This is more or less a newsletter for job seekers like myself. I try to find good job search strategies, bad job search strategies, pure BS and job related articles every week. So far I’ve never run short. Please pass this around. I’m not doing this for any reason other than the desire to help and communicate with other job seekers. If you have any good links or stories, especially stories please comment. If you want the story private, just put that in the comment and I will trash it and not let it post.
Maybe the rest of us should take note and demand more.
HR managers: Do your job or get out!!
Stop rescinding offers.
Budget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives. Don’t make job offers if you don’t have the authority to follow through. If your company doesn’t give you that authority, then quit your job because you look like an idiot for having a job you’re not allowed to do. What happens to every job applicant is on you. (See Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?)
Stop recruiting people then ignoring them.
In other words, stop soliciting people you have no intention of interviewing or hiring. More is not better. If it’s impossible to handle all job applicants personally and respectfully, then you’re recruiting the wrong people and too many of them. Either treat every applicant with the respect you expect them to show you and your company, or stop recruiting — until you have put a system in place that’s accurate and respectful. Having control over people’s careers isn’t a license to waste anyone’s time. Your company’s rudeness in hiring starts with you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)
Stop recruiting stupidly.
The job of recruiting is about identifying and enticing the right candidates for jobs at your company. It’s not about soliciting everyone who has an e-mail address, and then complaining your applicants are unqualified or unskilled. You can’t fish with a bucket.
You say you use the same services everyone else uses to recruit? Where’s the edge in that? Paying Indeed or LinkedIn or Monster.com so you can search for needles in their haystacks is not recruiting. It’s stupid. Soliciting too many people who are not good candidates means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t know how to recruit intelligently, get another job. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)
Stop demanding salary history.
It’s. None. Of. Your. Business. And it makes you look silly.
I have a standing challenge to anyone in HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know how much money a job applicant is making. No HR worker has ever been able to explain it rationally.
It’s private information. It’s personal. It’s private. It’s shameful to ask for it. Do you tell job applicants how much you make, or how much the manager makes, or how much the last person in the job was paid? If you need to know what another employer paid someone in order to judge what your company should pay them, then you’re worthless in the hiring process. You don’t know how to judge value. HR is all about judging the value of workers. You don’t belong in HR.
Stop avoiding hiring decisions.
In a market as competitive as today’s, if it takes you weeks to make a hiring decision after interviewing candidates, then either you’re not managing human resources properly, or you’re not managing the hiring managers in your company. Qualified job applicants deserve answers. Taking too long to make a choice means you have no skin in the game, and that makes you a dangerous business person. After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.
Stop complaining there’s a talent or skills shortage.
There’s not. With 19.5 million people unemployed, under-employed, and looking for work (even if they’re no longer counted as part of the workforce), there’s plenty of talent out there to fill the 5.6 million vacant jobs in America. (See News Flash! HR causes talent shortage!) Recruit is a verb. Get out there and find the talent!
If your idea of recruiting is to sit on your duff and wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along on your “Applicant Tracking System,” then quit your job. If your idea of recruiting is to pay a headhunter $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job, then you are the talent shortage. Your company should fire you.
“Human Resources Management” doesn’t mean waiting for perfect hires to come along. Ask your HR ancestors: They used to do training and development to improve the skills and talent of their hires — as a way of creating competitive value for their companies.
The good HR professionals know who they are. The rest behave like they don’t know what they’re doing and like they don’t care. We’re giving you a wake-up call. Do your job, or get out.
My challenge to HR professionals: If you aren’t managing the standard of conduct toward job applicants at your company, if you aren’t really recruiting, if you’re not creating a competitive edge for your company by developing and training your hires, then you should quit your own job. If you aren’t promoting high business standards within the HR profession, then there’s no reason for HR to exist. Your company can run amuck without you.
Unfortunately they don’t.
What to do when you get laid off.
1. Don’t immediately sign a severance agreement.
Employers usually offer workers payment in exchange for a signed severance agreement. These agreements contain releases of liability requiring the worker to give up all of their employment claims against the company, regardless if the worker is aware of the claims. Employers will also set artificial deadlines to sign the agreement.
Do not immediately sign the agreement. Even if the employer offers you a seemingly attractive payment, you should not sign it until you’ve had an experienced employment attorney review the agreement. This is because 1) you may have legal claims that are worth more than the amount offered and 2) there could be harmful provisions that restrict or eliminate your rights.
The question is just stupid.
What happens when your company gets a lethal rep?
While most of management was oblivious to the gross errors the company was making in its hiring process, its bad habits were legendary among engineers and headhunters.
