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Diary of a job hunt: The final chapter



Earlier this year, HR Zone member Sue Harrison resigned from her job and has been reporting her search for new employment back to us here at HR Zone. In this final instalment, she is pleased to report her search is over, yet she discovered along the way that there’s ‘nowt so queer as folk’.

Welcome back to the final part of my jobsearch trilogy. I am please to report that I did indeed find the perfect job – close to home, decent salary, great environment. Yet whilst my search for full-time employment was still progressing, I discovered an interesting ambivalence on the part of employers.

I had thought that being out of my notice period and, therefore, immediately available would stand me in better stead. However, I discovered that many employers are immediately suspicious if the potential new candidate is not currently in a job. How paradoxical is it that if I were locked into, say, the three-month notice period attached to my previous director role, I would somehow become more saleable?

“I discovered that many employers are immediately suspicious if the potential new candidate is not currently in a job.”

Even more intriguing was the case of the employer who, early in my quest for gainful employment, gleefully offered me the job, completed all the paperwork and agreed a start date… and then requested that I delay my start date by three months without explanation, payment or compensation. Go figure!

But enough of little old me. I thought I’d share an anecdote with you all. While I was going through the interviewing mill, a friend of mine in the same boat was persuaded to accept a short-term interim contract with a company involved in catering and retail; traditionally, two areas where the chances to exploit staff are high. As the interim head of HR, she inherited a team of three enthusiastic, young and largely inexperienced people.

A curious approach

What gradually became clear over the course of innumerable ‘we always do it this way’ conversations is that, in the absence of informed senior HR direction, they had developed a curious approach to HR.

In the main, nothing HR-related had been reviewed or updated in the past three years, since the departure of the previous HR manager. Faced with low budgets and lower company commitment to HR, she’d recruited the best calibre employees available: unqualified but willing administrators with no experience of our ‘dark arts’. Surrounded by mediocrity and disinterest, not least from the senior management team, she did the sensible thing and moved on.

In her absence, the HR team had handled – and spectacularly lost – a Tribunal case. The financial loss in terms of settlement, legal fees and some pointed criticism by the Tribunal chairman, persuaded them to replace the long-departed HR manager. Enter my friend, again; like a lamb to the slaughter…

The company’s ethos apparently is one of making a fast buck out of any and everyone, coupled with a fondness for what can only be described as ‘pre-emptive pro-active non-reciprocal corporate coitus’ (screw them first before they get a chance to screw you).

The directors of the company truly believe that NO member of staff is trustworthy and therefore pay the least they can, and get as much work out of them as possible before they work out they truly are wage slaves and move on. Their retention rates and turnover figures are off the scale.

‘Inverted’ best practice

In discussing their roles, the new HR manager discovered that, without exception, the HR team regarded themselves as being charged with getting the company around legislation and avoiding wherever possible the implementation of accepted principles of good people management; a form of inverted best practice, if you like.

Over the months, she’s succeeded in effecting something of a sea change with her team, converting them from dark agents of avoidance to proud defenders of the hallowed precepts of HR. And whilst she’s admitted that, unlike me, she’s still not convinced that the formal route of CIPD is the only answer, it has certainly brought home to her how important it is to ensure that, at the very least, people working in HR get some kind of proper grounding in personnel administration.

“Over the months, she’s succeeded in effecting something of a sea change with her team, converting them from dark agents of avoidance to proud defenders of the hallowed precepts of HR.”

So how did things ultimately work out for my interim chum? In a heady rush of excitement, she decided to treat the placement as if it were a proper start-up scenario and she seized the opportunity to implement a best practice approach in the company.

She reviewed every HR-related document and practice and wrote a long and detailed management report for the MD. Given that the role had been created to bring the company into the 21st century, she hoped to get him caught up in her enthusiasm and obtain his permission to ring in the changes.

Au contraire! Having read her magnum opus, the MD called her into his office and tore her off a strip, declaring that he was not going to have her legislation (yes, that’s her legislation) preventing his company from making money, as well as making the observation that “your policy of introducing the minimum wage has made enough of a dent in profits”. He then proceeded to offer her the full-time position.

Like I said before, go figure.

Sue’s previous diary entries:

Diary of a job hunt: What happened to feedback?

Diary of a job hunt: Age discrimination attacks

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