Monday, August 25, 2014

The Recruiting GAP!

I have been active in the Job Market for most of 2014 and having had experience interacting with HR and attending a few interviews I feel its time for me to jot down my experience and analysis of the whole Recruiting Process.

1. I was called on for an onsite interview after having multiple calls and discussions with both the HR and the hiring manager. There was a huge difference in the expectations set regarding the open position and the interview process.  It left a bitter sweet experience in me and much to my own surprise I did not even follow up having realized there was clear mismatch in the expectations set at both ends.

2. I was referred to a job at Start up where my brother is a current employee. I have had previous relations with C level executives in the company and it was a great fit to what I can be at that company. After clearing 4 levels of interview, I received an email from the HR citing "no knowledge on the sector / industry"  as a reason for not moving with the hire decision.

3. I am currently interviewing for a position and have cleared 2 rounds of interview. By the way things transpired in the 2nd round I am leaning more on the results of not getting to the next level. The interesting thing was the 2nd round was supposed to be a technical interview and much to my surprise I was not asked a single question related to technology.

On retrospection and having had this discussion with several people I have come up with the following analysis/ suggestions -

1. It is very clear that the whole job application portal and resume selection is a weak process. We come across a zillion applications and websites used by numerous companies for making  the resume selection. We know the software / algorithm for resume selection is not meeting the objective and yet we see more applications and websites been launched rather than coming up with a solution to fix this issue.

2. I do not know exactly how the software or algorithm works, but my best guess is it works on "Key Word Search." How about actually talking with the HR and understanding what their expectations and requirements are for the job portal. What part of the resume selection process should be automated and what should be a workflow requiring human attention at some point to make the selection process more efficient. Eventually build a software that meets the end users expectations. Going one step further how about building software for specific sectors, jobs or business process rather that have one size fit all which is clearly failing time and again.

Having achieved step 1 & 2 helps us tremendously, but there are other aspects in the hiring process.

3. The HR who calls and has the initial discussion in most instances do not know , understand or is trained to evaluate candidates who are appropriate for the companies culture and business in a broad way. HR conversations are more aligned to the specific job opening you had applied. I haven't come across an instance when an HR evaluates you as a great candidate, concludes you might not be a good fit for the current position and then suggests you or directs you to another HR or job opening that suits you well. There might be so many lost opportunities at both ends which can be greatly addressed by just making this one simple tweak in the HR interaction.

4. The Job description , the hiring manager, the HR all need to be on the same page on what they expect out of a candidate. There are many instances where I clearly see  the job description is a "Cut Copy Paste - with minor edits" and which are too specific to exactly what one person is doing at the company. The job hiring process should be an integral part of restoring and growing the company culture and business. Having said that, the Hiring Manager and HR having discussions with the management and understand how roles and responsibilities that they hire lead to the company growth and sustainability. An insight into this will greatly help in bringing the right candidates.

There are many more such process improvement options that can lead to bridging the GAP in the recruitment process, True a lot can also be improved by the job applicant. However in my opinion if companies can streamline their recruitment process the job applicant streamlining will happen inherently.

A very inspiring entrepreneur  quoted "the most challenging factor in technology industry is human capital" and I personally believe it is also a high risk factor and addressing this will lead to a virtuous success cycle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Owning a TV!

Recently am in the process of buying a television and using my own experience came up with some ideas for making this process hassle free -

1. The electronic stores do not usually have a browsing kiosk where buyers can quickly look up to see the reviews for the TV. Note that the reviews do not pertain to only the ratings but rather the comments, pros and cons listed by previous buyers. Buyers spend a long time standing in front of the television screen and looking up the reviews in their smart gadgets!!! Its a simple fix to expedite the buying process and also make it as customer friendly as possible. Other add on advantage can be less staff representative interaction for answering basic questions, customers feeling like they own the whole decision process and last but not the least potential increase in sales!

2. Bought the TV set, now comes the hard part of reading through the voluminous manual!!!! Most users would want to first get acquainted with the basic information before moving to exploring the advanced features. How about having an interactive visual / audio to make this happen  ? Once again this can increase the customer experience, decrease the calls to Support Centers and hopefully will create a virtuous cycle for the company brand.

