Spice Girls Know Best

The Spice Girls have always had it right: “If you want my future, forget my past.”

But not HR. HR remembers everything. Once you’ve made a mistake, it’s hard to expect a clean slate in the future. Mark still holds the title of “top salesperson” despite a dry spell lasting three years. Jessica has the “drama queen” label from an incident 18 months back, even if there’s been no repeat. Once labeled, it sticks.

So, what’s the game plan?

If you screw up, if you sense that label, or if a specific issue has warranted repeated discussions, it’s time to consider a career move to a new organization. Pay attention to the number of discussions—once is a potential oversight, but twice or more likely lands you a Lifetime Label. These labels echo stick. Messed up with a subordinate? You’re forever “that” boss, unless you marry them, and even that comes with its own label. But get divorced? Back to square one.

This idea also extends to positive instances which is a good thing and a bad thing. Remember the manager who transformed a struggling business into a standout? Despite multiple failures in similar roles, their name popped up each time a struggling business nearby needed help. However, their initial success owed much to the team’s efforts. Placed in similar situations with different teams, they failed. Yet, the past clung, painting them as the ultimate “fixer.” HR just can’t forget your past!

The real issue? HR won’t acknowledge this tendency. So, if you truly want to “zig-a-zig-ha” in your career, sometimes, moving on is the only way forward.

Reality check! Your candidate experience is probably fine

Here’s the deal about candidate experience: it’s often pitched like it’s some tangible product, but truth be told, it’s not.

We’ve got these big shots in the industry telling us otherwise. They thrive on advising companies spooked about the fallout from a candidate having a bad experience. But let’s face it, that story’s made up. Sounds necessary, but it’s not.

Here’s how Candidate Experience probably came to be:

  1. Imagine this scenario: an exec’s relative applies for a job online. The system does its thing, rejects the unsuitable candidate, and sends the usual ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ But here’s the twist!
  2. The exec learns that their bright relative got zero interaction or even a shot at an interview. Cue the family drama.
  3. To save face, the exec lays into the Talent Acquisition head about the treatment of candidates.

And voila! Candidate Experience drama unfolds—all because a relative got snubbed.

The exec, not wanting it to seem personal, drums up other reasons, and everyone just follows suit. “Treat candidates like our customers! Turn them into fans of our brand! Treat them better than ourselves; it’s a talent edge!” We start buying into this spiel, thinking our methods stink. But the fear that a sour candidate will boycott our products? It’s blown out of proportion. Only a tiny fraction think this way—just par for the course in Talent Acquisition.

For most Talent Acquisition leaders, what we’re doing is just fine. We treat candidates like regular humans, communicate whether they fit or not, and it works. Yeah, some of us might have some wonky processes, but we don’t have any huge issues. The biggest fib in HR? Making Candidate Experience out to be a big deal. Candidates aren’t asking for much—they just want to know we received their application and our thoughts on their fit. Treat them like people: a simple ‘thanks, but no thanks’ or ‘we’re interested, here’s what’s next’ does the trick. Be communicative.

It’s not brain surgery; it doesn’t need a ton of time or cash. You don’t have a real problem. I get it, everyone’s telling you otherwise, so it feels real. But trust me, it’s not!

Maximizing Employee Referrals: The Key to Hiring Success

Referral hires often stand out as the cream of the crop in any company’s recruitment efforts. It’s a simple equation:

Good Employee + wanting to stay a good employee + employee’s reputation = usually good people they recommend to HR/Recruiting to go after and hire

I’m like Einstein when it comes to HR math! However, here’s the challenge: despite this equation, many companies struggle to receive enough referrals. We’ve analyzed our referral process, fine-tuned collateral materials, and even leveraged technology to automate referrals. Yet, the numbers remain short of our expectations and needs.

There’s a straightforward but often overlooked aspect: giving employees explicit permission to share job openings within their personal and professional networks every time a referral is needed for a specific position.

HR excels in roll-outs—we’re masters at initiating programs. However, where we often stumble is in the continuity of these programs post-roll-out. Brutal truth, but true.

So, how can you ramp up your referral game?

  1. Establish a program (surprisingly, not all companies have one).
  2. When in need of a referral, ask for it every single time. Assuming that employees will naturally share openings isn’t always effective.
  3. Specifically “give permission” to employees to share job openings on their social networks—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok you name it!

