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Lee Hecht Harrison: A failure of integrity in the HR world

In the November 3, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we try to get to the root of why employers routinely abuse job applicants.

Ever wonder where HR departments learn to mistreat and abuse you when you apply for jobs, then disappear behind a veil of impersonal doubletalk and officious sanctimony?

integrityThe answer lies in who they turn to for “best practices” and “HR policies.”

An entire HR consulting industry teaches HR departments around the world how to behave, and HR in turn trains you to apply for jobs and tolerate increasing levels of abuse. Curiously, according to Google Finance, most of the top HR consulting firms are privately held. Little is known about how they operate, until now, when an odd copyright violation revealed some of the inner workings of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a unit of Adecco, “the world’s #1 employment services firm.”

What’s copyright got to do with bad HR behavior?

From time to time, I deal with scofflaw publishers who steal copyrighted Ask The Headhunter content. When they realize they’ve been caught, I quickly get a nervous phone call and profuse apologies. Statutory damages for distributing a copyrighted work can be as high as $150,000 per incident, which means if you give copies to just 7 people without permission, it could cost you over a million bucks plus attorney fees. To a content licensing business like Ask The Headhunter, copyright is a serious matter. Nonetheless, my policy is to resolve violations quickly and amicably when possible. Contrite violators make this easy most of the time. A sincere phone call goes a long way.

A few weeks ago, an Ask The Headhunter subscriber tipped me off to a rip-off:

lhh-tip-off
The culprit was Michael Schumacher, an LHH Senior Vice President who posted a slightly modified version of an old ATH article to LHH’s LinkedIn Group for the company’s “clients and alumni.” He could have paid for the article — like LHH’s clients pay for LHH’s materials. Instead, he put his own name on it.

The ATH subscriber concurrently put Schumacher on notice that he’d been exposed.

You’d think Schumacher would immediately pick up the phone and call me to apologize, and to take down the stolen article. Instead, Schumacher hid the ripped-off article behind LinkedIn’s members-only wall and hunkered down.

You can’t hide from social media

“If you are represented in the virtual world, what kind of impression are you making?” cautions a LHH report for job seekers. “In this age of technology, not being in tune with the times could even appear unprofessional and possibly be a mark against you.”

This is where the underpinnings of “global” HR behavior came to light — as one of the world’s leading HR advisory firms revealed what “best practices” in the HR world are all about. Pay attention, because this is the root of the culture that mistreats and abuses you when you apply for a job.

I want you to see how a simple copyright violation revealed how a top HR consulting firm operates. The story features a cast of characters we couldn’t dream up:

  • A president whose company’s product is intellectual property — who dispatches “damage control” to cover up IP theft by his company.
  • A top HR executive at a corporate outplacement firm that advises clients to have LinkedIn profiles — who has no LinkedIn profile.
  • An SVP in charge of “Operational Best Practices” — who steals a competitor’s copyrighted content and passes it off to clients as his own, then hides the evidence after it’s already leaked into the social media.

A social media bust

I love social media. It keeps everyone honest because everything a business does today quickly becomes public. You’d think that a company whose business is teaching “best practices” to HR departments would know that.

After I learned of the rip-off, I waited to hear from Schumacher or someone at his company. They knew that I knew, but no one contacted me. So I published Lee Hecht Harrison rips off Ask The Headhunter, an article that quickly made the rounds of social media. Among the items are tweets from a leading HR writer and critic.

lhh-laurie-tweetsLaurie Ruettimann even contacted the president of LHH, Peter Alcide, via LinkedIn. Her style is inimitable.

lhh-lauriie-linkedin

You’d think Alcide, manager of a company whose revenues depend on its IP (intellectual property), would realize how big his problem was and immediately call me to apologize and make amends.

The policy and best practice is damage control

Instead, Alcide revealed the company’s duck-and-cover policy that Schumacher was already following. Peter Alcide ordered up “damage control.”

lhh-to-laurie

Except LHH’s president sent this order to Ruettimann by mistake, and she forwarded it to me. The bungled e-mail apparently refers to LHH’s Dallas/Fort Worth Area Managing Director, Russell Williams, Schumacher’s boss.

What’s all this got to do with your travails with HR? It’s what Lee Hecht Harrison and a host of HR consultancies teach their clients: how to avoid accountability and personal contact. Alcide wasn’t concerned about damage his company caused — or how to make amends. He was concerned only about covering up his company’s bad behavior. The content rip-off was public, but there would be no public mea culpa.

At this point, you’d think Williams would have immediately contacted me, if only to contain the problem. Instead, he handed it off to HR.

Hiding behind HR

Now I offer a challenge to you, dear readers. After an employer recruits you, wastes your time in hours of interviews, gathers volumes of personal and private information that you must provide under threat of rejection for “being unreasonable” — you’re left hoping for a personal call about the outcome of the hiring process. What happens?

HR sends you an impersonal form letter to blow you off.

