Monday, July 14, 2008


When I was hired to develop a work readiness curriculum in 2002 there were already a number of established work readiness training programs. With employers complaining very loudly about the lack of job skills and poor workplace behaviors by their employees in focus groups throughout the country, I knew I had to develop more than a curriculum; I needed to create a new way to deliver work readiness training.

First, let’s look at traditional programs.


Practically all work readiness training programs follow program models used in education. That means that they are assessment based. FCAT, SAT, certification exams, etc. determine success.

In fact, assessment tests have become so important that schools not only teach students knowledge, but teach students how to take tests. They must. After all, funding is often tied to their students’ performances on tests such as the FCAT. Certainly many high school juniors and seniors enroll in courses to help them learn how to improve their SAT scores. And this is not just the case with kids. How many construction management schools, real estate schools, and even schools to help with the BAR exam for attorneys are out there? Theses schools teach their students how to take and pass tests.

What does this mean? It means that if a student truly knows only 55% of the required knowledge but can reduce the other questions to a possible 1 in 3 choice, the laws of probability conclude that the student’s expected result on the test is 70%.

Even worse, if a student truly knows only 60% of the required knowledge but can reduce the other questions to a possible 1 in 2 choice, the laws of probability conclude that the student’s expected result on the test is 80%. That means a student whose knowledge base is an “F” (60% was failing grade when I went to school), appears to be a “B” student.

While educators cling to the argument that assessment tests are good indicators of knowledge, no one can make that case when dealing with job skills and behaviors.

As an example let’s use the following question:

If you wake up in the morning and your car will not start, you should:

A. Have made prior arrangements with a coworker who lives in your neighborhood to serve as an emergency ride to work.

Whether because of actual knowledge or eliminating answers like, “take as many days off of work as you need to get your car fixed”, someone answering this question correctly does not mean that that is the behavior he/she will follow if this situation actually happened to him/her. Work readiness training is NOT about answering questions correctly. It’s about doing the right thing in the workplace. That is accomplished through a curriculum that not only teaches what is expected in the workplace, but why that skill/behavior is important in the workplace, and uses real life examples that everyone can relate to outside of the workplace to illustrate key points. In work readiness training, it is the journey (curriculum) that is the key, not the final destination (assessment test). This is because success is measured in the attitudes changed and instilled in participants, not on how much work readiness knowledge they possess.

While this may be obvious to you and me, it isn’t obvious to the powers that be. For example, instead of investing in a structured program that would produce high-quality employees that employers could rely on, states either independently or in groups have decided to spend funds on generating work readiness credentials through assessment testing. They appear to care more about formulating the perfect question, than the perfect learning tool. Just check out multi-state programs like the one at or single state programs like the one at to see how way off track states are regarding developing people who are truly ready to work. Their work readiness certification tests are at best an indicator for possible success and at worst a false hope for the business community that hires the “credentialed graduates.”


I have been developing and fine-tuning my work readiness training program and philosophy since 2002. Below is a list of the key components of what I know is the correct way to implement a work readiness training program.

(1) A set curriculum that not only teaches what is expected, but why that skill/behavior is important in the workplace, and uses real life examples that everyone can relate to outside of the workplace to illustrate key points. By clearly defining important workplace skills and behaviors, and informing participants why those skills and behaviors are important to employers, the program sets a baseline of understanding and changes attitudes and behaviors. A set curriculum is also important so that employers that are hiring the graduates can see exactly what is covered in the program, and can rely on graduates no matter what venue they attend.

(2) The key assessments are not tests, but demonstrated competencies. For example, a participant demonstrates the ability to not be tardy by never being late to class, never extending breaks, and always returning on time from lunch, not by answering a question like, “When is it okay to be late to work?” In addition, case studies, role plays and in-class exercises are used to verify participants’ competency in various job skills and workplace behaviors.

(3) Once demonstrated competencies are established, participants must pass all of them to obtain certification. While 90% sounds like a high score, it gives the wrong impression to the participants. It “says” it is okay to do most of these required behaviors and skills. It also gives the impression that in performing these skills and behaviors they are going “above and beyond.” For example, the person that passed 90% will feel he/she is “better” than the person who scored “80%”, instead of feeling that he/she is coming up short and needs to improve. All of these competencies are expected to be part of an employee’s basic skill set by employers.

(4) The competency statements must be very well defined. There should be no leeway given to individual instructors in scoring pass/fail on competencies.