BEST PRACTICE TIP: Create departmental email groups. When a relevant position opens up, send an email to the group with standard referral language and an easily shareable hyperlink along with clear instructions.

Granting “permission” triggers action—it’s a psychological thing, and it works wonders. Think about it, like you were a 5 year old.  Your parents tell you, you can’t ride your Green Machine in the street.  Then, one day, Mom is out getting her nails done and your Dad sees you doing circles in the driveway on that Green Machine and he goes “Hey, why don’t you take that into the street?!”  What do you do?  You immediately take that bad boy for a ride in the street! Dad “gave you permission” and you ran with it!

Referrals aren’t quite the same, but it’s surprising how some employees question whether they’re allowed to share job postings with friends and family. Don’t assume—they might surprise you.

So, empower your employees. Give your employees permission to get you some referrals! Or what if you allowed anyone in your company to hire?

Life’s Tough, But It Evens Out

In the realm of motivational quotes, one has continually stuck with me: “It’s hard, but it’s fair.” An older football coach used it to fire up his players, but it speaks volumes about life today.

The coach’s son, Toler Jr., eloquently defines the meaning of the phrase:

“It’s about sacrifice. It means that if you work hard, at the end of the day, fairness aligns with your efforts. It’s about investing time and readiness for the opportunities.”

We all think our parents are hard on us growing up.  I recall stories I tell to my own sons of my Dad waking me up on a Saturday morning at 7am, after I was out to late the night before, and ‘making’ me help him with something, like chopping wood or cleaning the garage out.  He didn’t really need my help, he was trying to teach me a lesson about choices.  If I chose to stay out late at night, it was going to suck getting up early to go to school.  He shared with me stories of his father doing the same thing – one night my Dad had gotten home late, so late, he didn’t even go to bed, just started a pot of coffee and waited for my grandfather to get up, figuring that was easier than getting a couple of hours of sleep and then hearing it from my grandfather the rest of the day.

In my role as an HR professional, I witness this every day in the workforce. There are those who consistently dedicate themselves without expecting special treatment. Others will put in the minimum, then expect a cookie. It’s a tough life lesson for those folks. Often, they depart, perceiving unfair treatment, and move between jobs, slowly learning the importance of effort and time investment. In my three decades in HR, genuine hard workers rarely face injustice. Occasionally, undeserving individuals might receive promotions, but the hard workers usually secure the better end of the deal.

As a parent, I hope I can teach my sons this lesson: Life is inherently challenging, but commitment and hard work pave the path to fairness.

Airlines and Credit Card Applications

I’ve been flying a ton lately and have had to experience quite a few airlines. I usually only fly Delta when given a chance. Honestly, I’ve flown all the others, and I find them to be superior in the things that matter to me. Delta gets me to where I’m going when they say they do. The Delta flights I’m on also seem safe and clean. The Delta employees I’ve run into actually come across as professional and friendly.

At the end of the day, most air travel has basically become akin to taking a ride on a Greyhound bus. I say this knowing most people have never ridden on a Greyhound bus. A real trip from one city to the next where you had to go to the bus station to catch the bus. It’s not glamorous. It’s slow and tedious. I once took a Greyhound bus trip from Grand Rapids, MI, to Omaha, NE, to see the girl I love. I believe that specific bus is still en route to Omaha. I started that trip over thirty years ago!

The one thing you notice when you fly a lot, which seems rather out of place, is the pitch to buy the airline credit card. What I’ve witnessed recently is the pressure on getting an airline credit card is directly correlated to the level of the airline you are own. Let me give you some examples:

  • Delta: They make a brief announcement over the intercom of some great offer of free flier miles if you go to some website and get the credit card. That’s it. One mention takes less than a minute. (For transparency’s sake: I have a Delta Skymiles credit card, but they got me via email, not flight announcement).
  • American Airlines and United: They also make the credit card announcement, but they also have their flight attendants walk up and down with actual applications for the credit card. Like, here you go, fill this out right now. It’s almost as if the flight attendants themselves are getting some sort of kickback. Or they should be!
  • Southwest: Much longer pitch, as is the Southwest way. They give way too much freedom to flight attendants and the intercom! I have to believe that standup comics actually get jobs at Southwest as flight attendants simply because it offers them a captured audience for their sh*tty jokes. You know, it’s some flight attendant up there telling a story about how their grandma got the card and came to see them for the holidays. I can’t remember if they also have the brochures/credit card applications that they hand out, but I’m guessing they do. There’s no way they don’t.
  • Spirit/Frontier: Okay, let’s be honest. I don’t fly these airlines. I would take the Greyhound bus before subjecting myself to this Carnival of the airways. But I can imagine what these pitches must be like, given all of the other cheap policies they have in place. Something like, “Yo! If we don’t get ten of you to sign up for this card, this plane isn’t leaving the gate!” They get their ten and then go, “Okay, only five more before we can take off from the tarmac!”
  • Korean Air: Nope. None of it. They just took care of me and made my flight the most pleasant experience ever.

Why do airlines shove their credit cards down our throats after we pay an exceptionally high amount for a ticket? Because it makes them a ton of money! It’s pretty simple economics. We have a captured audience. We are going to assume at least part of the audience are fans because they chose to fly with us. Of course, they want our credit card!

It’s actually somewhat surprising they aren’t pitching more things for us to buy. A new Away suitcase with a special Delta Airlines luggage tag that acts as a tracker as well! (I love my Away bag!) Some arrival limo service that’s easier than Uber and picks you up directly at your gate. Girl Scout cookies. I mean, who wouldn’t kill an entire box of Thin Mints on a flight from Detroit to Dallas? How much for the Girl Scout cookies? $20! Sold! Airport money is different than any other kind of money.

It’s all lazy marketing. We have a captured audience who paid for one thing. Why don’t we jam something else down their throats and see if we can make the flight experience even more miserable? The best is when your flight is delayed, and you hear the pitch. “Hey, why don’t you sell fewer credit cards and just get me to my destination on time!?”

I feel for the flight attendants forced to do this as part of their job. I hope they are getting kickbacks for each one they land. They should!

So, that’s my rant. Airline credit card applications in the air. Stop it. Be better.

Also, if you click here and use the code #SackettMiles you can get 90,000 Delta Skymiles!

Welcome to the age of average

It seems like I keep having these Matrix-like experiences where I see the same thing repeatedly. The world has turned into a meme of an average housewife wearing their Lululemon crossbody fanny pack, Veja sneakers, or Ons (you pick), carrying your Stanley thermo cup, and driving your white SUV that looks like every other SUV.

We can make fun of this image because of how accurate it is. But really, we’ve all turned into this. My buddy KD makes fun of me for my propensity to buy shoes and clothes targeted to me on Instagram before he has the chance to buy them. IG knows if they target me, I’ll buy, and share with KD, who will cherry-pick the best buys after I try them!

If you look at sites like Pinterest, every kitchen looks the same. White cabinets, barn wood floors, and stainless steel appliances. The bedrooms all look the same. The bathrooms all look the same. Our houses, our vehicles, and our clothes all look the same. We have this desire to look like everyone else in every aspect of our lives. I’m no different.

This also extends to our professional lives.

I’ve been saying this for years, but employment branding professionals and agencies are basically just reproducing more of the same. There is very little differentiation from one employment brand to the next. Oh wait, you mean you are also an employer of choice?! How can that be!? You have great benefits, care about your employees, and are building an inclusive culture that values differences! As long as those differences match our differences, making us all the same.

I used to think the only unique employment brands were unicorn companies (Google, Tesla, etc.), but even those brands are all the same now.

We basically offer the same benefits, same work environment, same compensation, and same jobs. The only thing that actually might be unique is some micro-cultures hidden within the broader corporate culture, which is basically the same as almost every other culture. We offer average jobs, in average companies, for ordinary people. Yes, your people are ordinary because that’s exactly what you recruit. You definitely don’t recruit out-of-the-ordinary people. They would never make it through your hiring process!

By the way, I don’t have a problem with ordinary and average. We went through an entire generation who is desperate to think they’re unique butterflies, but by all of them being unique butterflies, it made them all average and ordinary. In the corporate world, we love the ordinary, and we hate outliers.

Generative AI will compound this issue, not make it better. ChatPGT and the like will push us further down the average and ordinary rabbit hole. Creatives will use AI to do their creative work, which will create the same thing repeatedly but faster. AI will learn what we like and produce more of it but in different colors and flavors. Original thought will become mass-produced thought.

