Category Archives: hiring

Upbeat Hiring News for 2015 Grads

There may be some early excitement on the nation’s college campuses this spring after SHRM released its Hiring of 2015 College Graduates Survey which shows that, while compensation levels may be holding steady for the newest entrants in the workforce, 35 percent of organizations have already hired college students to begin working before or after their 2015 graduation.

But even for soon-to-be grads who have yet to secure employment, there is also hope in the survey, as almost two-thirds of organizations (65 percent) have not yet hired 2015 college graduates. Of these organizations, the majority (71 percent) still plan to hire graduates, an 18 percent increase since 2013.

“During the recession, many companies may not have focused recruiting efforts on college graduates because of a lack of openings and limited turnover. But now we are beginning to see entry-level hiring pick up,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM. “Compared to recent years, 2015 college graduates can be optimistic in their job search.”

Not to brag, but Editor David Shadovitz wrote about the upturn in grad hiring last December on HREOnline.com.

In that piece, Shadovitz discussed with Philip Gardner, director of Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute in East Lansing, Mich., how the upturn in hiring could affect employers’ college-recruiting efforts:

“The last couple of years,” Gardner says, “they were able to finish recruiting [by October] and didn’t have to do a lot of work in the spring, but that’s changing. Now, they’re going deeper and deeper into the [college] year and are starting to see reneges going up.”

And with more good news on the college hiring front likely on the way (shaking an angry fist at embargoed material), this should serve as a good reminder to HR organizations to keep their top college recruits in the loop as much as possible.

To ensure these candidates don’t “drift away,” Gardner advises employers to pay much closer attention to “staying in touch” with them once offers are made and “involve them in the [business] sooner.”

And judging from this SHRM survey’s 35-percent figure cited above, it seems that getting “involved in the business” early is also becoming more important for both college students and grads.

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More in the Coffer to Help Prisoners Find Jobs

It wasn’t that long ago (little more than a month) that I was blogging about an announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor that it was 126268666 -- prisoner workingcreating a $5 million funding opportunity to link inmates to jobs before they’re even released.

The idea there was to place American Job Centers inside local jails where soon-to-be-released prisoners would be able to access job-placement services and counseling to increase their chances of getting work without going through that uneasy “limbo” between living behind bars and earning a living.

Now, again from the DOL, comes significantly more, as this release announces: a whopping $27 million to fund its Training to Work-Adult Re-entry grant program to help, as its release says, “thousands of soon-to-be-released inmates become productive citizens.”

I wish I could tell you specifically how the two programs differ. Numerous calls and emails to the DOL went unanswered. But that doesn’t really matter. What does is the added help — significant help — ex-cons will be getting to rejoin the workforce and the world.

According to the announcement, the department expects to award about 20 grants with a maximum value of $1,360,000 each to provide training and employment services for men and women, ages 18 and older (including veterans), who participate in state or local work-release programs.

The approach is designed to link and coordinate education and training services for these people to get industry-recognized credentials. Those credentials will, in turn, help them find meaningful work (translated: not just assembly line and blue-collar) and give employers what they need to fill their gaps in growing sectors and industries.

Having personal experience with this — a relative who is now trying to re-enter society after paying his dues for some very bad life choices — I confess, what U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has to say about this latest move resonates with me:

“A good job gives a person a sense of dignity and purpose. It enables [him or her] to find a decent place to live and enjoy a hot meal at home. Good jobs are a pathway to the middle class. Those who have paid their debt to society deserve the opportunity to find and hold useful employment. It puts money in their pocket, most of which is pumped back into the economy. In the best America, everyone shares our prosperity. That’s what these grants can make possible.”

Of course, all the money in the world can’t buy a guarantee that all hiring managers will leave all bias at the door when they enter the interview room. Or follow all the steps of the interview process laid out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its background-check guidelines, including when it’s appropriate to discuss an applicant’s past incarceration.

