Posts Tagged ‘Business and Employees’

What Not To Ask a Job Candidate in an Interview

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

employeescreeningblog.com, employment screeningWhether you’re new to interviewing job candidates, or have been at it for years, we’ve got some news for you: the same old questions won’t do.

The purpose of the job interview is to find the person who can do the job you need to fill, fit in with your company’s culture and stay out of trouble. Not all questions will get you to that goal.

A few questions that employers should not ask:
“Tell me about yourself” – This question is just too general to result in the information you need to know to hire the right person.

“Would you like some coffee?” – Don’t distract yourself or the interviewee from the task at hand. If they say “yes” out of sense of politeness or obligation, you’ll then have to find out about cream and sugar, fetch a mug, make the coffee. Skip the beverage service and get to the interview.

“Do you have your references?” – Again, this detracts from the interview and puts the focus on former employers, friends of the family or semi-influential community members that the candidate might want you to know all about. Save this question for later in the process.

“Where to you want to be in five years?” – There are few good answers to this question. If the candidate answers with “in your chair,” or “president of the company,” is that really what you want to know? They can’t say that they’d like to stay for two years and then jump ship to their buddy’s startup. And if they say they’d love to be in the same job, in the same cubical, doing the same work, what does that say?

Of course, there are questions that can get you into big legal trouble, specifically those that lead to claims of discrimination. Employers are not allowed to ask family-related questions, such as asking a woman how many children she has, or about an applicant’s religion, national origin, marital status, race, disabilities, health or physical abilities, or age. Asking whether an applicant is a U.S. citizen is also illegal.

What Does Sustainability Mean Today?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

employee screening, employee credit checkPlenty of companies are touting their sustainable practices and accomplishments. But sustainability goes beyond switching to recycled paper and reducing waste. Employers may have heard that sustainability has taken on a broader definition that encompasses good human resource practices.

Sustaining employee relationships is a big part of a more holistic business view. Just ask any company manager who has applied for sustainability certifications: many of the questions will be related to HR. Certifying agencies want to know how employees are treated and paid, and how the company relates to the community at large.

HR departments are more engaged in building a company culture that embraces all forms of sustainability. Organizations are trying harder to build good community relationships by supporting worthwhile organizations and leading the way to improve daily life for everyone. They are improving their diversity, from the boardroom to the shipping room. They are focusing on the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profits.

Creating a sustainable culture can start with the little things: recycling and reusing are certainly an important foundation. From there, it’s important to take care of employees through fair pay and benefits, training and performance management, and by actively pursuing diversity and inclusion. Finally, going beyond the company’s walls to improve surrounding communities helps ensure a healthier place to live, work and do business in.

All of these steps contribute to the new definition of sustainability: a long-term view of how to do business fairly, rather than a close-up focus on sales and profits. And still, many companies report a positive return on their sustainability program investment, along with a rise in morale, efficiency and loyalty, and an improved public image and brand awareness.

Sounds like creating a sustainable culture can be an all-around winning strategy that benefits the company, its employees, the planet and the community.

Are Your Employees Headed Out the Door?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

employee screening, employee background checkEmployee retention is an issue for every employer, at one time or another. For some, turnover is a constant problem. And it could be on the rise. After a few years of economic troubles, cutbacks and demands for more productivity, today’s workers are burned out.

A few recent surveys show some numbers that back up that remark:

  • Fewer than one in three employees are engaged in their work.
  • Only 45% of workers say they are “satisfied” with their jobs.
  • Approximately 32% of employees hope to find a new job within the next year.

And just because employees are “satisfied,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy. Besides costing you money, turnover affects morale and productivity. And even if your employees are staying put, if they’re not happy, they won’t be as productive.

Engaged employees are pleasant to be around. They treat customers and co-workers well, and excel in job performance. Engaged employees are not content with simply doing what’s expected—they’d rather go the extra mile so that the organization’s goals are met.

Creating a culture of engagement requires some work. Employers and managers in any business can improve employee engagement with these tips:

  • Involve employees in decision-making, by keeping lines of communication open.
  • Inspire trust by being truthful and transparent, taking blame for their mistakes and doing what they say they will do.
  • Give employees the chance to learn new tasks, along with a path for advancement.
  • Take the time to recognize employees’ efforts.

