A football coach, a couple of high profile CEOs, and you:  What do they have in common?  Perhaps nothing.  Then again, if you decide to make false claims on your resume, you could someday face the music like these folks have been forced to, and the end result is that you’ll likely lose your job.

People have been embellishing resumes for decades.  The GPA gets adjusted upwards, the college coursework becomes a degree, the undergraduate degree becomes the MBA – but is it worth it?  In today’s world, where a simple Google search can tell people more about you than you’d care to admit, the potential risks to resume dishonesty seem far more painful than the possible upside.  You may not realize it, but most employers state somewhere in their application and/or offer letter that false information (or the omission of relevant information) is sufficient cause for discharge.  You could be happily employed, loving your job and moving up the proverbial career ladder when suddenly it all falls apart because of something you forgot about the moment you completed your new hire paperwork.

George O’Leary was hired to be Notre Dame’s new head football coach in 2001.  O’Leary lasted all of five days, and it was his resume that was his undoing.  He had claimed to have been a player at UNH when he had not played, and he listed a graduate degree from NYU-Stony Brook (this school does not even exist) when he had actually only taken classes (at NYU).  Neither of these inaccuracies were position requirements; O’Leary had already been a successful coach at Georgia Tech, and he was being hired because of his coaching prowess – not his graduate degree.  But the inaccuracies trumped his accomplishments.  Once it was learned that he had lied about his background, his chance to succeed in his dream job was done.  He was fired.

The CEO of Radio Shack resigned six years ago after it was learned that he did not possess a college degree as claimed on his resume.  David Edmondson had the backing of the Board of Directors, but chose to resign rather than deal with the ramifications of his actions.  The CEO of Yahoo was forced to resign this year after overstating his accomplishments at college thirty-plus years ago; this scandal also took out a senior executive who was held accountable for failing to do a proper and exhaustive background check.

Next time you are tempted to “embellish”, resist the temptation!  If there is something in your background that you are less than proud of, try to make the best of it.  Lying may work for a while, but do you really want to be in a situation where at any given moment, the phone could ring and you could be out of a job?  It’s not worth it.  Some suggestions:

-If you did not graduate from college and you feel like you need a degree, go back to school part-time.  You will then be able to honestly say that you are working towards your degree in “x”.

-If there are extracurricular activities that you’d benefit from having been a part of, do your best to address them today.  Maybe you weren’t a part of the drama club in high school – but you can join a community theater group today.

-If you had a short stint at a job, regardless of the reason, don’t be tempted to lengthen the dates on your resume – be honest.  It’s ok to de-emphasize, just don’t be dishonest.  The background check will pick that up almost without fail.  Same is true about salary details – don’t overstate, as some companies will confirm final salary as well.

-If you don’t like the story your resume tells, write a different type of resume.  You don’t have to do a traditional chronological resume; sometimes a functional resume (focusing on skill sets rather than experience) will be a better option.

Finally, when you are thinking to yourself that “it will never happen to me”, think back to the above examples.  No doubt those folks thought it would never happen to them either.

Every year around this time, businesses scramble to get performance reviews completed for all of their employees.  Many managers abhor the process from start to finish – and wonder why they have to spend countless hours writing and delivering reviews at a time when there are so many other pressing issues.

Although I sympathize with folks that hate the process, complaining won’t get us too far.  Here are my thoughts around making the performance review process a worthwhile one for both the employee and the manager:

Remember why you are doing the review.  A review should accomplish two things: it should give the employee relevant, honest, and open feedback about their performance, and it should help the employee understand how they can either continue to succeed and/or how they can improve there performance.  Always keep this is mind as you put the review together.  Ask yourself if you are accomplishing what you set out to as you build and deliver the review.