But it’s safe to say most employers would have to look favorably on an ex-prisoner’s initiative to get the education and credentialing he or she needs to succeed in that particular job in that particular organization in that particular industry.

If there are closed minds out there, this can only help to open them.

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What’s On CFOs’ Minds These Days?

CFOHow are chief financial officers in North America feeling these days? They’re concerned, but fairly optimistic on matters such as hiring and their company’s growth prospects, according to Deloitte’s latest CFO Signals survey, for the year’s first quarter.

Gyrations within the global economy — particularly China and Europe, along with the strengthening dollar — have the 100 CFOs from North America’s largest companies concerned, yet most feel positive about their company’s prospects for growth this year. Forty eight percent expressed improving optimism while only 14 percent expressed declining optimism.

Domestic hiring expectations among the CFOs rose to 2.4 percent, up from the previous quarter’s 2.1 percent. CFOs in the energy/resources industries are the most optimistic at 4 percent, while manufacturing CFOs have the lowest optimism, at 0.5 percent. Meanwhile,  optimism on offshore hiring rose to 3.1 percent from the previous quarter’s 2 percent.

Shareholder activism is a big concern, with close to three-fourths of the CFOs saying they have experienced some form of shareholder activism. About half said their companies have made at least one major business decision specifically in response to such activism. As noted in this story, some investors are specifically targeting companies’ executive-pay practices — particularly when they feel pay and severance are way out of line with performance and with the median pay received by employees.

Finally, China appears to have definitely lost its luster: Only 18 percent of the CFOs describe China’s economy as good, compared to 34 percent in the last quarter. And only two percent describe Europe’s economy as good — and just 10 percent expect it to improve in the next year.

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Hiring Those with Autism Is Best Help You Can Give

This coming Wednesday, April 1, marks the beginning of National Autism Awareness Month 2015. (And no, this post has absolutely 181426919 -- autism awarenessnothing to do with the fun side of April 1. This post is absolutely serious.)

The following day, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day, in case you need double impetus to give this more than just a passing thought — kind, indifferent or otherwise.

This United Nations site announces the 2015 theme for the World Autism Awareness Day as “Employment: The Autism Advantage.” It cites a surprising (to me) statistic, that more than 80 percent of adults with autism are unemployed.

Which is a shame for employers (maybe even shame on employers), considering this that follows from the U.N.:

“Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than ‘neurotypical’ [a.k.a., neurologically typical] workers do — such as heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail.”

We’ve certainly found similar evidence of special gifts employees with autism can bring to the workplace in features and news stories we’ve published in the near and not-so-near past. This 2013 feature, “Diversity of Thought,” quotes Marcia Scheiner, president and founder of the New York-based Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership, which helps college graduates with autism obtain professional positions.

As she puts it, individuals with autism can demonstrate excellent skills in a variety of areas when given a chance; many are incredibly loyal, tend not to leave their jobs, are detail-oriented and can be tremendously focused, which often leads to high productivity.

This feature, from 2010, “Aspies in the Workplace,” also highlights the gifts autistic workers can bring and the business sense it makes to hire them, as well as the adjustments employers can easily implement to ensure they’re comfortable and allowing those gifts to shine.

More recently, this piece by Mark McGraw from early last year provides proof of the therapeutic value employment brings to those with autism, and some very specific ways employers, and HR, can ensure the “win-win” for all. Clear communication and lots of structure, all three stories indicate, are key.

I’ve heard from experts — and from my oldest son, who teaches autistic high schoolers at a special school outside Philadelphia — that all too often, federal and state funding and services for autistic kids dry up, or at least substantially shrink, once they turn 21. It’s called “Aging Out,” as this piece in the New Jersey Monthly eloquently explains.

Those are the teens my son is teaching, the ones who will — in a few short years — be far more on their own than they are now, just trying to survive in a grueling, grown-up world. Many have great parental support, but parents don’t live forever and money for therapy, services and education doesn’t grow on trees.