While no company will ever have 100% engaged and happy employees, most could use some improvement in this area. While these ideas won’t work miracles overnight, they will create a foundation for progress.

Hiring For Skill

Friday, April 6th, 2012

pre employment screening, employee background checkAs the economy recovers, more employers will be hiring to replace those workers they’ve been doing without. If you’re dipping a toe back into the hiring pool, here are some tips that can help you do it better.

An improving job market could mean employers will be competing for the most skilled and talented workers. This is where your networking skills come in. Talk to your contacts, whether in your industry or not, to get information on the hiring scene in your area. Who were the #2 and #3 candidates for the position just filled at a peer company? Who’s now hiring for similar jobs? Can you get any recommendations from those hiring managers? Are there state or local government agencies that have cut staff lately? Find out who’s been laid off.

What is the overriding skill set needed to succeed in your organization? If you’re in a technical business, you’ll need to focus on recruiting workers with the right technical expertise. If it’s a service business you’re hiring for, it doesn’t really matter where your recruits have worked before, if the have exceptional people skills. And an employee with drive, a great attitude and integrity can be an asset to nearly every type of business.

What about job-hoppers or career-switchers? Is that a sign of boredom or great flexibility? Individuals who like new challenges are natural learners. They catch on quickly to new tasks, and could be well suited to a health care or high-tech environment.

Once you hire highly skilled employees, let them do their jobs. Allow workers to collaborate with their peers. Give them challenges that require creativity and problem solving skills, and let them grow. Letting go like this can be tough for many managers. It’s a risk, for sure, and there will be some mistakes made along the way. But in the long term, employees who feel trusted and empowered are happier and more productive.

Cultivate a culture of open discussion and shared goals. Encourage employees to keep you informed of any problems they encounter. If you look at your job as a director of resources, you can help remove roadblocks and solve problems.

Hiring highly skilled workers and keeping them engaged will go along way to making your company more successful.

When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct proper background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

Terminating an Employee for Theft

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

employeescreeningblog, employee screening, pre-employment screeningWe’ve been talking lately about employee theft, and how it affects employers of all kinds. In this third article in our series, we look at what to do when you’re faced with this unfortunate situation.

The most sophisticated video camera systems won’t stop an employee from stealing. And unfortunately, the evidence they contain won’t always protect you from an unlawful termination suit. Even the most blatant thieves may try to protect themselves by bringing a lawsuit—and even if you win, you’ll still have to expend a great deal of time and effort.

You cannot avoid all the unpleasantries of terminating an employee, but if someone is stealing, you cannot let it continue, either. If you fear that employees are stealing from your business, keep the following dos and don’ts in mind:

  • Before you take action, take the time to do a thorough investigation. Accusing an employee is a serious charge, and you’ll need to thoroughly document your case. So don’t fire someone in the heat of the moment.
  • Do have at least two people involved in the investigation to avoid false accusations by the employee of framing for retaliation or bullying.
  • When conducting your investigation, don’t resort to crime-movie tactics. By law, you cannot go through an employee’s personal belongings, or use a baby monitor to listen to their private conversations.
  • Be careful of what you say. Stating a fact, such as “Steven stole $600 worth of merchandise,” can subject you to accusations of slander. Do state things in terms of opinion: “We have reason to believe that Steven may have taken the merchandise.” Even if it’s true that Steven stole the merchandise, you could still be sued.
  • Be sure you can prove the reasons for termination. Do terminate for performance or failing to follow company procedures, instead of for theft that could possibly be explained by the employee—however weak the explanation may be.
  • If an employee admits to theft, don’t terminate until you have obtained a written statement in his or her handwriting. If the employee wishes, do allow this to happen in private, to avoid any accusation of coercion.

Legal disclaimer:

The contents of this article are intended for general information only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice applicable to your situation.

Creating a Comfortable Workplace For Everyone

Monday, January 16th, 2012

employeescreeningblog, employee screening, pre-employment screeningFor employers, hearing that yours is a toxic work environment is not good news. Whether it’s flirtatious co-workers, religious displays, bullying or inappropriate language, there are dozens of factors that can cause people to feel uncomfortable at work. On one hand, this type of environment can hurt employee morale, and cause higher levels of turnover. Under more serious circumstances, it can lead to lawsuits.