- Wrong candidate, wrong job.
Candidates were routinely interviewed for the wrong job. You have probably been through more than one interview where you sat wondering, “Why am I subjecting myself to this interrogation? This isn’t the job I agreed to interview for!” This was a policy-level problem, relating to who was deciding whom to interview and why.
The next two bad habits represented senseless practices:
- The wrong interviewer.
More often than not, the wrong person conducted the interview. Either they (a) were not the actual hiring manager, or (b) didn’t understand much, if anything, about engineering.
- The rude process.
Job candidates were put through two or three rounds of meetings with personnel jockeys who treated these professional engineers like desperate freshmen at a fraternity rush.
The final nails in the coffin revealed the poor attitudes that no one bothered to address:
- Cynicism. The interview process included meetings with employees who were disillusioned about the company and said as much to the candidates they were interviewing. Rather than attempt to rebuild its ranks with upbeat, motivated engineers, the company allowed some of the worst of its crew to continue poisoning the well.
- Indifference. Finally, too many hiring managers ignored the rumors they knew were circulating about the company. They didn’t bother to do damage control. Candidates who were enthralled by a particular job and impressed by the manager and the department were nonetheless left worrying about the negative things they’d heard from their friends.
Lack of pride goeth before a fall
One could argue that professional pride is a personal, individual matter. I think it’s a corporate (as in “a unified body made up of individuals”) imperative. Try to work without pride, and watch your reputation wither. This goes double for “corporate bodies”. The stench of a withering company spreads quickly through its professional community.
It’s fine to talk about an intangible like pride, but it’s not very useful because you can’t tweak it very readily. So let’s focus on a more accessible control knob: the mechanism that communicates pride or the lack of it. For an individual, this is the behavior he exhibits. For a company, it’s the interface it presents to its professional community: the behavior of its employees and representatives.
Don’t understand what I mean? Consider the best sales rep who’s ever sold to you; then consider the worst. Both were their employer’s front line — the interface that shaped your professional behavior toward that company (and what you had to say about it to others in your community).
Many companies fail to realize that customers aren’t the only constituency they need to continually impress. The professional community is critical, too. No company would tolerate a sales force that treats potential customers wrong. Why then do so many companies tolerate inappropriate behavior toward potential employees? My client was engendering a poor relationship with its professional community through its hiring practices. That’s how its name turned to “Mud.
Let’s look at how some companies wind up soiling their reputations. Then we’ll review some sober behaviors that might help your company avoid the fate of my client.
In my client’s case, its poor interface to the professional community revealed itself in the company’s policies (Bad Habit 1, above), practices (Habits 2 and 3) and attitudes (4 and 5).
The policy problem
Any company that allows hiring managers or Human Resources to willy-nilly schedule ill-conceived interviews is quickly seen to be “crying wolf,” and good candidates stop responding.
Decisions about which candidates to interview are too often made by the wrong people and for wrong reasons. Usually there’s pressure to fill difficult openings, with the result that candidate selection becomes an act of desperation and wishful thinking: “This resume looks interesting; lets bring the guy in.”
The policy problem often centers on who has the power to select the candidates. Is HR empowered to screen anyone it wants to? If it is, the candidate pool can be quickly polluted by inappropriate stirring. Because such screening is usually regarded as HR’s prerogative and as part of the indelible “HR administrative process,” by the time my client identified it as part of the problem, the damage was done.
When a company pollutes the pool, the reputable headhunters who service the company step away. That’s a clear sign that something is very wrong. Some headhunters, however, can subvert HR’s administrative process and, by working closely with the hiring managers, run the show themselves. The candidates I placed with my favorite managers in the best parts of the company fared very well. HR was ready to kill me, however, because they were the last to interview any of my candidates, and only after a manager had composed an offer. My candidates smiled through the perfunctory administrative interviews because I both cued and coached them — and they already had the backing of the manager they were going to work for.
But the company’s hiring needs were much greater than a few savvy headhunters could satisfy. Candidates who wandered blindly into the company stepped in you-know-what and complained about it to their friends. The negative fallout from a generally bad interview policy spread.
Poor practices, poor judgment
Why is it that a company’s sales reps are carefully trained before being set loose on the market, but anyone with a desk and chair in his office is allowed to interview job candidates?
It was common practice in my client’s HR office to have first-year personnel staffers who didn’t know disk drives from toasters interrogate senior engineers for an hour or more. But tolerance of administrative hassles has its limits, and smart job candidates balked.
