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Hiring 101: If Your Only Job Qualification is Status as a Reality-Show "Cougar", You're Probably Not a Match...

By now, you probably have heard all you want about the HP saga involving the resignation/termination of CEO Mark Hurd.  Click here for more details, which involves reported harassment of a contractor, lying on expense reports and more fun and games.  Fortune is out with a deeper dive on what really went on behind the scenes, and it's worth a read - go read it now.

The report outlines how the internal investigation was handled (they never interviewed the alleged harassed lass), how the board came around to being skeptical of Hurd based on his reaction to how the Fisher_age_of_love incident should be handled internally and externally, and how the company's recent history with ethical lapses played into the quick reaction to remove Hurd.

You might have known some or all of that.  Here's something you didn't know: Staffers of Hurd at a very high level at HP were responsible for recruiting Jodie Fisher (the one who made the harassment claim that brought Hurd down) into the HP organization.  

No big deal you say?  What if I told you that the key staffer for Hurd making the hire thought it would be a good idea to use a reality TV show featuring "cougars" as a talent pool to recruit from?  I can't make this stuff up - more from the Fortune article:

"Mark Hurd was miffed. It was 2007, two years into his tenure as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, and he was annoyed at the amount of time he was wasting. Hurd was so obsessed with time management that he'd built a spreadsheet to track his movements. When Hurd was displeased, he let people around him know, and one person who was always around was Caprice Fimbres. A former public relations account executive, Fimbres was Hurd's "program manager," an aide with broad sway over the CEO's schedule.

Fimbres took on the challenge of allaying Hurd's concerns. At some point, she began thinking about a television show she'd been watching. Fimbres was hooked on reality TV, and that summer she'd been following a particularly bad NBC series called "Age of Love." Its gimmick was inane, even for an inane genre: "Age of Love" pitted a group of female twentysomethings—the "kittens"—against a group of fortysomethings—the "cougars"—vying for the affections of a real-life tennis star.

Apparently Fimbres concluded that experience in a made-for-TV cat fight was the ideal preparation for playing gatekeeper to one of the most important corporate CEOs in the world. Whatever her rationale (she declined to be interviewed), Fimbres decided to recruit among the cougars, according to Nadine Jolson, a publicist for some of the contestants, who says Fimbres contacted her at the time.

At least two other contestants from the "Age of Love" discussed an HP role with Jolson. But the tech giant ultimately hired a 47-year-old divorced single mom from Los Angeles named Jodie Fisher to act as a greeter at events where Hurd met top customers. Her job was to gracefully steer clients, ensuring that Hurd spent the right amount of time with the right people."

Let's work through this.  Hurd's an efficiency freak, and he pressures his right hand to help him ensure he spends the most time with people who give HP a lot of business.

The key staffer thinks to herself: "I need someone to help Mark quickly vet who's valuable and who's not at the functions we hold for CIOs.  Where can I find that type of person?"

Answer: "I bet one of those Cougars on the Age of Love would do well with that. I really like that show and admire the cougars"

You're kidding me, right?  I get that trade show staffing requires a certain amount of attractiveness.  Look at any trade show exhibit floor and you understand that's a job requirement.  However, last time I checked, the software/IT industry was stocked with tens of thousands of sales and marketing reps who are attractive enough to match up with Jodie Foster, AND have the ability to understand who's a big biller, who needs to see the boss and maybe even talk a little shop with the CIO in question.  You know, actual job skills in addition to being somewhat attractive.

Instead, the key staffer (paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, I'm sure - she's not an administrative assistant) turns to a reality TV show to make the key hire who would deal directly with the CEO.

You can't make this type of stuff up.  Unbelievable.

It all comes down to the judgment of those who make the hires in your organization.  Hire for looks and omit skills, and you get what you get. 



Thank you for posting more on this story. Absolutely fascinating piece of recruiting there.

Paul Hebert

I know the pain of being hired for looks. It took me years to prove I had the chops needed for the job. :)

It is still amazing to me that people in high places at big companies do things like this. It is the stuff of hollywood movie studios. Amazing info Kris...


you really can't make this stuff up...

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