8 pitfalls to avoid with your job application.

1- Online Profile Check

An interesting development these days in looking for jobs compared to 15 years ago is that your online profile can haunt you years later. Remember that every time you post information about your current or previous positions it is available to others as well. When applying for jobs, be sure to make sure that any online profile you find when searching on yourself does not reveal embarrassing or contradictory information that weakens your job application.

2 – Certain level of education required

Education is not something you can fake. Employers have been burnt by this so they check applicants often and the process for validating education is becoming easier. In some cases, companies will not hire you until the education has been validated. The old trick of picking an education establishment in the middle of nowhere does not always work anymore and at the very least they will want to know why you got your education from this far off place.

Some warnings from the BBC about resume checks.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31594181

How to handle Education:

Compromise here is to at least be attending a course that leads to the qualification required. Employer will see that you are in the appropriate education and may let you get to the next stage of the job application. As to when you actually complete the education and how long you have been studying it, that is up to you.

3- Years of Experience more than currently experienced

If you are lying just to get a job, you don’t have the experience and are not a quick learner you can be sure it will be worked out quickly that you are not a fit. Even as a quick learner you may not be given the time to learn the job before they are onto you for lack of experience.

I read a resume once where the person had a master’s degree, was 27 years old and had 9 years of relevant work experience. Where you might ask is the problem? This person had 7 years of full time schooling with 9 years of work experience coming to a total of 16 years and they did not start college at 11 but at 18. It gets murky here. Some people will consider a working month; week or even a day in a calendar year as 1 year worth of experience and put such on their resume.

Understand that no two persons will have the same experience for the same time period. Someone who consults will have a larger variety of experience compared to someone who works in the same job / company for the same period of time. However someone who works in the same job / company for years may have more depth of experience since they have been totally focused on that role.

A lot of time, employers put years of experience required to exclude the candidates with no experience at all or based on their judgment of what experience brings to the role. As stated above, someone with one year of experience may have the equivalent of another person’s 10 years just depending on the jobs that they did. In the 80’s the rule of thumb for consulting was 2.5 years experience before you could become a consultant. The number of years has been increased significantly for job applicants due to lies that people have been putting around experience. An average of 5 years seems more like the norm these days.

How you can get caught with lack of experience:

– You go into a role where other colleagues have the experience so your lack of experience is obvious. I worked at a site where on the first day of the job I was asked to perform a simple task under the eye of the manager who hired me. Failure to have successfully performed that task would have led to a quick exit.

– You are not a quick learner. If you do not have the experience and you can’t pick it up quickly, you will end up being found out.

– During the interview, you could be asked to describe the projects that are relevant to the experience and how long you spent on each. Mistakes in duration will quickly add up to not matching your resume experience. Explaining that a project lasted for months or over a year could also trip you up if the normal experience for the role is short projects.

– When hired, you ask too many basic experience questions making it obvious you do not know your stuff.

– Employer has an acquaintance from your previous employer who states in their opinion what your work role was at your previous employer that does not tie with what you stated you did.

How to handle years of experience:

Nobody asks if you did 2000 hours in a particular role over a calendar year, they just want to know that you held a job in that role for the particular year combined with whatever else you did for the remainder of the year was related. Putting it plainly you have to look at the months/year when you did not have the role and translate the experience of the role you were in into the position you are applying for. Unless the employer has a direct acquaintance at your previous employer it is unlikely that the new employer will get the exact project by project details of what you did.

4- Job skills required are specific

I have been to interviews where specific skills were requested but that was because the employer had gap in skills that needed to be filled. Other times I have gone to employers where the skills were already present so the employer was looking for someone that would fit in with the existing team.

How you can get caught with lack of specific skills:

– Testing of your skills during the interview process.

– Monitoring of you as you put your supposed skills into action.

– Ask you to describe previous projects where the skills were used.

How to handle lack of specific skills:

If you don’t have experience in the specific skill requested you need to at least get an understanding of it. Understanding can either be obtained thru training or via reading a book on the subject. Any training you take can be easily added to your resume under training. If you only read a book, then you will need to tie the specific skills back to projects you have worked on so that the skills will at least appear on your resume. Sometimes as you learn the skill you may find that you were already using it in your job anyway, you just called it something else. In both cases (training or book reading), where appropriate, any work that you did that is relevant to the skill, you should mention.

