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Would you hire a quitter as your CEO?

I hope there is more to this story than what has been publicized. The current Bank of America CFO is quitting due to regulatory burdens. Bank of America doesn’t have any additional regulatory burdens compared to its major competitors. He also seemed to complain that the CFO doesn’t get the glory like the CEO and said after he ends his term with BoA, he would consider a CEO position but not a CFO position. And while de Molina won’t be seeking another CFO position, there is nothing like publicly proclaiming that you can’t handle the same stresses as your peers.

Now ultimately some apologists will blame the government for this regulatory mess they’ve setup in the wake of Enron and WorldCom scandals. Hell, I’ll even buy some of that. The problem of course is that everyone has to deal with the government the same, especially when you’re talking about SOX at a publicly traded company.

The ultimate question to me is why would anyone hire him to be a CEO? I am sure he is a nice guy and his CFO position was probably a big ole’ pain in the ass but when the going got tough, this guy quit. The thing is, I am sure he will be hired by someone and who knows, he might be good. I just don’t see it though.

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Balance between HR and Recruiting

There is a fine line to be drawn between HR and recruiting and quite a bit has been discussed regarding these two. Some have said they should be separated and I think I can understand that. Recruiting can often be part of the brand experience of a company, it can be marketing and it can be sales all in one. Those three things are usually not associated with traditional HR departments. How strange could it be to try to shove recruiting into HR then? HR, the red-headed stepchild of either the Finance or Legal departments in an organization does not fit in with recruiting, the sexy, meaningful realization of marketing and brand awareness at the local level(s). After all, it is one thing to sell a product to a customer, it is quite another to sell a lifestyle, a work environment and a position to a potential employee.

So why do I think HR and recruiting are not only connected at the hip but have an incredibly close relationship in a “global economy”?

Simply stated, it is all part of the employee lifecycle. And managing that throughout with reasonable offers and expectations set in front, training and employee development, and exit planning so that recruiters can be prepared for the next batch of hiring.

When unplanned turnover happens, it is often (but not always) avoidable. And when turnover happens, it is a burden on a recruiter (who may already be sitting on several recs). Wouldn’t you rather have your recruiter working on new and high worth positions rather than scrambling to replace a guy that you could have retained? Whenever someone is recruited that ends up having avoidable job fit issues, wouldn’t you rather that the recruiter be closely aware of the issues and to work with traditional HR to either solve the issue or to move forward with someone else?

The biggest reason is that separating HR and recruiting will lead to mistakes in most organizations. Mistakes that are both burdening on the employee as well as on the company. Not only lost revenue but lost opportunity. And with the success of both HR and recruiting depending so much upon each other, there has to be a strong, departmental team.

The reason I post this now is because it is a conflict I see daily in my current position. And I know that as we get bigger, the problem and balancing only becomes more stated and more complex. And while it will always be a balance, it shouldn’t ever be a conflict. Because what is best for recruiting is best for HR and whatever is best for HR is best for recruiting.

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Terrible Job Ads

There is one employment agency in town that runs some terrible advertisements for employment and I thought I should share with you. I am not going to share the name or location but I don’t think it really matters. Ugh:

Exuberant HVAC Service Technician
GOING FAST SERVICE TECHNICIANS! Clean driving record one minor infration ok if longer than two years. NEEDED dedicated workers, drug free, dependable, responsible does this sound like you get? WE WANT YOU! Call today before 10am or after 4pm. Ask for Mercedes or Rayn we are here to make the hiring process easy for you. Never a fee to you! So what are you waiting for apply online, fax your resume and call to make sure we received it again before 10am or after 4pm. We look forward to meeting with you!

Shipping and Receiving Clerk
Growing company looking for growing team of workers. Experienced in shipping and receiving clerk, plus refrigeration experience as shipping/receiving clerk. Do you enjoy working in a warehouse even in the winter but the best part you get paid! Are you dependable, responsible, team player, reliable? If yes, WE WANT YOU ! Apply online now. Call us after 4pm or before 10 am for inquiries about this position. Ask for Ryan or Mercedes please. Have an AWESOME week.

