What Happened to the “Human” in Human Resources?

Early in my career I was fortunate to work for a wonderful businessman. His philosophy was very simple; “Treat everyone like they are your best customer, and they just might become just that.” I’ve tried to follow that advice throughout my career.

During this economic downturn, I have met many people who are looking for work. One common complaint is the lack of response from resume submissions. Let me explain. Imagine you are looking for work and find a listing that sounds interesting. You spend a couple of hours researching the company, customizing a cover letter and/or resume to fit the position, and then you send it to the company. And then, nothing happens. No call, no letter, no postcard, not even an automatic email reply is ever sent acknowledging your interest. Simply amazing!

Now I know what the HR folks will say, “We can’t respond to everyone.” The volume can be huge, but with email, there is simply no excuse to at least offer some kind of response.

Imagine if you treated prospective customers the same way, “I’m sorry, we don’t think you will buy very much, therefore we will not respond to your request for information.”

But what’s that you say? These are prospective employees not customers. How do you know where they will be in the future? They may be in a position to become a major customer. If they have to choose between your company and another, who do you think they will choose? Its worth thinking about the next time you ignore applicants.

Having experienced the joy of job hunting many times, I’ve had the opportunity to read and listen to a number of HR people on the subject of how to find a job. In honor of this experience, I’ve compiled my own list of advice for HR professionals:

1. Proof your ad or job listing. – Nothing is less impressive than an ad riddled with typos and confusing sentences.

2. Have someone who understands the position and industry write or edit the ad. – Simple things like understanding the difference between marketing and sales will save us all a lot of time and aggravation.

3. Don’t seek perfect candidates. – They don’t exist. The very best hire I ever made had no background in the industry. I interviewed him as a favor. But it turned out, his product knowledge was superb and his work ethic was amazing. If I had gone by the resume alone, I would never had interviewed him. Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover, or a prospective employee solely by their resume.

4. Understand the market value and experience level for your position. – Don’t describe a senior marketing position and only offer an entry level salary. And my favorite example, the company that wanted a person who could manage brand strategy, P&L, research, and market planning, as well as execute all creative and graphic needs for the company. Good luck finding someone like that. Rarely, will one person be great in such diverse disciplines.

5. Remember that every resume represents a person. – Everyone deserves respect. Whether they are qualified or not, your response is speaking for the entire company. Make sure you are sending the right message.

Originally posted January 2002.