What it Really Means to Be a Partner

In our little world, being a “partner” carries weight, right? But, serious question. Does anyone really know what it means?

I operate a staffing firm, where I end up working for free quite a bit. Staffing involves providing services up front, hoping to get paid when the right candidate is found. To succeed, you have to minimize the unpaid work as much as possible. I also speak and write in the TA and HR space, I do free work there too. A lot actually.

Often, I’m asked for “favors” – which translates to free work. Despite being called a “partnership,” it’s usually one-sided—I give, they take. I get it, though. Sometimes, giving something for free can lead to future benefits. It’s like a “loss-leader” strategy.

In my experience, this strategy succeeds about 20% of the time. People generally like helping when asked.

In real business partnerships, it’s similar. While you don’t want to work for free, you should always get something in return. Always.

For example, if you partner with a hiring manager, they should provide valuable feedback or help with networking. If they give nothing, it’s not a partnership—it’s a one-way street.

Genuine partnerships involve support, respect, and mutual benefit. Just calling yourself a partner isn’t enough—you have to act like one too.

Soft Feedback Isn’t Cutting It

Today, it’s rare to get honest feedback. Most people just want praise instead of hearing what they need to improve on.

The thing is, folks struggle with criticism unless they’re expecting it. And not many have the guts to handle it well. So, instead of giving real feedback, we often sugarcoat things to avoid hurting feelings.

Here’s an example:

Soft Feedback: “You’re doing well, but it’d be nice if you could push that project forward.”

Honest Feedback: “You’re good at what you’re told to do, but I need someone who can take charge of projects without constant supervision. I’m here to help you grow, but I need more initiative from you. Can you step up?”

Both say the same thing, but the honest one gives clearer direction. Sadly, we rarely give this kind of feedback because we’re scared of upsetting people.

So, how do we fix this?

It starts with hiring. Candidates need to know we value honest communication and expect them to take feedback well. Those who handle it during interviews are more likely to thrive in a culture that values growth over ego.

For existing employees, leaders need to lead by example. They should show they’re open to feedback themselves and train others to give it constructively.

Coaching and mentorship programs can also help. They give employees support and examples to help them embrace feedback for personal growth.

Sure, it takes time and effort. But companies that prioritize honest feedback build a culture of trust and growth. Employees see the value in open communication, making the company stand out as a place where people can truly grow.

Getting Recruitment Right

Sometimes we get so far into the weeds in recruiting that we forget what is actually important.

We have to have a brand!

We have to have an ATS!

And now, a new ATS!

We have to have a CRM! What the hell is a CRM!

Our job descriptions need a refresh, and let’s face it, our career site could use some work too.

And don’t get me started on the employee referral program.

There’s always a million things to do in recruitment, and it’s hard to keep up.

But here’s the thing: recruiting isn’t rocket science. It’s just about finding people to join your team. There are plenty of potential candidates out there; you just need to let them know you’re hiring.

That’s the golden rule of recruitment: Spread the word that you’re looking for new team members.

It’s pretty straightforward, yet so many good candidates slip through the cracks because they didn’t know there was an opportunity.

Recruitment is all about getting the word out. Sure, you might get some applicants who aren’t quite the right fit, but that’s part of the process.

To find the right people, you need to cast a wide net and let everyone know you’re hiring. Cast that net people!

It’s not just about posting on job boards or your career site; it’s about creating a culture where everyone in your organization understands the importance of spreading the word about job openings.

Unfortunately, many companies miss the mark on this. Whether it’s because they’re too proud or they think it makes them look desperate, they don’t make enough effort to let people know they’re hiring.

This is a big mistake that can sink your recruitment efforts.

Recruitment isn’t about showing off; it’s about being humble and inviting talented individuals to join your team.

High-Maintenance Who?

Ever wished there was a way to spot high-maintenance behavior during job interviews?

We hire high-maintenance employees because they’re very good at hiding their diva-ness during the interview process. Sometimes they even hide it through the probationary period of their employment. These are the really hard-to-handle ones because they know they’re divas and hide it long enough to make your life difficult.

