Access Denied: The Trouble With Coordinating Interviews

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access-deniedCalendar management could be one of the most challenging tasks for HR Managers. You could be the best in your field but you cannot deliver outstanding results and earn clients’ respect without impeccable scheduling assistance. Blogger of Fistful of Talent, Laurie Ruettimann, tells us the story of a great HR Manager and her struggles in managing interview schedules.

Years ago, I worked with a kick-ass HR manager named Megan. She was passionate about her job and held an MBA from an esteemed university. Meg loved everything about the world of human resources. If she could dream it, she could do it.

Unfortunately, Megan was a “team of one” who covered two locations and was responsible for all of the recruiting in her region. She sourced, screened and coordinated interviews for hundreds of candidates on a yearly basis. Meg seemed to love the dynamic aspects of recruiting; however, working with the local executive assistants to schedule interviews was the same as navigating the eighth circle of hell.

Even when Megan found the ultimate passive candidate—the fabled purple squirrel—she was often told by the local executive assistants that there was no time on the calendar.

“The interview will have to wait.”

You might wonder how the executive assistants had so much power. Well, it was given to them. The VPs had a cultural practice of blocking out their online calendars. The admins had full control.

(This is something I have seen at many companies, by the way. This is a common practice among executives who are insecure. They want to seem busy and important.)

Honestly, I felt sorry for Megan. Online calendar management has been around since the early days of Lotus Notes, but it doesn’t work if everyone doesn’t play along. So I advised her to have a frank and candid discussion with her clients. Our company paid a Microsoft Outlook licensing fee for a reason. And I suggested that she discipline the executive assistants for not doing their jobs.

“I’m not trying to start a war, Laurie.”

Hmm. That’s true. Megan was trying to model good behaviors and establish relationships with influential people in her client group.

So, she did what countless other HR professionals have done in the past. She created an “administrative toolkit” that explained what she needed from the executive assistants and how she wanted it done.

“They just need training,” she said.

“This is going nowhere,” I responded.

“Maybe, but I need to try.”

And, of course, it failed.

Megan’s story reminds me that far too many HR professionals around the world are still fighting the “calendar management” war. And sometimes we forget that the biggest obstacle to scheduling an interview isn’t finding time on a calendar. It’s getting open and transparent access to a calendar in the first place.

So if you work in human resources, I have some advice for you: stop feeding the soft bigotry of low expectations in your office. There is no code to crack in this mystery beyond accountability. And if an executive assistant throws up roadblocks or tells you it’s not in his job description to schedule an interview, which is often the underlying case behind many of these passive-aggressive calendar management issues, you should go fix that job description.

You have that power.

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