How do we get out of the age of average?

Embrace the weirdos. Listen to the crazy ideas and actually try some of them. Tell your candidates and employees the truth. No, the real truth. Be willing to take some criticism over the stuff you tried that failed. As an employer, you are gaining nothing by being like everyone else. Be someone no one is. Some will hate you. Some will love you. Most won’t pay attention. Your goal as an employer isn’t to attract everyone. It’s only to attract the few folks who you truly want and who want you in return.

Does their crazy match your crazy?

We work so hard to try and hide our crazy. Then we are shocked when someone opts out of working for us and turns over. The best work cultures filter in and out with the same ferocity. If you welcome everyone into your work you’ll also be showing a lot of people the door at some point.

Scarcity and authenticity are powerful!

I get asked multiple times a day about how organizations can find more talent. The desperation in today’s world around this one topic is concerning. People are losing their jobs and their well-being over it. Corporate recruiter experience is at an all-time low.

The formula for hiring and attracting talent has not changed and it won’t change. Like anything we desire in the world, it comes down to scarcity and authenticity. That being said, that is also extremely difficult to provide to a job seeker.

Why?

99.99% of us can’t present our jobs in a scarce way. Google can, you can’t. Turns out, you’re not Google.

There are very, very few of us who have the luxury of working for a brand that almost anyone would kill to work for. The unicorn brands, as I like to call them. These brands can create scarcity around their jobs. This scarcity feeds upon itself, where candidates will go to extraordinary lengths to get noticed for a job, just trying to get their “foot in the door”.

The “authenticity” part is where we in the 99.99% of us can fight back!

Whether you are big or small, if you have a non-unicorn brand, we can always be super authentic. It’s harder for those running the scarcity game to do this because part of the game is to have some mystery behind door one.

To be able to leverage your job postings with videos from potential co-workers, the hiring manager, and an executive giving deep insight and understanding of your jobs and brands can be something very powerful to pull in more talent.

Can you combine these? Yes, but you rarely ever see it. Mainly because if you’re lucky enough to achieve scarcity around your jobs, you feel like what do we really gain? We already have almost all the candidates we want, why do the extra work for a small incremental increase.

The key is you have to do one or the other really well. One you control, one you don’t.

What I find is too many organizations act like they have scarcity when they don’t. And almost none of the organizations that should be killing authenticity actually do it.

The formula didn’t change.

Adjust Your Recruitment Packaging!

I talk to a lot of TA leaders and pros who tend to get stuck when it comes to their employer branding and messaging. They want to be transparent and tell candidates exactly who they are and what these candidates should prepare for. The problem being, they believe if they are transparent then candidates will not want to apply or join their company.

The problem with this type of thinking is every single employee, and every candidate for that matter will look at your company and your jobs through different lenses. Take your most loyal employee of all time (Timmy), the person who loves working for your brand more than anyone. What they believe is their truth. Our hope and dream is everyone sees the world, and our company, the exact same way!

Now, take the employee who is the exact opposite end of the spectrum as Timmy! This employee hates you, the company, their job. They are a walking work cancer. The only question you really have about this employee is can we fire them faster than they might be able to quit.

The reality is, your brand and your jobs are truly no different to these two employees, yet they see it as completely different.

When it comes to your employer brand there are some key things you should not adjust for:

  1. This is who we are.
  2. This is what we stand for.
  3. This is what we do.

The rest is just packaging!

Now, I’m not saying you should put out a video that shows daily ice cream socials and free Tesla’s. That would be lying. But if your packaging of your jobs and your company aligns more with how Timmy sees your brand, that’s the packaging. This world is real for at least one person at your company. It’s not a lie, it’s one employee’s truth.

You can change your packaging constantly. By location, by job, by month, etc. The core of your brand doesn’t change. This is who we are, and what we stand for, and what we do. You might even add to this with some this is what we will do for you or help you become. As long as that’s your core and you can deliver on it.

Each of us works for a brand and a job that can sometimes suck and sometimes be amazing, but mostly is a job that we like fine enough, but not as much as a puppy giving you a kiss, or your child running to you after you’ve been gone on a trip. And that’s okay!

So many of us are struggling to get people to apply to our jobs and come work for us right now, and the truth is, we need to step up our marketing game! We need to make our stuff more attractive! More desirable! We need to adjust our packaging. You’re trying to sell high-end jobs with generic branding, and you’re getting generic results.