So, what’s the best approach when you find yourself dealing with one?

Managing these individuals has been a recurring challenge in my HR career. They have a knack for causing trouble and thrive on being the center of attention. The key lies in redirecting their focus from their personal needs to what the organization requires. But how do you go about doing that?

Usually, high-maintenance employees become a problem because their direct supervisor doesn’t stop this issue immediately when it comes to light. But, this is common, especially with new hiring managers, so it’s critical to work with them and help them become better managers.

These employees are skilled at playing you against their manager. It’s essential to prevent this from happening. Collaborating closely with the hiring manager to create a unified approach is vital. When they attempt to stir up trouble, it’s important to intervene immediately: “Let’s bring in your supervisor so we can sort this out together.” Despite their objections regarding confidentiality, emphasize the importance of clarity and alignment among all parties.

High-maintenance employees hate to be on the same page because they get their power from the lack of communication within organizations. So the best way to limit their impact is to get everyone in the same room and nip the issue in the bud before it gets way out of hand.

Say Goodbye to the Employee Handbook Snooze Fest

Updating an employee handbook is like doing your taxes – it’s a necessary chore that nobody looks forward to. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s two types of companies when it comes to these handbooks:

Option #1 – We’ve had the same employee handbook since the beginning of time. It’s written on stone tablets.

Option #2 – We rewrite our employee handbook each year because it’s the most important document on the planet.

The problem is both options usually end up writing an employee handbook that reads like a welcome packet to prison. If you forced candidates to read your employee handbook before actually accepting a position with your company 99% would decline your offer!

Your handbook can be more than just a boring document; it can be engaging and reflective of your company’s culture. Here are some tips to make your handbook more appealing to people like me:

  1. Tell a Story: Instead of listing rules and regulations, try to tell a story. People are more likely to read through something if it’s presented in a narrative format. Work with someone in your organization who has a knack for storytelling to craft a more engaging handbook.
  2. Explain the ‘Why’: Many rules in handbooks seem arbitrary. To make them more understandable, explain the reasoning behind them. Even if the rule itself remains unchanged, transparency helps employees understand its purpose.
  3. Add Visuals: To make your handbook more visually appealing, bring in a graphic designer to add some color and simple illustrations. This can help break up the text and make it easier to read.
  4. Communicate Your Culture: Your real culture. Don’t have a funny and engaging handbook when you have a buttoned-up culture, it sends a mixed message. Also, don’t write this boring legal document of a handbook if you have “No Pants Wednesdays” in your office. It doesn’t fit your culture!

Does anyone have a good employee handbook story? What’s the longest handbook you’ve seen?

Your Nose Is Growing! Top Candidate Lies

This is a rerun that I like to share every few years because it never misses the mark. What other lies, excuses or categories am I missing? Drop your favorites in the comments!

Every Monday morning I have a meeting with my recruiting team – it’s a great way to kick off the week – we share what we are working on, we talk about problems we are having on specific searches so the team can share ideas and tips, maybe even a possible candidate they know of, etc.  We also share stories!  Monday mornings are great for sharing recruiter stories – horrible interviews, funny excuses candidates have, negotiating nightmares – you name it, we talk about it!

I was reminded this week how bad of liars candidates can be – we get a lot of candidate lying stories in Monday morning meetings!  So, as a shout-out to my Recruiters – and all recruiters – I wanted to put together a list of the Top Candidate Lies.  When I started thinking about all the lies, I found I could break it down by category – so here goes – hit me in the comments if you have a favorite that you get – or think of one I missed:

The Education Lies

– “I have all the credits, I just didn’t graduate.”

– “I did all the classes, I just need to pay the fees to graduate.” (so you spent 4+ years going to school, got done, but that last couple of hundred dollars stopped you from graduating…)

– “I graduated from ‘State U’, but it was a long time ago, I’m not sure why they can’t verify my degree.”

 “I had a 3.0 GPA in my ‘core’ classes, but a 1.9 GPA overall…”

– “Well, it was an Engineering/Business degree.”