5- Job title is not one you have held

Maybe you are trying to change career from being a Project Manager to a Business Analyst and as a Project Manager you performed Business Analyst tasks. So all your employee job titles state Project Manager. When your resume lands on the employers desk they won’t bother looking at it if you state you were a Project Manager so you change it to Business Analyst.

How you can get caught with not having job title:
– Somebody provides a reference stating that you were in a different role. Make sure you references understand the role that you are presenting yourself for.
– Old profiles of you exist on the Internet saying you were something else.

How to handle lack of job title:
Change your thinking to the “title for my job”. Ditch the words “job title” and instead say who employed you and focus on the title for the role you performed. Avoid using the words “Job Title”. If they ask what your job title was at the interview, just state the title for the job you performed as that was really your job. If part of the time you were in one job role and the rest of the time in another for the same employer, don’t break out the experience by role but instead mention you were in both roles and state the years at the employer.

6 -Gap in job years or currently unemployed

How you can get caught with  job gaps:
– You are unable to provide references for a period of time.
– The experience dates don’t add up on your resume.

How to handle gaps and unemployment:
Even if you do not have a paying job, you should be providing your relevant expertise to others. Point here is to have a 3rd party that will vouch that you worked for them (paid or unpaid) in some capacity. The minute you are between jobs or are trying to get back into the workforce, look for those opportunities which can build references. Review your past period of gaps and see if anything you did over that time is relevant to the work you are applying for. Document it all and be ready to provide references that will back you up.

7 -Previous job at much higher level than one being applied for

How you can get caught with level of role in previous job:
– You use terms that may not be applicable to the role being applied – example managed financial budgets when applying to a developer job that is all about pure coding.
– You talk about the people you managed when the role has no people to manage.
– Previous experience is overly impressive – such as worked at the United Nations when job is for a small company.
– You have an internet profile that shows what you were before.

How to handle higher level role in previous job:
It is ironic that on the one hand we are told to play up our successes but the on the other hand we do not get hired because our success scares the employer. Going for a lesser job requires making the employer feel that you are not going to get bored and quit. You need to remove any terms / experience that is not relevant to the job you are applying for. You will have to set the title of your previous job to match the role being applied for. Downplay large companies you have worked for by focusing on describing the small team or department you worked in. Avoid mentioning words that would associate you with large global organizations if at all possible by looking for other ways to describe projects / experience.

8 -Samples of work not your own or incorrect

So your future employer asks you for samples of relevant work and you grab whatever you feel like sharing. This can be great aid but it can also bite you in the butt.

How you can get caught with an incorrect or someone’s document:
– Employer has an acquaintance at your previous employer who can validate the original author of the document.
– You are unable to talk intelligently about the document.
– It contains glaring errors that make you look unsuitable to hire.
– Document sample is way larger than anything the employer would expect you to deliver making them suspicious that others helped you with it.

How to handle document samples:
Best to use your own work. Keep your document samples small and make sure they do not provide confidential information. If needed, mock up some samples based on your experience. A page here or there and never a whole document. Be prepared to talk to every page shared as if you were doing a presentation. Verify that what is present in the document is correct as it represents your best work.

In summary I hope you find this information useful and it helps you get your next gig.

Good Luck

2 reasons to think physical product when designing Web UI

February 22, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, UX / UI, Web Sites 

Previously I have talked about tactile feedback in good product design. Today I want to suggest that anytime you design an interface you think of a physical product.

Why has this come about?

With the easy availability of touch screens, any web page is effectively a physical product as opposed to the days when we were limited to point and click via a mouse.

Some of you may argue that this is already being handled by having mobile versions of your web pages or mobile applications. This however does not take into consideration the larger touch screens that are coming into play as monitors or even when a user decides to browse your regular web site via their Tablet device. Some web sites are also assuming the network / server speed and graphic processing power will be able to cope with large pages (size in kb)without impact to the user but this is not the case.

Too illustrate the point of two bad touch interface design for a web site I will transfer the problems to a physical laptop.

1 – Laptop keys move around when laptop lid initially opened and every time a page button is clicked

Nobody is going to buy a laptop where the keys move as you try to use them but for some reason large web site owners such as CNN.com (page moves up by a row once it has finished loading) / abcnews.go.com + autotrader.com (banner advert expands and pushes page down) expect that users of their web sites will put up with this when the user opens a web page.

