Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Are You Smart?

Interesting question, and one, according to Kevin O’Connor, chief executive of, and former C.E.O. of DoubleClick, should be asked during interviews. In an interview printed in the Corner Office Section of this weekend’s NY Times, Mr O’Connor talked about asking questions that will throw people off balance and make them uncomfortable. To him, how people handle those tough questions gives him an indication of what he calls ‘raw intelligence.’ As we wrote in our post on Asking Tough Interview Questions, another way to dig beneath the surface of self- promotion is to ask about a Worst Job and seeing how comfortable people are in admitting difficult situations.

Other qualities he looks for? People who have experience in competitive situation. To him, it’s important to build his team with people who will stay the course, and not jump at the first sign of rocky waters.

Ask a million business owners what they think is important on a team and you’ll get a million answers. But most importantly, have you figured out what’s important to your team?

The Future of Getting, Doing and Losing Jobs

What do you the futurists have to say about trends in the workplace? This post was written by Erica Orange of the leading futurist consulting firm. Weiner Edrich Brown Consulting

One big take-away for us is the idea that virtual work will continue to become more commonplace from the big corporations to the smaller companies. We already know that growing businesses are comfortable in the virtual world, and see approximately 1/3 of you turn to Urban Interns to find virtual help. As discussed in the Wall Street Journal and CNN World Business, building a virtual team is a great way to keep overhead costs down, tap into top talent beyond your local area and depending on the time zones, keep the wheels moving 24 hours a day.

Keep reading to see what Erica has to say about the future of virtual work and the changing nature of jobs. Thanks Erica!

Locally and globally, we continue to see that the nature of jobs is profoundly changing, and what we do in order to earn our incomes, and how we do it, will never be the same. Importantly, none of this will ever again conform to what were the norms or rules or expectations across companies or through the years. The business of getting, keeping, being rewarded for and losing jobs has become a virtual free-for-all.

In the evolving world of work, everything is in motion. Almost half of IBM’s employees rarely come into a physical office. Like Accenture, Crayon and Best Buy, work gets done wherever you are. Even headquarters can be in cyberspace, and telepresence is gaining in quality and popularity. The processes, protocols and cultures of organizations are divergent as never before. Some companies are even encouraging the use of Facebook as a way to recruit for the company and collaborate with their colleagues and clients. Getting and keeping talent is taking on all kinds of new dimensions.

More workers are moving around the world to live, work and retire. There is increasing demand for high-end and low-end (personal services) jobs, leading to a sagging middle in the job market. Alan Blinder, Princeton University, has made a point of distinguishing between personal services and impersonal services – if it can be digitized (like much of medicine and finance), it doesn’t have to be done in geographic proximity. If it requires direct contact, like plumbing and building, it is more difficult to outsource. Now we are seeing the offshoring of even more personal service providers, such as tutors and concierges.

The workplace itself, where it continues to exist, will be a patchwork of new opportunities and challenges. In many buildings, it is coming to resemble more of a design studio than an industrial center. Emerging core values are collaboration and innovation. So, while many employers are increasingly observing and tracking employees to reduce slacking and absenteeism, others are doing away with the clock altogether and evaluating output rather than input.

While there is a great deal of emphasis being placed on managing younger generations of employees, the older generations are lost in the sea of turbulent job surfing, too. Many younger people have grown up with uncertainty, and they are cynical and wary of employer communications and expectations of loyalty. They make their demands up front, and communicate more informally up, down and across the organization. It comes as no surprise to them that in each place they land, the culture is different, the levels of integrity are uneven, the social networks are in play, and the measurement parameters are not consistent. But those who are older are the ones who are befuddled by the virtual office, the breaking down of silos, the differing expectations from one organization to the next, and the short-lived tenure of the jobs they hold.

While people are being accorded more flexibility in the workplace, the competition for many jobs is intense, and there are no “career paths” any more in one place or one industry. Plus, there is no longer any guarantee that the job will even be there as long as a year later. There are no longer any rules, there are no longer any promises, and there is no longer much trust. That means there will have to be evolutionary change, if not revolutionary change, in the way people are prepared for work, for life, and for life between jobs and after work.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Urban Interns Video Series: Lara Paul, iKidNY!

Hear from Lara Paul, the founder of iKidNY, on hiring and being an intern at her startup.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

4 Ways to Channel Your Inner European

This guest post is by Vicki Salemi, former recruiting executive, journalist, speaker and author of Big Career in the Big City. For more information visit

It’s a funny thing about leaving the concrete jungle for a spectacular international journey. Sometimes you need to escape the metropolis to visit to the rural, beautiful countryside of Sicily to enjoy the mountains, Mediterranean Sea and national parks to appreciate the beauty of success.

During my trip and being immersed in the tranquility and beauty of southern Italy (not to mention the delicious pasta and seafood), several career metaphors popped into my head.

1. Be authentic and don’t sugarcoat it. Have you ever been on an interview and asked if you had experience with a certain system and tried to fudge your way through it? As I enjoyed fresh ricotta on a daily basis (literally, cannolis included), I couldn’t help but wonder: there’s literally one or two ingredients that makes up the fresh cheese! That’s it. Delicious, fresh, organic. So, when you’re pitching yourself as a product during an interview and tackling important projects on the internship, remain true to your main ingredients and try not to fake your way through unchartered territory. The interviewer/your boss will clearly identify the transluscent sugar-coat.