There should never be any negative surprises.  If you are using the review meeting to deliver negative feedback, the employee must know that their performance is lacking prior to sitting down for their annual review.  Feedback throughout the year, both positive and negative, should be occurring.  If it is not, you may consider re-setting your expectations at the review meeting, and letting the employee know that – from this point forward – your requirements and performance expectations include x, y, and z (whatever they may be).  Many folks use the review as the time to deliver negative feedback that is being heard for the first time.  To me, this accomplishes very little.  The employee is demotivated, and his performance may further suffer. The manager, on the other hand, will face resistance from their HR and Legal teams if they try to swiftly move the under-performing employee out.  Why?  Because there hadn’t been anything put in writing previously, and the employee didn’t know that they were not meeting expectations until the review meeting.  As a manager, you are not operating from a position of strength if you go this route – and you’re really not accomplishing anything positive for the employee or the business.

The review should cover the whole year.  Do not be too swayed by things that happened recently nor should something that happened before the review period even began come into play.  Make every effort to base your review on the whole year, with equal importance being given to each month or quarter.

Use the process to your advantage.  If there are skills that have been showcased that will help the department or the team improve its productivity, provide feedback to that extent; then set the employee up to continue developing these skills in the next year.

Listen to your people.  Most of us do not like it when a review is one-sided.  We want our manager to listen to us; we want the process to seem like it is almost 50/50.  You can bet your employee wants that too.  Let him or her tell you what is on their mind.  Be open to feedback.  Allow them to tell you how they want to develop – and help them get there.  Walking out of a review meeting should be positive for most people; yet often, the opposite is true, and good employees start to think about looking elsewhere.  That’s the last thing that we want most of our employees to be thinking.

When all is said and done, doing all of your annual reviews will likely still be painful.  You will spend a lot of time doing rewrites, juggling everything else on your calendar, and trying to pay attention to your “day” job; but making the review process something that becomes a positive experience for your employees will pay off for everyone concerned – including you.

Today in Chicago, Sam Hurd, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Chicago Bears, was arrested and charged with conspiring to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute.  Given that the charges were against a man who is employed in one of the highest profile workplaces in America, the news traveled with incredible speed.  Just a few hours later, a Google search of “Sam Hurd” resulted in multiple pages of links to stories detailing his arrest.  No doubt this will be a big story both locally in Chicago and nationally.  As I read all of these reports, I wonder if people are prepared to deal with something like this if it were to happen in their own workplace.  What would you do?  How would you manage it?  Do you even know where to begin?

Many employers will manage situations where an employee is arrested just as they would for any other unexcused absence.  They may place a limit on the number of unexcused absences that an employee can accumulate; anything over that number would result in termination.  Or, they may look towards their personal leave policy (assuming they have one).  They might choose to categorize the time that the employee is away as “unpaid personal leave”; after all, the employee has been charged – but not convicted.  The company’s position may be that the absences related to the arrest be treated just like any other emergency need for time off that is not covered by local, state of federal leave legislation.  Sometimes, situations may arise where an employee is accused of something that is so reprehensible that the company’s reputation is negatively impacted.  In these cases, it is absolutely critical that you work with your HR Consultant as well as legal counsel before taking action.  You may choose to place someone on a paid leave of absence while you make your decision, keeping in mind the possibility that the charges could be unfounded or flat-out made up, but understanding that many are watching to see how you respond.   Assuming a case goes to trial, you may choose to manage absences as per policy.  If the employee has available time, you may allow them to take it.  If they do not, and they don’t have other options available (personal leave, etc), you may have to terminate them.  In the event that the employee is not convicted, they can reapply for employment just like any other former employee.  Again, any decision to terminate should be done with legal counsel’s full review and approval.

As is often the case when thinking about how something like this might impact your workplace, it is better to be prepared than not.  Talking about these potential scenarios, reviewing your options, and adding language to your employee handbook is strongly advised.  Then, in the event that something like this happens at your company, you will know how to address it without having to scramble.

 

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As an HR Consultant who works with hiring managers a lot, I hear many stories about the mistakes job candidates make in the interview process.  You’ve no doubt read or heard similar things in the past, but it may be worth revisiting.  If you know someone who is relatively new to the working world and could use a little guidance, please pass this along.

