HR Solutions

By Amy Maingault, John Sweeney, Naomi Cossack Jun 1, 2007
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HR Magazine, June 2007 Interviewing, Management Training, Strikes.

Q: It seems as if every person I interview is so studied and coached on the interview process that I can’t get sincere answers to my questions. How can I cut through rehearsed responses and learn more about these candidates?

A: The overly prepared candidate can be a puzzle for recruiters and hiring managers. There are so many books, magazine articles and web sites that teach applicants not only what questions to expect, but also what answers to give, that it can seem impossible to get a straight answer from the person across the table from you. There are, however, several techniques that may help.

Start by reviewing the questions you are asking and finding out if those questions are on popular interview preparation web sites. If all your candidates arrive with rehearsed responses to the question of where they see themselves in 10 years, you may be wasting everybody’s time by asking that question. With additional preparation, you may be able to generate relevant questions that candidates would not anticipate.

If the questions you are asking are commonly found on web sites but you still feel that they are important, consider how you can push candidates beyond their prepared responses.

One way to do this is to wait until the applicant has finished reciting the prepared response, then look at the candidate expectantly and wait for the person to fill the silence. Or you can prompt the candidate by asking, “Can you tell me more about that?”

You also can ask follow-up questions. “You mention that you recommended that your former employer diversify its product line. What experience did you have that led you to make that recommendation?” You can keep asking questions until you hear an answer that sounds genuine and thoughtful rather than studied or coached.

Caution is necessary, though. Don’t ask questions that are irrelevant, and don’t unintentionally turn the interview into a stress test for the candidate. You can burrow for authentic answers without frightening your applicants.

Last, consider that the rehearsed responses may be legitimate and informative. The fact that a candidate has prepared a response does not necessarily mean that the candidate is being insincere or untruthful.


Q: The management of our company says that we can’t afford the cost of management development and training and that we don’t have the time for it. What can I do?

A: The management at many organizations may feel that way, particularly if the company is oriented toward short-term rather than long-term goals. Management training and development are ongoing processes that must be nurtured to bear results. If the senior management team sees little redeeming value in undertaking such efforts to build management teams or in the cohesion and effectiveness such development can yield, as an HR professional, you still can make a difference.

First, conduct an informal audit. Then talk with those who are receptive to development opportunities. Look at performance deficiencies to see where remedial efforts would most contribute to the value of the organization. Recognize that not everyone desires management development and that there is always resistance to change in favor of the status quo. Then begin preparing an informal action plan that responds to the gaps and deficiencies you discovered.

Offer managers opportunities to participate in mini-sessions where they can discuss problems and begin to initiate progress. Hold the sessions in the early morning, at lunch or after normal work hours, and ask others to share in preparing materials and conducting sessions.

An alternative is to develop basic fact sheets on topics of interest and e-mail these to participants, requesting replies with questions and comments. You can then develop FAQs, which can be shared with managers and supervisors. Finally, host a mini-session to flesh out these topics with attendees.

These alternatives will permit you to engage in interactive sessions, which can provide some developmental opportunities, and to raise important issues and ideas. Who knows? Some incremental improvement may lead to an improved senior management attitude toward other development opportunities.


Q: Are all types of strikes protected under the National Labor Relations Act?

A: An employee’s right to strike is a critical component of the right to organize but is not without limitations. Certain strikes qualify as protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), but not all strikes are protected. The main types of strikes covered by the NLRA are:

  • Unfair labor practice strikes, which protest employers’ purported illegal activities.

  • Economic strikes, which may occur when there are disputes over wages or benefits.

  • Recognition strikes, which are intended to force employers to recognize unions.

  • Jurisdictional strikes, which are concerted refusals to work in order to affirm members’ right to particular job assignments.

A unionized employee’s right to reinstatement after a strike ends varies according to the type of strike. Employers are allowed to hire replacement workers during unfair labor practice strikes and economic strikes.

Economic strikers may be permanently replaced but cannot be terminated. Strikers who are striking because of an unfair labor practice cannot be permanently replaced or terminated.

At the end of a strike, unfair labor practice strikers are entitled to be reinstated to their former positions (even if that means the employer has to terminate replacement workers) as long as they have not participated in any misconduct. Economic strikers who offer to return to work after the employer has hired permanent replacement workers are not entitled to reinstatement. However, if they can’t find equivalent employment elsewhere, they are entitled to be recalled as job openings become available.

Union members lose protection when they engage in strikes considered unlawful under the NLRA (e.g., sit-down strikes, strikes that endanger employers’ property, strikes during “cooling-off” periods or strikes to force acceptance of featherbedding practices). The right to strike also may be limited by any agreements employees may have with the employer to submit disputes to arbitration for a specified period of time before striking.

In addition to strikes protected by the NLRA, many states also have enacted legislation regarding strikes, so refer to your own state laws as well as federal law.


Amy Maingault, SPHR, and John Sweeney, GPHR, SPHR, are HR knowledge advisors in the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Knowledge Center. Naomi Cossack, SPHR, is manager of online content in the center.

Web Extras - Question 1

SHRM web page:
HR Knowledge Center

SHRM article:
Games Interviewers Play 
(HR Magazine)

SHRM white paper:
Guidelines on Interview and Employment Application Questions 

Web Extras - Question 2

SHRM article:
Sink-or-Swim Attitude Strands New Managers
(HR Magazine)

SHRM white paper:
Management Development: A Strategic Initiative  
(HR News)

Web Extras - Question 3

SHRM white paper:
Union Awareness and Maintaining Union-Free Status

Web site:
The National Labor Relations Board

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