I couldn’t make this stuff up. LHH’s next action was to send me the equivalent of the form letter you receive when HR blows you off after mistreating and abusing you.

lhh-letter(click to view full size)

That’s what I received from “Pamela Jones, EVP, Human Resources and Legal” at Lee Hecht Harrison. But don’t bother looking up Pam Jones or Pamela Jones associated with Lee Hecht Harrison or Adecco on LinkedIn. Contrary to LHH’s advice to its clients that a LinkedIn profile is a must in today’s business world, LHH’s top HR executive isn’t on LinkedIn.

Are we starting to see the connection between what this HR consulting company promotes and gets paid for, and how its top executives behave?

  • Peter Alcide, the LHH president who ordered damage control so LHH’s clients wouldn’t find out, hid behind damage control.
  • Michael Schumacher, the guy who stole my article, hid behind LinkedIn’s firewall.
  • Pamela Jones, the corporate lawyer who put on her HR hat, and hid under it.

They all hid behind the same veil that LHH teaches its corporate HR clients to draw between themselves and job applicants. That’s the epic failure of integrity in HR today — “best practices” on display from “the world’s #1 employment services firm.”

And you wonder where HR learns how to mistreat and abuse you while disappearing into a fog of self-serving bureaucracy? LHH’s top HR executive is also its lawyer!

Where do dismissive HR policies come from?

What does a copyright violation have to do with your experiences applying for jobs? Lee Hecht Harrison is a key player in the HR world. According to its Google Finance profile, its parent company Adecco “provides career and leadership consulting through its more than 300 offices covering 60 countries around the globe.”

Employers pay big bucks for LHH’s HR “services in areas such as career and leadership development, outplacement, and executive coaching.”

HR departments and the consulting companies behind them dictate your experience when you’re job hunting. Perhaps worse, this HR hegemony forces you to follow “rules” for getting jobs that contradict your own good business sense and lead you on wild goose chases. But you do it, anyway, because HR people reprimand you — and toss out your application — when you fail to follow those rules.

HR learns this stuff somewhere, from someone. It learns from Peter Alcide, Michael Schumacher, Pamela Jones, and a host of other “policy makers” in the career and employment industry who get paid big bucks for their “guidance” and “best practices.”

Best Practices: A failure of integrity

No decision maker at LHH apologized to me — least of all in Pamela Jones’ letter, which is the only communication LHH has deigned to have with me. No one acknowledged to LHH’s paying clients that they were given stolen advice — or showed them where it actually came from. No one acknowledged that LHH’s content theft caused Ask The Headhunter any harm or damage, much less offered to make amends. It was all “an error” and a “misjudgment” and “an isolated incident” — without any proof that plagiarized content isn’t rife throughout the “intellectual property” LHH sells to its “global” clients for top dollar.

Laurie Ruettimann is right to be worried. Who else’s protected content is being illegally distributed by LHH to its clients? I don’t believe Jones’s assurances for one second.

What’s a copyright violation got to do with how you’re treated when you apply for a job? Both are HR problems.

The treatment you get from HR departments when you apply for a job is considered “best practices” — and it’s exemplified by one of the HR firms that drives HR policy around the world. I’ve just experienced what you go through when an employer hides behind HR.

This story is really about HR’s epic failure of integrity. Integrity can’t be parsed. Either a company demonstrates high standards of behavior in all its dealings — or reveals a lack of integrity across the board.

Ask The Headhunter openly criticizes bad behavior in the career and employment industry, and sometimes specific players including TheLadders, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and LinkedIn. Job seekers need to be aware of practices that affect their ability to get a job.

Today, a small group of HR consultancies in the career and employment industry establish the standards of behavior that job seekers are expected to meet: How to apply for jobs, how to present themselves, and how to set aside their good business sense if they want to play the HR game of landing a job.

These firms also dictate how HR departments treat and process the people they recruit.

How a top company — that HR looks to for guidance — handled copyright theft reveals problems not only with LHH’s corporate governance and culture, but with its adverse influence over how companies hire and recruit, and how job seekers suffer through the experience.

An industry where nothing is personal

And that’s the problem with the career and employment industry: a lack of personal integrity and a policy of no accountability. It’s why job seekers cringe at the thought of applying for a job; at interviewing with bureaucratic stuffed shirts who cite “policy” and “best practices” as their excuse for disrespectful behavior; and it’s why job seekers don’t dare to expect respectful treatment from hiring managers who take hours of applicants’ time without the courtesy of any follow-up.

  • Has a manager ever taken your ideas and your time — perhaps in multiple job interviews — then disappeared behind the corporate veil rather than talk to you?
  • Have you ever been subjected to the impersonal swat of the HR hand when a company decides you’re not worth its time?
  • Has an HR manager ever demanded your salary history, and when you declined, told you “it’s the policy — we can’t continue without it”?
  • Has a company ever revealed a disrespectful culture to you, contrary to the image it projects in its marketing?

