Is it really that much of an imposition to extend a little professional courtesy?

A fellow HR–industry colleague, Andrew just checked in to run something by me about an interesting experience he recently had. He wanted to get my take on whether “we” collectively as peers in the same talent acquisition, talent development and talent management realm, have a shared obligation to support each other career-wise.


Prior to this particular conversation, my personal/professional philosophy has always been that I would do whatever I possibly could, within reason, to assist anyone from any field in making a connection that might lead to a new opportunity or mutually meaningful relationship. My underlying feeling was that if a couple minutes of my time might help someone accomplish something that otherwise may not have occurred, why not lend a hand? And, I’ve been around long enough to have experienced several random outcomes from chance encounters to keep an open mind about helping out in this way.


Though, I’ve been “burned” by ungrateful, inconsiderate people a few times, I still don’t mind sticking with that course of action. Working in HR and having direct or indirect involvement with hiring processes and decisions at most places I’ve been, it was only natural for various introduction requests to come my way on regular basis. Likewise, my external activities enabled me to build up a fairly extensive professional network, which also tends to attract assorted career-related inquiries. As long as the request is reasonable and appropriate, I generally don’t mind offering my assistance and feel that my karma bank balance is healthy enough that I would receive reciprocal accommodations.


Andrew, the person who brought this up is truly a talented professional and is well regarded as a top performing thought leader in his (our) field. He is considering moving on to a new role and last week spotted a position that looked like fit at a company who’s employer brand messaging appeared to be consistent with his interests. Doing a bit of research, Andrew discovered someone at the company with fairly high visibility due to their social media activities both for the employer and independently as well.


Thinking that this would be the type of human resources practitioner who would respect and appreciate someone taking the time to identify an insider that way, my pal drafted and sent a well-written, friendly note via LinkedIn to initiate dialogue and hopefully get routed a bit closer to the parties involved with staffing his position of interest. I won’t post Andrew’s exact wording, but it was extremely concise, professional, non-intrusive and showed awareness of who the recipient was, respected their time by providing relevant details and required minimal effort to process.


Well, despite the company insider’s LI profile and other online communications reflecting a “hey, let’s get connected” vibe, the message back to my friend was rather standoff-ish and quite the opposite of what might have been anticipated from someone claiming to be all about helping their employer attract and retain the best skilled workers.


While this type of response (or worse, lack of ANY acknowledgment) is quite typical, Andrew was rather disappointed that the person didn’t seem willing to extend a sliver of professional courtesy to an industry peer. Again, he wasn’t asking for a job or much else from this person besides a bit of consideration or encouragement to proceed.


From my perspective, there are multiple aspects to this scenario. One simply being that my friend, like most unsolicited “candidate” inquiries was blown off as a pesky job hazard that anyone remotely related to HR or recruiting deals with on a daily basis. Countless people look you up on LI and think just because they figured out that “clue” they are one step away from a job offer. Clearly, having been there, done that, in the trenches Andrew was overly cautious to avoid taking that stand with this person.


A different speculation is that perhaps this company, or in this case, its representative, isn’t actually walking the talk. If their business website and other independent online content promotes a certain framework for their talent focused brand, this transaction seems to reflect a potential inconsistency in that message or approach. I’m not suggesting that they are required to address each and every contact personally, but something more inviting to leave the door open for future engagement might be in order.


Even if a raving imbecile without enough skill to tie their own shoes wants to work for your company, you don’t flick them away like a mosquito. Rather, you devise a method to make each member of the public a promoter of your business, regardless of their suitability for employment. It doesn’t take much effort to build “not now candidates” into a talent pipeline loaded with referral capacity. Most companies say they strive for that, but essentially close the door permanently through unimpressive interactions like this.


Third, I can’t help but wonder if the company representative contacted was not sophisticated enough to understand that not all prospective candidates are the same. Perhaps, instead of being an experienced, credentialed, educated HR person, Andrew was a random accounting clerk or a mechanical technician, his reaching out would have been a stretch to expect someone like the recipient to “care.”


However, being that this was HR professional to HR professional correspondence; it seems like a missed opportunity for the person to sell their employer as one who values those aware and resourceful enough to do more than blindly deposit their resume into the ATS abyss. With a warmer reception, perhaps rather than venting to me, Andrew may have been so impressed (regardless of eventual result) that he would have been inclined to write a complimentary blog or follow, track and promote this employer’s staffing initiatives through his own social media activities.


Obviously, I’m trying to view this as objectively as possible, but knowing the type of quality person my friend is and viewing the written exchange depicted above in more detail than I’m able to describe here, I’ve been a tad bothered by what happened. In stepping up his search activity, Andrew has observed this unfortunate “getting blown off” trend with other “talent magnet” employers as well.


Incidentally, similar mixed or undesired results have taken place in my own previous job search networking efforts. So it is tough not to be concerned, especially since most companies claim there are not enough qualified applicants for future needs. Is it possible that there are plenty of talented people who are just getting shoved aside by others who are too notorious or too busy to remember that common courtesy goes both ways?


Regardless, what do you recommend to countless job seekers everywhere who aren’t privy to the inner workings of any particular company and only base their decision to express interest on faulty and misleading information found on corporate websites, irrelevant job postings or hypocritical profiles of those deemed worthy enough to already work there?


Knowing that many folks here on this forum are in similar situations as both individuals illustrated in this circumstance, I wanted to get a “second” opinion. Is this a case of “he/she is just not that into you” or do you think we ought to treat our industry counterparts with a higher service level related to career movement?



Views: 142

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on June 14, 2013 at 7:10pm

Decided to revive this post as this issue recently popped up again. Any of you RBC people able to relate to this type of issue? 

~KB @TalentTalks


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