Well over a decade ago I relocated from Milwaukee, WI (beer, cheese, and Laverne & Shirley) to Baton Rouge, LA (drive-thru daiquiris, jambalaya, and Jimmy Swaggart). At that stage in my career I had been working in HR leadership roles, possessed my SPHR for quite some time already, and was actively involved with both my SHRM chapter (800+ members) and a number of advisory boards/committees for community and non-profit groups. I thought I had some pretty decent bona-fides when I landed in town and began to look for a job.
In those first few months I made the rounds (pre Linked-In or any social channels mind you) by reaching out to HR folks and hiring managers, setting up lunch meetings, and making a number of phone calls. I quickly discovered that Baton Rouge is quite possibly the hardest location in which to be a new resident. One’s value as a human being is based on having attended LSU and, ideally, having been a member of the correct sorority/fraternity; Tulane is also acceptable. If, as it happens, you have not gone to LSU you might have the chance of being “in” based on your high school grade school or your church affiliation. Extra points may also be awarded based on which neighborhood you, your parents, and/or your maw-maw and paw-paw have called home.
I am not kidding.
In the course of my job hunt I scheduled interviews with a number of the 3rd party staffing agencies in town. The majority were extraordinarily pleasant and helpful and, in fact, before I landed a FT HR gig I did some contract work via one of the agencies. Wonderful experience.
There was one firm, however, where every single person with whom I came in contact was less than cordial. The receptionist was rude, the recruiter with whom I met was condescending and nasty, and the ‘big boss’ was not necessarily an improvement over the others. Neither phone calls nor emails were returned. Even if they had followed up with me I’m not quite sure I would have wanted to work with them; that’s how horrible it was.
This was, as I mentioned, well over a decade ago. Are you surprised that after I moved into senior level HR positions in town I never – ever – entered into a customer relationship with that firm? In addition, when my peers from other companies say “I need assistance filling a position, who do you recommend?” I happily provide them with names and contact information for other firms while telling them to steer clear of the agency-who-shall-not-be-named.
I could have been – perhaps would have been – a lucrative client; I had occasion to do some pretty big annual spend on staffing. But they lost me 10 years ago when I experienced how they treated me as a candidate.
Am I holding on too long? After all some of the folks at that agency are no longer there; although some with whom I interacted still remain. It may well be past the time to just “let it go” and acknowledge they may have changed in the intervening years. While the whole experience was personally miserable it did lead to the loss of future business for them. Were they of the mind that I, a Yankee new to town, would never land in a position where I would have purchasing power for their services? Did they just think I sucked and there was no need to pay attention to how they treated me? I dunno.
Perhaps I’m being stubborn as I remain steadfast in to my dislike for their organization. Or perhaps it’s a real-life lesson in the importance of the candidate experience. A decade in the making.
Check out the Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs). I may need to share this link with a certain Baton Rouge based firm.