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May 30, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

One of my personality quirks is oversharing. The acronym TMI was invented with me in mind. Sharing, oversharing, transparency and honesty are integral to life and the business of staffing. I’d like to start the discussion by telling you one of my not so quiet secrets.

The internet helped me feel not so alone in this very creepy interest of mine. I think it can move from creepy to scary to even FFS (for *explicit* sake) in some people. I am stuck at creepy.

Michele McNamara, who started a blog for fun that became an NY Times Best Seller was one of us. She may have moved from creepy to scary but who am I to judge? Personally, I cannot stop following the news about the Golden State Killer, either.

Wait, you say! I came here for recruiting advice. No one wants to hear about the fact that there is a place to purchase Charles Manson artifacts.

Well, there is a serial murder that fits very well into recruiting. No, I am not talking about Ajit Pai and what he did to the internet or even the way many of the SourceCon speakers have, “killed it!” I am talking about the Tylenol Murders. Feel free to read about them, but this post is all about Johnson and Johnson’s reaction to them. The way J&J handled the public repercussions of what happened contains many tips for us in the staffing industry.

Pete Radloff posted in the SourceCon Facebook group a fantastic, straightforward and honest applicant cover letter. It generated a ton of responses. Read below:

You’re probably reading a lot of applications. And you’re probably not enjoying yourself. I’m writing this cover letter, and I’m not enjoying myself, either. So, let me cut to the chase.
I won’t pretend that your company’s mission is my passion, but your company seems to have the strong background. If you hire me, I’ll show up for the hours you expect me to, and do what’s asked, you’ll like me.”

The incredible Cyndy Davis (who said feel free to reference me but make sure everyone knows I am NOT a secret serial killer stalker fan) commented “Part of your job as a recruiter is to get the candidate excited about your culture!”

I responded with this: “Yes, agreed. But to be believed, you cannot “sell” the idea that work is fun. That’s why its work not super duper happy fun time. You can talk about how a JOB can have fun parts… but we all Play the lottery for a reason. There is that BS interview question “What would you do if you won 10 million dollars tomorrow?” My answer would be “I’d still work, just not for you.” If you have other facts, the real ones will be believed less.”

When people started dying from what they connected to Tylenol Caplets, J&J had a significant problem. The company’s market share dropped from 35% to 8%. Millions were being lost, daily. Then, they responded. The details of the response can be found here, and the very specifics are taught in MBA classes to this day.

My TL/DR (Too Long/Didn’t Read) would be this:

They didn’t even really make a mistake, but it didn’t look good, but J&J owned it. They did everything they could to fix it even though it cost the company millions. Most of all they were transparent.

I have a few things that I always tie into things that I write, and I speak about. It is the first and best piece of advice I give all job seekers. It is the thing I tell my eight-year-old son.

ALWAYS BE YOURSELF. If people don’t like it, F them. (The F is for forgetting. FORGET)

There are many reasons why I give this advice.

  1. You need to be happy with “You” to move forward in life and your career.
  2. Despite the way the world looks right now (No Politics Newman, NO POLITICS), misleading statements and “truthiness” will always fail
  3. If people know you are honest, they’ll be more open to your opinions, when they are shared. Views are somewhat different than facts if your facts are false.

“I am not upset that you lied to me, I am upset that from now on I cannot believe you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

When I first started recruiting, stretching the truth was not just encouraged, it was easier. In 2018 it is nigh impossible. Glassdoor, Indeed, Yelp and so many other places make it easy to dig up anything you want about a company (and sometimes a person, too). There are not as many secrets in the business world as there once was.

That is why I suggest acknowledging things that are negative in the roles or companies you’re recruiting for, the managers you’re setting up interviews with, and the candidates you are presenting.

If you’re sourcing for a company who won’t be named but rhymes with Martin Buber, the culture issue is well known.

If you’re hiring manager is horrific at feedback, and when she does give it two weeks late it is usually one poorly worded sentence that says nothing of substance, let your candidate know this is the situation

If you’re a candidate has the hands-on skills, but she doesn’t have the best communication skills, tell the person who will be doing the interview. Addressing and confronting it with honesty and openness will help the dialogue move faster.

Hiding, misleading or otherwise obfuscating what reality is will always come back ‘round. It will bite you in the behind. Even if the elephant in the room has been there so long, he no longer seems unusual, acknowledges it! Some people say, “Well, that elephant has been here the whole time. We just thought he came with the house when we bought it”. This doesn’t work in a day when you can look up the details of, well a specific Stormy Situation, shall we say? It’s all out there.

Owning “it,” whatever “it” is, gives a measure of control over it. It’s out there. All of it. So make it part of your truth.

On a closing note, if you’re an actual serial killer, that’s one I’d keep to myself.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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