IT Employment

Dirty little secrets of HR

Those bad assumptions you've made about HR? They might be true.

I got into work this morning and started plowing through my inbox. I saw an email from Readers' Digest about an upcoming stories on what HR really thinks when it comes to the hiring process.

I seem to remember Readers' Digest being this kind of mild little magazine, not particularly known for its cynicism, with regular features that ranged from corny jokes to stories in which someone had to fend off a deranged grizzly bear for four days. The stories were, ultimately, uplifting. So that's the kind of expectation I had when I took a peek into the upcoming stories.

After the peek? I think I'd rather take my chances with the deranged grizzly bear. It's not that I didn't know all this, I just didn't think HR would be so proud of it. Here are some examples:

In what HR really thinks about your resume:

  • "When it comes to getting a job, who you know really does matter. No matter how nice your résumé is or how great your experience may be, it's all about connections." -HR director at a health-care facility
  • "We will judge you based on your e-mail address. Especially if it's something inappropriate like kinkyboots101@hotmail.com or johnnylikestodrink@gmail.com." -Rich DeMatteo, a recruiting consultant in Philadelphia
  • "Résumés don't need color to stand out. When I see a little color, I smirk. And when I see a ton of color, I cringe. And walking in and dropping off your resume is no longer seen as a good thing. It's actually a little creepy." -Rich DeMatteo

On what HR won't tell you about interviews:

  • "It's amazing when people come in for an interview and say, ‘Can you tell me about your business?' Seriously, people. There's an Internet. Look it up." -HR professional in New York City
  • "A lot of managers don't want to hire people with young kids, and they use all sorts of tricks to find that out, illegally. One woman kept a picture of two really cute children on her desk even though she didn't have children [hoping job candidates would ask about them]. Another guy used to walk people out to their car to see whether they had car seats." -Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know
  • "Is it harder to get the job if you're fat? Absolutely. Like George Clooney's character said in Up in the Air, ‘I stereotype. It's faster.'" -Suzanne Lucas, a former HR executive and the Evil HR Lady on bnet.com
  • "If you've got a weak handshake, I make a note of it." -HR manager at a medical-equipment sales firm
  • "If you're a candidate and the hiring manager spends 45 minutes talking about himself, the company or his Harley, let him. He's going to come out of the interview saying you're a great candidate."  -Kris Dunn, chief human resources officer at Atlanta-based Kinetix, who blogs at hrcapitalist.com

On HR and salary negotiations:

  • "There's one website that drives all HR people crazy: salary.com. It supposedly lists average salaries for different industries, but if you look up any job, the salary it gives you always seems to be $10,000 to $20,000 higher than it actually is. That just makes people mad." -HR director at a public relations agency
  • "On salary, some companies try to lock you in early. At the first interview, they'll tell me to say, ‘The budget for this position is 40K to 45K. Is that acceptable to you?' If the candidate accepts, they'll know they've got him or her stuck in that little area." -Ben Eubanks, HR professional in Alabama
  • "You think you're all wonderful and deserve a higher salary, but here in HR, we know the truth. And the truth is, a lot of you aren't very good at your jobs, and you're definitely not as good as you think you are." -HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina

All in all, though, it's interesting reading. This April cover story of Reader's Digest hits newsstands this week.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

132 comments
MatthewTForrest
MatthewTForrest

Some great points are made here. I was not aware of many of them, but I would like to make a point on one of them. I think that dropping off your resume in person is really hit or miss depending on the company/industry. In some cases this can be viewed as impressive. In others, yes, it is viewed as creepy. Matthew Forrest Social Media Marketing Intern YouTern

pgit
pgit

HR is a target for everyone selling political correctness; "diversity," "TQM," "paradigm shift" or whatever they're calling the 'great leveler' of the day... HR often initiates such wastes of time, and worse yet is your job may be on the line depending on how enthusiastically one engages that type of psychological programming.

information
information

???You think you???re all wonderful and deserve a higher salary, but here in HR, we know the truth. And the truth is, a lot of you aren???t very good at your jobs, and you???re definitely not as good as you think you are.??? -HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina Overall, it is informative to hear of the techniques\tactics some HR departments use. Yet, to have a view as the one mentioned above is telling sign that the HR department may not be up to par themselves. If a whole HR team views the majority of the interviewees as less than their resume projects, then what does it say about the credentials they have provided? Siphon out the fluff resumes from the legitimate ones.

