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Friday, February 21, 2014


A manager of a small business, who was obviously very busy as she was filling in for a shorthanded staff, told me that one of her employees had quit via a text before the shift was to start. Is this what can be expected of the new generation of workers? I don’t think the finer business schools are teaching students to avoid human contact. The cause may be due to a lack of business training or the product of informality that has beset the up and coming workforce. Either way the Millennial Generation will find a difficult way through their job searches until this form of communication is the norm.

The ability to text via a mobile phone has been available for the last 20 years although it has only recently hit its stride. Once standardized billing became available and texting became basically as free as a phone call, texting took off. In the last few years texting has become a common verb and replaced actual conversations. Jerry Seinfeld recently said, “Talking has become too much of an effort.”

Texting has availed us of the face-to-face confrontation and is seeping into the business world.
All of us have wanted to avoid an awkward conversation at one time or another. There are plenty of stories of love lives having ended via the text. But it’s not like your ex is going to be interviewed as to your qualifications as a companion. Well, maybe a dater’s resume does get around, but that doesn’t affect your livelihood. Some people will leave jobs on bad terms and then will list that job as a reference. One cannot expect a positive recommendation after quitting through a text.

How important are references to a job seeker? Very. References still play a big part in the application process. Most companies ask for character references and almost all ask for at least one contact from a former employer. And the fact that employers are asking isn’t just an empty question. They are checking with the contacts that are listed. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), close to 90 percent of HR professionals do check references and found that a little more than 50 percent of candidates had provided false information.

Whether the barista gig isn’t working or you have a lousy boss, leave any job with professionalism. Even burned bridges have a way of rebuilding themselves and hurting your chances at that dream job years later.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can I see some ID?

By now you’ve probably seen the video of the guy who crashed the Super Bowl MVP interview. Matthew Mills claimed to be a 9/11 “truther” and couldn’t believe it when he was able to get so close without proper credentials or reason to be there.

Mills was quickly apprehended and escorted out of the room. His post arrest statement explained how he had made it to the podium. Mills said he told officials that he was running late for work and had to get in. He was allowed to pass. Mills did not think that he would get as far as he did as he moved further and further through each level of security. Once past the final gate and into the stadium it was just a matter of jockeying to the podium.

The NFL and local law enforcement had concentric circles of security that had an extended perimeter well beyond the stadium. So how did an individual get so close as to snatch the microphone away from the podium? Apparently, walk fast and act like you belong came into play here as Mills just talked his way through.


Impostors are regularly in the news portraying doctors, lawyers, and professors. In 2009, Michaele and Tareq Salahi made headlines when they were found to have crashed a State dinner at the White House. Without invitations, they looked and dressed the part of invitees and were able to penetrate several layers of security. One the most famous imposters is Frank Abagnale. Abagnale impersonated airline pilots, doctors, and attorneys, all before his capture at the age of 21. He simply looked and acted the parts. It’s how phone scammers are able to get people to wire their life savings to a complete stranger. They are confident and convincing in whatever it is they’re selling.

Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying, “Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.”

Everyone falls for a scam of one kind or another at some point. Whether it’s helping a Nigerian prince get his money to safety or giving money to a panhandler, we all have either fallen for it or been hit on. Why does it work? Most people are trusting and want to see the good in others. We trust authority and are vulnerable to financial gain. When you get a call from a “reputable” company announcing a refund you’re more likely to give up personal information.

Matthew Mills probably caught security at just the right moment. The big game is over and suddenly someone rushes up excitedly saying he’s late and needs to get to his job. The game is over. Who’d be trying to sneak in then?

You don’t have to be gullible to be taken by con artists. Even the FBI and Secret Service have their moments. Remember, just because someone “looks or speaks the part” doesn’t mean it’s true. A lot of times a few questions will get through their mask.

Keep your guard up and be safe.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Have you been convicted of a crime?

convicted of a crime, ban the box
Screening job applicants to find the most qualified for the job is becoming more difficult. In addition to skills and qualifications, employers are under pressure to also consider safety for their current employees by not introducing a potentially violent person to the work environment. Employers conduct pre employment screenings, which include criminal records, to provide them with the information necessary to make those decisions. However, most employers fall into the trap of making decisions based on the findings of the screening, and not the qualifications or character of the applicant. This type of hiring practice can open the employer to litigation and sanctions from Federal authorities.

Law enforcement strategies of the past twenty years has gone through different variants of zero tolerance policing and stricter enforcement of quality of life crimes. Then there is the ongoing war on drugs. These strategies have increased the chance that employers will encounter an applicant with some sort of criminal record. It is becoming the rarity, rather than the norm, that applicants would have no involvement in the criminal justice system.

A recent study published in the journal Crime and Punishment addressed the number of young people who have some sort of arrest record, other than traffic. The findings were based on an annual Bureau of labor Statistics survey of 7000 young people who answered questions between 1997 and 2008. The authors found that 49% of African American men, 44% of Hispanic men, and 38% of Caucasian men have been arrested by the age of 23. For women the numbers were slightly lower-20% African American, 18% Caucasian, and 18% Hispanic.

Ban the box

The “Ban the Box” movement advocates the removal of the employment application question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime”. Advocates would rather the applicant have the opportunity for a face-to-face interview before the discussion of criminal records or background checks take place. Ten states currently have statewide “ban the box” laws for public employment applications. Of these ten states, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island have banned the box for private employers as well.

There are currently fifty-six jurisdictions in twenty-two states that have enacted ban the box laws. This number is growing annually, in November 2012 there were forty-six. These jurisdictions in the Mid-Atlantic region have enacted laws: Maryland, Baltimore, Wilmington, DE, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond.

Corporations are beginning to catch on also. In October 2013, Minnesota based Target Corporation enacted policy that removes the criminal question from their application.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has endorsed the idea of “banning the box”. The EEOC is clear in its position on employers’ use of criminal background checks for employee hiring and retention, stating, “Using such records as an absolute measure to prevent an individual from being hired could limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and thus cannot be used in this way.” The EEOC specifically addresses the consideration of criminal records in its updated Enforcement Guidance published in 2012. The guidelines suggest that employers consider the nature of the job, the seriousness of the offense, and the length of time since the offense occurred. Also, employers should include an individualized assessment that allows the applicant to speak to the circumstances of the record. The EEOC is specific that criminal records only be used as they pertain to the job being sought and cannot be used against an individual without the consideration of other factors.

Banning is a strong word and does not mean that employers cannot view criminal records during the hiring process. Employers do have to be educated on how the records are used. Realizing the difference between an arrest and conviction and understanding the EEOC guidelines and Fair Credit Reporting Act as they apply to hiring will keep employers from incorrect use of records.  

The evolving school of thought is that criminal records be discussed after the personal interview and review of qualifications. An established hiring process and detailed documentation as to the decisions made all go a long way in supporting the employer’s final assessments.