In 2003, Rice joined PrintingForLess.com, a Montana-based company that "provides high-quality color printing in the short- to medium-run color printing market," according to its website. He began as the director of development, and "due to my background," explained Rice, "rapidly progressed to involvement in all aspects of HR."
And having a background that included interviewing more than 10,000 applicants and "seeing virtually every employee-related problem possible," Rice said, he felt fairly well versed in HR. Mostly, he learned that "when it comes down to it, the three major functions of an HR department end up being hiring, firing (which requires a good grounding in legal principles), and benefits. Firing and benefits can both be taught through coursework and study. [But] too many HR people are great at the legal and benefits side but weak at the recruiting and interviewing side of the business."
Other roles Rice has taken on at PFL include legal counsel, information technology manager, facilities manager, community relations lead, and grant writer.
Now the vice president of corporate affairs, Rice said he spends one-third of his time on general legal issues, one-third on recruiting, and one-third on other corporate issues. Unfortunately, however, some of his involvement includes settling sticky situations between employer and employee.
"When I am normally involved is either when there is a serious employee problem that could result in termination or a high-level hire needs to be recruited. Most difficult issues always revolve around problems with perception. When an employee perceives their performance at a level much higher than a manager, there are bound to be problems."
When asked what PFL looks for when hiring applicants, Rice said, "Smart, hungry, fun, and flexible are the key attributes for all positions. We have a 20-point list of other attributes, but those are the top four." The company is also a big believer in the words of businessman and professor Jim Collins, who said, "It is first who, then what."
"Great people can take even poor ideas and make them successful. That takes really smart and driven people. Every employee at PFL passes the same stringent set of tests (background, credit/criminal, personality, skills testing) whether they are at the entry level or the very top. The standards are the same for all," said Rice.
But what makes PFL's human resources department unique?
"We have only 185 employees but four full-time HR professionals plus me. We spend approximately 40 hours and look at 30 to 40 resumes to get one hire. I doubt that any of our competitors do that," Rice said.
When asked what advice he would offer students who want to pursue jobs in human resources, Rice's advice was simple: "Interview as much as possible, and observe others." He also admitted that a successful HR person has the "knowledge and attention to detail of an accountant or attorney but the verbal skills and rapid information processing ability of the best salespeople. Not many people can master both skills easily."
Fortunately for PFL, Rice can.