For them, getting the chance to prove their value in a work environment that augments that chance has to be the biggest boost imaginable. Such a step toward security would surely quiet their parents’ nightmares as well.

Add to that the boost to the employer — not just in terms of work ethic and productivity, but reputation too — and the goal of turning that 80-percent unemployment figure on its ear becomes a big, beautiful no-brainer.

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SHRM Legal Conference Gets Under Way

You’ve probably heard of the best-selling book What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Well, what about what to expect when your employees are expecting? This was, in fact, the title of a session during the first day of SHRM’s 2015 Employment Law & Legislative Conference this Monday, where employment attorney Courtney Perez reminded a packed room that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made targeting pregnancy discrimination one of its top enforcement priorities.

“This topic is personal for me,” said Perez, a working mom of two and the expectant mother of a third. As a senior associate at Dallas-based Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada & Mockler, she advises clients regularly on how to avoid discriminating against employees and ending up on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Mothers make up a huge chunk of the workforce: 57 percent of women with children 1 years old or younger hold down jobs outside the home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while 62 percent of women who give birth are in the workforce at the time and 40 percent of U.S. households with children younger than 18 have mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinners, she said.

As the number of women in the workforce has grown, so too has the rate of pregnancy discrimination: The number of pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC went up by 35 percent between 1997 and 2008, said Perez. One of the biggest areas of contention revolves around the topic of light duty for pregnant workers: The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling soon in Young vs. UPS, in which delivery driver Peggy Young filed suit against the package delivery company after it required her to go on unpaid maternity leave instead of providing her with light duty during her pregnancy. UPS said Young didn’t qualify for a program in which temporarily disabled employees were given light duty until they could resume their regular jobs.

Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Young, “it may expand the definition of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” the 1978 law passed by Congress in response to an earlier Supreme Court ruling that employers who discriminated against pregnant employees were not guilty of sex discrimination, said Perez.

Although pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the law, the EEOC’s guidelines recommend that employers treat pregnant employees whose condition limits their job abilities the same as other temporarily disabled employees, said Perez.

She recommended a set of best practices for HR to follow, chiefly that HR ensure that a company’s policies and practices related to hiring, promotion and pay do not disadvantage pregnant employees or those who plan to take or have taken maternity leave. And beware the “mommy track,” she said, referring to the practice of steering pregnant employees into less-prestigious, lower-paying jobs.

“That’s the stuff of which discrimination lawsuits are made,” said Perez.

State governments aren’t waiting on the Supreme Court or Congress to give increased protections to pregnant workers, said Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris in Philadelphia. At least nine states have passed laws that go further than the federal PDA in requiring companies to accommodate pregnant employees, he said, part of a trend in which states are taking a more activist role in workplace matters.

“There may be gridlock at the federal level, but at the state level we’re seeing a lot of action,” said Segal during the session “All Politics is Local: State Law Trends.”

Thirteen states so far (and at least 90 municipalities) have passed so-called “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking job candidates on their initial application whether they’ve ever been convicted of something. Four states have passed laws specifically protecting interns from discrimination and harassment. Twenty one states have passed laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 19 of those states also have laws banning gender-identity discrimination.

“With the 2016 election, you can expect to see more ballot initiatives pertaining to paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, gender identity — more Democratic voters tend to participate in presidential elections than mid-term ones, and these issues resonate with them,” said Segal.

Conservative state lawmakers have also been active: Twenty-two states have passed laws protecting the right of employees to store guns in their cars while they’re at work. A new law proposed in Pennsylvania would even allow employees to store guns on the outside of their vehicles, said Segal. Meanwhile, the number of “right to work” states is at an all-time high of 26, having recently been joined by Wisconsin and Michigan.

All of this poses a special burden for multi-state employers, said Segal, who must comply with a patchwork of regulations across the country.