First and foremost, be on time!   I can’t believe how many hiring managers have related stories to me about candidates showing up late.  There really is no excuse for this, and even if you are a perfect match for the job, you’ll be putting yourself in a hole you may not be able to dig yourself out of by arriving late.  If you are running late for whatever the reason, contact the recruiter or the hiring manager and let them know.  Do not make up an excuse about a traffic problem if none exists – one manager I worked with recently was told that traffic on the interstate was horrible – he instantly jumped on line and checked the live traffic cams.  Guess what – no traffic.  Needless to say, the candidate did not get a job offer.  As a job seeker, do yourself a favor:  A day or two before the interview, do a trial run so you know how long it will take to get to the office.  On the day of the interview, leave an hour early (if possible) so you have nothing to worry about.  Once you arrive, find a spot nearby where you can relax, prepare, and have a snack. Do not go into the office until just a few minutes before your scheduled meeting time – candidates arriving early can be unnerving for the hiring manager (arriving too early can be almost as problematic for the interviewer as arriving late.)

Dress professionally.  I work with many different companies, from start-ups to construction to professional services firms, and I have yet to meet a hiring manager who was offended by someone wearing a suit.  Of course, if you are told beforehand to dress down (to be clear, this does not mean ripped jeans and a Bob Marley t-shirt), you should do so – but in nearly all other settings, a professional look is appropriate.  If you have non-traditional body piercings, you might consider taking a conservative approach on the day of your interview.

Be prepared.  You need to know the company you are interviewing with.  By all means, take advantage of the company’s website.  Get to know their business, their competition, their challenges and opportunities.  Ask intelligent questions that make it clear that you know something about who they are.

Candidates that start every sentence with “I” do not fare well with a lot of hiring managers.  It’s great to speak of personal accomplishments, but don’t forget to find away to introduce “we” into the mix.  When speaking of past work, try to draw on team victories.  Maybe you worked on a project with some other folks and you were able to solve a problem that had been a thorn in the company’s side for a long time.  Bring this up.

You will likely be asked many questions about previous work experiences.  Under no circumstance should you trash talk your past employers.  Even if you feel like you have a great rapport with the interviewer, stay away from any negative talk about previous managers or companies – ask yourself “what good can this do”?  Find positives, focus on them, and steer the conversation back to an area where you are more comfortable.

Discussing your needs around compensation, time off and benefits is not a good idea.  There is a time and a place for that, and the interview setting is typically not it.  If the interviewer brings the subject of compensation up, of course you should be honest around your needs – but you might want to be more general than specific.

Finally, unplug for the interview!  Your smart phone/I-Pad/cell phone should remain in the car if at all possible.  If you must carry it with you, make triple-sure that it is off.  Even when sitting in the waiting area prior to your meeting, you should be wary about using your device.  All of your attention needs to be on the interview – the email, voicemail, or latest Facebook post can wait.

I hope this is helpful – and I’d love to hear about other interview mistakes and/or tips if you have them.

 

 

 

 

 

This week has given us compelling evidence that news can still shock us to our very core.  Until a few days ago, Penn State football was all about Joe Paterno – how long will he stay on as coach, is this his last year, etc – and can the football team run the table in the Big Ten and end up as an unlikely champion.

Now, when we hear “Joe Paterno” and “Penn State”, our thoughts go about as far away from a game being played in Beaver Stadium as they possibly could. Now we think “child abuse” and “cover-up.”  We wonder how something so heinous as the rape of a child can go unnoticed by so many.  How people in positions of authority could possess such information and either not do anything with it or not follow up on it? Sadly, the events and revelations of the last few days have been so explosive that they have knocked college football out of the sports pages and onto the front pages of the entire nation’s newspapers for all of the wrong reasons.  Instead of debating who should play in the national championship game – a trivial matter, for sure – we are now debating who should be on trial for what, and what Joe Paterno’s legacy should be.

