Adventures in recruiting | HR Memories

Smiling candidate

Early in my Human Resources career, I did a lot of recruiting. I recruited for some crazy managers. I found out fast that everyone has quirks. Not everyone is as sane and logical as I am. Seriously!

I recruited for a young thirty-ish manager who did not like to hire women older than he was. It had something to do with his mother and his childhood but it eliminated some very qualified people. I suggested counseling but in the end we just hired younger women.

There was a manager who wanted to see “energy” in his candidates. I asked him what “energy” looks like to him and he told me he would know it if he saw it. From his hires, I would say that energy looks like a drinking buddy.

There was a young inexperienced woman who was filling in for a supervisor. She hired anyone who was alive. Put a mirror under their nose and if there was breathing, they started on Monday. Fortunately, I screened out serial killers and psychos.  Since I wasn’t very familiar with the specific job itself, I couldn’t guarantee a successful hire so her job was to interview for the skills necessary to do the job. I was very glad when the supervisor returned from her leave.

We had a high level opening reporting to an executive. The executive was young but very competent in his specialty. That knowledge did not extend to other managerial aspects. He was easily snowed by brashness in an interview. The person we hired did little and ran a side business on company time. It took some nudging but I did convince the exec that he needed to cut him loose…three years later.

I recruited for another executive who liked positive, upbeat people. I would agree that this is a good trait. He crossed off anyone who was not smiling in the interview. Interviews with an executive can be very intimidating but that was no excuse. Smile or you are out!

For a period of time I worked with someone who had some…um…unusual recruiting methods. To test whether someone was healthy, he would have them walk up the stairs to the second floor for the interview. If the breathing was heavy, that was a demerit.

The very first person I worked with in recruiting gave me some sage (?) advice. She said to always check a candidate’s shoes. If they were scuffed, it was a sign of poor attention to detail. I started checking my shoes more regularly after that.

I often found that during that first six-month honeymoon period, the supervisors thought the new hire was the savior to the company. In truth, they may have had a skill that their predecessor did not that really made them look good. Or more likely, they did not have an annoying trait that the predecessor had. Maybe they were savvy enough to accomplish some low hanging fruit. Supervisors would want to increase their salary (no!) or change their title (not without a change in job duties!). Then after six months, the shine was off and they were just regular employees complete with warts. If I had a dollar for every time I saw this happen…..

Do any of these situations ring true to you? These are all true stories and sometimes I wonder how the right people ever get in the right spots. During my tenure we tightened procedures and interviewed against job skills rather than personality. However, that final decision is with the hiring manager and you can never get rid of biases completely.

In the meantime, please check your shoes.

Photo credits: Smiling candidate courtesy of voguemarie2010; super office worker courtesy of istolethetv; and scuffy shoes courtes of swissrolli, all of Flickr.

23 thoughts on “Adventures in recruiting | HR Memories

  1. Pingback: Looking for a job? | HR Memories | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

    • Actually I am. My niece’s daughter, who is not in HR, told me those were her favorite stories. So I figured if someone who is not in the HR business enjoys them, maybe there is a market. Don’t hold your breathe though!


    • The comment about shoes was really “tongue in cheek.” Shoes are not important unless they are part of an outrageous outfit. I don’t believe I ever looked down at people’s shoes in an interview. There was one woman who was wearing a medical boot but that was pretty obvious. We didn’t hire her but it had nothing to do with the boot. With your bubbly personality, if you have the skills you will do well. No worries!


  2. Wow, the shoe thing is fascinating. I have heard it before… That and also a checking glasses for smudges (a friend of mine heard that one). Funny how different people have different cues.
    HR sounds fascinating.


    • Well I doubt very much if there is really a correlation between shoes and the ability to effectively do a job. I did interview a person with parley on their teeth once. It was very distracting.


  3. Unusual and intriguing insider details. Love it, Kate. Sometimes, I think folks are hired because they are like the person doing the hiring. I once had a boss tell me I reminded him of himself when he first started at the same job. My lack of radio experience didn’t scare him off. He loved my enthusiasm. I really lucked out.

    Even though I have a job, I will watch the shoes.


    • There is a theory on that. I have always felt that if I get an interview, I will do well. That was true most of the time. One time I did an interview with the direct supervisor of the position and I was sure I was a serious candidate. We were in sync on what was needed in the workplace. I was brought back to interview with her very young boss and there was nothing I could to that suited him. I didn’t get the job. As it turns out, the position was eliminated about a year later so things work out for the best.


  4. I was once interviewed by a young woman, who was a department manager, for a part-time sales position in a department store. She kept apologizing for asking me questions and for the fact that I had more experience than her and I should be the one doing the interview. I found myself trying to put her at ease. I didn’t get the job. I was the same age as her mother. Think that was a problem?

    Another job I didn’t get–I was told by the young man interviewing me that I was too good for the company and would just leave when something better came along so he couldn’t hire me. Weird.


    • Yes, recruiters don’t mind people leaving for something better because there is more work. Hiring managers, however, don’t want to retrain. Too good for the company? That one I’ve never heard.


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