Dairy Wholesale Assistant
EXTRA EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT! Medical benefits provided. Dreamy about numbers, fast pase, crazy phones, personable? Does this sound fun yet? AP/AR assistant and fast data entry at least 90 kmp or 5400 kmh. Awesome phone voice, and computer skills using windows based program, word, email, multi-task, order taker, filing, backup reception, attention to detail is a must, responsible for counting out route drivers deposits. In search of experienced assistant in a high volume office with 9 sales persons and responsible for calling 500 customers. Outstanding benefits and pay for the right canidiate! IS THIS YOU? Then apply on line and call us for an inquiry call

Dedicated Sheet Metal Worker
This a evualation to hirer position! Great company to work for. Competitive pay. Do you enjoy sheet metal ductwork using a variety of tools, including: bending, notching and forming machines, riveters; test manifolds, including guages and hoses, leak detection devices; portable vacuum pumps, piping and fittings of brass, copper, steel or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and sheet metal snips. Doesnt this position sound exciting with never ending challenges. Please, clean driving record only. Apply online and than call us for an inquiry call

Jack or Jill with many skills, and many hats
Looking for a little cash? Not a career position? Then you are the professional office personnel we our looking for? Do you like a crazy work environment, up beat, fun stress, answering phones, filing, taking messages for sale associates, stuffing envelopes, stuffing booklets, taking out the garbage. Starts at $7.63 hour, professional attire. Men: ties, dress shirt and slacks. Women: dress skirt suits, or dresses conservative in nature. Hours vary from week to week 4 hrs maybe 12 hours some weeks. Three line phone system. outstanding attention to detail, personable, awesome attitude. Does this sound fun yet? We wants you!

And I was going to highlight the good parts but it is pretty much all good. Or bad, depending on your view.

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Feeling locked into your current role?

Most companies take a stance where they want to promote from within. If you are with such a company and you feel trapped in your current role (maybe you’ve been overlooked for several promotions, etc…), here are a few things that can help you out.

1. Go beyond your job. As I pointed out earlier, your job title doesn’t matter. Offer your assistance on special projects or tasks. If you have a talent that you don’t use in your job, offer it to your company. As a real world example, even though I am in HR, I also have done work in product delivery and supply-chain management. When my company needed that expertise, I could offer it to them.

2. Bring out the big guns. If going beyond your job description isn’t enough, it is time to take your skills and play to your strengths whenever possible. Nobody in the office likes a show off (except your boss). Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile.

3. Get additional education. Even if the company doesn’t pay for it. Even if you only do it one class at a time. Educating yourself is one of the sure fire ways to raise your personal capital in the job department. It shows you are willing to sacrifice a bit of time to give those skills back to your company (for a higher wage of course).

4. Talk to your boss. And listen. It is amazing what showing a bit of interest in moving up can do and the positive consequences that can take place when you listen to and act on your boss’s advice. I almost put this one first but what fun would that be?

5. If you take all of these steps and you still don’t get a bone thrown at you, start looking elsewhere. Or get used to your current role. An employer somewhere will appreciate a person that is willing to go beyond their job description, get additional education and talk to management when they have an issue.

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When to Shut Your Mouth

Whenever I ran cross country, my coach always used to tell me, “If you’re thirsty, it’s too late. You’re already dehydrated and you won’t get rehydrated until you stop running.” The same sort of thing happens when you run your mouth in an interview. If you think you’ve been talking a lot, you’ve been talking way too much. And shutting up after you’ve figured this all out won’t help.

How long should my interview answers be then?

Most people who break this cardinal rule play it off as innocent. “Oh, I was just trying to explain myself fully.” Some even take it offensively. “I thought you wanted me to answer the questions completely.” And maybe they were innocent but imagining a meeting with this person where they are going lecture the group on the finer points of keyboarding for twenty minutes is not necessary. Being able to type is. Most of the time though, these long winded folks are simply searching for the right answer and hoping to stumble upon it within the ten minutes.

