All posts by Andrew McIlvaine

Job Candidates’ Strange Behavior

One job candidate told her interviewer that if he wanted to get to heaven, he’d hire her. Another asked where the nearest bar was located. Then there’s the candidate who  bragged about being in the local newspaper for allegedly stealing a treadmill from someone’s house. It’s that time of year again: CareerBuilder has released its annual list of the strangest interview mistakes hiring managers say they’ve witnessed while assessing job candidates, based on a survey conducted on its behalf late last year by Harris Poll among approximately 2,600 HR and hiring managers.

Some other examples of strange interview mistakes:

  • Candidate ate a pizza he brought with him (and didn’t offer to share).
  • The candidate asked to step away to call his wife to ask her if the starting salary was enough before he agreed to continue with the interview.
  • Candidate invited interviewer to dinner afterwards.
  • Candidate said her hair was perfect when asked why she should become part of the team.
  • Candidate ate crumbs off the table.
  • Candidate asked the interviewer why her “aura” didn’t like the candidate.

This year’s survey finds that half (51 percent) of employers say they know within the first five minutes of an interview whether a candidate is a good fit for an open position, virtually identical to the findings from last year’s survey (50 percent).

Of course, candidates are also scrutinizing their potential employers during the interview process, and some don’t like what they see. The Execu|Search Group’s 2017 Hiring Outlook, for example, finds that 34 percent of working professionals say their job interviewer could not convey the overall impact their role has on the company’s goals, and that 45 percent did not feel their interviewer made an effort to introduce them to the company culture.

And when it comes to strange experiences, think of the poor candidates who find themselves struggling to answer the bizarre “brainteaser” questions asked by some companies during job interviews, which was the subject of a  Glassdoor report last year. Among the more notable questions:

  • What would you do if you found a penguin in the freezer? (Trader Joes, position unspecified)
  • How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida? (J.W. Business Acquisitions, for a human resources recruiter position)
  • How many basketballs would fit in this room? (Delta Air Lines, for a revenue management co-op position), and:
  • Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses? (Whole Foods Market, for a meat cutter position)

 

Gartner to Acquire Major HR Firm

Stamford, Conn.-based IT consulting firm Gartner will acquire CEB, the research and advisory firm that has a large HR consulting practice, for approximately $2.6 billion in cash and stock along with assumption of $700 million in CEB net debt. The transaction was unanimously approved by both companies’ boards of directors.

The combined organization will employ more than 13,000 employees serving clients in more than 100 countries; Gartner and CEB had pro forma revenues of $3.3 billion over the last 12 months ending Sept. 30, the companies said. Gartner plans to expand CEB’s services into the mid-market segment and develop a suite of new syndicated research and advisory products based on CEB’s expertise in HR, along with sales, finance and legal. CEB — previously known as the Corporate Executive Board — has traditionally focused on serving large companies.

CEB’s research and experts have frequently been cited in HRE stories, including today’s news story by Carol Patton on using technology to improve performance-management reviews. It presented a general session on using big data to find talent at last year’s inaugural Talent Acquisition Technology Conference.

“We are excited about joining forces with CEB, a world-class company we have long admired,” said Gartner CEO Gene Hall in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, CEB shareholders will receive a combination of cash and Gartner stock for a total value of $77.25 per share, a premium of 25 percent compared to CEB’s closing stock price on Jan. 4, the last day prior to the announcement.

NY Removes Barrier to Hiring Ex-Cons

Insurance companies in New York State will soon be barred from denying full coverage for crime-related losses to companies that hire ex-convicts — even if the crimes in question were committed by employees with criminal histories — thanks to a new rule signed by Gov. Mario Cuomo during the last week of December.

The new regulation — the first of its kind in the nation, reports Reuters — is designed to make it easier for companies to hire ex-convicts. Approximately 2.3 million New Yorkers have criminal records, according to the state.

Many insurance companies regard ex-cons as high risk and will deny or limit coverage to companies for sustained losses related to loss or theft committed by an employee with a criminal record, under the assumption that the employer should have known it was taking a risk by hiring the person. This discourages companies from hiring ex-cons, the governor said.

“This first-in-the-nation action will further break down artificial barriers that prevent previously incarcerated New Yorkers from obtaining work and turning their lives around,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The new regulation, which takes effect on July 1 2017, lets businesses obtain the coverage so long as they adhere to a state law that applies to hiring people who have criminal convictions — including considering whether a prior criminal offense is related to the duties an employee will perform, reports Reuters.

