Category Archives: hiring

Foxconn, One Year Later

Nearly a year ago we featured a post here on a New York Times report about the high rate of suicides at Foxconn, a producer of electronic components in China. It noted that the company planned to take some unusual steps to address its problems, including bringing in 2,000 singers, dancers and gym trainers to improve workplace life, and constructing fences to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths. 

So where do things stand today? Well, a report released earlier today suggests that, at least at two of the Foxconn plants, things aren’t a whole lot better (though the study does mention a couple positives).

Researchers from Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) in Hong Kong visited two Foxconn production facilities in Chengdu and Chongqing in Western China, where workers manufacture the Apple iPad 2 and HP laptops, and report finding the “predicaments of workers remain.”  The report alleges “labour rights abuses such as miscalculation of wages, excessive and forced overtime, threat of occupational diseases … and use of student labour.”

Meanwhile, a recent story in the U.K’s Daily Mirror says the company requires employees to sign an “anti-suicide pledge.”  The piece reports that at least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in China have killed themselves in the last 16 months as a result of working conditions.

In February, Apple released a report on its efforts to drive the “highest standards of social responsibility throughout its supply base.” If we’re to believe the findings of the SACOM report, it would appear that a bit more work needs to be done at the two aforementioned plants.

Up or Down?

There have been conflicting reports of late — heck, there have been conflicting reports for the past year or so — about the state of the recovery, and whether it’s still a jobless one or not.

We’ve definitely seen the unemployment rate drop — from a high of 10.6 percent in January 2010 to the current 9.2 percent as of March — but that number doesn’t include those individuals who have just stopped looking for work, so it doesn’t provide a totally accurate view.

Adding to the pessimistic viewpoint, last week, we saw jobless claims hit 426,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. That number “is a sharp jump from a month ago” when claims were in the mid-380,000 range.

Plus, the Conference Board saw a dip in April in its online labor demand, following a surge the month before. They see good and bad news.

“Labor demand has risen to levels we last saw just before the official start of the recession four years ago,” said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board. “At the same time, the number of unemployed has doubled and now stands at 13.5 million (March unemployment data), and some professions have clearly fared better than others in job opportunities.

“At this stage, there are occupations where the supply/demand rate has fallen significantly and there are two or less unemployed for every advertised vacancy. However, other occupations are still experiencing relatively high supply/demand rates above 4.0, reflecting the fact that there are over four unemployed for every advertised vacancy.” 

According to Indeed’s latest Industry Employment Trends, demand can be found in 10 of the 13 industries they follow, with healthcare’s open positions nearly double that of other industries. There were 828,669 job postings for healthcare jobs in April, an increase of 21 percent from the month before, according to Indeed.

Other notable trends from Indeed include continued growth of HR jobs, including recruiters (see our recent story, HR Help Wanted). There were 64, 126 HR jobs posted in April, an increase of 11 percent. Indeed also saw 25 percent quarterly growth in transportation and declining opportunities in real estate (down 17 percent).

So, I guess we’re still bobbing along, waiting to see which way the tide will go.

Update: On May 5, the government reported: “The number of Americans filing for jobless aid rose to an eight-month high last week and productivity growth slowed in the first quarter, clouding the outlook for an economy that is struggling to gain speed.”

Better luck, next month, I guess …

Dot-Jobs Universe Expands, This Time to Help Vets

Not exactly the same tenor of complicated and controversial dot-jobs-universe stories we’ve been reading — and writing — of late.

(Here, in fact, are our two recent mentions of the fracas between Employ Media and the International Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers: one on HREOnline and the other on this site. The brouhaha surrounds a breach-of-contract notice filed by ICANN against Employ Media, based on the latter’s allowance of thousands of .job sites with occupational and geographic descriptions instead of just company names. Company designations only was the initial intent when .jobs was created by Employ Media — partnering with DirectEmployers Association — and sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management. The latest update, posted last week by John Zappe of, says ICANN has extended the March 28 deadline given to Employ Media and the other parties to work out a solution and/or for Employ Media to cease operating its .jobs universe, which now contains thousands of new .jobs job boards. Looks like the extension was for two weeks, which would have taken us to yesterday. It seems ICANN is granting additional time, as needed. Told you it was complicated.)

