Monday, June 02, 2008

Kissing Frogs

The company I work for has 140 employees. By this time in 2010 I expect we’ll have 200. No recession here!

I’m the Human Resources Manager. That means that I’m responsible for all the recruiting, screening, selection, hiring, orientation and initial training for those new folks.

And, oh by the way, my little department also handles all the plant health and safety, security, benefits administration, payroll, training and recordkeeping, and general employee relations activities.

Not to mention the ISO 9001 quality program, and our participation in the OSHA VPP program as a STAR site. It seems I’m leaving something else out . . . Oh, yeah, I also sign all the payables checks, approve wire transfers, handle the uniform leasing and laundry service, and . . . I’m pretty sure there’s more.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’d rather be recruiting and hiring than laying people off! But many larger firms have a full-time recruiting group; that’s all they do. And there’s a reason for that. Recruiting—done properly—takes a lot of time, effort, and not a little skill.

You see, there are a whole lot of frogs that need to be kissed before a prince shows up. And every one of those frogs has to be treated like a potential prince until proven otherwise. Sometimes the frog/prince is only revealed in royal form after a certain style kiss. They don’t always respond immediately to a quick peck on the lips; some need a more probing, deeper kiss (in-depth interview) to reveal their hidden qualities.

On the flip side, some appear to be taking on a prince-like appearance only to have their true webbed feet and amphibian nature revealed later.

Even after an ineffective, unsuccessful buss many of those now-proven frogs keep coming back asking for another chance, another interview, etc. (Another kiss?!? BLEAH! I don’t THINK so!)

Part of the HR manager's job is to keep those frogs just happy enough that they don't claim they were somehow discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. (By definition, if they don't get a job offer something MUST have been unfair, right? “Hey, I’m not really an amphibian! Kiss me again and I’ll show you! It’s YOUR fault—you didn’t give me the right kind of kiss!”)

The trap I NEVER want to fall into is to answer honestly the inevitable question, “What did I do wrong? Why didn’t you choose me?”

Why not be honest? Why not just say, “Well, you’re a FROG, fly-breath, and being a prince is a BFOQ.” (In case you didn’t know, that’s short for a Bona-Fide Occupational Qualification. It’s defined as a quality which on the surface might appear to be discriminatory but can be a legal requirement in certain circumstances.) The reason is: there is just no way that a focus on the negative (“Why NOT me?”) won’t possibly come back later to haunt you as an illegal act of discrimination. (“Well, you hired three other candidates who were just as green as me!”)

So what do I do? I tell the truth! I always stick with, “Gee, I only had two (or three or four) jobs to fill, and a whole bunch of well-qualified applicants. I couldn’t hire all the ones I wanted to”(well, that might be a slight stretch). “But I’ll certainly consider you for the next opening I have if it’s something you might be qualified for!” (And THAT might be a HUGE stretch! I rationalize it by the fact that although my “consideration” might be about 0.5 seconds long, I’ll consider them!)

All that puckering up, and gathering of paperwork (applications and resumes), and setting up interviews, and following up afterwards, and answering the same questions a bunch of times takes time. A LOT of time!

But when the real, true prince appears (the well-qualified applicant with the perfect personality), it makes all that kissing (and gargling with Scope) seem worthwhile.

Till the next amphibian hops up off the lilly pad with its tongue out!


Nankin said...

Too funny! I love the analogy of the frog and prince. Too bad that principal isn't utilized more often.

Of couse there's always the threat of a law suit. It's much easier to blame the other guy than taking a long look at yourself.

kenju said...

You sounds like a very wise man! I like what you say to those who don't make the grade.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Kenju, You mean the part I'm tempted to say? "Because you're a FROG, fly-breath?" Or what I really say? (I liked that "fly-breath" part!)

Kidding aside, if there is something I can tell an applicant to help him present himself more professionally in the future (and he doesn't seem too litigious-natured), I'll tell him in what I hope is a "fatherly, helpful" way. But otherwise I've learned the hard way that it's best to leave any discussion of negatives or shortcomings out of the exchange. Completely! Always try to focus on positives.

It's like our mothers used to tell us when we were kids, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing."