Be picky about where you park

Today, Seth Godin writes about where you park and the message it sends to the people you work with. While we might wonder what Seth is doing watching people park and then re-park their cars, he makes some good points. It's really about whether you are in it for you or if the customers come first.

His post was timely because new parking restrictions were put into place for building 19 (AKA "the recruiting building") which I sit in. This is our busiest recruiting season. Where industry (experienced) recruiting chuggs along all year long (more or less), campus recruiting activity spikes at certain times of year; this being one of them. While space planners back in the eighties (I'm only guessing based on the architecture of our building; deep down, it's a building that really wants to Wang Chung tonight, whatever that means) probably thought about things like office occupancy, they may not have considered what Microsoft was going to look like twenty years later (or whether we would like honey colored oak..I'm just saying).

What we have now is a bit of a parking "crisis". I use that word because parking can really upset people. You have witnessed this, haven't you? The people that troll the Target parking lot for a "good" spot only to shake a fist at someone who gets there first? And the time you spent trolling could have been used walking to the store and who couldn't use just a little more exercise in their day? We aren't asking you to run a marathon, just walk from an available parking space to the store. But anyway.

The last thing we want at this time of year is for an interview candidate to have to drive around looking for an available parking spot. I don't forget what it was like to be a candidate (and I never will). Having a parking issue before an interview does not bode well for your success in the process. It's the kind of thing that can start your day off on the wrong foot. So what our GM does at this time of year is bans us from parking in our lot M,T, Th, Fri. Yes, we have to park....across the street (oh no! Not walking across the street!!) What we get in return is pretty awesome. While the parking ban is in effect, we have a free latte cart in our lobby. It's for us in staffing and our candidates (who I recommend get a decaf or half-caf if they are anything like me). So for walking across the street I get a free latte (or several)? Sign me up!

And like Seth, I watch who does not follow the parking restrictions (just a few to be sure...perhaps they missed the memo). I can't help it; I have a big office window facing the parking lot and sometimes I look outside while I ponder the future of marketing candidate generation at Microsoft and whether I should stop off and pick something up for dinner. In my opinion, we are all about the candidate (all of us) or we are not. If walking across the street (and collecting a free latte in the process) is what it takes to make for a better candidate experience, I'm happy to invest in those three extra minutes of walking time. I'll also be watching for anyone from other buildings coming over to partake of our cart...don't even try it : ) Incidentally, it's not a bad employee experience either. They could just ban us from parking there because it's the right thing to do. The fact that I get my grande nonfat sugar free vanilla too is just the foam on the top of the latte.

Comments (14)

  1. Patblue says:

    When I was younger, working in bldg 19 and a rebel, I used to loathe and violate the no parking rule just to ‘stick it to the man’.   Nowadays older and wiser, I would glady park a bldg or two away to ensure candidates had a good start to their interview day. Funny what a few years does to a mindset.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Isn’t that the truth! My perspective on many things has changed over the years I’ve been here.

  3. Doug says:

    BBQ is back.

    At my last consulting gig, I found it disturbing that there were 10 parking spaces right outside the main door for the "brass" of the company. Meanwhile, the employees and candidates had to search the lot (shared with a Target, ironically) for spaces.  Of course, being execs and in the middle of a merger, most of those spaces went unoccupied 4 of 5 days.

    I do not mind execs having corner offices, a seperate bathroom, catered lunches, whatever. Those things do not affect most of the people doing the day to day revenue generating work..

    Heck, I do not mind some reserved spaces, but let’s not rub it in the employee’s faces when there are 10 spaces going unused by the door when the winds are blowing 30 MPH and it is 10 degree’s outside.

    Or am I being over-sensitive again?

  4. tod hilton says:

    "And the time you spent trolling could have been used walking to the store…"

    Bingo! I never understood why people troll for so many minutes while I whiz in, park and am in the store/office before they’ve even found a ‘good’ spot.

  5. Wine-Oh says:

    I interviewed at a well known company a few years ago and actually had to hike it a bit because the guest lot was full. Wasnt happy. However on my trek I noticed different types of parking spots that were very close to the entrance, as if some people got preferential treatment. Such as ones reserved for pregnant women, ones reserved for those carpoolers, also those who drive hybrid cars. It was rather interesting to see these types of spots. Does Microsoft do this as well?

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, good quesiton. We do have carpool/vanpool spots. And there are spots for service workers and in some offices, spots specifically for motorcycles. That’s about it that I have seen.

    One thing that I didn’t mention is that we have a shuttle service and when you sit in building 19, shuttles are waiting outside the door (because we have so many candidates come through). So you can get pretty much anywhere on campus via hybrid vehicle. And since we are on a campus, it’s not as if there isn’t parking all around. It’s a matter of walking a block or so. Hey, on some days, that’s the most fresh air I get.

