St. Peter and The Pearly Gates


A manager was tragically knocked down by a bus and unfortunately did not survive the crash.  Her soul arrived at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter welcomed her.  “Before you get settled in” St. Peter said, “we have a little problem…you see we have never had a manager like you make it this far and we are not really sure what to do with you.”

“Oh, I see,” said the manager.  “Can you just let me into heaven?”

St. Peter replied “Well I would like to, but I have higher orders.  We are instructed to let you have a day in hell and a day in heaven, and then you are to choose where you’d like to go for all eternity.”

“Actually, I think I would prefer heaven”, said the woman.

St. Peter responded “Sorry, we have to follow the rules”.   St. Peter put the manager into the downward bound elevator.

As the doors opened in hell, the manager stepped out onto a beautiful golf course.  In the distance was a country club; around her were many friends, past fellow executives, all smartly dressed, happy and cheering for her.  They ran up to her with joy and talked about old times.  They played a perfect round of golf and afterwards, went to the country club where the manager and her friends enjoyed the best dinner she had ever tasted.  She met the devil (who was actually very nice to her), and they all had a wonderful night telling jokes and laughing together. Before she knew it, it was time to leave.  Everyone shook her hand and waved good-bye as she stepped onto the elevator back up to heaven.  St. Peter again greeted her at the Pearly Gates and shared “Now, it’s time to spend a day in heaven.”

The manager spent the next 24 hours lounging around the clouds, playing the harp and singing, which was almost as enjoyable as her day in hell.  At the end of the day, St. Peter returned. “You’ve spent a day in hell and a day in heaven’, he said.  “You must now choose between the two.” The manager thought for a second and replied “Well, heaven is certainly lovely, but I actually had a better time in hell.  I choose hell.”

Accordingly, St. Peter took her to the elevator again and she went back down to hell.  When the doors of the elevator opened, she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth.  She saw her friends dressed in dirty clothes, picking up trash and putting it in old sacks.  The devil approached her and put his arm around her, welcoming her to hell.  “I don’t understand”, said the manager, “the other day I was here, and there was a golf course and country club.  Everything was beautiful and I had the best meal I have ever eaten.  All of the people here were so happy.  Now all I see is a dirty wasteland of garbage and everyone looks miserable.  What happened?”

The devil simply looked at her and said “yesterday we were recruiting you…today you’re staff.”

This is a loose adaptation from an HR joke I read years ago.  This story is very relevant for current leaders as many employees today value company culture and developmental opportunities with their jobs more than in the past.   Too many times, managers will tell a candidate what they want to hear during the interview process versus the reality of what working for the company is actually like.  This will lead to higher turnover, increased personnel spend, reduced company productivity and more time for a manager re-recruiting for the same role.

What Leaders Do To Attract and Retain Top Talent:

  • Always interview prospective candidates with other members of your team. Multiple points of view are ideal, especially when you have a number of qualified candidates applying for the same role.  Plus, you could hear a response one way and another person’s point of view may be different.
  • Be flexible and expect the same from your candidates. I’ve interviewed candidates in Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Hotel Lobbies & Baggage Claim areas in Airports, in addition to web-based interviews via Skype or Facetime.   Seeing candidates in multiple settings will sometimes give you a good look on how they respond and react to change.  I always try to interview candidates in different locations then other interviews they have had.
  • Make sure the candidate is providing you specific answers to the questions you are asking, with examples of how they have handled the situations in the past versus what they “would” do in those situations.
  • While application or pre-hire assessments are good tools, they should not be a make or break for a candidate. Use this information wisely and as another source of information to uncover strengths or development areas, as well as if the candidate is an ideal fit for the position.
  • In the course of every interview process, you have to shift from interviewer to recruiter. This could be during the first conversation or the last, but your job is to hire the best talent, and successful leaders make the transition from interviewing candidates to recruiting them to join their team.
  • Be honest with all responses. If someone asks you why the position is open, tell them the truth.  If a candidate asks you about the current state of the team or the position, share with them the realities.  If you hire under false pretenses, the new employee is more likely to be disengaged from the start.  A good sign of a healthy organization making the right decisions in the hiring process is minimal turnover in the first 18 months with their employees.
  • Set a “soft” goal of getting a position filled by a certain time but never settle for hiring someone to meet an internal deadline.  Always say the timeline to hire is when we find the right fit for the position we are interviewing for.  And the fit has to be good for the company with the employee as well as the employee with the company.
  • After 3-6 months into the role, ask the new hire if the job is what you told them it would be? Some managers think they do a good job explaining what the role is, but neglect to ask for feedback from the people they hire.  Thank the employee for sharing their thoughts with you. Being an authentic leader means others will many times have better ideas than your own. Authentic and humble leaders listen to their team’s opinions and take action on their commentary.
  • The best way to work on your interviewing and recruiting skills is to practice them on your current employees. The most effective leaders are ones who are constantly asking questions of their current teams on what they as a leader and their company can improve on.  Don’t take your current employees for granted and make sure you tell and show your people how valuable they are.

As stated in the story above, be honest with each candidate about what your company does well and what gaps you have and how you are working on them.  Candidates today are more informed than ever, and attracting and retaining top talent starts with the trust developed from the first interview to the first month on the job.

Well Done > Well Said