Here are four steps which you can pretty much guarantee that you will answer the question with the right timing:

  1. Demonstrate that you know what the interviewer is asking. Ask right at the beginning if you have any clarifying questions before you start to answer. It helps to pause before you answer the question and think about what they asked. If you have prepared yourself, this should be no sweat.
  2. Be detail oriented but leave out the kitchen sink. I like details about the questions I ask. Keep it detailed but focused on the question. As an example, if the interviewer asks “Tell me about a recent disagreement you’ve had with your supervisor,” don’t give a long back story about the history of your relationship with your boss or your relationship with bosses in general. Talk about the disagreement you had giving the interviewer enough details to have the answer they are looking for. Using that example, you definitely want to include that you resolved it to everyone’s satisfaction but you don’t need to go into the great time you had at the pub later.
  3. Confidently end your answer. If you linger out an answer like you might continue answering, I’m not going to interupt you. I am waiting for you to finish your thought and if you make it sound like you are going to continue, I’ll let you. I think this is probaby why many people don’t know when to shut their mouth: I won’t interupt them. In a behavioral interview, it takes some people a little while to put all their thoughts together and so I’ve learned to shut my mouth until you’re done speaking.
  4. If you don’t know the answer, make it snappy. THere are good ways and bad ways to use a non-answer. Good: “I don’t know the answer to that but here are the three steps I would take to figure it out.” Bad: “Hmmm, I…. ohhh… well, that’s a good one. I don’t know the… OH WAIT! If I…. no… hmmm” + 5 minutes. A lot of people fly their plane into the ground instead of knowing when to hit the eject button and say you don’t know.

And I’ll end with a story about a guy who ran his mouth for too long:

I am interviewing this fellow for a retail job and I ask him what a former supervisor would say about him if we called him. He gave this strange look and said “I don’t know what he would say. Probably that I am a cool guy and I am a good skateboarder. Hmmm…” And I just sat there waiting for him. Then he said “Well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t work there anymore and you guys don’t really need to call him?” Again, I just sit there. “Well, I guess he would say I was a pretty decent worker when I wanted to be and that I was late a ton because I was busy skateboarding all the time.”

To be fair though, there wasn’t a really great way he could have answered the question anyway. When you’re constantly late for the entirety of your employment, that is pretty much all your supervisor will talk about.

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Worst ways to get fired

Here are some of the worst ways to be fired.

There are some interesting points to be made here but here is the meat of the criticism:

Strategy 1: It can be extremely taxing to ruin people’s day face to face, so create a little breathing room.

Besides e-mail, companies have been known to fire people by FedEx, registered letter, text message, voice mail and conference call.

Strategy 2: Consider the cattle call. It can build team spirit.

One company herded employees into an auditorium and gave them one of two color-coded information packets. Those with the same color packets sat together. The two groups were then escorted out of the auditorium through different exits. One led back to the office, which meant that group of employees could stay. The other led to the street, which meant the workers should file for unemployment.

Strategy 3: There is no such thing as “too low.” So don’t be afraid to test bottom. One option is to let employees figure things out for themselves.

One company deliberately left a new organizational chart on the photocopy machines. Some employees were left off entirely, and others were moved to new positions.

Strategy 4: Remember, no one is ever too old to play musical chairs.

Some companies in the middle of a merger have asked all employees to resign and reapply for jobs. The goal: to disengage from the old and reinvent the organizational structure — with fewer employees.

Strategy 5: It can be a nice touch when you offer the newly fired a ride home.

It actually can be, unless you’ve organized the corporate equivalent of a funeral procession. One company had cabs lined up around the block before alerting employees on the layoff list of their new jobless status.

Strategy 6: You know what they say: it’s always the quiet ones.So make sure the meek don’t go ballistic.

During a layoff, it’s perfectly reasonable for a company to want to protect its computer files, other property and the remaining employees. But bringing in armed guards, as some companies have done, can be completely dehumanizing. An inconspicuously placed plainclothes security person is far preferable, said Lee Miller, a negotiations expert who used to run HR divisions at three companies.

