Help Human Resources help me
August 23, 2011 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My company's HR department screwed up my application for an internal position. How should I handle it?

I've worked at a large non-profit institution for nearly four years. I work frequently with another department here, and a (potentially awesome) position opened up in that department a couple of months ago. I chatted with my main contact over there, who wasn't directly overseeing the hiring, but he knows the hiring manager, gave her a heads-up that I might be applying, and encouraged me to send in my resume.

My company's Employee Handbook outlines a process for internal candidates -- you submit your resume along with everyone else using an archiac web-based system, and (by using your employee login) it identifies you as an internal candidate. An HR rep is then supposed to call you and confirm your qualifications, then pass you on to the hiring manager.

I submitted my resume and snappy cover letter, called HR to make sure my application had been received and marked as internal, got that verbal confirmation -- and heard nothing more. Two months later, I learned the position had been filled.

I channeled my anger into an absurdly polite email to HR detailing the above, and asking about the process for internal candidates. This morning, I had a contrite-sounding voicemail from an HR rep saying that my resume had been "mishandled", he was very sorry, and wanted to chat and see how they could help me. I'm meeting with him in a few days.

How should I handle this chat? I'm livid and want to rain down fire and brimstone, but I realize that's not constructive. The position I applied for would have been a perfect gig for me (I'm absolutely qualified, and it's stuff I love to do), but it's filled, and it's not the kind of job that opens up often here. So I'm not entirely sure what I should be asking for.

Monkey wrench: no one in my current department knows I'm looking for other positions. If HR can't even manage to evaluate my resume properly, I have no confidence in their ability to keep any of this confidential. That said, I would feel lousy dropping the whole thing.

tl;dr - My HR department admitted a mistake in handling my application for another (now filled) gig, and want to help me somehow. What, if anything, should I ask them for?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
How should I handle this chat?

Calmly and gracefully. Expect an apology, and before you do anything, find out what they have to offer. If their offer is "nothing", then start looking for other work.
posted by mhoye at 5:46 PM on August 23, 2011

If I were you, the most I'd reasonably expect is an apology and for HR to make it clear to the hiring department that they screwed up and that you were really interested in the job.

Unfortunately, your only real damage here is the loss of an opportunity, which is, of course, completely impossible to replace.
posted by SMPA at 5:56 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe fast-track your candidacy for any other positions you're interested in? I think that's about the kind of compensation I'd expect to be offered.

If your company hires often from within, I wouldn't sweat the idea that you posted for another position will become known. It happens all the time in larger companies, where people expect employees to want to move up.
posted by xingcat at 5:57 PM on August 23, 2011

I'm sure you are painfully aware now that depending on HR isn't the best idea - next time make sure you follow up directly with the hiring manager and proactively set up an interview if possible.
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:02 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

The salient points you've mentioned here need to be addressed in your meeting:

1. This was a position that you really wanted (and were highly qualified for) and you are extremely disappointed that you were never considered.

2. You are very concerned that confidentiality might also be an issue, based on your recent experiences with your HR department.

3. You would like some assurance that you will be properly considered in the future.

I would state this is a calm and professional manner. Then accept their apologies gracefully, but leave them with clear expectations as to how you expect to be treated. I can't see any other compensation being offered to you.
posted by raisingsand at 7:06 PM on August 23, 2011

This morning, I had a contrite-sounding voicemail from an HR rep saying that my resume had been "mishandled", he was very sorry, and wanted to chat and see how they could help me.

I guarantee dollars to donuts that they are going to ask you, "what can we do to make this right?" I'd recommend not falling for it. If you say, "well, I want that job," they're just going to say, "We wish we could, but we cant. What else can we do?" and just keep hammering on you to come up with something. So, just skip the pleasantries, find out what they have to say, and ask if that's all. You're getting ground up by the gears of bureaucracy, keep it to pure business. You might ask who is personally responsible for the failure, asking who is responsible for the computer system or whatever if they try to pass the buck.

I don't know if there are any legalities involved here, but it seems that the Employee Handbook was not followed in this case, and there are typically, at the very least, internal repercussions for such things. Of course, HR writes the EH anyway, don't they? "Yes, but it says here in the EH...are you telling me that the EH wasn't followed? Why is it in the EH, then? Is it just like a warning or something when this happens?" I'd try to keep the sarcasm switch turned off, though hitting them in their jobs seems fair.
posted by rhizome at 7:52 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What rhizome said.

