Sunday, February 19, 2012

Diamonds or Toads: How Your Hiring Authorities Help (or Hurt) Your Company's Reputation

My brother teases me for retaining my 20 year-old AOL email address.  Call me sentimental:  it's the account Joel and I created the year we were married.  It doesn't have any numbers in it.  My AOL account is a repository for merchant emails, so I basically skim it once a day.

When I opened up AOL this morning, I saw the story on the news feed about the store manager who allegedly told the applicant with 1.5 arms that he would not be able to work in her store because of products placed on a high shelf. (Apparently, the store manager experienced interview amnesia and forgot the store had both a step-stool and a ladder, standard gear for a retail store).  The applicant appears to be a nice, stand-up guy with 11 years of uninterrupted service and retail work experience and a sterling reference from his last manager.  The same applicant who the store manager during a 15-minute interview also allegedly ridiculed for working at Victoria's Secret while allegedly simultaneously sexually harassing her co-interviewer about her bra size.

What immediately popped in my mind was not my 20+ years of hiring and HR legal experience:  it was the Toads and Diamonds fable.  You know:  the fable about the two sisters who are tested by a fairy at the well disguised as a thirsty old woman.

The kind sister, who immediately gives the old woman a drink of water, is blessed with the gift of diamonds, pearls and flowers spilling from her mouth every time she speaks.

The nasty sister, who shooed the old woman away instead of giving her a drink of water, is given the curse of toads and vipers falling from her mouth every time she speaks; and is consequently shunned and shortly thereafter dies in a corner of the forest.

The kind sister wins marriage with a prince she meets in the forest with her new gift.   The Middle Ages' version of career success for women.  But I digress.

Hiring authorities at every level, from CEO to store manager, assume great power and equally great responsibility.

Most hiring authorities understand this role, and represent their companies adequately:  that is, they don't violate the law during the interview or engage in insulting behavior, leaving their job applicants with a neutral experience. No diamonds or toads.  The prediction would be that their customers have a neutral, shredded wheat-type experience, too.  Not the best stance against their competitors, but not the worst.

Some hiring authorities are on a power-trip doomed for personal and reputational failure, acting like the capos at the gates of Auschwitz treating job applicants like prisoners of war.  "Go to the right, and I'll grant you the privilege of working for me," the little power-mad voice in their heads sings.  "Go to the left and be condemned to continued unemployment."  Certainly not freedom through work.  And certainly not companies you would want support with your patronage or your employment.  A nest of vipers and toads to make Indiana Jones sweat, indeed.

And then there are the bleeding-edge hiring authorities and companies who get it. Who have clear values, visions and missions, and know how to walk the talk accordingly and consistently. Who recruit for the diversity in their candidates that equals or exceeds the diversity of their customers.  Who hire managers and hiring authorities who also walk the talk accordingly and consistently, and make available those who don't to industry.  Who understand all too well that their reputations pivot equally on how they recruit their employees and how they recruit their customers. And that the strategies for both employee and customer recruitment / retention are inextricably linked for long-term success.  These are the diamonds and pearls of the leading companies that we want to patronize as customers and where we want to work as employees, leaders and vendors.

Personally, I find diamonds and pearls most becoming.

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