Your Open Browser Tabs Could Come Up In Your Next Job Interview

Here is this week’s Careers newsletter, which brings the latest news, commentary and ideas from Forbes about the workplace, leadership and the future of work straight to your inbox every Tuesday. Click here to get on the newsletter list!

Welcome to this week’s Forbes careers newsletter, where we look at the rise in companies setting minimum vacation expectations (Happy almost-Memorial Day weekend everyone!); the return of Davos, where jobs and skills are one of the big themes; and my chat with economist Tyler Cowen, who shares why one of his favorite interview questions is to ask candidates about their open browser tab windows.

The author of this week’s Book Club pick, Cowen co-authored Talent: How To Identify Energizers, Creatives And Winners Around The World with entrepreneur Daniel Gross, which he says was written “to jumpstart a national and indeed global conversation about talent as our main resource, and one we need to do a better job of finding and husbanding,” he told me.

Gross and Cowen, who thinks the Marginal Revolution blog, have written a compelling and thought-provoking guide to finding great people they hoped would also chronicle the “oral tradition” of how some Silicon Valley heavyweights—folks like Peter Thiel, Sam Altman and Marc Andreessen—think about spotting and not missing out on talented entrepreneurs and other creative talent, Cowen told me.

The book has a chapter focused on interview questions that spark conversation and tear away at the scripted responses so many candidates prepare. One of Cowen’s favorites—whether you want to use it or prepare for encountering it—is “what browser tabs are open on your screen right now?” For more on why—and more from our interview—check out our Book Club selection below.


Take A Vacation—Or Else

Before we get to the rest of the newsletter, check out my story on the rise in companies mandating a minimum amount of time off in our burned out, overworked world. Goldman Sachs partners and managing directors were told in April they’re getting unlimited vacations, which as anyone with such a policy knows, may not end up being used that much. But Goldman is asking them—and the junior staffers who work for them—to at least take three weeks, setting a floor the company hopes they’ll follow.

They’re not alone: ​​After a more than two-year pandemic that’s led to unsettling mental health crises and historic resignation rates, more bosses seem to finally realize paid time off can’t just be a flashy perk that’s touted to lure workers. It may need a requirement.

Goldman’s decision follows a move earlier this month by the consulting firm PwC to add a week-long shutdown for all employees in July, as well as introducing tech tools, such as a dashboard, that will make time off more visible to individual managers and nudge them to act if needed.

What I found fascinating reporting this story was talking to companies like We Are Rosie, a network of on-demand marketing professionals, that makes its employees take five days off per quarter—or lose out on their full bonus. The small startup, which now has 60 employees, was barely a year old when the pandemic began, and employees told founder Stephanie Nadi Olson that they were scared things would fall through the cracks if they took time off or felt guilty asking colleagues to cover for them. Switching to a mandate—and tying it to bonuses—“changed our culture around time off really quickly,” Olson says. “It changed our culture around removing that guilt.”

Mandates are great in theory, but I do wonder how well they’ll work without penalties that go with them. Take three weeks, management says, but if not, what are the consequences?


FEATURE STORY

Carvana’s ‘Chaotic’ Zoom Firing Caps Company’s Struggles Amid Market Downturn

Carvana’s mass firing was a sign of much bigger problems at the company, according to 10 former employees who spoke with Forbes’ John Hyatt (most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity) and several industry analysts. They describe a spendthrift business, whose growth-at-all-costs mentality undermined business operations and sowed the seeds of its recent layoffs.

“It always seemed like no one ever had a real game plan or reasoning behind the decisions they made when it came to policy changes or additional training,” one former call center worker told Hyatt. “It was always just someone’s quick idea and that would be put into place with no additional planning.” Read more of the story here.


WORK SMARTER

Here are the critical hiring mistakes you may be making right now.

Too old, not perfect, no senior roles: The phrases that are killing your career growth.

The economy is changing, and it could adversely impact the job market. Here’s what you need to know.

Being the early bird: Here’s how to get a job before it’s advertised.

Make your meetings more inclusive for everyone with these four tips.


ON OUR SCHEDULE

Davos is back, with spring temps: No snow this year, but the world’s global chieftains are meeting again in the Swiss Alps this week to discuss jobs, hybrid work and hot topics like the four-day workweek, among other things. Meanwhile, here’s Forbes‘Look at America’s Davos, the Milken Institute Global Conference.

A new monthly perk? Once a taboo topic, women are becoming more open about their periods and voicing how menstruation impacts their work, writes Forbes senior contributor Kim Elsesser. But while Spain has announced legislation suggesting women take time off from work for period pain, and gaming platform GOG announced in late April it would offer menstrual leave, women may be able to safely “turn off” their periods, Elsesser writes.

Stagflation fears? Geopolitical tourmoil. Inflation. Supply chain disruptions and baby formula shortages. That’s enough bad news, but there’s more that could impact your career, writes Forbes senior contributor Jack Kelly. When there’s high inflation and an economic slowdown combined with high unemployment, Kelly writes, workers could face “stagflation” that impacts their job prospects and careers.

George Floyd after two years: Since May 2020, politicians and business leaders have invoked the name of George Floyd in calling for racial equity for Black Americans. Companies pledged billions on initiatives to recruit and promote Black talent and invest in Black-owned businesses, my colleague Jared Council writes. But there’s been little progress in outcomes for Black lives and livelihoods. Plus: Read Black leaders’ reflections on what’s changed—and what hasn’t.

Gen-Z’s financial anxiety: We hear a lot about Gen-Z being more open about their mental health and expecting their employer to talk about it, too. But a new report from Deloitte finds they have anxiety about their finances, not just their remote work set-up. When asked about their most pressing concern, contributor Mark Perna reports, the cost of living (meaning housing, transportation and bills) was at the top, with 29% of young workers citing that concern. Only a quarter report they can comfortably cover monthly living expenses, and almost half (46%) say they live paycheck to paycheck.


BOOK CLUB

Tyler Cowen loves an unusual interview question: “What browser tabs are open on your screen right now?” The economist and co-author of Talent: How To Identify Energizers, Creatives And Winners Around The World says it’s a conversation starter that reveals what’s important to job seekers and how they spend their time. “How do they organize and sample information? What are they interested in? Whether they’re kind of a neat thinker—always zero inbox, or [do they] have 300 open browser tabs?” he says. “Someone who’s not enthusiastic about any of their tabs—they might be a fine worker but they’re probably not that enthusiastic about your mission either.”

Other favorites, Cowen told me—for people in leadership positions only—is “how ambitious are you?” He says “it sounds almost silly in its directness but I’ve found people who are not that ambitious have a hard time faking it.” Cowen says nonprofit founders he speaks to sometimes aren’t ambitious enough, or may not be setting their sights high enough. The revealing part of the answer comes not from how they specifically answer that question, but in “their level of detail and enthusiasm in recounting what they might be planning—it really shows you a lot.”

Another favorite: “What is it you do to practice your craft that is akin to a pianist practicing scales or like a basketball player practicing free-throws?” He says the answer is good for almost anyone in any job, “because you get at what’s your program for self-improvement.”

Cowen says he does think a recession is starting for reasons that have nothing to do with talent—inflation, the Federal Reserve—and that the labor market is about to take a turn for the worse. “But the medium- and long-run trend is still talent is incredibly scarce and the companies that can find it are the ones that will do well,” he says.

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