Surprise! HR’s Secret Weapon Revealed

If there’s one piece of advice I could give a new HR Pro, it would be this: no matter how prepared you think you are, you really only need to prepare yourself for one thing—being surprised.

You don’t really get judged on your daily stuff. Let’s face it, 99.9% of the time, your routine tasks go off without a hitch. Handling payroll, organizing training sessions, and managing employee benefits are important, but they usually follow a predictable pattern.

What sets you apart, and what you are truly judged on, is how you handle the unexpected.

Surprises make and break great HR Pro careers.

There’s only one way to prepare for surprises—you need to expect that a surprise will always happen. That one employee you can’t lose or the entire project will blow up? Be prepared to lose them. Talk about it, plan for it, and basically accept that it will happen. Conducting risk assessments and having backup plans can help, but mentally preparing yourself is just as crucial. Then, when it does happen, you’ll be the only one not surprised by it.

The best HR Pros I’ve worked with had this one common trait: they were unshakeable when surprised, almost like they expected it. They had a knack for staying calm and composed, no matter the crisis. Whether it was a sudden resignation, an unexpected legal issue, or a last-minute change in company policy, they handled it with ease.

Expect the unexpected, and you’ll not only survive in the HR world, but you’ll also thrive.

Hiring your first employee is a big deal!

Do you remember your first hire? It’s normal to have felt nervous because you definitely didn’t want to make a mistake. You wanted your first hire to be amazing!

All of our new recruiters and hiring managers face the same issues when hiring for the first time. They’re not quite sure what to do. It’s kind of like bringing your first baby home from the hospital. Remember that? You get to the lobby with your baby in the car seat, and you’re waiting for someone to stop you like “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” They might as well put a sticky note on your forehead that says Hey I’m new to this!

That’s exactly how our managers feel when they hire for the first time. You’re letting me make this decision? Are you sure?

To help out, I’ve put together a list of the Top 7 Rookie Hiring Mistakes to avoid. Here they are:

  1. Letting HR Control the Process
    This is your hire. You’ll probably be working with this person every day, so get involved from the start. Don’t just sit back and let HR handle everything.
  2. Looking for the Perfect Candidate
    No one is perfect, not even you. Find someone who can do the job well and fit into your team, rather than holding out for perfection.
  3. Hiring Someone Just Like You
    You might think someone like you would be great, but it’s often better to hire someone who complements your skills and brings something different to the team.
  4. Moving Too Slowly
    If you find a great candidate, don’t wait too long to make an offer. Good candidates are often snapped up quickly by other companies.
  5. Taking Too Long to Fire a Bad Hire
    First-time managers often think they can fix a bad hire. Don’t drag it out—if it’s not working, let them go quickly.
  6. Thinking Recruiting Isn’t Your Job
    As a manager, finding the right people is part of your job. Take ownership of the hiring process and work with HR, but remember that you know your team’s needs best.
  7. Worrying About Leadership Judging You
    Leadership isn’t going to judge you on one hire. They look at your overall hiring track record. One mistake won’t define you, so don’t stress too much about it.

What do you think? What are some of the biggest hiring mistakes you see new hiring managers making? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Hiring on a New Level

Did you know that a whopping 80% of hourly workers live within a 5-mile radius of their workplace? Another study found that 70% of individuals avoid commutes over 30 minutes.

It’s obvious: proximity matters.

No matter if you wear a blue collar or a white one, most people prefer living near their workplace. Who wants to waste time stuck in traffic or on crowded buses or trains? Commuting, even if it can be productive, usually throws off work-life balance.

I created this idea of “Hyperlocal Hiring” years ago. Imagine if companies exclusively recruited individuals to reside within a 1 to 3-mile radius of their premises. The idea is simple yet transformative – making a community of employees who can conveniently walk or bike to work, minimizing commute stress and maximizing efficiency.

The benefits of Hyperlocal Hiring:

  1. Enhanced Work-Life Balance: Hyper-short commutes translate to happier, more balanced employees.
  2. Stronger Bonds: Being close to each other helps coworkers form stronger relationships, making the work environment more unified.
  3. When employees live and work in the same area, they become essential members of their communities, which boosts their involvement and job retention.
  4. Cultural Cohesion: Being close together helps everyone share the same beliefs and values, making the company culture stronger.

Skeptics might have good points, especially about how doable and big we can make Hyperlocal Hiring. Sure, it could be tough for huge companies with thousands of employees. But for smaller and medium-sized businesses, it’s a great chance to get and keep awesome employees, especially younger ones who really want to be part of a community.

