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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Super Secret HR Stuff

I've gotten a few questions lately that ask about "secret" HR stuff. So, I've decided to spill the secret HR beans and blab about all our secret handshakes and stuff. Except if there are any, no one has given them to me. I suppose this is because I don't belong to SHRM. Why? My employer won't pay for it and I'm too cheap to join myself. So, there's a secret for you!

The first question deals with a woman who fought the HR director and lost and then was coincidentally laid off shortly thereafter. In the past she's had no problem finding new jobs, but now the interviews go well, but then no one ever calls back. She asks:

The real question - the HR recruiter from my last company is well connected with recruiters all over the Bay Area which I can tell from our connected LinkedIn accounts. Is there a protected website for HR professionals where references are available that are not the type that would be given on the phone? Negative references that could lead to lawsuits? I just have this feeling that something else is in play here that I have no control over.

No secret, password protected sites that I'm aware of. (Again, maybe I just am not evil enough to get the passwords.) But, what you can do is follow up with the companies you interviewed with. Don't be pushy, but inquire about the position. If you really believe it's because of a negative reference from this woman, have a friend call her up and ask her for a reference for you.

If the reference is negative, you can then deal with that. If it's positive or neutral (many companies have policies against giving references--managers don't follow that but HR does), that's not your problem.

But keep in mind--the economy isn't going well. There are tons of applicants on the market and companies are sometimes hesitant to hire if they are afraid they will have to fire later. Also, make sure you provide references. Not everyone will restrict themselves to just calling people on the list, but many will. Control as much of the process as you can.

The next secret HR dealt with tattling to the authorities:

I recently applied for a job and as par for the course was required to consent to a criminal background check, credit check, physical.... Everything, it seems, except my blood, which i might add.... They took. Anyway, I'm worried that I may have a bench warrant from over ten years ago for a traffic violations. My question to you is, if this is true, can my prospective employer notify the local authorities?

Sure they can! Your neighbor can too. I don't know anyone that would--for traffic violations. Sure, if it comes up that you are wanted for armed robbery, I'd make that phone call myself. (Although I don't know how our attorneys would feel about that, but frankly, I'm more afraid of armed robbers than attorneys.)

Your real concern is that you've got something in your past you don't want to come out. Why not deal with it head on? Hire an attorney and have him contact the state in question and see what can be done to clear up your little mess. Pay your fines, take your punishment and get on with life. I don't know how bad this is, but I imagine the state would rather get money from you than throw you in jail, so why not face it head on and get over it?

HR really isn't in the business of law enforcement. We run background checks because we don't want bad people working for and with us. If you get angry and go shooting people up, we don't want to hire you in the first place because you might come after us when we eventually fire you.

So, deal with it and then you can stop worrying. Unless you are applying for a driving job, people don't care about traffic tickets. We do care if warrant comes up for you in a background check because that scares us a little. If we could legally not hire you because of it, I honestly don't know. Probably not. But, still, take care of it.

So, now you have learned some super secret HR stuff. Hope it helps.


Kerry said...

A website where HR people can talk smack about candidates? Hey, that's not a bad idea.

I've been an HR director for several companies, and I know for sure there are people who think I am out to get them for stuff...years later. The truth is, I have trouble even remembering their names sometimes.

HR folks tangle with someone at least a few times a day. It's a big deal to the person on the other end of the tangling, but to us, it's usually just not that big of a deal.

Anonymous said...

Because as an HR professional (or any professional) I have nothing better to do then to write a blog about someone who I just fired so that I can kepe them from earning a living somewhere else.

I love people..... my favorite title is "HR.....the necessary evil."


Mark Bregman said...

Excellent advice! My assistant recommended your blog to me, and I will start reading it regularly.

Evil HR Dictator said...

The secret password is EVIL666.

lydiajane said...

I can guarantee you that, even in this economy, recruiters have a lot more interest in filling their open positions than trashing former employees - it's just not worth their time! No one calls recruiters for references, anyway. And if you have your former Director is on you reference list, well, what are you thinking? Even so, the Director is probably savvy enough to know not to give out a negative comment, it's such a No-no even in the secret HR world.

Background checks generally don't go beyond 10 years, unless it's for serious felony convictions, so you're probably OK, but as EVIL says, get it cleared up. It will probably come back to haunt you at some point: I got a totally bogus speeding ticket (clearly a set-up!) in a state I did not live in, and didnt' pay it I was so mad about it; but when, several years later I applied to transfer my drivers license to another state - they got me! States have reciprocal agreements abut stuff like that. Don't wait until it matters, clear it up now and save yourself the worry later.

Evil HR Lady said...

Evil HR Director--how did I not know that. And do you realize that you just gave the secret password away to everyone?

Olivia said...

One thing I would recommend to either / both of your conspiracy your own reference and background check before you go job hunting! Have a friend, or a buddy in HR call those people you've listed as references, and order up your own background check. Then, as you've wisely advised, deal with anything you can, or at least be prepared to head off any negative items. I'll think much more favorably of someone who lets me know they have a DUI felony from 9 years ago than those who let me find it out myself. Even then, this is America, an attorney and some cash go a long way to clearing up "misunderstandings" in your records.

