mushroom coffee

I live in a world where aggressive, arrogant men swoop down from big consulting firms and hate the women who work in human resources.

It’s creepy.

They are “here to help us” while simultaneously undermining us. And some of those arrogant, aggressive men are women.

(Et tu, Betty?)

I spend an inordinate amount of time defending the modern HR professionals against those weird assaults, but look at the snapshot from recent headlines.

  1. We complain about fonts.
  2. We whine about applicants with petty and irrelevant criminal histories.
  3. We prefer tall men.
  4. We are biased against older workers.
  5. We don’t fight for our workers who struggle to gain access to the healthcare that is legally theirs.
  6. We seem to ignore disproportionate representation on boards.
  7. We say we want skills, but we still make people get degrees they don’t need.
  8. We don’t pay people what they deserve.
  9. We aren’t advocates for the next generation of workers.

HR sucks, man.

Maybe the aforementioned “we” isn’t some chick sitting in human resources in Kentucky or Indiana or Nevada; however, we are guilty by association. The very people who have power and could fix the problems are trying to replicate a google-analytics version of HR and missing the bigger picture.

Be human. Be kind. Solve problems. Go home, make dinner and tuck your kids into bed. Rinse. Repeat. That’s good HR right there.

If you want people to love HR—or at least respect the work you’re doing—pick one of those items on the list above and make it your mission in life to fix it. Or, hey, have a brave conversation about it. Read a news article. Maybe leave a comment on a blog. Let your voice be heard.

But don’t, for one second, tell me that a font on a resume matters. A font doesn’t matter. A person matters. Not the goddamn font. No way. Never.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the e-book, “I Am HR.” Click to tweet.


  1. To be fair, the guy complaining about fonts was a design specialist. And the thing is, everybody seems to have a thing for tall men, not just HR professionals (although, as a group, HR professionals do a lot of hiring and one could argue that as such they have a moral obligation to explore those biases that everyone seems to share).

    Back to the font thing – I think we should think about that stuff. Not because people who use Garamond should be given preferential treatment – but because if you are unconsciously giving special treatment to someone because they use a prettier font, or because her name is “Joan” and not “Keisha,” or because she went to your school, THINKING about those things is the only way to clear them from your mental space. It’s counter-intuitive, but attempting to ignore things that trigger your biases only gives them more power to work you while you’re not looking. So if you hear the NPR story about fonts, and you think “that’s ridiculous,” but it moves you to think about for another five minutes or so … good!

    • I would concede the design point except that I learned about it though a Human Resources colleague who shared the article and agreed.

      Most HR people look at resumes for 6 seconds. So, to be fair, the whole process sucks. Fonts and all.

      And I’m okay thinking about things—and race, sex, gender, height, whatever—but including them in a conscious (or unconscious) selection process (as if it’s a valid predictor of success) tells me that HR is still fucked up and bullshit.

  2. i am admittedly tired of the generalized notion that “people hate HR” – even if it’s just hyperbole. i’m not really sure people hate HR any more than they do accounting, marketing…certainly no more than they hate IT. i think people hate ‘overhead’…period. mostly because they view it as an unnecessary institutional investment in intellectually inferior worker bees. it doesn’t matter how tirelessly committed and effective they may be. the front line will always pretend to hate that back office. its traditional for them to do so…and it’s convenient, ignorant, and petty.

    every great HR professional who has ever worked with me would readily identify with your nine examples as ‘fucked up and bullshit’. and i would categorically deny that they (we) were hated. shake the complex, HR…you are not hated.

    • I don’t have an inbox of love for HR, that’s for sure.

      As much as HR epitomizes the endeavor of work—legitimately or not—it’s not beloved by many people.

  3. Laurie:
    Your whole premise is based on the assumption that HR is there for the good of the employee. It is not. It is there for the good of the company. Now, the good of the employee does support the good of the company, but they also sometimes conflict. These are the times that try the HR professional’s soul.

    • That’s not my premise at all. I don’t think paying women less than men is good for business. I don’t think any of those bullet points are good for business. And if it’s not good for business, where—as a collective corporate function entrusted with linking people and profits—is our spine?

      • Paying anybody less is good for business, and if there is an accepted cultural bias for doing so, all the better. Sort of like how you and other “enlightened” HR types might say turnover is bad, when in reality it is great for business in bringing in workers with lower pay and fewer expectations. That’s why almost none of the companies I have worked for give a fig about turnover.

        • Turnover is great when you can actually measure it and think about it in a larger spectrum of work.

          I work with a restauranteur who has 110% turnover at a local restaurant. That’s every person hired + some people who were hired and never showed up. That’s bad and indicative of broader, damaged policies and issues. That’s the stuff I’m actually interested in talking about, btw.

  4. Recently I’m on a campaign about degrees. While I support anyone who wants to get them, I don’t think they magically make employees more qualified.

