What would it take to get you to work 80 hours per week?

I’ve interviewed a ton of people in my career.  When I ask people what their normal work week looks like – I “often” hear – “Oh, I work 70-80 hrs per week, all the time!”   I instantly know they are lying – because no one works 80 hours per week all the time!  Do you really know what 80 hours per week looks like? Here’s some examples”

  • 16 hours per day – Monday thru Friday – that’s coming in at 6am and not leaving until 10pm – EVERY day.


  • 12 hours per day Monday thru Saturday with an EASY 8 on Sunday.


  • Oh, and by the way, the two above examples must be with paid lunches and breaks.


The only way you work 80 hours per week is if you own the place. How much would I have to pay you to work 80 hours per week?  Would you do it for $10,000 per week? $520K per year?  No you wouldn’t – you would quit after a month or two – now you’re lying to yourself.  Heck – most owners aren’t even willing to work 80 hours per week.  That’s why so many small businesses fail – people underestimate how much it takes to make a business successful!

“Oh, I would work 80 hours per week if I LOVED what I did.”   Really?  You think you would still LOVE it after working 80 hours per week, week after week, month after month, year after year?  I think it’s incredibly awesome when I meet someone who I truly see Loves their job – you know the type – even if they weren’t getting paid, they would be doing what they’re doing.  Unfortunately 99.9% of us aren’t in a position where we can “work” for free – no matter how much we Love it.  We have bills, responsibilities – we don’t have daddy or a spouse paying our way – we have real life.

80 hours per week – now you’re thinking about it, right?  It’s a lot of time to put forth for one part of your life.  How do you get your grocery shopping done? Watch your kids play at school? Get the cat to the vet? Get your haircut? Get your teeth cleaned?  See your therapist?!

As HR Pros we put so much time, effort and thought into building our rewards and recognition systems.  Many of us think we do this so we can get our employees to give us that extra discretionary effort – to work those hours over 40.  To get our employees to want to work 80 hours per week.  Unfortunately, most of us have rewards and recognition to just get our people to do the job they were hired for – not extra.   When this happens – you no longer have a rewards and recognition system – this now becomes part of their full compensation package.  Rewards and Recognition shouldn’t be put in place “to get the job done” – it should be put in place to reward and recognize those who do more.

I know what you’re thinking – “Tim if I could just have a rewards and recognition system that would get my employees to actually work 40 hours, I’d be happy! 80! You’re out of your mind!”  Believe me, I understand, but that’s what we do, or should be doing for our organizations.  Get great talent, keep great talent, find ways to get that great talent to give us everything they’ve got =’s great HR Pro.

So, what would it take to get you to work 80 hours per week?




Essential vs. Non-Essential Employees

I’ve had many conversations in my career with employees who “essentially” felt they were probably more important to the business than they really were.  You know who I’m talking about!   The ones who at some point let it slip: “This place would shut down if I wasn’t here” or “Let’s see how you do if I leave” or “I made this company what it is today”.  It’s usually a sales person, or technical person who have had big roles, no doubt, but they begin to get a little to big for their own britches (as my grandmother would say).  Over time I’ve developed a good two point test to determine if someone is Essential or Non-essential to your business:

1.  In a snow storm, is this person required to make it into the office/facility no matter what? (think large storm – more than one day)

Example: I worked in a large Health System – Doctors & Nurses had to get in – we actually had plans on how to get them to work in an emergency.  I on the other hand, being in HR – didn’t have anyone coming to pick me up in a 4 wheel drive SUV.

2.  Does the person in question spend way too much of their time trying to convince you of how important they are to your operation?

Examples:  “Without me are largest client wouldn’t be here.” ; “Our department (a non-revenue generating department) saved the organization over $500K last year.” – on a budget of $3.7M…

You know what is really interesting about looking at the life of an organization – when they start out, in their infancy, there is only Essential employees.  We make widgets, all you need is someone to get widget material, someone to make widgets and someone to sell widgets and someone to collect the cash and pay the bills.  Pretty basic.  No HR, No Marketing or Finance, No customer service – it’s a very straight line organization.   Most companies don’t even add an HR element to their organizations until they get over 100 employees – usually an office manager/payroll/accounting person or the owner takes on this responsibility.

