When You Screw Up in HR, Memorize and Say These 4 Magic Phrases…

As HR pros, we all make mistakes.

Or say the wrong thing at the right time.

Or misjudge a situation from time to time.

But not everyone in our profession will confess to their screw ups…especially in high stress, corporate environments where others are watching and judging us every day.

However, I learned a very important lesson early in my career at Quaker Oats.

As a young HR director for a tiny division of the company, I reported to an amazing boss who relied heavily on my judgment and experience.

She had taken a chance and promoted me into the director role largely because of my relationships and knowledge of the organization.

But the job was a stretch for me and a bit over my head.

She knew it and I knew it.

But she was willing to take a chance on me.

So, I didn’t want to let her down or make her regret her decision.

But on one occasion, I had a horrible lapse in common sense and fell short of her expectations.

I really screwed up a very complex employee theft investigation and termination case.

My crime was that I didn’t involve our legal department and I didn’t ask all the right questions. And as a result, I didn’t gather all the evidence we needed to reach a clear conclusion about the employee…who had been accused of theft twice before.

And my boss went absolutely ballistic!

She immediately called me on the carpet and demanded that I explain my error in judgment.

My defenses reared up. My pride and my aggressive instincts all screamed: “Fight! Defend yourself. Think up a good excuse.”

Thankfully, in a moment of sanity I took a more sensible approach. Here’s what I said…

“I was wrong. I’m sorry.
I know that I still have a lot to learn in this role.
Please let me fix it.”

Apparently, this reply from a young, cocky HR professional was not what she expected.

I’ll never forget the expression on her face: surprise, confusion, acceptance, and something that may have been… admiration.


In that moment, I knew I’d done exactly the right thing.

And as a result, I pushed the re-start button and immediately got our legal team involved.

And together with them, we mapped a detailed strategy to dig deeper into this case.

It was very hard work, but they were terrific. And I felt personally embarrassed by my initial attempts to do this all myself…trying to be the hero.

In any event…

When we finally completed a thorough investigation and presented our evidence to this employee — who had been a complete, utter jerk throughout the entire process — he broke down and confessed to all three thefts.

And we terminated his butt immediately.

That experience taught me something I’ve carried with me through the years…

A little honesty, humility and teamwork
goes a long way in life and in HR.

It enriches relationships, prevents unnecessary confrontation, saves time, and builds trust.

This situation could have destroyed my HR career. Instead, admitting I was wrong helped me earn the trust of a powerful and successful HR executive and opened the door to further career opportunities for me down the road.

The lesson: The next time your defenses are up you may find instant relief in one or more of these surprisingly effective, almost magic simple statements.

Give them a try, the only thing you have to lose is a little ego!

Here they are:

1. ”I’m sorry.”

A short and sweet apology can diffuse a tough situation and lower the resistance and anger in the room.

You’ll find that the conversation will become less stressful.

And a solution to your problem or challenge is more likely to surface.

2. ”I was wrong.”

Fessing up to your mistake is cleansing and takes a weight off your shoulders.

So if you’re wrong, resist the urge to defend yourself or make up a string of excuses.

Instead, just admit you’ve erred and correct it.

It’s that simple!

3. ”I need some help.”

Go ahead and say these four words….no matter how hard they are to verbalize.

Even if you’re a workaholic and master of your HR domain, accept the fact that you can’t do it all by yourself.

Truly great HR pros surround themselves with and utilize colleagues who can guide and help them.

So reach out to your army of supporters and save yourself a lot of headaches, frustration and time.

4. ”I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”

The true expert in any field will tell you is that no one is expected to have all the answers.

But you ARE expected to know where to FIND the answers.

So don’t think you need to know it all.

Your CEO doesn’t, so why should you.

Let’s face it, if we knew everything, our careers would be boring!

Use this situation as an opportunity learn and grow.

So these are four magic phrases.

However, before you use ANY of these phrases there is one thing you should know.

If you’re making mistakes all the time, these words lose their power. You will merely be viewed as a weak HR screw-up who is not ready for prime time and apologizes all the time. And your words will be received by others with frustration, skepticism and intolerance.

Don’t let this happen.

These words are very powerful. So use them wisely.

In fact, legendary leadership author John C. Maxwell put it best: “The wise leader is big enough to admit mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Become known as that kind of wise leader in HR.

via Allan Collins


Toughest Interview Questions

Pasted below are some of the tough interview questions that you may be asked in a job interview. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, but carefully consider the job you are applying for, your abilities, and the company culture before you respond.