Worse, I saw employees who had tendered their resignations interviewing new job candidates. Ever see a company allow a sales rep who’s just quit his job go out and meet with a new account?
But such egregious errors aren’t just made at the staff and middle management levels. Executive management can be just as guilty of poor judgment as anyone else. I know of a Marketing Director who, impressed with a top-notch sales person he’d met at a professional function, promptly scheduled her for an interview with the Operations Director. She was summarily dropped from consideration for a sales job because the operations expert concluded she didn’t fit his model of a good sales rep. Say what?
And that brings us to the worst of bad judgment and questionable practices: the preemptive psychological strip search. Having recruited and enticed a desirable job candidate to come visit, the company demands that she lay bare her psyche and soul when she walks in the door. It’s become altogether too common for HR to administer a battery of personality and aptitude tests to candidates before they even get to see the manager who’s supposedly interested in meeting them. I’d like to know what’s being “tested” here: the candidate’s worthiness, or the HR department’s judgment? After all, HR selected the candidate and invited her in to begin with. Should the HR manager earn a tick against his record when the candidate scores poorly?
Such pre-qualification wasn’t so prevalent in Silicon Valley — or anywhere else — back then, but a burgeoning HR consulting industry is selling test services hard and alienating good job candidates in the process.
Death by attitude
Practices and policies weren’t the only problem at my client company. The attitudes conveyed by interviewers sank many hires. A candidate I’d submitted to a manager had just been interviewed by a seriously disgruntled fellow who had nothing but bad things to say about the company. It took lots of damage control on my part to get the candidate to then meet the manager. He was hired, later promoted to his boss’s position, and enjoyed many good years at the company. After that, I insisted that all my candidates always be interviewed first by the manager I was working with.
The Valley was rife with such stories about this company. I learned about some of these experiences from engineers I was recruiting for other clients. One fellow was interviewed twice by HR before he declined a third interview. Prior to each “interview” he was made to sit like an uninsured indigent in a hospital emergency waiting room. There was no rush to welcome this busy engineer who had taken a day off from work to come to this meeting. He was finally given an hour’s worth of forms to fill out. During his second visit he was quizzed by HR about why he wanted a job with the company. (“I don’t know if I do; the headhunter told me your engineering department wanted to meet me,” he replied.) An imperious attitude does not suit an overhead function in any organization — least of all HR.
Perhaps the most damaging attitude was denial. Too many managers, HR included, felt it was inappropriate to raise the problem of the company’s reputation in interviews. So instead, they left it up to each job candidate to ignore the rumors. Maybe that was the last bit of disrespectful interview behavior the community was willing to swallow.
Respect is everything
Interviewers are not excused from performing professional courtesies and responsibilities. The presence of an HR department does not absolve the rest of management from the responsibility they owe a person who takes the time to come to an interview. Likewise, having dirty laundry is no excuse for insulting a visitor by throwing it at him.
Every job interview must be founded on some very simple rules that are based on common respect:
- The quality of a job interview is the employer’s responsibility. If you’re not sure whether to invite a candidate in, ask yourself whether you’d do it if you had to pay the candidate a consulting fee. Otherwise, don’t waste his time or yours.
- Put your best foot forward first. The interviewer– every interviewer, not just the hiring manager — should be as knowledgeable about the subject matter as the candidate. Don’t send clerks to do your interview work.
- Respect your guest. A job candidate is an invited guest to be shown hospitality, enthusiasm, respect and deference. Don’t let anyone beat him up.
- Manage your reputation. Every interview turns your company’s face toward the camera. Everyone who meets the candidate is representing you, your department, your company, your product line, your technology, your board of directors and your stockholders. Want to reconsider any of those meetings?
- Act like you care. Your professional honesty and frankness are the only proof that your company is a responsible member of its professional community. And that responsibility is personal.
My client company violated every one of these rules every day. This was a company at which there were exciting projects to work on, seasoned managers who were very good at mentoring other engineers and managers, and new product developments that provided excellent experiences for talented employees.
At this company, there was a core of everything that was desirable. But on the surface — on that largely administrative level, where the company made contact with other professionals — the company’s reputation had peeled apart.
I suspect that it doesn’t end well.
You shouldn’t fear hiring the wrong person.
In reality there is no such thing as the right person for any job when they start. I have to ask myself how many of those “bad hires” were created by expecting too much too soon.
This is harsh.
Still, I’ve been through one of these situations and Now I wish I had been even more forceful about dealing with the abuser. Especially about the attorney.
Age shouldn’t matter when applying for a job.
Except that it does.
The Job Stuff Series.
Job Stuff 42.
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