A Fake HR Person to Test For Jerks

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The old recruiter joke is that every hire that a recruiter makes is a great hire. We take all of the credit for good hires. Bad employees? Those were good hires turned bad by “management.” Just a lighthearted joke to remind everyone that some hires just don’t work.

The truth? A lot of the bad hires I have been associated with over the years ended up being bad hires because the person was a pain in the butt. It is sometimes a knowledge, skills or abilities issue, but usually, he was a jerk, or she treated people badly or he was just odd. We all agree that likeability is important in the interview and selection process, but it’s still hard to measure. We miss it too often.

Interviewing is mostly play-acting anyway. It’s about as real as professional wrestling. Both sides of the table pretend like they are better at what they do than they really are. Most jerks can fake it.

So how do you measure jerkdom? Andy Sernovitz’ company has a fake HR person do it. Check his blog:

As a young entrepreneur, I was in a VC’s office asking for money. He took a call from one of his portfolio companies and chewed out the CEO. In front of me.

I should have walked out of the room. I didn’t have the experience at the time to appreciate that he was an ass and having him as an investor would have been a living hell. Luckily for me, he didn’t invest in us. Manners matter. Pay close attention to how people treat those who are junior to them. The great test: Anyone who is a jerk to a secretary or a waiter.

We have a fake head of HR named Preston Firestone. Job seekers call and ask for Preston (who is never there, of course). We listen to how they treat the person who answered the phone. Preston has saved us again and again from someone who would have been hired, but

was actually a complete prick.

First, Preston Firestone is a rocking awesome fake name. I will be using it for all of my future dinner reservations. Second, I appreciate the test they are trying to put people through. They have created an interview step for candidates to gauge how they treat people when no one is looking.

In our shop, when college engineers visit, we get them to a dinner or to tour multiple jobsites. Part of this is a realistic job preview, but the other part is exposing the candidate to lots of our people and vice versa. Afterwards, we quiz everyone they met with—from formal interviewers to the staff members who drove them around.

We are not trying to trick anyone—we just believe you get to see the “realness” of people when you take them out of a traditional interview and gather multiple data points.

It’s too easy to say, “Well, we only hire good people,” or say that you have the famous “No A$$%oles rule.” If it is important to you, try to find a way to measure it. Preston Firestone is a decent start.

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RJ Morris
R. J. Morris is a talent acquisition/staffing director based out of STL with McCarthy Building Companies, a multi-billion dollar national firm. Like many others in the FOT clan, he's a sports nut who can endlessly draw the parallels between athletes, sports and the talent management game. I know, I know, as if we needed more of that.  He has 7 years of practitioner experience leading talent acquisition efforts in corporate HR and another 7 years in leadership roles on the agency side, so he gets both sides of the desk.  Talk to R.J. via emailLinkedInTwitter...

3 Comments

  1. Amber Spanke says:

    I think it’s also important to note here that you wouldn’t want to hire anyone that doesn’t know what Frank Zappa looked like.

    Reply
  2. kd says:

    You frequent places that require a name for a reservation? I guess you do have the hill in STL, so that’s probably legit…

    KD

    Reply
  3. R. J. Morris (Preston Firestone) says:

    Amber–Good point. Cara picks the photos after I write the post, but I love her choice for this one. You are absolutely right. Zappa knowledge should be a requirement.

    KD–”Morris, your order is ready, Morris.” That’s a dinner reservation, right?

    Reply

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