Sweat pants? Hired!

Today I had an applicant come in for an interview in sweat pants that were at least two sizes too big, sandals, long johns t shirt and a cartoon character beanie on. She had to hold up her sweat pants when she walked back to my office to speak with me and didn’t bother taking that ridiculous hat off her head… I sat back just staring for a few seconds before I snapped back into the moment. What brought me back? Her talking about the positions that she wanted to be considered for- PROFESSIONAL positions. I had to cut her off and tell her that wasn’t an option and in fact I wouldn’t allow my recruiters to consider her for any position until she came back to the office dressed like she was taking her job search seriously. She immediately took her hat off her head and tugged at her hair to make it straight and sat up straight in her chair and exclaimed that she wouldn’t dress like that for work… Really? I don’t know that and I’m not willing to find out… I politely explained to her that she would be representing my staff and myself if we selected her for a position we had open and I wasn’t comfortable with her representing us in that manner. Now she said she was going to go home and change and come back, but here’s the deal; her first impression has already been made. Think about it.

What has happened that has allowed people to think that the job search shouldn’t be taken seriously?

But I did that 10 years ago? That counts right?

As a recruiter I have very specific standards for what I am looking for in a hire. I have been studying and perfecting the art of recruiting for the last 6 years of my life and have accepted and embraced the idea that it’s an area that will continue to teach me new lessons. I have this belief that the goal isn’t to keep doing it until you get it correct, but to keep on until you just absolutely cannot get it wrong. Truth be told I have mastered that for some of my clients, but not all of them. The hardest client I hire for is-well-myself.

I happen to be the youngest office manager for the company that I work for (did I mention that before?) and probably the most inexperienced. The reality is this: I am a product of this company. What I know and what I don’t know is a direct result of working for them. I have not been an office manager for another company and I started at an entry-level position here and continue to work my way up. I happen to have some very strong characteristics that result in me having to learn some things the hard way, often the VERY HARD way. The more hiring mistakes I make for myself, the more I learn. But isn’t the hiring process a two-way street? I interview you-you interview me[about me/about the company?]. What about those hiring mistakes that totally misrepresented themselves in the interview process or didn’t ask me the right questions.

When you are on the job hunt are you looking for a job or the job? If you are looking for the job then make sure you are asking the right questions for you as well. I constantly advise job seekers to do their research when seeking employment. Get online and find their mission and vision statement… seek out their client base… seek out their reputation… google them… google the owner… the hiring manager… the more you know the better! I don’t encourage job seekers to know more so they can fake it in an interview; I encourage them to research because to me it is very important that they make the right decision for them. I understand you need to support your family, but lets take the time to do this the right way. What about this position sparked your interest and made you want to apply? (If the answer is “I JUST NEED TO WORK” we aren’t heading in the right direction). Why do you think you’re a fit for this position? Is this a company you can see yourself working for in 5 years? If so why? If not, let’s move on! Why do you think you’d be good at this type of work? “Oh, this type of work really interests me and I think I could be a really good addition to your team!!”… hmm okay, but you didn’t really answer the question and what do you know about my team that makes you think you would be a good fit for my team?

My point is stop applying for positions that aren’t for you. First stop– skill set.. do you truly have the skill set they are asking for in the posting? At a job coaching meeting once I had someone ask “If I did that skill 10 years ago should I include it on my resume?” Well, lets figure this out together; Was 10 years ago the last time you performed that skill? Have you stayed current with the technological advancements involved in that skill? If I hired you for that skill and gave you a task to complete-could I walk away and leave you to do that skill without having to answer any questions for you? Second stop– (only if you pass the first one) do you have the same values this company has? If not, someone is going to end up unhappy.  Third stop– did you ask them the questions that truly matter to you? Maybe its something like “Are you guys family oriented?” … “How often do you have staff meetings and do you encourage all levels in the organization to come up with ideas?”… “Do you cross train? Do you hire for growth potential?”… “Do you value quality?”… “What is a typical day for other people in the position I am being considered for?”… These questions are going to vary based on what is important to you-but don’t be afraid to ask those questions. If you misrepresent your skill set or your values in an interview it will come out later and the organization will NOT be happy, I can assure you.