In some cases, he said, the best approach is to keep it simple. With respect to ban-the-box, it might make sense to simply remove the question from all job application forms, rather than having differing forms for different jurisdictions.

“Does it really make sense to have multiple forms for different states?” asked Segal. “This is an area where we’re certainly going to see more states adopt this rule. It’s one thing that actually attracts support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

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In Search of Quality Job Seekers

successionIt’s not 2010 anymore.

Alan Momeyer, vice president of human resources at Loews Corp., delivered that helpful message to attendees who came to check out yesterday’s “HR Tips and Trends” session at the HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Momeyer, who was accompanied on stage by HR peers from Four Season Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Destination Hotels and Resorts/Lowe Enterprises, and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, was referring to how quality job candidates seek jobs now versus five years ago.

In the past year or so, Loews saw approximately 300,000 job applicants come just from a partnership with indeed.com, the popular employment-related meta-search job engine, according to Momeyer.

“That didn’t just happen. It happened because we paid to be visible,” he said, urging the HR leaders in attendance to get more aggressive in seeking out quality candidates via sites such as Indeed as well as ever-more popular social networking sites.

Momeyer and his colleagues on the panel also stressed the importance of taking a more active role in managing your employment brand online.

For example, panelist Robert Mellwig, senior vice president of really cool people (that’s right) at Destination Hotels and Resorts/Lowe Enterprises, says the organization views employer-review sites such as Glassdoor.com similar to the way its customers look at tripadvisor.com.

According to Momeyer, his introduction to Glassdoor came via his millenial-age daughters.

“When they graduated college and started talking to companies about interviews and job openings, they went straight to Glassdoor to find out more about these companies.”

HR can help the organization have a bigger say in what candidates find when they (inevitably) visit such sites, said Momeyer.

“A lot of times, it’s unhappy employees complaining on these sites,” he said. “You should think about approaching your employees who would have something good to say, to share their reviews.”

Panelist Carolyn Clark, senior vice president of HR at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, “knows how important our external brand is for our guests, and what differentiates our guest experience.”

But, equally as vital, she said, is determining what makes the Fairmont employment experience a positive one for its 45,000 global associates.

To “differentiate our colleague experience, increase our job applicant flow and increase employee engagement, we really want to tell our colleague experience, and [show candidates] what it’s like to work here.”

Doing so requires “fishing where the fish are,” she said, noting that Fairmont has recently undertaken an initiative to “identify [the most used] channels and best candidates, and seek them out and ask them what’s most important to them in their jobs and careers.”

Clark and her HR team have asked the same of current Fairmont employees, surveying associates to find out what attracted them to the company, what has kept them there and what about their jobs makes them happy, she said.

What Clark and company have gleaned from this process is that, above all else, employees (and potential employees) value a connection with their co-workers as well as the organization.

“What we’ve learned from hearing our employees describe their work experience is that they look at their jobs as if they were working with their families.”

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Considering the Stigma of Affirmative Action

Two recent studies out of the University of Michigan raise some troubling questions about just how far we’ve come as a diverse 468250323 -- diversity hiringnation, with equal access to all in life, school and work.

The most recent, published on the Phys.Org site just this past Monday, contains the unsettling finding that, although a credential from an elite university results in more employer responses for all applicants, black candidates from these prestigious universities do only as well in getting the job as white candidates from less-selective universities.

When our editorial team discussed this study at its Tuesday news meeting, “unsettling” wasn’t the word most used. “Sad” was the term of choice.

“These racial differences,” says the study’s author, S. Michael Gaddis, “suggest that a bachelor’s degree, even one from an elite institution, cannot fully counteract the importance of race in the labor market. Thus, both discrimination and differences in human capital contribute to racial economic inequality.”

One can’t help but wonder if some of those hiring managers and recruiters studied by Gaddis weren’t jaded by assumptions that such a collegiate star — at least on paper — was the recipient of favorable treatment and maybe easier hurdles to jump, thanks to affirmative action.

