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I was hired by my current employer about 4 years ago. At that time, the company was very compartmentalized: every division had its own HR, its own administration, its own management, its own organization, its own way of work, etc.

My hiring process was not a “standard” one. In less then a week I was contacted by 3 different HR people, from 3 different divisions for 3 different positions. I found out that all of them were quite desperate to fill the positions (explicitly said so during one of the interviews or deduced myself). I immediately took advantage of the situation and, using multiple raise requests, I managed to achieve a +55% on the offer I finally accepted (I received 2 raises for position A, 5 for position B e 6 for position C, the one I finally accepted). I never told the 3 HR people that they were competing against other HR people of the same company, neither was I asked to disclose this information.

My company has been undergoing a complete reorganization process for about 2 years, in order to completely eliminate compartmentalization. We are at about 90% I think. Last week I was contacted by an HR employee who said that they were reviewing some past hiring processes and they found that mine and a few others are “quite unique” and that they like to have a call about (no further details). They scheduled the call for the next week (with me, 2 HR employees - a manager and the guy who contacted me - and my current manager - who was not in the company at the time I was hired).

How should I prepare myself for this? Should I worry about something?

(On the legal aspect: I already contacted 2 labor lawyers and both confirmed that I acted in a perfectly legal way and that my company cannot do anything against me on the legal side)


Thanks to everyone for your answers and your comments. I will update again this question after the meeting, next Tuesday (I saw many comments asking for an update after the meeting)


Ending

Yesterday I attended the meeting: it was much more friendly than I expected.

The HR is preparing a big final presentation on the company reorganization process (supposed to be showed in the next company event) and they are collecting singular cases like mine.

They requested my written permission to use anonymously my case in the presentation (they will show how difficult was for me the process, how complex was their job to reconcile the data, how the company was inefficient, etc.) and I granted it. I have a copy of the document, signed by the HR manager.

Then they showed me other cases they will use: people interviewed by 6 or 7 different divisions in less then a month, people received offers after they were already been hired, people asked for interviews when working in the company, etc.

My current manager was there only because HR policies require that, during official meetings, there must be the direct manager of the person involved. In fact his contribution to the meeting was: "Hi" at the beginning, a few surprised exclamation when HR was telling the story and a "Goodbye" at the end.

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    Since you asked two lawyers about it already... how are we supposed to be able to tell you more? Or in other words how can we help? – Tymoteusz Paul May 11 at 7:22
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    I asked them about the legal part. So I'm not afraid of getting fired. But I've never been in a meeting with HR and I want to know, based on your experiences, whether it could have repercussions (role? career? other?) and what measures they could take – NinjiaJ May 11 at 8:05
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    Please update the question after the meeting. Interesting to here what happened! – d-b May 11 at 19:41
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    One thing I always insisted on was an agenda. "We need to meet with you about a matter." Then you'd better tell me what the matter is, so I can gather up useful information and be ready for the meeting. Otherwise it won't be a productive meeting. I had one case where they refused to reply but went to my manager and got him to coerce me to go to the meeting. I went. I took notes, writing down all their questions. Then I said I would go do some research and get back to them. Then I walked out. HR is the enemy. – B. Goddard May 11 at 22:55
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    I see many request to know if I'm in the USA. Nope. I'm in Europe, Mediterranean area. And English is not my mother language (this may explain why I used "labor lawyer", I asked Google translate to help me ;) ) – NinjiaJ May 12 at 6:30
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If you didn't lie at any stage throughout the hiring process, then you probably have nothing to worry about.

Just remember, though, that HR isn't there to protect your interests. Do not feel compelled to answer any questions that you do not want to.

It's also worth remembering that usually when you are speaking with HR, you are not speaking as an agent of the business, but as an agent of yourself. So if usually you are prepared to go above-and-beyond for the company, you need to temper your vigour a little once you sit down with HR.