Why does this happen:

A – We see examples where banner adverts bounce page text up and down so when a user tries to select a link or read an article they are stuck with a moving target. In the worst case, the banner advert expands for a short while and then shrinks giving a user a double hit on a moving web page.

B – Web page has become bloated and parts of style sheet is loaded last meaning the layout location of some web page elements will move after the page has been presented to the user.

Page below initially loads without banner advert.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

Then the banner advert appears pushing text on page down.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

2 – Laptop keys made incredibly small that you can’t be sure which key is pushed.

Yet again, nobody is going to want really small keys on their laptop but we still see this on some web sites. Mainly it still crops up in paging where the site still focuses on using a small number to allow the user to select next pages. These small numbers are hard to touch accurately with your finger and even with a mouse it requires some dexterity.

www.Realtor.com is an example of this.

Difficult to select web links

Difficult to select web links

When designing for the web, think beyond the actual web page.

Ask yourself how well would the user interface on this web page work if the UI was part of a physical object such as  the keyboard on a laptop?

 

14 tips for surviving Senior Level meetings.

At some point in your Business Analyst career you may be asked to meet with Board level staff. This should not frighten you if you follow some logical tips.

1 – Don’t go it alone.
Find someone to help you setup, run and share results/minutes of meeting.

2 – Make sure someone in the room can vouch for you.
Someone in the room of a senior enough level has to be able to support you when things get tough. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to at least one individual prior to the meeting to introduce yourself and get them on your side. Failure to do this could leave you in front of a firing squad.

3 – Know who the most senior people are in the room and respect their authority.
If you don’t know who a person is that has the power to end your job, better to find out before you challenge their meeting behavior or statements.

4 – Define the rules and objective of the meeting.
Always good to define the rules and objectives. Please note however, the higher the level of meeting the less the participants are willing to listen to the rules, in those cases you have to go with the flow.

5 – Dress to match the meeting participants.
If the meeting is a suit and tie affair, wear them.

6 – When things go astray.
Ask the participants if they are open to taking a break.

7 – Be Bold but not Reckless.
Be careful of how you control the meeting. Being respectful to participants is key and don’t get sucked into arguing with them. Note and accept their objections then move on.

8 – Meet one on one post meeting to resolve issues.
Since you avoided the argument, afterwards is when you meet with the individual or subordinate and work to resolve their issues.

9 – For long meetings, meetings at lunch or dinner make sure the food and drinks match the level of staff.
Quite often you can reach out to the personal admin of the highest of the participants and work with them to schedule the right food and drinks.

10 – Be flexible.
Senior level staff availability changes at the last minute. You may find your meeting getting shrunk or bumped. Often these people are used to meeting in the evenings post the regular work day.

11 – Learn the individual personalities before hand.
Knowing what to expect from the individuals involved in the meeting keeps the surprises to a minimum.

12 – Know the terminology / acronyms
Either learn the stuff before the meeting or have someone with you who can whisper / Instant Message you what is being said.

13 – Use IM to get live meeting feedback
If you or your companion is not presenting, have your senior friend in the room (point 2) let you know if you are going off track by Instant Messaging you feedback to the computer that is not presenting – don’t want the IM to appear on screen.

14 – Prepare psychologically.
Follow whatever routine you use to relax and stay relaxed during the meeting.
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20140904-jitters-act-like-a-starfish

No Product or Service reviews leads to lost income.

February 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI 

Previously I have talked about the handling of Negative Reviews online but what about if you have no reviews?

If you are releasing a product or service be it new or updated, it is unacceptable after a week to not have any online reviews be they good or bad in the major channels of distribution for product or in the lead review sites for businesses such as “Yelp” or “Foursquare”. Having no reviews can be worse than having bad reviews as it means nobody has considered there to be a need to either compliment or complain. If your competitors have lots of reviews, it makes your Product or Service drop down into the also ran category.

When planning to bring your Product or Service to market there should always be a task included to get reviews published as quickly as possible. Even ongoing the reviews should be maintained for freshness.

Not that I am suggesting that you personally populate the reviews but there should be a grassroots effort to have people provide reviews by reaching out to those that have used or purchased the product/service and getting the press involved via press releases.

