“You Are Too Competent For Us To Hire”


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Interviewing with an honest employer rarely happens. And what I mean is that a completely honest employer would be sharing what is really going on in the organization and why they really don’t want to hire you. Having read between the lines often enough, please enjoy the following “honest interview” and maybe it will ease your stress of finding a job by laughing a little today.

 

So I read a job advertisement recently that I could have written myself for my work experience. It was close to home, stated a salary range that I felt was workable and fair, and the benefits package was quite complete. I was excited about the range of responsibilities and what appeared to be management’s accurate support of the learning function. I noticed I could apply using LinkedIn, so I did. Less than an hour later the recruiter is calling me.

This first conversation was how “well my key words popped on my resume” and she knew immediately I was a great candidate. She read the advertised job description to me, (I wanted to thank her since she no doubt thought I had been struggling with the big words) and asked what questions I had. I responded that it was clear so far, but I would probably have more detailed questions when I met with the hiring manager. She asked me when I could come in to complete a quick personality assessment, (no not online, in person) and the following day I was onsite filling out a two sheet assessment with 10 multiple choice questions.

After the grueling assessment was complete, she graded it in front of me. She was so happy when I got 100% correct, she marked an A+ with a smiley face on my paper! Grinning from ear to ear she said the next step was a panel interview with several line managers since the position supported all divisions they had a stake in finding the right person. That interview was scheduled for the following week.

I arrived for my panel interview dressed in my Sunday best, only to be greeted by 10 people dressed down for what I could only assume was Spring Cleaning Day. I had asked about what dress code was appropriate for this interview and was told a suit and tie was the norm. The group had set up a U-shape of tables and I was put in the middle on a swivel chair so I could easily rotate and face the questioners. Each person had 10 minutes to ask questions, so an hour and forty minutes later we were done. I was told they had 5 minutes left for me to ask a question. I said, “Would each of you answer this one question for me, what is the purpose of the learning function in a corporate environment?” I heard at least 4 of them say, “Huh?” Safe to say this was a very painful exercise for these 10 managers, but insightful for me.

Yet three days later the recruiter called me and said all 10 managers wanted to see me progress to the final interview with the hiring manager. I was pleased and eager to finally talk with my potential manager.

I arrived 10 minutes early. After waiting 20 minutes after the appointment time with no one arriving, I called the recruiter to find out if an emergency had occurred and we should reschedule the interview. She said she would check, and 10 minutes later she arrived with the hiring manager.

We were escorted into a conference room, sat down and that is when I noticed he didn’t have any notes, paper or writing instrument. No phone, tablet, not even my resume. He smiled at me and said, “you were here early, I’m always late to meetings.” I bit my lip and stayed quiet.

He begins, “so you are interviewing for what job?” And that is when it dawned on me he really had no clue what was going on, who I was, and what he was looking for in a job skill set. After answering with the posted title, he launched into what he no doubt thought was a great opener, “tell me about yourself” and I said, “that is a rather long book, is there a particular chapter about me you would like me to start off talking about?” He didn’t, so I chose a rather quick history of accomplishments in the field for this job, and asked if he wanted more detail about any of those points. He said, “wow, you have a lot of experience, is this job a good fit for you?” I responded that the printed job posting had a wide range of requirements and goals which would allow me to stay engaged. I asked him what his top priority was for this role, and he said, “I don’t know yet.”

He then launched into a series of questions that made me realize where his personal development plan would begin. “Are you married? Do you have kids? What ages are your kids? Do you have parents you need to take care of? How old are you? Do you have a wife or a partner? Are you planning to retire soon or do you need to work into your 80’s?” And my all-time favorite, “Can you use the men’s restroom, or are you conflicted? We only have Men’s and Women’s restrooms”.

The following day the HR Director called me, and said the hiring manager thought I was too competent, and that I would cause problems. He wants people that know less than he does, but can still get the job done. I responded that I appreciated the honesty, and empathized with her challenge to fill this role. I then asked if I could share some of the questions he had asked. I finished with an assumption that she knew these were illegal to ask an applicant and she said, “Really?”

After talking with my attorney, she said I definitely won’t have to wait until I’m 80 to retire now! My settlement check should last several decades!

 

PS – Was this a fictional experience or not? You tell me.

 

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Time’s Up! – HR & Training Need to Become Indispensable!


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For way too many companies, the Human Resources (HR) and Training functions have been treated as completely dispensable cogs in the corporate wheel. They are staffed with less than competent people which only adds to their inability to add value so when things get tough, these functions are cut.

And here might be the greatest rub. If in fact these functions have allowed themselves to become dispensable, well they got what they earned! They need to be removed so better talent can be put in place. Sadly, many companies that close or scale down these functions does so because they expected nothing better based on their experience.

 

Explore with me a couple of examples that will lead to disasters in the future that I can pin squarely on the incompetence of these functions.

