Hire for Culture

Dear, Anita,

I am interviewing for a replacement member of our team and have narrowed it down to the two top applicants. They are equally qualified in almost every way. How do I decide between two really stellar candidates?

Dear, (Eenie, Meanie, Miney,) Moe,

Square Peg in a Round HoleWhat a great problem to have! I often hear complaints that there are not enough qualified applicants for open positions.

It sounds like you have thoroughly analyzed their hard skills, but what about their soft skills and interpersonal rapport? These traits can be harder to quantify. You want to make sure the potential hire is a good fit with your company’s culture – the tacit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of your organization’s management and employees.

If you haven’t already, invite both to interview with your manager, HR supervisor, or even the company president. (If you are the head honcho, schedule another informal interview in a more relaxed setting, such as a coffee shop, to get a different take.) Here are some sample questions used to determine cultural fit:

  • Tree_iStock_000021275060Describe the work environment and management style with which you are most productive and happy.
  • How would your coworkers describe your work style and role within the team?
  • What is most important to you in making your next career move – money, recognition, stability, challenge, or environment?
  • What motivates you to come to work every day?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What is your super power?

Try to avoid nebulous questions like Barbara Walters’ infamous, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” or just plain odd questions like Stanford University’s “Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” unless you work for Marvel or DC Comics.

After the interviews with other managers, confab to get their impressions of the two candidates. You don’t want to make a decision solely on the fact that one candidate likes the same football team as the rest of you, but the applicant who is sports-oriented may fit in to your company more readily than the equally-capable bookworm.

Arrange for each applicant to spend a few hours or a half day shadowing the employee they are replacing or attending a department meeting. While they’re bound to be a little nervous and may not be able participate fully, you’ll get valuable insight seeing them interact with your team. And they may self-select out once they see what it’s really like in the trenches! Cultural fit is a two-way street.

There is no clear-cut test for cultural congruence. When it comes down to it, you’ll need to make a gut decision between two awesome candidates. Chances are, either one will work out, but paying closer attention to the culture issue could make all the difference.

Readers: How does your company screen for a cultural fit?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Stay or Quit?

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been unhappy at my current job for a while. I am butting heads with my moody supervisor, and the daily grind (not to mention the commute) is getting me down. But I make decent money and have pretty good benefits. How do I decide whether to stick it out or quit?

Dear, On the Fence,
IOn_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Smallf, like The Clash, you are asking yourself “Should I stay or should I go?,” take the time to write a list of the positives and negatives. Sometimes the grass looks greener elsewhere because you are stewing on the few aspects of your job that get you down instead of ruminating on all the plusses. Putting it down on paper – or in Excel – may lead to a visual “aha” moment.

An online decision tool like helpMYdecision adds weight to each factor in the choice. Are your salary and benefits extremely important (10) or not very (1)? (Answer this after looking at your monthly bills.) Does working at something meaningful rank higher than money for you? Is a more cooperative relationship with a boss a 7, a shorter commute a 5 or an 8? Does having an office with a window versus a cubicle not matter at all to you? After weighting the determinants, rate your current situation then let the computer give you its “Best Choice.”  Sometimes, when we ask advice, we are really just seeking validation for the choice we’ve subconsciously made. So take notice if you think hooray! when the decision appears, or if you feel disappointed. Then go with your gut.

Manager_Employee_Serious_SpeakIf you’ve decided to stay, see what you can do to repair your relationship with your boss. Relationships are based on trust. Can your boss count on you to do your assigned tasks? It’s even better if you “go the extra mile.” It’s your job to make your supervisor look good to her superiors and/or customers.  Perhaps her bad moods crop up after she’s had an unpleasant interaction with her boss over problems or productivity issues.  She’s only human and may unwittingly take it out on those around her. Try the “kill her with kindness” approach, no matter her mood. Find something – anything – to compliment. It may not happen overnight, but you may be surprised how a little positivity can change a relationship or an entire workplace.

If and when you leave your current job, don’t burn any bridges. Use that 2-week notice timeframe to tie up any loose ends and leave your replacement with an organized desk and files. Telling your supervisor exactly what you think of her management style on your last day won’t really help you or her.

But don’t leave until you’ve found another position. It’s easier to find a job if you have a job (there’s some psychology at play – if you’re currently employed, you’re obviously a desirable hire.)  And it may take you longer than you think to obtain better employment. Keep your pro and con list in mind when searching for a new job to keep from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Readers: Are you contemplating quitting your job? Why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Rapid Resignation

Hi, Anita. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and many of your tips helped me to land a job about a month ago. I was so thankful to finally get a job, but as it turns out, I’m not really happy there. I’m not fulfilled by what I’m doing and want to get out before I get entrenched. I also want my boss to be able to go back to the other candidates she interviewed before they accept other jobs. Is it okay to email my boss this weekend and let her know I won’t be coming back on Monday?

quit

Dear, Rapid Resigner,

No! It’s never okay to email your boss your resignation, no matter how good your intentions. Not only is it disrespectful and unprofessional, but you are putting your boss in the really bad position of finding herself an employee down without having any notice to create a transition plan. Finally, it’s hard on the team you leave behind because they will have to pick up the slack you just dumped in their laps.

