I received the highlights from a new CareerBuilder study this week and they made me laugh for two reasons. First, because some of these ideas are actually pretty good, and second, because whoever wrote the press release of the data analysis is a bit off the mark. The gist of the research was this: people are looking for jobs (no surprise there) and some of them are doing interesting, strange, or downright weird things to try and stand out from the crowd.

A sampling of the strange

From the press release:

Hiring managers gave the following examples of unusual tactics job seekers used to stand out:

  • Candidate gave the hiring manager a baseball that read: “This is my best pitch of why you should hire me.”
  • Candidate sent the hiring manager daisies with a note that said “Pick me, pick me.”
  • Candidate brought their mother to the interview as an in-person character reference.
  • Candidate developed a whole website dedicated to the hiring manager, asking to be hired.
  • Candidate hugged the hiring manager when introduced instead of shaking hands.
  • Candidate got up from interview and started waiting on customers because the business got busy.
  • Hiring manager had a candidate volunteer to work at the business for a month before submitting an application to show that she was able to do the job.
  • Candidate presented a thick scrapbook of certificates, awards and letters.
  • Candidate sent a Christmas card every year for three years.
  • Candidate sent a cake with their resume printed on it.

Let’s take a moment to break a few of those down before pointing out the interesting flaw in the logic here.

  • The good: candidate got up during interview and started waiting on customers because the business got busy

While this seems like a strange move, I think it’s actually really interesting. If we set aside any labor laws or FLSA issues of having someone perform a work task among real employees for 10-15 minutes, this is the perfect way to see if someone can actually perform the job. In a study we did earlier this year, we found that candidates actually desire assessments and opportunities to prove their ability to perform on the job (they don’t really like generic assessments with no link to the actual work duties).

  • The bad: candidate sent cake with resume printed on it

This is weird. I like cake more than the average person, and even I wouldn’t eat a cake with a resume printed on it. Yes, I understand that the point is to get in front of the hiring manager, but this has nothing to do with qualifications, value, or usefulness. It doesn’t prove to me anything other than you are looking for ways to cut corners and get results without being willing to do something useful like networking, demonstrating value, etc.

  • The ugly: candidate brought mom to interview

Seriously?

I don’t know that I even need to say anything here. The moment I see a candidate bring his or her mother, I immediately dismiss them as capable of anything other than calling mommy for help when the pressure is on. Don’t do this and don’t tolerate this.

Does this actually help you get a job?

Back to the findings:

Stunts can have a negative impact on your chances of getting the job — more than a quarter of employers (26 percent) say unusual attention seeking antics from job seekers would make them less likely to call a candidate in for an interview.

While some read this as “26% of employers say you are less likely to get an interview,” I read this as “74% of employers DO NOT say you are less likely to get called for an interview.” That’s interesting because if I use one of these stunts to get attention, I am three times as likely to get attention based on the data they are presenting, even though they skew it the other direction by saying one out of four companies is turned off by these types of antics.

Here’s a clue if you’re searching for a job: don’t rely on some weird tactic to get you in the door. Just like you wouldn’t want to date someone that rides up on a unicycle juggling flaming batons, you shouldn’t be swayed by people relying on these kinds of attention-grabbing activities to showcase their skills (unless it’s a really unique case of having to use those kinds of skills, which is a one-in-a-million kind of thing).

What about you? Any interesting stories of things candidates have done to get attention that are outside the norm of phone calls, emails, hard copy resumes in the mail, etc.? 

Recently a friend was applying for a job, and she came to me for help with preparing. She had worked with the firm for some time, and the opening was for a more senior position she was hoping to achieve. We took a little time to make sure the resume was presentable, and then we went to the fun part: a strategic plan.

Together, we developed an action plan for the first six months after she got the job that would allow her to be more effective than the previous leader, generating new business for the organization. We included discussions around business development, customer satisfaction, and employee relations.

And she got the job.

This is an incredibly powerful practice, but hardly anyone actually does it. Here are a few options for you to leverage this approach next time you’re looking for the right HR job.

Keys to Success

The first mistake people make is thinking that this just needs to be in their notes or in their head. Not true. This plan needs to be a physical thing you bring with you to give to the interviewers during the conversation. The simple act of giving them something they don’t already have puts you in a different light. Instead of just focusing on you, they are also focusing on your ideas and your insights, which (if they are good ones) can give you a leg up over the competition.

