I’d love to say that I am perfect and haven’t ever made a mistake in my career, but we all know that just isn’t the case. While this isn’t like the time I set an ATM on fire, it is one of those moments that I relive over and over again with more than a little remorse. See if you can learn any lessons from my own experience…

Years ago I was recruiting for technical writers to join a growing team that I was putting together to support a government contract. Instead of the usual ones and twos, I was hiring a dozen people for this position at one time. It wasn’t your run of the mill tech writer opening, either. I was looking for people with experience writing to military specifications. I needed writers that could do some illustrations. I also needed at least one of the hires to know how to be a “provisioner,” the hardest job I’ve ever had to fill (yes, even harder than helicopter instructor pilots).

The skill set was very obscure, and I had to sift through tons of unqualified resumes to find the few that were a good fit. All this was capped off by an unreasonable deadline set by the customer–a surefire recipe for disaster.

Despite all of the things working against me, I was feeling pretty confident. We had an employee referral or two, and since it is a relatively tight community, I was able to get feedback on some candidates to know which would be a good fit and which wouldn’t before investing time into building rapport with each. I had a great first round of interviews with our pool of applicants, and we were moving a good number of them forward to talk with the hiring manager and the technical lead on the team.

I was working long hours, as I usually did during heavy recruiting seasons of the year. As with many small companies, I was wearing all of the HR hats, and recruiting was one of many of my duties. When a big effort spun up, it would put other things on hold, no matter how critical they might be. I’ll never forget trying to set up a performance improvement plan for a staff member, investigate another for harassment, and try to find a pilot to go to Hawaii for a year-long contract. I survived those hectic weeks purely on Diet Mountain Dew, which I no longer consume.

Anyway, I was working hard. One thing that I have always felt was a differentiator for me as a recruiter and HR leader was that I put the extra effort into communications, and it had paid off. I got massive results from my LinkedIn invitations to candidates. I had high readership and engagement from internal staff on HR communications I developed. I knew that skill set, while it took time that could be used on other activities, was going to continue paying dividends over time. But one day, for some reason, I snapped.

Yes, I snapped. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’d have a hard time believing I could snap at anything. And yet I did. 

One of the candidates I was chasing for the final slot had been leading me on and was slowly becoming less responsive as the days went by. I thought I might be losing him, but despite everything I put into every conversation, there didn’t seem to be a way to turn it around.

Finally I asked him point blank what the issue was. Why was he backing off? Was there something I could do to fix it?

And the guy responded with something that drove me over the edge.

He said that he had heard the company wasn’t very good to its employees and that he wasn’t interested in working at a place like that.

And it happened. I. Went. Off. 

Now, before I tell you what I said, I want you to understand something. I had worked for the company since it was a startup. I knew every employee and spouse by name, and I was pretty darn good about knowing their kids, too. People loved the company and the work. We had phenomenal leadership and a great mission. We prided ourselves in taking care of our people financially, professionally, and personally.

One time, an employee’s house blew away in a tornado on his first day of work. We all pitched in to make sure he had leave to cover his time away with his family to pick up the pieces. We really worked hard to take care of these people just like they were family. I agonized over absolutely every detail to make sure the company was the kind of place that I would be proud of my own kids working for. I had employees from our partner companies calling me daily asking how they could join our team because our employees were so darn happy with their jobs and the company.

And this guy had the nerve to lie and say that we didn’t care. 

I responded back to the guy and told him that after reviewing his resume, I didn’t think he was a good fit for the company. Now, or ever. We didn’t need people like him on the team anyway. Good riddance. So long, jerk…

And you know what? I felt great! It was so awesome to get that off my chest.

For about five minutes.

Then I realized I had just treated this guy the way that the fictional company he imagined us to be would have done. And I am still kicking myself all these years later for doing it and proving him right.

Within half an hour I sent an apology, attempting to salvage the contact for future efforts even though I knew it was probably toast. The next morning I immediately went to my boss and explained what I had done, telling her that I had even apologized after the fact. She knew that I was going to beat myself up about it worse than anything she could do, so she let me off the hook.

What’s the lesson here? The moral of the story? Well, we all know that we should never respond to anyone, in any situation, in a spirit of anger. That time it got the best of me. I also learned that I should never respond to emotionally-charged situations via email on my cell phone, because I tend to be more direct and less concerned with the message in general when I’m responding via that method. Painful reminders that stick with me to this very day. The final one is to try and keep stress from getting to you. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but we all know it never leads to positive outcomes.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the guy never replied back to anything. I never talked with him again, and I can’t even remember his name at this point. But I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I read that note from him. Or how it felt when I realized what I had done.

Over the years I’ve recruited many, many more people. I’ve never again responded to any of them, no matter the situation, in anger or in a way that would embarrass the company or myself. That was a painful lesson to learn and one that still haunts me when I think about it, but I am glad to know that it only took one instance to make it stick with me.

Ever done anything embarrassing as an HR or recruiting pro? Feel free to respond anonymously in the comments. 

This week I have a treat for you. I had the opportunity as part of my role on the #SHRM16 social media coverage team to interview Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer. She will be speaking at the SHRM Conference on June 20th from 2:00-3:15 in case you are interested in seeing her after reviewing this interview.

rohini anand sodexoBen: Just to get the ball rolling, please tell me about yourself and what you do at Sodexo. 