What you need to know as a job seeker is, the treatment you get from HR has its roots in HR consulting firms that establish HR practices across companies. What you know now is that LHH’s culture is consistent from the bottom to the top. What you’re left wondering is, what are LHH’s and Adecco’s corporate clients paying for when they hire these firms and buy their content?

This is a company stuck in the dark ages of corporate HR hegemony, that telegraphs a message that personal responsibility can and should be hidden behind “damage control” — in an age when everything is public.

How can any employer that competes in today’s world adopt “best practices” from an HR consultancy whose own practices suck so badly?

In today’s business world, it’s not always about whether you can make a buck; it’s about the face you show to the public, to your customers, to your competitors, and to people who bust you when you rip them off. But Lee Hecht Harrison clearly doesn’t operate in today’s world. Since few HR departments do, either, is it any wonder that earnest job seekers can’t catch a break in an HR world where integrity is a big FAIL?

In this copyright incident, Lee Hecht Harrison has done nothing to make amends for its violation. Its HR executive has merely avoided acknowledging that the company did any damage.

Why make a big deal of this?

Because job seekers aren’t in a position to — and because LHH’s behavior with respect to a copyright violation reveals a stunning failure of corporate ethics and integrity in the career and employment industry. It’s a big deal because rude, impersonal practices in HR make it hard for employers to hire — and harder for job seekers to get jobs.

Mistreating and abusing you when you apply for jobs is nothing personal — these people don’t know what personal means. It’s simply best practices. But we all deserve better.

Integrity. It’s been defined as what you do even when no one is watching. But what if you get busted? How do you acknowledge and make amends? Have you encountered abusive, impersonal behavior when dealing with employers? Where do you think it comes from? How should we all deal with it? If you work in HR, I’d especially like to hear from you — tell us how your company demonstrates integrity.

Update: November 24, 2015

Following the publication of this article Peter Alcide, President and COO of Lee Hecht Harrison, called me and did the right thing. In a tweet and a posting on the LHH website, he issued a public apology for violating Ask The Headhunter copyright, made restitution for misuse of the content, and the matter is resolved.

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47 Comments
  1. “Adecco”

    There’s your problem right there. My experience with Adecco is that they’ll withhold material information related to the job that might make someone hesitate or not take a position. That way, they can get their cut and make a buck.

    I wouldn’t trust any company owned or affiliated with Adecco.

  2. People steal stuff on the Internet all the time. They don’t expect to get caught at it. Good for you in not only catching one of them, but also holding them accountable to an ethical standard.

  3. You rock, Nick!! You caught them red-handed. I hope you initiate action on the copyright violation soon. Keep us posted on what ensues.

  4. Back in early September I applied for a job with some dinky company called JLT via StinkedIn (direct apply) and was contacted by the HR rep who scheduled me for a telephone screening with the hiring manager. The morning before the call, she contacted me saying he had to reschedule the call. I said no problem, and she said “great, we’ll be in touch.” THREE WEEKS LATER, I was still waiting, so I emailed her asking “should I assume this call is never going to happen?” I received NO response. One week later, I got fed up and emailed another HR rep shown on their website where they were still advertising the job, pointing out “according to the LinkedIn job page, you received 117 applicants for this position — did you treat them all as disrespectfully as you’ve treated me? I am also baffled as to why, after receiving a whopping 117 applicants, you continue to advertise this job. Am I to believe that out of 117 applicants (including myself), you didn’t find even one qualified applicant?” Surprise, I received NO response to that email. Then I got really angry, and emailed the guy shown as their “media” contact, blasting him with “in the age of social media, treating people this poorly – including job applicants — is not a smart business practice.” Well, I *finally* got a response here, he replied sort of apologizing and saying he’d look into it to see what happened.

    A few hours later, I got the following email from HR dimwit #2:

    “Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding the Graphic Designer position with JLT Specialty Insurance Services, Inc. Our posting on LinkedIn generated a large response of qualified applicants and has been filled. We will keep your resume on file for 6 months should another position matching your experience, skills and areas of expertise becomes available.

    “The applicant experience is important to us and we are always looking for ways to make improvements. If you would like to speak to me regarding your applicant experience, please feel free to contact me.”

    Absolutely pathetic!!! A canned copied/pasted rejection email with the last “The applicant experience is important to us / please feel free to contact me” paragraph tagged on as a joke…?!?!? My jaw is still sore from hanging open in disbelief…I probably should have forwarded it to the media guy, but at this point I figured why bother, it’s a losing battle, time to throw in the towel.

