Light Friday: Campaigning on (and for) the Job

Including: Selling Ideas to Management, Navigating Office Politics, 9 Job Interview Mistakes and Thomas Edison’s Job Interview Questions.

Workers Have a Lot to Say

How often do you bring up an idea to your boss only to have it fall on deaf ears? Unfortunately, this seems to be a particularly frequent, and counter-productive, occurrence in the workplace, according to new findings from Right Management.

In a survey of nearly 500 North American workers, the talent and career management experts within ManpowerGroup found that more than half the respondents (54 percent) claim they make at least 20 suggestions to their employer each year, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) between 10 and 20 each year. Fifteen percent of respondents claim they offer fewer than 10 suggestions to their boss each year.

“Despite research that indicates workers are disengaged, on the whole they want to be helpful and have their say on issues or problems that arise in the workplace,” Monika Morrow, senior VP of career management for Right Management, said in a statement. “We find again and again that employees want to contribute. By making suggestions, they demonstrate that they’re thinking about getting the job done, and done well.”

The best employers know how to unleash the potential in people. And at a time when many employees feel stifled in their job, Morrow points out, it is more important than ever that employers show that they are listening.

Navigating Office Politics

“Whether you’re running for office or just working in one, it pays to be a good politician,” according to new findings from staffing firm Robert Half.

In a survey of more than 400 U.S. workers employed in an office setting, 56 percent said involvement in office politics is at least somewhat necessary to get ahead (15 percent said “very necessary” and 41 percent said “somewhat necessary”).

“There is some degree of politics at play in virtually every organization,” Robert Half International Chairman and CEO Max Messmer, author of Managing Your Career for Dummies, said in a statement. “The savviest professionals practice workplace diplomacy. They remain attuned to political undercurrents but don’t allow themselves to get pulled into situations that could compromise their working relationships or reputation.”

Robert Half offers six tips for navigating office politics:

  • Build a broad coalition of support.
  • Avoid smear campaigns.
  • Stay true to your values.
  • Connect with your constituencies.
  • Play by the rules.
  • Dodge controversy.

Contrary to popular belief, engaging in office politics is not about kissing up to your boss or trying to be his or her new best friend. And let’s face it: strategizing is a vital part of getting ahead in any work environment. While surviving office politics can be challenging if you are unaware  or don’t know how to work the system, fortunately there are ways to “play the game” ethically and professionally, getting ahead while retaining your integrity.

Job Interview Mistakes

There’s no shortage of interview mistakes that job seekers simply wish they could take back. However, not all job interview problems are typical, or even conceivable.

Based on a recent survey of more than 3,000 employers, hiring managers and HR managers nationwide, has uncovered some surprising mistakes that candidates have made during the job-interview process over the past year.

Among the more colorful blunders that job candidates have made during interviews:

  • A candidate brought a “how to interview” book with him to the interview;
  • A candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up 10 minutes late;
  • Driving to the interview, a candidate cut off and flipped off a driver who happened to be the interviewer;
  • A candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform to the interview and didn’t explain why;
  • A candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee;
  • A candidate was arrested during the interview when the background check revealed he had an outstanding warrant;
  • When a candidate for a security position wasn’t hired on the spot, he painted graffiti on the building;
  • A candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job was worth “starting the car for”; and
  • A candidate asked, “What company is this again?”

“[F]or most job seekers, avoiding a big mistake isn’t the issue – it’s standing out from the crowd,” according to Rosemary Haefner, VP of human resources for CareerBuilder. “A successful interview is a presentation that marries one’s personality and professional experience to the needs of the hiring manager and the company. Knowing how to do that successfully can be difficult, but with preparation and practice, candidates can greatly improve their interview skills.”

Thomas Edison’s Job Interview Questions

Thomas Edison, the American inventor and businessman, had an encyclopedic memory, and by the early 1920s, “he had become increasingly frustrated by the fact that college graduates applying to work for him didn’t have a wealth of knowledge comparable to his own,” according to Mental Floss.

To gauge the knowledge of job candidates, he required each one to answer a set of 150 questions, tailored to the position they were applying for. While some were specific to the industry, others were less so. “Masons, for instance, needed to know who assassinated President Lincoln,” the trivia magazine notes.

“Of the well over 500 young men who took Edison’s test, only about 35 passed to his satisfaction (a score of 90 percent or higher),” Mental Floss says. Edison did not release his questions and answers, so the list of eccentric questions has been compiled over the years based on the memory of candidates who at some point took his test.

Below are a few questions:

  • Where is the River Volga? (Answer: Russia)
  • Who invented logarithms? (Answer: Scottish mathematician John Napier)
  • What war material did Chile export to the Allies during the War? (Answer: Sodium nitrate)

To find out why cast iron is called Pig Iron, along with other knowledge Edison required of his employees, check out Mental Floss’s full list.



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