An HR Embarrassment

During the last couple of months, I’ve been helping two friends in their attempts to find gainful employment and seeing the HR roadblocks they are running into along the way.

Both are attorneys, with excellent work history, references, and a clear cut picture of what they can provide to an organization. When I started helping them out, I was impressed with how quickly each of them updated their resumes, polished their LinkedIn profile, and amped up their networking activities. I knew it would take them a while to find a job, as they each are in the high-earner bracket, but I figured it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult for them to at least start getting some interviews.

Boy was I wrong.

Last week I found myself saying, “I hate HR,” after hearing about yet another roadblock they experienced. I’ve always been annoyed with people who try to go around HR directly to the source, but now I understand why they do it. 

It’s been hard not to get defensive with them when they complain: 

  • “Why haven’t I heard anything since I turned in my resume?” Because the recruiter probably has over 300 resumes for the job and is still wading through them.
  • “If they called me and asked me to apply for the position, shouldn’t I be a shoe-in?” Maybe. Or it could be that one person in the organization recommended you, but that doesn’t mean the others are on board.
  • “I meet 8 out of the 10 criteria, what else do they want?” Maybe, in this market, maybe 10 out of 10? Job descriptions used to describe the ‘ideal’ candidate and these days, a lot of companies are willing to wait to find that person.

One of the most painful parts of this process for me has been recognizing my own behaviors in almost every scenario. Despite good intentions, almost everything my friends complained about HR doing has been something that I’ve done at one time or another. Ouch.

It’s been a great reminder for me that every applicant who comes through my door has friends, family and other people invested in them finding work. It doesn’t matter to them that we don’t have an opening, that their friend’s cover letter had 12 typos and spelled my company name wrong, or that their wife arrived ten minutes late for our interview because she got lost.

All they hear about is how I made their loved one feel during the process. Did I call for the phone interview when I said I would? Did I get back to them and let them know where we stood in the process? Did I treat the person in a way that would make them want to work for our company? Did I acknowledge their value and what they had to contribute, even if it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for?

It’s been a good wake-up call for me to start looking at how our applicants feel during every step of the process.

How about you? What roadblocks in your applicant process you can shift today?

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Andrea Ballard

For 15+ years, Andrea Ballard, SPHR, has brought a unique, common sense perspective to the business of HR. A former HR Director and Training Manager, she advises companies on how to design/implement flexible work life programs to attract/retain top talent. A certified coach, she helps women create a balance between motherhood & career. She is the owner of Expecting Change, LLC, blogs at Working Mother and is on Twitter as @andreaballard.


Carlos Perea

While I appreciate walking the path of an applicant we all have at one point or another in our careers – I feel the need to rember that the HR department’s role is to make sure we hire the best candidate for the position not the best available. With the recesion of 2008 came an explosion of applicants, all searching for a job, was HR ready for it – no I don’t think so, we in HR didn’t get an advance notice, with a flood of applcants you find two realities One its a buyers market and two even the best intentioned can maintain the personal touch we all want in life – we can blame HR or we can accept the realities of todays world, reset our expectations and lerarn to navigate them. There are examples of good an bad recruiters but there is a equal numbner of good and bad applicaants – I’m a firm believer that you have to own your destiny

Chris aka newresource

This is much needed, I try my best to remember what it was like as an “rank in file” employee. Not to say HR is not part of that anyway, but you know what I mean. I try to remember what its like on the other side. Recently, a client told me, he likes to make candidates uncomfortable and nervous in the interview process. I advised him against that because the process is stressful enough and you want the best candidate. Its my experience that you can make great selection decisions throughout the process without making the applicant uncomfortable or defensive. I think that his tactic is widely used for the unskilled interviewer.
Anyway, again, nice job.

Jennifer Payne

Great post, Andrea….and great reminder to take a step back and examine our own practices. I was part of a great discussion this past weekend at HRevolution about automated vs. personalized vs. no response to applicants. I found myself falling into a bit of a defensive mindset about how hard it is to personally respond to EVERY applicant (many unsolicited) that comes in. But it made me consider different options for sure. We can’t change every HR practitioner, but we can change our own habits. Thanks again!

Kelly O

Take that frustration and multiply it by hundreds for those of us looking for lower-level positions and wading through HR functions.

I said not too long ago that I wondered if it was wrong that I have a desire to work in HR to try and make a difference in at least one company. And it’s not necessarily even “making a difference” in the Pollyanna-ish way that I’ve heard others talk about making a difference. I mean trying to improve a process so people don’t just automatically hate HR. It can be a great tool, but like everyone else it feels like HR departments are overloaded and being asked to deliver the world on a shoestring.


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