Category Archives: Uncategorized

From $5 an Hour to CEO: How to Do It

I recently was fortunate to spend time with the delightful Pernille Spiers Lopez, who started off on the sales floor at a furniture store earning $5 an hour and went on to become President and CEO of Ikea North America, and Global Head of HR.

Her message is both inspiring and practical – for both job seekers and those starting off at the career, as well as those higher up in organizations. A series of must-watch interviews with her will be published each week at The first one, on starting from the bottom, can be seen below and here. Her book, “Design Your Life” will be published November 4th (pre-order here).

One of the things we at Apploi hear again and again when speaking to HR leaders and CEOs, are that companies want to promote from within. If that message is effectively communicated to job seekers, it’s a win-win for both the staff and the companies. Talented individuals will take entry-level positions, and it will be the stepping stone to a great career in the organization. The key is communication – and examples, like Pernielle, who have done it.


Recruiters Think ‘Seasonal Seasonal Seasonal Workers’; But What Do Those Workers Think?

One of the benefits of working at Apploi and having hundreds of thousands of job seekers come to us for advice, training, and (of course) jobs, is that we gain great insight from them into what they’re thinking. And much like Mel Gibson’s character in the movie “What Women Want” discovered, it’s not always what the other side thinks.

We’re going to be unveiling different insights over the next few weeks, but one thing to highlight today – which you can read on the Apploi Advice page from my colleague Charlotte Phillips – is that job seekers are embracing seasonal work.

It’s not the case – as sometimes assumed – that job seekers don’t want temporary or seasonal work, and only want full-time work. We in fact found that:

“52 percent of jobseekers are looking for seasonal work over the holidays, maybe hoping to make some extra money to treat their families. Plus, 36 percent of jobseekers are looking for their second or third job, so part-time shift work is perfect for them. For most jobseekers today, flexibility is key, and that’s exactly what seasonal work offers.”info-4-

These insights are very valuable, as companies are battling for these seasonal workers. As the AP reports:

“Macy’s plans to hire about 86,000 seasonal holiday workers nationwide to bolster its stores, call centers and distribution hubs.

UPS … this year said it would be hiring 95,000 people to handle the load. FedEx plans to hire more than 50,000 seasonal workers, or 10,000 more than last year.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, plans to hire 60,000 temporary workers, nearly a 10 percent increase over last year.

Kohl’s plans to hire more than 67,000 seasonal workers, a 15 percent increase over last year …

Target Corp. said it will hire 70,000 seasonal workers, even with 2013.”

With all this competition, and much more, the question therefore for businesses large and small becomes: How can you win the race to get these seasonal workers? How can you standout to get the best workers – and deliver the best service for your customers?

Here are the answers that we’ve learned from seasonal workers:

Don’t have a cumbersome application process with long lines, lots of steps, multiple call-backs, and slow communication. They’ll just go elsewhere. The best certainly will.

Do have a quick and easy point of capture process, and the ability to quickly identity those who meet your criteria – and to respond to them quickly.

And of course – if a seasonal worker shines, while they might be happy just being temporary, you can always try to get them to stay. Temporary hires are a great way to identify future talent for full-time openings.

Even the chauvinistic Mel Gibson got the girl in the end.



Just Thinking You Slept Badly Can Harm Your Performance

“Rough night?” is in many ways an insult disguised in a sympathetic question, as it’s pretty much saying “you look awful, was it a bad night?”

Besides insulting you, can it also be sabotaging your productivity?

A fascinating study by Kristi Erdal and Christina Draganich from Colorado College indicates precisely that: Subjects tricked into thinking they had a bad night’s sleep (by telling random subjects that their brain waves had been measured and they saw how they slept) underperformed in a test –mirroring the effects of real sleep deprivation — irrespective of how they actually slept.


It’s well-known that sleep deprivation harms performance: It lowers concentration, slows reaction time, and affects reasoning.

Now we know it’s not enough to get a good night’s sleep — you need to believe it too.


Why Top Recruiters Want Teachers (for Non-Classroom Positions): Clue Goldilocks and the Three Bears

For teachers upset about not getting the pay they feel they deserve in the classroom, they may be intrigued to learn that outside of it they could do a lot better: A cadre of top recruiters are looking for them for a range of positions – with lots of upside for performance.

