Steve Gifford, MBA, SPHR, is the Director of Human Resources for OEM America, a PEO of more than a hundred companies and more than two thousand employees. His company gives small businesses the buying power and HR expertise of a big company, but without the bureaucracy! In the past, he’s been the HR guy for marketing, manufacturing, retail, and government organizations. His first HR job was in the US Army during his second tour in Iraq, where every employee in his client group carried an automatic weapon. It helps him keep the problems of employees who show up to work late in perspective.
10.5 Questions with Steve Gifford
1. The elevator just closed and you’ve got 30 seconds to pitch the random reader on who you are and why they should read your rants. Go.
You know what IT does, right? They buy new computers, fix them when they break, and make them work better. HR does the same thing, only with people. People have a bigger impact on the company than computers, but are also less predictable and make more expensive mistakes. HR fixes employees, and FOT is our tech manual. Sorry, what floor did you need?
2. Now for the mundane – break down your location, title, company/firm and what you do for a living.
I’m the HR Director for Eurpac Service, Inc., a grocery and retail brokerage with employees scattered all over the world. It’s the classic HR lead for a small company role – I share an office wall with the CEO and take part in board meetings, but also call candidates to schedule interviews and research unpaid medical claims.
3. One more question that everyone expects. What’s the reason you’re in this game? (why do you do what you do?)
Because I can walk into any meeting in the building and “belong” there – it probably deals with either organizational or individual performance, after all. Because I get to touch and influence every part of the company. Because in college, I read Jack Welch’s first book, and he talked about how as a senior leader, your job is fundamentally HR, and I thought hey, advising the top guy sounds better than actually being the top guy!
4. If you’ve ever been to a professional baseball game, you know batters from the home team get to pick their own theme music as they walk from the dugout to the plate. If we ever have a FOT convention, what theme music will you come out to, to pump the crowd up and why?
I’ve got to keep it dog-faced real. No one will recognize it, but you can definitely march to it – trust me.
5. Let’s stick with the baseball theme. If you’ve ever been to a pro game, you also know that the visitor doesn’t get to pick their own music. The home team picks that for them, and it’s usually less than stellar, as a means of attempting to crush them. If you could pick theme music for your arch-rival to walk into a conference room to, what would it be and why?
6. Finish the following sentence – “When I’m interviewing, I can tell within one minute that this thing isn’t going to work out because the candidate _________…”
- Has done no research on the company – c’mon, it takes ten minutes with a web browser and your questions will be much better informed. I have a hard time believing that you want to spend the next few years working here if you haven’t done that basic research. Incidentally, you get bonus points if you show up on my “Recently viewed my profile” in Linkedin before the interview.
- Put no effort into dressing for this. I don’t need a tie all the time, and I’ve interviewed for jobs where I could forgive jeans. But I want you to look better than you usually do, somehow.
- Doesn’t have a copy of their resume. Sure, I can print it out, but probably won’t remember to. You’ve been prepping for this for longer than I have, you bring one.
7. Name the actor/actress who will portray you in the movie about you. Why the heck is that a fit?
Chris O’Donnell with his NCIS: LA haircut.
8. List three of your favorite books to pander to the educated segment of our readership…
These don’t have to be professional books, right? I have a hard time associating “favorite” with texts…
- Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, because the enemy’s gate is down (I suppose there’s a reframing lesson there)
- Any Lawrence Block The Burglar Who… book. They’re fluffy and far from great literature, but what can you do?
- Straight from the Gut, by Jack Welch. See? I managed to squeeze out a professional one there! And like I said before, he talks a lot about HR, and it’s the book that made me think “I could do that!”
9. List three of your favorite movies to connect with the segment of our readership that doesn’t like to read…
- Ocean’s Eleven, because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.
- The American President, and its TV sequel, The West Wing (though it begs the question, why would you make Martin Sheen the Chief of Staff and not the President? It seems so obvious now in hindsight)
- Mumford, a little noticed movie from 1999 that I saw with my wife in an early date, which now is invariably the answer to the question “where do I know that guy from?” IMDB it; there are a lot of now-famous people in it.
10. Let’s reach out to what remains of our readership. Who’s your favorite Old-School Rapper and why?
I’m going to have to play my “white suburban nerd” card on this; I don’t have one. I’ve known the local NPR station’s complete lineup everywhere I’ve lived since I was probably ten…
10.5. My first car was a… and here’s how it defined who I am….
My first car was a 1998 Saturn SL1 and it didn’t really define me.
I didn’t get a car until college, and it got me back home and around Boston. It was beige, had trouble climbing I-90 through the Berkshires, and just kinda worked. Boring, functional, not flashy – maybe it was defining after all. Plus, it set my expectations pretty low; when I finally went to look for a grown-up car, I told them that I’d like to upgrade to something with power locks and power windows, and discovered that every car on the lot had those.
Read Steve’s riffs and rants on FOT here…