Just another HR lady... said...

Lol, I totally agree Kerry. It's commonplace for us to be dealing with people-related issues (read the title "Human Resources"). If I held a grudge about every issue, complaint, or discussion I had with an employee or manager, my head would explode!

When I first got into HR, and starting hearing the occasional comment about "someone who didn't like me" because we had a discussion about x,y,z and they weren't happy with the end result, I would be hurt.

Now, 10 years later when I hear those kinds of comments, I have to actually search my memory as to what the issue might even be, because those issues are closed to me in every sense once we've dealt with it. I've come to realize that it's work and not personal. (at least not to me) There would be a lot of HR people in therapy if we took everyone's issues on as our own.

But hey, let's start holding grudges just for evil fun, I say EHRL needs to start up the secret website where we can all dish! :-)

Anonymous said...

Good advice, especially on the traffic tickets. Some might look at the outstanding warrent and question his judgement in not taking care of the traffic tickets.

You never know how someone is going to view something on a background check, so clean it up if you are able.

Anonymous said...

Regarding references: I had to turn in a boss for malfeasance. They chose to keep him. I left. So if I list this position on my resume, what things can I do to ensure that people seeking references call his supervisor about me, rather than former boss? Supervisor was sorry to see me go, and offered to be a reference. Supervisor is in another location, so following up locally takes you to the problem person. I list the supervisor, with phone number, as a reference. Anything else I can do?

And what on earth do I say to people who want to know why I left that job in this economy?

Obviously Anonymous

Michael VanDervort said...

Evil Hr Directos? Evil passwords? Mal Feasance, the evil distant cousing of Voldemort? I feel like I fell into the Harry Potter zone!

I am going to go to and update my dossiers now!

That is all

Anonymous said...

I know someone who was ticketed for riding the commuter train without his pass with him. On background checks, this showed up as "Theft of Public Transportation".

He wonders how many jobs he may have missed out on, if people had to guess what that meant, and figured he stole a bus.

Anonymous said...

In my organization there is no tuition reimbursement policy outside of a line on the internal website saying to talk to your supervisor and submit it through the expense system. I specifically asked HR for the policy and she said they just want you to talk to your supervisor. When I did, she magically produced a list of conditions under which tuition would be paid. Somewhere in my company there IS a secret stash of HR policies just waiting for the higher-ups to ask for - and use to the company's advantage. I cringe at the thought of having no policy readily available to the employees - it's just setting the company up for claims of discrimination, isn't it?

Infamous HR Guy said...

I like it, oddly I was a bit worried when they ran my Federal Security Clearance Background. But I took the advice and was completely open and honest and I was cleared for my federal security clearance.

I always tell people we are term'ing, laying off or any other what our companies reference policies are. i.e. Verify Name, Title, Dates of Employment and Yes/No if they provide a salary on the request.

jaded hr rep said...

Secret HR society of backdoor references? Funny - my managers are the biggest believers of this. Why is that if an HR person asks around, it's considered secretive (aside from the fact that we're evil), but when managers do it, it becomes a good idea?

Marsha Keeffer said...

This is important for anyone applying for a job - if you've got stuff in your background that could hold you back, clean it up. Even one of Obama's candidates didn't pay his taxes on time. The point is, take care of it and be prepared to bring it up. I'd even say it would be advantageous to defuse the situation by noting it yourself.

Anonymous said...

I never pay any attention to traffic tickets... but I wouldn't hire someone with a bench warrant for them, because that tells me that this is a person who a) has a problem with authority, b) can't do paperwork even when the consequences of not doing it could result in personal harm and stress, and c) is just generally slack. Pay your tickets, or contact the court and make arrangements if you can't pay them-- but just blowing them off and allowing a warrant to be brought against you? That isn't the kind of responsible adult I want to hire.

Miguel Valdespino said...

I agree with anonymous. A bench warrant implies a lack of responsibility. If they explain some extenuating circumstances in the interview, I might reconsider. And while this may not be a legal reason not to hire somebody in all jurisdictions, it is definitely a reason to choose another competent candidate over this one.

Anonymous said...

Bypass HR and go to the REAL decision maker, the hiring manager.

Les Rosen said...

On the bench warrant, the devil is in the details. It really depends upon the state and the court system as to whether it will even come up. Some counties routinely purge old bench warrants for minor offenses. If you are in a so-called "seven year" state like California, it can sill be reported because it is an open case that is still pending. Of course, taking care of an old BW is very easy--just requires someone to go to the court clerk’s office, put the case on calendar before a judge and plead ignorance and forgetfulness and bring your check book. With jail overcrowding, not likely anything more serious will happen (especially if you are willing to pop for an attorney to go with you). No good reason to have that following you around as a source of worry and a potential career obstacle. However, as to the bigger picture, the use of criminal record is unbelievably complicated. In a previous career, I was a deputy DA and a criminal defense lawyer as well as an adjunct law professor and occasional temporary judge, , and I still scratch my head sometimes when I need to review a background checks to determine a criminal record is reportable. Of course, even if reportable, there are still EEO type issues to deal with. For a very brief intro to criminal records, see
Introduction to criminal records

Judith said...

Great blog. I love your frank way of telling it like it is.