The second piece of advice is to make it attainable. Don’t throw twenty things on there, and don’t put one on there, either. Every company has something they can change, improve, or update. Ultimately, they might take none of your suggestions, but the goal should be to present a powerful case for why the things you mention are worth exploring.

How to Put this into Practice: Never Worked There

It’s challenging to do this from the outside, but with HR we have at least one avenue into the organization that others can’t leverage: the recruiting function. From the first moment you find a job ad, start making note of things that could be improved, changed, or modified.  Here are some ideas:

  • Job ads: are they written in a way that appeals to job seekers? Are they using good search engine optimization techniques to be found more easily by candidates?
  • Interview process: are communications and instructions clear? Do you know what to expect and who you’ll be interacting with?
  • Assessments: does the assessment add value? What is the perception from the candidate side–are the questions relevant and helpful?
  • And, of course, we could examine it through the perspective of the candidate experience. For instance, did you get any notification when you applied? Was mobile apply available, or did you have to use a desktop? Could you do one-click apply with LinkedIn, or did you have to manually enter every piece of information?

Whether you’re bringing in some research to offer context or you’re just giving an observation based on your perceptions (or both), you can make your point in a tactful manner. That’s a key to this entire approach, because if done poorly, it will make you look less qualified.

How to Put this into Practice: Worked There in Non-HR Role

If you have experience with the company already in a non-HR position, you’re in even better shape for helping to illuminate some of the areas of improvement. Remember, this isn’t a gripe session or a chance to air grievances: it’s a process improvement approach. Some ideas on what to talk about:

  • Modifying the onboarding process to get employees up to speed faster.
  • Changing the performance management system so that it actually encourages performance, not hinders it.
  • Offering niche voluntary benefits that appeal to one population or another in your company, such as dependent care or elder care. Or you can go the rock star route, offering something like a ski house for employees to use (one of our previous guest authors, Jane Jaxon, used to offer this as a recruiting tool at her company).

The entire purpose of this exercise is to show that you’re going above and beyond the basic job duties, looking for ways to innovate and bring additional value to the business. Again, I have to remind you that the way you approach this matters just as much as what you actually propose. You have to be careful to point out opportunities for improvement in way that doesn’t indict those that put the processes in place (or those that continue to manage them, for that matter).

How to Put this into Practice: Worked There in an HR Role

If you have worked there in an HR role and this is a promotion opportunity, then you have the biggest advantage of anyone else in the running, because you know what is working and what isn’t. You also have the biggest challenge, because you are familiar with the inner workings and might not be immediately aware of any innovative ideas for how to improve your practice.

If that’s the case, I would encourage you to do more reading, listening, and consuming of HR and business-related content to help broaden your horizons and help you understand some of the ways that exist to improve your processes and approach. Think about the evidence-based HR approach that I wrote on recently–it is a great way to help you examine and propose solutions to problems that others might have already given up on solving.

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

debbie mcgee IHRLast year I met a subject matter expert on international HR issues through my local SHRM chapter. A few months later, when I was looking at some HR challenges affecting our expatriate employees, I ran across her again. When I spoke at ALSHRM in May, she was presenting across the hallway on international human resources best practices. In other words, she knows what she’s doing! So I wanted to take a moment to chat with her and learn more about the special niche she fills.

Ben: So, let’s establish your credibility. Tell me about your background. 

Debbie: I have been working with international employee issues for more than two decades. 13 years in international individual taxation and another 12 years in International Human Resources/Global mobility. I have worked as a Senior Manager with Big 4 Accounting Firms, as well as run corporate Global IHR departments for multinational corporations with more than 2,000 expatriates.

In addition, I have managed more than 60 country combinations, including Asia to Europe, Europe to the Americas and  Americas to Asia/Europe. That means travel is a big part of my work: I’ve visited over 30 countries and even lived in Europe for 6 years.

As far as credentials, I am a CPA as well as GPHR, so I think with both sides of my brain and easily switch the conversation from talent development to accounting/taxation for that same talent. My current role is President and CEO of PZI International Consulting, Inc, where I helps clients effectively and legally expand their talent into global marketplaces.

Ben: How did you end up working in an international HR role?  

Debbie: After managing national accounts for the accounting firms and designing programs/policies for their international HR departments, it was a natural progression to move to the corporate side.  I wanted to make a bigger impact with one company and felt by going in and designing the program as a best practice Center of Excellence from the ground up, I could impact not only the corporate culture, but also have an impact on individual employees career as well as quality of life.