If nothing else, reviews can give you valuable feedback on Product or Service issues you are not aware of allowing you to improve and thus make more sales.

Think about it this way. When a new restaurant or club comes into being, the press and VIPs are invited to come to the opening to generate buzz. The next day the press will hopefully publish glowing reviews and in today’s twitter / Facebook world the VIPs will also talk about their experience. Your Product or Service needs a similar public relations treatment.

Four components to measuring success of your product / release.

Whatever you are working on will eventually end up with a new or updated product being released. Prior to that release date, consideration should be given to how to measure success.

There are four components to measuring success:
1 – Determine what is to be measured.
What is the new or improved product supposed to achieve? Hopefully you already know the answer to this prior to even starting development.
A business should have clearly defined goals as to what is expected via the release of the new or improved product. These goals should be quantifiable in a mathematical way even if you have to hire a PHD mathematician to determine the formula that quantifies it.

Examples:
a – Game averages 1000 downloads per day over a 3 month period.
b – LED Lightbulb increases market share for our brand over others.
c – New website design increases revenue from marketing and attracts more visitors.

2 – Identify Channels to supply the measurement information.
Now that you know what you plan to measure for success, the next question is where to get this information from?
Channels of information can come in many different ways:
a – Data could be collected from social media site such as Facebook to see how many positive comments a new product gets.
b – Sales information could be tracked from online and physical stores.
c – Surveys could be performed on potential and actual customers.
d – Certain key words/phrases could be searched on in the Search Engines.

3 – Integrate and absorb the data from the Channels.
Once the source of the measurements has been identified, the next step is the actual integration of this data into your reporting system so that it can be sliced and diced to provide the measurement of success reports. Your PHD mathematician may also be needed here to weight the data accordingly so that no one channel skews the results unrealistically.

4 – Present the success data to the consumers.
Finally with all the data, reports can be designed / generated or data outputted for consumption by those who will make the determination that the goals have been achieved. At this point knowing who the consumers of the information is becomes critical as you need to present the data in a format that the consumers can understand and consume. You may need to engage UI/UX experts at this point if the presentation is using new technology so that they can help design the presentation.

Are you just a glorified factory worker or do you focus on enhancing Skills/Experience?

Times have changed and along with it the expectation of the Business Analyst role.

There was a time when Business Analysts were hard to find and the skills of the role were high. Now however, a lot of roles are getting labeled as Business Analysts which is causing confusion since the people in these roles feel they are Business Analysts. In other cases, skilled Business Analysts are finding their roles not what they expected.

I make an analogy to the “Factory Worker” to state that if your skills are not unique then what value do you personally have to differentiate yourself from the competition for work? Factory workers are tied to the factory they work at. Certainly some of them may be skilled in operations of machines that can transfer to other factories but overall, the focus of the role is:
– turning up on time to work
– being efficient at the task.
– being able to complete a shift.
– skills required of the task are low.

If the above describes your current role, you may need to start questioning your future since now your success is tied to the metaphorical factory which can always move or have your role taken over by a cheaper resource. Just ask any US factory worker of the past 30 years if they are aware of this happening.

Focusing on the phrase of “skills required of the task are low”, think about the fact this means the person can be replaced by another easily. It would not take much to train a person to do their job. Now ask yourself if in your present role you are using skills/experience that could quickly be picked up by another?

If you are not careful and you take on a role or end up in a role that has low skills you are putting your future career at risk.

Time and time again, I see Business Analysts putting in long hours thinking that this will guarantee their future without looking at learning skills/gaining experience that will bring uniqueness to their personal skill set. End result for the ignorant Business Analyst is a future drop in salary and probable unemployment.

3 ways to kill your Mobile Game Success – bad UX/UI

December 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, General News, ROI, UX / UI 

With the opportunity to make money in Mobile Games there are some basics failings that should be avoided if you want the game to be a success.

1 – Reset Time
How long does it take your player to reset the game level if they fail? As players learn to play the game they will fail levels as they play. The length of acceptable reset time is dependent on how long the player got to play the level before they failed. There is no one size fits all but a short play time followed by a long reset will lose players. The length of the reset time can be offset by advising the player how they did, suggestions for improvement etc.. eventually however that will not be enough to keep a player engaged and they will drop the game. Some companies have even taken the reset time as a money making opportunity by putting in ways to purchase a quicker reset and making the game reset artificially slow.

