A Mountain Bike, Hiking Poles, Yoga Mat, Ball Gown… and a Hiring Manager.

What do these things have in common?  All the items (less the hiring manager) were in the back of my Subaru this afternoon – and the combination made me laugh as I returned home this evening.  I have clearly become the quintessential Coloradan.  The combination also reminded me of Bob*.

Bob was a hiring manager and had just finished leading a panel interview with a promising candidate for a marketing position (I participated in the panel as an HR consultant working on evaluating and redesigning their hiring process).  Rather than walk her to the lobby, Bob escorted the candidate all the way to her car in the firm’s parking lot.  They continued talking as they walked, he shook her hand while standing beside the car, and then he returned to the office.

As we debriefed the interview I asked if he always walked candidates to their car, or if this was a unique event.  He proudly exclaimed, “Oh, if I have someone I believe to be a strong candidate I do that – it gives me so much more information!”  How so?  “I position myself so I can look into their vehicle and see how clean and organized it is, what things they have laying about - you can learn a lot about someone by studying their vehicle”. 


There are several challenges with this scenario – and anyone reading this who is the parent of young children has probably already imagined the first!  Mom and Dad-mobiles are regularly strewn with Cheerios®, car seats, booster chairs, etc.  <Red Flag:  Family Status>  It’s also possible that the vehicle belongs to a friend or family member who lent the candidate their car for the interview.  The candidate could have traded cars with a friend for the week because someone was moving or need a more fuel-efficient vehicle for a road trip.  The vehicle that you’re peering into could also be a rental.  There are so many scenarios that could be in play!

Today as I looked at the collection of items in the back of my vehicle, I tried to imagine what stories Bob might make up about the combination of a mountain bike, hiking poles, yoga mat, and ball gown in the back of my mountain-dirt-covered-Subaru!

The bottom line … for a position of this nature - an internal marketing position which would not require driving anyone around, visiting client locations, etc. – the kind of transportation someone is using to get to/from work, or the current condition of their personal vehicle falls solidly in the category of Nunya Business.   

Until next time.. don’t be like Bob*!   Respect the privacy of candidates and let’s stay away from their vehicles when not directly relevant to the job.

Go be brilliant, and make your workplace and the world a better place one positive interaction at a time!

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.


Mountain Bike Hike Poles Yoga Mat Ball Gown and a Hiring Manager - Nora A Burns - HR Expert - Blog.JPG

Delighted to be a Podcast guest for #WorkingTech (Episode 26)

Bill Banham (Twitter: @Bill_Banham)  of The HR Gazette and the WorkingTech Podcast interviewed me earlier this year to discuss The Undercover Candidate™ and The Undercover Employee projects.  We discussed everything from putting client, employee, and product information at risk with our hiring processes, to the amount of shame and de-humanization that occurs on the front lines of organizations. 

You can listen to the podcast here:  http://workingtech.co/podcast/


DisruptHR Madison Is Tonight!

#DisruptHR Madison 2.0 is tonight!  This will be my fourth #DisruptHR presentation and I'm excited to be back in Wisconsin where my HR career began. 

The event will be live streamed, so even if you aren't in Madison - or if you are and weren't able to get tickets (they sold out nearly two months ago)...you can still watch the presentations. 

Live feed will start ~ 5.45pm Central Time on Wed 06/07/17   disrupt.hinckleyproductions.com

I've had the opportunity to preview several of the presentations -- you won't want to miss this lineup!

My talk: Zero Tolerance - Bad Language or Bath Math is 4th in the lineup. 

Zero Tolerance - Bad Language, or Bad Math?

Do you use the phrase "zero tolerance" in your workplace respect, workplace harassment, discrimination prevention, etc. policies?   Do you truly mean ZERO

As both an HR Consultant, and while working on the front lines as The Undercover Employee™, I have encountered a wide variety of harassment prevention and workplace respect policies that use the phrase "Zero Tolerance", and yet most organizations don't truly mean zero.

Wednesday, June 7th I will be one of a series of speakers presenting at DisruptHR Madison 2.0 (#DisruptHRMSN) - and my five-minute talk (Ignite-style) is on this exact topic.  