    • Degrees are rarely used as bona fide qualifiers and more as a tool for cutting down the resume pile. So degrees are very useful. Why hire someone without a degree when you can hire someone with, give similar experience and skills? There is enough resume spam flowing into the average applicant bucket that you can find highly skilled people on either side of a diploma.
      Somebody with a degree is also less likely to quit once they get their degree.

      • I meant to say:
        Somebody with a degree is also less likely to quit than someone without one once they get their degree.

      • 1. You’re making assumptions that someone with a degree is better than someone without a degree. That’s you. Those are your preferences. That’s not reality.

        2. “Somebody with a degree is also less likely to quit once they get their degree.” That’s also not true. Ask people in tech corridors around this country. Degree has nothing to do with turnover and retention.

        • RE point 1: We have to deal with the general perception, though it may be a misconception.

          RE point 2: You are right, for purple squirrels like a dot net developers with particular backgrounds. I work in IT and my reality is much different as a desktop support tech. Most of the workforce like me don’t face the same level of worker demand so a degree is our ticket out.

  5. I have to admit, the criminal background thing can be ridiculous. I know someone who quite recently was a finalist, and informed by multiple individuals, the preferred finalist, for a position.

    He did not get the job because over twenty years ago, he got pulled over for speeding more than 20 miles over the limit (50 in a 30) and had “drug paraphernalia” in the vehicle. Not drugs. Not a trace of a drug, but basically rolling papers and a device with which to roll.

    Flash-forward to 2015, and a great candidate with no issues before or since, can’t get this job because they have a “zero-tolerance” policy for any criminal issues in the past, at any time. Just doesn’t make any sense. (Although I’ll leave my opinions about “zero tolerance” at the door, along with my soapbox.)

    Mary, don’t get me started on the issue of degrees. I could write a thesis on that, and I don’t think anyone wants to read it.

  6. Market value and profits matter. People make those happen, so people better matter. *Just connecting the dots for corporate decision makers.*

    Fonts matter on resumes. They should make your resume easy to read, while giving you enough space to tell your story.

    Helvetica, the font recommended in the Bloomberg story, that was picked up by lots of major media outlets, fails to give people enough space to tell their stories. It’s not the best font for a resume.

    Ask people who write resumes about the best font for resumes, not designers.

    BTW, Google is featuring about eight different versions of that story on page 1 of their search results for “best font for resume.” Sell GOOG. They’ve peaked if that’s the best they can do.

    If you want well-curated job search information, follow @PhyllisMufson on Twitter. She sees it all and shares the best.

    • Forgive me, Donna, but you are about to bear the brunt of my inbox. My apologies as this isn’t meant to be a personal attack, but rather, a blanket response to those who think fonts matter.

      Fonts don’t matter.

      The only difference between Helvetica—a popular font that was made famous by a movie in 200—and Garamond is marketing. Do you hear me? It’s marketing. How do I know this? I am a marketer, and fonts are an extension of art and design—visual representations of emotion made real and malleable in a singular attempt to evoke an image and feeling. How you feel about Helvetica isn’t a real feeling. It’s a feeling that has been imprinted on your brain from both subtle and unconscious techniques meant to separate you from reason and logic.

      Fonts don’t matter.

      The difference between a Times New Roman and Helvetica is the difference between a red shirt and a blue shirt. The only meaning is the meaning you bring to it, and you only bring meaning to it because you’ve been manipulated by the very markets we all (unfortunately) serve.

      Fonts don’t matter.

      In a job-seeker’s market, it’s the height of arrogance for any responsible hiring professional to pretend as if lettering matters more than knowledge, skills and abilities.

      Fonts don’t matter.

      And one more thing: great recruiters don’t care about font because they’ve developed a candidate pool, looked at resumes online using whatever-the-fuck size and font they want to use on their screen, and proactively contacted job-seekers to cultivate relationships well before a job is ever posted.

      Fonts don’t matter.

      But it’s nice to pretend as if they do. Makes us feel like we’re really scouring the resume for something—like no stone is left unturned in judging qualified candidates.

      But fonts don’t matter.

  7. There are some things we cannot blame on HR. It was a hiring manager, on a panel discussion, who told a roomful of new Ph.D. scientists that it is important to him that a job candidate have”a firm handshake” in a job interview. And this hiring manager was himself a Ph.D. scientist.

  8. Maybe fonts don’t matter, but I do wonder about job applicants who use AOL email addresses. 🙂

  9. HR is dominated by white women. That’s all the explanation needed for why everyone else hates HR. Your decision-making boils down to hilarious horseshit like “We prefer tall men.”
    HR doesn’t care about what helps the business, they care about what makes their panties wet, and beyond that, what their panty-wetting bosses tell them to care about (down-sizing, preventing lawsuits against the company, etc.)

    If you work in HR, you deserve to be spat on and your office set ablaze.

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