Now my real reason for posting, and the subject of my first sentence, is this April 6 release from DirectEmployers Association announcing a new program that will add 5,800 dot-jobs domains to the dot-jobs universe to help returning veterans and their families find work. The release mentions nothing about the breach notice or extended deadline.

It does say the program will provide military personnel and their dependents access to more than 860,000 employment opportunities from more than 90,000 employers nationwide, using the Military Occupational Classification Crosswalk. Transitioning military can enter their MOC plus .jobs into their browser to locate civilian occupations requiring the same or similar skills as their previous military jobs.

The release quotes Tom Embrescia, chairman and CEO of Employ Media: “This new effort to assist our veterans and their families is further demonstration of the value and benefit of the .jobs platform,” he says. ” … This is a great program for the entire human resource community as well as our transitioning military and their families.”

A commendable move, not to mention a most effective diversion from the fracas.

Talking with the C-Suite

Unlike many conferences which see a huge drop off on the final day, such was not the case for the final two sessions at the HR in Hospitality® Conference & Expo on Wednesday.

One session, which I already blogged about, brought in the NLRB’s Craig Becker. The other one brought in three hospitality executives to offer their thoughts on HR and people policies.

Some of the tidbits from that session:

* David Moran, managing director of Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, one of the top five grossing restaurants in the country, told the audience his 14-restaurant organization (Clyde’s of Gallery Place) has no HR department.

Instead, the organization offers “one on one management” as well as a lot of upfront training with managers and staff – all based on Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, he said. “We preach it. We live it and our members embrace it.”

* Especially in hospitality companies, employees are crucial to profit and guest satisfaction. John Longstreet, president and CEO of Quaker Steak and Lube restaurants, said he discovered that a long time ago and was able, with the help of some university researchers, to statistically prove it. Such metrics are key in convincing senior leadership on HR initiatives.

* When it comes to hiring employees, look for attitude, said Conrad Wangeman, area vice president for Northeast USA and Canada for Hilton Worldwide. “If you get someone who has the right attitude, you can train for the skills,” he said.

* Another tip, from Longstreet, be transparent. Tell employees as much as you can, not as little as you can get away with.

* And one from Moran: Be truthful in performance appraisals. Honest feedback lets employees know that the organization cares about them and their development.

For Recruiting, the Facebook Future Has Arrived!

I try to keep my press-release passing to a bare minimum, but this one I had to share, just so you all know how far the marriage between recruiting and social media has come. As the headline of the release announces, “New Facebook App Matches Your Friends with the Best Jobs.”

Designed by a company called Work4 Labs, this new app — called “Work for Us” — purports to automatically match a Facebook user’s friends with the best jobs by leveraging the social-media site’s profile data (education, interests, work history, etc.) and connections “to make the job-referral process as simple as sharing.”

Here’s the quote, by Stéphane Le Viet, CEO and founder of Work4 labs, that I think recruiting and hiring professionals should take special note of: “The Facebook platform provides an opportunity to disrupt the lucrative yet stagnant online and offline job-search markets. Job searching has always been a social activity, and one of three hires in the U.S. are referrals. …

“By doing the hard work of matching users and jobs, our app allows Facebook users to easily distribute relevant job opportunities among the 30 billion items already shared monthly on Facebook.”

Basically, any company can install the app for free. L’Oréal, Citibank and Accenture are three companies already using it, according to the release. When users visit jobs posted through the app, they have access to a section called “See Friends Matching this Job.” Once authorized, the app processes Facebook and LinkedIn profile data to suggest the most relevant friends for the job.

Will this launch social recruiting into a whole new galaxy? Maybe. Maybe not. What strikes me is how simple it seems. One of those “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” kind of applications.

Thoughts on the HR Function

There were lots of thoughts to absorb from the Cornell University HR Executive Summit, held as part of the HR in Hospitality® Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington this morning.

It was a huge roundtable discussion, with 16 panelists, but moderator Bruce Tracey, associate professor of management at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration did a good job of engaging the entire group and keeping the conversations pithy.

Some food for thought:

*HR Hit Hard: At the Four Seasons, the HR department “took a disparate hit” of a 20-percent reduction in headcount, said Debbie Brown, its VP of HR for the Americas. Overall, the organization lost 4 percent of its workforce.

HR was hit even harder at Hilton Worldwide, where there was a 40-percent global cut, said Barbara Holkamp, senior vice president of HR consulting, who said the HR function focused on providing simple, automated toolkits and models related to people practices and focused on “top grading,” meaning talent development.

