Saturday, September 15, 2012

Experiences with Human Resources

In any software engineering shop, good engineers are the biggest asset. A Human Resource department is supposed to manage this critical asset. In my experience, even exceptional companies have lousy (or downright inethical) Human Resources teams. Here are some experiences, in no particular order. They are all from top tier software firms from the San Francisco Bay area.
  1. The cheapskates: After a campus interview, the HR recruiter offered to give me a gift card for the company's store. The company was well known, but I did not use their store, so I declined the offer. The recruiter persisted, she said I could give it to a friend. Hesitatingly, I accepted the card. The denomination on the card was One Dollar. The company had printed cards for a single dollar and was handing it to candidates who were being interviewed. This was in 2008, when a cup of coffee cost two or three dollars. I considered giving her a ten-dollar bill so she could give the next sorry contestant something substantial.
  2. The lazy: After successfully making it through the interview process, I was unable to contact the recruiter for a month. In the intervening time, I started interviewing at a different company, was offered a position, accepted, and had signed formal papers. Much later, the recruiter contacted me again, suggesting she could send me the formal offer. By now, it was too late.
  3. The shameless: After contacting me and setting me up with technical interviews, the HR recruiter decided to join another company. While I was still interviewing at her previous company, she started hounding me for positions in the new company she was now working for.
  4. The unethical: After I declined to join a company, a recruiter from the same company contacted me under the pretense of discussing the failed offer. A few minutes into the conversation, she started asking me all sorts of probing questions about my current compensation and internal details of my project. Both of these are confidential, so I declined. At this point the recruiter said that she was a contractor and her company also hires for several other top tier software firms, and offered to set me up with them.
  5. The mugger: At a well known developer conference, this recruiter was waiting in the shadows. She struck up a conversation with engineers as they left the talks, asking them about their work. A few minutes into the conversation, she mentioned how she was a recruiter and was hiring for a well known firm.
  6. The comatose: After receiving a question about compensation when changing roles at a company, this HR business partner decided not to answer for another two months. By this time, the role change had already happened. When asked again, she said she didn't know anything about compensation when changing roles. If HR doesn't know such things, what do they know?
Human resources are the public face of the company to candidates. If they act poorly, a candidate suspects that such behavior is ingrained in the company culture. The image and brand of a company can be tarnished by the sloppy behavior of their recruiters and human resource staff.

Conversely, a considerate and thoughtful human resource personnel improves the image of a company. I interviewed at a company that I would have never considered joining due to personal reasons. However, their HR personnel were exceptionally caring and understanding. Declining their offer was a very difficult decision only because of their wonderful HR team.