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A Q&A with The Hire Authority

Posted by Elaine Varelas  August 6, 2012 09:00 AM

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by Elaine Varelas

You have questions about HR? We have answers. Elaine Varelas, the face behind The Hire Authority, answers our readers’ questions:

1. I'm an HR professional with 8 years of experience. I’m in a dead-end job and was thinking about additional education or certification. I want to move into a leadership position in HR, if not at my current company then with another organization. Should I get an MBA or a SPHR (senior professional in human resources) certification?

Congratulations on making the decision to further your education. Many people who feel they’ve hit a ceiling in their current job look to a degree or certification to get their career back on track. Ultimately, you’re the only one who can answer the MBA v. SPHR dilemma, but I can help you through the process.

The first step is to do a frank career assessment. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What is keeping you from moving forward? Are you lacking practical HR skills or leadership and business expertise?

Next look to where you want to be. Who are the people that hold your dream positions? What is their background? Look at their career and education histories. What degrees or certifications do they hold? If possible, set up an informational meeting with a role model.

Your decision may also be affected by geography. In the Northeast, an area strongly entrenched in academia, graduate degrees are desirable—especially ones from prestigious business schools. In the Midwest, however, SPHR certification is valued by many employers.

2. I'm taking a two week vacation this summer and thought I'd catch up on some business books. What are the new must reads for HR professionals?

Here are 5 great books for 2012:

1. The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg 2012

2. How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen (HBS Professor and author of The Innovators Dilemma), 2012

3. Abundance, The Future is Better Than you Think, Peter Dimandis and Steven Kotler, 2012

4. Megachange: The World in 2050, Daniel Franklin, The Economist, 2012

5. 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, Karl Pillimer, Ph.D, 2012

3. I recently got a promotion. One of my new responsibilities is to serve as hiring manager for my division. My company hasn't done any hiring in several years, but we're set to hire sometime this summer. My problem? I haven't ever interviewed anyone before! I am feeling the pressure to do a good job. Do you have any tips for an inexperienced interviewer?

I can understand why you’re feeling pressure to perform, especially since your company hasn’t hired in some time. However, with the right preparation, you can ace these interviews! Before you begin, think about the kind of people your organization needs. If you haven’t hired in years, most likely the competencies have changed dramatically. What worked in the past won’t be right for the future.

One step you can take to prepare is to familiarize yourself with the legalese that’s common to the hiring process. What questions can you ask and which are off-limits? You may want to compile some questions ahead of time and ask advice from colleagues or associates who’ve interviewed recently for any tips. You also want to sell the company. What makes your organization unique?

You also need to ensure that the interview process is streamlined and efficient. A disorganized and drawn out process will result in a big black eye for the organization and can hurt your recruiting efforts. Make sure to respond to candidates promptly and show them courtesy and respect throughout the process.

4. I work in HR for a mid-sized company. Over the years, I've had requests from employees to work part-time, telecommute, job-share, or work flexible hours. While these schedules wouldn't work for every employee in the company, it would work for some. Unfortunately, the CEO is an "all or nothing" kind of guy. He wants people in the office during office hours and doesn't see any need for change since our retention is steady. At the very least, I think our organization's lack of flexibility is taking a toll on employee morale, but I also think we're going to lose people, especially when the economy improves. Do you have any advice on how I can make a case for flexibility?

Instituting this type of program can only succeed with buy-in from the top. You may have to do a little digging before you embark on this endeavor. What is your CEO’s true objection? Is it lack of trust in managers? A loss of control? Deciphering the answer can help you address his concerns.

Think about recruiting a champion for the cause. If a valued member (by the CEO) of the organization believes in the project and can help spearhead it, you will be more successful.

You may also want to start small. Suggest a pilot program with one manager and a few employees with a clear start and finish. If you’re successful, you can build upon it over time.

I applaud your dedication to creating flexible schedules. It isn’t just about retention, but also about recruiting. Remind your CEO that flexibility might be just the key to attracting top-tier candidates in the future.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.

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