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!


It’s Halftime America! Imported from the D

Being in Michigan Chrysler’s last two Superbowl Ads have been big news in our part of the world (check out last year’s ad with Eminem- here).  In case you didn’t see the most recent one, starring Clint Eastwood – here it is:

Super cool right! Make you feel good about America.  If you’re from Michigan and/or Detroit – makes you feel good about that fact – which believe me isn’t an easy task, recently!   It is branding at it’s best.  No one actually likes Chrysler – well not if you’re from Michigan.  Chrysler is like the Big 3’s ugly redheaded step brother.  Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, etc. would be considered a better car buying option by most.  It’s arguable that Chrysler wouldn’t be in the top 7 car buying choices of the majority of Americans. Yet, with branding like this, they probably will be fairly soon!

The concept is almost perfect – classic American actor from a time gone by,  focus on a growing economy and jobs, America’s best known industry – Automotive, and an American city rising from the ashes – heck you don’t even know it’s a Chrysler commercial until the last 10 seconds!   It’s marketing the way it should be.  It’s not thrown in your face – look at our cars, looks at our cars, look at our cars…it connects with an emotion inside of you, a willingness to want to be a part of something bigger, pride in country, pride to be the best – then BAM – Chrysler.  The last connection – the hook – you’re going to go out and buy a Chrysler.  Don’t say you won’t – they already have your subconscious wired to buy.  There isn’t anything you can do at this point, you’re just an unwilling participant in something much bigger than yourself.

Does your employment brand invoke this type of emotion?  Probably not – let’s face it – this isn’t easy to do.  Millions of dollars were spent to get Chrysler to come up with this concept.  You don’t have millions – you have hundreds.  So, how can you get here?  Do the same thing using your own people.  Every company has those leaders and employees who have bought in – they wear the company logo jacket, have the company tattoo and are willing to get into an argument with a fellow employee is dares to bad mouth the company.  These are your brand messengers, these are your Clint Eastwoods.  Let them sell your company.  Get your iPhone – shoot a video – put it up on your employment page of your website (just ask the 22 year old kid in IT, he’ll know how to do it).

It’s hard for HR folks because we always want to control the message. We want to clean it up and make it perfect.  Stop that. It’s alright if it’s a bit dirty, a bit unpolished.  It’s alright that the person might use some language or words you wouldn’t use – this is you – your company – your brand.  Embrace it and others will to.

I’m proud to be from Michigan, and I’m proud of The D (Detroit for all you non-Michiganders) – thanks Chrysler for helping remind us of this.  I probably won’t buy your cars, but many will and you did good regardless.

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 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!

7 Secrets that only HR Pros know

I was reading an article the other evening over at Huffington Post, Welcome to the Club: What only Moms know (Why was I reading this I hear some of my dude HR guy pros asking themselves? Let’s face it I’m 40ish and woman are still mostly a mystery to me, so I try and find out their secrets! Plus I hate being left in the dark on this parenting thing, so “I need the info” as Dr. Evil would say.)  I don’t want to spoil the article, but suffice to say, either I’m very in touch with the feminine side of parenting, or what they were sharing really wasn’t the “real” secrets Moms know!

The article did get me to thinking about secrets and how in HR we seem to always have a few that we are either ask to keep by others, or just the ones we share in this great fraternity of HR.  Here are some of the HR secrets that I thought of:

1. Who in the organization is on the way out.  (Sometimes many people know of individuals who are on the way out, but usually HR has a good pulse on everyone)

2. Who in the organization is probably on the way up, and not because they deserve it. (Every leader has an attraction to an employee or two, for a number of reasons, and those folks usually find their way into roles that they don’t deserve.)

3. How much money you’ll get on your next raise.  (Oh, yes we do. But keep working hard anyway, we don’t want it to seem like it’s predetermined)

4. The information of why certain departments tend to get more (resources, staff, etc.) than others – but we can’t you – it would cause organizational chaos!  (I hate to tell you this, but it usually has nothing to do with department performance and everything to do with you department leader – or should I say lack there of)

5. What you’re going to get for your annual bonus – usually 6-12 months before you get it. (hey, this stuff has to be budgeted)

6. What changes will happen to your benefits – again – usually 4-8 months before it hits you.

7. Who in your company is most likely to go postal on you.  (But we can’t tell you for HIPAA reasons – sorry – but if you sit next to Ted you might want to invest in a bullet proof vest)

I’m sure there are a number of others, but many aren’t unique to just HR.  I was thinking of putting down: We cook the books on our metrics, but guess what? So does every other department!  Let’s face it, in a political corporate structure that relies on metrics to obtain budgeted resources – the numbers aren’t always going to be clean!  I like HR because we tend to have “big” secrets and are called upon to keep those secrets.  It’s probably the biggest failure I see with new HR pros – they tend to try and create organizational friendships by sharing “the secrets” -and it always ends up blowing up on them.

