Category Archives: recruiting

Reforms Stalled by Inadequate HR?

As we wrote on HREOnline™  a few months ago, an ambitious federal hiring-reform initiative wouldn’t be an easy task, requiring both training and buy-in from staff.

When Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry announced the initiative, he said that, “for far too long, our HR systems have been a hindrance. We have great workers in government now in spite of the hiring process, not because of it.”

But it seems as if HR is still a problem — and that has been acknowledged by OPM’s chief human capital officers, according to this story in the Washington Post about a Partnership for Public Service survey.

“The ‘competency of HR workers’ is one of seven ‘major obstacles’ to building a first-class federal workforce,” according to the 68 CHCOs, who “expressed strong doubts that the human resources community, the very people who will be on the frontlines seeking to implement the hiring reform plan, are up to the task.”

The problem seems to be a lack of training and adequate technology, according to the article.

In the Federal Eye blog on the Post site, OPM responded that CHCOs are generally positive and supportive of the reform, and that criticisms of the initiative “have been taken seriously and have been responded to promptly, leading to a more cooperative, productive and collegial environment for members.”

Well, as long as they are all getting along …

The Costs of Coming to America

As unions and business groups squabble over the number of H-1B visas, the fee of those visas have increased about 600 percent, according to news reports.

To pay for border security, a bill signed by President Barack Obama last week increases the H-1B visa fee from $320 to $2,320.

The fees seem to offend just about every constituency. The business community, especially Silicon Valley firms, say it will hurt their organizations’ ability to recruit top talent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Indian outsourcing companies say the law specifically discriminates against them as “the carefully crafted criteria” in the bill seems to target them.

Outraged companies may bring a suit before the World Trade Organization, contending the fees are protectionist, while other experts say that, instead of being protectionist, the fees will actually lead to more outsourcing of jobs overseas.

The increased fees are designed to raise about $200 million a year. “The money raised is insigificant and the damage [to America’s reputation] is huge,” Vivek Wadhwa, an immigrations expert and professor, told the WSJ.

The Value of the Liberal Arts

For those of us (like me) who studied the humanities in college, a typical question we got was “So what are you going to do with a degree in [blank]?” I got tired of hearing it after a while and so I’d retort with this snappy comeback (especially if it was asked by a business major): “I’m gonna write about how computers are taking over your job.”

Aside from provoking extreme defensiveness, I do think studying English, history, political science, etc, really does give you the broad education that a college degree was always intended to provide. It forces you to learn to write clearly, digest huge amounts of information and do lots of critical analysis. These are skills that are important in any profession, including the medical field.

In fact, New York-based Mount Sinai medical school, considered to be among the top such schools in the country, sets aside slots for about 35 undergraduates a year specifically for humanities and social sciences majors.

Students admitted to the program can bypass the MCAT, the rigorous entrance test that applicants to most medical school programs must take before being admitted. Instead, Mount Sinai conducts a “boot camp” with accelerated courses on organic chemistry, physics and so on during the summer prior to when they enter med school. Students are admitted to the program on the basis of their SAT scores, high school and early college grades, two personal essays and interviews.

So how well do these lit majors and history buffs actually do in medical school? Turns out they do just as well as their counterparts who went the traditional pre-med, MCAT route, according to a peer-reviewed study conducted by Mount Sinai that compared outcomes for 85 students in the Humanities and Medicine Program with those of 606 traditionally prepared classmates.

So let’s hear it for liberal arts grads. We may not come equipped with specific skills, but we’re eminently trainable and have a thirst for knowledge.

Want to Work with Mad Men?

To celebrate the new season of Mad Men, (quite possibly the highest-quality TV series of all time, in this blogger’s humble opinion) the AMC Web site now offers an interactive “job interview” so fans can see how well (or not) they’d fit in with the mad men (and women) at the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency.

Take the quick quiz and see how you do. (Full disclosure: After taking the quiz, I was not offered a position with the firm, but that’s probably because I asked too many pointed questions about their positions on equal-employment opportunities, family leave and accomodations for disabilities; none of which were on the law books in their current form when the show’s Season 4 takes place, in late 1964.)

But even if you’re not hired, there’s at least one way to still be a part of the action: The next episode of Mad Men airs Sunday at 10pm on AMC. Be there or be square.

FDA Warns Lab: Make Better Hires

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently sent a warning letter out to Abbott Diabetes Care Inc., an Alameda, Calif.-based company that manufactures glucose-monitoring equipment.

(Tip o’ the hat to Jim Edwards who first wrote about it here.)

