We miss you Herb!


Aug 20, 2002
A friend of mine with an airline background went to a job fair in Kansas City with Southwest Airlines . He was handed a flyer of the job requirements . One of the requirements was that a ramp employee had no visible tattoos in a short sleeve shirt. I have seen the tattoo of said person, and it is a little heart with his wife’s name on it. I found this odd. But I did see on the local news the HR people that came to interview. for Southwest people NOW , from HR, (all women) were all dressed in Nancy Reagan blue business suits. I Interviewed in 1996 with Southwest in Kansas City. I passed the first test of the “round table” and got asked for a second interview. I asked if they could work around my schedule while I finished up college. They said no, at Southwest we need to be flexible. I appreciated that honesty to this day. The panel was made up of men and women who at one time or another , had worked on the ramp.
Here is my point people:
1. Herb retired ( I think Herb had a tattoo?)
2. A woman runs the company now
3. HR is in control and they will hire who they “like” (as in would I “like to go to lunch with this person”?) Or, I do not like the way he looks, he does not talk with “feeling”, so I will not hire him to throw bags into the belly of an airplane. (Women speak of HR)
4. Herb was a man that fought tooth and nail to not be gobbled up by American Airlines after deregulation (like Air Cal was taken over and dismantled). Substance over symbolism.
Anyway, I like Southwest. You remind me of PSA and Air Cal. Do not let the new generation of “HR Generalists” with their psych test and “skills inventories” ruin your company.
Nuff said.
Whoa...can we get just a little more sexist here, please? You say "Nuff said"...so please now listen to some facts.

Jim Parker (who is a male) is now the CEO of the company. Colleen Barrett is the President and COO, but she's had her hands in the hiring process of this company for a very long time -- for at least the past 10 to 15 years.

I don't believe Herb has a tattoo. You may think he does, based upon the cover of the NUTS! book. Believe me...that one was fake. In fact, I have that very same tattoo, I just have yet to apply it.[;)]

Recruiters traditionally wear slacks with a Southwest button-down shirt (although women can wear skirts if they wish). And I can confirm with almost 90% certainty that nothing has changed. However, certain types of interviews call for certain types of dress: you will usually find that at pilot interviews, the SWA recruiters are more formal...the men wear a tie, and the women wear a dress. But last time I checked (which was about three weeks ago), most recruiters could still wear the typical SWA garb. The applicants, however, generally do dress up. I can't help but wonder if you saw shots of applicants on the news, rather than shots of the actual interviewers.
(I will also say this...there is a blue uniform blazer that many of our field recruiters have that they will wear on occasion when they recruit, particularly for Flight Attendants.)

There are no psych tests for hiring. For starters, in most cases, they're illegal. Skills inventories? Well, if you mean that Southwest looks for certain skills in certain positions, then yes, Southwest does do that. But again, that started YEARS ago...long before Herb stepped down. "Skills inventory" is nothing more than a fancy buzzword for making sure that the people Southwest hires have the qualities they want for that position. You know, like a Mechanic should have good problem-solving skills? And it also keeps Southwest from getting their arses sued off by someone who thinks he/she should have been hired by the airline, but in fact was not a good job fit.

Also, we have many interviewers at SWA who worked in "the field" at one time or another. From just about every department. Kansas City, as I recall, was a last-minute recruiting excursion based on the demise of Vanguard. Therefore, I could almost guarantee that there wasn't time to pick and choose recruiters to make sure they covered every job (as per the usual procedure). Recruiters' calenders are booked for weeks, if not months, in advance. Those recruiters who went were likely those who could make last minute changes to their schedules and fly out on short notice.

Is HR in control? No...HR is an internal customer service function who serves every SWA department. Their job is to hire the type of people their customers want them to hire...not the type of people that they personally would hire. Every recruiter I've ever spoken with understands that. Each team has a unique need, and a recruiter's job is to meet that need by finding the right person.

Substance over symbolism. Indeed, I agree with you. However, you seem to have provided very little substance to your arguments. Your friend didn't get hired because he didn't meet one of the requirements, and you think you saw a bunch of SWA interviewers in Nancy Reagan blues? Oh yes...and a WOMAN is now partially in charge of the company now. So somehow all these things combined means SWA is going down the tubes? Stop and think: isn't that just slightly jumping to conclusions? I understand and appreciate your concerns, but I can't help feeling that you're seeing patterns where none really exist.
Oh yea, and sexist? PLEEEEESE. I worked my arse off to get my wife through college. I am not sexist --- I am only talking about reality. Look around you, really look.