I always like to remind myself of who is “really” essential in my organization.  It’s important.  It’s important that as a “client” to those people, I make sure I focus what I’m doing on things that will help them do what they are doing.  That only happens when I actually talk to them, face-to-face, and ask them – “What can I do, to help you do what you do?”  Doesn’t seem overly complicated – but somehow we try and make it harder than that.  You see, that’s what non-essentials do – we convince you that what we do is really important!

I like to look at organizations the same way you pick a team on the playground.  If you had the most essential person in your company begin picking a team – where would you get picked?  First, 10th, last?   It’s a good exercise to go through.  What you’ll see is your most essential person will pick individuals who will/can help them get the job done – without hassle, without issues, without extra work.

Are you Essential to your organization?

Bad Hires Worse

If I could take all of my HR education, My SPHR and 20 years of experience and boil it down to this one piece of advice, it would be this:

Bad Hires Worse.

In HR we love to talk about our hiring and screening processes, and how we “only” hire the best talent, but in the end we, more times than not, leave the final decision on who to hire to the person who will be responsible to supervise the person being hired – the Hiring Manager.   I don’t know about all of you, but in my stops across corporate America, all of my hiring managers haven’t been “A” players, many have been “B” players and a good handful of “C” players.  Yet, in almost all of those stops, we (I) didn’t stop bad hiring managers from hiring when the need came.  Sure I would try to influence more with my struggling managers, be more involved – but they still ultimately had to make a decision that they had to live with.

I know I’m not the only one – it happens every single day.  Everyday we allow bad hiring managers to make talent decisions in our organizations, just as we are making plans to move the bad manager off the bus.   It’s not an easy change to make in your organization.  It’s something that has to come from the top.  But, if you are serious about making a positive impact to talent in your organization you can not allow bad managers to make talent decisions.  They have to know, through performance management, that: 1. You’re bad (and need fixing or moving); 2. You no longer have the ability to make hiring decisions.  That is when you hit your High Potential manager succession list and tap on some shoulders.  “Hey, Mrs. Hi-Po, guess what we need your help with some interviewing and selection decisions.”  It sends a clear and direct message to your organization – we won’t hire worse.

Remember, this isn’t just an operational issue – it happens at all levels, in all departments.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is look in the mirror at our own departments.  If you have bad talent in HR, don’t allow them to hire (“but it’s different we’re in HR, we know better!” – No you don’t – stop it).   Bad hires worse – over and over and over.  Bad needs to hire worse, they’re desperate, they’ll do anything to protect themselves, they make bad decisions – they are Bad.  We/HR own this.  We have the ability and influence to stop it.  No executive is going to tell you “No” when you suggest we stop allowing our bad managers the ability to make hiring decisions – they’ll probably hug you.

It’s a regret I have – something I will change.  If it happens again, I won’t allow it.  I vow from this day forward, I will never allow a bad hiring manager to make a hiring decision – at least not without a fight!

The 8 Man Rotation – 2011 Season

In what is probably the most anticipated eBook release of 2012 the The 8 Man Rotation crew (Matt Stollack, Steve Boese, Lance Haun, Kris Dunn and I) today release to the world version two of our most famous HR/Sports related blog posts of 2011:  The 8 Man Rotation – the 2011 Season.   The forward is written by two of our HR friends and great writers in their own right – Trish McFarlane and William Tincup – who get to poke fun at our obsession with the weird combination of sports and HR that we just won’t give up writing about.  Check it out –

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Do You Have a Jeremy Lin on Your Staff?

“Linsanity” has taken over New York and the NBA!  Do you even know what it is?