Among the varied charges leveled in the letter is that the company did not conform to necessary guidelines when hiring for critical positions at the company, especially ones that are responsible for quality control, calibration of equipment and regulatory affairs: 

4. Failure to have sufficient personnel with the necessary education, background, training, and experience to assure that all activities required by 21 CFR 820 are correctly performed, as required by 21 CFR 820.25(a). For example: 

a. The job description for the Director of Quality Systems requires that the person have a Bachelor of Science/Technical/or Engineering discipline. The person holding the position does not have this type of degree, but rather a Business Administration degree. 

b. The person holding the Regulatory Affairs Manager position lacks the minimum of 5 years of regulatory experience required in the job description. 

c. The person holding the Quality Control Supervisor position lacks the required Bachelor degree in science or the alternative five to eight years experience in Quality Control.  

d. The person holding the Calibration Coordinator position lacks the required Bachelor degree and the four years of relevant experience.

We have reviewed your response dated March 26, 2010, and have concluded that it is not adequate because the replacement Regulatory Affairs Manager does not have qualifications that meet the qualifications required in the job description. You stated that you are conducting a global review of personnel to compare qualifications and job descriptions of all individuals who have direct product impact to determine if their background and experience match the requirements of their current job description and are conducting a review of the Human Resources processes that support the development of job descriptions and the identification and selection of personnel. However, this process is ongoing and evidence of its completion and effectiveness was not provided.

For its part, the company says it is working with the FDA to clear up the problems.

“Abbott Diabetes Care has taken and continues to take the actions necessary to address the items outlined in the letter and is communicating those actions directly to the agency,” says Greg Miley, the company’s director of public affairs.

But with all the highly skilled — yet unemployed –workers out there currently flooding the job market, it boggles the mind to think that the company’s HR department is not able to find any qualified candidates for such important positions.

Furthermore, if you are an end-user of one of Abbott’s products, such as the FreeStyle glucose-monitoring and the Navigator continuous-monitoring systems, how sure are you that the product in your hand has been properly calibrated and tested for quality assurance if the people responsible for such things may not be qualified to do their jobs?  

When critical positions are filled by unqualified candidates, it’s a simply a recipe for disaster.

Can Glassdoor Remain Objective?

Now here’s one worth watching. Glassdoor.com, the career website that lets employees trash or praise employers anonymously (with more doing the former than the latter), has just opened its doors to employers to defend themselves, if you will.

Actually, companies don’t respond to specific complaints. Rather, they’re now invited to join a new program called Glassdoor Enhanced Employer Profiles that lets them post their company profiles on the site — in exchange for a $495 (and up)-per-month subscription.

Problem is — and the Wall Street Journal lays it all out pretty nicely in this recent story (subscription only)  — Glassdoor’s going to have to somehow prove to all its users and visitors that those advertising dollars aren’t swaying decisions to filter certain reviews, or affecting the site’s employer-rating system.

Hmmm … this could get a bit dicey. Welcome, Glassdoor, to a dilemma journalists and media holdings face every day: how to ensure and uphold their objectivity in reporting on industries and organizations at the same time they’re inviting many of those organizations to adverstise.

 It’s not easy, but that advertiser/customer (reader) line is one we here at HRE endeavor mightily to never cross. Can’t say every competitor does the same. But can say our readers seem to appreciate it, from what I hear in my travels and discussions with them.

Glassdoor has already decided to allow paying companies to have their uploaded “company photos appear first when a job seeker is scanning a Glassdoor profile for a company, requiring a bit more work for site visitors to see the unofficial photos posted by employees,” the WSJ story says. Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman tells the paper he doesn’t believe the order of photos will matter much.

Hope, for his sake, he’s right.

A Brighter Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics may not show it yet, but companies that deal with hiring are seeing a definite uptick in job searches. During the SHRM convention, I’ve had the chance to meet with several of those companies and they were sounding pretty positive.

Kurt Ronn, president of HRWorks, which offers executive search as well as RPO on a project basis, says he has seen “a very big uptick in the market” over the past six months.

Rich Milgram, CEO and founder of Beyond.com, which provides thousands of niche job sites, agrees, noting that Q1 was when he first saw hiring take off. In Q4, however, he expects a “big pick up.”

“Last year this time,” says Alex Douzet, president and co-founder of The Ladders, “[hiring] really hit bottom between May and August. September, we started to see the market coming back. Now, it’s more similar to second half of 2008.”