“So long as every business owner follows the letter of the law, we should encourage more companies to hire prospective employees rather than punish someone for a mistake in the past,” said Maria Vullo, superintendent of the state’s Dept. of Financial Services, in a statement.

 

Holiday Bonuses Up This Year

the best gift- money. Gifts on wooden background.The holidays will bring a little extra cheer for many workers this season, with two thirds (66 percent) of companies planning to award year-end bonuses and gifts, according to a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s up from 50 percent from Challenger’s 2015 holiday bonus survey.

Another survey, this one from recruiting firm Accounting Principles, finds that 75 percent of companies will award bonuses this year. Thirteen percent of companies will provide bonuses of between $1 and $99, 37 percent  between $100 and $499, 21 percent will provide between $500 and $899, and 29 percent will be awarding their lucky employees $1,000 or more.

Credit the steadily improving economy for the rise in bonuses, says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. “As [the economy] continues to improve, employers will have to rely increasingly on bonuses and other perks to hold onto valuable employees,” he said in a statement.

Full results of the Challenger survey below:

Does your company award year-end/holiday bonus, perks or gifts to employees? (Check all that apply)

2016 2015
Yes, we provide a non-monetary gift to all employees (such as gift basket or extra vacation day). 14.8% 6.3%
Yes, we award a nominal ($100 or less) monetary award to all employees (cash or gift certificate). 11.1% 12.5%
We award a monetary bonus to all employees, the size of which is determined by the company’s overall performance throughout the year. 18.5% 18.8%
We award a performance-based year-end bonus to selected employees, the amount of which is determined by individual’s contribution to departmental and/or company-wide objectives. 22.2% 37.5%
No, we do not award any type of year-end/holiday monetary or non-monetary bonus/perk/gift. 29.6% 43.8%
No, we have awarded year-end/holiday bonuses in the past, but we will not be doing so this year due to the economy. 0.0% 0.0%
Other 3.7% 6.3%

 

If your company does award year-end/holiday bonus, perks or gifts to employees, please describe how this year’s distribution differs from last year.

2016
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will increase. 18.2%
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will decrease. 9.1%
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will be about the same as last year. 72.7%
We are reinstituting year-end bonus/perk/gift after one or more years of not offering such awards. 0.0%

 

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

New Safety Standard Coming?

Healthcare workers face substantially greater risks of being the victims of workplace violence than employees in other industries. The experience of Rose Parma offers a vivid example of the dangers they face. Parma, a registered nurse in California’s Central Valley, has had patients slap, spit on and kick her and even threaten her life, she tells The Atlantic. During one incident, a patient kicked her so hard in the pelvis that Parma (who was pregnant at the time) slammed into a glass wall and fell to the ground (her baby survived).

The trauma of that incident was compounded by her supervisor’s indifferent response, she said:

“The manager seemed so surprised and said ‘Has this never happened to you? Is this really the first time?’ As if it weren’t a big deal,” Parma says. The manager then told Parma she would see her the next day at work. “I literally thought I was going to die [during the attack], and they didn’t even offer me counseling.”

Employees at hospitals and other healthcare settings are five times more likely than workers in other industries to be physically assaulted in the workplace, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this year. A report from the American Nurses Association finds that one in four nurses has been physically attacked in the workplace in the last year. Workers in healthcare and social assistance were involved in 52 percent of workplace violence incidents in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The epidemic of violence may be at least partly attributable to staff cutbacks over the years at hospitals that have resulted in fewer nurses on hand to deal with potentially troublesome patients, including drug addicts seeking help in hospital emergency rooms, according to The Atlantic.

In its report, the GAO suggested that OSHA assess the need for rulemaking to address this hazard. With that in mind, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has just announced a “request for information” for a new federal safety standard that would lead to greater protections for healthcare workers. The agency has also scheduled a public meeting on January 10 to discuss strategies for preventing violence against healthcare workers.

What would a federal safety standard for healthcare workers look like? California offers a potential example. The state’s workplace-safety agency recently approved what could be the most-robust safety standard in the United States for the prevention of violence against healthcare workers. It would require hospitals and other healthcare employers to develop violence prevention protocols in consultation with their workers. The standard is being reviewed by the state’s office of Administrative Law and could take effect as early as this January.

