I remember once walking across my college campus and noticing several groups of people snickering. I looked up to find the target of their stares: A girl walking ahead of me. She was wearing a flouncy miniskirt (which was very cool at the time) and she was completely unaware of the attention of the groups of people around her — attention brought on by the fact that the back half of her skirt was accidentally tucked into the waist of her underwear for the entire world to see.
Similarly, many organizations today are completely unaware that they are exposing their hiring “underwear” to the world.
There’s no real “getting away” from the public eye now; just ask any celebrity who just been caught picking their nose in public, only to have a picture of it published in the media that very day. Still, companies need to be much more aware of what is going on around them and how their actions are viewed by others before getting out into the public eye.
The Internet power shift
Candidates and employees have more power than ever before to use social media to reveal and comment on company behavior that used to stay locked behind company doors. Bad behavior is coming to light more often. And I think it’s a positive change; it’s time for us to be held accountable for proper hiring practices. Too often, we have swept poor hiring tactics under the rug, and those in authority didn’t really care about their actions, as there were no immediate or tangible consequences.
Are you a manager who is notoriously rude during interviews? Do you ask inappropriate questions? Are you just plain lame in an interview setting? Or has your company asked someone to come in seven times for interviews, forcing the candidate to use up his or her entire vacation time, and then refused the candidate a job offer?
It’s time to ask ourselves how this behavior would make us feel if we were in a candidate’s shoes, particularly in our current economy, as many people looking for jobs are frustrated, worn out, and looking for a place to vent their frustrations. Turns out they don’t have to look very far — candidates with even just a little savvy can create YouTube videos, tweets, or blog post rants bemoaning their experience in seconds.
How much would it change the game if, in addition to candidates having the ability to spread negative company experiences, specific managers’ reputations were available to savvy candidates (typically the ones we most want to hire)? I propose that they already are. Anyone can do Google or LinkedIn research and find people to speak with, profiles, articles, and more that reveal how the manager truly behaves. We just aren’t thinking about that in a grand sense yet. I think we should.
I like the idea of candidates asserting themselves a bit and owning the fact that they are a primary decision maker in our hiring process. We should be partnering with them to find ways to make the process better — not inciting people to poison the candidate market from which we need to hire.
I’m not trying to tell you the sky is falling. Individuals have a remarkable way of being reasonable when a company makes a mistake or admits its flaws. It’s those who have been abused that we need to worry about. As the old adage goes, “no one will sue someone they like.” I think the same is true for potentially embarrassing rants and raves online. Good and reasonable people with whom we have positive relationships are not likely to scold us in public. The best managers and companies — those who embody a great place to work — will build fan clubs of people who want to work there now or in the future (including people who didn’t get the job for which they just interviewed.)
Transparency brings an unfamiliar level of accountability when it comes to hiring people. It may feel uncomfortable, but in the end, it’s going to make the whole process better for everyone.
After all, it’s always a smart idea to turn and check the mirror before you walk out in public.