Monday, August 12, 2013

The Hiring Process: An HR Student's Point of View

Pink smiley face with black bar over mouth
Some of my readers may have noticed that I have remained silent for almost two months now. I wish that I could say that I got the job of my dreams and that I have been going through a company's onboarding process, but that is not the case here. There are two reasons why I have remained silent for almost two months: first, I was angry and I was struggling to figure out how to express this anger and outrage constructively. Second, I did not want the tone of this blog to become angry and miserable; however, as Victorio Milian pointed out in a recent conversation that we had, this point in my life is a stage of my evolution and I remembered that the point of this blog was to share my journey with readers.

On that note, I think it's time to share with you why I was so angry, frustrated, and outraged with the HR community in general.

The "Back Story"

Photo of help wanted section in newspaper
"Jobs Help Wanted" by photologue_np CC by 2.0
Back in May of this year, I mentioned that one of my goals was to find a job. As such I performed research about resumes, cover letters, and interviewing. I experimented with several resume and cover letter formats, prepared for interviews by researching the companies I was interviewing with on Glassdoor.com, found a list of questions to ask during an interview, chose the questions that seemed the most appropriate for the company I was interviewing with, and managed to land several interviews.


I went to every interview with an extra resume in hand, a printed copy of the cover letter that I had included with my resume, a list of company-relevant questions that I wanted to ask during the interview, an elevator pitch that I memorized and that I could rattle off without sounding rehearsed, dressed and groomed in a professional manner, and a confident-without-being-arrogant attitude. However, I was not offered a position with any of the companies that I interviewed with. 

Don't get me wrong... I am positive that my performance during each interview was not spectacular. It would be erroneous of me to assume that I was the perfect candidate for every position that I interviewed for because I am sure that I was not. Having said this, I will say that I know for a fact that the majority of the interviewers were expecting a different person to arrive at the interview.

Assumptions

How could I possibly know this? No, I'm not a mind-reader and I didn't call some 1-900 number for a psychic reading.
Photo of a psychic looking into a crystal ball
"I forsee a future in your future" by
Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge CC By 2.0
I was taught in college how to ask indirect questions to gain knowledge that employers are not supposed to ask for directly, and it's pretty obvious when the interviewer does a double-take when s/he sees you. Yep... I'm talking about false assumptions here; the kind of assumptions that we shouldn't be making as HR professionals, the kind of assumptions that we have talked about overcoming, and the kind of assumptions that we keep making even though we've talked about not making them anymore. Maybe you think I'm kidding, or you think that I'm making assumptions that I shouldn't be making. Here's a list of questions that some HR managers and recruiters from companies that brag about having "diversity initiatives" have asked me:
  • What made you decide to go to college so <insert throat clearing or delicate pause> late in your career?
  • You're still attending college?
  • So, what's it like being an <insert throat clearing or delicate pause> adult college student?
  • I have not interviewed a mature college student before.
Seriously, I can't imagine why anyone would want to give up an illustrious career as a call center representative to pursue a career in another field. Also, it has become apparent that by showing work experience since 2003 I'm giving recruiters and HR personnel the impression that I'm still in my early 20's.

After awkward (or just plain rude), interviews during which it became very apparent that I was not the person that the interviewers were expecting to see, I receive the following speech, "HR will review your interview answers and you will receive a decision by phone or by email." In one case I received this speech after I had seen the same manager that interviewed me hand another candidate that she had just interviewed over to another manager for a second interview. I find it ironic that I'm being perceived as "too mature" during these interview, but then I'm treated as though I was born yesterday. What makes these situations even more ironic is the fact that it clearly states my degree's focus, "HR management," on my resume. I'm learning about the proper way to interview candidates, and the little let down speech that I received is in several of my management textbooks as a method to "soften the blow of rejection."

It's Funny... and a Little Sad

It's okay to laugh a little about the story, because it is a little funny, but it's also sad. As professionals we talk about all of the initiatives we are going to implement in order to make the experience for candidates a little easier and a little more enjoyable. We talk about the diversity initiatives that we've implemented, we discuss at length about how we allow job seekers some dignity and respect, and we argue about how to make the hiring process more objective. I am not sure exactly how to achieve these things, but I do have some suggestions on where we can start:
  • Stop talking about what we could and should be doing, and do it. 
  • Start hiring people based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities. 
  • Stop making assumptions based upon words on a page and then blaming the candidate when our erroneous assumptions are proven as such. 
  • Take a moment and realize that our decisions and assumptions can have a real impact on candidates' and employees' lives, and recognize the gravity of our duties in HR.
  • Act with a bit more sincerity and humility rather than dismissing candidates based on some arrogant and arbitrary formula that even we as HR professionals do not fully comprehend.
If you dismiss what I've just said as "sour grapes" because I didn't receive job offers, then that's your prerogative. However, I think that it's up to HR professionals who are seeking jobs and have had similar experiences to remember these experiences, use these experiences to analyze the hiring process in general, find the answers to these questions, and effect changes in the hiring process. HR is in a unique position; the policies that we implement in our companies can affect social policy. Maybe it's time for us to recognize this and start taking some action to improve the global community.

