Upon a friend's recommendation, I read Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. It was a quick, no-nonsense, super-specific book outlining exactly what you need to do hire A players for any team.
What I liked:
2. What are you really good at professionally
2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
3. What were some low points during that job?
4. Who were the people you worked with?
1. Interrupt the candidate
4. Painting a picture
The focused interview: Getting to know more
2. What are your biggest accomplishments in this area in your career?
3. What are your insights into the biggest mistakes and lessons learned in this area?
3. You do 3 interviews of bosses and ask colleagues to do 2 interviews of colleagues/customers and 2 interviews of subordinates
Reference interview questions:
1. In what context did you work with candidate?
2. What were their biggest strengths?
3. What were their biggest weaknesses back then?
4. Rate their performance on a 1-10 scale. Why?
5 F's of what candidates care about
1. When you source
3. Between offer and acceptance
Installing the A method in your organization
1. Make people the top priority
2. Follow A method yourself
3. Build support in team
4. Pass clear vision to team based on A players
5. Train team on best practices
6. Remove barriers/policies in way
7. Implement new policies and scorecards including recruiting A players
9. Remove managers who are not on board
10. Celebrate wins and plan for more change
3. Standardize language used
4. Avoid specific discrimination questions that are illegal
I recently discovered Leninade soda, and it was the highlight of my day. The soda was alright, but the bottle design was hilarious -- so many little nuanced jokes and plays on words.
My wife also recently found Russian Guy/Girl Problems (and their respective Facebook groups: M/F), and we laughed literally for 45 minutes straight the first time we reviewed those sites. (We later contributed a handful of our own nuggets of wisdom.)
There's just something so funny in our experiences that are so different from mainstream American family lives. Laughing at ourselves about these differences unites us together and helps us feel like we're not alone in fending off bags of food from our parents or extra jackets to wear. I believe that every culture has these little "weirdnesses," and I'd love to hear how other cultures might be similar to or different from Russian in their attitudes towards food, children, dating, etc. I would bet the similarities outweigh the differences.
So off the top of my head, here are my top 10 "common" Russian experiences ("problemi") that resonate with me most. Not everything I list is my own personal experience or representative of my family; some of them are, and some of them are more general impressions I get from talking with friends. Leave a comment to share your own experiences (or your reaction).
1. Exotic food. The top concern of any day, any person, any babushka. What did you eat today? Everyone eats these foods at least weekly; how could you not?
3. Hyper-involved parents. Until you are 100 years old and both of your parents have passed away, you can expect your phone to ring at least 3 times per day with urgent inquiries into your health, location, recent food consumption, and plans for all of the above for the next 2 hours until the next call. I know people who are 50, 60, 70 years old and whose parents are still calling to see if they got to their destination safely. This is obviously charming and well-intentioned, and it warms my heart to feel loved. But sometimes, it's a bit too much (like when your mom texts you on a date asking you if you brought a jacket).
Every detail of your life becomes a source for panic. One of my favorite worries is the skvaznyak (draft), like when there's a window or door open and some slight breeze coming through the house. This can sometimes be cause for the loudest yelling you've ever heard.
4. Super strict laws on relationships. Sure, they'll entertain your fancies to date people you want to according to higher-level traits like "personality," but this is all a sham; all that matters in the end is that you date someone of the same ethnic background and without question religion. Oh, and you must get married soon and have kids.
5. You can have any job, as long as it's lawyer or doctor.
6. Your mother's only happy if you're fat and hot. (Feeding you enough and ensuring you are warm are the top concerns of every mother.)
7. Clothing should be nice, upscale, and certainly not raggedy or "street"-looking. After all, you never know who you'll run into from the "community," and you can't embarrass the family. We even have a saying for when we see each other: "nashi lyudi v Hollywoodi" (our people in Hollywood -- but it rhymes nicely in Russian). Oh, and don't forget to take a jacket (even if it's 100 degrees or you're in Las Vegas).
8. Family respect is as important as if you're an Italian mafioso. Daily phone calls to all family members and weekly visits are the norm. Every time you visit someone, you fix their VCR programming, internet, and check their mail and bills. That's just what family members do for each other. Oh, and they make you sit down for "chai" and eat. The "You're not hungry and you're vegetarian? OK, I make you lamb" part from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is exactly what I'm talking about.