Thank you for the reply. It was very informative. Southwest was interviewing for flight attendants in KC, and the women I saw in the blue suits must have been the recruiting team. I guess I must apologize for the Nancy Reagan remark. But what is wrong with a small tattoo on your forearm? ( I do not have any) People who throw bags and marshal and push airplanes for Southwest have a hard job and they do it well. They are just part of the success story of Southwest. Your passengers have tattoos, earrings, piercing, shorts that expose their arse, smell bad, trash the plane and etc. etc. etc. Why would HR worry about a little forearm tattoo? Who are your customers? THE SAME PEOPLE! Their kids are getting tattoos! Is this not a little hypocritical? Now I will grant you, some tattoos can be offensive --- certainly like a Nazi Swastika on a forearm. I have seen that and YES Southwest has every right to turn that person away! But all else should be on a case by case basis. The Blanket statement of : Tattoos ---NO TOLERANCE ! worries me . What is next? Once again. Thank you for your response and I look forward to continuing this debate.

Best Regards,

Flaptrack, here is why I object to your comments, and why a called them sexist.

"HR is in control and they will hire who they “like” (as in would I “like to go to lunch with this person”?) Or, I do not like the way he looks, he does not talk with “feeling”, so I will not hire him to throw bags into the belly of an airplane. (Women speak of HR) "

First of all, this is NOT the hiring style used at SWA. This type of hiring criteria could cause SWA to get their pants sued off. As someone who knows many of our recruiters, and has sat in many interviews, I've NEVER heard anything remotely close to this said, either by a male or female. And that you should imply that those statements are "woman" speak of HR is just an insult. Maybe at YOUR company, maybe in YOUR experience, but not at SWA.

It was obvious you blamed what you perceived to be the downfall of SWA hiring in part on the fact that a woman was now president of the company, and that you saw women interviewers. You act as though women allow their emotions and biases to get in the way of making an objective decision, but yet you allowed the very same thing to happen when you drew your biased conclusion on what was happening at SWA. I just find it strange that you did the same thing that you obviously detest. You've obviously had some poor experiences with women in HR. But just because they're your experiences doesn't make them a universal truth.

As for the tattoos issue, I happen to agree with you there. I personally could care less if our ramp agents have tattoos, so long as they aren't obscene. And frankly, I didn't even know it was a rule -- I thought that only applied to our "Customer contact" positions. But if it is a rule, I guarantee that it wasn't made by HR alone -- Ground Ops management had to be involved as well. And Ground Ops leadership is highly male, just so you're aware. I know of a few employees who have small visable tattoos and cover them up (with Dermablend, etc.) when they go to work. If you friend wants to be a ramp agent, I suggest that he go ahead and go through the interview, and ask the interviewer if he can cover up his tattoo. Heck, if it's a small tattoo, a band-aid might do; I don't know. But it's worth a try. Every recruiter I've ever known has always been nice and open-minded, and is always willing to work with an applicant in whom they see potential. Substance over symbolism.

Also, here's one more thing worth noting: I have a friend at Vanguard (flight attendant) who went to the KC interview. As did several of her former co-workers. I would guess that SWA expected to get some flight attendant applicants, so in all likelyhood, they did send some flight attendant recruiters out there, and they likely wore the blue F/A uniform jacket...which I've seen them all wear before at recruiting events. Our flight attendant interviewers are mostly female (mirroring the demographics of the group they represent), and I've seen them all dress in that jacket before so that they will be readily identifiable to the applicants.

I'm glad you helped put your wife through school, though it's irrelevant to your previous comments, which were not about your wife but about women in positions of power and decision-making. You obviously have some pretty strong preconceived notions of how women in business act, and when faced with a lack of information, you relied on your biases to fill in the gaps.

First, thank you for the comments. It takes a while to type things up, so you must feel strongly about this. I will take you at your word that the recruiting style of Southwest has not changed. I respect your company and would not like to see anything change that would damage it. But I still say, In an HR context (not at SWA, now that you have expained it to me), things are a bit strange. If you have not had to look for a job for a while , you would not see it. If you have to, it becomes apparent if you do not fit into the diversity program.

Best Regards,