Let’s begin with some background – Linsanity refers to Jeremy Lin the up-start Point Guard for the New York Knicks which seems to have materialized out of thin air.  How up-start? In his first 4 NBA starts, with the Knicks, he has scored more than Allen Iverson, more than Shaquille O’Neal, more than Michael Jordan, tops since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976.  Where did he come from?  Harvard – was a good player in college, but not a star.  Was signed and released by both Golden State and Houston, spent some time in the NBA Developmental league, before signing a 10 day contract with the Knicks (which has turned into a longer term deal).

Jeremy Lin coming onto the scene in the NBA is keen to you knocking down a wall in your house and finding $50 million.  It doesn’t happen.  Professional sports are professional because they have and find the best – they scout talent 24/7/365 – they do make mistakes – but rarely does potential get missed.  So, how did this Asian-American Ivy League educated Point Guard fall through the cracks?  No one really has a good explanation.  I can assume being on the only Ivy League educated, Asian-American in the NBA didn’t help him get noticed – for the simple fact – that wouldn’t get you noticed in the NBA.  He didn’t have Duke, UConn or UNC on his resume, the NBA doesn’t care that he’s smart, and so few Asians (under 7 foot) actually ever get looked at for their basketball talent.  He was a plow horse hidden behind a stable full of race horses.

While this type of thing doesn’t happen in the NBA – it does happen in your organizations all-the-time!

The majority of HR Pros just don’t have the background and scouting ability professional sports teams have in tracking potential talent.  We give it our best shot, instituting Employee Development Programs, Succession Programs, etc.  But our reality is, we still have a very long way to go to be truly effective.  So, how can you ensure you don’t have a Jeremy Lin sitting on your bench, that you aren’t utilizing, or worse yet, you allow your competition to have?  Look for some of these traits on your staff:

1. Smarts.  There is a common saying in athletics, you can’t “coach” size. Meaning no matter how good of coach you are, it is still very hard to overcome a team with superior size and athletic ability.  Smarts is the same way in business.  You can hustle your way out of a lot of situations in business – but eventually Smarts will get you!

2. Desire. Give me someone with a desire to be the best, and I’ll take them a long way.  Too many of our employees have the components to be great, but lack the true desire to be great.  Doesn’t matter if your an engineer, accountant, software developer, teacher – little or no desire will kill your talent every time.

3. Love. You’ve got to Love what you do, Love your organization and Love your team.  Those people are set up for success, because there is no place else they would rather be, and they’ll fight to keep themselves in that position.

Just because you have one or two of these doesn’t make you great, or even good – you need a lot of all 3.  To often HR Pros hang onto people way to long because “they work so hard” but lack core talent (smarts), or “they have more talent than anyone else on team”, but lack the desire to do the job anymore.  Stop that!  You’ve got too many good people sitting on the bench, waiting for their opportunity, like Jeremy Lin.  Open up your mind, really look for the combination of talent, desire and those who want to be with you – and put them into the starting lineup!  You won’t be sorry.

The Only Interview Questions You’ll Ever Need

About a year ago Forbes had an article, Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only 3 True Job Interview Questions, that shared the “wisdom” of a handful of Executive Dinosaurs Recruiters on the only things that you should really have to ask a candidate.  There 3 questions where:

1. Can you do the job?

2. Will you love the job?

3. Can we tolerate working with you?

Simple enough – straight to the point – and you can assume for the $75,000 you’re paying, this is probably the extent of their screening as well!

In my Recruiting/HR career it’s probably the single most often asked question I get – from other Talent Pros, Hiring Managers, random people who know I’m in HR – “What are your best interview questions?”  Then you get to hear their questions, and how Google has some really great ones, and I even heard once about a company that asked people if they were an animal which animal would they be, and if you only pick one vegetable to eat the rest of your life, would it be carrots?  It goes on, and on – until you want to vomit!

The actual interview questions have very little impact in the success of the interview.  If you are interviewing anyone with some decent smarts, they are going to be able to ace your questions with little effort.  What is important in interviewing is what you allow the candidate to get away with.  I find that most recruiters and hiring managers to be way (I mean WAY!) to easy when it comes to questioning candidates.  See if this example sounds familiar:

Interviewer: “John, looks like you left your last next to last company in May, but didn’t start your current position until July. Can you explain that gap?”

