Category Archives: hiring

Speak Up, 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.”

Twitter It!

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.”

Twitter It!

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.”

Twitter It!

Favoritism is No Friend of Diversity

469735239  -- workplace diversityI thought Martin Luther King Day might be a good time to reflect on the forces that make workplaces less diverse than they can and should be. Many are well-known and well-documented, including discriminatory hiring and promoting practices, lack of disability accommodations, insensitivity to gender-identity issues, unequal pay … the list goes on.

But as this recent piece in the Kansas City Star points out, it’s not just about tangible practices and accommodations — or lack thereof. It can be far more subtle and hard to pinpoint, writer Michelle T. Johnson says, when your diversity culprit is favoritism. As she writes:

“What does favoritism even look like? Favoritism is usually about choice. In some workplaces, the work and the people who do it don’t have much variance in how the work is done and who does it. However, in other workplaces, work decisions are made frequently — assignments, shifts, territories, days off. With most decisions come subjective judgments. Every industry and workplace is so different, yet everyone can probably relate to some area of the job that bosses influence [subjectively] at least weekly.”

Her advice to all managers and HR leaders is to always be examining “why you make the personnel decisions you do.” She continues:

“People are quick to defend their decisions, saying they base them on the best person to do the job. But over time, what conditions have you created to allow, for example, one person to inevitably do the job better than another? And if that has happened, what is the reason? Is it that the person reminds you of yourself or has similar interests, or because the person has a personality you find easier to get along with?”

Favoritism can be just that simple, she says. Some people make you spontaneously smile when they walk through the door. Others make you instinctively come up with an exit plan out of a conversation. “Know who those people are and go from there,” she says.

Granted, not all employers can be as proactive as Intel was in its recent announcement that Andrew McIlvaine blogged about earlier this month. Specifically, CEO Brian Krzanich shared in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas his company’s plans to spend $300 million dollars over the next five years to improve the gender and racial diversity of its U.S. employee base, and of Silicon Valley at large.

Though he made the announcement, the real powerhouse behind this initiative is Intel President Renée James, as this Fortune piece suggests. Since taking over the presidency in 2013, it says, James “has pushed to review a decade’s worth of diversity data and commissioned a new hiring program that incentivized managers to hire more women and minorities.”

Whichever end of the initiative spectrum you and your organization currently find yourselves on — boldly spending and going where few have gone, like Intel, or simply taking the kind of inward look at your management and personnel choices suggested by Johnson — there’s no better time than now to start thwarting your business’ inequality and no better day to get started than this one.

 

Twitter It!

Summer Jobs on the Decline

Leading up to his State of the Union later this month, President Obama has been giving folks a taste of some of the issues he’s likely to address.

466488753Among this sampling is a proposal he started talking about last week to make “the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it.”

In a videotape message posted on Facebook, the president said: “It’s not just for kids. We also have to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to constantly train themselves for better jobs, better wages, better benefits.”

Few specifics were mentioned, but I would imagine the proposal is going to meet some serious opposition in today’s Republican-led Congress. Whether it succeeds or fails, though, there’s no denying a lot more work needs to be done to prepare our nation’s youth for the workplace. The issue is simply too important to overlook.

One reminder arrived in my email yesterday morning in the form of a press release from JPMorgan Chase & Co. In it, JPMC issued a report—“Building Skills Through Summer Jobs: Lessons from the Field”—that showed summer employment programs aren’t meeting the needs of young people seeking summer work, with fewer than half (46 percent) of those applying for such programs getting into them in 2014.

The report—a part of JPMC’s $250 million, five-year “New Skills at Work” initiative to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skills of job seekers—found a nearly 40 percent decline in summer youth employment over the past 12 years. One would think we could do better than that.

According to the JPMC report, the employment shortage disproportionately impacts low-income youth and young people of color. In 2013, the study found, low-income teens (with family incomes at less than $20,000) were 20 percent less likely to be employed than high-income teens (with family incomes of $60,000 or more); and the employment rate among white teens was 39 percent, roughly 27 percent among Hispanic teens and 19 percent among black teens.

The study is based on a qualitative analysis of 16 summer youth employment programs in 14 cities around the nation.