Now, you might be thinking about how limiting the candidate pool could work. But that’s the great thing about Hyperlocal Hiring – it’s not about having lots of options, it’s about getting the right people. When you bring in folks who believe in creating lively little communities, you build connections that go beyond just working together.

So, should we give the Hyperlocal revolution a shot?

How Long Should Candidates Take

When it comes to candidates accepting job offers, how long should candidates take? Should they say yes right away or take some time? Let’s talk about why waiting might be a good idea.

In the past, it was common to expect an immediate answer. Just say yes or no. But things have changed. Now, it’s more about whether the candidate fits well with your company’s culture and values.

So, why suggest giving candidates 72 hours to decide? It’s like giving them time to think after the initial excitement wears off. This helps them consider all aspects of the job and compare it with other options they might have.

What’s meant to be will always be, right?!

What if they get another offer during those 72 hours? It’s not a big deal. If they accept another offer, it probably means your company wasn’t their first choice to begin with.

What about the fear of candidates changing their minds? In today’s job market, it’s understandable. But if a candidate hesitates because of a short wait, it might mean they were never really sure about the job.

In the end, there’s no one right answer to how long candidates should take. It depends on your company’s culture and what feels right. Whether it’s asking for an immediate response or giving candidates time, the important thing is to create a process that’s fair, respectful, and right.

What do you think? How long should candidates take to decide?

Is Anyone Really Fully Staffed?

If you’re in HR or talent acquisition, you know the frustration of never quite hitting that ‘fully staffed’ mark. Whether it’s in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, or any other industries, the constant struggle of hitting that ideal number of employees—like aiming for ’37 nurses’ but always hovering around 34 or 35—is all too familiar.

So, why does it seem impossible to reach full staffing capacity? There are three key factors:

Unrealistic Projections: The idea of being ‘fully staffed’ is based on a perfect scenario where everything aligns perfectly. But in reality, that never happens. Budgets set the numbers, breaking them down by the day or even the hour. But here’s the problem: these plans often don’t consider the actual staffing needs.

Reluctance to Over-Hire: Many HR pros are hesitant to hire more than they think they need. They worry about what’ll happen if the demand suddenly drops after they’ve hired extra people. God forbid they be over-staffed! This caution makes them play it safe and avoid hiring more, even when it might help reach the right staffing levels.

Comfort with Understaffing: Some companies actually feel okay with not having enough staff. They use it as an excuse to keep average workers around and justify paying for overtime. It’s like they’re subconsciously avoiding the responsibility that comes with having a full staff, because it means they’d have to deal with performance issues and manage more closely.

In reality, managing 37 open nursing jobs, means you’ll need more than 37 hires due to turnover, varying levels of experience, future vacancies, etc, etc. Yet, we never hire 40 or 41 nurses.

Ultimately, the reluctance to fully staff comes from being too comfortable with having too few people. This leads to making excuses and not holding anyone accountable. But shifting to full staffing means facing performance issues head-on and striving for excellence.

You’ll never become fully staffed because deep down in places you don’t talk about at staffing meetings you like to be understaffed, you need to be understaffed.

Hiring is a Black Hole

Let’s be honest, the process of hiring is a black hole. Despite our best efforts (and all the fancy technologies we use), predicting how a candidate will perform within our organization will always be an unknown. We may think we have it all figured out until they fail, then we blame them, not our inept ability to select the right talent for our organizations.

I have two quotes from Seth Godin regarding expertise. 

1. “It’s easy to pretend expertise when there is no data to contradict you.”

    This rings true for many HR pros and hiring managers who boast of their hiring powers without evidence. We’re quick to dismiss inconvenient data that doesn’t align with the narrative we wish to make. “Well, Ted is one of our best managers, he’s been here a long time. Sure his 90-day turnover is twice as high as the next hiring manager, but that’s not Ted’s fault, he has high turnover positions.”

    2. Relying on the ignorance of a motivated audience, isn’t a long-term strategy.”

    These two quotes align perfectly. Often, hiring decisions are made by people who are rushed and under pressure to find talent quickly. When these factors come together, it doesn’t cause an immediate disaster, but it can lead to problems in the long run.

    While many claim to be good at hiring, true expertise comes from listening to data and resisting pressure to make bad decisions. It’s not easy work. If you listened to me at SHRM Talent this month you heard me loud and clear… Recruiting is hard. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    Mastering effective hiring isn’t just a goal; it’s essential for long-term success. Challenge the norm, use data wisely, and avoid the pitfalls of poor hiring decisions. Your organization’s future—and your career—depend on it.