John: “Sure, you know I was doing a great job and I didn’t see myself moving up in that company, so I wanted to go find somewhere I could move up the ladder.”

Bam! At this point – most – interviewers move on to the next questions.  When clearly, John deflected, and someone needs to rip into some Gestapo interrogation tactics and find out what’s really going on.  But they don’t, it would be conflict, he might think we are rude – we’ll move on…

Follow-up questions to original answers during an interview is a skill in itself.  The only interview questions you really ever need are the questions a Jealous Girlfriend asks when you come home on a Saturday morning around 3am.  Shoot – just hire Jealous Girlfriends as your interviewers – they’ll get to the bottom of a candidates background!  The hardest interview I ever had was with a woman that was eventually my boss, who was a former U.S. Army interrogator – it was exhausting, it was painful, it was Awesome – I actually lost my voice (after the 7th hour – True Story!).    She was the ultimate Jealous Girlfriend, in fact I think she trains Jealous Girlfriends in her spare time.  There wasn’t an answer I could give her that she was satisfied with, she just kept at it, until I would slip and say something I really didn’t mean to, and once she smelled the blood, it was over.  The result – she hired the best talent (excluding me) in the entire organization by far!  Bad hired did not make it past here interviewing technique.

So, don’t worry about having the “best” interview questions – really any will do – just don’t accept the first answer you get!


Do You Know What Your Employees Are Doing Tonight?

I love Fast Company – if I could only read one magazine ever – it would be FC.  If I could read two – I would re-read Fast Company.  Article for article the best publication on the market. (Editor note: Fast Company, please send the check care of The Tim Sackett Project)

Recently, FC had an article about the expectations you put on your employees, after hours: “It’s 10 pm, Do you know where your employees are? 4 Steps to set after-hour “work” expectations.” From the article:

“Leaders fail to clarify their personal preferences for staying connected to work with technology, and don’t share their expectations of the responsiveness with their direct reports. This leads to misguided assumptions that can wreak havoc on the work/life balance of their employees. And most leaders have no idea any of this is happening.”

There advice:

1. Recognize that you have to initiate the conversation with your direct reports.

2. Decide what you really expect in terms of response and connection.

3. Have a meeting, state the parameters clearly, and then be consistent.

4. Finally, keep the lines of communication open and encourage ongoing clarification.

So, what is the big dilemma about setting after-hour work expectations?  It invades upon our personal life, right!?  Wrong!  Here’s the deal – if you want work-life balance, you need to have balance both ways. That means, taking a phone call from the boss or the client at 9pm on a Wednesday, or finishing a project on Saturday afternoon, etc. But you should also be able to negotiate what “normally” will look like (knowing we all have exceptions that will crop up from time to time).

Here’s are the expectations I’ve set with my team:

1. If you are a Director or above:

A. If I call you after-hours, you pick up the phone – or call back within 10-15 minutes – or I read that you’re dead in the morning paper. (I rarely call my direct reports after-hours, so if I do, it’s important, you can step out of your son’s basketball game for 5 minutes and take my call)

B. I don’t make you work nights or weekends – but if you have to for some reason – don’t tell me you did it, like you just cured cancer – you didn’t, you did your job.

C. Let me when a client is upset, no matter what time it is, if I’m on vacation, if I’m at a funeral, my son’s wedding, meeting with Obama – I need to know – now!

2. Managers:

A. If I call you after-hours, you pick up the phone – or call back within 10-15 minutes – or I read that you’re dead in the morning paper. (see the trend yet?)

B. If recruiters are always staying later than you are staying – eventually I’ll pick one of them to be manager.  You don’t have to stay late every night, but don’t be the first out the door everyday.

