Human Resources

I’m Not an FTE

There’s often a deeper meaning behind job applicants’ responses.

October 13, 2011
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Lately I’ve been interviewing job candidates because our credit union’s executive assistant had the audacity to follow her military husband to a new duty station.

I hadn’t interviewed anyone in a while. So I’ve been surprised by applicants’ vocabularies. Rather than pitiful begging, the air has been full of buzzwords, which proves—at least with today’s worker—the thesau­rus is not a dinosaur.

James Collins
James Collins is Credit Union Magazine's humor columnist.

After the billionth or so applicant, I found my mind wandering. What did their phrases really mean? Here are my guesses (tongue-in-cheek, of course):

  • Team player: Got fired at my last job for playing team video games during work hours.
  • Positive attitude: I positively think managers are dumber than a box of rocks.
  • Self-motivated: There’s no way anyone else can motivate me.
  • Leader: People would follow me even if I were on a sinking ship, which basically describes how my last job went.
  • Multitasker: Managed to keep three different conversations going on e-mail before mixing up Heidi with Stephanie (disastrous results).
  • Outgoing: I wander away for hours.
  • Work long hours: I’m in at 9 a.m., and work right up to 5 p.m.
  • Work well with deadlines: And I love to hear them whizzing right by.
  • Community-focused: I can identify happy hours at every bar within a 12-mile radius.
  • Excellent coach: I spend long hours at work watching
  • Fluent in foreign languages: I’ve successfully ordered food at “Taco Del Mar.”
  • Proven track record: Back in 1983, I once ran a mile.
  • Entrepreneurial: I’ll sell stolen office products.
  • Fast-paced: At 5 p.m., I’ll sprint to the parking lot.
  • Detail-oriented: Forest? Who sees a forest?
  • Dependable: Well, it depends.
  • Strong communicator: I like to share my opinion. A lot.
  • Customer-focused: “You want fries with that?”
  • Hard-working: Add “ly” to the first word.
  • Cross-functional: Managers pass me around like a bad cold.
  • Calm under pressure: During stressful situations, I typically roll up into the fetal position.
  • Financially savvy: I spend hours shopping online during the work day.
  • Motivated: I need a job.
  • Strongly motivated: I really need a job.
  • Seasoned professional: I do all my work just like I did it in the great war—the Civil War, that is.
  • Out-of-the-box: Sometimes I forget to take my medication.            

There was one conversation with an applicant, however, that had a much deeper meaning. The woman had worked for a local government agency.

We were a bit perplexed, not grasping the logic of quitting a good job with great benefits and low turnover for something inherently more risky.

At her interview, our human resource manager asked her this question directly: “Why do you want to work for us?”

She stretched out her hands, sighed a bit, and responded carefully: “Because I want to be known as a person, not as an FTE [full-time employee].”

I thought about that comment for the next few days. As a CEO, I look at FTE reports weekly and sometimes daily. I question why we had overtime last week, and overlook the fact that perhaps someone stayed late to help a working family fill out some paperwork.

For all the buzzwords people think we want to hear, sometimes it’s the simple truths that mean more.

This credit union doesn’t have 52 FTEs. It employs 52 unique people.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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