Tech & Work

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 or" -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
  • "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

On HR and salary negotiations:

  • "There's one website that drives all HR people crazy: 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.


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.

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