I know that most employers know this already; you must be very, very careful when employing people in Malaysia. There are lots of issues to note when employment is discussed. Some are pretty obvious, whereas some require careful, well-planned action plans.

Before you proceed, I’d just like to state that this post is not intended for workers, or those planning to join the workforce. It is merely a reflection of my experience as someone facilitating the employment process on behalf of a company. I will be very objective in my posting, and workers may find this post intimidating. You have been warned, proceed at your own risk.

The interviewing process is the most obvious. The interview should always be seen as the screening procedure. One lesson I’ve learnt during my experience as an interviewer is to always trust your initial gut feeling. There were occasions when I went ahead and recruited someone when my mind (or for those who believe in it, soul) keeps on screaming “No!”. My justifications were simple, the candidate’s academic results matches or exceeds minimal requirements, decent command of English, relatively good communication skills, etc..

Every single candidate that I took, against my gut feeling turns out to be problematic workers. Sure, this is a very unscientific suggestion. Maybe I have stronger intuition compared to others, maybe I’m just plain unlucky… But hey, this is my experience. I never implied that it could or would be yours.

Then comes the academic results. Do not let this be the primary concern when employing someone. Academic results rarely (actually, in my experience; never) reflect the candidate’s work performance. Some candidates have excellent academic records; good CGPA, active in co-curricular activities, etc.. However, when it comes to work, they behave like children. Immature, overly calculative, behaving like a know-it-all. In other words, just being a plain pain-in-the-ass.

On the other hand, the best employees are the one with an industrial brain. Their thinking exceeds the restricted boundaries of plain academia. They are very in touch with the happenings in the industry. Those who are outspoken should be differentiated from loudmouths. They are constantly thinking of ways to improve processes, effectiveness and value-for-money, instead of spending their time planning revolts or inciting colleagues to not perform their duties properly.

Those who offer insightful comments on current weaknesses should be rewarded for their contribution in helping the company grow. Those who are serial badmouthers, should be terminated swiftly and mercilessly.

Experience is definitely far more important than academic results, period. Especially valuable are candidates who have experience working overseas. They tend to be more talented in acclimatising themselves far more quickly in times of constant changes. Candidates who have experience in various fields, albeit unrelated, also tend to cope better during times of changes or crisis.

Now, the thing is to recognise which candidates are industry-savvy, and which are just plain job-hoppers. Always go through the employment history section of a potential employee’s resume. Look at the time they spent at their previous jobs. Especially critical are the last three jobs they did. Job-hoppers tend to be money-chasers, and are always thinking in a “What’s in it for me” kind of attitude. They are not really bothered about self-development or developing a sense of responsibility and attachment to a company. In other words, they’ll jump ship at a drop of a hat.

Also, do not even invite to the interview room any candidates who ask about the racial profile of the directors and/or senior managers. These people tend to only be able to work only if their colleagues and bosses are of the same race as them. Professionals should be able to perform regardless of who their bosses are. We don’t get to pick the races of our customers now, could we? Anyway, there shouldn’t be a place for bigots in business.

A common skill that is required regardless of the position offered is people skills. A common misconception when defining people skills is that it is an ability to talk to people. This is not really the case. People skills is not just a set of abilities to talk to people.

Strong people skills consists more than just talking to people. It requires an acute sense of reading body language, recognising the real meaning behind voice intonations, understanding the subtle meaning of words chosen in a conversation, as well as responding appropriately to the signs being transmitted.

The words used consists of only 5% of communication. Unbelievable? Well, have you tried to talk to someone who doesn’t understand the language you used? How did you get your point across then? More often than not, you will gesticulate. And odds are, the “listener” will have a clearer understanding of what you’re trying to say.

If your company has the time and resources available, you should recruit “average” candidates and train them to develop the necessary skills to perform. Most companies, when hearing the word “training”, often visualise training on the technical aspect of the job. Operating equipment, procedures, hierarchy of responsibilities, SOPs. Rarely does an employer focus on people skills, creative thinking, human relations principles, risk analysis, leadership, communications… in other words, the lifeline of any organisation.

Now after this long rant, how did the post relate to the topic at hand which is “Be careful when employing people”? The careful part is one in which the employer (fortunately) has full control. Some of the attributes I mentioned above are very noticable; in the candidate’s resume, during the interview process, how composed he/she is during questioning, the manner in which the candidate explains his/her past experience in a previous job, etc..

The resume submitted should also have a sense of uniqueness, and must pertain to the position being offered. If the resume itself seems disturbingly templated, it means that the candidate didn’t really put in much effort structuring it. It might even be something he/she mass-distributes. A definite sign of laziness as well as nonchalance. It also shows that the candidate is a “career gambler”, ie. send the same thing to everyone and hopefully something will hook. If someone could be irresponsible enough to gamble with his/her career, imagine what he/she would do in a decision making position.