  5. BTW Nick, did you happen to see this latest piece of crap…? https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22830452-700-why-pleasing-ai-headhunters-could-help-you-land-your-perfect-job/#bx304527B1

    He “interviewed” me for this (I’m mentioned in the gray “afterthought” box at the bottom), boy do I feel stupid, here I thought he was going to write an expose on the failures of ATSs, but instead he writes praises of AI and reports that it’s actually gonna get worse before it gets better courtesy of yet another fantastic (sarcasm) crap app courtesy of StinkedIn. Did he actually talk to you for that quote? I can’t believe I wasted 45 min with him, he didn’t even get my info correct (I told him I have over 700 rejections, not “several” hundred, big difference). I’ll never take the title “journalist” in this age seriously ever again.

  6. Thanks for this article! It certainly explains the (sometimes) rotten ways I have been treated over the years when I was job hunting. I’m retired now and hope never to have to deal with this anymore! Every high school and college student should read this article, so they become aware of the challenges they face. When we are unemployed and struggling to find a job, the last thing we need is to be treated like dirt by HR types.

  7. I think we are in danger of missing the forest for the trees. The whole construct of the corporation is a device for evading personal responsibility. You should wonder when you encounter a decent person inside a corporation, not when you run into a sociopath, although I’ll grant you that the HR industry seems to be at the vanguard of the sociopathy.

    We need a revolution. The corporate rot has spread too far in our society for anything else (e.g., public shaming) to have any effect.

  8. What a dynamic article. I was going to save reading it for later but got caught up in the story.

    If I were you Nick, I would go after them for copyright violation–but that is up to you.

    I got a kick out of their tag line: The global talent development leader in connecting people to jobs and helping individuals improve performance. Yeah, right.

  9. Nick, go get ’em in court. I am usually the “never sue” guy, and always try to prevent suits. This case will definitely force the social media and conventional media to take notice, even if you don’t get the financial award you deserve. I think a full discovery of anything else have stolen will be interesting – especially if they try to delete it.

  10. Nice words do not behavior change. Financial losses may begin to.

    Sue the bastards! They’ve got deep pockets, and deserve everything they get.

    I’m sure there is another Rutgers Son who would be willing to take this case on… from one alum to another.

    Jim Jarvis
    BS ’73, EMBA ’85

  11. I am an HR professional and many times I feel alone because I don’t follow these types of “best practices”. Thank you for your article. It is about time HR gets real and realize these best practices reflect our own personal integrity.

  12. Nick, thanks for exposing this.

    You’re right: us individual job seekers don’t have the clout to expose the nonsense and even mistreatment that we’re subjected to.

    Even if we could expose it, we’d rather turn a blind eye because we don’t want to jeopardize our chances of getting hired.

    One time I’m in a “screening” interview with HR. She can’t answer my basic questions about the job — but naturally she nonetheless assumes that she can screen me for it.

    “I don’t know what the job is. But I’ll decide if you’re a fit for it.” lol. Oh the irony and arrogance.

    On the inside, I feel myself seething over how this is a waste of my time — but on the outside I am friendly and helpful because I want her to recommend me to move forward.

    She did move me forward. But sometimes you want to call them out and you’re just too chicken to do it. I am anyway. :)

    I’m getting better. More room for improvement though. :)

  13. P.S.

    Laurie Ruettimann: marry me.

    Hah hah, love your prose and gumption!

  14. I am proud of this article, because it shows really and truly how corrupt the HR departments are worldwide.

    Why should we respect them, if they do not have the integrity or human decency to treat other people well.

    Yes I know we are also part of the problem, when the ability to apply jobs became much easier in the online world, so they had no choice but to find ways to screen more, to find only the top cream.

    So in the coping with one situation, clearly, made for a far worsed effed up situation.

    What good is business practicing, aka capitalism, creating products and services if does not also include integrity, responsibility and honor.

  15. Nick–I’m applauding you as I type.

    First, because (as you might remember from previous correspondence) I write on the same general subject. And I have found pieces of both my Huff Post pieces and my book ripped off un-attributed dozens of times. I’ve also seen my book “available for free download” on a regular basis. I’ve never spoken up–and you have. Which I admire a lot. Now I’m inspired to follow your lead.

    Second, your spot on description of LHH brings to mind the absolutely closed ranks, insular nature of the industry. In the words of the great blogger “Driftglass” (Note the way I gave credit there–it ain’t that hard) in his words. “#1 There is a CLUB. #2. You’re not in it.”

    Bottom line: I am proud to be in your club!

  16. This bad behavior seems to continue as no one stops them. We are working in a culture where “free” is the price of many things . . . created by others. :(
    Keep chasing them like a pit bull, Nick!

  17. Really unbelievable. Why are we so quick to hide and not say – we screwed up? We are sorry and please forgive? Where is the humility here? The first word of HR…is Human and we constantly forget that.
    Good job Nick! I’m with YOU.

  18. Theft of IP is still theft. Inadvertent, unintended…whatever…it’s just lipstick on the crime. Words won’t change this behavior, but damages might.

    File suit.