The Background Check Lies

– “No, I’m not on drugs.” Then fails drug screen. “Oh, you meant Marijuana as a drug…” 

– “She told me she was 18.”

– “They told me in court that never would be on my file, so I didn’t think I needed to tell you.”

–  “No, I don’t have a felony.” (Oh, that felony! But that was in Indiana…)

The Experience Lies

– “When you said Java, I thought you meant experience making coffee.”

– “I was a part of the ‘leadership’ team that was responsible for that implementation.” (So, basically you knew of a project that happened while you were working there…)

The No-Show Interview Lies

– “My car broke down.” (Either through some fantastic wrinkle in space, or gigantic amount of lying, candidates have more car trouble per capita than anyone else ever in the world who has driven a car)

– “I couldn’t find the location.” (So, your answer to this dilemma was to turn around and go home and not call and let us know you got lost?)

– “My son/daughter got sick, so I can’t make it.” (Again – crazy coincidences that happen with candidates and sick kids…)

The Termination Lies

– “It was a mutual decision that I left.” (“So, you ‘mutually’ decided that you would no longer have a job?”, is the question I always ask after this statement! Candidates – this statement sounds as stupid as it reads.)

 “I (or any family member) was in a bad accident and in the hospital, so they fired me for not showing up to work.” (No they didn’t – there are some bad companies out there, but no company does this.)

 “I play on a softball team and after games we go out and have a couple drinks. The next morning my boss smelled alcohol and fired me for drinking on the job.” (This was a true lie I got from an employee – it started out as me just giving him a written warning – until I went lunch, not joking – 10 minutes later at the Chili’s down the street from the office, and there he was belly up to the bar drinking a beer…upon cleaning out his desk we found a half a fifth of vodka.)

Here’s my take on candidate lies – candidates continue to lie because Talent/HR Pros don’t call them out on it.  We (HR) also perpetuate this problem by hiring the folks who give you the crappy lie but don’t hire the folks who come clean and tell you the truth.

Employees Want You To Tell Them This

“Can I be honest with you?” is a phrase usually followed by some sh*t you don’t want to hear.  We talk about this concept a bunch in HR. We need to tell our employees the truth about their performance.  We work to coach managers of people on how to deliver this message appropriately.  We develop complete training sessions and bring in ‘professional’ communicators to help us out on the exact phraseology we want to use.  All so we can be ‘honest’ with our employees.

Can I be honest with you?

No one wants you to be honest with them.

Employees want you to tell them this:

  1. You’re doing a good job.
  2. We like having you on the team.
  3. You’re better than most of the others here.
  4. Your career looks promising, and a promotion might be on the horizon.
  5. Here’s your yearly raise.

But that’s only true for about 5% of your crew. The other 95%? Well, they won’t be thrilled with total honesty.

Talent management is a tough nut to crack. No fancy software can fix this. Most folks don’t dig straight-up honesty. It’s uncomfortable, causes drama, and people don’t like hearing they need to step up. Tell someone there’s ‘room for improvement,’ and they think you just called them a failure about to get the boot.

As managers, we tend to dance around the truth. We all have things to get better at, but saying it out loud stings. If someone says they’re cool with feedback, they’re probably lying to you and themselves. Those are the ones who lose it when they hear the truth. People who say they want honest feedback actually want to hear they’re rock stars. Anything less, and they freak out.

So, what’s the real solution?

Say nothing. Set clear metrics for performance. Make sure everyone gets them. When an employee asks for feedback, hand over the metrics and let them spill first. That way, you can agree or disagree. Otherwise, it’s all just opinions, and opinions and honesty don’t mix well.

But hey, you already knew that. Thanks for stopping by. You’re doing a solid job – way better than the other readers. Keep it up, and you’re on the up-and-up!

The Power of Words in a Job Description

Once upon a time (it was a decade ago, but I don’t want to feel old) I wrote about a cool study where Wired teamed up with OkCupid and Match.com. They crunched tons of data from popular dating profiles and found the top 1000 words that got the most clicks. Now, I’m thinking if these words can get people together in dating, maybe they can also get folks interested in jobs.