Obviously most of these companies were misdirected in their ideas of how to do a layoff correctly. There are three easy steps to do a layoff correctly:

  1. Don’t put it off. Whenever layoffs are on the table as the option you are going to be taking, just do it. Don’t wait for business to possibly improve. Layoffs are bad but you can prevent more by making your business much more competitive by doing layoffs earlier and reducing future layoffs.
  2. Take responsibility. Have executive management there to take responsibility in person for the end result. Apologize and offer a fair package to help move on.
  3. Be sensitive. Allow employees to gather belongings and say goodbye to those who are staying. Regroup with the remaining employees and talk to them about the layoffs and concerns they have. It is critical that you don’t shut off the remaining employees from the layoff process. Your future productivity and turnover is dependent on it.

And while layoffs are one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the business, good things can come from them for both the employer and employee.

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Online persona killing your future?

Probably not.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the statistics. Nearly half of employers googled a candidate in the last year and a third made a decision based on that. It is awful to think of those poor people who were disregarded because of some drunken photos on MySpace.

As a disclaimer, I have googled the name of almost everyone who has come to work for us. And no, none of them lost consideration because of it (though a few stuffy companies might have done so with what I found). At best, most of the information I found had little to nothing to do with the ability for these people to perform their job.

The point I make is that assuming your online persona isn’t incredibly unemployable (and I would guess that about 98% of them fall in that category), you aren’t going to be denied a good opportunity at a good company. Most decent companies are going to have some kind of policy about using outside information to come to a job decision. Most decent companies are going to exercise good judgement on this matter too.

But if you are a company that can’t stand if one of your interns has a picture of him and his buddies at a bar and you are the type of person that doesn’t mind making that information public, maybe you aren’t being denied a good opportunity after all. Job fit and company culture play a major role in your future as an employee and along with your future boss, this sort of clash of cultures might kill your job chances anyway.

It isn’t going to become less common for employers to do an internet search for you. If you are concerned about what your chances are with a company based on what you find about yourself, you should try to sanitize it.

Or then again, maybe not. You might just be doing yourself a favor.

Disclaimer 2: My boss at work has seen my MySpace profile. It has several unprofessional pictures on it (including drinking pictures). She thought it was great. Of course, I don’t think it is bad for HR to show any sort of personality. We have to beat accounting!

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Self-management 101

Whenever you go to college and you talk about business and management philosophy, a resounding theme comes up. It is a theme about businesses taking responsibility for poor policy. Whenever your employees aren’t reaching their full potential, you should be looking at your organization, its structure and how well you are communicating expectations to employees. It is unnatural and weird to first examine your company whenever there is a breakdown in your organization. At least it is for me. It is still against the norm for companies to be looking at what they could be doing better but it seems like it is getting better.

Whenever there is a problem at your workplace as an employee in communication with your boss, a co-worker or a missed goal, the opposite holds true. Many employees take the easy way out by blaming their employers for their failures at work. As an HR person, I know first hand how often this comes up in interviews. “I couldn’t reach my potential in this position.” “My boss promoted the CEO’s son instead of me.” You learn similar things about a candidate from the offer and acceptance process and the excuses that could come up if she is not successful and she is interviewing for a new job. If a move is made from a large corporation to a startup, she could blame the lack of structure when she interviews for another big firm two years later. He’s been the “CEO” of a very small business and now he is taking a role that is much more structured and much more niche than what he was doing before.

These types of sacrifices happen all the time when switching jobs. You weigh the positives and negatives to taking a job. So maybe you take a pay cut, a different position, a smaller company, a bigger company, a company you know you can’t grow in or a company you have to grow in. You take these sacrifices and say “I can handle it.” Then you forget about all of these and you don’t change your expectations for the job. So now you want more pay, your old position, a bigger company, a smaller company, a company you can grow in and a company you don’t have to grow in to survive.

So whenever somebody says to me that they weren’t challenged or weren’t paid enough, I always ask a follow up to detect if they knew this before they were brought on board and if they attempted to make the best of the situation.

