It was early 2002. I’d just been retrenched for the 2nd time in my life and was obviously keen to secure my next project. An HR Director role with a security company based in Sydney’s western suburbs took my eye. I was particularly drawn to the role because they were hiring direct – no recruitment company to deal with. So, after a lot of research, a carefully crafted cover letter and tailored resume I got the interview.
The initial meeting was to be conducted on-site and would be with the current HR Director who was leaving the Company to take up an overseas posting in the USA. I arrived early and waited for about 10 minutes in the reception area, conscious of the fact that, being a security business, I had probably been under surveillance from the moment I had driven into the car-park. The whole place was spookily quiet.
About 10 minutes after the scheduled interview time the HR Director, John, welcomed me into his office. “You must know Jill Smart”, he chirped as his opening remark. My heart sank – how was this possible? I had reported to Jill very briefly a few years previously when I was working for a global telco. Needless to say we hadn’t got on and I was lucky to find a different role elsewhere in the same organisation which had me reporting into the UK instead. Apparently, this guy and Jill had done their MBA together and he recognised the Company name on my CV. Not a great start.
The interview soon got underway. I summarised my HR career to date, provided solid reasons why I had moved from one job to another and was able to demonstrate pretty well how I was a good fit for the role we were discussing. I thought things were going great until the conversation turned to performance appraisals. I’ve never been a fan of the typical corporate performance appraisal process – invariably a tedious combination of box ticking and painful feedback, serving very little purpose for either the employee or their manager. I’m yet to see an employee emerge from a performance appraisal meeting with a smile on their face. My view is that managers should have on-going and regular discussions with their staff rather than wait until HR tells them to have a formal meeting. Often and open are my two favourite words when describing the ideal performance discussion. Focus on people’s strengths and what they’ve done well.
Anyway, John had written his own performance appraisal document and couldn’t wait to show it to me. It was a 10-pager – a beast of a thing which John insisted we read together page by torturous page. It was entirely dreadful throughout – full of meaningless questions, the silliest of all being one which asked you what your hobbies were. How could someone’s hobbies ever be relevant to a valid performance appraisal process?
That was it for me. I told John exactly what I thought of performance appraisals. I also left him in no doubt that I didn’t think much of his “masterpiece”. He was gobsmacked as much as I was shocked at my own candour. I don’t think either of us had ever been in a similar situation. The interview was over. “Pity”, John said as we parted, “you were really hitting the mark there for awhile.”
I wonder if he ever told Jill about the interview – she would have been delighted (as I was) that I had missed out on my “dream job”.