Thursday, July 3, 2014

Surprise Applicants With Out of the Ordinary Interview Questions

We all have our favorite interview questions, but it doesn't take long for word to get out and applicants can prepare better by practicing answers to tried and true interview questions.  Here are some fresh ideas for new questions that will give you some great new information about your candidates.

OLD:     Tell me about yourself.
NEW:     What is the most exciting thing that ever happened to you?

OLD:     Where do you see yourself in five years?
NEW:    What do you want your job title to be when you retire?

OLD:     Tell me about a time when you had to overcome an obstacle.
NEW:     Let me describe a problem you might encounter while working here.  (Describe a real problem of the job.)  How would you solve the problem?

Putting a fresh look on the traditional approach will always yield better results.  Try these questions during your next interview.  I think you will be surprised at the results.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

National Labor Relations Act - Not Just for Unionized Employers!

At a recent Employment Law Update seminar I attended, I was reminded again of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that guides the Board's work.  The thing that the attorney said that stuck with me was that most small and mid-sized employers believe the myth that the NLRB's rules only apply to unionized employers.  What many managers and business owners don't realize is that any employee unionized or not can bring a claim before the NLRB.  He went on to say that the trap most employers fall into is thinking that it is ok to prohibit and therefore discipline employees who talk about wages and benefits with other employees.

The NLRA (the act itself) makes it an unfair labor practice for any and all employer's to prohibit conversation between employees about wages, hours and other conditions of employment.

Most recently the NLRB has sought to file unfair labor practices against those employers who prohibit salary conversations between employees on social media outlets or chat rooms, just like they would if you fired two employees for talking bout their wages in the company break room.

A learning opportunity for a new client of mine came when the results of an employee file audit revealed they had disciplined an employee for sharing salary information with a co-worker.  I told him what I'm telling you here - DON'T DO IT!  Don't prohibit salary conversations in your employee handbook, policy manual or during new employee orientation or staff meetings.  Don't discipline employees when it happens.  In this age of transparency, those who have fair and consistent salary practices in place shouldn't fear their employees who choose to share this information.  If your salary practices aren't consistent or fair - call me, so we can get it fixed and you have nothing to fear.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Social Media! I'm Sick of Hearing About It

You can't go anywhere these days without seeing or hearing about social media.  But what does it mean to a business owner?  The marketing people will tell you it is a "must have" and is really a "BFF" in order to reach your customers.  Lawyers will tell you it is something that could virtually kill your company.  As I have found in similar situations, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Yes, the old days of newspaper, TV and radio advertising - if not dead have a drastically new face and you should consult a web or social media expert to help you get up to speed to attract customers.  But your current, "ex" or potential employees as well as customers being able to post information about you is cause for alarm if it doesn't show the value of having a good strategy.  In the past, if I wanted to say something bad about my ex-employer I could take out a newspaper, TV or radio ad but it would cost me money and the media outlet would censor my comments to protect themselves from libel.  Today, on social media I can post anything I want about an employer on FaceBook or LinkedIn and there is limited censorship, if any.  I have 797 contacts on LinkedIn, who are connected toanother 157,861 contacts.  That is a pretty big reach for free if you ask me.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say. . .

The old Bonnie Raitt song called "Let's Give'em Something to Talk About", isn't a good idea these days.  The best offense in this case is doing things in a positive and above board manner.  Developing strong relationships and creating and maintaining a positive work environment will help ensure the comments your employees make about you on social media are nothing but glowing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Getting Results with S.M.A.R.T. Goals

I’m sure most of you have heard have about S.M.A.R.T. goals, especially if you’re in any type of management field. The adage is that in order to reach your goals, whether personal or business, they need to be S.M.A.R.T - meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. 

Since learning about them twenty years ago, I have had the opportunity to create, assist in creating or review a LOT of S.M.A.R.T. goals for many different types of organizations. Some goals were very well written and others were quite honestly terrible. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I was reading "Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It" by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson and discovered that they included a chapter on S.M.A.R.T. goals.

I call them my new HR gurus and they believe that while the S.M.A.R.T. goal methodology is sound, it lacks a clear outcome piece that is important to getting the results you want as a company. The book talks about their ROWE concept - ROWE standing for Results Only Work Environment.

Their premise is that in order to be successful nothing else matters except results. 

It doesn't matter if employees work 20 hours or 60 hours. It doesn’t matter if they work at home, a coffee shop or at the office. In fact, it doesn’t matter when, where or how long they work—the only thing that matters is results. 

They believe if you instill in your employees a crystal clear picture of the outcome (or the results) you are expecting they will achieve those results…IF they are responsible and self motivated and IF you don't let management get in the way. They feel that a lot of things companies do actually waste time, disengage employees and take the focus off results - therefore making them ineffective or financially off the mark. 

Things like mandatory meetings, sitting in traffic when you could be working (at home or the coffee shop down the street), meeting core office hour requirements and fielding constant interruptions because you have to be in the office and working with people who aren't held accountable and end up slowing down the process for others should be eliminated in order to make employees more productive and focused on results.