If you're not in Madison, WI, or even if you are and simply were unable to secure tickets, don't worry, you can still see the presentation in real time via their live stream, and see commentary via Twitter posts.  

After the event, I'll return to post more about by insights into "Zero Tolerance" policies.  

If you're looking for assistance in writing, editing, or training on sexual harassment policies, or building a culture of respect, please contact us - we welcome the opportunity to partner with you in building a more inclusive culture. 

Looking to Hire Customer Service Employees? Go Shopping!

What?  I don’t have time to go shopping --- I have 17 jobs to fill!  --- hear me out. 

Bebe is the most recent in an ever growing list of retailers who have announced that it will be shuttering stores. 

Bebe joins Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy's, and Kmart - all are closing either all or a large number of retail locations - and all have staff that are currently looking for their next job, or will be soon.  

Don’t wait for these employees to come looking for you --- go to them.  It’s the ultimate customer service simulation --- because it’s not one!  It’s real.    

Tell me about a time when a change has been introduced at work that has had a negative impact on you and how you responded to it. 

BAM--- your answer is right there, in the Macy’s housewares, clothing, and jewelry departments, and in Bebe, Kmart, J.C. Penney, and Sears stores nationwide.      

Years ago my track coach taught me to “run through the finish”. Don’t slow down because the finish line is in sight, keep powering through until that stripe of paint is solidly behind you.  Employees who continue to serve customers with a smile, work hard to solve their problems and answer their questions with energy, even though their organization has announced the closing of their store are “running through the finish”.   Those are the employees you want to recruit, and hire. 

Go shopping.  buy a coffee maker, winter coat, or pair of pants --- but mainly, watch for the exceptional employees who are running through the finish.  When you find them --- hand them your card and share that you are always looking for employees with skills like theirs, and  this is really important while you want to respect their commitment to their store through closing, you’d be interested in talking with them about the possibility of working with your organization after their store closes

Why do I recommend honoring their relationship with Macy’s, Sears, etc.?  Because the employees you are looking for are also loyal.   If an employee is willing to drop everything and walk away then and there, they will likely to the same to you down the road.  This is much the same as when a potential employee says “oh, I’ll tell them I quit tomorrow and can start with you the next day”.  YIKES!  Those words set off alarm bells for me. 

We wouldn’t want employees to leave us in a lurch – so we shouldn’t ask them to leave other employers in a lurch, lest we teach them how to interact with us. 

While it’s obvious that these employees would be a fit for retail jobs, I think it’s important to note that there are transferable skills here that would benefit those of you hiring in hospitality, recruiting for health-care, and looking to fillservice-sector jobs in nearly any specific industry. 

Now go shop --- and don’t forget a stash of business cards!

Grab a Cup of Coffee, and Join Me!

Welcome the the HR-Undercover™ Blog.  Long overdue, and finally here!  Within these posts, I will share insights about the new employee experience.  Writings will cover everything from evaluating the need for an employee, through the candidate experience, the offer, and onboarding processes, right through to the one year anniversary of employment.  We'll talk recruiting, extending offers of employment, team building, first impressions, avoiding hiring bias, ensuring new hire success, retention, respect --- oh, I am geeking out thinking of all the aspects of the new hire experience that will be covered! 

There are a few things you should know.  First, I am an HR professional, not a professional writer, or editor. Please do not let punctuation, and/or grammatical errors scare you off!  That said, I will do my best without delaying posts for multiple edits, and revisions.  If you catch an obvious error, send me a note...you never know what goodie I will send in return!  Of course, if it has to do with my obsessive use of "...", and "-" I am afraid there is very little hope for change.  If Sister Seraphine couldn't deter my use of ellipsis and dashes all those years ago, I am afraid we are stuck with them.  That said, I am in favor of the Oxford comma.  

Secondly, I welcome your questions, comments, and emotional outbursts.  We may not agree on all things HR, and management, ...okay, let's simply accept now that we will have differing opinions at times. Let's further agree that I will respectfully put forth my insights herein, and you respectfully put forth yours in the comments, or via the contact us section of this site.  Different perspectives, and respectful discussion are key components to continuous learning - and I am a HUGE fan of continuous learning. 

Lastly, if there's something here you particularly enjoy, please share it (with attribution) via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc!

Now that we have that covered, what do you say we begin?