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Thursday, October 23, 2014

What's your greatest weakness? Perhaps the most dreaded question asked in an interview...

Candidate strengths are relatively easy to to assess during an interview. The interviewer has a more than willing partner in the candidate to discuss at length all the things the potential employee does really well. Determining weaknesses is far more challenging, both for interviewers and candidates alike. Part of the problem is that the goals of the candidate are different than the goals of the interviewer when it comes to dealing with weaknesses. The candidate has some pretty obvious goals during the interview:

Candidate’s goals:

  • To sell themselves to the interviewer
  • To portray themselves in the best possible light
  • To make it appear they are the ideal, perfect candidate for the job
  • To not disclose any weaknesses or shortcomings
  • To tell the the interviewer what the candidate thinks they want to hear
  • For the interviewer to hire them rather than anyone else

The interviewer, at least at Pinnacol, also has some specific things we are trying to accomplish:

  • To understand what the candidate has actually done in their current and prior positions as an indicator of what they will really do if hired into your opening (the essence of "Behavioral Interviewing")
  • To understand both the strengths and weaknesses realizing there is no such thing as a perfect candidate
  • To hire the best candidate based on accurate, meaningful job-related information

When it comes to discussing weaknesses there are specific reasons, from the interviewer's perspective, why this is important:

The first is fairly obvious - If we know what the weaknesses are and they are critical enough to preclude the candidate from further consideration, it helps form our hiring/not hiring decision. This is probably the single biggest reason candidates don't like to disclose weaknesses.

More importantly to Pinnacol is whether the candidate is self-aware to the point of being able to candidly acknowledge where their weaknesses lie and to discuss the steps they are taking to address those weaknesses. Pinnacol does a tremendous amount of training of its employees and the reality is that training is done, in large part, to specifically help our employees overcome their weaknesses.

Amanda Augustine
A lot of books on interviewing suggest turning the weakness question on its head by saying things like "I work too hard", "I'm too much of a perfectionist", I pay too much attention to detail", etc. For any seasoned interviewer this turning a weakness into a strength technique is painfully obvious and really does the candidate no benefit. Companies really do need to know candidate strengths and weaknesses because, as mentioned above, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. The question companies are simply trying to assess with this question is whether they can live with the weaknesses identified (will the weaknesses impact the candidate's ability to succeed in the role?), and secondarily though perhaps more importantly, can they help the candidate overcome these weaknesses to maximize their future success in the role. Amanda Augustine, in a recent bog on The Ladders,  has some great pointers for candidates to consider. She talks about the STAR method as a good way for candidates to address this, and other interview questions. Here are a couple of Amanda's tips:
  • Think of a Situation or Task that you’ve struggled with in the past. This could be anything from having difficulty remaining cool under pressure, being afraid of public speaking, or getting too caught up in the little details of a project and missing deadlines.
  • Identify what Actions you’ve taken to improve your skill-set or overcome this shortcoming at the office. For instance, if you’ve been too efficient for your own good in the past and ended up cutting corners, you can explain what measures you’ve taken to ensure you produce a high-quality, error-free product now.
  • Discuss the Results of your actions. Are you no longer struggling with this skill at the office? Have your customer scores or employee assessments improved? Are you performing better at your organization? Prove you’re an accomplished professional by explaining the final success.
At Pinnacol we frame our interview questions around this same STAR format so for candidates interviewing at Pinnacol Amanda's tips are great advice!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Information Fatigue Syndrome?

I was perusing the newspapers from October 1914 as I have a lot of curiosity about what was going on around the time in which Pinnacol as a company was created. This week in 1914 wasn't too different than some of what is going on now. The election cycle for Governor was in full swing and there was a fair amount of negative campaigning then as there is now. Our then future Governor, George Carlson, who would be instrumental in passing the first Workers' Compensation Act for our state, was loved or hated, depending on the source, about as much in 1914 as Governor Hickenlooper and his opponent Bob Beauprez are today.

Scrolling through the news of the day I came across an article, totally unrelated to politics, that I thought presented a stark contrast between then and now. The subject? The importance of staying informed in a changing world. The article, from the Routt County Republican, dated Friday October 9, 2014, argued that people should make the effort to not just read a monthly magazine to stay abreast of what was going on. Instead they should be reading a good weekly magazine to keep up with what the article called "the march of events".