Question 1: Tell me something about yourself?

ANSWER: Start with your present and tell why you are best fitment for the position. The key to successful interview is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking out for.
You should say: “I have a number of noteworthy credits I’d like to tell you about, but I want to make the best use of this time & address your needs. Therefore, could you please throw some light on this position?

Once answered, the follow-up question can be “Is there anything else you see as Critical Success factor” in this position? Once you are clear on what employer is looking out for, tell him why the role/responsibilities are in sync with what you have been handling successfully in your previous organizations. It would be good to back your statement with specific examples, along with your achievement so that you present yourself as a best in, all of which are geared to present yourself as a best fitment for the role.

Question 2: What are your greatest strengths?

ANSWER: Before any interview, one should do his/her SWOT analysis & should be prepared of greatest strengths. Best would be to have appropriate examples highlighting each strength.

Continuing from question 1, once you are clear on interviewers need, you can then select these achievements from your list that matches up nearly to role requirement.
Few of the traits that all employers would like to see in their employees are:
1. A proven track record as an achiever;
2. Honesty & Integrity;
3. Good fit with corporate culture, someone to feel comfortable with…a team player who jells well with interviewing panel;
4. Positive Attitude, good sense of humor;
5. Good communication skills;
6. Willingness to walk an extra mile to achieve excellence

Question 3: What are your weaknesses?

ANSWER: Disguise strength as a weakness.
Instead of telling a weakness, describe what you ‘LIKE MOST’ and ‘LIKE LEAST’ ensuring that what you like most matches up with the CSF for the position and what you like least is not material enough.

Question 4: Push or pull factors for exploring outside your organization?
ANSWER: Please make sure that you have done your homework well before applying your candidature. Prepare a brief on reason for leaving. Best answers can be: more money, good opportunity (scope perspective), responsibility or growth.

Question 5: Why should I hire you?

ANSWER: This is the question in the interviewers mind before the actual interview. Since you are aware by now what the perspective employer is looking out for. Therefore your reasons for hiring should be tied directly to his immediate needs.
You need to quote examples wherein employer’s needs should be matched to your qualifications which would give you an edge over others.

Question 6: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

ANSWER: Every employer looks out for a long-term commitment & hence this question. Please reassure your interviewer that you’re looking for a long-term commitment because the role is something you have been looking out for.
Example: I am very much interested in making a long-term commitment with your esteemed Organization. Considering what you’ve told me about this position, it’s something that I have been looking out for & are aligned to my skill set & I am sure of making visible contribution to
company’s overall growth objectives. I am confident if I do my work with par excellence, opportunities will open up for me. It’s always been the same in my career, and I’m confident I’ll have similar opportunities here as well.

Question 7: Tell me about a situation when your work was criticized.
ANSWERS: Start by emphasizing the positive feedback you’ve been getting all through your career and then try answering this tricky question.
No one is perfect and you always welcome suggestions on how to improve your performance. After this, give an example of a learning experience from early days in your career and relate it to the ways it has helped you. This would demonstrate that you have learned from your experience.
Another way to answer this question would be to describe your intention to broaden your master of an area of growing importance in your field.

For example, this might be a computer program you’ve been meaning to sit down and learn… a new management technique you’ve read about…or perhaps attending a seminar on some cutting-edge branch of your profession.
The key here is to focus on something not essential to your brilliant performance but has added another dimension to your knowledge.

Question 8: Can you work under pressure?

ANSWER: Absolutely. Prove it with an example from your earlier organization where the project/task was completed within stipulated TAT under severe pressure.

Question 9: What makes you angry?

Examples: If you are a reserved person:
“I’m an even-tempered and positive person by nature, and I believe this helps me a great deal in keeping my department running smoothly. I believe in communicating clearly what’s expected, getting people’s commitment aligned towards those goals, and then following up
continuously to check progress.”
“If anything is going off track, I want to know about it in early days. If, after that kind of open communication and follow up, someone isn’t getting the job done, I’ll want to know why. If there’s no good reason, then I’ll get impatient and angry…and take appropriate steps from there.
If you are feisty by nature:
“You know what makes me angry? People who (the fill in the blanks with the most objectionable traits for this type of position)…people who don’t pull their own weight, who are negative, people wa particular manner ho lie…etc.”

Question 10: What was the toughest decision you ever had to make?

ANSWER: Be prepared with a good example, explaining why the decision was difficult…the process you followed in reaching it…the courageous or effective way you carried it out…and the great results.

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