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Monday, July 21, 2008

Why didn't HR give me feedback about my last interview?

As a former corporate recruiter for a publicly traded company, I got an inside look at this process. HR Managers, as you know, are the organization’s sheriff. They don't make the laws; they just interpret them and insist others in the company carry them out. Without perspective and a bit of common sense, deputized recruiters can carry out HR edicts so far that they become counterproductive to the goals of the organization, i.e., appearing so ridiculous and inflexible as to turn off good talent.

I have found that for the most part it is the recruiters (who usually report to the head of HR) with little ability to think for themselves that are the most rigid with rules. It’s very important to know exactly what the rules are and why they were put in place and equally important to use good judgment when working with prospective employees.

The main reason HR doesn't want managers telling interviewees why they didn't get the job is to protect the company from a lawsuit. Disclosure used the wrong way is a loaded gun. However, a smart recruiter can disclose lots of helpful information without equipping candidates with ammo for a lawsuit - so long as that information is based on goodness of fit, job qualifications, problems during the interview process, etc. For example, calling out that the candidate answered questions about key functions of the job incorrectly or took 20 minutes to answer each question is helpful. Telling applicants that they weren’t selected because they were too old to relate to the rest of the team or telling them nothing is just brainless and disrespectful.

As much as I liked recruiting, it’s much more fun to provide interview coaching where I get to tell job seekers about corporate HR’s true goals and provide them with ammunition to cope with the myriad of contingencies that arise during an interview. I also teach candidates how to interview the company. If a dimwitted recruiter with no judgment is calling the shots on behalf of HR, RUN! It won’t get better as you work your way up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Color is your Parachute?

I had the great treat to meet Dick Bolles, author of "What Color is your Parachute?" yesterday. He met with the members of my PSCDA group and other interested fans of his work at the lovely Lake Union Crew ( facilities. After a day of walking us through some of his more famous exercises - prioritization, transferable skills, etc., we came to the most moving part of the evening. Career counselors, some who had worked with Dick for over 30 years, gave heartfelt speeches of how Dick and his work had influenced their lives.

Throughout the day, I was struck by how humble Dick was. In a room where people were literally gushing about how he completely transformed the course of their careers, Dick quietly focused on each person with whom he was speaking, making them feel that they were the most important person to him at that moment. I thought, what a role model for the rest of us. Give 100% of yourself to the person in front of you. Sounds so easy, right? He seemed rather nonplussed by the plaques, photomontages, and speeches actually, but sitting right across the table from him, I could tell he was touched by how much the speech givers were touched by him.

Knocked about by life several times, a layoff, his brother's assassination, an unexpected divorce, his heart stopping - things like that - Dick, at 81, still had a brightness of spirit and an energy that would put many people half his age to shame. A resilient man, teaching resilience, in a world ready to knock us all down if we let it.

I didn't have a speech for Dick. I’d come into the Puget Sound Career Developers Association (PSCDA) through the back door a year ago. As someone who'd arrived at career coaching only due to a serendipitous mixture of corporate recruiting and counseling careers, I'd never read Dick's book prior to a few weeks before he came to Seattle. When I finally read it, I was delighted to find that I'd stumbled upon many of the same truths about networking, resume writing, interviewing and the desire to share that knowledge with others that Dick had. I'm thrilled that I have another 35 years or so to keep practicing, maybe I'll get half as good. Dick Bolles is a role model worth emulating.