3. With the initial TV set up done, the next task would be to interface various gadgets, be it a setup box, a PC / HDMI input, Ethernet, audio system or anything else the customer wishes as an add on. The amount of wires, tracking the connection and the complexity of connections is beyond one's expectation of how the modern day gadgets should ideally interact. Some simple solutions could be - Having  a universal central hub for all interfaces (  does not decrease the number of wires / interfaces, but it would at-least be just one point where customers would be able to make changes rather that touching each gadget separately, once the initial set up is done), the other one is a more recent still in progress technology; the idea of making all the electronic devices smart and wi-fi connected!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Netflix vs Setup Box vs TV

Jotting down thoughts after reading the following articles online -

What Netflix can learn from regular old TV
How to fix the Apple TV
Netflix faces 'House of Cards' backlash
What happens at Netflix when House of Cards goes live

I would definitely agree to the argument that setup boxes such as Apple TV and Roku have their downfalls while trying to match the TV watching experience and needless to say, I would think twice before I try to add one more gadget which might have limited downward / upward compatibility towards TV sets! And yes, why would I bother having this additional costs if there is already a movement for Online streaming of TV - ABC & PBS been the two examples I can think off!

The one thing that bothers me is comparison of Netflix (Internet television network ) with the TV itself. They are totally different in their end usability. As mentioned in the article TV telecasting is more controlled by the provider while Netflix Streaming / DVD rentals is more controlled by the end customer. Though the effort it takes to pick something on Netflix is extremely painstaking, that's the compromise we make for not having to drive ourselves to movie rentals and managing the whole pick up to drop in on time cycle. Wouldn't we have spent the same amount of time deciding on what to rent at the movie rentals ? The answer is a definite yes!!! As mentioned in my previous article on Amazon the advantage of having suggestions, viewer ratings and more real time data on the video I would like to watch adds more perks to streaming on Netflix. True, if you have had the Neftlix account for a couple of years now you must have exhausted your options which makes it more hard for you to pick something on Netflix, but that is a different issue that Netflix should consider solving. And yes, with more options on the table we will anyways take more time on deciding what we want to watch which is something Netflix cannot control completely. The suggestions, ratings and best match are some ways in which it tries to help us with a faster decision making but there is only so much they can do to make the streaming experience seamless!

Starbucks Travel Mugs - Design evolution!

Was at Starbucks this Saturday and been an avid travel mugs collector, I happen to browse through the latest displays of merchandise at the store.

The one travel mug that caught my attention was the stainless steel tall size coffee mug with a plastic top and no handle.

Current Version

This is definitely going to be the next item I buy at Starbucks for sure! 

The current one I am using is a stainless steel grande size coffee mug with a plastic top and a handle. I bought this one because it was stainless steel and much safer than the plastic coffee mug I was using earlier. The size of the mug was also much smaller than the older one which was also one of the important factors in my decision. Though extremely happy with this, I never really understood the need or necessity of having a handle. The handle really bothers since it does not fit well to the side of my bag pack or mug holder in the car. The two places where I would place my travel mug most of the time. Hence the newer design which is again much smaller and handle free wins me!

Previous Version

Old Version

Things I would consider improving in the current version are - 

1. Having an air tight lid which will avoid liquid spillages and which would help keep the liquid hot for a longer time

2. A substitute to the plastic lid with something that is much more safer and eco-friendly

3. Varying sizes to meet customer needs with a measuring scale

4. Something unique or eye catching on the mug that reminds me not to leave it in random places! :-)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ideas on how you would improve Yelp!

Since the business case is broad and vague in its objective, I am coming up with a few ideas on improving Yelp in terms of business strategy and website modifications.

Business Strategy

1.      M&As to increase its customer base and international presence. This can be further investigated based on the results of recent acquisitions of Qype and SeatMe.

2.    Enter other emerging markets which include the BRIAC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Investigate how other business such as Amazon, eBay & Craigslist entered these emerging markets and how they have sustained and performed.

3.    Increase the service offerings to other products and services and categorize them into broad groups. Example – Review and Sales of books, review and sales of movies under a “Entertainment” category.

4.    Since Ads are the major source of income, analyze the current revenue recognition method for the customers and see if it needs to be renegotiated or if a new method of generating revenues needs to be implemented. A strong case for supporting this is:
a.    Percentage increase in revenue for a customer after registering with Yelp website.
b.    Percentage increase in revenue for a customer after positive reviews/ ratings received in Yelp website.
c.    Percentage increase in revenue for a customer based on number of clicks on in the Yelp website.

5.    Identify and research major competitors for Yelp and see how they have been performing and what actions they are taking to improve their business.

6.    Obtain feedback from both the customers and the users and try to see if they are value add. Modify the business process within Yelp accordingly – Perform A/B test before making it a permanent change.

7.    Customer / User loyalty programs can be introduced - Perform A/B test before making it a permanent change.


1.    The recent M&As and potential M&As Yelp needs to ensure that the Branding and UI of all the websites are consistent and clear.

2.    Building one parent website instead of having multiple websites and inter connecting links.

3.    More emphasis and importance can be given for customer and user feedback on their experience with Yelp website. Inputs received needs to be analyzed and based on a A/B test performed for a small set of population, we can decide to implement the feature permanently. Can provide perks to customer/ users for participating in this.

