May 2007 Vol. 6 No. 5

Are You Communicating What You Intend???
by Barbara Metzger

Where are you sitting? How are you standing? Do you intend to intimidate or do you want to cooperate? It shows up in body language.

From The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease, a University of Toledo study compared notes of a twenty minute interview and a group of observers who watched only the first fifteen seconds (yep – 15 seconds). Both groups had about the same impressions.

Their premise was the greater the status of position and command of language, the less the use of gestures to communicate messages. High-status people generally “keep their cool” and show very little emotion. The people with less control would be more demonstrative. We only get one chance to make a first impression.

Following the other person’s lead on body language and pace will increase feeling of acceptance. The book also quoted another study where a manager was felt to be difficult to work with and not very friendly. After observing his office several changes were made. When the desk was moved against a wall, the visitor chair was then along side the desk (more cooperative) than when it was across from him. The visitor chair was also no longer with it’s back to the open door. The people with their back to the door increases stress levels, especially if they are a dominate behavioral style. There was also a mirrored film placed over the office interior window. This allowed the manager to see out but the workers couldn’t see in, giving a more intimate office. When the workers could see his total office before, it takes away some of his power/authority.

One last thing was done with the office. They put in a round table with three chairs all of equal height. He also practiced using body language to indicate his authority (subtle steeple of his fingers) and showing open palms and open body position to show acceptance. Within months, he was known to be “easy-going” and relaxed. Amazing what can happen with just a little attention to the non-verbal communication.

Another interesting comment was large briefcases can indicated disorganized people who are not in charge. Want or need a briefcase? Make it a slim, small one if you want to be perceived as the take charge person.

They were also saying the taller the person, the more perceived power they have. Have you ever noticed on talk shows where the guest’s chair adjusts to be eye level with the host? This was very evident on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was the host. Johnny wasn’t very tall but no guest sat taller than he did.

A personal note here, years ago my attorney was a well respected, well known San Antonio lawyer. He wasn’t very tall, probably between 5’6” and 5’8”. In his office, the two guest chairs opposite his desk were very comfortable. HOWEVER, as you sank into their comfort, even if you sat up without leaning back, your eyes were only about level with the top of his desk. It certainly kept him in the authority place. It does make me smile at the obvious need for control.

My challenge for you this month is to watch body language. What do you notice?....in the other person and in yourself? Let me know what you discover. Barbara@maxproductivity.com


Three Hiring Lessons: Putting Round Pegs in Round Holes by Dr. Ira Wolfe

You've likely heard the story about the boss pleading with his/her recruiters that the company needs to do a better job at recruiting and hiring round pegs to fill round holes. This analogy hangs right up there with putting the right people on the bus, made famous by Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great." Regardless of how a manager tells the story, the message is the same: hiring the right people the first time is gaining more importance.

In this week's column let's take a look at how companies can do a better job at identifying the "round pegs," the best candidates and then making sure they fit the "round holes," the job.

Before we start talking about resumes, interviews, and personality tests, the first thing that goes through my mind is this: are you sure the hole you want to fill is round? What if you found a square peg and modified the hole, the hole being the job? Could this square peg in a square hole perform the functions of the job as well, if not better than the round peg? In other words, is the hole really round? Or is it just that only round pegs have filled the position before and managers merely made the assumption that only round pegs could do the job?"

Lesson #1: Before looking for round pegs, you need to first be sure the hole needs to be round. You can do this by completing a job analysis to identify the essential functions of the job, the responsibilities of the people filling the position, and the skills and behaviors required to fulfill these responsibilities. To make the job analysis functional, managers must then identify how to measure performance - what are the expectations of the round peg and how well is it functioning?

For the purpose of this column, let's say we know for certain that the hole is round and therefore only round pegs will fit properly.

You advertise for the position and you are overwhelmed with pegs - you have big pegs and little pegs, square pegs and oblong pegs, rectangular pegs and triangular pegs. You even have a few rhomboidal and octagonal pegs. And thankfully, a number of round pegs apply too.

Lesson #2: After completing the job analysis and determining the hole really is round the next step in the process is to begin identifying the round pegs. You begin the sifting process. Reading their resumes eliminates a few right away. Calling several more on the phone eliminates others.

This part of the process - identifying the pegs that don't fit - is called screening. Typically screening tools include observation, resumes or job applications, education, work history and so on. The initial phone or face-to-face interview also is considered a screening tool or assessment.

This screening phase for many companies is becoming very costly and ineffective. The job market is so tight for many positions that companies need to spread a wide net to find enough pegs to fill all the holes. But when a company is looking specifically for a round peg, much time and resources are wasted sifting through all the non-round pegs who apply.

In search of a better system to screen, companies are now using sophisticated hiring "sieves" to separate out the round pegs from the non-round ones. (A sieve separates wanted/desired elements from unwanted material - you know draining the water from the spaghetti, coins from the sand, and for our purposes, weeding out the non-round pegs.)

