Thursday, July 22, 2010

"No" Doesn't Always Sound The Same Way

We've all been rejected. Whether it be in high school on the person we had a crush on, when we were applying to college, when we've interviewed for jobs, or even when some of us have been let go from that a job that we've all been told, at one point or another: "no". But there's many different ways to say no and doing it in the right way in both the hiring and firing process, a company can help candidates and former employees as well as helping their own self-image. Let's take a look at the three types of candidates and how is a bad and a good way to say N-O.

External Job Candidate

These are the easiest people to say no to out of the three groups we'll talk about, but there are still proper ways to go about this. I know one former classmate who was told they had a prestigious position at an investment bank coming out of business school only to have that invitation revoked once the company hit some skids. How did this person find out they weren't going to be employed at this large bank? The news. Seriously. Instead of calling/e-mailing/writing the candidates to let them know their signed offers were not going to be honored, they instead let the news organizations reporting the story know and the classmate found out by reading about the company online. That's rough--and wrong.

The best way to go about it was done a few years back for me. I applied for a job that was I pretty sure I was under-qualified for--but I really liked the company, job, pay, and thought it would be worth it to apply. After speaking with the Human Resources representative for a few minutes on the phone the day I applied, she told me they were sifting through applications and she would get back to me. She did get back to me--later that evening and told me that they were not going any further with my application. Instead of just not calling me back (which is happened to many people I know plenty of times recently), she called me on her drive home to discuss why they were going elsewhere. She talked me through the strong points in my resume and where they felt I may not fit for the job. She also told me they would keep my resume on file and I shouldn't hesitate to reapply in the future. I was shocked by this phone call and certainly appreciated it. "No" didn't sound like "no" that time.

Internal Job Candidate

Probably the most difficult person to say no to out of the group. At least when you're laying off someone you're ushering them out the door and outside job candidates you don't know from Adam usually--but internal job candidates who don't get the job are still going to be walking around those same floors every day. The worst way to do it is to do it impersonally and/or string that person along. Most internal job applications require a candidate to tell his or her boss and/or human resources representative. Then they need to interview at the same company they already work (which usually is accompanied by a good deal of inter-company gossip). To say the least, these people are sticking their necks out and putting their jobs on the line. Many bosses probably are not so happy with a candidate saying they're looking for another job in the company and if they don't get hired by the new hiring manager, fear of retribution from the original manager can be strong.

So it's not a surprise that I shook my head at one story I heard recently of how an internal job candidate was strung along for a month and half only to not got the job. Worse yet, instead of the hiring manager or human resources representative letting the candidate know they weren't going to get the job, they received a call from the home offices from someone they never spoke to before who was in charge of breaking the bad news to them. Not only does this person have to run into the people who didn't want to hire them every day, but they also had to deal with the fact that none of them would have the common courtesy to tell the candidate themselves.

Instead, internal candidates should be met with an open and honest process. Companies should clamor to keep good employees and if an employee is looking for a new position internally, it's a good bet they're looking externally as well. Even if the candidate is ultimately not hired, he or she needs to be given every form of support possible to make sure that they don't become angry, resentful or disenfranchised with the company. Sometimes this can be done in the form of offering the candidate more training to improve their skills or some sort of financial incentive to thank them for trying to stay but keeping them satisfied all at the same time.

Letting Go Of An Employee

In this economy, almost every company has at least had to think about cutting back on employees. The recession has hit every industry hard and difficult personnel decisions have had to be made all across the United States and the globe. But there is a right way and a wrong way about doing things. One prestigious investment bank--which has been in the news a lot recently for other unethical practices--certainly did this the wrong way. Instead of letting employees know that there would be some layoffs coming, they leaked it out to a few internal members and let them spread around the rumor. Hysteria set in for a day but no one was let go. The next day, when people tried to swipe their key cards to come into the building, some of the employees had key cards that didn't work. It wasn't a glitch--those employees had their key cards shut off because they had been laid off. How embarrassing must it have been for those people to stand in the lobby of this large building as their still-employed co-workers are passing by? How confusing must this have been for many of them. When these people went to security to find out why their badges weren't working, they were each handed an envelope with severance information and a number to call if they had questions. That's just awful.

I also heard of other companies doing right by their employees. There were stories of small business owners who knew they had to shut down operations and instead found creative ways to stay open--sometimes even getting the employees to sacrifice some benefits so that everyone could keep their jobs. There were stories of CEOs who instead of taking a fat paycheck for reducing payroll, took that fat paycheck and put it back into employees salaries so that no one would be let go. But when employees have had to be let go, there were right ways to do this too. Some companies offered long severance packages, vested previously unvested retirement investments, provided job search support or future job training, and some even kept the door open for rehiring. While sometimes there's very little way to avoid it, you want people to leave your company with the least sour taste in their mouth as possible.

So what way do you use to say no to employees? What are best practices that you've established? What about any horror stories you may know of? Let us know in the comments below

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