9. Don't you dare break a superstition. Too many to keep track of; I keep learning new ones every year I had never heard of. Here's a sampler:
I hope you're hungry (because just writing this is making me salivate).
No shame: I love chocolate, and for me, dessert is the main course. I feel like waiters are wasting their time asking, "Save room for dessert?" I always think, "Who wouldn't?"
Grouped by category, below are some of my most favorite chocolate desserts of all time.
1. Abuela. Somewhat spicy and exotic, this is like no other hot cocoa. I've had this one at home and in restaurants, and it's always nice. In terms of more traditional hot chocolates, I had some of the best at a takeout counter in Dublin, but Abuela can be found much more readily and is quite different than you'd expect. After all, if Mexican cuisine includes chocolate as a regular part of the main course preparation (like for mole), it's clear they know what they're talking about. I also like that "abuela" means "grandma;" it makes the brand feel warm and cozy.
2. The Farm at Beverly Hills. Any restaurant whose domain name includes the word "brownies" is clearly serious about dessert. Try a brownie sundae here, and you'll know why. Life-affirming -- delicious. The Farm's brownies are dense and sprinkled with a light dusting of powdered sugar. "Moist, dark, and fudgy in the middle, they have a light crisp top crust and melt on your tongue" is what Los Angeles Magazine wrote in 2005 when naming them the "Best Brownies in Los Angeles."
3. Ghirardelli Chocolate Caramel Turtle Brownies. I blogged about this before. Make 'em at home, and you won't save any for tomorrow.
4. The Great Wall of Chocolate at PF Changs. Insanely large portion, and it keeps quite well in the fridge for almost a week. I also love the tangy raspberry sauce it comes with. For me, a cake must strike the perfect balance between spongy hardness and softness and include enough filling to make it just moist enough. This cake does just that. From the menu: "Six rich layers of frosted chocolate cake topped with semi-sweet chocolate chips, served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce."
5. Moustache Cafe. This place is unfortunately closed, but it served for many years as my favorite restaurant, simply because of its breathtaking soufflé. This dessert is so hard to cook to get "just right" (I tried learning how to do it in a college cooking class), and this restaurant was able to do it perfectly every time.
6. Grand Lux Cafe. This one is not a traditional French soufflé but a "chocolate molten cake." That dessert has grown in popularity quite a bit over the last 10 years (to my satisfaction), and Grand Lux Cafe is my favorite one of this variety. I love breaking the outer shell and seeing piping hot chocolate ooze out.
7. Mulholland Grill. The menu description of their "chocolate truffle" dessert almost suffices to describe the amazingness of this dessert: "hot, dark Godiva chocolate oozes out! Served over homemade vanilla gelato. Also available in hot, white Perugina chocolate."
An honorable mention in the soufflé category is CPK with its "chocolate soufflé cake." This one is neither the French traditional version nor the molten cake version but sort of a hybrid between those and a brownie; for a mainstream chain restaurant, though, it's pretty darn good.
8. Chocolate churros at Red O. I came here for my anniversary, and the food exceeded my expectations. The "Just-Made Churros" dessert was excellent: "golden-crunchy outside, creamy within, served with warn chocolate-Kahlua dipping sauce." These churros are not like in the theme park; they are softer and so much more flavorful.
9. Chocolate macarons at Paulette. These are the best French-style macarons in the world. They were the party favors at our wedding, and each macaron is so flavorful that it captures your entire attention every time you take a bite.
10. Chocolate Disco Crêpe at Harajuku Crêpe. Don't be fooled by the size of this place; it is no match for the heart and creativity of its owner and cook that mans the crêpe machine all day and evening. Having done a social anthropological study of the culture of crêpes in college, I've been lucky enough to eat crêpes in many shapes and sizes all over the world, and they are definitely one of my favorite foods (it's so neat having an entire meal of savory plus sweet crêpes). What I love about Harajuku is that it takes an ancient French food and turns it upside down, imbibes it with Japanese flair, and makes it even more delicious.