Folding the Flag

New York state flags will be flown at half-staff today; Gov. Paterson has ordered it after the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan. 

Half-staff? Why?

Well, that’s the kind of thing we learned In Cub Scouts and in Eagle Scouts, in Brownies and in Boy Scouts and in Girl Scouts. Handling the American Flag.

This included everything from how to fold the flag, raise the flag, and lower the flag. What to do when the flag is torn or frayed, or touches the ground. When to fly the flag, and when to fly it half way or two-thirds up the pole; in addition, what to do if you must fly it at an angle (as I recall, you always want the stars, not the stripes, on top, to emphasize the unity of the nation). 

While most of us, including I, don’t remember the particulars, here’s what we (hopefully) took away from all this: the instructions our elders taught us may not represent the only way to handle, fold, and care for a flag, or even the best way. But the mere existence of these details, the fact that we spend so much time on them — it’s because the flag stands for something important.

We have a long list of rules and instructions about important things, and we don’t about unimportant things. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to decide how you’re going to treat candidates, and to put that code in writing. Some things it might include:

  • What will you say to candidates who call about a job? 
  • What will you say to candidates who send in a resume? Will you tell them it was received, and what else will you tell them?
  • What will you say to candidates who contact you through social media sites such as YouTube, LinkedIn, or Facebook? 
  • How will you (or will you at all?) keep candidates updated on where they are in the application process? 
  • How will you respond to a candidate who just wants to learn more — to have an informational interview?
  • If you have an email newsletter or other communication to candidates interested in your company, who will get it? Do they have to subscribe, or just express interest in your organization?
  • Will you tell candidates when the second round of interviews might be? Will you tell them if they didn’t make it — or only if they did?
  • Will you tell them how many others are in the running? 
  • Will you tell them if the job’s most likely going to go to an internal candidate?
  • Will you tell them what the company is really looking for? The unwritten things it takes to work at the company?
  • Are you going to let candidates know whether you look people up on Google, Facebook, and elsewhere, and what sorts of things you find on those sites are deal-breakers?
  • Will you tell a candidate if the fact that they know someone at the company helps them, if indeed it does? Does it depend on who they know at the company? If so, will you tell them that?
  • If candidates want feedback as to why they weren’t hired, will you give it to them?

For some of these questions, most everyone will answer similarly. For others, they won’t. In other words, there’s not always a right way and a wrong way to answer some of these questions (which represent just a fraction of the questions you want to ask yourself anyhow).

But putting some of the answers into a code, a policy, a list of suggestions, guidelines — it sends the message that how you treat job candidates is important, important enough to think about in detail, talk about, and develop instructions for.

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