You might be surprised

At a previous job, a high school internship program was something no one wanted to oversee. One of the issues we had with it was that it came from the top down and we were like “um, we have enough stuff to do, but thanks anyway.”

Another reason we were not interested is because we didn’t have time to waste with high school students when we needed to spend time targeting college students.

The ridiculous part there is, we were being stubborn and failing to consider how engaging with interested high school students might later make engaging with college students easier, but I’ll come back to that.

I remember when the initiative hit my desk and I was like NO WAY! My boss pulled rank though and said his NO WAY over ruled my NO WAY so I was stuck with it.

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That meant I had to dig around for any and all documentation we may require for employing high school students; labor laws that mandated what they could and could not do and when they could and could not work; and how to navigate events with minors. Specifically, our annual lake house event. Do the kids get to sign the waiver? Do their parents have to sign it? Does it matter? Etc. All tasks I was not excited about even though I knew that it would be easy enough to find the answers.

Thankfully the first group of high school interns for the program was a small group. The technical mentor was a very knowledgeable employee who really took the time to invest in their learning that summer so that helped a lot too.

My biggest hurdles including incorporating them appropriately into an already established college intern program while making sure they were welcomed, learned valuable things, and had a good experience.

By the end of the summer the high school interns became my favorite interns. They were more dependable, inquisitive, invested, and polite than some of the college interns. (Sorry to my former college interns that are reading this, don’t worry though yall will always be my sweet baby interns LOL #IheartMATLAB…). Anyway, all the interns were great, but the high school interns really showed out.

After that first summer I couldn’t wait for the next round of high school interns. It was also cool that other companies started calling us and asking us how we did it. Since my boss adamantly refused to run the program, I was the go-to for these kinds of questions and I have to admit-that was fun!

Now I get the opportunity to go sit with other companies and help them develop an effective high school internship program. I also help local schools when I can on getting their messaging out to other companies who could benefit from a defined strategic high school internship program. (side note, I do that as much as possible because I remember how much I didn’t want to implement the program so I know I can’t be the only one having that reaction, so I want to help people see the possible end result when I can).

Something I thought would be glorified babysitting turned out to be one of my favorite things to participate in. I also very much enjoy running into former high school interns who can articulate how that experience from our program has helped them on their career path. Once those former high school interns got to college, they willingly became a resource to help with on site recruiting efforts. They basically became built-in brand ambassadors. To be fair, our college interns did too, but there was something to be said about having a brand ambassador on board from the first time they stepped foot on campus.

Moral of the story? Step out of your comfort zone at some point in 2019 and volunteer for something you wouldn’t normally do. If you hate it you never have to do it again, but you might be surprised.

I’ll staple those applications

This is a story about a time I when I had a great idea.

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The year was two thousand and seven. I was all of 21 years old and very ambitious. I had been working my first “grown up” job for a year now and had been exceeding all expectations. I had learned so much in that time, but I knew I needed to find ways to manage my time better and increase efficiency.

I was the youngest person working in the office at the time with three other ladies. Two of which were older than my parents, but not quite old enough to be my grandparents and one was probably close to my parents age. The two older ladies worked upstairs while me and the younger of the other three worked downstairs. Her and I saw a lot of people every day coming in to fill out these lengthy paper applications. Her and I were the first round of interviews, screening them to see if they were good enough candidates to send upstairs (as I type this, I realize that process was also ridiculous). We handled the drug screens, scheduling, applicant flow, filing, answering phones, etc. The other two ladies handled payroll, delivering checks, extra screening, meetings and one of them did sales. All of that to explain that they weren’t always up close witnesses to the dated process of the paper applications and how long it took.

Process at the time: take paper application, interview candidate, send candidate upstairs for further interview, make candidate an offer, drug screen candidate, on-board candidate, enter new hire information into our system. YEAH, we took their info from their application and entered it into the system so we could pay them. They wrote out all of their info and then someone would take that info and manually key it into the system. Manually. key. it. in.

