Bad Resumes

To go along with last week’s post about bad interviews I’ve conducted, this week’s post will talk about some of the ridiculous resumes I’ve been forced to review as part of my hiring duties.

There are always the usual spelling mistakes, unexplained gaps and outright fabrications on resumes. I’ve also had a few weird ones. When hiring for an admin role, I had one person send us five versions of her resume in plain text format in one email. She had a message at the top telling us to choose which resume we wanted. That was odd enough. When I read all of the resumes, I realized they contradicted one another. The jobs and years she listed on one did not match the jobs and years on the others. This is a surefire way to ensure you don’t even get an interview.  What on earth was she thinking?

My second favourite resume from that same pile was the applicant whose entire resume was in 28 point font. As a comparison, most resumes are in 11 or 12 point font. I almost fell off my chair when I opened it. Maybe she thought I was visually impaired. I really hope that it was just a conversion issue from her computer to mine. I’d hate to think she actually wrote it that way. I now understand why people suggest sending PDF versions of resumes instead of Word or other programs.  You can be reasonably sure a PDF won’t get screwed up in translation.

Still from this same job posting, I had one candidate call me to earnestly push for an interview, saying he would be a great candidate and would I please look at his resume? I appreciate the guts it took to (politely) call, so I promised to go back and review his resume. Guess what? He never sent it to me. Even checked my junk folder. Attention to detail didn’t appear to be one of his strong suits.

Other annoyances: people spelling my name wrong or listing a different person and job on their application.

The last goof from that round of hiring was someone who never returned my call for an interview, but then tried to connect with me on LinkedIn. Sometimes I just shake my head.

Besides being good for a laugh, these resume mistakes make me feel like a brilliant person in comparison. A laugh and an ego boost. Maybe I should do some more hiring….

What Not To Do In An Interview

One of the joys of people management is recruiting. I find the process of scouring resumes, selecting interview candidates and holding interviews fascinating. Sometimes it’s a joy because I have great candidates to choose from. Sometimes the candidates just provide comic relief. This is particularly true when interviewing for call centre phone representatives.

For anyone out there applying for frontline jobs, there are some things you definitely should not do in an interview.

Don’t struggle to answer questions from your own resume. We will ask you about your job and education history. I don’t suggest lying, but if you do, you need to be good at it. We had one candidate who gave a different school and years attended in his interview compared to his resume. His job history also didn’t match up. He struggled to give us reasons for leaving his previous jobs.

Exasperated, the HR Manager conducting the interview with me pointed out to him that his answers did not match his resume. So he confessed that his mother wrote his resume and forced him to apply for the job. He hadn’t even looked at his resume before coming in to see us. He didn’t want a job, his mother just wanted the mooch out of her house.

Big surprise, he didn’t get the position. We don’t have many standards in a call centre, but he managed to squeeze under our very low bar.

Another thing you don’t want to do in an interview is show up late. If you must show up late, apologize profusely and come up with a good excuse. Do not drag your boyfriend into the interview room (with his scary piercings and black makeup) to take the blame for your lateness. Yes, this actually happened to me.

Don’t sleep right through the interview, particularly if the interview was scheduled for 2PM. Yep, had that one too.

Finally, dress appropriately. I know, it’s a call centre. We do not expect suits and ties. We expect you to not wear t-shirts with cussing on them, dirty, holey clothing or anything that screams “hooker”. One of the worst fashion offenders I saw wore a black mini skirt that skimmed her crotch, 10 pounds of black eye makeup and a see-through top so low “the girls” almost made an appearance.  This was the same girl who dragged her boyfriend in to say he made her late. We actually went through with the interview just for our own amusement.

If you are a recruiter out there, I suggest you appreciate the bad ones for what they really are: your day’s entertainment.  If you have any painful candidates and just need to get them out the door, start skipping questions and make it a five-minute interview. If there are two of you conducting the interview, work out a signal beforehand to skip questions. This will keep you from becoming trapped in the interview from hell. We established a smooth system in the call centre for getting the worst offenders in and out fast, because sometimes the comic relief was just too painful.

Implementing Stupid Management Decisions

As a lowly frontline supervisor you are often charged with implementing stupid management decisions.  One of the silliest decisions I had to explain involved a disabled employee I managed. This decision didn’t come from my own company; it came from the management team in charge of the building where our offices leased space.