Can you patch things up if you did the complete opposite of what we just discussed? A good start to doing so would be to talk to your hiring manager and admit the mistake. It might be a good idea to start talking about parting ways. Maybe if you initiate the conversation it won’t leave the organization with such a bad taste in their mouth. Even if the job isn’t for you [for whatever reason] you still want to leave on the best possible terms, after all your future employer will probably do some type of employment verification and you wouldn’t want bad feedback given to them. Don’t get too scared though, [hiring manager] still has some skin in the game. If [hiring manager] would’ve done the right thing then the wrong person wouldn’t be in the job. So how does [hiring manager] keep this from happening again? The first answer is make sure you are learning from your mistakes. Write them down, track them, don’t make the same one twice. Make sure you ask all the right questions and do all the right reference checking and employment verification and don’t compromise your standards. Most importantly, wait for them to ask the right questions! Are they really interested in contributing to your team? How do they know that they are really interested in contributing to your team if they didn’t ask you anything about your team?

True Life: The Generation Gap in action…

You think you know, but you have no idea! We as HR constantly attend programs related to connecting the dots between the generations in the workforce, but behind closed doors what is it like an HR Dept that has employees from all generations?

  • 1st hand experience to the different generations-I work for baby boomers, I was raised (or raised them, I don’t know for sure) by Gen X parents, I’m Gen Y and my siblings are Gen Z (in some definitions they fall under Gen Z and in some definitions they squeak into Gen Y<– because I believe they are wildly different from me I’m going to call them Gen Z).
  • What are some characteristics we associate with each generation (from face value):

-Baby Boomers are hard workers. They believe in going to work, getting the job done and loyalty. They still approach problem solving with an “old-school” state of mind. Employment IS for life.

-Gen X are the beginning of the latchkey kid phenomena. They are well-educated and only loyal until they are unhappy. They will not stick around if they aren’t happy.

-Gen Y… We are rebellious (really we are just strongly opinionated and embrace the opportunity to voice it) We are lazy (really we just believe in working smarter not harder) We think we know it all (really we know we have the tools to know it all, we don’t have to remember it all- we have google for that).

-Gen Z spolied and misinformed.  Harsh I know, but my summary of Gen Z: They are sheltered from the realities of life. Everyone gets a “participation trophy”, tolerance means comprimising values (which I’m quite certain will eventually diminish the desire to have values) and parents can’t spank their children anymore. (Spare the rod, spoil the child?)Now don’t get me wrong each generation definitely has its positives, only time will tell for Gen Z, but I’m certain they will surface!

Obviously I defended Gen Y a bit more than the others because that’s what I’m classified as. These are blanket statements that are not true for each individual under each generation, but as a whole this is how the public summarizes them. I constantly encounter someone older than me that summarizes my generation as “lazy”. This happens because our approach to work usually has a way to cut out a couple of “unneccessary” steps. Because we don’t do things the way the baby boomers or generation x does them we are automatically labeled as lazy and know it all. Here’s some lessons learned: I’ve always been excited about the work I do since the day they hired me. During my “learning curve” I observed all that I could and took pages and pages and pages and pages and then some more pages of notes. I wrote down everything they taught me, everything I learned on my own, everything I learned from customers, applicants, employees, etc. As an “outsider” looking into the process it was easy for me to identify some steps that could easily be improved to save a ton of time and money. However, the majority of these suggestions/ideas were met with resistance. This baffled me! My thought process was all over the place trying to interpret resistance to easy changes and I couldn’t come up with a good answer. Then one day at a NASHRM luncheon the speaker was talking about the way the different generations interact and everything fell in place! The point that stuck with me (and quite frankly I don’t remember anything else from his presentation) was to show the older workforce that I wasn’t trying to take their job away from them, but trying to make it easier! So it wasn’t my ideas that were the problem it was the delivery of those ideas! I occasionally run into resistance with new ideas now, but usually if I remember to deliver the idea in its true purpose (to improve what we do and make our jobs a little easier) then I at least get my ideas heard and discussed. And its true that sometimes once those ideas reach discussion I realize that maybe that isn’t the best thing since sliced bread after all!

What else is different? The way we look for work. This is huge for us and what we do. It only makes sense for us to have someone on staff from each generation so that they can appeal to their generation in the advertising, recruiting and treatment of their generation. We know that all generations are in the workforce now and there are people from all of the generations LOOKING for work now; it would be insane for us to not acknowledge that and cater to that. While I may recruit through Facebook and LinkedIn my boss is more likely to recruit by other, more traditional ways.

The point is there are GOOD and BAD things that come from the generation gap in the HR department. It can help us solve problems and think in different perspectives  or it can cause us to be catty towards each other and counterproductive. The important thing is to perfect your delivery and keep in consideration that while we constantly (as the younger generation) pick at what the older generations do wrong (and probably vice-versa) we could focus on what they do right and build from there.

