My rants on what H stands for in HR

Moving to a new country and growing your professional career is a sure ticket for a trip with many stops for job interviews. Even higher chances to increase that number if your skills fall into the bucket of the latest cool jobs, as data analyst or SEO strategist, and the city where you live is a small one. Well SEO is not as cool as whatever related to data lately but anyway.

Rants here around my interactions with Human Resources people is pretty much limited to the geographical scope of Vancouver and a subset of HR population, IT staffing specialist and recruiters, in a time lapse of three and a half years.

I have no idea how well they do when related to specialties other than online marketing and such.

Hello, is anyone there?

How much cultural aspects make a difference here? You tell me. It's a fact that Mediterraneans and Latinos manage communications differently from other cultures, example: in those worm countries when you apply for a job you expect some kind of 'thanks for sending your resume'.

Even if it's an automated response it makes you feel there is an interlocutor in the other end of the line. Of course it does mean nothing in terms of possibility to get that job, out of discussion now. They might not contact you ever but at least accomplishes the most basic form of human communication when two people are involved, message sent -> answer back, so I know you are there.

I remember feeling quite disconcerted when I started applying for jobs right after landing in Vancouver. Did they receive my email? Should I call to be sure? Probably not, they will think I'm desperate (I was, so what?). Do they give a damn about the people that can potentially end up working for them?

Not saying that other cultures have the wrong approach but my population of study fails miserably at the very basic first moments of this process.

There are tons of jokes mocking Canadians for their extreme sense of politeness but every rule has exceptions and it seems we found one here.

I've been involved in the process of hiring people too. In this city you don't get hundreds of resumes for certain positions like a Senior SEO Strategist, maybe 12? In part because SEOs are not very good searching for jobs ironically. How much time takes you, my dear HR, thanking briefly 12 people? Not a lot but the perception I get from you as professional is completely different.

Even if you are pretty good managing your expectations it's disheartening when not having any signal back. I like to say that I don't do business with companies, I do business with people.

Meeting interuptus

Congratulations, you passed the first cut and they want to know more about you. Are you going to meet them for a first interview? Nope, they love to have that first one on the phone.

Probably another cultural issue here. We are more 'physical', body language tells a lot, and meeting face to face is like pictures, it says more than thousand words.

Obviously a phone call made sense when I was contacted by companies in Toronto, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia or Singapore but I can be at any local one in less than twenty minutes from home.

Confession, I hate phone interviews. I understand HRs prefer the phone version of anyone instead the complete show because it saves their time* but I don't feel I can give my best performance with an invisible audience. Don't know about you but I need eye contact.

*unless you are an HR in a company growing as fast as Hootsuite, (jeez! have you seen their offers list lately?), in my humble opinion you should have time to meet candidates in person.

Who writes the job offers?

I'm old enough to remember the times where people used to think you could fix any electronic device because "you do computers stuff, right?". That now replicates around anything related to data. Yes, I've been presenting on Analytics for International Scenarios but it doesn't mean I put together a distributed processing system with Hadoop on top for better data warehousing in the context of an international gaming company*.

*Note to myself. Write a post explaining where I seat in the Data landscape.

As an IT Staffing Specialist it must be really hard to keep updated in all the different specialties IT encloses, I get it, and Data Analysis is cool nowadays but don't throw those words in every job description you write because:

  • It's probably going to be a waste of time for both, you and me
  • It doesn't say much about you as specialist

Make a quick search at jobs posting sites, you'll get what I mean right away.

Few weeks ago an analyst mate forwarded a job description knowing I would have a good laugh. Title was "Online Marketing Analyst" but reading further they were really looking for someone doing just SEO and Paid Advertisement. And that's not the worst I've seen.

Special mention to IT recruiters that having my resume in their files, sent offers having nothing to do with my skill set now. 1998 flashback.

What you know about me?