Before you go, you should really try to determine what exactly the goals of the meeting are. If they already working to create a uniform hiring process, it's a bit unclear what can be gained from understanding a significant outlier. What absolutely matters is the contract both parties have signed.

They may try to get you to agree that you were sneaky, or some form of language like that. They may say things like: "Ahh, so you misled the managers into believing you were getting outside offers. That's smart. We just want to know for our records, is that what you did?"

If they start to accuse you of some form of dishonesty or misconduct, you should end your contribution to the meeting right there, and indicate that you will be happy to answer any questions that are emailed to you. Then you should typically go through those questions with one of the two lawyers that you mentioned.

They may even say things like: "You never should have gotten offered that much." That may or may not be true. But you were offered that much. That is not your problem.

Just in closing, I just want to say that I don't think HR people are evil, but they have a job to do. However friendly they seem, they are employed to act in the best interests of the company.

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    I didn't lie in the hiring process: they never asked, I never disclosed anything – NinjiaJ May 11 at 15:53
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    @NinjiaJ right, this answer is saying that HR may try to get you to admit you purposely misled the managers (by omission even if not by telling falsehoods), so if that happens, be prepared to stop the conversation and direct them to send you questions via email so you can consult with a lawyer. – Giuseppe May 11 at 15:55
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    "You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment". – d-b May 11 at 19:41
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    @Frank I wouldn't even mention the competing offers. It feels irrelevant. Company made offer, you signed. That's it. How they ended up bidding against themselves is technically their problem. If my wife and I went to a car dealership and out-bid each other's offer and found out later, the dealership will laugh in my face. The company is so siloed that the 3 departments functionally acted like 3 separate companies. – Nelson May 12 at 9:21
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    A general comment: I'm not trying to gainsay Gregory here but I've only ever worked for one company where HR acted solely in the interests of that company and not equally in the interests of the employees and that was a very large, two-letter American IT firm. Everywhere else, HR have always been ready to go in to bat for the staff as well as the company. I accept I may have been fortunate, but I would hesitate to warn anyone that HR is only looking out for the company. – Spratty May 12 at 11:11
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It's perhaps more likely that HR may be trying to find out if your hiring manager did something wrong. Did they get prior budgetary approval before extending your offer? Did they hire you into the vacancy they said they were recruiting for? Did they recruit you fairly and openly? Did they follow company policy (and local laws) for diversity? Did they offer you benefits or salary or vacation in excess of the norm for your position?

The one item that might be more "about you" would be whether they got you to sign all the company policy documents that you were supposed to. One of the things that happens very often with hurried, manager-driven hiring is that an offer is finalized without the pages of corporate policy that the new employee is supposed to sign.

So what you might find is that they hear you out, share a laugh at the crazy way you were hired, and then put their standard contract in front of you to sign; the one that you should have been given when you were first offered the job. Most of it will probably be pretty reasonable; it probably says you can be fired if you steal, etc etc. But it may have more restrictive terms than your manager offered for things that may be important to you.

It depends very much on what jurisdiction you're in, but in many places, once an employee is hired, the company cannot unilaterally enforce additional terms on them. So if they say, you have to sign this to keep the job you're in, that may be wrong. (If they say you'll need to sign it to get a promotion or a transfer, then that may be correct; and if it's correctly dated some time after you were hired, it may not even be legally enforceable.) But you should definitely read it very carefully, and if it seems to "take back" anything you'd been previously offered, or if imposes new restrictions that you haven't already agreed to, take it to one of the lawyers you've been in touch with. In no event should you sign it immediately, and if they demand that you do so, then that's a huge red flag.

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    I think is answer is possible, and maybe even likely. The company may be angry at the manager and departmental employees who bid against each other, and not at OP. OP may feel like the target when they are merely a witness. – tbrookside May 11 at 19:45
  • This seems correct. HR exists to protect the company, but protect against whom? – MSalters May 14 at 12:42
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From what you described you did nothing wrong. That alone should be reassuring enough. I suggest you keep your calm throughout the conversations, and also ask them to make the purpose of the call very clear from the very beginning. If the whole thing is meant to help the company avoid mistakes that could harm them in the future, that's alright. If it's meant to retroactively punish you or even make you feel bad and lose face for future salary negotiations explain to them that they're putting you in an unfair and uncomfortable position and that you'd kindly like to end the conversation straight away.