I had to chuckle because in today's world anyone who only read something on a weekly or monthly basis to stay current would be badly out of step with current events. The article did get me to thinking that back in 1914 people might have thought that weekly information might be information overload, which is something that I think we all deal with today. An article on the blog Digital Intelligence Today from November 14, 2013 written by Paul Marsden made the contrast quite clear:

IFS (information fatigue syndrome)

Definition:  When the volume of potentially useful and relevant information available exceeds processing capacity and becomes a hindrance rather than a help
90% of all the data in the world has been generated over the last two years
Information consumption in the US is in the order of 3.6 zettabytes (3.6 million million gigabytes)
The average American consumes 34 gigabytes / 12 hours of information per day – outside of work
“Between the dawn of civilization through 2003 about 5 exabytes of information was created. Now, that much information created every 2 days” (Eric Schmidt – former Google CEO)
In the US, people who text send or receive an average of 35 texts per day
28% of office workers time is spent dealing with emails
The typical Internet user is exposed to 1,707 banner ads per month
The human brain has a theoretical memory storage capacity of 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes)
The maximum number of pieces of information a human brain can handle concurrently is 7 (Miller’s Law)
Information (over)load is linked to greater stress, and poorer health
Overuse of social media can lead to short-term memory loss

Much of this would have been absolute gibberish to someone back in 1914, but its interesting that even back then there was a perceived struggle as to how to effectively stay informed regarding the "march of events"...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sr. Maintenance Technician opportunity is a great chance to join Pinnacol!

Construction is booming in Denver and most of Colorado right now but around the corner is old man winter and outdoor construction activities that are weather dependent may start to slow down. We're looking for a Senior Maintenance Technician to help us maintain our Lowry headquarters.

Our 130,000 sq. ft. building demands a dedicated maintenance team and we're looking for an experienced candidate capable of performing skilled journey level work in one trade or craft and semiskilled sub-journey level work in several other trades. This position requires the general knowledge and mechanical aptitude to perform a variety of tasks, using the methods, practices and materials generally associated with the building trades industry.

Some of our Facilities team hard at work!
Candidates should have a minimum of a High School Diploma or GED along with 3 to 5 years of progressively responsible building maintenance and repair experience, or satisfactory completion of a formalized apprenticeship-training certificate in the building trades industry. We'd love a candidate with certification in one or more of the following specialties - Basic Air Conditioning and refrigeration, Electricity for HVAC, or Locksmithing.

Our Maintenance Technicians must able to work a flexible schedule including evenings and weekends and be available on a rotating schedule for emergencies by telephone and/or cell phone.

If you know of someone who might be interested in this opportunity please let them know we are looking. Better yet, if you are interested we'd love to hear from you! For consideration please apply online at

Need a reason to NOT work out?

For many of our positions candidates have the unenviable task of completing our basic math test. Nothing seems to bring on the anxiety jitters in candidates more than sitting down to what really is a basic exercise covering things like addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, percentages, decimals, and fractions, as well as a couple of word problems geared towards a workers' compensation question we get asked about all the time. To make it even easier we even allow candidates to use a calculator.

We know many people struggle with math (I count myself among them). For our employees who also have to take the test when they apply for some promotional opportunities we have developed some practice exercises  designed to help overcome their math anxiety. I was showing Megan, who recently joined our HR team, these exercises this morning so that she could go over them with one of our employees. One of these exercises is titled "Having Fun with Math!" (how creative is that?). At the end of "Having Fun with Math" we ask employees a seemingly silly question about how fast they are moving. This always elicits some puzzled expressions until we explain that we are going to use very basic math to calculate how fast we are all moving ... around the sun. For those who remember their high school geometry you'll recall that the circumference of a circle is 2 times Pi (approximately 3.142) times the Radius:

I've got the calculation below, but the answer to our question is that we are all moving at about 66,000 miles an hour this old earth sure gives a remarkably smooth ride!). When I told Megan how fast she was moving her comment was "If I'm moving that fast then I guess I don't have to work out..." If that's not the best excuse to avoid working up a sweat then I don't know what is!

Don't think you are moving 66,000 miles an hour? Here's the basic math!