Our building was a large tower in downtown Toronto. All such buildings are required to have emergency evacuation procedures in place and must practice fire drills on a regular basis. We had normal procedures to follow, such as which door to exit and where to rendezvous outside. After 9/11, we got a secondary rendezvous location further away in case somebody blew up the first location. Not sure anyone would still be around to go to the second location after an explosion, but it was still part of the procedure.

Our hiccup with “normal” was Charles. Due to his disability, he was wheelchair-bound and had limited use of his hands. People are supposed to stay out of elevators in emergencies, but there was no way Charles could get down the stairs by himself.

When I started in my role, Charles had a dedicated buddy on our team, who volunteered to stay with him during an evacuation. Building management had a list of employees who needed special evacuation. They would send their personnel up using the freight elevator to collect Charles and his buddy.

About a year into my tenure, building management decided this was too dangerous for their staff and Charles’ buddy in a real emergency. So they changed their procedures. Charles’ new instructions in case of actual fire or other meltdown were to barricade himself in an office with the door closed. The building would give him a roll of duct tape to keep at his desk so he could take it with him. Charles could seal up the door to his office if smoke or gas was present. Everyone else was to evacuate the building.

Anybody see the problems with this procedure? Remember, wheelchair-bound, limited use of hands.

First, Charles couldn’t actually maneuver his wheelchair into many of our offices. The offices were small, and the chair was big, weighing in around 300 lbs. Second, Charles likely couldn’t close an office door because of the space issue and his limited hand use. Finally, how on earth can someone who can’t stand and has manual dexterity issues duct tape a door?

I swear the building manager kept a straight face when providing us these new instructions.  We disagreed, but it wasn’t our building. If they refused to send staff up with the freight elevator, we couldn’t use it.

My boss and I had the joy of explaining the new process to our team.  This involved a lot of snickering from the staff.

Jim, another member of the team, asked, “Do they really think we’d leave him up here in an actual fire? Screw the chair. We’ll carry him down.”

See, look at that. It took a staff member 5 seconds to find a better solution than an entire management team was able to come up with. I know it can’t be “official” policy to make employees carry other employees, but who in their right mind would leave a defenseless person all alone in a burning building? It was nice to know my employees actually cared about one another.

No, You Can’t Wear That To Work

dress code violations

The pig clothing is more appropriate than what some of my employees wear.

Dress code violations are a special pain you will encounter as a people manager. As reported in Maclean’s this past week, summer can be the worst time for employees taking business casual too far:

Unfortunately, flip flops aren’t the most egregious violation you might face.

Clothes too casual? Yep, I’ve had that one many times.

Too much cleavage? I’ve had that conversation so often I’ve lost count.

Shorts too short? Low-hanging pants too low? Obscene shirts? Yep. Yep. And yep.

But those still don’t come close to being the worst. My two favourites in the “no, you can’t wear that” hall of fame are from my call centre days. The first story comes courtesy of a colleague who had an employee show up in a t-shirt with the words “Lick It” in loud letters and a giant arrow pointing straight down to her crotch. Subtle, I know. She was of course very surprised to learn this was not acceptable work wear.

The second hall-of-famer came to work in a sheer, completely see-through dress. No bra. Black thong.

I’ve never seen so many men run into pillars and cubicle walls.

If you are an employee out there who hates being told what to wear, I promise I hate having to explain your wardrobe violations to you even more.  Please just make an appropriate choice and save us all some embarrassment.

For a people manager looking for advice on this particular topic, make sure the conversation is private. Keep it brief. Tell the employee the clothing is not an appropriate work choice and suggest they don’t wear it back to the office. With a smart employee, one conversation will suffice. With the slow ones, be prepared to have the same conversation over and over.

I had one employee whose low-rider jeans were constantly falling down, giving everyone around him an eyeful of his briefs. He never got the message. When we fired him for other reasons, his pants were still around his knees.

If you are a new manager and you think bad clothing choices are the most embarrassing thing you’ll ever have to discuss with a staff member, you haven’t had the pleasure of a smelly employee. But that conversation is for another blog post.

Too Much Information

High on the long list of things no one told me about people managing is having access to too much information. When you are a boss, some of your employees will feel the need to tell you about their lives in full detail, particularly the illnesses that keep them away from work.

I’ve had plenty of employees with attendance issues I’ve needed to address, but I’ve never once asked for a full detailing of symptoms experienced. I really don’t want to know. That’s never stopped people from telling me.