Can Everyone be the Best Employer to Work For?

I have yet to see an organization come out with a brand that says,

“Hey, we’re Super Average, but come work here anyway!” 

For the most part, every organization spouts off about being the best place to work. Statistically, that just can’t be true. Everyone can’t be the best, right?

I think for the most part it’s just lazy recruitment marketing. You are either the best, or you’re something less and no one would ever go to their c-suite and say, “Yeah, so we’re going with “We are almost the best place in the city to work for!” What do you think!?

Why does anyone really want to work at your company? 

That is really the only question you need to answer. It might be because you’re the tallest of the seven dwarfs in your marketplace. It might be it’s a decent-paying job close to home. Maybe you have a friendly culture, and mostly everyone gets along.

But, really, why would anyone choose you?

The answer will set you free. It will allow you to really have fun with who you are and find others that are like you. Not all of us were raised to work for the “best”. The world needs ditch diggers and toilet cleaners, and people who still get up and go to work, and feel proud of what they accomplish.

The fact is, you and your executives shouldn’t give one sh*t about being the best as measured by everyone. You should only be concerned with being the best for those people, who are your people.

Now, why would anyone really come and work for you?

Hiring for a High Give-a-Damn

Josh Zywien, the CMO of Paradox, made a great hire recently, and I sent him a note telling him so. I like to do that. He knows he made a great hire, but it’s always nice to get a note confirming your belief! If you don’t know Josh, you should give me a follow, he’s one of the good guys in our industry.

Josh responded to my note with a statement I wanted to share because it’s profound:

I like to hire people who have a ‘high give-a-damn’! 

I absolutely love that and told him I was stealing it!

What does hiring for High Give-a-Damn Mean? 

It’s one of those intangibles you know when you see it. Like porn. Hard to explain, but when I see it, I know what it is. High Give-a-Damn (HGD) individuals don’t just care about their job and their company. HGD is pervasive in all aspects of their life. You’ll see it come out in other ways away from their career as well.

The High Give-a-Damn Traits:

  • High attention to detail
  • Live an orderly life
  • Most likely, they have a well-kept house, clean, and probably make their bed every single morning.
  • Classic fashionable dress styles that don’t stand out, but you notice them
  • They say the right things and the right times
  • They can be counted on
  • Follow-through is impeccable
  • They give a shit about stuff that matters
  • Have a habit of taking care of their physical & mental self more than the average person.

People with HGD don’t drive around in a messy car with a coffee stain on their shirt. They might not have a lot of money, but what they have, they take care of. They do more with less because part of HGD is not to waste resources, both professionally and personally. So, you take care of your stuff. Part of your ‘stuff’ is your personal self.

I’ve written about organizations “Hiring Pretty” in the past. Scientific research shows that organizations that tend to hire more attractive people actually have higher results. There is a bit of this in HGD. Individuals with HGD most likely get the most out of the attractiveness they have.

It doesn’t mean the person has to be naturally ‘pretty,’ but think of the time when you took that one selfie, that one time when you were feeling super cute, had that one hat on, the light was right, and now it’s your favorite IG photo. Yeah, that, but now what if you did that every day? That’s HGD. “Felt cute, not ever gonna delete!”

Now, at this point, you might be saying, “Tim, all of this seems superficial. There is nothing here about skill or performance, about actually being able to do the job.” Yeah, I’m not only hiring for HGD and nothing else. This is about what if I had three people who had similar skill levels, education, and experience. At that point, my tiebreaker is, who has the most HGD?

Who is going to bring the most HGD to the team? Because in the end, when I’m going to war with my team, I want people who give a damn. Yeah, we might be making widgets for crackheads, but I still want people who want to make the best widgets for crackheads. People who want to make sure that crackhead has the best experience with our product and service. (Right now, Josh is like, WTF, how did I get in a Tim Sackett Blog Post with Crackheads!?)

Not enough Hiring Managers are hiring for HGD. In fact, as a society, we have kind of gone soft on HGD. We have this belief that you can be HGD in your personal life but not your professional life, or vice versa. The reality is true that HGD is always on or never on as a personality trait. You either give a damn about your life, or you don’t. I want to be around and work with people who are HGD.