My first role as a Global Mobility Manager was with an accounting client.  They wanted to grow the program internally and focus on more than the tax/payroll piece of the IHR program.  I was brought in to design and run that function.

Ben: What was your favorite part of working globally within HR?

Debbie: I like helping people and knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life.  As a CPA, I felt I seldom gave good news to a client, but as a Corporate Head of IHR, I could directly affect an employee’s quality of life while they were working abroad for the company.  Often employees would call me on their last day at the company to thank me for helping them and their families during a difficult situation while they were based abroad for the company.

My main goal was to make the family unit a successful team while they were abroad.  They were the face of the company, whether in the local markets, the local schools or the foreign workplace.  If they were challenged, happy to be there and excited about what they were doing, that would reflect well on the corporation as well.

Ben: What was the most challenging part of international HR work?

Debbie: Human Resources are often a last minute thought for many business units.  They are so entangled in getting the business, closing the sale, that the human capital piece of it is seldom thought through.  I worked diligently at changing the corporate culture around what was required to expand the company into international markets.  I spent a lot of time training the business units, the other functional areas, rather than waiting for them to come to me, I went to them.

I think being proactive and making people aware of why they need to talk with you lets you be an equal stakeholder in the business development, rather than a stumbling block for the business units.

International HR/Global Mobility is still not a well understood area within organizations.  It isn’t until something goes wrong, someone is in jail, someone is turned away at a border, that many companies begin to look at this function and realize the complexity of it and why they need to have people running it that know all the questions to ask and where to find the answers.

Ben: If you could go back and offer some advice to yourself as you were getting started in this type of role, what would you say?

Debbie: No one knows everything.  Being a subject matter expert is a good thing, but you have to understand the business and the business needs.  Otherwise just because you may know the answer, doesn’t mean the business wants to hear it.  Most important part of being a stakeholder in a business is to :: Ask, Listen, Solve.  In that order.  Don’t assume you know the answer before you ask the question.

Ben: Any closing comments, wit or wisdom?

Debbie: Companies should grow their networks, read up on developing trends in the IHR industry. “the authorities haven’t caught us yet” is no way to do business internationally.  Investing in your international HR group is as important as investing in your 401k plan or your product development. Every company today should be looking at how they can expand into international markets, the business is definitely out there.  Expanding into these markets means expanding your human assets into those markets.  Make sure you are as diligent with your human assets as you are with your product assets.

Ben: Thanks for your time, Debbie! This has been incredibly insightful.

—————-

I hope you enjoyed this interview exploring some of the ideas around international HR practices with Debbie McGee. You can find her at her website or on LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts about international HR? Is it harder than domestic HR? How did some of these comments influence your opinion? 

Today I have the pleasure of introducing my brother, Brandon, to the HR community. Brandon is an auditor for the federal government and has worked in the world of accounting for more than ten years. We’ve been talking about some of the needs that we have in the HR profession for being more number savvy, and that led to this interview. I hope you enjoy! If you have questions or want to know more about how HR can use accounting/finance principles to establish credibility and lead within the organization, just shoot me a note. Thanks!

brandon eubanksAccounting for HR – An Interview with Brandon Eubanks

Ben: Let’s establish that you’re a credible source (despite being my brother, which should disqualify you immediately). :-) So, tell me a bit about your background (degree, certification, work experience to date, etc.)

Brandon: I have a BS in Accounting from UAH as well as a Master’s of Accountancy from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I currently have an active Alabama CPA license, and I also have an active Certified Fraud Examiner credential. I started my work in the accounting field at a small company just before I graduated with my undergraduate degree, and I landed a job at that same company upon completion of my degree. I worked at this company for a total of two years before I landed a job with my current employer (DCAA).

I became an auditor with the Defense Contract Audit Agency in 2005, and I performed in that job category for 5 years. I was promoted to an instructor at our agency training institute, and I served in that position for two years. Upon completion of those two years, I came back “to the field” as a supervisory auditor in Huntsville. In addition to my full time job as supervisory auditor, I also teach accounting courses on an adjunct basis for Athens State University.

Ben: It sounds like you’re in neck deep! But for some of the audience out there, imagining someone that enjoys accounting can be a bit “out there.” What drove you to choose accounting as your profession?