I won’t rehash the sordid details, but I will point out what troubles me most about this story:  All managers – be they front-line supervisors, C-level executives, or college football coaches – should understand that they have a responsibility to address inappropriate or illegal behaviors – be they policy violations, actions that could be considered to be harassing or discriminatory, or serious criminal issues such as sexual assaults.  Once they become aware of the behavior – whether by observing it themselves or being told about it by someone else – they have a responsibility to make sure that the matter if fully investigated and/or addressed by the appropriate authorities.  Your front-line supervisor may not end up doing the investigating, of course – but I would absolutely expect that they follow up and confirm that whatever they reported was managed all the way through to the end. This is basic HR 101 Training.

In the Penn State case, it seems that many people were aware of despicable criminal behavior – and either did not follow through to make sure the proper authorities (i.e. the police) intervened or simply chose, for whatever reason, to ignore the crimes.  The story has stunned me from the moment details began to emerge.  If we expect a 20-year old line supervisor at a fast-food franchise to understand what steps to take when they observe or become aware of policy violations or criminal behavior, should we not expect the same from a head football coach, his athletic director, and anyone else associated with this story?  I would hope so.

Many will speak of Joe Paterno’s legacy in upcoming days and months.  My hope is that his true legacy will be that people will learn from his mistakes.  That others will remember what happened to such a proud man in what should have been one of the most rewarding times of his entire career.  That people will fully comprehend their responsibilities as leaders going forward – and will respond forcefully and appropriately to any details such as what Paterno learned back in 2002.  As sad as it may seem to Penn State fans and alumni right now, that legacy may be far more important than 409 football victories ever could be.

 

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You are at the office on a random Monday morning and you find yourself looking at various news sites to catch up on what’s going on after your relaxing weekend out of town.  On the local newspaper’s site, you are stunned to see a picture of one of your better employees angrily shouting at police officers during what was apparently a tense moment in a weekend rally.  Suddenly, your time away seems like it was 15 years ago.  You’re mentally preparing for the fallout – the employee’s no-show, or the “sick” call.  Maybe the company president will be calling soon – who knows.  A few minutes later, the employee breezes in, waves hello with a smile, and goes to his cube.  Now what?

In an environment such as today’s, sooner or later you may face a situation similar to the above.  If and when this happens, you should be prepared for how you might manage it.  The key question is this: is there anything that really needs to be done to begin with?  Was a policy violated?  Did an arrest occur?  Did the employee damage your firm’s reputation?  Before you start thinking of what you need to do, you better understand the situation in its entirety.

Nobody wants to deal with issues that occur outside of the office, but sometimes we have no choice.  If someone gets a ticket for speeding on a random Tuesday night, of course we do not worry – but if someone gets pulled over for driving under the influence, we might have to deal with it (particularly if the employee loses his or her license and needs to drive a company vehicle for their job).  If one of your people is involved in a domestic call that results in nothing more than an entry in the local police log, your company might not ever find out about it – but if the same domestic issue results in an arrest, a stint in the local lock-up, and a charge of spousal / domestic abuse, you might find yourself discussing options with your HR Consultant and your in-house legal counsel.  The reality is that nearly every situation has to be looked at individually.

Now, back to your Monday morning problem – what do you do?  I’d suggest you take a very conservative approach here.  Unless the employee has done something that causes significant problems for your company – or there are serious criminal charges that they face as a result of their behavior – I think you lay low.  A person’s behavior outside of work certainly does have to be addressed by the employer at times, but employers have to be wary of infringing on the rights we have as Americans.  You may or may not support the cause that they are so passionate about, but that shouldn’t be the issue.  (Of course if a person is passionately demonstrating his or her support for something that is against the law  – for instance, demonstrating against an entire race or religion – my advice would be markedly different.)

The bottom line:  as long as your employee is not breaking the law, is not allowing their external behaviors to impact their ability to come in to work and effectively get the job done,  is not deliberately causing the company harm, and is not misrepresenting the company’s viewpoint, then I suggest you stay out of it as the employer.