She noted that the reductions did not affect hotel-based HR directors – and that guest-service satisfaction scores remained “very high.”

Brown said the organization looked at outsourcing transactional work, “anything that is not mission critical” and that “learning took a real hit.”

*Doing More with Less: In a survey result taken by attendees, 100 percent said their organizations are doing more with fewer resources. In another question, asking for important HR issues for 2011, retention (23 percent) came in first (if you don’t include other, which received 28 percent of the votes); followed by recruitment (21 percent); productivity (18 percent); and compensation (10 percent).

* Adding Instead of Cutting Training: At the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the recession actually prompted “the most comprehensive service training program than we ever had in our company’s history at a time when many of our competitors were cutting back or cutting training all together,” said Carolyn Clark, SVP of HR.

But the difference was the program was led by operations, she said, not HR.

“We were really looking for behavioral change to drive business results,” Clark said. The workers completed a self-audit at the end of the training program and created an action plan that was integrated into future performance reviews.

This year, she said, a refresher course will use 30 actual case studies drawn from guest survey results.

* Finding Talent: Recruiting “actually got harder for us” during the downturn, said Greg Smith, executive vice president of HR for Denihan Hospitality Group. “Yes, there were more people looking for work but the people we needed were harder to find.”

So, he shifted the recruiting function down to individual properties and further down, to individual functions, so room attendants were involved in looking for room attendants; front desk managers looked for front desk managers, and so on.

“We have had some pretty good results,” he said.

* Salary Grumbling on the Rise: Don’t expect workers to accept doing more with less forever, the panelists said, especially if their pay is not seeing an increase.

“Their patience is wearing thin,” said Laura FitzRandolph, SVP and assistant general counsel at Interstate Hotels & Resorts. “You have to manage expectations,” but noted that, for the hospitality industry, “the climb back is going to be longer than the fall into the basement.”

* Just-in-Time Staffing: John Longstreet, president and CEO of Quaker Steak and Lube, said he remembers when one major brand laid off 130 managers in a single day – and he wondered how an organization could be so overstaffed.

“I am trying to do more with the same,” he said, noting that he would prefer to under-staff and over-pay. He also has invested in technology to make it easier for his restaurant managers to access the information they need and therefore be able to spend more time with team members.

* Preparing for Retirement: Want to engage your workers? Ask them when they will retire. That’s the advice of Alan Momeyer, VP of HR at Loews Corp.

“There’s nothing wrong with that question,” he said. Plus, it will require them to think about designating successors and then making sure those successors are qualified to step in when necessary.

Those conversations will cascade through the organization — and that’s what results in engagement, he said.

House Arrest for HR

The former human resources manager of a Mississippi company has been sentenced to six months house arrest for hiring hundreds of illegal immigrants, the New York Times is reporting:

Jose Humberto Gonzalez was the only Howard Industries official charged in the 2008 raid at the company’s electrical transformer plant in Laurel, [Miss.]. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to conspiracy in December 2009. He was sentenced Thursday.

The case came to light after the “nation’s largest immigration raid”  yielded 600 illegal immigrants on Aug. 25, 2008, the story reports.

The story also notes that “[t]he company pleaded guilty to conspiracy on Feb. 24 and was fined $2.5 million.”

But, given the current administration’s oft-repeated vow to crack down more on illegal hiring practices such as the one uncovered by the 2008 raid, it is perhaps a little surprising that the only person charged in the case received such a relatively light sentence.

NAHR and Charan Create Essay Contest

As any regular reader of HRE knows, we’ve touched more than a few times on the formidable challenge of attracting top talent to the HR profession. Well, while it’s not going to single-handedly solve that problem, it’s nice to see the National Academy of Human Resources and business adviser and author Ram Charan (who is also a Distinguished Fellow of the Academy and is sponsoring the effort) join forces to introduce an essay contest—appropriately named the Ram Charan HR Essay Contest—aimed at further advancing that important cause.

University undergrads and graduate students majoring in HR, industrial/labor relations or related fields are being invited to craft an essay on how HR strategies, policies and practices are contributing to global business competitiveness. Cash prizes of $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 will be awarded to the three best essays. The deadline for submissions is June 15.

Click here to go to a PDF with additional details.

Next Up: Talent Assessments

Looks like the recent wave of HR-vendor M&A activity is continuing into the new year—this time in the talent-assessment space.