A day in the life…

My friends always love to hear stories from the world of temps. I always laugh when they want to hear stories because it’s just my day-to-day. Another one of my HR buddies has some pretty good stories too and we constantly try to top each other… I’ll admit her S.W.A.T. team story is pretty good. So here is a recent one…

Scenario: Group of people getting drug screened for an assignment that starts that same day. One guy informs my staff employee “I’m not sure I can pass…” to which she replies “then don’t take it.” He keeps saying something to her and I can’t quite hear it so I decide to get up and see what the fuss is about. This particular staff member has only worked for us for a few months and my first instinct is what I refer to as “Mamma bear mode”. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t trying to pressure her into doing something we don’t do or making her uncomfortable. I explain to him that the paperwork he signed for the drug screen clearly states that he should not take the drug screen if he is not sure he is going to pass. He looks at me like I have lost my ever-loving mind! He asks why I would think he couldn’t pass a drug screen and I told him because I just heard him say that! I walk away thinking that I’ve made myself very clear and he starts mumbling. I turn around and ask what he said and he starts yelling about how no one was talking to me and so on and so forth. I then explain to him that not only are we not interested in employing him because he has shared with us that he cannot pass a drug screen but his attitude isn’t one we are looking for in an employee and he should go ahead and leave. This is where things get interesting because he is clearly baffled that those are 2 qualities we don’t want in an employee. *Now here is an example of what some people consider “temp agencies” to be… He thought that he could behave however he wanted and we would still hire him; that we are there to HELP everyone. Trust me, we are not! We offer a service to our customers (the job sites) to hire qualified employees to fill their positions and obviously everyone will not fall under those guidelines! So the story ends this way: The guy is so pissed that he’s slamming stuff around our office. I tell him I will have someone escort him out if he doesn’t leave and he says “WHO GONNA ESCORT ME OUT” ummm the police! Which is what I told him and he expressed that he “doesn’t give an “f” about the police!” Well, he may not, but they wasted no time arresting him and making sure he was aware he wasn’t allowed on our property again…

Most of our stories are NOWHERE near this extreme. We hardly get an angry person in the office and in no way did I think anyone in the office was in danger. This guy was seriously trying to act like he was some big guy that was above the rules and apparently above the police, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

Tempin’ ain’t easy

As you learned in my necessary “about me” post, I have a burning desire to change (be a part of the change) of the world of recruiting. Specifically staffing, or as you may call it “Temp agency“. I don’t know what you think of when you think of a “temp agency”, but I know what I thought…

Lets kick it back to 2006: I had only been living in Alabama for about 4 weeks and I was beyond frustrated with my job search. I didn’t have a lot of work experience outside of waiting tables (cut me some slack I was only 20 and still in college), but I’m an EXCELLENT worker! I will take whatever job you want me to do and give it my all. I’ll be at work everyday. I’ll work harder than anyone else on staff… blah blah blah. I couldn’t find a job. Not even a job waiting tables! My [now] husband insisted I go apply at a “temp agency”. I went, kicking and screaming, but I went. I told him I didn’t need a temp service to find me a job, I could do it myself & whatever fee they expected me to pay wasn’t going to happen. I was surprised when I walked in and it was an actual office and a normal application. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but I knew whatever job they were going to offer me I was going to accept-I just hoped it wasn’t assembly or anything because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it. Anyway to wrap this story up they had a need in the office and the manager took a chance on me. I jumped at the opportunity, not knowing what I was agreeing to, but ready to start work immediately!

Present day: I have a conversation every single day with at least one person that had some time of “temp story fear” before they called us or came by to apply. The easy misconceptions to battle are that we charge applicants for what we do-well that would be dumb, if I didn’t have applicants to fill job orders I wouldn’t have a job. Misconception 2-We pay everyone minimum wage-false. It’s common to see several minimum wage positions through a temporary service because companies use temporary services for their entry-level positions, but that isn’t all that we do. This ties into misconception 3-we are money grubbers. We aren’t money grubbers, we don’t keep a cut of your paycheck for ourselves, our customers pay for our services AND we actually care about placing the right candidate with the right job [“Merging Talent With Opportunity“] not just sending “a body” to work.  Listen, I know there are companies out there that do charge applicants and that work with customers that use temps for a couple months and lay them off and bring them back, etc. There are companies that don’t have pure intentions, but the temporary world doesn’t have to be like that. I care to fight these stigmas every single day until we raise the bar for the staffing industry. Why? Because I had those assumptions about the world of temporary staffing and I was wrong! This job has been such an opportunity for me on so many levels! I’ve learned so much and I get to interact with all kinds of people who come from all kinds of backgrounds, education levels, skills/trades, experience, etc. I love what I do and I’m good at what I do, so naturally, I want what I do to be taken seriously. Where do we start? With our “temps” of course! We take time to get to know these people who are going to work for us, we take the time to let them know that we expect excellent work from them. I often take the time to challenge them to out-perform the employees already on the job site. We take the time to learn our customer sites and the people who our employees will be working with to make the right choice for culture fits. My goal is to place people on temp to hire assignments and watch them work their way up in a company that they love working for. I know we can raise the bar, because in our area we already have. Just a little at a time, but we are raising the bar.