  19. If you do get an impersonal blow-off form letter — as opposed to adamant silence — consider yourself lucky.

  20. I received 30 days of “services” of LHH from a previous employer. My wife numerous times during the editing process and several extended phone calls with the LHH representative angrily stated that I was wasting my time. The resume their expert had me do resulted in zero interviews.
    In general, during my employment search HR rep behavior has left me shaking my head at the arrogance of ignorance tied to less than stellar behavior matched with a know-it-all attitude. It is a shame that those of us “not in the Club” can not get in a position to change the HR paradigm for the better.

  21. I am amazed how much effort they put into this damage control work, when a simple call, and “I am really sorry, I will remove the stuff from the net, and never do it again”, would do it…

  22. Amazing piece. One wonders how such lack of integrity is tolerated in an upper level position in a company

    @karsten nailed it exactly…

    And to think that when I wanted to use Nick’s content to mentor young career professionals in a lecture series, without compensation, my first step was:

    Dear Nick….is this ok with you?

    And I saved a fortune not having to consult a lawyer to do that …

  23. So, did this Michael Schumacher get fired from LHH? From the looks of his LI profile it looks like they let him go!

    T

  24. Living in eight other states and working overseas, I previously would have said I had great integrity. Here in DC, I have learned a whole new way of operating:

    When I display integrity by owning up to mistakes or pointing out privately to an employer that they are using copyrighted material without license and might want to fix it before someone outside the company notices, *I* am the problem and am reprimanded.

    When I went to HR and explained a medical condition (covered by ADA) had become active again, giving them a heads’ up so we could work together to make sure the business didn’t suffer, they fired me.

    To admit wrongdoing, flaw, mistake, or weakness is to open yourself to attack because you have shown vulnerability.

    How do you avoid the attack? You double down, lawyer up, and stonewall. Friends and peers here have explained it to me patiently and repeatedly as though I just fell off a turnip truck.

    After five years in the District, I feel like I have less integrity. However, I am am more “safe” from attack in the modern business world, whose rules seem to cover everything from personal relationships to church congregations.

    (Note to self: Move, already.)

  25. @Tim Sackett
    If we follow Michael Schumacher’s Linkedin account, he can give us a lesson on how to transition into a new career…

  26. Nick,

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article. It’s rare for a long blog post to capture the attention, but you did so well here, providing fodder for not only HR but all professionals to question whether or not they are walking the walk.

    Well done.

  27. @sighmaster: ““The applicant experience is important to us and we are always looking for ways to make improvements.”

    The institutionalized hypocrisy, arrogance and disdain for job seekers that’s embedded in that boilerplate should stun any company’s board of directors. If I were you, I’d send your comments and that quote to the chairman of the board at that company and ask, “Do you know where your company’s failure is being birthed right now?”

    Sheesh. I swear, the readers of this blog post better stuff than I do. Can’t thank you all enough.

    BTW, I was indeed interviewed for that New Scientist article. The writer made it seem I resent automated recruiting because it costs me business. In fact, what I told him was that those stupid recruiting methods cost employers their best candidates. New Scientist won’t let me register to view the article, and the author has ignored my request for help getting in to read it. I gave him quite a bit of my time.

    Contrast that thinly veiled promotion for LinkedIn to this article, which appeared yesterday in Human Resources Executive Online, by Jill Cueni-Cohen, who actually does her homework, knows her topic inside and out, and listens to the people she interviews – and gets it:
    http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534359497&

    @Oliver: “The whole construct of the corporation is a device for evading personal responsibility.”

    I’m a capitalist, but I’m afraid what you say is true today. Corporations do not need to act this way, and they would stop if the corporate veil were torn away and management were made personally liable. I think it’s coming.

    @dlms: “The global talent development leader in connecting people to jobs and helping individuals improve performance.”

    I’m glad someone picked that up. I was going to use it in the article, but then I’d be giving everything away. Please check sighmaster’s comment above, which includes a quote from a rejection e-mail. The same sort of drivel.

  28. @Ginny Conboy: I can’t thank you enough for posting. There are many HR folks like you, who do the right thing because they understand what it is. We need more like you, but please speak up. In the end, every HR person’s job hinges on companies identifying this problem and cleaning it up. If not, it’s going to cost HR its very existence.

    If you have time, I wish you’d outline some of the things you do to ensure job applicants are treated respectfully. People need to know that some employers do it right, and they need to know what kinds of behaviors to look for to identify good companies.

    @Kevin Kane: “You’re right: us individual job seekers don’t have the clout to expose the nonsense and even mistreatment that we’re subjected to.”

    The more people that post their comments on articles like this, the more power you all have. Keep ’em coming. Twitter is covered with tweets about this article. I know it sounds self-serving, but please tweet and share this article through other social media channels. Let others know there’s a dialogue they can join. Remember TheLadders.

    PS – Sorry, but Laurie is taken :-)

    @Craig M. Rosenblum: If you’re proud of this article, I’m grateful. Thanks for you kind words – and for the kind words of everyone who’s been posting.

