SPUG: HR problems & solutions (off topic)

Meryll Larkin humbaba9 at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 16 19:20:18 CST 2001


Hi James & All,

I haven't been getting many interviews, but when I do,
I find I have the *WORST* time dealing with HRs, but I
have learned some things that might be worth sharing
since it seems many of us are in the same boat (I
guess I can risk reducing my "competitive edge" if I'm
benefiting my fellow SPUGsters).

HRs don't think like I do.  I'm very literal.  So if
some HR said this to me:   "write some basic code like

ls -R in perl".  I'd first need clarification and I'd
say "ls - R is Unix or Linux.  Would you like me to
write the equivalent in a Perl script or fork it into
a Perl script?"  At which point the HR gets pissed off
because I've pointed out a shortcoming of his or hers
(either that he/she doesn't know the difference
between Unix/Linux and Perl or that he/she doesn't
know how to use precise language).  Either way, I have
now become a "smart ass" and I'm not going to get the
job.  Had I said exactly the same thing in exactly the
same tone to a programmer, he/she would have answered
"Good!  What I'd like you to do is this:...."  And I
would have done it and all would be fine - I'd
probably get the job.

Here's what I do.  I try my best to relate to HR
people as though they are the absolute experts in
corporate culture for their companies (and keep them
so busy telling me how much they know about the
company that they leave the skill screening to the
people who can really do it - my future supervisor
and/or coworkers).  If they ask me "where do I see
myself in 5 years?"  I give them a short safe answer
and then ask them what opportunities I might have in
the company in 5 years.  Etc, etc.  My worst mistake
is that I am often too honest with HR people (these
people want to see the salesperson in you) and give
them too much information about myself (and they have
no idea how to deal with a person with multiple
facets, interests, and personal complexity).  For HR
people, KIS.

HR people think they are trying to match
personalities.  Personally, I have found (with the
exception of a few programmers who have incredibly
swelled egos) that almost all programmers are similar
to myself:  in the work place I can get along with
anyone (A-N-Y-O-N-E) who codes to good standards and
isn't trying to make my job more difficult.  In fact,
the more I respect someone's abilities at work, the
more I tend to like that person, even if we don't have
much in common in other ways.


Meryll Larkin

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