Which brings me to the other, earlier U-M research that essentially confirms — by carefully examining — the stereotypes many do, indeed, have about co-workers who advance through affirmative action and diversity initiatives.

Researchers David Mayer of the U-M’s Ross School of Business, Lisa Leslie of New York University’s Stern School of Business and David Kravitz of George Mason University’s School of Business examined research showing affirmative-action recipients being viewed as less competent and competing for company resources. Based on that, they say, they’re seen as less likeable by their colleagues, which can lead to negative assessments of their performance.

“People have all kinds of assumptions about what affirmative action means,” says Mayer. “A lot of people assume it’s about hiring people less qualified [than leading candidates] because they are a member of a protected group … .”

In Leslie’s words:

“Diversity initiatives are effective, but also produce unintended consequences that can limit the career success of the very groups of employees they are intended to benefit. Implementing an affirmative-action plan without taking steps to avoid unintended consequence is unlikely to be an effective solution.”

So what should employers do with all this? Researchers from the earlier study say none of the drawbacks mean companies should get rid of affirmative-action programs. Instead, they say, such programs should be implemented more effectively and positive outcomes, such as having high-level minority role models in business organizations, should be studied.

But how do we alter those silent, destructive mind-sets that very well could be impacting resume assessments where ethnicities are known? Those mind-sets that whisper “easier ride”?

Hard to say.

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Job Seekers: Speak Up and Sound Smart

speak up“The medium is the message,” said Canadian academic and author Marshall McLuhan.

He may not have had resumes in mind when he coined that phrase in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, but a new study suggests the old axiom could apply to the way jobs are landed or lost in 2015.

Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Juliana Schroeder, a PhD candidate at the school, conducted a series of experiments in which M.B.A. student job candidates developed written or videotaped pitches to present to the company for which they would most like to work.

In an initial experiment, a group of evaluators judged the spoken pitches by watching or listening to the video recording, listening to the audio only, or by reading a transcript of the pitch. Those who heard pitches rated candidates as more intelligent, thoughtful and competent than candidates whose transcripts were merely read by evaluators. Meanwhile, those who only saw video did not rate applicants any differently than those who heard pitches, according to a University of Chicago press release.

In another experiment, evaluators listened to trained actors reading candidates’ written pitches aloud, and assessed those applicants as being more intelligent and desirable for the job than did those who read candidates’ written pitches to themselves.

In the job hunt, presentation should certainly count for something. But, assuming all other things are equal, how likely would HR and hiring managers really be to lean toward a candidate they’ve watched and/or heard, as opposed to only seeing on paper?

More than they may even realize, says Greig Schneider, U.S. managing partner at Egon Zehnder International, a New York-based global executive-search firm.

“If you have two candidates—one candidate that you’ve spoken to on the phone and another for whom you’ve just received a resume—you’re naturally inclined to favor the person you spoke to on the phone, at least according to this data,” says Schneider.

But, as with any single factor in the hiring process, recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t put too much emphasis on how candidates lay out their bona fides, he says.

“You need to make sure you’re diving into what is really needed for success in the job, and not cutting out someone who has a great background and competencies, but maybe isn’t a great talker.”

HR and hiring managers, just like everyone else, “pick up a lot of important information from how someone speaks,” says Schneider.

“When you hear someone’s cadence, their tone, you’re going to form an impression about their intelligence. It’s unavoidable. The challenge is determining whether this is an accurate portrayal.”

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Putting Pre-Release Prisoners to Work

So many of the budget and spending decisions coming out of Washington leave me scratching my head. But one I saw last week, 126268666 -- prisoner workingthis announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor about a $5 million funding opportunity to link inmates to jobs before they’re even released, makes a whole lot of sense.

It also makes sense that this opportunity — providing employment services pre-release and steady support as they transition back to their communities — is open to county, municipal and regional jails and correctional facilities. It’s these prisoners — convicted of lesser crimes, for the most part, than those housed in federal institutions — who probably just need that kind of boost to turn their lives around and stop lingering, dangerously, outside the mainstream.

