How To Spot An HR Poser

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Bad HR, Interviewing, Selection

One of the hardest things for any organization to do is predict who will be a great hire and who will be a bust. Even with all the advanced analytics and scouting employed by the NFL, a player like Tom Brady falls through the cracks (the 199th pick in the 2000 draft) while a guy named Giovanni Carmazzi (who?) gets chosen 136 picks before Brady. Yikes. Gives you a lot of confidence that your organization’s hiring practices are going to yield top talent, doesn’t it? While I am a believer in data-driven hiring, qualitative data is also critical. So, here you have two questions that you can use to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to hiring an HR Pro.

What do you believe is the role of HR in an organization?

The Poser – They’ll tell you all about the stuff. You know… hire, develop, retain top talent, managing performance, blah, blah, blah. All the stuff and none of the impact. You might also get a list of all the things HR shouldn’t be but not one example of what HR should be.

The Pro – Not a peep about the stuff. The real pros only talk about impact. Like, “HR’s job is to create an environment where people can be at their best” or “We solve complex problems and make it easy for people to great things.” Guess what? You still need to do all the stuff the poser told you all about, but the pro realizes it’s the impact that matters most. And that’s how they’ll show up in your organization.

Critical question and in my opinion a knockout if not answered correctly.

Tell me about the last time you told someone in your organization no.

The Poser – At first, they’ll tell you they don’t say no. They know that’s not what you want to hear since it’s been written about on every HR blog. But push a little and you’ll start to hear things like, “Well, there was this time when a manager wanted to pay someone outside our ranges, and I had to tell them no” or “It’s not my responsibility to say no to a manager. My role is to advise and let the manager decide for themselves.” A theme you’ll hear is how they had to convince someone to change their mind—very us versus them—as opposed to engaging in an open dialogue.

The Pro – Little known secret—the Pro isn’t afraid to say no. But there’s a subtle but important difference in how they get there.  They’ll tell you about how they aligned key people in their organization around guiding principles that will guide how they build the organization and the decisions they’ll be faced with. That’s the hard work. So when a situation comes up that challenges a principle, they don’t get caught up in the “HR said no” trap. Rather, they skillfully bring people back to the principles conversation and resolve the issue.

Now, of course, you’ll ask a bunch of other questions to round out the picture. But if you want to cut to the chase, just ask these two questions and you’ll get 90% of the data you need to make a decision.

Andy Porter

Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.