If you feel that they're not making it very clear why they're speaking to you about it, try to be as vague as you can get away with, and avoid answering patronizing questions. In a situation like that, I could see how answering their question with your own question could also work.

eg.

THEY: Do you think your hiring process was fair?
YOU: I'm surprised to hear that question. Do you have any reason to believe it was unfair?

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    But be careful, HR will almost certainly phrase the purpose of the meeting to be "to help the company in the future" but in their minds that might mean punishing you, or at least flagging something you did. – Dragonel May 12 at 16:32
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Other answers have well covered the question of if you should worry, and what to do if the meeting seems to go sideways, but to actually prepare for the meeting:

Ask if they can give you their list of questions/agenda now so that you can try to dig up any documentation you may still have from that time that may be relevant in answering their questions.

Depending on the questions provided, put effort into finding that documentation.

Then similar to what Dave3of5 suggests review whatever documentation you find to ensure that your recollection of events matches and is supported by the evidence you have.

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Put it on HR.

"I knew very little about the company when I interviewed. I assumed all the departments speaking to me were coordinating through HR and that I was ultimately selected for the position by the division that needed me most. Is that not what happened?" "No?" "How interesting!"

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  • If the departments were coordinating through a single HR, you wouldn't be able to play them against each other in salary negotiations. Even if you do get into negotiations with all departments still in the running (which I would doubt), they would know from each other what their offers are. – Bart van Ingen Schenau May 13 at 12:29
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    The problem with this approach is it introduces the idea that the OP would have acted differently had they known, with the implication they would have acted differently on moral or legal grounds. If HR disbelieves that the OP knew, they will form the opinion that the OP believes that they previously in an immoral or illegal way. I really hope you understand what I'm trying to say, cause it's very hard to articulate. – Gregory Currie May 13 at 14:50
  • @GregoryCurrie: True, but the strategy works as a passive strategy. Don't bring it up yourself, but if HR asks, put it back to them. "So you say the department managers did not coordinate? Wasn't that the role of HR? Not blaming you personally of course, I don't know who in HR was responsible back then.". HR is responsible for the hiring process; by default anything that goes wrong is their fault. So you approach the meeting as if HR is trying to clean up their own internal mess, and you are entirely willing to help them. But for that help, they will have to confess what they need help with. – MSalters May 14 at 12:54
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How should I prepare myself for this?

It's hard to say really maybe just try to go over what happened write it down incase you are nervous in the interview and forget something.

Should I worry about something?

Generally I would say yes with most meetings with HR but in this case is sounds like they are trying to improve the hiring process. Anyway worrying about it won't help at all so try not to worry about it.

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Doing what you can to get the best possible offer is what everyone is expected to do. Nothing wrong with that. If they added 55% then you probably convinced them they needed a better and therefore better paid person for the position. So they advertised a £40,000 position but hired you into a £62,000 position.

If not, if you just beat them at negotiating, and we’re not worth the money, surely they would have removed you at the end of the probation period. Not kept you for four years.

Anyway, if you are in the EU, trying to make you work for less or laying you off is not going to happen. Every employment lawyer loves a case where they can skin a company alive, so they would be very happy to take your case.

I would say assume that they just want to figure out what happened but don’t say anything that could be incriminating. So for a question “we advertised for £40,000 but hired you for £62,000, how come?” You can say “I saw that advert. I’d never have taken a job for £40,000, that would have meant a major loss from my previous salary, but I thought I’ll apply and convince them they are better off with someone better qualified for the money that I wanted. I must have played my cards right, because £62,000 was more than I had hoped for, but not massively so, and nobody has ever said I wasn’t worth it”.

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