I’m not just revisiting the topic; I’m going a bit further and tweaking these words to fit the changes in the past 10 years. I get it; words that work for dating might sound weird for jobs, but hear me out. It’s time to rewrite job descriptions to ditch the boring HR talk and be more real and appealing.

Here are the seven sets of words that data says work for getting more dates hires:

  1. Active Life Words: Throw in words like yoga, surfing, pilates, cross fit, hiking, hot girl walk – things that show your company’s active side.
  2. Pop Culture Vibes: Toss in references to things like Ted Lasso, Stranger Things, or Michael Scott. It gives your company a personality. Go ahead and mention Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce while you’re at it. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
  3. Music Words: Check out the top trending artists on Spotify or Apple Music. Add them in. A couple of lines of lyrics work, too. It adds a bit of musical flair to your job descriptions. Taylor Swift works in this category too.
  4. Chill Words: Use words like ocean, meditation, trust, therapeutic, and balanced – things that make your job sound calm and secure, which is a big deal nowadays.
  5. Foodie Feel: Words like chocolate, appetizers, sushi, happy hour, or Starbucks bring people together. Everyone eats. Share your company’s food scene.
  6. Power Words: Drop in terms like creative, motivated, ambitious, innovative, and passionate. Make your job descriptions more interesting than just the legal stuff.
  7. Spontaneity: Tattoos, f*ck, wasted, kissing, puppies, sucking, lucky, these words haven’t changed in 10 years. Stuff you wouldn’t normally find in a job ad – we threw it in just because. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it could catch the eye of the newer generation.

5 HR Habits to Drop Now

Are you doing everything you can to be a top-notch HR pro? Sometimes, it’s essential to take a step back and see if certain habits might be holding you back.

Here’s my list of what habits are holding us back as a profession:

  1. Keep It Personal: In HR, relationships matter. Instead of relying on emails or texts, try talking face-to-face or picking up the phone. Building real connections helps create a positive workplace and makes you a more effective HR professional.
  2. Be Open-Minded in Hiring: Don’t let small things affect your hiring choices. Whether it’s where someone went to school (God forbid they went to your rival) or how they shake hands, focus on what really matters – their skills and qualifications.
  3. Deal with Salary Realities: It’s easy to get frustrated about pay differences between departments. But instead of dwelling on it, concentrate on excelling in your HR role. Understand that each department has its challenges, and your HR skills are crucial in their own way. No one wants to hear about it.
  4. Skip the Power Trip: Avoid using power just for the sake of it. True influence comes from collaboration, not strict rules. Approach your role as someone who facilitates, helping people succeed without unnecessary control.
  5. See the Bigger Picture: While HR is important, it’s not the only show in town. Shift your focus from thinking HR is superior to understanding how you can contribute to the whole organization. Use your HR skills to make everyone’s life easier.

If you want to be a better HR pro, start with these simple steps:

  • Regularly talk to colleagues in different departments. Find out what challenges they’re facing, not just HR issues, and offer real help. This “Business Partner” approach goes beyond typical HR duties and makes you a valuable asset.
  • Learn on the Job: Don’t worry if you don’t know everything about every department. Talk to your peers, learn from them, and use your problem-solving skills to contribute to their issues. Being willing to understand different parts of the business will make you a better HR professional.

Improving as an HR pro is about letting go of limiting habits and being more collaborative and supportive. This way, you’ll become a more effective and valued member of your organization.

Make my birthday wish come true!?

Guess what?

It’s my birthday! Let’s make this one for the books – literally! The only thing I want is for you to go pre-order my new book The Talent Fix, Vol. 2. Head over to the pre-order page, secure your copy, and let the countdown to the book release begin!

I’m beyond grateful for your ongoing support and am lucky to continue sharing this incredible journey with you. Cheers to another year of growth, learning, and a leader’s guide to recruiting great talent.