How can employers and HR managers create a work environment where every employee feels respected and comfortable? Here are a few tips that can help you shape a clear policy, so everyone knows what’s expected and what types of behavior will not be tolerated.

  1. Gather information: First, meet with employees who have expressed dissatisfaction with the work environment. You can do this individually or in groups. Ask them to share any details of inappropriate or hurtful behavior, without naming individual employees who have perpetrated the behavior.
  2. Create a list of workplace rules: Call it a code of conduct, a mission statement or a new company policy—whatever works. Take the information from the interview process and determine what is and is not acceptable. You may include items about personal behavior, such as treating employees and customers with respect, not harassing or bullying, and using language appropriate for the workplace.
  3. Communicate the rules to all employees: It’s important that staff and management alike understand that the new rules are to be taken seriously, and that infractions will not be tolerated. Disseminate the rules in whatever manner your company typically communicates important policies, and add it to the employee manual.
  4. Follow up: Handle each new complaint as it arises. Deal with the facts and avoid judgment. Clarify what happened and explain how it made the affected employee feel. Then make it clear that this behavior goes against company policy and will not be tolerated.

No employee deserves to work in a toxic environment. Make sure yours doesn’t fall into that category by following these simple steps.

Employee Theft Rises in Bad Economy

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

employee screening, employee pre-screening, employee credit checkThe stories of trusted, long-term employees charged with embezzling money from their employers just keep coming:

  • There’s the case of the bookkeeper who was charged with stealing over $100,000 from a concrete company. In a plea deal, she pleaded guilty to embezzling $5,000, got a 45-day sentence and was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution. Then she went to work for a department store and stole $17,000 worth of merchandise and gift cards. Maybe that’s how she planned to pay the restitution.
  • Another bookkeeper took trips, bought expensive cars and had plastic surgery – while making about $20,000 in salary. Still another worked for a couple for 30 years, taking money all the while. His $1 million theft was only found out when the business owners wanted to sell the company and retire.

Unfortunately, these types of fraudulent activities by employees are not unusual. We just don’t hear about the thousands of incidents that go away quietly. Many stories are never reported to the press, because they are not reported to the police. Whether out of embarrassment or fear of harming their business, many companies deal with these crimes on their own.

But the publicity can be helpful to other small businesses, since they are the most likely to be victimized. With one person responsible for writing checks, making bank deposits and reconciling statements, fraud is much more likely. Splitting these duties reduces the risk, but small companies often cannot afford the extra personnel. Hiring an outside bookkeeper is one way to alleviate the problem.

Why do employees steal? They usually have three traits: opportunity, need and rationalization. It could look like this: Your cashier figures out a way to take money that you’ll never notice. He’s behind on his rent and needs cash. And besides, he works really hard and you don’t pay him enough. He gets away with it, so he does it again. And again. And before you know it, you’ve lost $20,000. You never imagined this person would do anything like this. Chances are, he never has before.

If your company is victimized by an employee, reporting the crime can protect other businesses. When employees are properly screened prior to being hired, a criminal background check will reveal any previous convictions. And when you’re ready to hire, make sure to run pre-employment background checks and credit checks—especially when you’re hiring a bookkeeper, cashier or any other position that has access to cash or bank information.

Hiring? Avoid Making These Types of People Your New Employees

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkIf you’re hiring, you’ll likely see all types of applicants. Some will be a good fit for your company, and some won’t. Some will help you weed them out with big red flags, like lying on their resumes, while others throw out little pink flags that are more difficult to spot. While they look great on paper and interview well, certain types of employees may prove to be more trouble than you expect. The impact can range from simple aggravation to permanent harm to your company, your reputation or your brand.