Sectors ahead of the curve, he says, are in financial services, technology, aerospace, pharmaceutical, engineering and the service industry. The “very slow” sectors are construction, real estate and manufacturing, while on the cusp are consumer goods and logistics.

So, maybe Little Orphan Annie was right. But let’s hope tomorrow comes sooner, rather than later.

What if Your Star Talent Came Knocking Today?

Gerry Crispin raised a provocative mind-bender at his Monday session at the SHRM conference in San Diego. “If an exact duplicate of your very best employee was applying right now, what would happen?” said Crispin, principal of CareerXroads and recognized recruiting expert.

“More importantly,” he said, “can you afford not to know?”

The purpose of the session, “Mystery Job Shopping: What Happens When You Apply Online to your Own Firm,” was to get HR professionals thinking — or, rather, rethinking — about how they brand — or rather, fail to brand — their organizations through their recruiting processes.

For instance, he pointed out, most companies won’t accept the risk of following up with candidates who weren’t hired, detailing the reasons they weren’t; in other words, the skills they don’t have yet need for the job. The message this could send about how your company cares, and the propsects it could reap down the road in return candidates would far outmeasure the potential liability of providing that kind of information, he told listeners.

“I guarantee you,” Crispin said, “when those people come back to apply at the point they do qualify, they will turn out to be the best employees you could ever hope to have in that position … because you provided the information they needed.” Getting such a practice past your corporate attorneys, he added, means “building the case that this kind of follow-through will be worth the risk.”

Not only was Crispin touting the merits of becoming far more transparent for online candidates who come knocking at your Web site, he was also promoting “mystery shopping,” or applying through your own recruiting process and those of your competitors.’ How’s your time to apply? Are you asking so many questions that you’re losing top talent because their time is too precious to be “writing a dissertation, answering hundreds of questions” the first time they visit simply to poke around? And how about technology and social networking? Have you embraced that? “Can your competitors’ candidates set up a mobile connection with your recruiters and yours can’t?” he asked.

Crispin also spoke in favor of picturing recruiters and providing simple instructions for constant access to them. “How available is your recruiter?” he said. “You need to think about what you’re doing and how transparent you’re being. You gotta figure smart candidates know how to find your recruiters anyway, through LinkedIn and other modes. If you’re refusing that kind of accessibility, that says something about you, and it isn’t good.”

Your company brand, your commitment to sustainability, your value proposition as to how people should be treated … it’s all in how you present yourself through your online recruiting, Crispin said.

One recruiter in the audience admitted she went through her own system anonymously just to see what experience her department  was providing. “How was it? Crispin asked.

“It was awful,” she said.

Crispin: “I rest my case.”

SHRM’s Call to Arms for Veteran Hiring

The Society for Human Resource Management kicked off its 2010 Annual Conference and Exposition in San Diego with a special appeal to consider the nation’s military veterans in all hiring practices.

Welcoming what they reported as a record crowd of more than 11,000 HR professionals in attendance, SHRM President and CEO Lon O’Neil and SHRM Board Chair Robb E. Van Cleave went out of their way to mark their conference as a launching pad for better advocacy and activism in veteran hiring.

Noting special sessions held Saturday and Sunday morning to, as O’Neill put it, “help in this military acclimation,” the two then went on to introduce to the audience Ray Jefferson, the assistant secretary for the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Jefferson brought the crowd to its feet after showing the scars of his own injury that resulted from his heroic act of bravery in hanging onto a detonated grenade and losing his left hand rather than risk any of his team members’ lives or limbs by throwing it away.

“Sometimes the end of a dream can be the beginning of a destiny,” he said, after raising his wounded limb. “One life can make a difference. Our veterans need you; our nation needs you.”

From my own vantage point, in a sea of SHRM-goers, Jefferson’s passion for a new surge of advocacy for veterans returning home and seeking new livelihoods was palpable and evident. Time will tell how this message and push gets translated by attendees post-SHRM. The energy around me in the standing ovation for the war hero-turned veterans’ advocate bodes well.

HR Leaders Cool to RPO

Phil Fersht at Horses For Sources writes on the results of a poll he did in conjunction with HREOnline on the views of HR leaders and recruiting strategies.

And he doesn’t seem too enamored of the primary HR position — that recruitment-process outsourcing “does not fit with our corporate culture or ethos.” 

The use of RPO by HR is no different than marketing using an outside PR firm, he writes. “If HR leadership fails to seek the help it needs soon, it may find decisions being made in corporate meetings, where the SVP of HR isn’t even invited.”

His survey findings and analysis seem destined to raise some blood-pressure readings.