family, community, inspiration, gratitude, and the larger questions of life..”

That’s pretty deep for me.   So instead, I‘m turning to my readers to ask them that all important question:  How do you make the most of your weekends?

The comment section is now open……………

30 Seconds to Tell Me Exactly What YOU Did

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Yes, I get a lot of resumes each day.  But why didn’t I look at yours?  It’s not that the grammar or spelling was bad (although that could lead to me rejecting it immediately). Mostly it was because you committed the worst sin possible on your resume: I have no clue what you actually did. Let me explain.

I recently read an article suggesting that recruiters only spend six seconds reviewing a resume to determine whether or not a candidate was a fit to the job they were attempting to fill.  6 Seconds?!  That’s all.  If you dig a little deeper, the original research came from TheLadders and is really more an attempt to sell its resume writing services.  It suggests that if a recruiter is only spending six seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume or online profile, then it better be professionally written. And of course, it has a service that can do that for you.

While my initial thought was, 6 seconds — can a recruiter really get enough information to determine whether a candidate is worth talking to in such a short period of time?  Fair or not, the answer is probably.  For me, let’s say I will give that resume 30 seconds.  Remember, we read and cull thru resumes all day long, so I think at this point I know what I’m looking for.  But back to the problem with your resume.

Most of the bullet points you listed sound as if they came straight from a job description. Job descriptions are terrible at describing exactly what needs to be achieved to get the job done.  For instance, “Business Development” can mean absolutely ANYTHING.  Or, it will quote some numbers that seem totally out of context with the position you had.  Did you alone really “generate $5 million in sales?  Just you?  Really?  And then you left 6 months later?  Something doesn’t add up.

Often the company you listed is one I am not familiar with, so I would have to Google it to find out what kind of company it was.  As you should begin to see, the more work the recruiter has to do to validate you as a fit, the greater the chance they will bypass the resume after just 30 seconds.

So my specific recommendation to all job seekers is, tell me more about what you did. Just you.  Remember you want things that computers will pick up, better known as “key words”.  So specific examples for those seeking sales type positions:

  • Did you sell to both existing and potential new accounts?
  • How did you source your leads?
  • Sales results/numbers/dollars are important, but also where did      you rank among your fellow sales team members?

Naturally, you don’t want to turn your resume into a “War & Peace” length novel (max two pages please), but an educated person should be able to look at your resume and at least have some idea what you did.

Now if you are a B2B sales pro, Names & Numbers is loooking for Account Executives in several markets.  Find out more by clicking here.  First year earnings are usually in the $70k+ range, with most our folks in the $80-100k range.  Benefits after 90 days.  And we prefer to promote from within….

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