Why’d you wear that?

I recently had a chance to catch up with some of my favorite local HR friends and let me just go on record now, that doesn’t happen enough! After catching up on other areas of life we did the usual: swapped weird stories, dissected everything around the one employee we can’t seem to make happy, and talked about our hiring woes.

A couple of the people in this group work at the same place and these two shared a fun story about their most recent hiring process which included interview faux pas. This one was a dress faux pas and as I sat with a look of sheer horror painted on my face while listening to them describe this terrible outfit choice for an interview, I remembered I have my own, “interview dress code violation.”

Listen, I tell the story of how I got into HR and Talent Management to every new crowd or client I get, but I usually leave out some of the details. Totally not on purpose because it just occurred to me last week that I’ve been skipping this part of the story. So here goes…

The day I interviewed with a staffing company (having no idea what I was getting into or what kind of job they would send me to) I was desperate. I was young and had been in Alabama for two whole months at that point and hadn’t landed a single job despite my best efforts. I always joke that employers could probably “smell the Arkansas” on me so they didn’t want to hire me. This was back in 2006, which happens to be the last time our college football team beat both Alabama and Auburn, today employers would probably just take pity on my Arkansas self and throw me some type of bone.

I digress.

So, I’m desperate. I need a job or I’m going to lose my mind. My then only boyfriend (now husband) had three jobs so like, we were fine $$ wise, but my sanity was absolutely in question. His sanity was probably in question too now that I think about it, I mean he did take me up there – KICKING AND SCREAMING – to apply. I was so stubborn I didn’t think I needed a staffing company to find me a job, I could find my own job, blah blah blah. I walk in and the lady at the front desk asks how she can help me. I tell her I’m here to apply and she hands me this thick packet of paper. Its 2006 and they just handed me a 20-page application, we are not off to a good start. She says “Do you want to fill it out here or take it home with you?” Friends, I knew if I took this application home, I wasn’t bringing it back so I quietly said “I’llfillitouthere.” She points me to a room to sit in while I complete this monstrous packet and the whole time I’m thinking “what am I doing here? What is happening? What if they want me to do assembly work? I would be terrible at assembly work. I’ll get fired; I won’t last one full shift of assembly work.”

I return to the front desk with a completed application. She says “Ok, follow me.” She plops my application down in front of the office manager who is eating a bag of popcorn and tells me to have a seat. YALL! I WAS IN AN INTERVIEW AND I DIDNT EVEN KNOW IT.

 

interview ready

This interview was so calm, so methodical, and every other question was followed with a couple of bites of popcorn. I’m still thinking “what is happening?” over and over again. By the end of the interview the office manager asks if I want to work in the office. I said I’d take it, a little too excitedly and that totally caught her off guard, but I felt relief from here to heaven that she didn’t offer me an assembly job and I just couldn’t contain myself. We discuss the details and work out my start date (the very next morning because I was tired of sitting in our empty apartment) and she says “one more thing… you’ll need to wear something less revealing in the office.”

So, here’s the part of the story I could’ve told you earlier… that same day I had drove myself to Huntsville and interviewed at Hooters. When you interview for Hooters, you dress the part (I think). I had a tight, black, low-cut top on that proved I was qualified for the job. When I interviewed for my first job in the recruiting realm, I was dressed like I was interviewing for a job at Hooters because I had.

I grabbed at my shirt when she said this, smiled awkwardly and said “of course, absolutely” and carried my red faced self out the door (only to discover that my sweet boyfriend had left me there and I needed to go back inside and use the phone to call him and  find out why he had left me there to relish in my tight, low-cut shame).

If that office manager had made a decision based on how I was dressed, she would’ve missed an opportunity to hire someone who became one of the best recruiters and closer at the company. She also would’ve missed an opportunity to hire someone who was sometimes the biggest pain in the neck she had, but I like to think my excellent numbers and customer service skills outweighed most of that. Some issues you can easily manage, like not the best choice in tops for an interview, but some issues also don’t have anything to do with how well a person will work, like not the best choice in tops for an interview.

inappropriate

If she would’ve said I couldn’t do that job because I dressed the wrong way for the interview, there is no telling what my career would’ve ended up being. I know it wouldn’t have been Hooters though, because they never called me again.

Take it easy on job seekers

Changing jobs is a highly stressful experience for us humans. Even positive changes can bring about uncertainty, but yet too many people on the hiring side of the desk treat this like a chance to tell people they aren’t good enough or don’t follow directions. I personally think we need to offer a lot more grace in this process and take a few minutes to listen to a candidate. Learn about their skills and why they are interested in joining your company.

Here’s the reality, job seekers get bad job advice from all kinds of people. Employed people think the fact that they have a job makes them qualified to give job seekers advice and that’s not necessarily a fact. People find jobs a variety of ways, and decision makers have a variety of preferences. What works for one job seeker, may not work for another, but job seekers don’t know the difference until it’s too late. They do the best they can with the information they have, yet here we are, complaining about them like they should be experts at landing their next position-especially one with the company we work for!

waiting

In 2019 I want you all to stop disqualifying candidates for things that are not skills related. If the job you are recruiting for doesn’t require uber attention to detail, then stop disqualifying applicants for misspelled words and grammar mistakes. Don’t assume that someone who left their last three jobs before they were there for a year can’t do your job. Make sure you know why a bachelors is “required” so you know what you’re really looking for.

Talk to people.

Look, in all my years of recruiting I’ve learned that your next best hire might make their way to you in one of the most unconventional ways so dial it down a notch. Get off your high horse before karma knocks you off it. When it does knock you off of it, I hope you know everything you need to know to be the perfect job seeker.

HR under fire

Scrolling around through some social media sites recently I watched HR take some heat for the large number of unemployed, from the unemployed. I read through several conversations that were happening before I gave up on trying to understand the nonsense and just power down. I kept thinking later that it would’ve done the profession zero good for me to try to engage in conversation to clear up some obvious misunderstandings. This group of people seemed to have made their mind up and probably would’ve argued with anyone about anything, and that’s a shame, right?

i hate hr

Let me back up to a week ago. The closing general session of the SHRM legislative conference was the Secretary of Labor from the U.S. Department of Labor, Thomas Perez. He was a wonderful speaker, very charismatic and he took charge of the room like a pro! He had stories too. Stories that would make the hardest of hearts soften. As I listened to him tell the tales of the single mother who couldn’t turn her heat up because she was many months unemployed and struggling to find a job so she bundled up and rationed her food to stay within budget, I looked around the room full of HR professionals. I looked to see who was engaged, who was tweeting and who was truly heart-broken. Then I thought of the worst employee I ever had and how relieved we were when she was no longer employed with us. What if the lady he was telling the story about was her? The employee that had a problem with every holiday we took. The employee that had a problem with every supervisor who asked her to do anything. The employee who was offended by the candy in the vending machine. We’ve all had those employees, right? What if that long-term unemployed person really is that employee?

What blows my mind is that SHRM was very involved in the efforts for the “Ready to Work” initiative, so speaking for the HR community, they care about those long-term unemployed. I also didn’t think it was a secret that HR does NOT own the hiring process, but to read the comments I read it must be a secret still. Hey public, HR doesn’t own the hiring process (and they shouldn’t).

So back to the conversations my computer screen was flooded with, what if those people are that employee? Can we help them? Do we do anything for them? Is it HRs responsibility to get them back on track? Is there really a skills gap in the country or is there an attitude gap? Or better yet, an entitlement gap? Something to chew on this Monday morning, I’d love to hear your thoughts.