“Funding goes up and down, because it’s in the context of the local economies,” JPMC’s Head of Workforce Initiatives Chauncy Lennon told me. “But if you look at the macro picture, the slope of the funding is consistently downward.”

Lennon said there’s good employer participation, from the standpoints of both investments and partnerships, but the study suggests that more work needs to be done. Besides more slots being created, he said, greater effort needs to be made to ensure that those slots are of a higher quality and are tied to workforce needs.

The report goes on to highlight key opportunities to improve the ROI of summer youth employment programs …

Strengthen infrastructure and connections among programs: There is tremendous innovation across summer youth programs. But the cities and programs surveyed in the report identified the need for infrastructure to capture what’s being learned and to expand best practices to more cities. To strengthen quality and sustainability, summer programs need to be connected to each other and to local workforce systems … .

Deepen private sector engagement: Summer youth employment programs are looking for both resources and jobs from private sector employers. But they are also looking for deeper engagement that can improve the quality of these experiences for young people … .

Bring a skills focus to summer youth employment: Adding a focus on skills that are currently in demand by employers to summer jobs programs can better prepare young people to compete in the workforce … .

If you want to learn more about these programs, check the JPMC report out.  Among other things, it features a number of innovative programs currently under way.

Twitter It!

Bigger Raises on the Way?

465463337The numbers have been awfully similar, and awfully stagnant, for some time now.

Employees in the U.S.—those lucky enough to get a raise—have been receiving, on average, something in the neighborhood of a 3 percent bump in pay each year. And there have been no shortage of experts forecasting comparable increases in the months ahead.

Still, there’s reason to be optimistic that things will start looking up in 2015, according to New York Times senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin. In an online piece appearing this week, Irwin asks whether pay raises will become more commonplace this year, and sees at least three recent signs that may point to “yes.” Specifically:

  • The number of available jobs in the U.S. rose to 4.97 million in November—the highest that figure has been since 2001—as seen in the Labor Department’s latest monthly job openings report.
  • The recently-released National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Optimism Survey finds overall optimism among small businesses at its highest point since 2006, with the proportion of small businesses planning to increase compensation in the next three months 17 percent higher than those that planned decreases.
  • Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer Aetna has announced that, beginning in April, it would set a minimum hourly pay rate of $16 for its workers, which Irwin described as “the most interesting piece of evidence for rising wage pressure.” This increase equates to a roughly 11 percent jump in pay for 5,700 claims administrators and various low-level workers at Aetna.

The company is “counting on the raise to make it easier to retain good employees and recruit for vacant positions,” says Irwin, who posits that continuing job growth could find organizations that fail to raise wages “at a competitive disadvantage, losing their best workers to companies like Aetna that try to get ahead of the curve a bit with pre-emptive raises.”

Whether that scenario plays out remains to be seen, of course. Irwin acknowledges as much, allowing for the possibility of the job growth rate flattening as the U.S. inches closer to full employment, and/or the millions of people no longer in the workforce re-entering in large numbers and subsequently holding down wages.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned developments present “a coherent, consistent story,” says Irwin, with employers looking to fill more openings, small businesses expecting to raise pay and “one giant employer … doing exactly that.”

“Add it up,” he says, “and Aetna workers may not be the only ones seeing raises this year.”

Indeed. Aetna employees will certainly not be the only ones receiving raises in 2015. But it will be interesting to see if more large organizations follow Aetna’s lead and begin to break the 3-percent threshold that’s been the norm for so long.

Twitter It!

Unemployment Discrimination Rears Head Again

76806723 -- unemployedHaven’t seen one of these for awhile.

With the economy slowly, but surely making its way back (at least for now), cases involving unemployment discrimination have taken a back seat to recruiting and talent management, as stories go.

But as this New York Post piece from earlier this month suggests, the issue appears alive and well in a Manhattan-based staffing agency. In her recent lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court State of New York, County of New York, Valerie White claims she was turned down for an HR-coordinator position with Solomon Page Group in late July of this year because she’d been out of work for more than a year.

Here is the actual lawsuit filed, alleging that the company’s director of accounting operations, who joined White and Solomon’s recruiting director for the interview, told White, ” ‘I don’t think you can do this because you have been out of work for a year.’ ”

White claims in the lawsuit she was “extremely humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and emotionally distressed” by what happened — sentiments echoed in other stories about this issue that we’ve written and come across.

