8 Secrets From the HR Department
SECRET #1: Never talk about work on Facebook!
"I had been sent a copy of an internal job candidate's Facebook page, and saw that she'd been bashing the company within days of our scheduled interview. When she came in, I read her some of what she'd posted and said, 'I can't consider you, because you can't say this about your employer one day and expect to go into a higher position the next,'" recalls an HR director at a national entertainment company. "People are shocked when their page makes its way out of their social circle and into our hands. We don't even go looking for it--I've had angry coworkers make copies of a colleague's page when they saw something offensive and give it to me as evidence. Facebook drama has been happening constantly lately, and not just among younger employees."
SECRET #2: Look out for trick questions.
"I always ask interviewees to tell me about a work situation that didn't go very well," says one HR manager at a major consumer-products company. "I expect them to be honest, but then use it as an opportunity to explain what they learned from the mistake and how they made sure it didn't happen again. Yet I'm continually floored by people who tell me only their errors, like how they completely bombed a presentation. This isn't the time for you to confess what a mess you were at your last job!"
SECRET #3: If you've been warned at work, it's pretty much over.
"Every place I've worked, the firing policy has called for at least one verbal warning and one written one before we can let someone go," explains an HR director at a software company. "But if you get so much as a first one, things are probably going to be over soon--we just can't fire you right away because of official protocol. So when we tell you, 'We want to help you improve' or, 'This is your opportunity to get feedback and grow from it,' the truth is that it's rare for an employee to bounce back. If you get put on disciplinary probation, smarten up and start looking for another job immediately."
SECRET #4: Don't automatically say yes to the first salary offer.
"You shouldn't be afraid to ask for more--men aren't. In the last few years, I've had five employees negotiate bonuses into their hiring packages, and only one of them was a woman. I'm surprised that so many women accept without negotiating," says the director of professional development at a national nonprofit. How much to ask for? "Generally, a 5 to 10 percent increase from the offer is a reasonable request; a 25 percent bump isn't," says the software company rep. "Then again," says the nonprofit pro, "there are cases where the money just isn't available, so you should be creative with what you haggle for. I've offered people flexible work schedules, and I'd be open to giving other perks, like more vacation or a longer maternity leave."
SECRET #5: Everything you do--and don't do--matters.
"People need to understand that what it takes to be successful at their job may not be limited to the stated requirements. It's important to be part of the group: playing on the softball team or going to work-arranged happy hours. I see who gets involved and make a note of it," says the consumer-products company exec. "It may not factor in to your annual review, but employees who seem happy to join in extracurricular activities are more likely to get thought of first for projects and promotions."
SECRET #6: Resume pros give you a boost.
"If you want your résumé to stand out, hire a professional to write it for you," says the software company rep. "Big companies use scanning software that flags résumés with specific keywords, so yours will never even make it into a recruiter's hands if you're not using the right lingo for the job. A good résumé-writing service may cost $200 to $300, but high-quality agencies are generally run by people who've been HR vice presidents or heads of national recruiting companies, so they know what buzzwords get noticed. If you have the money, spend it on perfecting your résumé, because that will impress an interviewer more than a fancy new suit."
SECRET #7: We don't really want to know that much about you.
"I ask all candidates to tell me about themselves, but the weirdest response I ever got was a 15-minute diatribe that touched on all sorts of stuff you shouldn't talk about in interviews: what church she went to, what political party she liked, how many kids she had and how many more she wanted," says the software company rep. "It totally turned me off."
SECRET #8: Remember, work parties are not actual parties.
"I've had to cut employees off from drinking at holiday events. Once, a drunk senior-level male manager started dancing inappropriately with staffers, and since then we've stopped serving alcohol at company events a few hours before they're actually over," says the consumer-products exec. "People should stick to a three-drink limit, at most!
They did what!?
1. PORN SCREENINGS! "When workers started complaining about sluggish Internet speeds, IT investigated, and it turned out one staffer had connected a bunch of computers in a storage room so people could sneak off to watch porn. Everyone involved was fired," recalls the consumer-products HR manager.
2. BRIBERY! "In the middle of a round of layoffs, one employee followed me on my lunch break and tried to stuff a wad of cash--thousands of dollars--through my car window, pleading, 'Please don't lay me off!' He was right in predicting he was going to be let go. But even if he weren't, his bribery would have gotten him fired," says the software company rep.
3. SEX AT WORK! "One afternoon, I got a call telling me that an employee had been having sex in his car--in the employee parking lot," says the HR director at the nonprofit. "When I confronted him, he didn't deny it. But I was shocked when he said, 'Well, to be fair, it was my lunch break.' Later, he even reapplied for a job at the company. We didn't hire him back."
4. GOOFING OFF! "After staffers were distracted by a woman who was always giggling in her cubicle, we pulled her online history and found pages and pages of instant messages she'd exchanged with a male coworker. I fired them both. It wasn't just the lewd content, but the fact that they were wasting hours at work," says the software rep.