YALL… one day I was playing around and found out that the software we used to enter applicant data in and administer payroll was in fact a fairly sophisticated ATS! IT COULD TAKE ONLINE APPLICATIONS… We had this product we were paying for that could take applications and here we were handing out all these dadgum paper applications like it was 1982. YALL… I started crunching some numbers, because even in my early days I knew data was the way to make your case. How much were we spending ordering these paper applications, shipping the paper applications to our office, and then stapling all of the separate sheets together? How much time did it take an applicant on average to fill this massive thing out, how much time did it take to file it, how much time did it take to enter it in once we hired them, etc.? How much would it cost to set up 4-6 computers in the office for applicants to use to fill out the online version of this application? THE. NUMBERS. SPOKE. FOR. THEMSELVES.

As you can tell from this typed out blog post about a story from over 10 years ago, I was EXCITED! I had everything I needed to make a case for why we needed to change our process immediately and I couldn’t wait to tell somebody. I remember telling the ladies who worked upstairs about this idea and how simple it would be for me to set it up for us. I talked about streamlining the process, saving time, $$, I hit all the key factors BUT those two ladies only heard “you’re inefficient, I can do it better, I’m replacing you.”

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This is my “really, that’s all you heard?” face…

I didn’t know what to do with that. I was floored because that’s not what I was saying at all. I wasn’t sure where that was coming from and I didn’t know how to dispute it. I let it go. When given the chance to run another office for the same company I eventually implemented all the upgrades I wanted to do in my office. When my office became the biggest billing office in the company, other offices were instructed to do what I was doing. It wasn’t about replacing anyone, it was about improving our efficiency and service. I didn’t know how to refine my message back then or have a conversation with peers who were afraid I viewed them as a non-factor and replaceable. I could have done a much better job of pitching my idea, my mistake was not taking the time to understand that I might need to.

Learn how to talk to people of all levels. Approach issues with the other persons perspective in mind. When all else fails, shut up and listen.

Leading the witness

Often times we are eager to interview candidates to join our organization and some times we get so excited or have so much information to cover that we make this common interview mistake – we lead the witness.

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With an estimated 5-6 million jobs open in the U.S. right now it makes sense that we would get eager to fill our jobs and excited to sell the candidate on our work, before letting the candidate do some talking. I’ve seen interviewers make this mistake so many times, and I always cringe when they do because it will directly impact the outcome of the interview/hiring decision.

I recently conducted a recruiting training with an HR team and I spent a lot of time on leading the witness, so much so that I had the team role play some cold calls and interviews to show them when they do this. Leading the witness can start as early as the first call (which I think is a result of so many people beating into the heads of recruiters that candidates don’t really want to talk to us – so in turn they blab everything about the job in 35 seconds because they are afraid they will never get that person on the phone again). Their HR director spoke up at one point in the training and said “If you ever get to sit in on an interview with Kristina, watch her…she does very little talking.” This is mostly because I want to hear what the candidate has to say (listen to learn), but it’s partially so I don’t do any leading. Of course to do this, you must be able to power through awkward silence. A lot of interviewers will jump to fill the silence when things get awkward and then babble down a path of telling the candidate exactly what the organization is looking for.

Now don’t get me wrong, the candidate should know what your organization is looking for and your culture shouldn’t be a secret. When you’ve done all the talking upfront and over shared what your company is looking for, you’re setting the candidate up to form their answers around what you want to hear. This makes it harder to screen for a culture fit since you’ve given away all of your culture buzzwords before you’ve heard what the candidate has in mind for their next position.

Here’s an example:

Interviewer: Here at XYZ company we are looking for candidates who believe in bringing their A game every day, we have no “off days” here. Employees give 110%. We believe in working late hours when we have a project deadline approaching, and expect project deadlines to be more important than anything else. We want some one who likes to play hard when it’s time to celebrate… etc. What are you looking for in your next job?

Interviewee: (thinking to themselves: an 8-5 where I can get my job done and go home and spend time with my kids every night, but gee, right now I really need a job) Well, I’m looking for a group of people who believe in hard work and put project deadlines above everything else.