Very well known brand in Vancouver. Everything from the beginning in that interview was going wrong. The guy, who knows why, seemed pretty disgusted having to do it. At a certain moment the classic 'What you know about our company' entered stage. I answered "well, I took a look at your site and your Wikipedia page but EVERYBODY knows your brand" and one third of a second later, in one of those moments of clarity I added "and what you know about me?"

Was I a pretentious loudmouth? Up to you to judge but his face turned into a cubist poem. I've done that again in a different one and it amazes me how easy is to catch interviewers off guard. Don't they investigate a bit who they are going to be putting under the magnifying glass?. If the Linkedin profile is not very good Google does that for you, just type a name and dig a bit.

It's not a one way thing, you want to know about me and I want to know about your company. Don't ask 'What you know about our company' if you are not ready to answer 'what you know about me'.

'Where do you see yourself in 5 years' is an all-time favorites of mine too. Nowadays it's easy to be ready for that kind of questions but I dislike canned answers, it's not me for better or worse.

what H stands for in HR

Dear HR, let me give you an advice

What I know about the art of selecting the right candidate for a job? Nothing, nada, rien, niente but as any other human being with incipient gray hair I know a thing or two about courtesy and politeness, which are the glue that prevents societies to fall apart, and I have a bit of experience being in the other side of the table.

Don't ever forget the ‘H' factor from HR

It does not say much in favour of the culture of a company when you don't receive back a simple ‘thanks for your email', even worst when you ask candidates to forward examples of their work, list related books and blogs they read and such in a follow up conversation.

Email back no matter if it's to say your company is not moving forward with a candidacy. The impression you leave behind is "Wow! Those guys really care about people. I was not hired but I wouldn't mind working for them in the future" otherwise is completely the opposite and, believe me, it counts.

Am I from another planet, getting too picky or both?

IT recruiter: I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments but more specifically when I ask you what went wrong when not accepted for a job. Don't be shy, as I guy who likes to get into the numbers and the whys that kind of info is the quintessence helping me helping you do a better job.

No more rant, back to coloring spreadsheets.

Apr 27, 2013
Written by:
Filed under: Online

Jun 07, 2013
Posted by:
Cliff #1

Vancouver can be a little harsh. There was one job posting by a dentist and he was looking for a "SEO Specialist." But in the job posting, they wanted someone who know how to code in php, C , know the IT stuff(e-mail and stuff), must have web design experience(and ask for a design portfolio), SEO and PPC(must be Google Certified), and anything computer related. I think this is the problem when people post jobs without doing some basic research.

Aug 05, 2013
Posted by:
Martijn #2

Hehe, Or getting contacted by a recruiter from some agency called "Melissa" on LinkedIn who signs his/her inmails with 'Sander'. very credible.

I like this post Ani :-)

Oct 11, 2013
Posted by:
Lianne #3

Very entertaining Ani and great to hear a foreigner's perspective. It made me think back to our initial did I do? Was I polite enough? :)

I hate phone interviews too, for the same reason you mentioned. But I'm used to all the other stuff because I haven't known any differently having grown up in Vancouver. I'll have to move to Spain to experience delightful interviewing experiences! Or maybe's too nice staying put and working with you at EA.

Aug 15, 2014
Posted by:
Heather #4

As a contracted employee, I can speak to the value of having a certain amount of initial research done on you before ever meeting your potential employer. Things like portfolios and self-marketing materials are hard to decipher. In many positions (devs in particular), many recent work isn't available to view as its protected work.

The time spent to investigate what that person is like on a human level was essential to getting placed in a culture that fits for you.

Also, when applying to a popular Canadian airline (venture any guesses?) I wasn't chosen for the first position I applied for, but received great feedback personally and electronically that made me feel confidant enough to try again. Next time I applied, I got the job and still rave about the internal customer service received. It made a huge difference.

Your perspective as a non-Canadian-native was enlightening, Ani. Some things can't be heard on the phone, or read from lines of code.

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