Part of the reason why many companies switch (from job boards, open calls, and other traditional recruiting platforms) to Apploi is because they greatly value personality and other soft skills (communication, language, friendliness etc). That to them is often even more important than the hard skills and experience listed in their resume. Indeed when a customer is upset that they’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes, a soothing voice and friendly smile without a degree is far more effective than a scowling MBA.

One of my favorite examples of a client using Apploi to tease out personality is Dennis Conklin, an entrepreneur on the West Coast who runs around 40 stores, across 3 concepts. For his receptionist and sales team, he asks them to submit through Apploi – along with everything else in the traditional resume and other soft skills questions – a video of them reading from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


  1. It shows confidence.
  2. It shows personality.
  3. It shows a willingness to have fun.

Another top recruiter, Amanda Boone, I spoke to last week told me that for a long time she’s been recruiting teachers for leading positions in her call centers. Why?

  1. They’re great at explaining things.
  2. They’ve got remarkable patience.
  3. They’re used to dealing with a range of personalities.



It makes complete sense. Indeed the best sales people, the best customer service reps, all have qualities teachers have: Enthusiasm, credibility, knowledge, and relationship building skills.

The more time I spend with top recruiters, the more I learn about the untraditional (and unexpected) avenues they source from. It’s a lesson to jobseekers of all kinds: think outside the box, you may be more valuable in another profession.

I’d love to hear other examples of “surprising” career changes, let me know.


photo credit: <a href=””>Keith Williamson</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>


Breaking: Apploi in White House Report with President Obama – Delivering what Jobseekers need

WH signing

A few hours ago Apploi CEO, Adam Lewis, sent out the following very exciting announcement:

Hi All,

Today is an exceptionally exciting one for us all at Apploi: President Obama and Vice President Biden delivered a report and signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which I’m delighted to say Apploi is a part of.

We are truly honored, and are looking forward to working on this with the White House over the next year and beyond. We will be working together with Fortune 500 companies and CEOs, as well as heads of talent from some of the world’s leading and most innovative brands, to build new developments to strengthen the workforce and provide companies with the talent they need.

I would like to personally thank Daniel Freedman and David Clements on my team for their truly outstanding efforts with this.

Please read the release here: and to access the fact sheet and report here: 

Best regards,


The full report can be downloaded here.

On a personal note, a big thank you to: Adam, for his absolute support, commitment, and tireless work on making this initiative a reality; to the recruiters, managers, talent heads, CEOs, and other executives we’ve been working with, who are big part of this journey for us; and the amazing staff behind this report (the unsung heroes) – including for their understanding of the game-changing nature of Apploi.

Screenshot 2014-07-22 21.25.46

It’s going to be an incredibly exciting next few months with Apploi as we add new features to better the experience for the jobseekers – from showing in real-time where the job demand is and what the skill requirements are, through to how they can upskill to reach the positions of their dreams – and for the companies looking to employ them. Everyone, indeed the whole country, benefits from a more skilled, better-matched, and employed, population.

We are always looking for ideas and partners to better the experience for our community members, and to enact our vision, so if you would like to get involved in anyway, please reach out!

Thank you.



Six Lessons to Guide You to the Top of Your Game (or your destination of choice)

On Tuesday I spent a great afternoon with Bob Ravener in Nashville, TN, interviewing him for the Apploi Observer. The interviews were centered around his book “Up! The Difference Between Today and Tomorrow Is You,” and advice for veterans re-entering the workforce.

The interviews will be worth watching – and his book (telling his story from childhood to the pinnacle of his profession) is worth reading. It also comes with endorsements from highly accomplished figures in corporate America, the sports world, the military community, and government, including Joe Gibbs, the three time Super Bowl Champion Coach, General Terry “Max” Haston, and Dale Nees, Assistant Dean of the Business School at Notre Dame.

Some readers may pick up the book, looking at where Bob’s career trajectory, curious about the secret of his upbringing. Indeed he’s worked in senior positions at top companies, including PepsiCo, Home Depot, and Starbucks, and Dollar General. He’s got a beautiful family, has been on a presidential commission, volunteered extensively … you get the picture.

But Bob’s childhood was anything but picturesque: By the time he was eight, his family had lived in three different houses in two different towns, and he had attended four different schools. His father was an abusive alcoholic who couldn’t hold down a job – and would take his anger out on his family (he and his brother would step in to block his parents lunging at each other with knives). His accompanying his father on “errands” usually ended with him watching his father get drunk in a bar.


