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.

You look like you can do this job.

I recently attended #SHRMVLS in DC with a slew of my favorite SHRM Volunteers from all over the country. This is my second time attending and the connections I make at this event are so valuable. These are other HR volunteers from across the country who are in the same shoes I’m in, or were just in them, or are about to be in them. We get to hear from awesome speakers and find out about valuable resources to help us in our home chapters as we work hard to provide our hometown HR community with everything we can.

We have two opportunities to attend break out sessions with other chapters the same size as ours. In the meeting I attended we broke off into groups to discuss challenges we were facing in our chapters and shared ideas and experience to take back and try for ourselves. I love this meeting because these are my people, if for no other reason than because they have the same size chapter that we do in North Alabama and can relate to our struggles and triumphs.

The most disturbing thing happened while in that breakout session. One of the groups shared that they wanted to have a better social media presence and their idea was to put a college student on the board because they would be good at it.

STOP.

IT.

please-stop

Do not do that anymore. Do you know what you just said? You said “you look like you could do this job.” You are in HR and you said “you look like you can do this job.” Nooooooo. This is wrong on so many levels, yet it happens all the time. Think of how angry we get as the HR professional of our organizations when a hiring manager does this-makes an assumption that someone “looks the part.”

Or you think it doesn’t happen in your organization because you have a diversity committee, inclusion policies, sensitivity training, extensive interview training, etc. Maybe it doesn’t happen in your organization, maybe no one on your team has ever looked at a candidate and thought “he looks like he’d be great at math,”or “she has the look for sales” or “I bet that student can do our social media.” Maybe it was something you thought was harmless like “women are good at assembly line work-because they have small hands.”

An ethnicity doesn’t determine your math ability. The way you look doesn’t tell me how well you can do sales. Being a student doesn’t tell me that you can leverage social media skills to build an effective marketing campaign for an organization through the correct channels. People with good dexterity are probably the best at performing assembly line tasks regardless the size of their hands.

This is a soft example of what is happening in organizations that we need to fix, but I want to really challenge you to dig deep and make sure you have left no stone unturned in giving your hiring managers every resource possible to make them good at identifying talent and not a look, not a skin color, not a religion, not an age. Allowing this behavior is contributing to a much bigger problem.

What have you done to fix this or when have you experienced someone else making a decision on what you could or could not do based on the way you look?

 

Is culture the word we are looking for?

C U L T U R E

Everyone is talking about culture, and I do mean everyone. Everywhere I look there is “culture this” and “culture that” from Sunday school to twitter, from twitter to the break room, from the break room to chapter SHRM meetings. What’s in a culture? Why is everyone so obsessed with it now?

Culture doesn’t define what we do or what we want to do as an organization, our mission statement does. Culture doesn’t define how we accomplish our mission statement, standards do.

I’ve jumped aboard the culture train myself and I even drove that train at a previous job, but maybe I just bought the hype? I believe Organizations WANT to define culture because they want to use it as a hiring tool. “You wouldn’t be happy here. You aren’t accustomed to the way we do things here.” Or “Come work for us, you’d be a perfect fit for our culture.” Something to consider here is that most organizations use the wrong thing to define their culture like activities, amenities and such. My question is simply this, was culture “defined” to discriminate in the hiring process? Was culture the idea that developed to weed out employees who would possibly become disgruntled or an excuse to let those disgruntled employees go. Is culture contagious? Before we started making a big deal out of culture did it just happen organically?

Is “culture” hiring keeping us safe from diversity? Should culture be a qualification? At a previous job I can look back now and say I was not a fit for their culture, not even from day one. I didn’t know that before they hired me. Culture isn’t something that was marketed, it was an internal piece of the puzzle. To know that piece of the puzzle you had to be a part of the team; outsiders wouldn’t have been privy to any information that would’ve defined their culture. Without putting my finger on what was different I quickly went against it and because I did I was able to see faster success than anyone else in the organization. So, if the way I did things was so successful why couldn’t the whole organization adopt those ways and expand and improve those ways? A friend suggested “Because it wasn’t the culture or didn’t fit the culture?” BS. It’s BS because each office had its own culture, even though we were all working to fulfill the overall mission and vision statement of the company each location had. their. own. culture. I started out as one and a half in my branch, there wasn’t much of a culture to define. The ways I used that led my branch to success were not adopted because the other managers didn’t believe the extra work would pay off in the long run. I tell you this little story because your HR department and your recruiters can beg you to define a company culture until they are blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. Your leaders within the company set the culture and those leaders will develop a culture based on the needs of their team and tasks. Each team that has a different leader could have a different, so-called, culture.culture

How about as people develop professionally, do their values change as they learn new things? They can, right? So where does this move them on the culture plot? Do they outgrow the culture they are a part of? Do they disagree with the culture they are currently a part of? etc. etc.

Let’s use a call center for an example: Group A does checking accounts and Group B does auto loans. Group A would define their culture as “working the biggest volume, being the fastest and the most efficient”. Group B is the last line of defense against recovery and would say their culture is “looking for solutions to keep you in your car”. Group A and Group B work for the same company, but tackle two completely different tasks. A one size fits all culture would fail here.

All this to say, can you define a company wide culture and what good does that do you anyway? I don’t think you can control culture from the top down, but what you can control is the mission of the organization. So tell me, does your company have a defined culture? Does your hiring process benefit from this defined culture?

I can totally pass a drug screen. #TrueStoryTuesday

The 5 lamest failed drug screen excuses… #truestorytuesday

Drug Test

Sir, you’re drug screen results are showing postive for cocaine.

I’ve never done cocaine. I must’ve got it on my hands somehow and transferred it into my urine when I was peeing in the cup.

<insert cricket chirp here>

Candidate studies drug screen form for seriously 12 minutes, reading the list of drugs we are testing for over and over and over and over again. Finally signs it and proceeds with the process.

Sir, you’re drug screen is showing positive for marijuana.

Dang-I didn’t see that on the list of drugs you were testing for.

It’s the first one on the list-THC.

Sir, you’re drug screen is showing positive for marijuana.

Yeah.

I can’t send you to a job site with a positive drug screen.

I didn’t know I couldn’t smoke it.

You do know smoking marijuana is illegal, right?

I didn’t realize I couldn’t do it because at my last job I would smoke with my supervisor.

<blank stare>

Sir, you’re drug screen is showing positive for marijuana.

I don’t smoke. My roomates smoke, but I don’t. They smoked in the car on the way up here.

This last one was a special situation where the employee was actually on workers comp.

Sir- you’re drug test today had no trace of the medication we prescribed you.

So now you mad because I can pass a drug screen?

Sir- you do realize it is illegal to falsely obtain a prescription and sell it to other people.