3.  Recruiters:

A. If I call you after-hours, you pick up the phone – or call back within 10-15 minutes – or I read that you’re dead in the morning paper. (I think we are clear on this)

B. Unfortunately, recruiting isn’t a 9-to-5, Monday thru Friday job. Well, at least for recruiters who are actually good. Doesn’t matter if your agency or corporate – the best connect with talent on nights and weekends, especially to close deals.  There is an expectation you will do this.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just be straightforward about it and set the proper expectations that “you” have – not organizational expectations – many times those don’t align – have enough self-insight to know what you need from your team – you’ll be happier, and they’ll be happier.



How To Really Get an Entry Level Job

I get asked a lot by all kinds of people about the “secrets” to landing a job – students, parents of students, experienced professionals, not so experienced professionals, etc. – it doesn’t matter – everyone has this belief that because I run a recruiting company and have worked in HR for going on 20 years I have the inside. Well, I do!

The cool thing is, most people already know what they need to do to land a job – they just refuse to do it.   It’s the same with losing weight.  Move more, eat less.  It’s really that simple – but that takes work, that takes discipline – what we all want is that drink as much beer as you want and eat fried foods diet – but we know that won’t work! (BTW – if you have a good Beer and Fried Foods Diet Plan please send it my way!)

Finding a job (especially an entry level professional level job) takes work, it takes networking, it takes picking up the phone and having conversations, it takes asking for help, it takes asking people to do things for you – and many of us just aren’t comfortable doing all of these things.

This past week I received a message through LinkedIn from Christina Hart.  Christina is an entry level college grad from the University of Michigan, looking for an entry level professional level position in New York City.  She is looking for a Social Media, PR, Marketing type position, is willing to grunt work.  Christina was reaching out to me, asking to for a few minutes to talk, network and see how I might be able to assist her in her job search.  After telling her I refuse to help UofM grads and ribbing about her school choice – we scheduled some time to talk.  Here was my advice to her:

1. Keep doing what you’re doing. (Let’s face it – reaching out to random HR people you have no connection to and asking for help – takes guts! She has them.)

2. Use your University of Michigan (wait, I just threw up in my mouth) alumni status.  She needs to LinkIn, email, call every single NYC UofM alumni that she can find and share her plight. Here’s one tip I think most people miss – start at the top first!  Director, VP level and above – the more experienced the more willing they are to help, because they don’t fear you’ll take their job!  If you want a Social Media job, don’t contact the Social Media person – they won’t help – they’ll think you’re after their spot.

3.  Be Specific. Entry levels always want to open themselves up to as many possibilities as possible, but when HR folks and Hiring Managers see these resumes they feel like the person doesn’t know what they want.  If you want a social media position, say you want a social media position and go after it.  Specific people get hired before the all-things-to-all-people People.

4. Ask for help.  Inherently, people want to help someone who asks for help – it’s in a normal person’s DNA.  Entry levels tend not to want to “burden” people, and they make it too easy for people to turn them down.  Don’t do this.  Beg for help, plead for help – you’ll be amazed at what people will do to help you!

5. Commit.  Christina is originally from the D (that’s Detroit for you none Michigan people), but she wants to live in NYC.  She just signed a 4 month lease in NYC – she is committed.  She is not waiting to get a job, then moving.  She’s on the ground – will start tomorrow – ready!  To few are willing to do this – it says a ton about her.

This is really hard for me to do, because I usually get paid a bunch of money for referring someone – but – got an entry level position you’re trying to fill? –  give Christina a call, she is going to make some company very happy (even with that UofM degree)!

And don’t get use to this – I’m not giving away free talent everyday!

Are You Really Giving 100% – SuperBowl Edition

I’m not a fan of the Dallas Cowboys but they have a number of quotes inside their locker room used to motivate their players.  One of those quotes has stuck with me:

“Don’t Confuse Routine, with Commitment”

If you’ve been around sports long enough, you realize the truth to these words.  It is so easy to get caught up in our “routines” that we begin believing this is “commitment”.  You begin to hear things like:

“I come to work everyday”

“I put in my time”

“I produced more than anyone else in my group last year “- (last week – yesterday – etc.)