His upbringing was the polar opposite to the type of upbringing that Amy Chua espouses in “Tiger Moms” as being critical to success. And his later experiences were filled with many more challenges and heartbreaks, from the personal (including the tragedy of a lost child) to the professional (the first company he went to work for after leaving the Navy went bankrupt just before he was due to start).

It’s precisely because Bob’s life was filled with more than his fair share of obstacles that this book is so valuable. It’s accessible. It speaks to those both in difficult situations or who have been through them, and shows a better future can be ahead. The book is filled with valuable pieces of advice to get there. Among my favorites:

·      Go to bed early, and wake up early (per Benjamin Franklin)

·      Stay organized: Make lists and write things down, it’s the surest way.

·      Surround yourself with good people and good friends: it’ll help shape and educate you.

·      Have a positive attitude: It’s critical to the success of an individual and a company.

·      Practice “finish-line thinking”: Know what you want to accomplish, and design a strategy to get there. Don’t live just day-to-day.

Each chapter starts with an inspiring quote, and perhaps the one which is most fitting for Bob’s story is attributed to Marcus Aurelius:
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

One of Bob’s favorite pieces of advice, while advising people to master their emotions is:
“I can’t control 100 percent of what happens to me, but I can control 100 percent of how I respond to what happens to me.”

And that’s not just good advice for those struggling on the bottom – it’s important for everyone.

You can buy the book here and the interviews will be published on the Apploi Observer here.



Is Clayton Christensen’s ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ Wrong?

Clayton Christensen’s website declares him to be “The World’s Top Management Thinker.” And judging by accolades, position (Harvard Business School), and books, that may well be the case. His (great) first book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” published in 1997, is widely-admired. In fact the Economist in 2011 named it as one of the six most important books about business ever written.

Which is why Jill Lepore’s, June 23, 2014, New Yorker piece attacking “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” was so intriguing.  Prof. Lepore, also at Harvard (she’s a historian), writes:

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” consists of a set of handpicked case studies, beginning with the disk-drive industry, which was the subject of Christensen’s doctoral thesis, in 1992. “Nowhere in the history of business has there been an industry like disk drives,” Christensen writes, which makes it a very odd choice for an investigation designed to create a model for understanding other industries …

Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature. It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. Transfixed by change, it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.

To summarize the debate, In a nutshell, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” argues that big successful companies put too much of a focus on current needs and fail to adapt to new technologies that will address future needs, and so those companies eventually fail (disrupted by the new startups). Prof. Lepore points out that several of the companies he says were disrupted by innovative upstarts, in fact survived, and several of his disrupters, in turn, didn’t make it.

Prof. Lepore would seem to be making a powerful case .. until one reads Prof. Christensen response in an interview with Business Week:

… in order to discredit me, Jill had to break all of the rules of scholarship that she accused me of breaking—in just egregious ways, truly egregious ways. In fact, every one—every one—of those points that she attempted to make [about The Innovator’s Dilemma] has been addressed in a subsequent book or article. Every one! And if she was truly a scholar as she pretends, she would have read [those]. I hope you can understand why I am mad that a woman of her stature could perform such a criminal act of dishonesty—at Harvard, of all places.

Andrew Hill backs with Prof Christensen in the Financial Times:

Prof Christensen is no ideologue. He has developed his original idea, in a continuing and valuable attempt to understand how innovation works and how to realise its benefits. In the latest Harvard Business Review, he explains why strict adherence to financial measures of success drives investment away from the type of innovation that could increase jobs and growth.

The New Yorker article is a useful corrective for overzealous executives and consultants who took a 17-year-old idea and turned it into a religion. But complacent managers and smug strategists who think they can return to a golden age of known rivals and predictable markets should not take comfort from it.

That point is perhaps one of the positive outcomes of this debate, although it will be interesting to see Prof. Lepore’s response (or apology?)


How to Spot Talent (Hint: Experience is Overrated)

Top recruiters are changing how they work. Or they should be. That’s because the market today for top talent is too tight, and business is too volatile and complex, for the old method of focusing on “competencies” when hiring and developing talent to work.

Instead the focus needs to be on potential: That is the ability to adapt to an ever-changing business environment and grow into new roles.

This is the thesis put forward by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz in the June 2014 Harvard Business Review, entitled “21st Century Talent Spotting” (although I prefer the front cover’s title, pictured.)

HBR June 2014 cover copy

He declares we are in “a new era of talent spotting – one in which our evaluations of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential.” (The first era of recruiting, he explains, was based on physical attributes, the second era focused on IQ, and the third era was focused on competence.)