…the rest of the story.

I feel like now is a good time to tell the rest of the story. When Ben asked for advice from his HR peers specifically for entry-level HR I kept it short and simple. In my defense he clearly stated that if I was busy he would take short and simple… so that’s what I gave! 🙂

Why is my advice only 3 sentences? Because it works. I became Staffing Manager very quickly within my organization and it isn’t because I have unending knowledge and experience. Well maybe the unending knowledge, right? I kid. I do take responsibility for learning something new about my job or HR in general everyday and that has something to do with it, but not everything. I firmly believe that leaders can produce like kind and I have a burning desire to be a leader. Not just any leader…a GREAT leader… a SUCCESSFUL leader… a RESPECTED leader… a LEADER that can produce other GREAT LEADERS. So when I told Ben my advice to entry-level HR would be this “Get connected! Be active in your local SHRM group and connect with other HR professionals! Find a mentor and utilize the heck out of them!” I’m sure he wanted more (and so did the readers http://upstarthr.com/entry-level-hr-jobs-the-ultimate-guide/ ) so let me explain.

I climbed quickly (did I forget to mention I started out simply filing here and processing applications) because I latched on to some great mentors! I believe you should have more than one mentor. HR is a profession that has a wide variety of opportunity and we constantly see successful people who have mastered specific areas in HR so I think it is appropriate to have multiple mentors who have become successful in different sectors of HR. We all talk about how busy we are so I can’t expect to get a ton of time out of one person, so I have several people to turn to that I can get a little bit of their time.  I have mentors within our organization and mentors outside of the organization. Why would I do that? Sometimes I need some expertise and guidance on how to deal with something I’m going through at work and I wouldn’t want to use someone within the organization for that kind of mentoring. Call it a conflict of interest if you will. The people within our organization can mentor me on the day-to-day that I’m doing wrong (or right) so they are pretty valuable to me. My mentors within the organization are [obviously] successful employees that know what its like to start out where I started and be responsible for the kind of growth and programs that I was responsible for. Time is not our friend so it only makes sense that I would try to learn from their mistakes as often as possible instead of creating their mistakes again. Plus, we can’t make efficient progress if every new team member has to learn every lesson the hard way. It is very important that you do not overlook mentors within your own organization. I struggle with the fact that my mentor has a lot of old school ways about her and I sometimes catch myself stuck on that when that really shouldn’t matter because she has something that I don’t. My people skills flat-out suck sometimes [a post all on its own soon, I’m sure]. She is pretty well liked throughout the organization and I know the owner has a mad amount of respect for her. I know the basics: I can sell, I can recruit, I can interview, I can do payroll, I can counsel employees, I can pull the truth from stubborn applicants, I can spot talent, I can do orientation and process new hires, I can (as one of my friends likes to say) find you a job in Africa, if that’s where you so choose for me to find you a job; but I can’t get further than I am if I don’t master the people skills. Knowing this and recognizing this meant one thing… I had to learn them. Er, maybe I should say HAVE to learn them (what can I say, I’m a work in progress). <–So where am I going with that? –>Mentors work, if you pick the right ones. I think to pick a mentor you have to know your weaknesses. I mean REALLY know them… now find someone who is REALLY good at what your weak in… now learn everything they can teach you. It is important that your mentor be someone who is respected in their organization and amongst their peers. This helps validate that they are doing something right and that they know a thing or two.

Now for the get connected. That’s easy- SHRM. Join your local SHRM chapter. If you do nothing else to get connected at least do this. NASHRM has become one of the most valuable tools for me in my career. I am able to network with people who do the same thing I do on a regular basis. I get to stay up to date on important HR issues, because someone else is doing so and then presenting to our group. I have a network of people from NASHRM that I can call when faced with a new situation. I have opportunities to volunteer and do awesome things like go to DC twice a year and be a voice for HR to our congressmen/women and senators! I used a NASHRM study group to prepare for taking the PHR. I’ve met incredibly talented people through this group. The contribution this group has had to my career and continuing education is a no brainer. GET. CONNECTED. If you don’t I only have to assume you’re not passionate about your career choice. It doesn’t have to be with SHRM, there are other opportunities, this one just happens to be near and dear to my heart! 🙂

It isn’t much, but it’s my rest of the story. Hope it helps!