Another important document that can be used to get an idea on the kind of person the candidate is, is the application form. However, it is also one of the rarely used, and/or improperly designed document in the industry. More often than not, employers tend to design the application form like a census. Asking often unnecessary information such as race, religion, EPF/SOCSO number, family background, hobies, etc.. When I mentioned “unnecessary”, it means that it is unnecessary to be put in the application form. Hobbies and family background are useful topics to be covered during the interview, but not in an interrogative manner. In fact, when listening to how the interviewee elaborates on these topics, instead of what he/she is trying to say, you’d get a better insight on his/her personality. Watch for fluctuations in voice tones and words/phrases which are stressed. Often, these are tell-tale signs on the subtle differences in priorities for which the interviewee places on his/herself.

Back to the application form… Instead of being a census, the form should contain questions which require lots of thought and tests the candidates ability to project ideas in writing. Some examples of good questions are;

  • “What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment and why?”
  • Many people are drifters; meaning, they just go with the flow. They don’t really place my thought on what they’ve achieved and the manner in which they did it. Avoid candidates who give very short answers that are open-ended. Also be extra careful with candidates who state some academic achievement here, especially if they have previous work experiences.
  • “Why are you interested in becoming a <Position Offered>?”
  • This question, more often than not, will help sort out the gamblers from those who are genuinely interested in the position. Look out for signs of interest, passion of the industry, commitment, ambition and how the candidate feels he/she could contribute.
  • “What, in your opinion, qualifies you to be considered as a <Position Offered>?”
  • Less-proficient candidates will have a hard time differentiating the key point of this question and the previous. To many people interest and qualification are similar. Also avoid candidates who answer this question by stating that they meet the minimum requirement in terms of academic qualification and/or experience. They are obviously not ready for “real-world” implementation of business-related skills.

I could go on and on about this issue, but I guess I’ve at least given some things which could be beneficial to an interviewer, especially those who are new to this process. I appreciate any comments and/or other suggestions on the recruitment process.

Adobe to Acquire Macromedia

As featured on OSNews and other news sourcesAdobe is acquiring Macromedia for a whopping US$3.4 billion. This merger will undeniably form the largest multimedia software house, as far as the industry is concerned.

Personally, I was never into Macromedia stuff… but I have always been impressed by Adobe goodies, especially Photoshop. It is without a doubt the image editing app for semi-pro to professional purposes. What kind of innovation will this acquisition bring to the industry? Only time will tell.

Personally though, I do feel that this would be a good deal for both companies. The technologies involved in both parties seem to complement each other.

The Nur Amalina Story

For over two days now, the main story in the national newspapers were about the amazing achievement of Nur Amalina Che Bakri, who got 17 As (SEVENTEEN Bloody As, can you bloody believe that?!) in her SPM (for those familiar with UK style education systems, this is roughly equivalent to GCE O-Levels). I tried to find more info about SPM for your reference, but the stupid MOE web site has no such info… Ah well, 99.9% of Malaysian government department webbies are usually bloody useless anyway.

My congrats goes to Amalina for her success! If somehow you got to read this entry, please take care of yourself and try to limit your interaction with the media as soon as possible. From me experience, this kind of exposure does more harm than good. Ego is not a nice thing to have blown out of proportions.

Anyway, this aspiring gynaecologist (I believe that this is the proper translation of the Malay term “pakar sakit puan”) is very interested to continue her studies at Cambridge… a very ambitious and wise choice indeed. Based on my experience with the academic professionals who are currently staffing the local public universities, you’re much better off studying abroad anyway, especially if you can afford it…

But I guess that’s an issue to be blogged in later 🙂

WTF! How did I missed this? Perhaps I was too busy trying to rebuild HTNet during the time… yep, that’s it.

Anyway, the goodies can be downloaded at kernel.org, or the nearest mirror site. The changelog is available here.

Rebuilding a Site Image

HTNet has always been a non-default look site, regardless of whatever CMS I used in the past. Although I’m not really an aesthetically gifted person, I can, and have been producing 100% XHTML valid sites which look good (to me at least :-p).

It now seems that I have to do this again with WP… But for the time being, I’m quite happy to use this WP theme called Steam by Samir M. Nassar. It is the only dynamic width WP theme that I can find in roughly 15 minutes. Even if I don’t use it permanently, it is an excellent base theme to start hacking on :-).

So far, WP has been just about what I needed at present without wasting time developing my own site engine.