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The Free and the Furious What to Do About Employees Who Post Their Rsums

What do you do when you see one of your employees has posted a résumé to a service like Monster or CareerBuilder? That depends on why they're posting. Kris Dunn breaks it down for you.

March 13, 2008
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Related Topics: Career Development, Employee Career Development, Retention
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Your employees love you. Except when they don’t.

   Like many recruiting/HR teams, I run an HR shop that subscribes to the résumé databases of Monster and CareerBuilder. Don’t label me lazy; there’s a method to my madness.

   While I would rather find a passive candidate or a referral to plug into any of my open positions, it's hard to justify not subscribing to the big résumé databases. After all, make one placement from the database candidate flow, and you've saved yourself a potential recruiting fee that pays for the annual cost two times over.

   At least that’s how I rationalize it. It’s what you have to do if you have any volume of openings as a corporate recruiter.

   But subscribing to a big job board is not without costs that go beyond the annual fee. If you’ve spent any time working résumé databases as an HR pro, you’ve been faced with a question that’s more complex than the burden carried by presidential candidates trying to figure out universal health care:

   What do you do when you see that one of your employees has posted a résumé to a service like Monster or CareerBuilder?

   If you are an HR pro, you’re naturally concerned. After all, you—along with the managers you serve—are held responsible for retention and employee satisfaction. Even recruiters with no employee relations responsibilities should wonder if they have an ethical responsibility to tell someone.

   Your first instinct is to tell the manager she has a problem and conduct an intervention. Before you round up the TV cameras and run your own version of Dr. Phil in a conference room off the cube farm floor, let’s take a look at the profiles of the employees who choose to post their résumés on a service like Monster or CareerBuilder:

   1. The Free Agent: In an increasingly digital society, a growing percentage of your employeesalways have the "for sale" sign up, ready to consider any reasonable offer presented. Blame the breakdown of the lifetime relationship between employer and employee, but don’t blame the employees who are Free Agents. They’ve seen their families and friends laid off and outsourced, and their mind-set is to always be on the lookout for greener pastures. It’s not personal for the Free Agent, it’s just business, and no action you take will take them out of the marketplace. (Bonus tip: If you are looking to qualify someone as a Free Agent, look at the "date updated" on their profile within the database. Uber-Free Agents make a small tweak every couple of weeks to stay at the top of the search results. They’re a crafty bunch!)

   2. The Reactionary: Like Peter Finch from the classic movieNetwork, this employee is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore. Whether he has been passed up for a promotion or is the recipient of a poor review or tiny raise, he feels slighted. As a direct result, he’s now marketing his availability in the broadest fashion possible. Need proof of the motivation? Look at the date the résumé went up. It’s usually the same day or the day after the delivery of bad news. With your involvement, there’s time and an opportunity to salvage the situation.

   3. The Disgruntled: Think chronic, not acute. This employee started out reacting to an event and never got out of the funk. He’s widely known in your workplace as not being happy and is always difficult to deal with. You, my friend, get to ponder this one and figure out what to do. He won’t update his résumé every two weeks like the Free Agent (he’s disgruntled, not market-driven), but he’ll never take the résumé down. Problem is, his disgruntled nature makes him significantly less marketable than the Free Agent. As a result, he’s probably not going anywhere.

   4. The Forgetful Analog: This pleasant sort had her résumé up during her last job search, and never took it down. You may have even located her as a candidate through Monster and CareerBuilder, so it’s tough to be angry with her. Confused on whether she is a Free Agent or Forgetful Analog? Just check the "last updated" date on her online profile. If it’s the same date as when you located her, she’s not of the free agent mind-set.

   I know what you are thinking: "Hey, Aristotle, thanks for the breakdown. But what am I supposed to do now?"

   You’ve got four choices, as outlined below. Like a Vegas bookie, I’m handicapping your chances to win with any of the approaches:

  • Confront the employee: This is the obvious instinct whenever you see a current employee with a résumé on a job board. This approach works best with the Forgetful Analog and the Reactionary. You can approach the Analog softly ("Hey, I noticed …) and the issue is resolved. The Reactionary can be approached directly, but then you’ll need to follow up to resolve the issue in question. Forget confronting the Free Agent or the Disgruntled, because directness won’t change the approach of either.

  • Tell the manager: If you confront the Analog or the Reactionary, you have to get the manager in the loop. That’s the right thing to do, and it’s a follow-up to confronting the employee. Letting the manager know that the Free Agent is updating his profile every week is not recommended. It’s not personal for the Free Agent, but it will cause trust issues with the manager when none may be warranted. You can also let the manager know that the disgruntled employee is floating his résumé, but there likely won’t be any viable action as a result—unless you can correct the core satisfaction issue.

  • Attempt to engage on your own, undercover: Only an option for true HR pros. Rather than talking to either the employee or manager, you find a way to dig into what’s going on in the environment and attempt to engage or fix it. This is a viable option for the Reactionary, and you might consider it for the Disgruntled, although the approach doesn’t work as well for chronic situations as it does for those acute ones. Additionally, this approach doesn’t make sense for the Analog or Free Agent, since there’s no identifiable workplace issue to focus on.

  • Do nothing and watch the show: Don’t use this approach with the Reactionary. You’ve got to do something to try and fix that one. This approach is best for the Free Agent or the Disgruntled. You can’t stop the Free Agent from being market-oriented, and the Disgruntled may have more issues than you can solve.

   Before you act, know the profile and the motivation of the employee in question. At the end of the day, your organization expects you to own the situation. All parties involved are best served by the HR pro examining the situation and making the best call regarding the appropriate response..

   Or you could simply post your résumé in response. Does that make you a Free Agent—or a Reactionary?

Workforce Management Online, March 2008 -- Register Now!

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