Kind of a crummy example, but as I thought up example after example they all were descriptive of either my current or former employers and I don’t want to show all of their cards or call anyone out. The mistake here is telling them so much about your environment and THEN asking them what they want. In some cases the candidate is going to be perfectly honest with you and then you can have an honest discussion whether this is the right fit for them and the organization. In other cases people are going to say whatever you want to hear to get hired-at least until they can find the right job for themselves. In some cases people aren’t setting out to lie to you, they just haven’t put any thought into that question so they parrot back everything they just heard you say.

This mistake is most important to avoid in a company where you are screening for culture fit. If you believe culture is driving the success of your business, why widen the risk of bringing in someone who is just trying to fake it? Before you say it, remember we’ve talked about “there’s a place for everyone” i.e. “there’s a culture for everyone.”Also, this isn’t permission to disqualify people for the wrong reason. You CAN define culture so don’t rely on a vague “not a culture fit” reason for not extending an offer.

A quick search for some stats estimate that 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions and one of the reasons this happens is the candidate isn’t really a culture fit and it wasn’t discovered in the interview process (even though it can be). There’s all kinds of stats that pop up when looking to identify how much a bad hire costs our organizations – one source said 1/3 of the employee pay, one source says 50-60% of the pay, and another says 2.5 times their salary. There are a lot of variables to consider when calculating this number, but know this: you can actually identify how much it costs your organization. So, calculate it for your organization and use that number. Data outside of your organization should mostly be taken with a grain of salt in my opinion. Especially considering there is no one size fits all solution to any of our issues, right?

Super easy solutions to this “leading the witness” mistake in general. Ask your questions first. Then expand on the job and organization after your questions have been answered and give the interviewee a chance to ask you questions. Too much to remember? Try this, if Jack McCoy would get scolded for it in the courtroom, steer clear in the interview. Awkward silence is okay, let the interviewee think and you listen.

Three Interview Rule

I’ve always suffered a bit of a professional identity crisis. Am I recruiting or am I HR? Am I both? Are they one in the same? I’ve gone back and forth, but one thing I can say without a doubt that fits with both HR and Recruiting is solid relationships with your hiring managers. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn how to manage this relationship and the most challenging was when recruiting for a highly technical engineering company. One thing that drove me crazy was the constant need for “more candidates” for one position. If you’re experiencing the same challenge, let me share my three interview rule with you (it’s really simple).

Me to hiring manager: Here are three candidates that fit what you are looking for based on the extensive discussions we’ve had around your current hiring need.

Hiring manager to me: Great, let’s interview all three of them.

*Interviews all of them*

Hiring manager to me: I want to interview more candidates.

Me to hiring manager: What did you not like about these three?

Hiring manager to me: I don’t know.

Me to hiring manager: Then we are starting over.

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Why would I tell them we are starting over? Because if you have found three candidates that fit the criteria you’ve discussed with the hiring manager and they still can’t make a decision, then they do not know what they are looking for. When I talk to a hiring manager we discuss every aspect of the position I can with them- minimum skills required, type of work, who the customer is, who they will report to, personalities of the team members they need to work with, day to day environment, education requirements, length of contract, hours of the schedule, peak seasons, when they might be required to work extra, what materials will they be working with…you get the picture. ANYTHING that is relevant that can help me find the perfect candidate for my customer, the hiring manager.

The three interview rule won’t work when you’ve given them candidates who do not match the job req so you should only pull this out when you’re candidates are a match for what you and the hiring manager discussed. This rule can be applied to any position, not just technical ones. Having the discussion about no more than three interviews the right way will help you build credibility with your hiring managers. Approach it as a way to revisit the job you are working on and what might need to be revisited as a requirement, not as a power move. Use it as a way to show you support the hiring manager and respect their time so you want to make sure you have the right information to get it right and help them make an informed decision. Continuing to give them candidates when they cannot tell you what they didn’t like about the qualified candidates already submitted will only drag out the hiring process.