gaddafi_hero
gaddafi_hero

In a nutshell, HR is useless. how can they judge people in the area they know nothing about. it's like an obstacle between a good professional and a manager who would love to hire him if it weren't for HR. they form personal opinion on people they won't be working with closely and probably will never see. not to mention that this opinion is based on some deluded perception of how people should answer stupid standard questions (i.e. where do you see yourself in 10 years...) WTF. plain stupid

gaddafi_hero
gaddafi_hero

In a nutshell, HR is useless. how can they judge people in the area they know nothing about. it's like an obstacle between a good professional and a manager who would love to hire him if it weren't for HR. they form personal opinion on people they won't be working with closely and probably will never see. not to mention that this opinion is based on some deluded perception of how people should answer stupid standard questions (i.e. where do you see yourself in 10 years...) WTF. plain stupid

RSP
RSP

'nuff said.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Liked the one about the interviewer who talks about him/herself -- but the conclusion isn't necessarily true. Had one like that years and years ago. He talked about everything but me and my qualifications. Later, he told the headhunter that he didn't pick me because he didn't learn a thing about me during the interview. Duh...

itdummy88
itdummy88

I believed everyone should be given a chance to prove themselves and stereotyping is not really fair to the candidates. The HR personnels should know better. Their responsibility is to match jobs and skills and not to stereotype.

Latrobe1
Latrobe1

sure you can have what you want, name your price, behave like a socail outcast.. after all.. you are in IT

francisco.brazao
francisco.brazao

Let's face it! With the actual attitude and function inside the company, HR can be substituted by a web service, a server and some applications that are controlled directly by the board. They really don't bellong to the so called company staff. No one in is right mind invites someone in the HR department for a beer after work. If you do you will probably be in trouble sooner or later due to your drinking habits.

a_brons
a_brons

to the poster of a non lame HR reply, you probably are lame. HR's sole goal is to reduce the risk to the company created by it's employees, or hiring employees. If you think otherwise, you are deluding yourself. that trait of deluding one self will serve you well in your profession.

ottersmoo
ottersmoo

Seriously, I work in the greatest place on earth. In December of 2009 I was diagnosed with cancer and my place of employment has been so wonderful to me, INCLUDING those in HR. They were helpful, they were kind and they held my job for me when they legally didn't have to. I am only now returning to work (it was a long battle but I'm in remission). And they have still been kind and wonderful to me. And I believe it to be sincere because they don't have to be. And you won't believe it but I work in IT at a LAW FIRM. Yep. Lawyers! Go figure....

dwlee28
dwlee28

it is called the People Dept. Their hiring process is also very different, they do group interviews first, and it has nothing to do with the job you are seeking but how well you fit their culture and interact with other people. Only if you make it through that process, and it is very difficult, then you start the interview process for the position. Container Store also does something very similar. It is interesting how low their turnover rate is and how highly they are rated by the employees. Both are also known for putting people first. You would think other companies would see that and do something similar, but most do not want to put in the effort it requires, because it does require a lot more effort the doing it the HR way.

Emad Elbanna
Emad Elbanna

How can sync my contact from my mobile Porsche to my ipad

zubram
zubram

If HR works for company then how come the personal preferences of HR manager come in between the candidate and company? All employees of the company works for company.. HR is not God - he is also an employee. An accountant should not treat himself as a man who gives money from his pocket. HR Managers say it is all about connections. Suppose the accountant or the purchase manager or sales manager thinks about that? HR is like a hindrance to the organization,

jakcap
jakcap

Never have I seen a Industry that needs a Union more than IT!! And I dont even like Unions!!

wolf_hawk
wolf_hawk

Just what I need. I was restructured out of my job almost a year and a half ago. Haven't found another one yet. While waiting for nibbles I decided to go further into debt and get my masters degree. At least then I could say what I had been doing for a year and a half. Speaking as an overweight, over 50, job hunter with job skills no one understands I was about to throw in the towel anyway. This article pushed it over the top.

Intellect Arsenal
Intellect Arsenal

When I attend initial, HR-driven pre-screenings or interviews, I always carry either a briefcase (in corporate environs) or a trendy messenger bag (for creative gigs). In the case or bag: an angry adult grizzly bear. When the corporate HR flunky goes round the bend with inscrutable corporate buzzwords or obscure trendy lingo, I release the bear and go get a latte. I recommend this method to everyone (bear sold separately).

davidkramer
davidkramer

HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina knows nothing. We are the talent. If you could do it, you wouldn't be making minimum wage in HR. Try TSA you c0nt

phills
phills

I had had used an aptitude test for recruiting programmers for many years. The normal result was: one reasonably competent person for every three tested. I joined a new company which had a policy of HR interview first. After I had tested 10 dead-heads in a row, I spat the dummy and insisted I test the applicants before HR got to them. My normal result resumed. For HR, the better you could talk, the more acceptable you were. HR had been rejecting all the truly competent. I guess the normal HR forte must be recruiting "professional managers" who have no other talent.

jyflorida
jyflorida

The real name of the department should be Management Resources.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I've worked primarily on the Windows administration/tech support side for all my professional life but I did some Linux stuff if needed and yet I still once in a while have some HR person looking for someone with Linux specialization [happened today]. Or one time I went in for an interview that I thought was for my background [administration/tech support] and they handed me a test on C++ programming. I've never programmed professionally! [The initial contact asked me to come in for an interview, not mentioning the job opening but i had applied for one in my background.]