I’ve had to perfect my poker face, so I don’t look as horrified on the outside as I feel on the inside when given all the gory details. I think I’m at a disadvantage being a female boss in this situation. I am sure many a female employee would be too embarrassed to talk about “feminine” problems with their male bosses. I, on the other hand, receive full disclosure about every menstrual problem experienced by some employees. If you are an employee out there, I truly don’t want to know anything about your cramps.

I co-managed an admin team once featuring an employee who could win a TMI award. Let’s call her Lucy. Every time she was away, she would leave me lengthy phone message describing each of her physical symptoms. One morning, this involved cramps and some disgusting gastro-intestinal issues. I knew she was one of the few employees who would not be embarrassed to tell anyone about her problems, and she technically reported to my new partner, Ryan. I got to work first and had a perfect view of his desk. I didn’t warn him when he came in; I just watched and waited for him to check his voicemail.

Yep, he got the same message. I could tell from the growing look of horror on his face as he listened to the two-minute description Lucy left him. He looked a little green by the end of it.  He wandered over to my desk to tell me it was the most disgusting message anyone had ever left him.  I told him Lucy missed plenty of work, so he had more of these to look forward to.

I think my worst offender was a call centre employee who was making a lot of bathroom runs one morning, and he decided to send us an email detailing his rash and, um, leakage issues. I still shudder when I think about it.

Facebook Follies at Work

Technology can be a pain in the workplace. When I managed staff in a call centre I struggled to keep them off their smart phones and Facebook and have them answer calls instead.

You wouldn’t think this would be difficult, considering that we paid them to answer calls and not to chat. But if I turned my back on some of them, they would type away at Facebook updates and ignore the ever-growing queue of phone calls. (Yes, it you’ve ever had to wait a long time to talk to a company you’ve just called, it may be caused by employees screwing around. Of course the companies will never admit that to you.)

The other Facebook struggle you might experience is employees bad mouthing their company, boss or co-workers online. You can get away with this only if you are not friends with colleagues on Facebook. I had one employee who was too silly to remember this rule. We’ll call her Tracy.

Tracy was a walking attitude from the day she started. She thought she was too good for the job and too good for everyone around her. She began missing work right after training and was often rude to customers or provided them wrong information. A real treat. Why didn’t we get rid of her, you might ask? Sadly, in the call centre world, she was far from the worst employee we had. We needed to have someone answering the phones.

I had spoken to her a couple of times about attendance and attitude with clients, to no avail. One week, we had an employee quit in frustration (also happens a lot in call centres).  He posted a tirade about the company on his Facebook page. Tracy decided to add a comment that said, “Yeah, I hate that place and that witch of a manager.” She actually used a less-nice word than witch, but I’ll try to keep the blog clean.

They both were friends with other employees on Facebook, including one of my junior supervisors, who felt the need to tell me about the post. The HR rules around dealing with cyberspace infractions are a little grey, especially since this is relatively new territory. I decided to bypass HR and have a little fun instead. I realized I could make her squirm without “officially” getting her in trouble.

During her next shift, I called Tracy off the floor and asked her how she was doing. She said fine. I asked her if everything was ok at work, and she said yes. I told her I was asking because of her recent Facebook post, and I quoted it back to her, not censoring out the curse.

Not much about dealing with employee problems is enjoyable. A lot of it is just as uncomfortable for the boss as it is for the employee, but it was good fun watching the wheels turning in her head and her face getting all red as Tracy realized she was caught. What was her reaction?

“You didn’t think I was talking about you, did you?” she asked, all innocent.

“Well, you did mention this company by name,” I replied.

“Oh no, I was talking about my other job!”

“Your other job at a company with the same name as ours?”

She kept trying to convince me it wasn’t me she was talking about when I finally said to her, “If you ever have any problems at work you would like to discuss with me, my door is always open. But if you really hate it here, no one is making you stay. You know where the door is.”

She skulked off back to her desk, still red-faced. Since she was such a pest of an employee, I actually felt glee at the end of this conversation. (I promise that’s been a rarity in my employee management career.)

I did talk to Human Resources afterwards and they wanted to give her official heck, but I told them not to bother. I assumed she’d either smarten up or quit. And quit she did a couple of weeks later.

For any other managers out there struggling with employee social networking issues, I feel your pain. Feel free to comment if you’ve got doozies of your own to share.

Am I Supervising Recess?

As a people manager, there are times when I feel like a referee for grade three kids. You don’t just get normal work problems to handle. Sometimes you mediate odd disputes.