Give it a shot and let me know how it works! As always, if you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

Best practices danger

I’ve noticed that in our profession we are constantly motivated to find the “best practices” surrounding a scenario or issue. I’m sure this isn’t restricted to the HR profession, but that’s obviously what we are going to talk about on this HR blog today! I myself often support this avenue for problem solving or collaboration, but I’ve witnessed the danger to this process and thought I’d share as a reminder to all of my HR peers.

I recognize that seeking best practices is how we make the most of our resources (especially on tight budgets) and how we find out what other organizations are doing when faced with challenges we are experiencing. Those are good reasons to seek best practices, but this is a real example from this year that I want to use to illustrate the danger in seeking best practices the wrong way.

When faced with a recruiting challenge, an HR manager sought the advice of a fellow HR manager from a company that often times competed for the same talent. She asks the other HR manager “how is your recruiting team set up?” On the surface, this was a good idea. This HR manager found a trusted professional that works for a similar type company and has a recruiting team that she manages to find out how she should structure her recruiting team going forward. She gets her answer, but then she makes a mistake. She takes the answer from the second HR manager and she applies it to her recruiting team.

best-practiceWhat did she do wrong you ask? She didn’t find out how many positions the recruiting team is responsible for filling, what type of positions they are responsible for filling, how much travel does that recruiting team have to do, what steps are the recruiters actually responsible for, etc. She may have gotten a bit more information than how the team was set up, but not enough to know whether that answer was correct for her organization or not. For example, a glaring difference in the two companies is that her company does a TON of college recruiting and the company she received advice from-basically does none. This is a huge factor in determining how many recruiters you need and who should be responsible for what. Your resources look a lot different when they are on the road for 6 weeks at a time, twice a year.

 

Simple illustration to serve as a reminder to you that when you seek out best practices, gather the right information. Do not just copy what someone else is doing, make it fit your organization. The decisions you make as an HR manager should align with your organization’s mission and vision and it should serve your community of employees. You cannot copy and paste another organizations processes and expect the same results!

Collaborate. Don’t copy.

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.

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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?

 

No Gender Pay Gap?

Recruiter A gets hired in 2006. Recruiter A has seven years of experience and a bachelors in history. Recruiter A is offered a salary of $53,000

Recruiter B is offered $50,000 in 2016 with ten years of experience and a bachelors in human resource management and two hr certifications.

Recruiter A is a male, Recruiter B is a female. There is a ten-year gap in the offers and the amount has decreased. There are more variables that impact the salaries offered to Recruiter A and Recruiter B, but the glaring difference is gender. Recruiter B brought more HR knowledge and expertise to the existing group than Recruiter A had, allowing Recruiter B to fill other voids when necessary. Both recruiters had their start in “temp staffing” before joining the same company. The same department manager was in place and made the offers to Recruiter A and Recruiter B. At the time of hire neither recruiter is asked to show past results. That department manager making the offers is a female if anyone is curious.

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If you haven’t experienced gender pay gap than great, but just because you haven’t seen it does not mean it doesn’t exist. A quick google will give you a variety of resources to investigate the gender pay gap for yourself. There are a variety of reasons for why a gender pay gap exists. A glaring reason is lack of a compensation strategy (though some companies strategy is to hire women because they will work harder for less money, but that’s not the kind of strategy I want to encourage). I’ve seen plenty of hiring managers make an offer to a candidate based on what they made at their last position combined with what they are asking for. While I can argue that this makes sense there are impacts that must be considered when making this decision. Someone needs to ask questions like, but not limited to, the following:

“What is the goal of our compensation strategy and is this in line with it?”

“Will this salary negatively impact the employee at pay increase time?”

“Will this salary negatively impact the employee at pay increase time?”

“Will this change the compensation plot for the group I manage?”

“Will this restrict future opportunities for them?”

“Would I pay someone of the opposite sex the same amount of money?”

I have some reservations over complete pay transparency, but I want to ask you as a manager if Recruiter B finds out all of this information, can you explain the answer? Is there a chunk of experience that is missing? References that aren’t as glowing as Recruiter A? Financial challenges that the company didn’t have 10 years ago? Whatever it is, are you ready to have a conversation about it (and possibly help Recruiter B grow)?