The only thing I can add:
I wouldn't be surprised if this position went to someone's friend. If you are able find this out - leverage it.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 7:59 PM on August 23, 2011

Call me cynical, but quite frankly I'm shocked they acknowledged the mistake and admitted fault. In my experience, that's quite rare. It sucks and it doesn't change anything, but perhaps the fact that they're dealing with it in an above board manner is some consolation?

Your impulse to nail down a precise, actionable result from this meeting is a good one. Without it, I imagine you'll just get a vague apology and a generic promise that they'll review their internal hiring practices, which - unsatisfying.

To help brainstorm what you want out of this, think about what the other job has that your current position doesn't offer. Better pay? Better hours? More interesting work? Is there anything they can do to bridge that gap? Can you be shortlisted for a transitional position? Get everything in writing, especially their admission of fault. Good luck - while not fun, you do have some leverage to improve your current situation. Hope this helps.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:11 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

As far as I know, and IANAD, HR needs to have internal processes but unless they do something legally actionable, they don't have to follow those processes.

As an example, I was in a situation where HR were obligated to redeploy me according to their own processes clearly published on the intranet, which was supposed to take the form of a consultation meeting in which they would lay out the current vacancies and help me to choose one to apply to. I was supposed to automatically get any post I was qualified for.

What happened was: I never got a consultation meeting, I asked them about that and they said "you'll get one soon." I never did. I asked them what they were going to do to redeploy me and they said "go on the website and apply." I asked them what jobs they were going to recommend for me and they said "you know your experience and interests better than we do." I did this and my applications were all ignored. When I followed up I said "how does this fit with your guidelines which say you're supposed to do this for me and I'm supposed to get priority over external candidates?" they said "I don't know anything about that, you're welcome to subscribe to the job feed." I did, and never got any emails. All the further vacancies, I came across through an external site.

I brought this up to a union rep, but it turned out they hadn't actually done anything illegal, only broken their own guidelines. Therefore, there was no meaningful action I could take.

I suppose I could always have complained to HR about it.

My point being, they may have disregarded their own processes but I very much doubt there is anything you can demand from them that you can actually hold them to. They may choose to do something to compensate, but don't be surprised if you get some vague promise that will never materialize.
posted by tel3path at 2:04 AM on August 24, 2011

I would just accept a gracious apology and move on. But here is what you can do next time to make sure that HR's incompetence doesn't hurt you.

The way I have always handled internal applications is the first thing you do, even before you send a resume or anything else, is to contact your friends in the department, which you did. You then need to speak to the hiring manager and reference your friend (make sure they're okay with it!) so that you can have an informational discussion with them about the job and any information they might have about their processes and procedures that they think would be helpful in deciding. This informational discussion is like a pre-interview. You find out if you really want the job, they find out if they would be interested in taking it further.

If you are (and TAKE NOTES during the discussion!) then you need to submit your application through your normal process and make sure that you tell that hiring manager you did apply. That way when HR screws it up, as is inevitable, the hiring manager knows to look for your information, assuming you impressed them during the pre-interview. If you can pull off not looking like a stalker, you might want to cruise through their area after the posting window has closed and casually talk to some of them to remind them you're interested.

In my last job search it didn't hurt that out of all the people who applied, I was one of only four to ask about the job in advance, and the only one to take notes and ask for additional information when I did so. And I followed up with a thank you, and did the same kind of pre-interview with other people in my prospective department.

You have the advantage over outside job hunters - you know who has posted the job and (hopefully) can schedule a little lunch meeting or something with them easily. Use it as much as possible.

As far as your current role, I would let them know that you are doing this pre-interview stuff, because trust me that the second the hiring manager knows you are looking they will be calling your current manager. You want to position it as you are interested in doing some research about possible career paths and potentially applying if it is a good fit for your skillset. Make sure that according to your organization's policies you are eligible to post. Before you do post, you need to actually confirm with your manager that you are posting, because blind-siding them will be terrible for you if you don't get it, and from a not-burning-bridges perspective going forward in the company.
posted by winna at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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