Two major unions — the California Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union — say they hope the California standard will become a national model, NPR reports.

“California has now set the bar with the strongest workplace violence regulation in the nation,” said Bonnie Castillo, director of health and safety for the CNA/National Nurses United, in a statement.

However, complying with the new standard will be a serious challenge for the state’s healthcare employers, writes Barnes & Thornburgh employment attorney Evelina Shpolyansky in the National Law Review.

Among other things, Shpolyansky writes, the standard’s definition of workplace violence is “very broadly defined” and includes any threat of violence as well as the violence itself. The standard applies to violence perpetrated by “a wide array of people including visitors, patients, ex-employees, other employees, individuals who had a personal relationship with a worker and even non-facility workers.” The standard broadly defines “healthcare facilities,” which “leaves much room for confusion over what facilities will be covered.” California employers would not be liable for every act of violence against a worker, such as a mass shooting, but could be cited by Cal/OSHA for not following protocols, writes Shpolyansky.

” … The Cal/OSHA standard is by far the strictest occupational safety and health regulation in the country governing workplace violence for healthcare workers and, once approved, will set an extremely high bar for the federal OSHA standards …” she writes.

Regardless of whether or not a federal safety standard is enacted, however, the attacks suffered by Parma and countless other healthcare workers make it plain that something more must be done to ensure their safety.

The Gig Economy: Pros and Cons

More than one in 10 working Americans have joined the so-called gig economy, working as freelancers or independent contractors, according to a survey of 1,008 people from ReportLinker. A third of respondents said they would consider exiting the traditional workplace to work in the gig economy, while nearly half said they would be willing to consider doing so within the next three years.

Why would so many consider giving up the security and benefits of a full-time job for the uncertainties of gig work? Twenty eight percent of survey respondents cited “being your own boss,” while the ability to work flexible hours came in second. Nearly 40 percent of job seekers say they’d consider becoming an independent contractor, as would 59 percent of part-time workers and 33 percent of students, according to the survey.

The lack of benefits is a drawback for those working in the gig economy, however, with one in four of the respondents who work as freelancers citing the lack of retirement benefits as a downside. Indeed, the lack of traditional job benefits such as sick-leave pay and unemployment benefits has led the United Kingdom to appoint a team of four experts to review the impact of “disruptive” businesses such as Uber and Deliveroo on that nation’s workforce, reports the BBC. The panelists include Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts.

“One of the key issues for the review is ensuring that our system of employment rules are fit for the fast-changing world of work,” Taylor writes in a piece for the Guardian newspaper.

“As well as making specific recommendations, I hope the review will promote a national conversation and explore how we can all contribute to work that provides opportunity, fairness and dignity,” he told the BBC.

The lack of benefits typical in most gig economy jobs has resonated Stateside as well, of course, with a number of gig workers filing suit alleging that they’re actually employees, not independent contractors, and are thus eligible for benefits such as unemployment compensation. In response, companies that employ freelancers are pushing for bills that promote “portable” benefits that workers would be able to take from job to job. Online home-cleaning company Handy, for example, is circulating a draft bill in the New York State legislature that would establish guidelines for portable benefits for workers in that state’s gig-economy companies, reports Reuters. The bill would classify workers at companies choosing to participate in the program as independent contractors rather than employees under state law, as long as the companies’ dealings with their workers “meet certain criteria.”

Not all are pleased with the bill. Larry Engelstein, executive vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, criticized it as offering workers too little.

“The amount of money that’s supposed to be put into these portable benefit funds seems so meager,” Engelstein told Reuters. “The actual benefit a worker is getting hardly warrants what the worker is giving up.”

Don’t Forget the Personal Touch

The 2016 Recruiting Trends Conference and the inaugural Talent Acquisition Technology Conference, held concurrently this Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hilton Austin in Texas, featured an expo hall with more than 50 vendors, many of them displaying the latest tech tools for finding and recruiting the best people. However, as speaker Rodney Smoczyk told the attendees at the Talent Tech session “How McLane Co. Has Navigated Over a Century of Recruitment Challenges with Technology,” technology can’t make up for the importance of actual conversations between recruiters and job seekers.