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Human Resources is a much-maligned business function – tolerated by some, despised by others, and embraced by few.  Most acknowledge that a company needs a Human Resources department, but many likely wish that wasn’t the case.  In short, HR is often seen as a necessary evil.

What many miss, though, is the positive impact a strong HR presence can have on a company.  No matter the size of your firm, if you have a strong and positive partnership with HR, you can run circles around your competition.

Effective training can help build skills amongst your employees which will both raise individual performance level and help keep your best employees engaged.  Training around employment law and compliance issues (such as Sexual Harassment Prevention training) can help greatly minimize the threat of lawsuits that could severely impact your company.

Managing employee relations issues in a firm and consistent manner will help you steer clear of wrongful termination suits and other employee actions against your company.  Company leaders will need to work closely with their HR people in order to ensure that any issues are managed fairly and appropriately.

A strong recruiting function can help your company bring new employees on who are strong fits both with the position requirements and the company culture.  The cost of turnover is far higher than most people understand – equal at a minimum to the annual salary of the person who leaves.  Limiting turnover and making sure you are hiring the right people to begin with can result in a huge positive contribution to your company’s bottom-line.

If you are big enough to have an HR department, you should make sure that your partnership with them is as productive as it should be.  If it is not, you might consider a meeting to “start over” and re-set your expectations.  If your firm does not have an HR department and you are considering hiring someone for help with your training, consulting or recruiting needs, make sure you gain a full understanding of who they are and how they work.  If you get the impression that they will truly partner with you, great; however, if you sense an air of superiority or an unwillingness to be a true business partner, I’d suggest you move on to the next person on your list!

In a press release dated Thursday, September 8, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Walgreens for Disability Discrimination in the aftermath of the termination of one of the chain’s employees in South San Francisco, CA (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-8-11c.cfm for the actual release.)

Based on the lawsuit which has been filed, it appears that Walgreens fired an employee who had nearly 18 years of service because she took a bag of chips without paying for them right away.  The employee, Josefina Hernandez, suffers from diabetes, and claimed she needed to eat something right away to offset her low blood sugar.  Josefina ate the chips, felt better, paid for her chips at her first opportunity, and finished her shift.

The case is interesting, and the details that have been released by the EEOC might suggest that Walgreens is in a situation where they are liable to win the battle but lose the proverbial war.  Without knowing the employer’s side of the story, one might assume that Walgreens has a zero tolerance policy for employee theft.  Certainly, an employer of their size could face many issues with dishonest employees – with over 8,000 stores, one can imagine the difficulties the corporation would face if just one employee at each of their stores were to routinely steal from them.  So, perhaps this Walgreens faced a situation where they had an employee who was observed taking an item without paying for it.  Consider their predicament – maybe they had recently fired someone else for the same type of transgression.  No matter that the employee later paid for the item – their take might be that the policy is that you never take anything without paying first, period. If that’s the case, the employee has to be fired, right?

If the above is true, then Walgreens may well have terminated Josefina for a violation of a zero-tolerance policy.  The catch, though, is that the “violation” is seen by the EEOC as something that should have been considered to be a reasonable accommodation for an employee protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Anyone suffering from a disability that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, breathing, etc.) may be protected by the ADA – and the ADA requires that employers offer these employees reasonable accommodations so that they may complete their job responsibilities. So, this may come down to whether or not the courts believe that allowing an employee to take (and eat) something without first paying for it (presumably a violation of company policy) should be considered to be a reasonable accommodation.  If this is the court’s read on the case, Walgreens may be in trouble.

Many more details may lurk beneath the surface, of course – and it is likely that Walgreens will have a significantly different take on the episode – but this case highlights the dangers that any company can face if they don’t look at all employee relations issues from every possible angle.  Disciplining an employee for what seems to be a clear-cut violation of company policy can sometimes backfire.  You should always make every effort to consider all details that may be relevant.  Is there a potential ADA implication? Have we had other employees do the same thing – and not disciplined them?  Does the employee have protection for an absence from a state or federal leave policy?  All of these – and many other questions – should be carefully reviewed.  Talk to your HR Consultant before you do anything – discipline doesn’t have to be immediate.  Make sure you know all of the facts before you act – and you may ultimately prevent a situation (and the negative publicity that goes along with it) such as the one Walgreens is presently facing.