On one of my admin teams, my employees sat with their desks in rows and no cubicle walls in between them. This allowed everyone to just turn in their seat when they wanted to ask a co-worker a question or shoot the breeze. Sometimes this made my employees too close for comfort.

One morning an employee, Terry, came to my desk to complain that Dave, the employee who sat in front of her, kept pushing her in-trays back when he turned to talk to her. She said each time she’d move them back he would turn around and push them when he started conversation. She was very upset and wanted this to stop.

Really, this was the expert managing they hired me for?

I asked Terry if Dave was moving them on purpose. She said no, he just seemed to lean against them when he talked, but it drove her crazy and could I please ask him to stop. I then asked Terry if she had ever said anything to Dave about this. No, she didn’t want to start an argument. Clearly not one of my more assertive employees. Dave was a pussy cat.

I decided this was just too silly a dispute to have an actual conversation with Dave. Some employees feel that any “talking to” means they are in trouble and that wasn’t the impression I wanted to convey. He might have also been annoyed that Terry bypassed him to tattle to me.

I thought about it briefly and came up with a solution. I gave Terry an entire pack of sticky tack from our supply cabinet and suggested she use it along the bottom of her trays. She did. It worked like a charm. When Dave leaned over her desk, he could no longer move the trays without giving them a good shove. Terry was overjoyed. Sometimes managing people really is that simple.

Supervisor as Nursemaid

So there I was, on a Saturday morning, standing watch as one of my employees vomited into the garbage can by her desk.  I wish I could say this was a strange occurrence in my people management career, but sadly it wasn’t.

No one told me when I became a “boss” that I would occasionally have to play nursemaid to sick employees.  Or in this case, a hung over employee.  Dealing with ill staff is just part of the territory.

In every job I’ve held, I knew how to find the sick rooms, the first aid kit and the taxi slips for sending people home.  I knew because I needed to use all of them.

In this case, a colourful employee who I’ll call Julie had spent a hard night of partying on Friday. Our call centre opened at 6am, so she might have still been drunk when she arrived to work. With her it was hard to tell the difference.

A few hours into the day I heard retching from my desk and got up to investigate.  I located the source of the vomit and supervised Julie in her endeavours. There isn’t much you can do until the retching stops. The funny part was in between her heaves, Julie would look at me and loudly yell, “I swear I’m not hung over!”  Her protests might have been more believable if the garbage can hadn’t smelled like gin.

When Julie was done, she was conscientious enough to take her own garbage can to the bathroom to clean it out, saving me the hassle.  This event turned out much better than it could have. I didn’t have any cleaning to do. We weren’t always so lucky.

My unfortunate partner, Jason, worked a different morning that involved an employee projectile vomiting all over her desk and the carpet.  She was in no shape to clean up after herself and there was no janitorial staff around at 5am. That left Jason with clean-up duty.  I think I got the better end of the sick deal.

I guess the moral of this tale is that managing people is not for the squeamish.  Two job requirements for any supervisor: the ability to handle the unexpected and an iron stomach.


Welcome to What They Don’t Tell You About Managing People!

This blog is for anyone who aspires to be a people manager or is already battle scarred from their own management experience. I want to shed light on the role for the uninitiated. For those who’ve already been down this journey and have found it wanting, I am hoping you will see that you are not alone in your frustrations.

The idea for this blog came from my eight years of experience managing people. I was a reluctant people manager and almost had to be dragged into the role when I worked for a large bank. They had done some re-jigging in our department and suddenly had a small team in need of a leader. My managing career was born.

They try to teach you in school and early in your career that managing is where it’s at. Managing means you are trusted and moving up the company ladder. It’s something to aspire to. I think people believe management is a cushy job. You get a lot more pay and can boss people around.

My actual experiences have felt nothing like that. Being a first-tier manager means you get a lot more responsibility and headaches accompanied by a small pay increase. You don’t get enough decision-making power to make any true difference in a large organization.

However, what I didn’t know was how strange and sometimes rewarding the job can be. This blog will focus on the funny and the weird from my people management days. I do have fond memories and have managed some wonderful people, but those stories tend not to be as funny as the bad ones. You will hear more of my cringe-worthy experiences as a result. I’ve spent most of time managing administrative and call centre employees. Call centres are breeding grounds for the bizarre. Most of my juicy stories come from my contact centre days.

This blog isn’t intended to turn anyone off the idea of people management. Some people love it. I just want everyone who hasn’t been down the road to understand how wacky the job can be.