    “Yes I know we are also part of the problem”

    I’m sorry to say that’s true. I completely understand that a job seeker is very nervous about speaking up when s/he encounters this kind of treatment. But until job seekers start raising their standards and expecting/demanding integrity from employers during the hiring process, this crap will continue to be dished out. Please keep in mind that most job “opportunities” go south because they’re wishful thinking from the start. So the risk of expecting better is pretty small. The benefit of showing who you are and how high your standars are – well, that tips off a good employer that you’re worth hiring. The rest aren’t worth working for, or they’re not going to hire you anway.

    @Roger Wright: Write about it!

    @Steve Langehough: The lousy behavior you see in HR is inculcated by the “experts” HR relies on to tell it how to behave. There’s an entire industry of “HR consultancies” comprising failed HR wonks that delivers “white papers” and “best practices” to their gullible peers – who then implement that stuff. Is there a board of directors that’s watching?

    @Laurie Ruettimann: A big fat THANK YOU for standing up and calling this what it is.

    @Karsten: “I am amazed how much effort they put into this damage control work, when a simple call, and ‘I am really sorry, I will remove the stuff from the net, and never do it again’, would do it…”

    Karsten, such effort is the mainstay of HR salaries and jobs. The more they put into the sham, the more they can justify their jobs. Just consider automated recruiting. “WE NEED MORE HR BECAUSE THE BILLIONS OF APPLICATIONS WE BLINDLY SOLICIT REQUIRE MORE HR!!”

    Give us all a break. Thanks for highlighting the insanity.

    @Vp Sales: “Amazing piece. One wonders how such lack of integrity is tolerated in an upper level position in a company.”

    Answer: Easily.

    And, hey, thanks for asking permission. A request goes a long way. In some cases, so does a bum.

    @Tim Sackett: I have no idea whether Schumacher was fired. If he was, what do you think of that? What does it say to you?

    @Susan: I hestitate sometimes to write very long pieces, but the folks around ATH get it. Thanks for your kind words!

  29. Ultimately, it boils down to a real-world application of Lincoln’s adage: “If you want to test a man’s character, give them power.”

  30. @Craig M. Rosenblum
    In today’s world, I don’t think an applicant can complain about not hearing anything back after submitting a resume. But if she gets promised an interview or screen, HR should really tell her if it falls through. That’s only common decency.
    So where are the hiring managers in this mess? What kind of garbage do they get after HR filtering? Or is the problem that they, being too busy to hire someone to reduce the workload, do an even worse job?

  31. @Scott: “So where are the hiring managers in this mess? What kind of garbage do they get after HR filtering?”

    It’s a bit off topic, but your second question is THE question in recruiting today. What kind of filtering could HR possibly do to fill a marketing, programming, engineering job that would be worth ten cents?

    And you’re right: Where are the managers? Why don’t they do the filtering themselves, or in cooperation with their marketers, engineers or programmers – since they are most qualified to make the first cut of applicants?

    Does anyone realize that the first cut is the most important – because everything that comes after is colored by the most inaccurate filter in the entire process???

    Why doesn’t someone in HR get this?? Why don’t managers get it??

    End of rant.

  32. @ Craig M. Rosenblum

    “they had no choice but to find ways to screen more, to find only the top cream.”

    What they are getting is the people who are best at getting through the HR system, not the people who are best at doing the work. They aren’t the same thing.

  33. The “headhunters” who work for the “search firms” that comprise Adecco (and other firms) are just as guilty as the HR wonks with whom they daisy-chain.

    A couple of months ago I contacted two different such firms — really “placement agencies” or “body shops” as opposed to legitimate “headhunters” — regarding positions they’d posted and that had been sent to me via one or more of the free subscription job posting services to which I subscribe. One was for a financial position with a local “manufacturing company.” I asked the placement firm rep what kind of product was manufactured, indicating that if it was food or pharmaceuticals, I wouldn’t be interested. He said that it was a hard good, which fits with me, and asked me to e-mail my resume to him. The other was for a contract financial position with a communications firm, which also fits with my background and consideration set. He also asked for my resume.

    I never heard back from either one. To expect a response after sending an unsolicited resume is completely out of the question today, although the “old school” in me says that some form of acknowledgement should still be offered. (After all, e-mail is free. It’s not like it’s going to cost a stamp, stationery, and letter as it would have 30 and more years ago.)

    But to request a resume and not acknowledge it is not only unprofessional, it’s just plain rude. If they, in their “expert” opinion, deem my background and experience to not be worthy of further consideration, the least they can do is send a “form letter” e-mail, thanking me for the resume and the response, and shoveling the usual manure at me that they’ll “keep me in their files for future reference.”

  34. HR seems to follow the same business model as the mafia – or wall Street: They provide very littløe of useful services, but you need to pay them protection money – or fill out forms – to get something real work done.

