HR Strange But True!
April 24, 2008

OK--the shoe is officially on the other foot. After numerous columns devoted to errant employees and inept interviewees, we challenged you HR types to share some of your own embarrassing moments and slip-ups. And boy, did you ever.

No extra encouragement needed. No begging or pleading. No waterboarding. Not for you folks--you rolled over like a dropped hotdog (remind us not to confide any of our embarrassing secrets). Some of you ratted out your colleagues, but many of you owned up to your own less than shining moments. So, without further ado:

It Looks Good on You, Though

"I was interviewing to fill a laborer position for our company, which consists of approximately 42 employees. I led the gentleman through our office and showed him where my desk is. I told him to have a seat in the 'really ugly old plaid chair' in my office (this chair is VERY used and is upholstered in brown, grey, black, and BRIGHT orange plaid fabric). I walked around my desk and noticed he was still standing and looking at my chair. He said, 'Look... your chair has the same plaid as my shirt.' Sure enough, it was the exact same print. I felt awful!"

Picture This

"The strangest thing anyone has ever done to me in an HR department happened when I was interviewing for an office manager position with a local company. As we proceeded with the interview that I thought was going pretty well, they asked if they could 'take my picture.' They said they were asking everyone this so that they could 'remember' the candidates and what they looked like. I was horrified and speechless! Hmmm... I didn't get the job--maybe I wasn't pretty enough?"

Let Me Sleep on It

"Early in my HR career I was working for a small company and trying very hard to impress my boss. One morning, even though I wasn't feeling very well and had not slept much the night before, I took some cold medicine and headed to work. I had a full load of interviews that morning and knew it would be difficult to reschedule them. During the third or fourth interview of the morning I asked the applicant a question (a very profound one, I'm sure) but I never heard the answer. I fell asleep right there in the interview room. When I opened my eyes the applicant was just looking at me, waiting for the next question. She didn't say anything at all. I highly recommended that we hire her for her discretion. She was a long term and valuable employee. Even a sleepy HR person gets lucky sometimes."

And then there was this one:

"Four years ago I became the proud father of twins. Not having kids before this, I was a little taken aback by the sleepless nights and business of two little ones at the same time. One day at work, following another night of maybe a couple hours sleep, I was doing interviews for our manufacturing plant. Apparently I was really tired, and the applicant was really boring, and I nodded off! I think I was only out for a few seconds before my head whipped up and I revived myself. The applicant did not seem to be bothered by this action and apologized for boring me to death and said how this had actually happened to him before!"

Maybe they were interviewing this person:

"I work in an agency that specializes in the placement of human resource professionals. I call on HR executives to market our services, and to gather information relating to positions they have retained my company to fill. An HR executive of a large multi-national company fell asleep during my meeting with him! I had to talk really loud to rouse him from his slumber. He didn't acknowledge or apologize for his behavior. Coincidently, in 1986, I was interviewing for a position and the person who was interviewing me fell asleep during the interview. He apologized, and stated he suffered from severe allergies that often keep him from sleeping at night during the weeks prior to the first fall freeze. Do you think I'm super boring, or just lucky?"

Can You Hear Me Now?

"I used to be a regional HR manager for a large grocery store chain. I was in one of my stores and received a personal call from my daughter who was getting ready to graduate from high school. She told me the school was not allowing her to graduate because she was missing an assignment. I became very emotional as there was no prior warning and this was the last day of school! I called the school and was transferred to her guidance counselor. When he told me there was nothing he could do and she would have to go to summer school for one assignment, I became enraged and began telling him what an incompetent idiot he was and how could he possibly hold down a job. I went on to say (yell) that I would have his head on a platter because he was of no use to me. Thinking the office was empty, I didn't think anyone was witness to my meltdown. As I was collecting my things and getting ready to leave, I heard someone behind a cubicle wall ask, 'Who's that?' 'Our HR Manager,' replied my store manager who was interviewing a potential employee. Then I heard the job candidate say, 'She needs to work on how she fires people, don't you think?'"

Oh, we've got lots more, including tales of rude executives taking cell phone calls during interviews or asking absurd and/or inappropriate questions. But, as is our wont, we're saving those for another column.

We thank all of you who shared your gaffes, and as for the rest of you, surely your low moments couldn't be any worse or more embarrassing than these.

Or could they?

TGIF - It's HR
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