2. Take your time. Slow and steady wins the race. During an interview or even on the internship, have you ever thought the first one to the finish line wins? Think again. Sometimes we feel rushed and buy into the notion that a job well done is a job done quickly. In the midst of Nebrodi Park (seriously, this trip was very insightful), I watched the cows slowly meandering among the trees. The sunlight glistening off the waves of the lakes. And it hit me: You don’t need to be quick to get through a job. Rather, the alternative is often the better case: On an interview or on a project, be methodical. Take your time. Think before you speak. And be sure to smell the roses.

3. Your work is a mirror of yourself. Upon chatting with a manager at the Verdura Resort (so beautiful; on a clear day you can see the northernmost part of Tunisia! But alas, I digress), I asked her about the overall Sicilian philosophy of work. Do they work their fingers to the bone, barely taking fifteen minutes for lunch, I wondered? As it turns out, it’s not uncommon to clock ten to twelve hour work days but the beauty is this: When they’re not at work, they shut it off. They are immersed with their lives, their families and friends. So, too should urban interns in a metropolis. It’s all about knowing when to stay focused and the importance of unplugging at the end of a tedious work day.

4. Create work that lasts the test of time. I realized this (yes, everything goes back to careers even when you’re amidst ancient ruins!) when walking among the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento which mainly date back to the 5th century B.C. Can you imagine creating something out of nothing and having it last forever? Literally. Well, that may be a stretch if your internship requires scheduling conference calls but net net: We become our work product. Make it an outstanding one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More on the Changing Way of Work: LooseCubes

I had the great pleasure of meeting with Campbell McKellar of LooseCubes last week. For those of you who haven't checked it out yet, we are huge fans of this business. LooseCubes allows businesses with extra space to post on their site so that business owners, consultants and others who work remotely can access those hard to find spaces.

Why do we love this business? A few reasons. As we wrote in our Entrepreneur column on Finding the Right Co-Working Office, we've worked in a variety of office spaces in the last year and a half and can definitely relate to the problem that LooseCubes is solivng. It's tough to find affordable office space, especially if you're just looking for a desk or two. Also (in case you can't tell), we're big fans of the niche marketplace concept. There's a lot of noise out there in the online world and it's great to provide users with an experience that's focused on meeting a specific need. When users come to our site, they know that they can find top notch interns, part-time help and freelancers. When they come to LooseCubes, they know that they'll find a great inventory of work spaces.

Perhaps what we love the most about LooseCubes is it's also focused on the changing way that people work. Business expansion and office space are opposite sides of the same coin and its great to know that as people are thinking more creatively about building their team, they also have a resource that allows them to think more creatively about where to work.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lindsey Pollak Testimonial

We were thrilled to hear that one of our favorite people and career experts, Lindsey Pollak, found an awesome Urban Intern to help with the upcoming re-release of her book, Getting from College to Career. Below she shared her thoughts on her experience on Urban Interns. Thanks Lindsey!

"I am so impressed with the quality of candidates I found on Urban Interns and the ease of using the site. I recommend Urban Interns highly and will definitely use it every time I need a short-term employee or intern. Thank you for providing a much-needed resource for business owners."

Lindsey Pollak

Career Advice Author & Consultant

Introducing the Urban Interns Interview Series!

At Urban Interns, we get to meet phenomenal people every day on both sides of the employment equation: entrepreneurs seeking top talent to help them grow, and eager job-seekers looking to put their skill sets to work. This video series will showcase the coolest companies, most up and coming business leaders, and their rising Urban Interns. Please email us at if you'd like to be featured!

This week's video interview is with Ev Boyle, the Editor-in-Chief of Measy is a website that helps you find the perfect gadget. Ev is an employer on Urban Interns and found his awesome intern on the site. Hear from him as to why Measy is an awesome place to work and why he loves using Urban Interns to find top talent.

How to Ask Tough Interview Questions

Interviewing is a skill. Some of us may bend over backwards trying to make our interviewees comfortable, that we forget to ask the tough questions. While it’s all well and good to try and establish a rapport with a prospect, you still need to make sure that you’re getting to the heart of whether a particular applicant will get the job done. Here are 4 tips to get you on track:

  1. Bring in Someone Else: As a business owner, you’ve probably accepted (or at least acknowledged), your strengths and weaknesses. Decide where interviewing falls for you. If you know it’s not one of your areas of excellence (or interest!), bring someone else in to do some screening for you. Even if you work alone, ask someone you trust to jump on the phone or grab a quick coffee to add another layer of vetting to your process.
  2. Seek out the Specifics: “I’m a self-starter.” “I’m detail oriented.” “I have experience running and managing large projects.” Sounds great! But every time you hear one of those too good to be true statements, ask for a specific example from the candidates work history. Another approach is to dig into the candidates resume and ask questions about that. “So, I see you were a manager at company x. Give me an example of what you did when you were there that shows that you’re the most organized person on the planet.”
  3. Open Ended Questions: It’s amazing how much information you can learn just by asking some seemingly simple questions. “Tell me about yourself.” With that little phrase, valuable information tends to come pouring out. Did the applicant spot the opportunity to sell himself to you? Was she polished? Too polished? Babbling on and on? Talking about yourself can be difficult to do, so you can really learn a lot here just by listening. And remember, if someone can’t sell themselves, can they sell your product for you?
  4. What Was Your Worst Job? For those who breeze right through the self-promotion, you want to probe at the other side of the coin-- failures or weaknesses. Just as we want people on our team who are rock stars at work, we also want people who can take direction, admit when they need help or when an idea was just plain bad. In asking about a worst job, you want to understand what it was about that experience that made the candidate unhappy. You also want to make sure that your organization isn’t strikingly similar to the one that the applicant hated. So, for example, if you hear things like, “I wasn’t happy because there weren’t enough people around for me to talk to,” you may conclude that this applicant won’t fare much better at your 8 person startup!