“When I started out in recruiting, I got a newspaper and a phone book to find my candidates. We had to talk to people. Now, I have to get through 250 applicants just to find the 10 I want to talk to,” said Smoczyk, director of recruitment at Temple, Texas-based McLane Co., one of the largest wholesale food distribution companies in the United States.

“I consider technology to be a tool, not the answer,” he said. “We actually have to talk to people as recruiters. At some point, we lost that human factor. We’re just people recruiting people, and if we’re leaving it all to technology, then we can probably answer our own question when we ask why turnover is so high.”

Job candidates for positions at McLane Co. can speak to a live recruiter if they choose, he said.

Another important point is to “keep [the application process] simple,” he said. McLane Co. has approximately 24,000 employees, many of them truck drivers. Asking truck-driver candidates to fill out lengthy applications simply won’t work when most are spending 14 hours per day on the road. “If you ask truck drivers to spend a lot of time applying for a job, then they’re not going to apply, period,” said Smoczyk.

This is a critical factor in the midst of a driver shortage that has left trucking firms competing fiercely with each other over talent, he said. “Finding truck drivers is one of my biggest challenges.”

Smoczyk urged attendees to try applying for jobs at their own companies to experience for themselves what candidates often go through. “Feel how frustrating it is to have to fill out the same information over and over again if you want to apply to more than one position,” he said. “If you haven’t [done this], then you’re doing yourself a real disservice.”

At McLane, the company has tried to make applying for a job as easy as possible, said Smoczyk. Candidates don’t have to enter information more than once even if they’re applying for multiple positions. The company made its jobs site mobile-friendly after determining that 72 percent of truck-driver candidates apply via their smartphone. Smoczyk’s recruitment-marketing manager “drives our tech staff crazy insisting that no piece of information on our website be more than two clicks away,” he said.

Never forget the importance of using data, especially when determining where it makes sense to advertise job openings, said Smoczyk. “It’s up to you to help hiring managers determine where it makes sense to advertise and where it doesn’t, and if you don’t have the data then you’re just guessing.”

Better Boss: Trump or Clinton?

The U.S. presidential election may not be over yet (unfortunately), but Hillary Clinton has already won. The boss contest, that is: According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 57 percent of workers say they’d prefer to work for the former Secretary of State, while 43 percent say they’d rather work for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was a tough boss on NBC's "The Apprentice" (photo by Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump was a tough boss on NBC’s “The Apprentice” (photo by Gage Skidmore)

A gender gap exists here, as it does in the general electorate, with 62 percent of women favoring Clinton. Men were evenly split between Clinton and Trump. Clinton was also the preferred boss for African American (87 percent), Hispanic (79 percent) and Asian (78 percent) professionals.

The survey, which queried 3,133 full-time workers over the age of 18, also finds that manufacturing workers stood out as the only industry preferring Trump as workplace leader, with 55 percent of them favoring him over Clinton. The next closest was transportation workers, who favored working for Clinton by only four points (52 percent to 48 percent). Support for Clinton as boss was strongest from workers in healthcare (63 percent to 37 percent) and financial services (60 percent to 40 percent — somebody better tell Bernie Sanders).

Regardless of whether their campaigns put them in the Oval Office or back in the private sector, Clinton and Trump have already had a major impact on the U.S. workplace. An American Psychological Association survey finds that one in four employees have been negatively affected by conversations about the election with co-workers. Twenty-eight percent of workers younger than 34 said these conversations left them feeling “stressed out.”  Twice as many men as women reported that the political talk was making them upset enough to be less productive. Until this endless political season is over (and will be shortly), it’s probably best to follow a few rules of engagement for political discussions at work.

Transforming Talent Acquisition

As a talent-acquisition leader, it’s your job to take care of three constituencies: your organization’s hiring managers, the job candidates and, last but not least, the people who work within the TA function.

That was the recurring theme from two TA leaders who spoke about their roles in transforming the talent-acquisition function during two  separate sessions earlier this week at the ERE Conference in New Orleans: Tracie Montgomery, director of talent acquisition and diversity at firm Sedgwick, the nation’s largest third-party administrator; and Steve Knox, General Electric’s head of global talent acquisition, strategy and operations.

At GE, the Boston-based conglomerate’s efforts to recast its image from that of a stodgy industrial firm to a hotbed of digital innovation has, by necessity, included its talent acquisition function as it seeks to attract the software engineers and computer science majors who might otherwise never consider the company as a place to build a career.