Holding everyone accountable especially for the results (notice I said "holding accountable," not blaming) and taking appropriate action when the employee doesn't achieve the expected results is crucial. 

One other thing they suggest is taking your wordy, paragraph long mission statement and asking "IF we actually do what our mission statement says, then what?" The example they give on page 121 is eye opening. I will let you read it for yourself. It really makes a company's outcome crystal clear and I believe them when they say if a company embraces a results-only work environment, higher success just happens.

So keep writing those S.M.A.R.T. goals but I am going to get clear on the ultimate outcome and results I want as a company and add it to my goals. 

Maybe you should, too. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bad Behavior in the Computer Age

A colleague and good friend of mine, Rob Joseph of FastTeks On-site Computer Services, recently shared an article with me that made me think.  The article was entitled "Bad Behavior, Not Maleware, Puts More of Your Corporate Data at Risk", written by Ken Hess. 

The article reveals:
63% of employees use remote storage devices to transfer confidential work files
45% of employees use consumer sites like DropBox and
30% of employees use cloud storage services
60% of employees use personal email to transfer work info
Nearly 75% think IT approves of this behavior

To top it all off "almost one third of the employees who use their personal e-mail to transfer work information know their computers have been hacked."  

In other words, without meaning to, your employees are opening the door to potential threats.  

In my opinion, this is a case of not supplying your "first most precious asset"—your employees—with the right tool to protect your "second most precious asset"—your company data. My friend Rob would say I have the first and second mixed up, but he is an IT guy and entitled to his opinion.

From an HR perspective it should go like this:
  • Provide employees the tools, processes and procedures to protect company data the safest way.
  • Train ALL employees on how to properly transfer files from one company location to another without using personal cloud services, USB sticks or SD cards.
  • Occasionally monitor or spot check for compliance.
  • Provide more training on a routine basis as a reminder or whenever technology changes.

My friend Rob can answer any technical questions and even provide training.  I can help you with writing an air-tight policy and help you enforce it.  Thanks Rob - it is great to have a colleague like you!  You can contact Rob at:  480-802-4007 or

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Putting “Heart” into Your Interviews Part 2

As a review from the last post…from a management stand point, during the course of employment, there can be all kinds of interviews like applicant interviews, performance interviews, employee satisfaction interviews, exit interview and others. There is one final component to consider.

All interviews require you to be clear on the outcome and the follow up or follow through on each situation. In applicant interviews you are deciding whether to hire or not. In investigative interviews you may be deciding whether to fire or not. Either way the third step that is often overlooked is the follow up (or fall out) that needs to take place to bring closure to the situation. Say you interview three great candidates for a position, decide on one, call her up and offer her the job. She accepts – done deal. What about the two you didn’t offer a job to? Who breaks the “bad news?" Or do you just wait until they call or email you and you can choose not to respond. In this day and age, is that something you want to risk? Did you consider that one of the applicants could be a close relative to your biggest customer? 

We don’t know what we don’t know, so why risk hard feelings when we can look at this situation as an opportunity rather than a curse? Being proactive with applicants can bring more good will to your company. I can’t tell you the number of times I have called applicants who weren’t offered a job who thanked me at the end of the call because I was professional, yet personable, gave them a true and straight forward reason for their non-selection and offered other alternatives for their job search. That’s what I call showing “heart” in the selection process. 

Again, if you want to find out how much “heart” your organization has in interview situations, give me a call.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Putting “Heart” into Your Interviews Part 1

Most of the time when I talk about interviews I am referring to hiring interviews but from a management stand point, during the course of employment, there can be all kinds.

Examples are:

  • Applicant Interviews (sometimes 2nd and 3rd ones) 
  • Job analysis interviews 
  • Performance interviews 
  • Investigative interviews 
  • Disciplinary interviews 
  • Employee Satisfaction interview 
  • Succession planning interviews 
  • Exit interviews 

Depending on the size of your organization you may not have cause to use all of these, but there are some common themes among them all. Today in part one, we’ll be talking about asking the right questions and doing more listening than talking.

All interviews require good, open ended questions. Remember, the goal of any interview is to gather information and you can’t get the information you need if the questions you are asking are irrelevant or even stupid. I will never forget the time early on in my career when I was asked if I squeezed the toothpaste from the middle or the top. What that had to do with my computer or accounting skills I still haven’t figured out. For applicant interviews, questions need to focus on the job requirements. For disciplinary interviews they need to focus on what occurred and how it relates to your policies, procedures and expectations. For exit interview questions, they should focus on what the company can change and improve upon for the current employees and future ones.

All interviews require a good amount of listening. I lost count of the number of different types of interviews I have sat in on with managers and supervisors that controlled the conversation by doing the majority of the talking. In each of these situations, the true goal is to solicit enough information to make a decision. You don’t get good information if you are the one doing all the talking. Listening to what the person is telling you and taking it to heart while equally weighing the facts adds up to a good employment decision.

Look for Part 2 next week about being clear on the outcome and follow-up with your interviews.

If you want to find out how much “heart” your organization has in interview situations, give me a call.

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