  • The earth is approximately 93 million miles from the sun so 93 million is the Radius
  • The earth goes around the sun once every 365 days so 2 X 3.142 X 93 million is the circumference of the earth's orbit (circle) around the sun
  • 2 X 3.142 X 93 million equals an annual journey of about 584.5 million miles
  • 584.5 million miles a year divided by 365 days  equals 1.6 million miles per day
  • 1.6 million miles per day divided by 24 hours equals .0667 million miles per hour
  • .0667 times 1,000,000 (1 million) equals...... 66,724 miles per hour!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Flu shots an annual event at Pinnacol

I don't know anyone who really likes to get a shot, and through the years I've become more skittish about having strangers poking me with needles. However, I really, really don't like getting the flu so yesterday I lined up with many (most, but not all) of my brave co-workers and rolled up my sleeve for the annual influenza vaccine. I'm convinced that the rule of inverse proportionality applies to shots of all kinds because I truly believe the closer I got to the front of the line (and the impending jab in the arm) the bigger the needle looked, at least in my mind. In reality it was over and done with before I could say "OW!" and it really did not hurt at all. Some of my immediate co-workers were not quite as brave as those of us in line and opt to take their chances every year. Some tell me they have never gotten the flu, which is truly a wonderful thing as for anyone who has experienced it knows it is a miserable experience. Pinnacol is nice enough to pick up the cost of the shots and to arrange them to be given on-site every year so for me I'd feel really bad about not getting the shot and then actually getting a case of H1N1, H3N2, or whatever this year's version of influenza will be.

Thus far the Google Flu Trends map for the U.S. doesn't show much activity YET, and the peak flu season usually isn't until January or February so who knows what kind of flu season we'll have. So to everyone who reads this, regardless of whether you "bare arms" against the flu or go without, here's wishing for a healthy winter!

For additional information on the Flu season visit

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Investigator - Special Investigations Unit - position now open!

My last post talked about some of the more unique opportunities available at Pinnacol right now and we have another position that has just opened that would fit into that category. Our Special Investigations Unit, or SIU, has an opening for an Investigator who will investigate fraud issues related to workers' compensation.

Types of fraud can include compensability issues on claims including allegations of fraudulent intent to obtain workers compensation insurance benefits by claimants, fraudulent receipt of proceeds from workers compensation by service providers, or fraudulent methods designed to reduce insurance premiums by policyholders. Our SIU Investigators also help prepare possible cases for presentation in the criminal and civil justice systems.

Ideally we are looking for a candidate who has a Bachelors degree or equivalent work experience, and who has some related workers’ compensation or insurance experience (2 years preferred). Direct investigations experience is not required but is obviously a strong  plus. Bilingual candidates (English/Spanish) are strongly encouraged to apply as are recent graduates with majors in Criminal Justice or related fields.

I spoke with Mark, who heads up our SIU group, and he's very excited at the opportunity to bring a new person onto the team! If this sounds like an opportunity you are interested in we encourage you to apply via our company website at

Opportunities update!

Its been a while since I have put out an update on our current opportunities so thought I'd do that this morning.

We have a fair number of openings in a broad variety of positions so its really a great chance to join our organization if your background and skills look to be a fit for some of these roles.

This morning I put up an announcement of a newly created position for a Learning & Organizational Development Specialist. We are in the process of rebuilding our learning and development function with an increased emphasis on Organizational Development. You'll note that we actually have two positions in this area - one for the L & OD Manager role, and the one just mentioned for the Specialist. Organizational Development covers a lot of territory but as Wikipedia puts it "Organization development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organizational change". We have a lot of positive initiatives that the company is implementing so for someone who has experience helping companies successfully manage change these are exciting opportunities.

Many of the positions we have open probably don't need too much explanation but there are some others that we don't post too often. One of those is for a Sr. Maintenance Tech who will be instrumental in helping us maintain our headquarters building to the high standards we have set since moving into the facility in September 2002. Many folks who visit us for the first time think the building is brand new and that is in large part thanks to the efforts of our top-notch facilities team that the Sr. Maintenance Tech would be a part of.

Another position that we don't have open too often is for a Staff Counsel (Attorney) in our Legal team. For this role we are really hoping to find someone with direct workers' compensation experience, ideally within the Colorado market as every state has different workers' compensation statutes on the books.

The Sr. Actuarial Manager is another 'niche' position that certainly requires a very specific skill set. We have been using outside actuarial consultants for several years but are now looking to bring this skill set back in house.

We are actively reviewing candidates for all of the other positions as well and if any of these positions looks like a possible fit we would love to hear from you. As always we ask that candidates apply via our company website.