When HR Meets PR


A couple of weeks back, a woman in Winnipeg went public with a story about her job application with a local food delivery company. She told her social media followers how her second interview with the organization was cancelled, because she apparently asked questions regarding her pay scale and benefits, if she were to be the successful candidate.

An unfortunate back and forth between the candidate and prospective employer was screen captured for the world to see. The “talent acquisition co-ordinator” said that the applicant’s questions revealed her “priorities are not in sync with those…” of the company itself, that “questions about compensation and benefits at such an early stage is a concern related to organizational fit” because “we believe in hard work and perseverance in pursuit of company goals as opposed to focusing on compensation.” Her upcoming second interview was abruptly cancelled.

The woman posted screenshots of the exchange, which led to a huge backlash: “I guess wanting to eat is overrated these days,” said one. Another noted: “I loathe that hiring processes still force us to pretend money isn’t the primary reason we want jobs,” along with many, many others – all genuine and reasonable responses to what they had seen.

The company was forced to apologize, and they even offered the applicant the second interview again… although it’s not clear if she accepted. This was a PR nightmare in its most raw form. Particularly because the drama unfolded over social media, there was no shortage of comments, shares and damning commentary that have done this business some real damage. While they did the right thing in issuing an apology and reaching out to the individual involved, this could have been avoided and shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

But – could this happen to you?
What is your company policy when it comes to questions in the early hiring stages about compensation in the form of salary and benefits?
How would you handle those questions?

“Company policies differ on the issue of salary and benefits across the country and from business to business,” says Anthony Ariganello, President and CEO of CPHR Canada, and CPHR BC and Yukon. “Sometimes it will be mentioned right at the start, when the job is advertised, or it might come up in the first interview to save the time of the HR professionals doing the hiring. Other times, it often won’t be discussed until the job has been offered. The key is to know your company’s policy thoroughly before you engage in that discussion.”

And presumably to have those conversations face-to-face, rather than on email?

“It’s hard to avoid conversations on email, text or messenger,” explains Ariganello. “But I would encourage all interactions to be more personal than that. HR is about people, so when you’re looking at hiring someone, the more conversations or personalized meetings you can have, the better. That will help you get a better gauge of the type of person they are, or the kind of employee they will be, than a few typed words back and forth.”

So what about the question regarding salary and benefits? Is it a reasonable one?

“Look – I think we can all agree that even if you’re applying for your dream job, you want to know how much you’re going to be paid! It’s certainly a reasonable question. Some HR professionals might want to pre-empt the question by asking “how much would you expect to earn in this role?” If a candidate wants to find out about compensation during the interview process, perhaps consider the timing of the question – and think about this – would you accept the job if the salary is less than your expectation? Is the benefits issue a make-or-break one? Salary is usually based on experience, and getting to know you and your background from your previous roles can often take more than one meeting.”

Founded in 1942, CPHR BC & YK has grown to include more than 5,700 members encompassing CEOs, VPs, directors of HR, HR generalists, HR advisors, consultants, educators, students and small-business owners in BC and the Yukon. CPHR BC & YK propels the HR profession forward by supporting its members with education and advocacy. Find out more at: www.cphrbc.ca.

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