I wrote a news analysis earlier this year about the push from the White House against long-term-unemployment discrimination, including President Obama’s vow during his Jan. 2014 State of the Union address to give more long-term-unemployed Americans a “fair shot” at a job.

At the time of that story, New York was one of 10 states mulling a state law banning such discrimination. New York City, meanwhile, had already enacted, in June of 2013, one of the nation’s most aggressive bans, creating “the first law in the United States that defines a job applicant’s unemployed status as a protected class along with age, race, creed, color, national origin, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation and alienage/citizenship status,” according to this report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM piece says the NYC law is broader in scope than other laws (and bills being considered in some states) by providing plaintiffs with the right to pursue private civil claims and by treating unemployed applicants in the same way members of other protected classes are treated under nondiscrimination laws.

I was hoping to get something from Solomon about all this — about its view of the case and about doing business in New York with this law on the books — but Paul Coller, vice president of human resources at Solomon and the company’s chief human resource officer, could only say he and his colleagues “are confident the facts will show that these allegations lack any merit and, due to pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”

I guess it remains to be seen just how aggressive this anti-unemployment-discrimination push will be in the months and years to come. I guess it will be economy-driven. For now, my story and this subsequent column from our legal columnist, Paul Salvatore, spell out some things HR should be thinking about and doing around the push .

Salvatore’s reminder:

“HR leaders should consider the best practices released by the White House [during that State of the Union] and signed on to by many large employers. They include:

* Making sure advertising does not discourage or discriminate against the unemployed,

* Reviewing screens or procedures used in recruiting and hiring processes so individuals are not disadvantaged based solely on their unemployment status,

* Reviewing current recruiting practices to ensure a broad net is cast and to encourage all qualified candidates to consider applying, and

* Sharing best practices.”

Granted, the rate of unemployment is lower now than earlier this year, and much lower now than in the five previous years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s also well above the years just preceding the Great Recession and there’s really no telling how many people out there have been out of work for so long they’ve essentially given up hope.

Best to remain vigilant, not to mention compassionate and fair, whichever way the legislative and administrative winds are blowing.

Twitter It!

Veteran Hiring, Revisited

Just last week, President Obama authorized the deployment of another 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, doubling the number of Americans meant to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces.  But headlines aside, the fact remains, as we celebrate Veterans Day 2014 tomorrow, there are more veterans returning than soldiers being deployed. Indeed, the churn’s a steady one, of veterans leaving the military and seeking employment—and employers looking to add them to their rosters.

475000847Indeed, on the latter front, a CareerBuilder Veterans Day Job Forecast released earlier today found 33 percent of employers are actively recruiting veterans over the next year, up from 27 percent in last year’s survey and 20 percent in 2011. Further, 31 percent have hired a veteran who recently returned from duty in the last 12 months, up from 28 percent in 2013.

HRE has published its share of stories in recent years about companies that have made huge commitments to employing vets, and some of the policies and practices they’ve put in place to help achieve that objective. So I’d like to think businesses are beginning to gain some serious ground on this issue.

If we’re to believe the findings of a RAND Corp. survey released earlier today (also just in time for Veterans Day), however, there’s still a lot more work to be done by all parties concerned.

On the employer side, RAND’s analysis found companies still need to do a better job educating managers on the value of veteran employees, making themselves known to veteran job candidates and taking advantage of federal resources, such as the Veterans Employment Center and SkillBridge.

According to the researchers, many employers also fail to understand how military experience translates to the skills needed for civilian jobs and they lack the ability to track and measure relevant recruitment, performance and retention metrics.

The report, titled “Veteran Employment: Lessons from the 100,000 Jobs Mission,” explains …

“Many companies respect that their veteran employees want to be treated the same as non-veteran employees, but these organizations are investing resources in veteran hiring and could benefit from information about the return from that investment. Although companies perceive their veteran employees to perform well, they do not tend to collect metrics about veteran performance and veteran retention.”

Despite all of the attention workforce metrics has been getting lately, many companies, according the RAND report, are apparently falling short when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of their efforts in these areas.

Veterans, meanwhile, according to the researchers, too often believe their talents apply only in the security or defense arenas and employers (as mentioned above) struggle to make that military experience-civilian job connection.