Earlier today, SHL and PreVisor announced they’ve joined forces, making the newly formed SHL Group the world’s largest employer of business psychologists outside of the public sector. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the combined, privately-held company claims to deliver more than 15 million assessments annually in over 150 countries and more than 30 languages.

London-headquartered SHL brings to the table its global experience, particularly in Europe, the U.K. and Asia Pacific, and its strength in post-hire assessments. Atlanta-based PreVisor, meanwhile, brings its U.S. client base and a strength in pre-hire assessments.

SHL CEO David Leigh, who will become CEO of the new entity, describes the merger as an “industry-defining moment.”

Certainly, the merger makes SHL Group a force to be reckoned with.

“Both SHL and PreVisor tend to be very aggressive,”  Josh Bersin, CEO of Bersin & Associates, told me earlier today. “This is a market where a lot of the companies tend to be very scientific [and therefore] passive [when it comes to sales]. So this is going to certainly have an impact.”

Together, the two companies report revenues of $200 million.

Bersin expects the new SHL Group will continue to acquire other players in the talent-assessment field to further solidify its position.

“We’re just in this funny cycle [of] money seeking opportunities [in talent management],” Bersin says.

So stay tuned.

Ask No Questions. Tell No Lies

About a month ago, Mike O’Brien highlighted an article on the use of some off-the-wall questions used by companies that are designed to find the best employees.

Now, has released it’s list of the top 25 oddball interview questions users posted on its website. And, while you can sort of, kind of, catch a glimpse of the idea behind some of them, others are just bizarre.

After reading them, click over to HREOnline to see a recent story on some creative screening techniques used by companies as well as some questions job applicants may ask recruiters and hiring managers.


“If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” – Asked at Goldman Sachs, Analyst position

 “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” – Asked at Deloitte,Project Analyst position

 “What is the philosophy of Martial Arts?” – Asked at Aflac, Sales Associate position

 “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.” – Asked at Boston Consulting, Consultant position

 “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are.” – Asked at Capital One, Operations Analyst position

 “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room” – Asked at Google, People Analyst position

 “Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?” – Asked at Bloomberg LP Financial, Software Developer position

 “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” – Asked at AT&T, Customer Sales Representative position

 “You have a birthday cake and have exactly 3 slices to cut it into 8 equal pieces. How do you do it?” – Asked at Blackrock Portfolio Management Group, Fixed Income Analyst position

 “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum numbers guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint “higher” or “lower” for each guess you make?” – Asked at Facebook, Software Engineer position

 “If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?” – Asked at Amazon, Manager position

 “An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents, how much is a pear?” – Asked at Epic Systems, Project Manager position

 “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” – Asked at Apple, Software QA Engineer position

 “How many traffic lights in Manhattan?” – Asked at Argus Information & Advisory Services, Analyst position

 “You are in a dark room with no light. You need matching socks for your interview and you have 19 grey socks and 25 black socks. What are the chances you will get a matching pair?” – Asked at Eze Castle, Quality Assurance position

 “What do wood and alcohol have in common?” – Asked at Guardsmark, Staff Writer position

 “How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine?” – Asked at IBM, Software Engineer position

 “You have 8 pennies, 7 weigh the same, one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the one that weighs less in less than 3 steps.” – Asked at Intel, Systems Validation Engineer position

 “Why do you think only a small percentage of the population makes over $150K?” – Asked at New York Life, Sales Agent position

 “You are in charge of 20 people, organize them to figure out how many bicycles were sold in your area last year.” – Asked at Schlumberger, Field Engineer position

 “How many bottles of beer are drank in the city over the week?” – Asked at The Nielsen Company, Research Analyst position

 “What’s the square root of 2000?” – Asked at UBS, Sales and Trading position

  “A train leaves San Antonio for Huston at 60mph. Another train leaves Huston for San Antonio at 80mph. Huston and San Antonio are 300 miles apart. If a bird leaves San Antonio at 100mph, and turns around and flies back once it reaches the Huston train, and continues to fly between the two, how far will it have flown when they collide?”- Asked at USAA, Software Engineer position

 “How are M&M’s made?” – Asked at US Bank, Leadership Program Development position

 “What would you do if you just inherited a pizzeria from your uncle?” -Asked at Volkswagen, Business Analyst position.