Everything I need to know I learned from the housewives…

I’m guilty. I occasionally (every time I catch a full day marathon so I can squeeze two seasons worth of drama into one day) participate in the event we know as housewife spectating. Snub your nose at me if you will, but there is something about these tan, trash talking, hair dyed, working, unmarried “housewives” that reels me in. I think it’s because they provide me with so many life lessons. No seriously, everything I need to know to survive the workplace I learned from the housewives. Dr Seuss has nothing on these attention craved 15 minute of famers… take note.

Don’t sneak into the White House (Salahi we are looking at you!) It’s never a good idea to do something illegal, especially when its going to be public! Your reputation will become your organizations reputation, keep that in mind.

Tweet about someone-and you will have to own your words (Teresa, thank you for providing us with so many life lessons). You can’t deny it if we have proof you said. Cool down before you tweet or update Facebook (and in some cases text). Think before you speak or you may have to answer for those words you blasted from an emotional place.

Dont hide money problems from your other half (well… just about all of the housewives) HELLO!? How many housewives have we seen going through a divorce now because of money issues? In the midst of a bankruptcy? C’mon MAN! You can’t move have any kind of meaningful relationship when you hide big secrets like that from your partner (in business or life). Not just in money either. It’s okay to voice a problem. Collaborate with your key players and lets come up with a solution, don’t avoid it or try to fix it on your own. Here I will tie this into another perspective of decision-making without collaboration: Don’t relocate the Kings without anyones say so! Maloof! While it is incredibly unreasonable to include an entire fan base in the decision-making process you may want to come up with a way to go through the process publicly and make them feel like they were at least considered. If your decision is going to have an impact on that many people at once, don’t be afraid to share that burden with them. Great leaders state and share the burden.

Flipping tables is not the best solution (Settle down Teresa) Okay, so this links up with “emotional tweeting”, but the point is there are better ways to get your point across than flipping tables! Have a calm down moment and think before you act. Put together a plan of action to state your purpose and how you feel about an issue. Throwing a temper tantrum will likely turn your co workers or employees against you and cause them to lose respect for you.

Practice your public speaking (courtesy Alexis). Umm… There are so many… ummm.. things I can say about this one, ya know? I can’t keep that theme up past one sentence, but a lack of preparation shows and your peers, coworkers, employees, etc. will remember that. 2 quick points: If you don’t prepare you are ultimately projecting to your audience that you don’t really care. & you look like an idiot. You may feel foolish practicing your speech or presentation in front of the mirror, but you will look more foolish in public if you didn’t do those practice runs. What’s that age-old saying-preparation is the key to success? Maybe there is something to that…

Don’t invite a stripper without telling mom first (Phaedra a southern belle? not this time sweetheart!). Oh, how do I tie this one in with the workforce lesson? Don’t let your boss be surprised by anything (thank you Bobbi) and certainly not a stripper at the dinner table. If your boss needs to know its simple: inform them/include them. ‘Nuff said.

Don’t date an employee (Gretchen-either fire Slade, like really separate him from your business OR break up with him!) This is not a good idea for obvious reasons! Of course I have my own beliefs on “falling in love” and yada yada so I buy NO excuse in this arena. In the staffing world when we get a client (particularly mfg) where we will have a lot of employees I always throw out to them “We do not run a dating service”… Why? Because we  do not run a dating service. Quite frankly I have more important things to do than have a meeting with you and my client about the 3rd Ashley in the facility that you are dating and how the other two are going to kill you for cheating on them and devise a way to separate the 4 of you and keep production going and morale up. Stop it, just stop it. No I’m not the heartless HR person that no one wants to see, but I’m the HR person no one wants to see when there is workplace drama resulting from a relationship that started after they were told I do not run a dating service. And my goodness, if you are in a position above other employees direct reports are ALWAYS off-limits. Think big picture here and scroll up a few lessons to your reputation and your organizations reputation.

If you are determined-you CAN make it happen (Go Bethenny! #TeamSkinnyGirl) No matter how many people don’t buy your vegan cookies or refuse to support you or acknowledge your baking efforts you may one day stumble upon the genius idea of Skinny Girl cocktails and ditch the real housewives and all their drama for good to run your empire! Make a goal. Do you want it? I mean do you really want it? Then make it happen! Everyone is capable, your drive and determination can set you apart from everyone else.

So I left your favorite housewives out? My bad, that was intentional. I don’t watch the other ones. Please refrain from going “Oklahoma on me”!