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Ok you're very used to abbreviate a lot the titles of your articles. But here this is an abuse. Two letters are not a word, don't assume that others will understand them the same as you. For me the first obvious meaning that comes to mind is in fact "Human Rights", then comes "Croatia", "High Responsibility", "Hi-tech Research"... NOWHERE in your article you explicited it : I think it's "Humane Relationships", but I'm not even sure about it (what is a "HR Director" ??? If you mean someone that is hiring friends in their own neighborhood, then they are paid too high for their incompentence and lack of vision outside of their very little world). Stop abusing meaningless acronyms. All scientific papers that use them include at least a glossary to explicit them. Do the same !! Blame those pesky article aditors that always think that other people are thuinking about the same things that are obvious to them. I really think that they are just too LAZY or just don't know how to write basic English and should return to school. :-[[ GRRRRRRRRRR :-[[

mattz.design
mattz.design

???You think you???re all wonderful and deserve a higher salary, but here in HR, we know the truth. And the truth is, a lot of you aren???t very good at your jobs, and you???re definitely not as good as you think you are.??? -HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina And this is what we all know: HR does nothing. In fact, we all believe HR should be retired, permanently, so that we (the people that actually do the work that pays the bills) can get better salaries and benefits. HR doesn't understand IT. Heck, HR doesn't understand anything outside of HR bureaucrat land. And what goes on in their world does nothing to increase the bottom line. HR is an outdated concept that needs to be retired. Most recruiting is outsourced to outside firms. If HR can't even find and interview candidates correctly, or make the right hires, what use are they?

Mandolinface
Mandolinface

I was intrigued by the salary.com mention, and the complaint that its figures are higher than reality. I checked it for technical writers in the San Francisco area (what I do and where I am), and it showed salaries that were 10 to 15K LOWER than what tech writers around here--at least actual, trained, experienced ones--get paid.

Big Owl
Big Owl

HR is there to muck through the hiring process, and compliance with rules and legalities. Their jobs are to find the right person for the company that writes their checks. In the end that person is a reflection of the culture of the organization. That said, there is no excuse for sloppy interviewers, or conniving law-breakers. But if you are a 25-40 year-old white male, (and most of us posting fit that demographic) then a bit of self-reflection is in order if you aren't getting the offers.

JaneWisniewski
JaneWisniewski

Coloured paper is for pre school! Any droopy handshakes are awful.

aeiyor
aeiyor

Good Day All. Toni Bowers, Another great article, informative and thank you for sharing it. Everyone, Aside from the article itself, the others who have written in response have also helped to add to it. Thanks for sharing your views and what experiences you've had. I am in agreement with pretty much everyone here. When I first started out I really did think HR was there for people (personnel) and that they addressed issues to help employee's and employers. Later and as I experienced from others... HR is the dark side of the company. HR helps mitigate or perform damage control for the company. HR is only looking for the company's best interest. As such I concur with what everyone has posted and noted about HR. I just wasn't privy to just how much more insidious it was. You often wonder what type of character and nature of a person can take on the position of HR. I know I couldn't do it. I figured that HR was more like people who were headhunters trying to get people into the company. I was mistaken. This is interestingly befitting as I was sent a humorous story but a STRONG ring of truth to it. It was about an ant that went to work very happy and productive. A lion observed this and thought.. if the ant does this unsupervised, how much more will be the case if supervised. And this continued until so many were hired that restricted and hindered the ant from performing correctly. And eventually it was brought to the attention of the lion that the company was overstaffed. As such, the first person to be let go was the ant. Which of course creates a shooting foot effect because you let go your primary workers and eventually the company collapses. And it seems lessons don't get learned. Mistakes are repeated time in time again. Thanks again for posting the article/note. More eye-opening though partly already felt that was the case. Sincerely, Satori.

sissy sue
sissy sue

Mr. Galt in Human Resources congratulates the new-hires: "You now bear the mark of a fine herd. But I must warn you, any further disobedience now that you are full-fledged thralls will be punishable by death." from "The Gamesters of Triskelion"

singerdyer
singerdyer

Another HR misconception is that they need to find the best person qualified for the job. Very often they merely need to gather a pool of qualified candidates, and then anyone they picked should be adequate.

srhanna
srhanna

When the pool of available and qualified workers goes down, it will be interesting to see how these attitudes change.