The reason today is different, and competence, for example, is not enough, is because “what makes someone successful in a particular role today might not tomorrow if the competitive environment shifts, the company’s strategy changes, or he or she must collaborate with or manage a different group of colleagues.”

Therefore, the test is not whether they have the right skills, but whether they have the potential to learn new ones. 

And so to the big question: How do you tell if someone has potential?

The key is to focus on the following:

  1. The right motivation (real commitment to the pursuit of the right goals)
  2. Curiosity (seeking new experiences and knowledge, and openness to learning and change)
  3. Insight (ability to gather and make sense of information that suggests new possibilities)
  4. Engagement (using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people)
  5. Determination (wherewithal to fight for difficult goals and bounce back from adversity)

You discover if people have this, he says, both by mining their history and having in-depth interviews. Questions like “What steps do you take to seek out the unknown?” and “What do you do to broaden your thinking, experience, or personal development?” help elicit that information.

This thesis is something my colleagues and I at Apploi subscribe too, as do many of our clients. We are built on the assumption that the one-dimensional resume, which predominately shows work experience and education, is not enough on which to filter potential employers.

By letting candidates showcase themselves and their talents, and answer video and audio questions, companies are allowing potential to shine.

While a candidate might not have a top GPA, they can, for example, showcase community work they’ve done rebuilding their local center that was devastated by Katrina.

Or while their work experience may be thin, when challenged with a real-life complicated logistical scenario in a video question, their ability to think through challenges in a clear and rational way can shine through.

The results we see is that companies are now bringing in for interviews people they previously would have discarded based just on their resume – and those people are turning out to be top performers (and with lower turnover). What Mr. Fernandez-Araoz is saying, we’re seeing through our data.

It’s fascinating to see this concept being embraced by everyone from pioneers within the international community (UNOPs) through to banks and financial institutions through to leaders in the retail and services space.

Whether you’re hiring a barista or a barrister, there’s a growing consensus that potential deserves to play a major (and early) role in that decision. Do you do that? (and how?)


The 4 Secrets to Completing To Do Lists  

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.” – Margaret Thatcher

There is never enough time in the day to get everything you’d like done. At least that’s the case for me.

My day typically starts around 6:00am, and I always start strong. By 8:30am I’ve usually at least gone through the morning newspapers, knocked out a series of emails, and worked on some new ideas.

It’s around 8:45am that the difficulty starts. New emails come in. My schedule starts filling up with new meetings and tasks. By 11:000am, my To Do List has doubled in length. And so the day continues.

How then do you avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and how do you avoid letting important things drop off?

  1. Setting expectations.  The most important part is understanding that you’ll never get everything done in one day that you’d ideally want to. At least not if you’re an ambitious person. Understanding that helps you avoid feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.
  1. Prioritization. Continuing from point one, your focus should be on getting the most important and time-sensitive tasks done first. This includes both the tasks that must be done (however mundane or time-consuming), and then those that are going to have the greatest impact. (Developing a partnership with a hotel chain that operates 150 hotels v. a single business.)

Screenshot 2014-05-30 08.47.58


  1. Share Responsibilities. Wherever possible, do pass on tasks to others and avoid micromanaging (otherwise it defeats the purpose of delegating). My colleague, Apploi CEO Adam Lewis, told me that one of his most valuable management lessons came when someone told him, “wherever possible, make yourself redundant.” Believe me you’ll find more valuable ways to use your time.
  1. Don’t Let the Perfect Be The Enemy of the Good. This is one of my favorite phrases, and we’ve got it framed on the wall at Apploi. My friend and former colleague, and now Daily Beast editor, John Avlon, loved this quote, and I recently saw Facebook’s version, which is “Better Done Than Perfect.” The more time you spend on something, the better it will be; but on the flip side, spending too long delays that – and everything else. You need to find the right balance.

Putting these ideas together, I operate two “To Do Lists.” One, what must get done, and second, what I’d love to get done. (Technology helps: Apps like Evernote and Reminders, keep lists and tasks accessible and organized, and the likes of and GoToMeeting allow productive virtual meetings when face-to-face isn’t possible.)

My day only ends once the “must get done” list is done, and I consider it a successful day (or a “supremely satisfied” day, to borrow from The Iron Lady) when I’ve gone through as much of my “other” to do list as possible.

What works for you?