  35. @Robert O’Brien: All good points, but I disagree on two things. First, a “body shop” has no excuse for not telling you (a) what the product is, or even (b) who the company is. If they suggest that telling you might cost them a placement fee, then their contract with their client (if they even have a contract) is worthless. That means the “firm” is probably not worth working with.

    Second, while I agree that a solicited resume ALWAYS deserves a response from an employer or headhunter or body shop, I see no distinction between a phone call to solicit your resume or a job posting. Both are solicitations and either they’re done intelligently or stupidly. When employers post ads that yield tons of inappropriate applications, the employers behave stupidly because they’re advertising incorrectly and in the wrong places.

    As you point out, e-mail is free. But a firm’s reputation is not; it costs time and money to maintain. Those firms are ruining their reputations, but job seekers need to learn not to encourage bad behavior via wishful thinking. An “opportunity” presented by a firm that behaves in a less than businesslike manner is no opportunity.

    You deserve a reply in any case, and you deserve to know who the employer is unless the “headhunter” can give you a good explanation why the employer cannot be disclosed.

    Thanks for posting your stories!

  36. @Karsten: You know, that’s not so funny as it is accurate. The HR “industry” as a whole does, for the most part, operate like the mob. It takes a pound of flesh or you don’t get in the door.

    But HR’s problem, increasingly, is that people are learning to go around. The nastiest cases are where people DO go around and get busted and kicked out of a company even when managers want to hire them. That’s where the analogy is even more apt.

  37. A selection of Tweets about this topic:

    TJ Anderson Retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in
    22h: #Integrity, corporate indulgence, and the evils of modern #HR practices. @nickcorcodilos @LHH @AdeccoUSA

    Christy Anderson @RentonChristy 22h22 hours ago
    #Integrity, corporate indulgence, and the evils of modern #HR practices. @nickcorcodilos @LHH @AdeccoUSA

    Neil H. Watson Retweeted Ask The Headhunter
    Agree, secretive, double talking HR staff are not helping employers find candidates. #jobsearch

    Marcus Ronaldi and Tim Sackett SCP,SPHR Retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in
    Nov 3: A must read for executives who do business with Lee Hecht Harrison: A failure of integrity via @nickcorcodilos

    Brad Galin @bradgalin Nov 3
    Lee Hecht Harrison: A failure of integrity in the #HR world via @nickcorcodilos – @LHH showing no integrity

    Jon Jenks-Bauer @jonjb Nov 3
    #HR & #Recruiting leaders: Don’t hire @LHH – They have no integrity. @lruettimann @nickcorcodilos

    Kameron Swinton @kamoswin Nov 3
    Retweeted Ask The Headhunter
    Looking forward to their next “advice” column on ethics…

    Suzanne Lucas @RealEvilHRLady Nov 3
    Lee Hecht Harrison: A failure of integrity in the HR world from @nickcorcodilos.

    Bob Summerwill @BobSummerwill Oct 26 Vancouver, British Columbia
    @shaggyfrog @nickcorcodilos HR for HR for HR, of course!

    Laurie Ruettimann @lruettimann Nov 3
    A must read for executives who do business with Lee Hecht Harrison: A failure of integrity https://shar.es/15tXlr via @nickcorcodilos

  38. Nick, it’s sad that Adecco thinks they should get away with Copyright infringement.

    I support you 100% when you decide to have your lawyers contact them to discuss financial compensation for the use of your Intellectual Property without your consent.

    In the past, you have contacted me to ensure that specific information you released was with my explicit approval and that showed you have considerable regard to moral integrity.

  39. Here’s another vignette of the HR industry. This is a letter I never sent to the CEO of Lockheed Martin. Its content tells my story.

    Dear Ms Hewson:
    You may enjoy the multiple ironies in this.
    I recently completed an on-line application for a LMCO job. The site was obviously a carefully crafted web experience and was certainly a large and important investment designed to capture the interest of qualified candidates.
    Shortly thereafter I received a form email, designed (not surprisingly) to look like it was a personal message, asking me to complete a customer experience survey. The email closed with a signature block and an actual email address of someone responsible for the survey.
    So, I seized that opportunity to contact that LMCO HR resource with a simple question: As a former employee, is there someone in the Charleston area that I could speak to?
    Here’s where the irony kicks in: I received a personal reply that stated that my comments would be forwarded to the survey team, and that LMCO cannot respond to personal messages. If the irony isn’t clear:
    LMCO is surveying “customers” asking about their experience (that seems personal) over the signature of a LMCO manager (and THAT’s designed to appear to be personal), and then when that manager is contacted, she takes the time to send a personal response saying LMCO doesn’t have the time to respond to personal requests.
    So, LMCO works hard to create a great site to attract candidates, you survey those candidates to see if they’re happy, but you pay a salary to someone who personally makes it clear to me that there cannot be any personal contact with my former employer.
    I think LMCO can do better. If I were in charge, I’d insist on it.