HR has secrets – you knew it, I confirmed it for you.  Now let’s move on – because I not telling you the specifics! (besides the Ted thing)

Employee Communication 101 – Tebow Style

I need to catch up on my HR/Sports related posts!  My teammates over at the 8 Man Rotation are probably feeling like I’m not pulling my weight lately, and what better way to get back in their good graces but to throw out a Tebow post!

So, the big news from John Elway over at the Denver Bronco’s camp is that Tim Tebow has earned the right to be called the starting quarterback going into next season’s Training Camp.  Basically, that means that during off-season conditioning Mr. Elway is not going to allow any other quarterback to beat out Tebow – Oh! Thanks for the vote of confidence Mr. Elway! I’m not surprised by Elway’s announcement.  What I’m surprised about, and probably shouldn’t be, was by Tim Tebow’s response:

“Nice,” Tebow said of Elway’s pledge of support. “It’s a great honor to be a quarterback for the Denver Broncos. I take that very seriously. I’m very excited about this offseason and I can’t wait to get to work and get better.”

He couldn’t have been coached better by a team of PR specialist to respond this way!

Look, Tebow gets that Elway’s endorsement, was really a partial non-endorsement – and he had a choice on how to react, and took the higher road.  He responded in the way we would like anyone of our employees to respond when put in a similar situation, and believe me, we put our employees in these situations!   We constantly have hiring managers deliver performance and succession messages to employees that sound very similar to what Elway gave Tebow:

“Mary, keep doing what you’re doing and good things will happen.”

“Bob, you control what you can control and it will all work out.”

“Gayle, with hard work, you can go as far as you want in this organization.”

“Ray, the only person who is going to stop you, is you.”

This is the classic performance management response/non-response – and we allow this to happen to often – but more amazingly than how much we allow this to happen, is how upset we get with our employees when they become frustrated with this non-feedback, and don’t give us a “Tebow” response!

Tebow is a winner in life because he understands the art of communication.  He understands that, while he has a huge platform on which to speak, using it as a weapon will get neither himself or his organization any closer to their final goal.  Elway screwed up – he should have been honest – “We’ll give Tim every opportunity to compete to be the starting QB of the Denver Bronco’s next season.  We will work this off-season with Tim to make him the best possible QB for our ororganization.” Period. Shut up, no further questions.  Tim showed the organization how to communicate – be humble, be appreciative and be gracious – you will come out a winner every single time!

Want Change? Hire Pirates!

Dollars for donuts, Fast Company is the best publication out their for anyone in the business world!  They hit a home run in my book recently with the article: An HR Lesson from Steve Jobs – If you want Change Agents, Hire Pirates!  “Why? Because Pirates can operate when rules and safety nets breakdown.”  More from the article:

A pirate can function without a bureaucracy. Pirates support one another and support their leader in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and on task in a difficult or hostile environment. A pirate can act independently and take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision and the needs of the greater team.

Pirates are more likely to embrace change and challenge convention. “Being aggressive, egocentric, or antisocial makes it easier to ponder ideas in solitude or challenge convention,” says Dean Keith Simonton, a University of California psychology professor and an expert on creativity. “Meanwhile, resistance to change or a willingness to give up easily can derail new initiatives.” So Steve’s message was: if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join IBM. If you’re bright and think different and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.

The article is an excerpt from Steve Jobs book: What Would Steve Jobs Do?: How the Steve Jobs Way Can Inspire Anyone to Think Differently and Win by Peter Sander, and it goes into some of the hiring philosophy that Jobs had while he was at Apple.

So, what did Jobs Pirates have to have:

1. It’s not enough to be brilliant and think differently- a Pirate has to have the passion, drive and vision to deliver to the customer a game-changing product.

2. Will the person you hire, fall in love with your organization and products?

3. A Pirate is a traveler who comes to you with diverse background and experiences.

4. Even though they’re a Pirate they still have to fit into the team and come with or be able to make connections.

“So, in Steve’s book–recruit a team of diverse, well-traveled, and highly skilled pirates, and they’ll follow you anywhere.”