(5) The classroom should be run like a place of business. An “employee handbook” should be given out on day one outlining company policies and workplace comportment and the participants should be held accountable immediately. The instructor is the boss, and the participants are co-workers, not classmates or friends. Since different bosses have different management styles, and the workplace is constantly changing, having different instructors for different topics can add value to the program by forcing the participants to deal with change.

(6) The main clients for the program are NOT the participants. It is the business community. Therefore, the instructors’ main goal is to develop and ultimately screen prospective employees for employers. This is very different from typical classroom and Job Center roles where the goal is to develop the person in class to the best of their ability, and then present that customer/client in the best light possible to help him/her get a job. If programs are centered on the participants, the business community will not be able to rely on the meaning of “graduation”, which will ultimately render the program useless to employers. By centering on the business community as the main client, the expectations of employers will match the performance of its new employees which will result in a demand for program graduates.

While some programs may claim that the business community is the main client, it is not the program administrators who are making the claim that is the key to that philosophy; it is the instructors who embrace that role in class who are the keys. If an instructor allows participants to slide through who have not truly demonstrated all competencies as depicted exactly in the competency statements, then the program no longer has the business community as its main client.

(7) This is why instructor training, on the curriculum and the program philosophy is critical to the success of a work readiness program.

(8) As you can see my program philosophy is very intricate and everything must work in concert to ensure optimal success. Therefore, in addition to instructor training, there must be instructor audits. One such audit is a final “certification test”. However, unlike education programs, the certification test for this program is primarily an audit on instructors, not the key item in awarding a work readiness certificate to program participants. In fact, only participants that pass all demonstrated competencies should be allowed to take the test. As such, a very high percentage of participants that take the simple “certification test” should pass it. If an instructor has a significant number that fail; that is an indication that that instructor needs re-training or is passing participants that are truly not demonstrating competency.


In April of this year I had a book published by Outskirts Press. The book is called, How to Get, Keep, and Be Well Paid in a Job (click here for the book’s web site).

My intent in writing this book was to provide readers with information vital to helping them get, keep and make good money in their jobs. However, knowing what to do is not enough. This book covers why workplaces operate as they do, and uses real-life comparisons outside of the workplace that everyone can relate to, in order to help illustrate key points (e.g. my chapter on interviewing is called, “The First Date” and compares the job interview process with dating).

Simply put, this book is a work readiness/job skills guide which is an enlightening and attitude-changing read. After reading this book, the reader will understand how workplaces operate, why specific behaviors and skills are important to employers, and have a road map to forge a career rather than just hold a job. Best of all, this book accomplishes all this using a writing style that is light-hearted, fun, and easy-to-read, rather than a typical straight-forward, hard-to-get through textbook.

If you have a work readiness program, or want to develop one, I highly recommend you click on the link above and check out my book. It is the perfect book for both teachers of work readiness and students learning work readiness.


As I mentioned previously, in 2002 I was hired to develop a work readiness curriculum that I grew into a work readiness program.

The program I developed was called the best work readiness program in the Country by the National Skills Standard Board at a presentation of the Program in Jacksonville, Florida on 01/13/03.

The results from my initial client far exceeded those of other work readiness programs. Employers lined up to hire the graduates and found that over 85% of the graduates remained employed six months later, and over 30% received promotions.

Initially I trained all instructors and I audited the program. Over time, my instructor training program has been modified greatly to emphasis my new, formal program philosophy. Existing venues do not have this new instructor training process, and to my knowledge, never fully implemented my instructor audits. The primary reason for me not being on hand to implement program and curriculum changes was because of deep budget cuts in the Workforce Development Board System. Therefore, I was not able to be retained as the program spread to Job Centers throughout the Country including Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Massachusetts.

While venues using my curriculum and portions of my program are better than most other programs (if not all), they are still not optimal since I have gained more insight and have modified the program structure, curriculum and philosophy significantly over time.


Please contact me at JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ (write work readiness program in the subject line to ensure your email is not discarded as junk mail) or leave a message for me at 561-842-9942 and I will return your call if you want me to review your work readiness program, transform your work readiness program into a program using my philosophy, want me to create a custom work readiness (or any other) training program, or if you want to use my standard work readiness program.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Interview Tips: The First Date

This posting includes excerpts from my book, HOW TO GET, KEEP AND BE WELL PAID IN A JOB (click here to go to the book’s web site) and some original, new, fresh content; like this intro sentence.

The initial chapter in my book is “The First Date” and is about the interview process.