4.    Reduce the noise (Content / Information / Links) on the home page. Make the home page more dynamic and interactive and wanting a new / existing user to stay on and explore Yelp.

5.    Provide the “Suggestions” functionality based on the previous search history and website usage for a user. Can also make it more intelligent and provide this information based on your dietary needs / goals & preferences.

6.    Make the Maps – voices enabled / provide the option for users to open it on their own Maps applications such as – Google maps easily.

7.    Can implement continuous scrolling of the web page.

8.    User friendly UI which helps in - forming groups, tagging friends / sending the review notifications etc.

9.    Integrate in terms of gathering / sharing information with other social media networks such as Twitter & Facebook.

10. Data analytic of the many attributes and use it for building a better website / business.

11. Provide details on the nutritional value / calorie counts for the food.       

Monday, January 27, 2014

Microsoft - Part 1

I have been working with Microsoft Tools and Technologies for 5+ years now. They have very impressive and diversified set of products. Few example include Microsoft office, SharePoint, Windows OS, SQL Servere, Skype and Xbox. In my current company we are using IBM Lotus Notes as our email exchange server application. Soon we will be moving to Microsoft Outlook,  since IBM will stop supporting Lotus Notes in the near future. This news intrigued me to go and explore the Personal Email service provided by Microsoft Outlook.

Much to my surprise, I was able to get a User ID as Though happy, it made me wonder the number of people who have an outlook account! Microsoft must be already aware of this and working on making their Product more unique. TO learn more about how they are doing this I me explored the Outlook Website.  The key differences that were appealing are - Outlook Doesn't serve targeted ads based on email contents,  Outlook offers Virtually unlimited storage (free) and Outlooks can Connect to Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn. With these selling points of having an outlook account I created a user id and logged into the MS Outlook.

The UI looks very similar or close to the look and feel of Facebook page.I browsed across other Microsoft product webpages and found the UI / Product Branding to be inconsistent. Microsoft can work on having a consistent brand across its products. This will  not only boost the customer experience but also add to new customers for different products.

To write a new email the  user needs to "move" to a new page and when he/she does that we see there is a lot of space that is either unused or poorly used. Since the primary goal of the email account is to communicate the outlook product should be designed to implicitly offer this feature rather than prompting the user for multiple actions to get to this.

Here is a list of proposed features that can be added to Personal Email Accounts -

1. Attaching one email in another
2. Ability to open multiple panels to read / compose multiple emails in the same instance
3. Attaching the chat conversation into an email  for forwarding purposes
4. Functionality to see who has read the emails, if it was sent to many users / groups
5. Creating Polls / Group discussions based emails
6. When I download  files attached to the email, it should open in the same page as a panel ( Similar to Gmail) but it should open just as a continuation to the email

There are strong business cases and feedback which I have received from other people who would want these features to be added to their personal email account. The very fact that some of these features are already offered by some providers shows the they are used by many. Something MS can think off to differentiate themselves in the future.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Amazon - Part 1

Starting off with Amazon.. since I have been doing a lot of online shopping recently. This is both convenient & easy. I have always debated over the pros and cons of shopping online and much to my dismay I have started enjoying online shopping more and more. One of the striking features with online shopping is the feedback on products you get from consumers of the product as opposed to having no feedback when you buy things off the shelf in a shop/store. So recollecting my recent online shopping experience in and just briefly browsing the website from a product development perspective has resulted in the following observations / suggestions. Keeping it simple and short, I am coming up with two main discussion topics about I do believe there might be other things more important than the ones below but here is something to consider

One of the first things I wanted to check to see if the UI design and layout of the website is similar across different country websites. So I browsed the UK Amazon website and found it provided the same user experience. Naturally my next step was to sign in using my US account details and it didn't. What if Amazon can have one website with one account to login and browse ? The user can seamlessly perform transactions irrespective of their actual geographical location. A practical example would be -  On an average I spend at least 20% of my time outside US in any give year. I tend to perform at-least 2-3 amazon online transactions each month. If I did not have the barrier of country specific accounts I would be highly motivated to continue using outside US as well ( More frequently than what I do now).

My second observation was on the Screen Space usage within the Amazon website. Few things worth mentioning are-
1. Redundancy & Inconsistency between two adjacent controls in the UI design in terms of information shared and possible actions that can be triggered by the user.
 Shop By Department


2. Under Utilization of the Screen Space
A. On an average, I noticed the image space occupied in their website is way more than other websites with online shopping capabilities. Here's the visual comparison -


B. Gaps / Open Spots within the screen space that can be filled with information about the product or use it as real estate for revenue generations - Ads.

True is one of the market leaders in online shopping and with strong focus on making the website more user friendly and efficient they can achieve much more!