Brandon: I took an accounting course in high school, and I loved it! I actually started college going for a Mathematics major, but in the end, my true passion for accounting won out. When I changed my major from Mathematics to Accounting, I truly felt like I was where I belonged. Everything made so much sense to me in the accounting realm, and the majority of it came easy.

Ben: Okay, great. So let’s shift the perspective a bit. We’ve talked before about HR and what I do in some capacity, though I know it’s not your focus area specifically. What do you think HR pros need to know about accounting/finance to be successful in their role as a business leader?

Brandon: I think one of the most important things to understand regarding accounting/finance is budgeting. For most companies, the budget is king. Many hours are spent poring over the budget, and then many more hours are spent deciding how the company is doing compared to the budget. In my opinion, knowing what role the HR functions play in the budget would help HR pros to see the big picture. HR work is not completed in a vaccuum, even if it seems that way some times. Recruiting employees, changing benefits, and employee training all have a part in the company budget, and typically people can perform their jobs in a more precise way when they know how what they do fits into the company’s big picture.

Another important accounting/finance topic for HR pros is financial statements. If someone who isn’t in accounting/finance looks at a set of financial statements, other than noticing a profit or loss, he or she probably won’t know much about what those statements are portraying about the company. Is the company doing well financially? It takes more than a good year of income for a company to be thriving. Continuing from my earlier comments, knowing what role HR pros play in the company can help them to see what impact on the financial statements they are having.

Ben: Those are some excellent suggestions. But let’s say hypothetically that I come to you today and only have 30 minutes to learn some basics of accounting and/or finance to help me do my job better. What topics would you recommend to get the best return on my learning time?

Brandon: I would start with an income statement to help you get a picture of what decisions HR pros make and how they affect the company. Obviously, all decisions you make affect a company in some way (whether small or large), but really seeing numbers that relate to those decisions can help get a bigger idea of context. To me it all boils down to understanding where your role fits into the workings of the company, rather than simply focusing on the next task on your “to do” list.

Ben: I would completely agree. It’s easy to get bogged down and take the time to get a broader view of what’s going on. So let’s get philosophical. You’ve said a few times that HR needs to figure out how it fits into the organization. Why do you think human resources as a profession has a more difficult time of getting “attention” or “clout” in the organization when it seems like accounting/finance has it as a natural byproduct of the function it carries out?

Brandon: It is my perception that HR is seen as something necessary but only value-added some of the time. As a supervisor of five employees, I appreciate my HR specialists that I have to work with. However, I typically contact them only when I’m having trouble with an employee. It is my perception in these types of circumstances that HR is “holding back on the reins” while managers and supervisors are wanting to go full-speed ahead with disciplinary actions. So, in this way, HR is seen as necessary, but a roadblock overall in the process of an organization running more smoothly (in the eyes of the manager).

On the other hand, accounting/finance seemingly hold power over the entire company because the numbers they report can make or break a company. To me, that is why there is such disparity in the treatment of the two departments. One is seen as holding up the process, one is seen as completely necessary and somewhat powerful.

Ben: Thanks for your time! Any closing thoughts, wit, or wisdom to share?

Brandon: If I had any advice to HR pros, it would be to learn how you and your department fit into your company. Furthermore, if there is a way to educate employees (from the bottom to the top) on what HR does and can do for them, it could go a long way in battling that perception bias for managers and staff.

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brandon! You can find him on LinkedIn here. Let me know in the comments what you think of this interview.

What are your thoughts on the topic? What can we learn from our accounting/finance brethren? Is this an area of strength for you or an area of weakness? 

rehiring boomerang employeeA while back I was reading a story about a CEO being asked to return to his company after stepping down from the role years before. As usual, I started tying the thoughts back to HR and how that sort of “boomerang” employee, at any level of the company, might approach the decision to return.

For instance, what would change? What would stay the same? If you had a fresh start, how would you do things differently? Or maybe it wouldn’t be a fresh start at all–people would expect you to do the same things the same way, even if it wasn’t good for you or the business long-term. Well, today you’re going to get some excellent insights into this idea of boomerang employees.

I decided to ask Mary Faulkner, Talent Strategist & Business Leader, for her opinion on the topic. Mary is a writer, speaker, and HR leader whose opinion I respect. After you read some of her thoughts, you’ll understand why!

Ben: Tell me a bit about your experience. What’s the background story?