“I work hard”

“I don’t complain”

You hear these things, right!?   And, for the most part, we have this filter that makes us believe that they are the right things to say, but the reality is we are confusing routine with commitment.

I have to tell you something – I’m probably not the best guy to work for.  Why?  I don’t give out many trophies for people that do what they were hired to do.  When you come to work in my barn, I expect that you are going to perform the job you were hired to perform.  That job takes hard work, you have to show up everyday and work, I don’t put up with complaining, and I expect you put in more than your time.  I rarely confuse routine with commitment.

We all have routines, but I don’t equate your routine with being committed to my organization or to your profession.  Commitment happens when you show your willingness to go beyond your routine on a regular basis.  I run a recruiting company – candidates aren’t always available between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday – Clients aren’t always available to talk to you between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday – mostly they are – but not always.  So to be a committed recruiter or sales professional in my organization you will have to make connections with people at odd times, on odd days – it might even require you to take a call or have an appointment on the weekend.  Like many other occupations and organizations, I’m sure.

So, how do I know if someone is committed – I don’t hear about it.  I don’t hear they had a call on Saturday or they interviewed someone on Sunday evening.  I don’t hear about how it took away from their personal life to take a client to a ball game on Saturday.  Commitment is quiet.  Commitment doesn’t have to boast or complain.  They did it because they knew it was the right thing to do for their career and for the organization.

If you show up to run pass routes in the off season, and you’ve done that every year since college – that’s a routine.  If you show up to run pass routes, and you invited and personally picked up 3 other teammates on the way to the field – that’s commitment.  Do let your employees confuse the to.


Candidate Bill of Rights

In November 2010 Monster.com asked me to write a post on a hot topic at that time a “Candidate Bill of Rights“.  Needless to say, I’m not a huge fan of a Candidate Bill of Rights – I’m a Capitalist and believe in a free-market system of HR and Recruiting.  Here were my main point then – and what they are still today:

Candidates –

You Don’t Have To Apply:

  • If we have a crappy working environment – you don’t have to apply
  • If we don’t pay appropriately for the market – you don’t have to apply
  • If we don’t give my employees opportunities for growth – you don’t have to apply
  • If we don’t treat you like a human – you don’t have to apply
  • If we don’t give you a full job description – you don’t have to apply
  • If we don’t tell you every step of the process – you don’t have to apply

You Don’t Have To Work Here:

  • If we make you wait endlessly without any feedback – you don’t have to work here
  • If we make you an offer that you don’t like – you don’t have to work here
  • If we don’t offer the right work-life balance – you don’t have to work here
  • If we give you a bad Candidate Experience – you don’t have to work here

Candidates – if any of the above is true – you have some decisions to make:

1. Can I live with what I know about the company and the experience they put me through to get this offer?

2. IF SO, do I want to come and work for the company?

3. IF YES – welcome aboard, you’re coming on ‘Eyes Wide Open’

4. IF NO – thanks – good luck – see you next time

You see we all have choices – if you don’t like the way I’m treating you as a candidate, don’t come and work at my company.  I would hope that most HR Pros are smart enough to get this fact – treat candidates like garbage and they’ll stop applying for your jobs, thus making your job all the more difficult.  That might be a bit pie-in-the-sky thinking because I also know way to many HR/Talent Pros that don’t get this!   They have a little bit of power and have decided to torture candidates with painfully long and arduous application and selection processes – that aren’t helpful to their own companies, statistically, and definitely aren’t helpful to the candidates.  During a recession they don’t see much impact from these horrible processes, but eventually the tide turns and face the results of their actions.  Karma is a bitch!

So, do we need a candidate bill of rights – No!  Do you need to spend a ton of time, effort and resources on candidate experience – No, as well!  Don’t go right ditch-left ditch and start over correcting.  Treat candidates like you would want to be treated.  Have a few standards and etiquette, and some manners.  It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and you definitely don’t need to pay a consultant to show you how to do it!