Advancements in technology and employee assessments offer easy-to-implement, cost-effective screening solutions. Applicant processing systems in the past were complex and costly to implement, therefore excluding small and mid-sized businesses. But systems like Total Application Processing System (Total-APS) or HR Clues are now affordable for even micro-businesses and for companies looking to fill one or one hundred positions. Applicants apply by submitting a resume and responding to an online interview. Companies can customize the questions specific to the job and company culture requirements. Each question is rated and weighted allowing managers to quickly differentiate the perfectly round pegs from the almost round pegs to the not-at-all round pegs with little or no time expended on their part. Prompt response and focused attention can then be directed to only the round pegs.

"Personality tests" can be an additional screening tool. It is important to note at this point that not all personality tests are screening tests nor are all screening tests predictive of job performance and competence. For instance an assessment like CandidClues is excellent at predicting a candidate's attitude toward dependability, honesty and hostile tendencies but is not useful at all at assessing teamwork, problem solving, drive or persistence. JobClues on the other hand is a very reliable personality and cognitive test for teamwork, conscientiousness, detail-orientation and more when used as a screening tool. And while the Clues assessments provide an excellent screening tool, they are not recommended for selection. I reserve my selection assessment recommendations to Prevue (formerly known as TotalView) and ASSESS.
Whatever method is used for sifting out the non-round pegs - resume, interview, APS, personality test - you should now have only round pegs left in the candidate pool.

Where managers go from here depends on how exact the fit of the round peg must be into the round hole.

Lesson #3: Let's say the diameter of the round hole is 3.25 inches. For a manager, this means the individual who fills this position must have specific skills and abilities, the motivation to do the job, the behavioral style to fit with the rest of the team, and values that fit with the culture. Translation: only round pegs with a diameter equal to or less than 3.25 will fit into the hole. At this point the question that managers must ask is "how exact does the fit need to be?" Will a 2.5 inch or 3.75 inch round peg suffice or are the dimensions critical too?

An individual's motivation, behavioral style, values, personality traits determine the roundness of the peg. Cognitive skills and job competence affect the size of the peg. For example - you could have a perfectly round peg that has the essential qualifications to fit the hole: It's round. But if the hole requires a 3.25 inch peg, a peg measuring 5 inches may be over-qualified and not challenged by the job responsibilities. The peg has too much of something while a 2 inch peg would need a lot of filler to make it work.

If close is good enough, then a structured behavioral interview and a screening assessment such as Clues may be predictive enough to find the best fitting round peg. But if the margin of error is small, then any peg smaller than 3.24 inches or larger than 3.26 inches could cause performance problems or disruptions on the team.

What if your job analysis showed that only red pegs work and blue pegs won't? What if you know that only pegs made out of specific materials work? When a job requires specific competencies, behavioral styles, or cognitive skills and the company culture requires certain values and motivations, then the use of selection assessments, not screening tests, are a must.

When essential functions are clearly identified and the skills and abilities to carry out these functions are fairly specific, then selection tools, combined with a structured competency-based behavioral interview, create a sieve within a sieve. Once you have narrowed down the candidate pool to the round pegs that most closely fit the round hole, selection tools identify all the essential characteristics in advance - how well can they perform the job, what potential does the candidate have to grow and learn, how well will they fit on the team, will he/she embrace the company culture, and so on.

Behavioral competency-based interviewing makes good business sense and is a best practice. To learn how to identify competencies and conduct effective behavioral interviews, email Barbara@maxproductivity.com and please include your name, company, and best time to contact you.


Perfect Labor Storm Facts and Trends

Graduation is just around the corner and millions of new workers will be applying for jobs. Here’s a quick peek at a few of their quirks:

  • The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported that communication skills top the list of what employers look for the most in employees and job candidates. Ironically, communication skills also top the list of skills most lacking in new college graduates.
  • More than a third of 18 to 25 year olds have a attoo. Thirty percent of 18 to 25 year olds have piercing somewhere besides their earlobes.
    Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
  • 58 percent of college graduates from 2000 to 2006 moved home after school and 32 percent stayed more than a year.
    Source: Experience Inc.
  • 73 percent of 18 to 25 year olds received financial assistance from their parents in the past year and 64 percent have gotten help with errands.
    Source: Pew Research Center

Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 is now available. The year 2007 will see an increase in skilled worker shortages and more competition. The result will be higher salaries, more training and career advancement opportunities, and more flexible work cultures. How prepared is your company to find skilled and dependable workers?
Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 is the newly updated and revised 2007 edition of best-selling book first published in 2005. You can now download an advance copy of PLS 2.0. a $10 value with every purchase of the original Perfect Labor Storm, still a great value at $9.95. Order at http://tinyurl.com/yqbhmn
The featured article and labor storm facts are written by Ira S. Wolfe, founder of Success Performance Solutions, and is distributed here by MaxImize with permission. To read more about any of SPS pre-employment assessment systems, go to or call 717.291.4640 or 800.803.4303