  • I currently serve as the Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo
  • I am responsible for the strategic direction, implementation and business alignment of Sodexo’s integrated global diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as Sodexo USA’s sustainable development, wellness and corporate responsibility strategies
  • I also lead the organization’s sustained culture change initiatives, as well as its integration in the overall business growth strategy

Ben: What is Sodexo’s biggest challenge when it comes to diversity and inclusion today?  Continue reading

Employees are the heart of every business, and your biggest asset. They’re the people who make sure things get done when and how they’re supposed to, managing your processes, interacting with customers and clients, and showing up day after day. While of course their main motivation is the paycheck at the end of the day, today’s employees are also looking for a satisfying work place in which they feel they play an integral part. Doing all you can to keep company morale high means securing happy employees, and satisfied employees make loyal ones. Keeping your employees feeling content and satisfied in the work place means making sure they’re comfortable, and one aspect that often takes the backseat is office design. Want workers who are proud to come in every day? Make sure their work space is conducive to that feeling with these office design tips.

Take Temperature into Consideration Continue reading

One of the most popular posts I’ve written all year was dedicated to the HR certification decision facing today’s HR pros. I decided to take it a step further and reach out to some people to discuss the behind-the-scenes pieces of the HR certification world. Today’s interview is with Amy Dufrane, CEO of the Human Resources Certification Institute. I hope you enjoy!

Ben: First of all, I want to thank you for “walking the talk,” because I see that you have your SPHR certification. That’s a great example for the HR professionals out there to see and follow. Tell me a bit about your background and what led you to your current role as the CEO of HRCI. 

Amy Dufrane: I joined HR Certification Institute in 2011 as Chief Operating Officer and was named CEO in December 2012. Before joining HRCI, I spent more than two decades in human resources leadership roles at  organizations such as the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, where I served as Chief Human Resources and Administrative Officer; The Optical Society, where I headed up major talent retention and employee satisfaction initiatives and served as an advisor to the CEO and senior team; and Marymount University, where managed day to day HR office operations; and on the corporate side in HR at Bloomingdales. Continue reading

Leading volunteers is not always an easy job. Unlike employees, they are hard to fire and they may or may not be motivated enough to give their best efforts. But sometimes the magic happens, and you get the best people with the best skills supporting you in a volunteer capacity. That’s what happened last week, and I want to share some of the lessons for the rest of you.

Nikki (left) has been my co-director since the original event in 2013

Nikki (left) has been my co-director since the original event in 2013

Last weekend I participated in an event that has been going for four years now. The Light Up the Night 5k race was held Friday night at 11:59pm to benefit the Carpenter’s Cabinet, a local food pantry supporting those in need. I started the race four years ago with my co-director as a way to get people more active and to partner with a local charity as part of a local outreach effort at church. It is always a great event supporting a worthy cause, and every year the planning team and I pick up new ideas, tips, and strategies to make the race better. This year was no different. Looking back, I actually see some crucial leadership lessons that are worth sharing. Oh, and in case you are wondering, these can work with your employees, too!

Lesson One: Align Strengths to Tasks

Continue reading

In every company, there comes a time when someone makes an offer to a candidate to come and work for them. What is interesting is the wide variety of advice in the marketplace that advises candidates on how to handle that critical negotiation.

Years ago I got my start in blogging by sharing career advice with job seekers looking for an edge in the hiring process. My peers constantly told people that for the strongest negotiating position, they should hold out as long as possible. In other words, it followed the old adage “the first one to speak in the negotiation loses.”

But that’s not necessarily true.

salary negotiationWhen I was recruiting, I wanted to find out from the candidate early on, whether through a job application question or through an informal conversation, what sort of salary range they were looking for. If it wasn’t offered, I would share the range of the opening early in the process. Was I showing my cards? Yes. But I was also attempting to conserve a valuable resource: time. Continue reading

I was talking with some HR professionals last week, and the conversation of transparency came up. What happens if managers care so much about their employees that they help or prepare them to leave the company to pursue the next step in their careers? Is that a good thing, because you’ve successfully grown someone to the level that they are prepared for that? Or is it a problem, since you’re turning over otherwise solid workers that could be contributing to your bottom line? To frame the discussion, I shared the story below that I received from Allied Talent in one of their marketing emails.

Recruiting, engaging, and retaining entrepreneurial employees depends in large part on a manager’s ability to discuss and facilitate career development. However, recruiters, managers, and executives are often poorly-equipped to lead these conversations. Toby Murdock, the founder and CEO of Boulder-based content marketing company Kapost, set out to fix that. His goal: to make his company the best place in Colorado to launch and accelerate a career in high tech… Thanks to a compelling employee value proposition around career transformation, Toby has successfully recruited entrepreneurial employees into the company who might have otherwise been out of reach.

Once at your company, those entrepreneurial employees require high-trust 1:1 conversations with their manager. A paradox of The Alliance is that, as a manager, acknowledging that an employee might move to another company someday is a display of honesty that’s necessary in career conversations. It’ll also help you truly understand your employee’s values and aspirations. Building trust through honesty, and having a better handle on what your employee really wants, are key ingredients to improving employee retention — lengthening job tenures.

So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to this decision. On one hand, you need managers that aren’t afraid of losing people. I have worked for managers in the past that were so concerned about keeping me that they didn’t actually have my best interests in mind, which ended up driving me away instead of making me feel appreciated. Continue reading