“When you finally get a date with the woman or man who you have had your eye on for awhile, you know two things about your initial date. First, you are going to be on your best behavior. Second, you are going to be, at least, a little nervous.

Your date is going to listen to what you say (and what you do not say), observe your behavior, and make a decision on whether or not he/she will be going on a second date with you. The job interview process is no different. Your potential employer is going to do the same things, only money is waiting for you, not a second date.”

While I will not post the full content, I will briefly list three of the tips from this chapter of my book.

1. Know all you can about the Company before going on the interview

“Think first date. If all you know about the person you have been waiting to date is that he/she looks fine, your first date has a better chance of being a disaster than if you know that person’s interests. While there is a mutual attraction, you may have nothing in common and may have a lot of awkward silence. In the same vein, if all you know about the job for which you are interviewing is the pay scale, the same thing can occur. You may not be able to successfully inform the interviewer how your skills, knowledge, and background fit into that particular job and company. Therefore, before going on your interview know everything you can about your potential employer.”

One way to find out about the company you are interviewing with is to go online and find the company’s website. Look at the site to become familiar with the products and services the company sells. Also look for a page that informs visitors about the company and, possibly, a page listing recent company press releases.

2. Rehearse your answers to interview questions

“Before asking the person you want to date out, many of us practice what we are going to say before picking up the phone or talking to that individual in person. Some are even “George Costanza-esque” and have a pre-determined list of topics to talk about prior to picking up the phone. Likewise, when people have to perform in public, they practice before the big event. Whether it’s a play, a political speech, testimony in a trial, a business presentation, etc.; the presenter practices before the big event to ensure success. A job interview is no different.”

I will go a step further here than I do in my initial chapter. While practicing questions and answers is helpful, it is most useful on the setup or initial question (in Zig Zigler’s sales process these are called “open door” questions). To hit a home run on the follow up questions (or Zig Zigler’s “closed door” questions), you need to understand the job functions for the position you are interviewing for, and you need to understand what behaviors and skills employers’ value. That is why I recommend that job prospectors read my whole book (or any book on work readiness skills and behaviors) before going on an interview, not just my initial chapter on interviewing. This provides the background to do well on both the initial questions and follow-up questions.

Let’s say (or in this case, let’s write) that you are interviewing for a job as a Help Desk Phone Rep and are asked, “What are your strengths?” You have practiced an answer to this specific question, have a great answer and deliver it like a pro. Then you are asked, the all annoying, sometimes unpredictable “closed door” follow-up question, “Wow, you certainly have a lot of strengths (sarcasm implied to throw you off guard), give me an example where your strengths came into play in your last job.” Here is where knowing what is important to employers and what is important to the specific job for which you are interviewing comes into play. Showing up to work on time, all the time is very important to employers, and vital to Help Desks (and Customer Service Centers) so that Help Desks can meet their service standards (customer service will be a topic in a later blog). A practiced answer to this question would be, “An example of my reliability was that I was never late for work.” An informed answer would be, “An example of my reliability was that I was never late for work. While I know this is important in any job, I understand its special importance in regard to a Help Desk. Our job is to provide superior service to our customers and that means having the stations manned to minimize callers’ time on hold. If someone is late, that leads to longer wait times for our customers and that is unacceptable.” This answer can only come by understanding the workplace. Based on these two answers, which person would you hire? The first could be viewed as “just words”, while the second person “gets it.”

3. Bring all questions back to the job, even ones that appear to have nothing to do with the job.

Beware of “the interviewer who tries to bond with you by uncovering interests he/she has in common with you, and moving the interview away from the traditional question and answer towards a more conversational approach. By making the interview more informal, the interviewer is hoping that you, the interviewee, will provide a more in-depth and personal window into who you are. Be very careful. There is a good chance that the interviewer really isn’t into slasher movies, heavy metal music, and shoot-em-up video games. The interviewer just indicates that he/she has that in common with you so you will reveal more about yourself than you would otherwise. When you come back from an interview thinking that you and the interviewer really clicked (in areas other than the job), more often than not you opened up too much and you will not be getting the job. The interviewer is looking for an employee, not a best friend.”

For example, if I’m asked, “What is your favorite book?” I would not say one of the many Stephen King books I love because it has nothing to do with the job and the interviewer could be concerned that I read horror novels. Instead I would say, Dune by Frank Herbert because among other things, Dune is a novel about economics and I found that subplot in the book very interesting.

That’s all for now, catch you in my next post.