Kimberly Hall, lead author of the study and a senior project associate at RAND, points out that “military members need to know that defense contractors and similar businesses are not the only places they should look for work, [and they can] contribute valuable skills and experience across the spectrum of American industry.”

One silver lining in the report (which is based on interviews with representatives from 26 member companies in the 100,000 Jobs Mission): Those interviewed volunteered that post-traumatic stress disorder was not an issue. This finding contrasts with an early study on veteran employers, in which more than one-half of the companies interviewed reported concerns about PTSD, suggesting that “employers’ initial concerns have been allayed by their experiences.”

In any case, you might want to carve out a little time this Veterans Day and check the report out, especially since it does include some good recommendations for employers, as well as veterans and federal agencies.

Twitter It!

Google’s CHRO on Resume Mistakes

Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google — and HRE’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year — recently weighed in on LinkedIn on the five biggest mistakes he sees on resumes and how to correct them.

When you helm HR at one of the most-admired, most-envied tech companies in the world — one that can reportedly receive more than 50,000 resumes in a single week — it should surprise no one that Bock says he personally has seen more than 20,000 resumes himself.

 “I have seen A LOT of resumes,” he says.

While the five mistakes Bock shares are not exactly earth-shattering — typos, length, formatting, sharing confidential information and lying — his insight adds a certain gravitas to the conversation, especially on the topic of confidentiality and who you can trust to keep your company’s secrets once you let them in the door:

I once received a resume from an applicant working at a top-three consulting firm. This firm had a strict confidentiality policy: client names were never to be shared. On the resume, the candidate wrote: “Consulted to a major software company in Redmond, Washington.” Rejected! There’s an inherent conflict between your employer’s needs (keep business secrets confidential) and your needs (show how awesome I am so I can get a better job). So candidates often find ways to honor the letter of their confidentiality agreements but not the spirit. It’s a mistake. While this candidate didn’t mention Microsoft specifically, any reviewer knew that’s what he meant. In a very rough audit, we found that at least 5-10% of resumes reveal confidential information. Which tells me, as an employer, that I should never hire those candidates … unless I want my own trade secrets emailed to my competitors.

While Bock’s post is of course more intended for the job seeker than the hiring manager, it is nonetheless heartening to see such advice earnestly dispensed by the top HR person at one of the hardest places on the entire planet to get hired.

Twitter It!

Taking Talent Acquisition Up a Notch

If you’re looking for additional proof that talent-acquisition capability matters, check out the latest research coming from the Bersin by Deloitte unit of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

452269237According to Bersin by Deloitte’s study of 300 U.S. organizations, titled High-Impact Talent Acquisition: Key Findings and Maturity Model,  employers with mature talent-acquisition strategies perform, on average, 30 percent better than their peers as far as business outcomes are concerned, including the ability to meet or exceed customer expectations, create new products and services faster than competitors, and meet or exceed financial targets.

So what are the key drivers of talent-acquisition performance?

The Bersin by Deloitte research puts developing strong relationships between recruiters and hiring managers at the top of the list. At organizations with lower levels of maturity, the study found, recruiters are basically order takers for hiring managers. But for those organizations with higher levels of maturity, the relationships between recruiters and hiring managers typically were strong and, in turn, the performance outcomes greater.

Other influential talent-acquisition drivers, according to the research, include developing candidate pools, giving employers the ability to find “just-in-time” candidates; and leveraging social media both as a recruiting vehicle and as a way to promote the employer brand.

On this latter front, some mature organizations have gone so far as to hire dedicated strategists whose purpose is to “curate” social-media content.

When I asked Robin Erickson, vice president of talent-acquisition research at Bersin by Deloitte, what surprised her most in the findings, she pointed to the significant role building strong relationships plays as a driver of talent-acquisition performance. “We didn’t expect the relationship with hiring managers to be four times more influential than everything else—more influential than social media and more influential than employment branding,” she told me.

To be sure, there are no shortage of vendors out there working hard at developing tools aimed at helping employers get their hands around the three major drivers cited in this research. If you’re planning to attend next month’s HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas and walk the floor of the expo, I’m sure you’ll come across lots. But whether you’ll be there or not (and I certainly hope you will), I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open and let you know what I find.

Twitter It!