EXAMPLE #1

We have a company that recently had an unpleasant experience with a manager that was a little too friendly with an employee. The employee reported it; the HR department launched a full scale investigation and discovered the manager had been out of line. The solution was to put ALL managers through a sensitivity training program. No learning outcomes needed, just a CYA training program to mitigate future problems.

You may be asking if this company regularly trains managers in preventing workplace harassment, and/or do they train the entire workforce in what a harassment free work environment is and what to do if it becomes the opposite. The answer would be NO to both. No Training, only HR covering it up after the fact. HR is totally reactive and not proactive and therefore provides little value. How do you retain good employees when this is how HR has your back?

 

EXAMPLE #2

Another company where a manager is openly bullied by her manager has had enough and decides to report him to HR. Another full blown investigation that involves interviewing a dozen employees who witnessed the bullying resulted in an admission that it all happened like it was reported. However, the manager was required to continue working for the bully manager because, “although he did a lot of awful things, none of it violated our employee handbook policies.” However, the bully manager “was encouraged to retake their online harassment training.”

Another inept HR function with a training function standing around buying off the shelf compliance training THAT DID NOT WORK! Yet this is a big organization with over 10,000 employees. Guess what happens when something this stupid happens and HR fails to stand up for the company and protect their employees, they get sued. Oh, and not by just this one manager, this has turned into a class action because the behavior was endorsed by the HR department.

And one other result that I doubt will be expected is that news like this travels quickly. Not only are employees aware of the class action suit, other employees that belong to the Bully Club are feeling empowered. Heck with HR behind bullying behavior, they feel they have a free ticket to abuse their fellow employees. Fun place to work huh?

 

CONSLUSION:

Bottom line if you have a dysfunctional HR and/or Training function it is time to get them help. Or at the very least find better talent to replace them. Your company’s future is at stake, and as long as these functions are viewed to be dispensable, they will continue to meet that expectation.

If you need help, you need only email me at Jim@JKHopkinsConsulting.com

 

 

Consequences of Unqualified Hiring


thT8EBKFKNIf you are the type of person that needs to be the smartest one in the room in order to maintain your self-esteem, you likely hire people that are less qualified than you. When everyone around you is less qualified to do their job, they have no other recourse than to fall back on your vast depth of knowledge and experience to survive. You remain the smartest person in the room by default because everyone else around you is incompetent compared to you.

And while everyone else in the organization sees you as indispensable, you have created a domino effect by setting the standard. The people you hire then hire people that are less competent than they are too, and the dumbing down of your part of the organization is well on its way to 100%.

I’m watching the fallout of an organization that normally does not hire like this and looks for people that are smarter and bring new talents to the organization. However, one senior leader is very insecure and staffs her department with people that don’t meet minimum job responsibilities, and must lean on her to solve work challenges. This makes her become indispensable because her team really does need her. Where it shows up most often as a problem is when she is on vacation or out of the office. Everything gets backed up waiting for her return.

I forget who said it first, but I have always agreed with the statement that “if I am the smartest person in the room, I need to add more people to the room.” I have always hired people with more expertise than me so my department not only survives in my absence, but we continually grow. While the direction may change with a new leader that replaces me after I leave, the team still functions because no single person was dependent on me for wisdom.

As a leader, if you hire someone that is totally incompetent for a job, you send a single that no one needs to be qualified to work for you and/or get promoted. Your managers will also mimic you and hire less than qualified people to remain looking indispensable themselves. Before long, the only person that can do their job is the one leader at the top; so what happens when they quit?

Making Decisions is a Lost Art for Many Leaders


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Too many decisions are not being made in a timely manner and the organization suffers for it on every level. Most delays come from leaders that are afraid of making mistakes and paying dearly for the rest of their career. Politics, even in the corporate workplace, play a significant role in decision making, and all this time waiting causes delays all across the organization.

Let’s look at a few that you may be facing in your workplace:

  • Why does the recruiting process take so long? While many want to put the blame on the recruiter, often they are no more involved in the process than pushing paper along. No one usually asks their opinion, and they also are not empowered to push people into making hiring decisions. The hiring managers are unclear what they want, so even if the “perfect fit” is sitting right in front of them, they don’t engage with an offer. Time slips away, and when a decision is finally made, the applicant has either taken another job or just lost interest in the one you have to offer.

 

  • For the last 15 years straight, the number one competency that management says they want to build in their workforce is leadership. Yet for any one of a thousand reasons, each year passes and not a single person is provided with leadership development. A vision never gets implemented because it requires decisions as to what skills need to be included and how the training will occur. In no time at all, another year passes and the need continues to be a “top priority.”

 

  • Have you ever had to work with someone that has screwed up so many times you have lost count, and yet they are still employed? You know, because they have shared with you that they have been given feedback about the need to change, but nothing ever changes and they still have their job. Terminating employment is often the hardest part of a manager’s job, and yet what happens when they avoid those decisions? Not only does the problem child still exist, but it sends a clear message that performance problems will never lead to anything very severe. So if one doesn’t need to fear getting fired, what is the last resort available to correct performance?