Changing jobs because your expectations were not met isn’t a big deal but if it happens repeatedly in your career, hiring managers will figure it out and they might suspect you have a hearing problem. If you are aware of the sacrifices you are making to take a job, write them down. Keep them. Reread them in three months. And don’t take anything a company says at more than face value. If you get blindsighted by an expectations gap, work as hard as hell to personally conquor that gap. Not only will you be bettering your prospects at the company, you’ll be prepared to seek another position elsewhere if it comes to it. Then you won’t be making excuses for poor performance, you’ll simply be explaining the steps you took to improve your situation and the progress you achieved.

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I fought the law and the law won

While many of the HR people I know in the field are very principled people but one thing where that changes is in regards to the law, specifically employment law. Litigation avoidance is one of the main assumptions most people in my field make about their employers. And not to get too political on you but over the last 30 years, it has become less and less difficult to bring litigation against employers. Whether you agree or disagree with that enhanced ability, there is no denying that it has changed the face of the business world.

For one, the concept of litigation avoidance was unheard of 30+ years ago. Companies rarely got sued and if they did, it was typically by consumers who had suffered through some sort of physical harm. If you paid minimum wage and you weren’t physically abusing your employees, you were probably alright.

In those days, being an employee was like being a child on a teeter-totter with a 300 pound adult on the other side. The equation was out of balance.

Since the formation of the EEOC, the balance has slowly shifted. Sexual harassment policies started taking effect and those who were used to the good old days had to adapt or be out of a job. Same with discrimination (which is still in the process of being full adapted). And for the most part, these regulations have been for the better. It has put the focus on work. Studies have been focused on the glass ceiling in workplaces where people are not allowed to advance due to non-work related reasons.

The balance has changed and we can argue all day long as to where that balance is but it is incredibly important to realize that most businesses have changed policies and that has had both a good and bad effect on the performance and morale of employees.

Whenever a sexual harassment charge comes to me, the “factory” shuts down. Regardless of my view of the reliability of such a charge, I must take certain actions to ensure my butt (I can be sued personally) and my company’s butt stays out of the line of fire. Whatever I was doing before is of no consequence. A sexual harassment investigation could take weeks of interviews, documentation and communication between all parties. If it goes to litigation, it could be months or years. Not all of that is going to be spent on this case but it is going to change my workload severely.

So whenever I make sexual harassment policies within the workplace, I am pretty much banning almost every type of non-work related conversations imaginable. That may seem over the top and my enforcement of it may be incredibly rigid but look at the alternatives I have. Either we spend the hours up front to ensure that people understand that we want them talking about spreadsheets and TPS reports, not big butts and Jesus or we spend days, weeks, months or years defending why we didn’t talk enough about it to begin with. The choice seems pretty clear to me.

Not all businesses are that strict but there is a significant risk attached with that. So if I seem a little keyed up while people tell jokes around the water cooler, maybe you have a little taste of why that is the case. 🙂

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Revisiting Job Hopping

I am going to play Devil’s advocate here for a second.

What if we considered job hopping to be not a negative thing (generally) but a positive thing and an indicator of the type of economy we are going to be seeing for the next decade? The world around us is changing and companies are starting to value those who change. Change is everywhere and to err on the side of ridiculousness, change is being taught in the change education, change economy, change employers, change employees, change leaders, change evangelists, change … well, you get the point.

So if we are going to start emphasizing change and flexibility, why wouldn’t we expect a more fluid workforce? More importantly, what happens if those people that are so well adept to change and are your typical job hoppers? What happens if they are actually better employees? They become productive quickly and stay incredibly productive throughout their term and instead of spending the next five years doing mediocre work, they went on to the next exciting project. What happens if the best and brightest aren’t the guys that are going to be in your office in five years? And what happens if these people are bright and have adapted to learn more quickly, their cost of hire goes down and therefore the cost of turnover goes down because you know you could hire on another person who is going to be hungry for something new in two years? What happens if realize an ROI on a new employee in the first MONTH instead of the first year?

Would all that change our perception of turnover, job hoppers and that flaky Gen Y I keep hearing rumors about?

Would your company be ready for such a change in ideals? Could they ever be?