2 – Forcing a large download (+1 gig) on a regular basis
It may have been a few days since the player played the game and if you want to make that time even longer force them to download 1+ gig of data before they can play. There is no rational behind making a game a forced download of such size on a regular basis. Better to state that a new version is available and give the user the option to download the new version while still being able to play the old.

3 – Not being able to play without an internet connection
I have seen games self destruct because they were opened without an internet connection and others have refused to play. From a money making sense, it would seem wise to limit play to only times when the internet is available however this just makes your game less played. For sure there need to be regular updates of advertising (for in game sales) but better that there is some countdown to removal of game access than a sudden abrupt implosion. Of course best of all is the ability to play the game while internet is not available, you can always prompt during the game to remind the user to share their scores or buy new products any of which will motivate the user to find a connection next time they play.

2 failings in ecommerce that cause lost sales!

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI, UX / UI, Web Sites 

How well is your company managing it’s ecommerce?

The following two examples show areas where sales can be lost.

Today I came across 2 failures in ecommerce that should not happen but companies allow to happen.

1 – Online sales feature that is not available.
2 – Failure to respond to negative comments about your products.

Online sales feature not available
Today I tried to change my cell phone plan online with the company I currently have. This morning and afternoon, I was told that “We’re sorry. Change plan is not available online at this time.” How many more times will I try before I start to look at other companies to provide my cell phone service. This failure to provide a feature online at best might cause dissatisfaction with the company but at worst it gives me time to start looking at the competitors offerings which may tempt me to switch to another company! Companies cannot afford to have software that is part of the sales pipeline not functioning. It is truly like the sales pipeline has a hole in it that is leaking sales.

Negative reviews on products
Online I see two kinds of product management.

  • People behind the products respond appropriately to reviews
  • Negative reviews are left with no response
  • As a buyer online, there is no salesperson to offset the negative reviews left online nor to complement the nice reviewers. This means sales can be lost if buyers are presented with negative feedback on the review. Sales is about overcoming objections to the purchase, unfortunately with ecommerce reviews I can end up with more objections to buying an item than when I started the purchase process. It is important that your company has someone responding to reviews so that you do not loose valuable sales.

    Not knowing Business Terms can affect your hireability.

    Since I have been working for so long at different clients I have gotten a good understanding of terms used in the business world. However others of you may not have the same experience. This lack of understanding can affect you doing your job and even getting hired in the first place since you may have to do a scenario interview.

    To help you with this, I have added a link to a online dictionary of terms used in the work place to my blog and also provided it below.

    Office Business Terms

    Happy reading!

    Do your client’s business protocols match the current physical environment?

    October 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, Project Management, ROI 

    Businesses can spend a lot of time documenting protocols for how certain events are to be handled when they occur. However, these protocols can be left to gather dust until the next event happens.

    From a business point of view, the business needs to consider all protocols it currently has defined and weigh them up against priority of use – meaning that just because an event has not happened for a while does not meant that a slow response will work as gaps in protocol are uncovered due to changes in the environment. Protocols that require immediate response will be considered higher priority for review of relevancy versus those that can have a delayed response.

    Examples of protocols:
    1 – What to do when the stock market crashes?
    2 – How to handle regulated products?
    3 – Backup locations for offices if the current ones can no longer be used?
    4 – Bad weather grounds plane throughout the country, how to get the planes back on schedule?

    What usually gets businesses is an event that does not happen very often that has a high priority resolution required. As there is lack of practice some protocol steps may no longer be valid when the event occurs, people may not be trained in their use and the right licensing may not be in place to perform the task. Failure to respond quickly and correctly to the event can lead to significant income loss for the business involved.

    Ebola case in Dallas 2014 highlighted several failures of protocol:
    Lack of training / proper equipment lead to further infections.
    Inability for toxic waste to be carried off site immediately because of transportation license restrictions placed on the waste which the transportation company did not have.
    Limited ability for Hospitals to deal with their own sterilization as this has been outsourced in a lot of cases requiring the receiving location to be licensed to transport / handle the waste at a level they may not be used to.

    As business analysts, we need to mentor our business clients through the risks of these often ignored protocols and ensure that they get the review they deserve. At the same time we need to limit the effort spent on protocols that do not have high priority resolution associated with them so that we can be good advocates of our business client’s expenses.

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