    At my last company (wow, that was a while ago), there was parking across the street that cost $165 a month. Granted it was downtown Chicago (and for most of the time, I lived off the blue line but sometimes you want to drive). I guess I have come to appreciate the opportunity to drive to work. I also wish that there was a better public transport here on the east side invovling "light rail"….that is what they call it here….more El or monorail than big chugging train. I would love that. I actually enjoy public transportation because I can tuner out mentally. Unfortunately hre, it would take me about 45 minutes to go 3 miles so it’s not as attractive.

  7. Christine says:

    I think the same can be said for retail organizations.  Now that I am expecting, I purposefully patronize stores that have a spot reserved for expectant mothers or mothers/fathers with small children.  And even earlier, I always found it thoughtful that stores would reserve one or more spots for customers who would otherwise have a poor customer experience.  Some stores also go out of their way to help customers with special needs and this consistently makes me want to shop at that store.  If they value others, they’ll probably value me when I need extra help.

    Churches do this, too–reserve a few spots near the door for "Visitors."  It’s a way of welcoming people and saying, "I value that you took the time to be here."  

    Companies say the same thing when spots are reserved for already-nervous recruits, and it sets a more relaxed tone for the process.  It also gives recruits a small lift of confidence as they realize their presence is valued.

    So I agree with you!

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    I would do the same if I were in your situation. I’ve got no reason to park near the front so I don’t mind if those the need the front row spaces have them reserved for them, sa long as there’s some parking available for me somewhere.

    I suspect that the candidates don’t really think about why there are so many parking spaces open but that’s OK with me. I want them leaving feeling positive about the experience without necessarily knowing that we do stuff like this to make it so. They probably notice the coffee cart more than the parking anyway!

  9. Steve G says:

    Before I comment I have a total non-sequitur:

    You’re right about building 19. It was built in the early 80’s  and originally housed McDonald Douglas. I worked in building 21 when it was new, both were built about the same time, 1984-5.

    I think it’s great that we work to accomidate interview candidates. Talk about your ultimate nightmare, you finally get the inteview at Microsoft and you can’t find a place to park. Stresses me out just thinking about it.

    I totally agree with you and Seth, it is about how you treat your customers. After all in many cases they are the people who pay your bills…

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    SteveG, thanks for solving the mysetery of building 19. We are just remodeling the lobby, which is pretty cool. We now have a concierge there in the AM and some cool MS products to play with, plus computers to check e-mail, print boarding passes, etc. Our college recruiting team gets the credit for the make-over. They are the people making in happen and it’s pretty cool. When it’s done, I’ll take some pics or something to share. My office still has honey colored oak molding though. So nobody shou;d get too excited : )

  11. a neighbor on campus says:

    So can those of us who are in neighboring buildings (where you take up our parking spots–we see you walking over to 19) take advantage of your free latte cart?  We get pushed over to the next building now and also get to walk a bit more on behalf of your candidates 🙂

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Where I’ve been parking, there are plenty of extra spots. We can’t solve the world’s parking problems, but I hope you can understand why it’s important to provide parking for interview candidates. You must be in building 18. Seriously, I’m not a big fan of complaining about stuff like this. I hope walking isn’t that big of a deal for you. It isn’t for me. We also have to walk to "your" cafeteria. Is that a problem too? Come on now, you have to be kidding (I really hope you are).

    PS: they aren’t "my" candidates, they are "our" candidates; Microsofts (and you’re welcome : )). Ditto with the parking spots; they aren’t yours, they are ours.

    I’ve always felt that if I wanted to get a better parking spot, I need to get in earlier.

  13. your neighbor again says:

    Whoa, wasn’t expecting that reaction.  As someone who works a lot with recrutiing, I certainly think your work (and *our* candidates) are important–no complaining here.  It was a statement made with tongue stuck firmly in cheek.  I’d turn on the humor bit and read it again.  (Note the smiley at the end.)

    I was making a humorous comment on the (perhaps unintentional?) irony of *your* (vigorously defended from your neighbors) latte cart for *our* candidates, given the multiple-building impact of y’all’s choice to park elsewhere 🙂  

    And hey, try coming in around 7:30 AM when I do (with latte in hand–no plans to invade your cart ;)–you can park wherever you want!  (Just not at building 19, of course)  

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    neighbor – I think we all get rewarded in different ways. Feel free to add me to your IM list so you can see that I log on between 6 and 6:30 in the AM. This isn’t a contest.  I come in at different times during the days as required for meetings and have yet to struggle to find a parking spot. I re-read your comment and I still don’t see the funny part, which is fine. I do see the smiley face (and you will note there was one after my warning about the cart as well), but people add those to plenty of things that aren’t funny. Also, if it was intended to be funny but not critical, why post anonymously? We can disagree about whether it was funny or not. And you will note that I said I hoped you were kidding…maybe giving you credit for trying to be funny. It still sounded complainy to me; sorry.

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