  40. One could write a book on the topic, which I won’t try to do here. One point jumped out to me when I 1st read it…”Best Practices”. I saw that piece of corporate advice come on the scene and like a lot of business fads make some good points, then get diluted into “Usual Practices” Best for who? Who says it’s best? Best means best for the business’s bottom line.
    Taking the term HR at it’s word,,with a focus on the human part of it, “practices” is off the mark. HR should be all about principles (a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.) And I think a well placed and well working HR should make identifying a company’s principles their business. And act as the CEO’s check and balance to see that they are carried out. Particularly as regarding how people who are part of or interact with the company are treated. And HR needs carry that flag & practice what they preach.
    As to the topic…LHH and their like.. they most definitely should nail down the principles of HR not just practices which are more about the conduct of business then the principles that glue it together. So it’s not a stretch to imagine that the CEO of such a company, lay out hard requirements e.g. honesty, integrity, consideration for others for starters, to it’s own employees and officers and to their clients. And given that basically they provide information in the form of training, mentoring, etc. and anyone who publishes useful information would be a source… one firm platitude that should be ever present is “Thou shall not plagiarize”
    They don’t need to. Just data mining the multitude of sources out there, gaining permission to pass it on (including payment), organizing it and passing it along to their clients IS a useful service. And I doubt paying for use would be a major expense. And of course they would not be denied their own legitimate authorship.

    Now as to the horrible HR people who derail your job searches, ignore you etc. Yes part of that is showing lack of their own principles. Just because your company seems to lack them, doesn’t preclude an HR team from having firm principles about how to treat applicants. But most people complaining about HR are mis-directing their angst. Your issue is with the hiring managers (on non-hiring) managers, who are hiding behind HR, who’s pretty much done their part, found you, and passed along the info to the hiring manager. You may be surprised to find that the HR person who’s pissed you off, who’s inside the company is having the same problem you are..the Hiring Manager isn’t responding. Procrastinating, overworked, crappy at recruiting, doesn’t like interviewing etc. You often aren’t hearing back from HR because they have nothing to report..and they don’t want to tell you the embarasssing truth..that the manager you’re trying to connect to isn’t doing his/her recruiting job.
    But here’s where some HR integrity can come into play..that’s when HR gets in the face of the hiring manager, within the time frame of a reasonable response time and tells them..”if you don’t give me an answer, or get back to that person, I’m going to cut them loose. We will not leave anyone swinging in the breeze. You owe them an answer” I can also tell you from personal experience that in many cases you owe your job to some obscure HR weenie who personally nagged some Manager to get off their ass and make a decision, or simply did their job for them & scheduled.

  41. Don, you make a good point: the issue is often with management. I personally know a HR worker who has complained that management expects HR to turn up the imaginary perfect candidates, without management helping to define what is the perfect candidate – or to pull out their finger and make a decision among the real world imperfact candidates.

    As for not getting back to applicants; I work for a small oil company, only 15 people, and we have a policy that the switchboard does not direct unsolicited calls to the CEO or COO, simply because otherwise they would not have time to their jobs. The rule is; send an email and we get back to you if we are interested. (They were with me, in fact the COO called back the next day, and I had a new job within a week). However, with solicited applications, it is a diferent game; if we ask for applications, off course we give feedback.

  42. Just for the record: The HR manager in the previous comment worked in a different company, in a different sector.

  43. As it was explained to me by a former supervisor, HR is not for humans. It is for the company. It has one purpose: to keep the humans from suing the company. Once you understand that, you understand HR’s motive and can act accordingly.

    I still root for the humans. Way to bring the light, Nick.

  44. Nick, this is terrible! Whatever happened to owning up to your “mistakes”, apologizing to you verbally (make the phone call) or in writing for using your work without your permission and without citing you as the source, and immediately removing it from their website/information? I go round and round with the kids (many of them are older students too, not just teenagers) in my classes, as do my colleagues. We talk about citation and plagiarism every time in class, and we quiz them on it. And still the kids don’t get it. The most common responses I get are “but I found it on the internet” and “why does it matter?”. It sounds like the LHH folks have the same attitudes as many of my students, the only differences being that I’m sure that they more educated, know the risks of IP theft, and have the resources to double down on their statements and behaviors.

    I wish I could say that I’m shocked by the unethical behavior, but I’m not. They do it because they can, and the answer to the question “don’t they care about their and their company’s reputation?” is no, they do not. Profit comes before everything else, so that is where you have to hit them. Appealing to their morals, to their sense of integrity, to their ethics is a losing battle because they have no morals, no integrity, and don’t care about ethics.

    Nick, thanks for shining a light on this, and sue them. Getting hit with a large fine and having to publicly issue a retraction (citing you and your work) may get their attention (the money more so than any retraction).

  45. This what a jury thought about musicians copying other musicians work.

    I believe that you have a case against Adecco in your favour.

    Robin Thicke, Pharrell Lose Multi-Million Dollar ‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/robin-thicke-and-pharrell-lose-blurred-lines-lawsuit-20150310

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