 

Yet have you noticed that when leaders make decisions in a timely manner, it is often criticized as being premature. Honestly, you can’t win! However, if I was to have a choice between people that react quickly and people that procrastinate, I will work for a decision maker any day of the week!

What are other workplace issues that you see a lack of decision making?

 

Is There a Way to Get a Job Offer and Be Honest?


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I have a reputation for being productive, and I hate spending time on activities that at best only provide window dressing for my function’s work. In fact I am a lousy window dresser because I do very little to show off because I am focused on getting work accomplished and moving the organization forward.

You might think that my brand of employee would be something that a lot of employers would be seeking, but sadly I am still looking for an organization that actually wants to build workplace competencies in their team members and understands the value of a focused learning function. When I meet with people to discuss what kind of potential they have in front of them with the right training leadership, I get these scared to death looks in return.

I’ve been told that to get a job offer, I need to down play my work ethic, and to barely speak of the potential for learning beyond the job description. Once I’m in the job I can work on building out over time bigger expectations. To these recommendations, I am completely at odds with deception and downplaying the benefits of a focused approach. I’m not being true to my own work ethic by playing the part of an underperforming employee.

My opinion is that the interview process should be honest. I know, silly me, right? But shouldn’t the employer know what kind of employee they are getting before they make an offer? So if I am unable to play games with my abilities, I am faced with limited opportunities. There are fewer organizations today than even 10 years ago that understand the purpose of a training function. Many leaders land up creating limitations for the training function because they don’t realize the potential.

My dilemma is that I want to work, and yet I find it challenging to be the perfect fit without being a skill more than is thought to be necessary. The minute I start to stand out I am “over qualified” and when I go in with just enough background I run the risk of “not being as qualified as another applicant.”

Any ideas?

The Quickest Way To Lose Customers


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Are your employees also your customers? Most companies expect their employees to support them as consumers directly or even indirectly as referral sources. If you are a grocery store, I can bet your employees shop with you, and tell others about things that are on sale. If you are a bank, employees often have their checking account with the bank, and tell family members and friends why they should bank with you.

It is a given that once you are an employee, you will become a customer someday too. It would be very hard to support your company as an employee if you could not support them personally as a customer too.

So what happens if you turn away a qualified applicant as an employee and then aggressively market them as a customer? Do you think you are speaking to a receptive potential customer?

When you turn down an applicant that is not qualified for a position as far as skills are concerned, you are helping them realize that they should focus on opportunities that better match their abilities. However, when you summarily dismiss an applicant as unqualified because you didn’t take the time to read their application, resume or online profile, you are telling them a lot about the culture and what it takes to work for this company.

In recent blogs I have shared two experiences that I have had with companies that flat out only wanted female applicants. Blatant discrimination, but also that I am not valued because of my male gender. So when I recently opened my mail to a marketing package from one of these customers, I just tossed it. Yes, they may have been offering me a great deal, but why would I want to be their customer?

I doubt that the folks in recruiting have ever been trained to understand the ideal customer when sorting through applications. If I am applying for a job you want to dismiss me from pursuing, but you would still like me to be a customer, then there are ways to make both of your goals happen.

Yet anyone that is in sales and service will tell you that a great experience with a company is share with less than a handful of people, but a bad experience is more than double that number. The quickest way to lose customers is to treat your applicants as if they are disposable. Not only do you never get them as a customer, but they will make sure every family member and friend knows the truth about you too. Treating potential employees well from the beginning is a win for both of you.

“Diversity Candidates” Need Only Apply


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A Retained Search Executive Recruiter was advertising for a VP of HR that would be focused on the talent management, development and succession planning for his client’s organization. All interested parties should contact him directly for more information. And so I did.

He quickly responded to my application that they were only looking at “diversity candidates” and if that changed he would be back in touch.

What the heck does he mean by “Diversity Candidates”? And, so I emailed him back wondering if he was looking for a particular ethnic background, race, gender or language competency. I fully expected him to ignore my question, but he replied”

We are only looking at “Female” Candidates!

What the heck just happened? Did this person just tell me they are openly discriminating based on gender? What the heck happened to Equal Employment Opportunity? Oh, and this is California, where we have some of the toughest employment laws in the country!

I’ve since talked with a couple of HR Directors, both female, and looking for new opportunities, and both said they would have nothing to do with an organization that openly discriminated in hiring of all jobs the VP of HR. They also said the company is hiding behind the Executive Recruiter so if there is any fall out he has to take the heat.

So I replied to the recruiter to see why this client felt the VP of HR needed to be female. He actually emailed me back that the “company leadership is currently all males and they thought it would be a good idea to get a female’s point of view”, and that he personally thought “most females would find this a positive to be brought into a team that is willing to bring in ideas from women.”

I cannot believe it is almost 2017 with this kind of condescending nonsense being spouted off. However, what concerns me most is this is the second time in the last 90-days that I have been told that although I have the required experience and skills I am not female, so unfortunately I cannot be considered.

So what do you all think about this approach to recruiting?