    There’s No Stupid Questions (said no one ever)

    When it comes to interviews, the questions you ask as a candidate can make or break your chances. Instead of providing you with stellar questions to impress your potential employer, I’m here to give you three questions that could send your interview spiraling downhill in just seconds. And believe me, these questions aren’t hypothetical; they’re straight from the playbook of real candidates we’ve encountered.

    1. “Do you conduct drug tests?” We do now! You might as well be waving a red flag. It screams I’m going to fail a drug test, and I’m convinced it’s a tactic to ensure they won’t be hired. Their loved ones probably just wanted them to interview. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. Other question on this path – Do you do background checks? Do you do credit checks? Do you hire felons?
    2. “When can I start using sick time?” This question should set off alarm bells for any HR pro. It signals a potential attitude or attendance issue. Let’s be clear: if someone is already planning sick days before they’re even hired – you aren’t going to be happy with that hire. Other questions on this same path:  When would I get a raise? How soon can I use my health insurance?  What happens if I’m late to work?
    3. “Is dating coworkers allowed here?” *raises eyebrows. While it may seem innocent, it implies either ulterior motives or a lack of professionalism. Or I’m-still-a-frat-guy mindset. I once had a candidate ask this question and my immediate follow up question to this, without answering his question, was – “Are you dating one of the employees here?”  To which he said “No” – but that he ran into this at another employer and didn’t want to ‘have any problems’ again.  So, you’re assuming we have folks here who are just not going to be able to hold themselves back and must date you!?  Is what I’m hearing!  Which by the way, totally fine with work place romance, but don’t ask about it before you’re even on the team! Other questions on this same path: Can you drink alcohol on the job here?  Can you smoke pot in the work bathrooms?  Can you steal office supplies?

    What’s the most cringe-worthy question you’ve ever heard in an interview?


    Zero. Nada. Zip.

    In my decades of hiring experience, that’s the exact count of candidates willing to commit to a job without a phone call. Zero-point-zero!

    Chances are, your experience aligns closely with this. I swear it’s a universal benchmark across corporate, agency, and RPO sectors, spanning all job types—hourly, salaried, temporary, contract, and seasonal. The whole shabang. No one’s willing to just jump in.

    Let me ask you a couple of questions:

    1. Would you accept a job without talking with anyone from the company?
    2. Would you go for an interview without prior dialogue about the role?

    My guess is almost 100% will say no to number one, but some of you would actually say yes to number 2. Okay, I’ll buy some of you would go to an interview before ever speaking to anyone live about a job. I don’t think it’s many, but I’ll give you some people just want a job and a text or email communication is good enough for them. I’ll also assume the quality of those people will be questionable.

    The fact is that there’s a very strong correlation between engaging candidates through live conversations and their commitment to the hiring process. Like extremely strong.

    Recruiters who invest in meaningful phone outreach witness a surge in candidates eager to explore opportunities. This principle holds true in every recruitment setting—every single one.

    If you’re not picking up the phone every day, you’re likely missing out on candidates who are ready to navigate your hiring journey.

    I Want You To Want Me

    We make talent acquisition much harder than it needs to be. We talk about employment branding, candidate experience, and recruitment analytics—all important, but sometimes we overlook the basics of attracting great talent.

    At its core, the most powerful talent attractor is simple: it’s about being wanted.

    I want you to want me.

    Imagine getting a call from a recruiter who wants you to join their team. Doesn’t that make you feel good? It’s like a validation of your skills and worth. We all love to feel wanted—it’s a basic, natural emotion.

    The key to successful talent acquisition is helping your team and organization understand this. Imagine if recruitment felt more like trying to impress someone you like, rather than assuming candidates should naturally be drawn to us.

    Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. We tend to act as though candidates should be eager to join us, rather than recognizing our own desire to have them on board.

    Now, flip the scenario. Imagine that same call from a recruiter, but this time they’re not interested in you personally; instead, they’re seeking referrals. How would that make you feel? Dismissed and unimportant, right?

    We want to be wanted. We want to be desired.

    If you can shift your recruiters’ mindset to embrace this concept, you’ll notice a remarkable change in how you approach candidate interactions. Understanding that candidates are just like us—yearning to feel wanted—makes recruiting feel effortless.

    “So, I shouldn’t act like I’m doing them a favor by talking to them?”

    Exactly! Treat every interaction like you’re hoping they’ll agree to a date—with enthusiasm and genuine interest, but without the direct proposal. Consider your communication with candidates as a reflection of how you’d want to be approached yourself.