Three Types of Employees You Don’t Want to Hire

  • The first type to avoid is the employee who performs at the “just enough” level. They do just enough work to get by. They come in exactly on time, and leave just when the clock says their shift is over. They contribute just enough to the company culture, share just enough ideas and give just enough of themselves to help out fellow employees. While one of these types on staff probably won’t hurt your company, can you imagine if you had an entire “just enough” team? Avoid hiring this type of person.
  • Next, you might see the entitled type of employee. You might think you’re doing them a favor by hiring them, but their opinion is quite the opposite. They feel you owe them a job, and you’re the one who’s receiving the favor of them showing up for work. Soon, you’ll hear that they are not being paid enough, or that their job description doesn’t cover the tasks you’re asking them to perform. They may expect special treatment. Some view benefits like paid sick leave as just like vacation, and therefore theirs for the taking—whether they are sick or not.
  • The constant complainer is another potentially burdensome employee. When interviewing, ask lots of questions about why the applicant left his or her previous job, what they liked and did not like about it, the company, their supervisor and fellow employees Look for clues, which might range from negative comments about a previous boss or company, or even “joking” about the dress code. And ask about how much interaction they had with customers. An interviewee who complains about customers has his or her priorities in the wrong order.

While you might not discover these toxic types of employees until after they’ve been hired, if you can avoid them, you’ll be glad you did. And remember, employee pre-screening is a must to uncover any credit issues, an undisclosed criminal background or discrepancies that can indicate a potential problem employee.

Staples Survey Shows Holiday Gifts Boost Morale, Productivity

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

employee screening, pre-employment background checkEmployers often struggle with whether or not to buy gifts at the holidays for employees and customers. And if business is sluggish in this economy, it’s even more important to know if it’s a good move to spend precious funds on gifts.

A new survey by Staples, the office supply store, reveals that it could be worth the time and trouble to reward employees and show appreciation to customers at the holidays: because they like them. Even small gestures impact motivation and productivity among employees.

In the survey of 215 employees from companies of various sizes and across industries, 60% said they like their company more if they received a holiday gift. A huge majority (75%) said gifts improved employee morale, while one-third said they improved employee productivity.

As far as corporate gifts go, one in three respondents said receiving a gift from a business made them want to do business with them again in the future.

How can employers handle this without spending too much, or alienating customers and employees with the “wrong” gift? Here are some tips:

  • Plan early so you can personalize gifts with your logo, or come up with just the right gift for the right price. Waiting until the last minute almost ensures you will be forced to spend more money, make bad choices or be stuck with whatever’s left at the warehouse store.
  • Food is almost always appreciated. However, tread carefully when choosing food gifts. Keep diet and religious restrictions in mind. You can’t go wrong with healthy and fresh foods, such as fruit, or when you give a variety of foods in a basket so each recipient is able to enjoy something.
  • Employees often enjoy electronics. Depending on your budget, you could choose to give MP3 players, headphones or tablet PCs.
  • Gift cards are general enough to be enjoyed by nearly everyone.

Do you give your employees and customers gifts? Do you plan to do it this year? If not, why not?

Simple Employee Lessons From Trader Joe’s

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

screening employees, employee pre screening

Trader Joe’s is a popular and growing specialty grocery chain, with locations scattered from California to Rhode Island, Wisconsin to Arizona. Part of the store’s success is its company culture which landed it on Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work. Trader Joe’s believes that happy employees make customers happy, and happy customers spend more money and come back more often.

Here are some ways Trader Joe’s works to make employees happy:

  • At Trader Joe’s, employee are valued, not expendable. They treat employees like they want their employees to treat customers.
  • Opportunities are offered to everyone. Managers are promoted from within.
  • Training is extensive, and each employee learns about the specialty products in detail. They believe it makes their work more interesting, and helps them stick around longer than the average grocery store employee. Employees need to know what is expected of them, and Trader Joe’s has that covered.
  • While the number of employees in the store at any time may be few, in keeping with Trader Joe’s low-overhead approach, they are paid well. The company pays employees an average of $21 per hour, with health insurance and retirement benefits.
  • A cross-training environment means that job descriptions are not strictly followed, and store managers often work side-by-side with cashiers to restock shelves or sweep floors.
  • The collaborative, informal working environment allows crew members the freedom to be themselves and make their own decisions.
  • The company focuses on finding highly motivated people with a knack for customer service and a passion for food. Working with other highly motivated people is a real perk for everyone.

Trader Joe’s believes that your people are your brand. They trust their employees to make decisions and treat them with respect. They ask for and take employees’ contributions seriously. And they pay them well.

All of this employee goodwill creates loyal crew members who grow with the company. And customers can see the differences between Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores. Some call shopping there like being part of a club, and think it’s a cool place to work.

Many companies would love to hear their customers say things like this!