 

Many were recently impacted when Hurricane Irene came up the east coast.  Most businesses were lucky in that the storm hit on the weekend, so in a majority of cases, companies did not face a situation where they were telling their customers and employees that they were closing for the day (or two).  Imagine, though, that the storm hit on a Monday and Tuesday instead.  States of Emergencies were being declared, public transit was shutting down, officials were warning people to stay off the roads – so you make the decision to close.  Now the question of pay comes in – do you have to pay your staff for their scheduled hours?

In most cases, following the guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will point you in the right direction.  The FLSA governs employment classification and payment of wages.  In most cases, your exempt employees (those who are “salaried” and who do not have to be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40) must be paid if they worked any part of the regular work week.  Your non-exempt employees (non-salaried, eligible for overtime) typically do not HAVE to be paid; however many companies will provide some sort of wage relief for those impacted by natural disaster situations.

Assuming you have a population that you are NOT required to pay, I’d suggest you think long and hard before making a determination that they will go without compensation of some sort.  Clearly, if you cannot afford to pay them for hours they did not work, then so be it.  But, if you have any financial flexibility, paying your non-exempt staff for scheduled hours in an emergency closing situation might pay off in a big way down the road.  If your employees understand that they are not entitled to pay – yet you chose to pay them anyhow – you might build loyalty in your staff that is hard to measure yet undeniably beneficial.  Whatever you do should be done across the board – do not pick and choose to pay only those who “deserve” it – that can only lead to problems down the line.  When in doubt, ask your HR Consultant or poll your friends to find out what other companies are doing.

No question there will be many more times that you may face a situation where you have to close unexpectedly.  You may consider putting an official policy together to address these situations, but you should recognize that you may not be able to envision every scenario that could some day present itself – so I’d tread carefully on the policy front if it were me.  The bottom line – try to prepare in advance, make sure you stay within any laws that might impact your business, maintain consistent practices through each occurrence, and you should be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been on both sides of the recruiting fence during my career, and I am constantly amazed at the way some people choose to treat recruiters who reach out to them.  If someone contacts you and you have no desire to hear about whatever opportunity they might be trying to interest you in, it seems to me that you’d be wise to respond with professionalism and courtesy.  Certainly, in the event that the recruiter is boorish or rude or very clearly utilizing some sort of auto-dialer, then your response may change.  But, assuming the person who contacts you is respectful towards you, I’d suggest that you treat them well in return.

Some might wonder why I feel so strongly about this.  My position is that the connections and networking you make when you are NOT looking for a new opportunity are the ones that will matter most if and when you ever do look for something different.  If you consider that the recruiter who contacts you with an opportunity you are not interested in today may well have the key to the dream job that you hear about tomorrow, you will understand what I am saying.  New jobs are far more about networking than people sometimes understand.  You can look at a position description and say “this job is perfect for me” – but your resume may never see the desk of the hiring manager unless you have a strong network.  One of the keys to a strong network is staying in touch with and being responsive to recruiters. Choosing to ignore a recruiter today may have negative consequences tomorrow – you never know who might be on the other side of the email address that you send your resume to with high hopes.  And, critically, you may never even hear about the “dream job” to begin with – the recruiter may simply go to his or her contacts and reach out to them directly.

I fully understand that everyone is busy these days, and your in-box can see 50, 100, or many more emails each day.  Your phone may ring off the hook.  But, if you have ever been out of work or desperately trying to find a better job, you should understand that the lack of emails and lack of phone calls when you are on a job search can be far more maddening than anything you face when you are happily employed.  So, when you see that email from the recruiter asking you for referrals, or you hear that voicemail asking for a call back, do your future self a favor and find the time to answer the email or return the call.  One day, you’ll be glad you did.

 

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