The grant supports a pilot project announced last year, Linking to Employment Activities Pre-release (click the link provided on this linked page), that places American Job Centers inside these local jails. There, soon-to-be-released inmates can access job-placement services and counseling to increase their chances of getting work without going through that uneasy “limbo” between living behind bars and earning a living.

“There is no such thing as a spare American,” says U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “so we need to meet people where they are and help them overcome barriers. These grants will give soon-to-be-released inmates a real shot at success, keep our communities safe and go a long way toward breaking the cycle of incarceration that has plagued so many families around the country.”

Amen to that. I know such a family. I can attest to the heartache each member of that family feels watching their loved one struggle and stumble and wade through the uncertainty and disillusion of trying to land a job fresh out of a county jail. The level of the offense that put him there pales in comparison to the crime of his feeling turned away, time after time, as applications are completed, resumes sent, and calls for interviews just never come.

I pray for him every day that he’s not becoming tempted to give up on the rest of his life altogether.

It’s heartening to see, in this list of felon-friendly employers on the exoffenders.net website, just how many organizations have acknowledged the part the business community can play in giving ex-cons a chance. At the time I’m writing this, I count 129 companies, though the list is ever-changing.

Granted, there are many more groups forming and efforts under way to put ex-cons to work, but it’s nice to see — on the felon-friendly list — that just-released prisoners have a place to go to get started and stand a fighting chance.

And granted, these businesses aren’t the only ones that “get it,” that recognize the positives — not just to society, but to their organizations as well, through branding, recognition and the ability to cast a wider net to find the right person for the job.

In a story we published five years ago about a similar effort, at Connection Training Services, a Philadelphia-based organization helping recently released offenders re-enter the workforce, Ronnie Dawson, a job developer at CTS, points out one more positive:

“In most cases, people who are being released from incarceration can be your hardest-working employees because they need the job versus wanting the work.”

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A Low Bar for Re-entry?

Most organizations are going to want to avoid bringing back former employees with performance and behavioral issues, right?  I think we can all pretty well agree. But according to a just-released government report, the Internal Revenue Service isn’t one of them.

153475640According to the latest Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report, released yesterday, the IRS rehired hundreds of former employees who had substantiated conduct or performance issues. In fact, the report said the agency brought back 141 former employees with prior substantiated tax issues, including five who the IRS found had willfully failed to file their federal tax returns.

The report noted that …

 “Problem behaviors have included employees who willfully failed to file their taxes, gained unauthorized access to taxpayer information, abused the agency’s leave policy, misused IRS property, falsified official forms, did a bad job or had behavioral or legal problems off-duty, such as alcoholism or bankruptcy.”

TIGTA found that the IRS met the Office of Personnel Management’s suitability standards (e.g., determining whether applicants had prior criminal activity or engaged in drug use), but still rehired many former employees with prior conduct or performance issues.

In a press release on the report, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said these rehires put both the agency and taxpayers at risk.

During the audit, the report said, IRS officials acknowledged that prior conduct and performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates who are best qualified for hiring.

The audit—which reviewed a random sample of more than 300 employees with significant prior performance or conduct issues who were hired between January 2010 and July 2013—cited one case in which a former employee was rehired despite a note from a division head saying “ ‘do not rehire’ because the individual had been absent without leave for a total of 312 hours.”

The IRS said it believes its current process is adequate to mitigate any risks to American taxpayers, though TIGTA said it isn’t so sure.

As a next step, the IRS, at TIGTA’s suggestion, is now working with the General Legal Services and the Office of Personnel Management to figure out what changes might be warranted.

For now, though, I think we’ll probably skip calling the IRS the next time we do a story on best rehiring practices, since, at least on the surface, it would seem the agency could be adding special meaning to the term “boomerang employee.”

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