Let's Talk

Do you agree or disagree with what I've said? What can we do policies, procedures, or attitudes do we need to change to make the process more objective? What can we do to restore respect and dignity in the process for candidates?

Title image modified from original "Flower Face" by Enokson CC By-NC 2.0  

6 comments :

  1. Hi Charity,
    Welcome back. I agree with what you say and I have a deep concern about the unprofessional conduct of many HR people and Recruiters.

    Over the past couple of months I have expressed my concerns in a number of blog posts and also participating in discussions. There are so many strategies that seem to be used to discriminate e.g. hire for attitude (they can learn anything!) hire for passion or select based on fit (the subjective kind). Do not hire a person not currently working. I would have more confidence in an ethical computer (!) than many recruiters.

    On the positive side, I have heard from many HR professionals, graduates and other students who abhor the current discriminatory practices. I have confidence that the new generation of hr professionals will put to rest these old-fashioned practices that people pretend are new for whatever motive.

    Good luck, Charity. You have a great career ahead of you and a lot of people will be counting on you.

    Very best wishes,

    Ian

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  2. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for the warm welcome back to the blogging world. I've been reading your articles, and I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the subject. I think that there a few reasons why these problems persist:

    1. Some professionals read our articles and think, "My company doesn't do this." Instead of dismissing this subject, these professionals need to analyze who recruiters and managers are bringing into the company.
    2. Some companies require that line managers are part of the hiring process. I don't think that this is a bad practice, but these line managers are not receiving the training they need to make ethical hiring decisions. Line managers who are part of the hiring process need to be aware of their own assumptions and behaviors, and need to learn how to change these assumptions and behaviors.
    3. I don't think employers understand that this kind of behavior damages their brands, or they don't understand to what extent this kind of behavior damages their brands. Most of the employers I interviewed with are well-known retail stores, and I shopped at most of these stores. I know that I will not be patronizing these stores in the future, and these stores have lost my friends and family as customers as well. This makes me wonder how many customers these stores have lost because of their unprofessional and unethical behavior towards candidates.

    Thanks for the warm wishes, Ian. I'm glad to be back, and I am looking forward to future discussions with you.

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  3. Welcome back Charity. I am sorry to hear about your difficulties. Unfortunately, you are doing all the right things, but some companies are not seeing it that way.

    This must be extremely hard for you to continue wanting to be in an industry that is causing you so many problems.

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    Replies
    1. Michael,

      I apologize for the time it has taken me to respond. One of the staffing agencies that I registered with assigned me to a client shortly after I created this post, and I just noticed your comment.

      Yeah, it is a bit frustrating at times; however, all of this is part of a journey. I can either use these experiences to become a better person and professional, or I can use these experiences as a reason to become bitter and resentful. When I read your comment, I had to giggle at the irony of the situation; on the surface it does seem that I want to become part of a profession that was the source of my frustration at that point in time. Seriously... Who would want to enter a profession that is such a source of frustration? The REAL reason why I decided to study HR is because I wanted the opportunity to do for others what a HR manager did for me... She took the time to demonstrate that she believed in me, even though I didn't believe in myself, and inspired me to grow and see something in myself that I didn't know was there. If I can do the same for others, then it is worth feeling a little frustrated and angry from time to time.

      Thanks, Michael, for commenting and the warm welcome back.

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  4. Charity, I would like to say "welcome back" because I have missed your posts. It is saddening to read about your experiences because of the type of questions you were asked. However, I think you've reached a point of seeing some of the resulting anger subside and be replaced by the knowledge of how you can be better than those who interviewed you. Maybe this was meant to be so to teach you a lesson of how NOT to treat candidates? (Not saying that you would.)

    My second point is to remind you of something that I commented about when you first began your blog journey. You have a talent that is outside of a call center and/or a HR office - but it is a talent that can be utilized within any job you may take. That talent is the gift of weaving random words into sentences that go on to form a tapestry of a tale. Those tales, rich in insight and blunt in fact, are a welcome breath of fresh views. It is something only YOU can bring. So, I remind you of this talent and encourage you to continue the journey.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Kyle,

      Thank you for welcoming me back. You're right... I do view my experiences as a lesson in how not to treat candidates, and I am glad that I am writing about these experiences. Sometimes it's easy to forget how it felt to be on the "other side" of a situation, and I think that reading my past articles will help to remind me of why I wanted to avoid certain behaviors or thought patterns when I am in any position of power.

      I did go back and read your first comments, and thanks for the reminder. 8-)

      One of the points that Victorio made in our conversation was that it's sometimes difficult to share our misery. I've thought a lot about that point, and come to the conclusion that it's especially difficult for me to share my misery when that misery is caused by what I perceive as "my failure."

      I've been so worried about sharing what I perceive as failures on this blog and scaring away potential employers that I forgot the original intent of this blog; sharing my journey, and the lessons that I've learned on this journey, with others. I can't learn lessons without making some mistakes, right? Maybe it's time that I actually share these mistakes so that I, and others, can learn from them.

      Thank you for commenting, Kyle. You've definitely given me a different perspective and some points to think about.

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