“We’re closely partnering with our marketing department on our employee-value proposition,” said Knox.

GE has also has hired an “employee experience leader” to transform its recruiting experience into “a candidate-centric one,” said Knox. “We got some pushback from hiring managers on this, but we reminded them that it’s about the candidates.”

Candidate care is also a priority at Memphis-based Sedgwick, said Montgomery. “I tell my team: ‘Advocate for your candidate. Prep them to let them know who’ll they’ll be interviewing with, explain the career path for that position — it’s TA’s job to get that person ready.’ ”

Knox and his team have also been paying close attention to candidates after they’re hired to see how they’re performing, which marks a change from before, he said.

“We’re now holding TA accountable to how well the people we hired are doing,” he said, adding that determining quality of hire isn’t quite so straightforward now that GE has discontinued its performance ratings. The team relies on regular feedback from managers instead, said Knox.

GE has also replaced its 15-year old applicant-tracking system, which had been “customized by us to the point that it was no longer useful” with a new, mobile-enabled system; using tools such as LinkedIn Elevate to send out tailored content to candidates on a daily basis; using Tableau software to monitor metrics and putting in place GE’s first-ever dedicated sourcing team, said Knox.

Line managers at GE are also helping the company enliven its job descriptions with short videos in which they explain what they’re looking for in candidates, said Knox. This is helpful in attracting diverse candidates, which is a major priority for GE, he said.

“When female and minority candidates see someone who looks like them talking about GE, they tend to say ‘Hey, people like me can work there,'” said Knox.

After Montgomery joined Sedgwick in 2014, she created an internal “talent acquisition college” for Sedgwick’s recruiters to help them become talent advisors, not just recruiters .

“Recruiting is recruiting, but talent acquisition is consulting,” she said. “I had to get my team’s mindset from recruiting to talent acquisition.”

Montgomery put in place a team of three managers to ensure the TA function is hitting its goals in areas such as time-to-hire and regularly surveys hiring managers on their satisfaction with the TA function. Talent acquisition professionals on her team are expected to be able to forge and maintain strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers, she said. “Getting those relationships established is absolutely key.”

GE’s Knox is also focusing on helping his TA team enhance its skills. “It keeps me up at night, wondering how we keep our TA team motivated and developed,” he said. GE has established competencies for the TA team and is using assessments to determine where gaps lie, said Knox. Members of the TA team can also do self-assessments to find their own gaps and are provided with resources to fill them, he said.

“Our goal is to build a world-class TA function,” said Knox.

Recruiting for the Cloud

Millions of people around the world use Amazon to find everything from light bulbs to rare works of art. Now, thanks to a new service offered by the Seattle-based behemoth, companies will soon be going to Amazon to find and recruit cloud engineers.  The Seattle-based company’s AWS Educate division will be offering free, self-paced  online courses and learning modules through its new Cloud Career Pathways program. Students who successfully complete the offerings will be matched with relevant internships and job openings via the AWS Educate Job Board, which in addition to Amazon itself features employers such as Cloudnexa, Splunk, Instructure and Udacity.

“We built AWS Educate with a vision of helping to cultivate a cloud-enabled workforce,” said Teresa Carlson, AWS vice president for worldwide public sector, in a statement. “We’ve designed Cloud Career Pathways that will help students get targeted experience and skills, and placed those side by side with relevant jobs from some of the most in-demand technology employers today.”

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden notes in a post that Amazon’s move could make it a potential competitor to LinkedIn, which is using its Lynda.com acquisition to offer training in areas such as coding to professionals looking to acquire more skills. Amazon’s decision to offer the courses for free fits with its overall business model, Lunden writes, in which it “prices competitively — or not at all — to bring in more users, who either represent a sizeable revenue opportunity in aggregate, or (in free cases) lead to the potential of paying for other goods and services down the line.”

The Cloud Career Pathways are aligned with four over-arching “job families”: cloud architect, software developer, operations-support engineer, and analytics and big-data specialist, says Amazon. Each pathway includes a minimum of 30 hours of content designed to build core skill sets across the four job families. Once they’ve successfully completed the coursework (delivered via instructional videos, lab exercises, online courses, whitepapers and podcasts), the students will receive badges and certificates that appear on their AWS Educate profile, which they can use in their job applications. They can also apply directly to jobs and internships posted on the AWS Educate Job Board, says Amazon.