Mary: I was at a Fortune 200 company for about 6.5 years and it had a reputation as a tough (most would say ‘toxic’) culture. No lie…it really, really was.  But it was also a place where I worked with amazing, smart, driven people who were doing their best to bring leadership development to a culture that didn’t really embrace it.

When I left, I did so on good terms – but I was also burned out and bitter. Fellow ‘survivors’ often joke that you almost need a rebound job to detox from the day-to-day craziness you endured.

A few years after I left, I was approached to potentially go back to the old team.  I listened and met with past stakeholders and coworkers – good people who continued to fight the good fight while I left.  This process helped me think through the idea of being a “boomerang” employee.

Ben: What if you left and came back as an HR leader? 

Mary: I was already a “leader” in that I had a team, owned a good chuck of the leadership dev process, and also had clout with key stakeholders. If I went back, it would have been 1 level up…which would have afforded some additional influence…but not as much as you’d think.  The same players were still above me – with one key difference, which is why I was even considering the return.

Ben: So when I think about starting a job, I know I can get some “quick wins” to help establish some credibility. Would you still be able to have a whole new set of “wins” or would it be challenging to do that all over again?

Mary: Truthfully, this was a real concern for me.  I knew I had burn out, and while distance lends perspective, it’s possible I would have run into the same roadblocks – not necessarily because of the organization, but because the same people with the same dynamics were still there.  I was not naive to the fact that we all had history…and a new person wouldn’t have the baggage we all had in the role.

Ben: Okay, so what would you do differently the second time around? 

Mary: I would be more direct with key stakeholders (meaning, I would go to them directly), not relying on my VP to do my talking for me. (Don’t get me wrong – great guy.  We just have very different styles.)  I think I’ve learned more about how to sell ideas based on business needs and results since I left, and that would help inform my pitch to get programs funded and supported.

Ben: What innovation would you bring to the table?

Mary: The innovation would come from fresh perspective, experience in other organizations, which I could apply to my knowledge of that organization.  I’m surprised at how many things we had set up the “right” way – much of our performance management, talent review, and other programs had best in class infrastructure. It’s how we implemented it that lead to issues.  I could have used my exposure to other systems to build the case that we are almost there… and here’s what we need to do to get the outcomes we’re looking for.

Ben: Another piece that seems to be a gray area that we don’t hear about much is the “people” element. How do people treat “boomerang” employees/leaders differently the second time around? 

Mary: This org actually had quite a few boomerang employees.  One the one hand, it was accepted – people knew that sometimes you just needed a break and that you’d come back rejuvenated.  I think there was still a backlash – maybe not stated, but certainly there was a feeling that, “Um…we stuck it out and kept this place running while you pursued your bliss.  What makes you so darn special?”

What struck me is how little people seemed to have changed.  I felt like I had grown quite a bit professionally because I’d done other work and been in other companies, and those who had stayed were still using the same methods to get work done…because the environment was the same. This “sameness” was a reason I was a bit relieved when they opted to go internal with the role.  I loved what I did there, but I’m not sure it would have been growth.

Ben: Thanks for your time, Mary! This has been great and I think the information is very helpful.

——

mary faulknerI hope you enjoyed the interview with Mary Faulkner! You can follow her on Twitter or find her on LinkedIn. Thank you again, Mary, for sharing your insights and ideas.

So, what are your thoughts? How does your organization handle “boomerang” employees? Have you ever faced a decision like that yourself? I’d love to hear some other stories on the topic.

Also, if you like the interview format, I’d be glad to do some more of them. Hit me in the comments or via email if you’d like to see other interviews of HR leaders. 

Less than a week ago we wrapped up the interviewing process for a new hire at our local office. After reviewing dozens of candidates, talking with half a dozen, and bringing a few back for another round, we settled on the one who we thought was the best fit for the position.

We work hard to provide a solid first round interview to verify skills/abilities and general fit. It’s very much a “standard” interview.

The second interview has a very different feel. We bring the person in, let them talk with their potential future coworkers, and leave them alone. Before the second round, I tell both parties (the peers and the candidate) that it’s their chance to interview their future teammate. I want both parties to be invested in the success of the interview, and I also want them to honestly ask themselves the question, “Would I really want to work with this person?”

Recently I had the opportunity to do a short podcast interview with Tim Muma of LocalJobNetwork. I talked a lot about asking good interview questions, how to research culture as a candidate, etc. I think there’s some good stuff in there, especially for the job seekers out there. If you know someone looking for work, feel free to share the link with them!

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