rtillotson
rtillotson

It's been true for years -- "It's not who you know, but who you 'nose'."

gordon
gordon

It is important to remember that HR is not an expert at reading resumes. They constantly fall for good resume writers who do not have the experience or education to back claims made in a flashy resume. This is not really their fault because they can't be expert in every part of the company. If you are looking for an IT person be sure that you get the entire pile of resumes from HR and don't just take their list of good possibilities. I will guarantee that you will not find anyone acceptable in the HR list. In fact, since most people can't write a good resume I have often found the best candidate in the "C" Pile (the worst of the worst) who have ended up being long term employees with better performace than others.

craig
craig

"HR" is just another way to say "Risk Management."

ahorrasi
ahorrasi

that people/employees think company/institutional trolls-at-gates (IE managers, HRs, etc) are on employees' sides and have their best interests at heart. Being outraged at this is like being outraged at the laws of gravity. I read something like this and am like ..."so what's new? why is this shocking?"

Quasar Kid
Quasar Kid

There sure are a lot of sanctimonious postings here...I am betting that the vast majority of folks posting here aren't any better human beings than the so-called scum they are posting about. Odds are you are scum yourself or you wouldn't be posting this nonsense. You people need to get over yourselves. Hate to break the news to you but you just aren't that perfect....

skepticat
skepticat

Check out the Bob Howard/Laundry stories by Charles Stross. It's quite amusing!

1FAST350Z
1FAST350Z

...told an HR candidate during an interview years ago, "I never met a one of you people who didn't suck." Well spoken, sir.

OakvilleMyKey
OakvilleMyKey

Nobody has time to pre-screen in person so, typically, the hiring manager meets them at the same time as HR. ...and THEN HR and the hiring manager both do exaactly what is detailed in the article. It's human nature to judge and screen out based on prejudice.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

I've always been of the opinion that HR is there to get as much from the employees for as little outlay as possible. This belief has been reinforced many times over the last few years, a few examples follow: 1. I've gone without a payrise for 6 straight years 'due to the economic climate', during which time the company has announced large growth, record profits, lots of hiring and acquisitions. (I am a senior technical consultant for a Fortune 500 company with bleeding edge knowledge on virtualisation, cloud computing etc.) 2. I recently left and rejoined this company as I couldn't relocate my job overseas. The company wouldn't meet my salary requirements, so they offered me the salary difference in the form of a monthly travel allowance payment to stop me taking a competitors job. After the first month on the new job, HR cancelled the travel allowance saying it exceeded company policy. 3. I have had to travel a lot for work, and company policy always states 'economy class for all employees', even very long haul flights. Yet on some flights I board and walk past my managers seated in First or Business Class... 4. I was offered another job with a competitor and my manager offered me a payrise not to take it, so I turned the job down. HR then disapproved the payrise. Small wonder I cannot stand those lying cheating bas-tards

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Siphon out the fluff resumes from the legitimate ones. [/i] To do that, HR would not only have to read the resumes instead of pushing them through their keyword detectors, they would have to actually learn something about the job they are recruiting for. Not going to happen.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Now you have two options, I have many, many, many more....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

but we need a union like we need an extra hole in our arses. Once entrenched there are no more fervent believers in the elevation of mediocrity. We've got enough managers (ably helped by HR) being paid to do that, we don't need to pay some time serving sell-out brown noser to help them.

gordonmritchie
gordonmritchie

The free website is a national average not weighted for industry. If organizations subscribe, they can use evidence based metrics for your peers, metro areas and industry sector to position your pay for performance strategy in an open and honest approach. If you make it a taboo or mysterious art in how you evaluate jobs and pay people, differences in opinion should be expected. its really a summary of your organizational culture who gets upset about this. The Enterprise tools salary.com provide allow you to be in the driving seat and handle these conversations.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Desperation coupled with lack of confidence. Course your lot take a dim view when we crush your hand then give you a blank piece of paper because you wouldn't understand it anyway.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I too thought scum was a bit strong. Feeble minded jobsworths would be more accurate.... :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Pre sreening either by a recuitment firm or HR, the majority of whom are IT illiterate, so how do they screen. Word search.... This donl't have the time to get a decent candidate pool, is a typical jobsworth response. Have the time to get a pool of unsuitable candidates don't they? As I said 9 candidates, got past the screening process (2 months !) I knew six of them had lied their arses off within five minutes of a telephone interview. A couple of the resumes were a bit iffy, but until I checked their claims out, no real way to tell.Might as well make a paper aeroplane out the front page, and pick the ten that fly furthest as let a numpty judge them.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Fool me twice, shame on me. After HR tanked the travel allowance, I'd have taken the new job and bugger the raise my manager offered. It's bad enough you got screwed once; no need to voluntarily drop your drawers