If you are unhappy in your current position, you have every right to make a change. Just be careful in the way you go about it. First of all, if you feel you can talk to your boss about what is making you unhappy, do so. Make sure you’re clear about specific grievances, and give your boss a chance to understand what you would like to see happen going forward. She doesn’t have to change anything, in which case you are justified in your resignation, and she won’t be surprised. However, you may be surprised yourself! If she respects the work you’ve been doing and wants to keep you on the team, she may be able to adjust some things so you feel better about them.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to your boss about your issues, or if you simply don’t want to go through the hassle of trying to work through them with her, at least give her the courtesy of 1-2 weeks’ notice before your last day. That way, she can transition you out and find a replacement for the position. By not giving proper notice, you are truly burning a bridge that may come back to haunt you later on. After all, it’s a small world; you never know what future employer may know your boss and ask her about you. Read more about professional resignations in my post “Building, Not Burning, Bridges.”

I know things may seem bad at your new job, and you may not think you can take it a second longer. In that case, if you really feel you need to give less than two weeks’ notice, you still need to approach your boss in person and let her know when your last day will be. Most bosses will understand that it’s not a good fit (as a matter of fact, dollars to doughnuts, they had realized the same thing already) and wish you well – so long as you don’t let YOUR door hit THEM in the behind on your way out.

Thanks for being such a loyal reader, Rapid. I hope you’ll take this piece of advice to heart as well.

Anita

Readers – have you ever known of anyone who simply emailed in their resignation and gave their boss no notice? What was the fallout – on both the manager’s and former employee’s sides?

Putting a Stop to Stealing

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

Employee theft has become a topic of discussion lately at my company, as we are evaluating how to reduce costs and increase profitability. What tips do you have to help prevent and stop theft in the workplace?

Stealing 2Hi, Office Police:

Theft in the workplace costs businesses massive amounts of money every year. A package of pens here or there could seem pretty harmless, right? Wrong. If you start to think that your employees wouldn’t possibly steal from you, well think again.

American Databank estimates that:

  • Employee theft costs U.S. companies over $120 billion a year.
  • 95% of all companies are victims of theft.
  • Only 10% of employee theft is actually discovered.
  • Over 2 million crimes occur in the workplace annually.

These statistics are hard to swallow but are important to keep in mind when deciding to develop a stringent anti-theft policy. Here are my tips to help prevent these problems from even making their way into your workforce.

  • Conduct pre-employment screenings. This includes verifying experience, contacting references, conducting criminal background checks, and administering drug tests. As Stealinghard as it is to believe, up to 40% of information on applications and résumés is falsified or misrepresented. Companies like Select Staffing conduct extensive screenings before placing seekers on assignment with a client.
  • Develop and clearly post your zero-tolerance theft policy. Ensure that all employees are informed of your expectations and the consequences of stealing or ignoring theft by other co-workers.
  • Install surveillance cameras in areas that are prone to theft. These areas could include your supply/stock room, employee break room, parking lots, sales floor, or back office. These alone are a huge deterrent to thievery.
  • Implement several steps of controls and auditing into your standard routine. Have reports created and pulled that evaluate inventory levels and cash inflows/outflows.
  • Have auditors from an independent agency audit and evaluate your financial records.
  • Only hire bonded employees for positions where they will manage company finances and inventories. This will protect your company in the event of loss through the employee’s actions.

Employers and managers, what do you do to prevent theft in your place of business? Have you had to terminate an employee for stealing?

Best wishes,

Anita

Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

One of my co-workers always shows up to work right at 8:00 a.m. and clocks in. After she makes her mark on the time card, she is out the door to park her car in the lot down the street and then to the cafeteria to get breakfast. By the time she actually starts working, it is at least 30 minutes past. Is it just me or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?

Dear, Time Sensitive:Time

What a great question! This applies to everyone from employees and supervisors to managers and business owners. Your belief that this practice is unethical is spot on. The official term for this type of behavior is “time theft.” Time theft happens when an employee is paid by their employer for work that has not actually been done. Many people may not even know they are doing something wrong but, in reality, they are costing their employers thousands of dollars a year.

There are a few types of time theft that everyone should be aware of. Your employees, co-workers, and even you may be guilty of time crimes.

  • Time Clock Theft: Employees who do not show up for their scheduled shift and have a friend clock in for them are committing time card fraud. This can also include our reader’s co-worker who comes in to work and clocks in but gets to work later than the start of hershift. Most of us are not being paid just to be in the building. We are paid to work and produce results. Forging time sheets to show additional hours worked is another way that unethical employees are trying to cheat the system.
  • Excessive Personal Time: Most managers and employers understand that their employees have lives outside of their jobs that may require attention during work hours from time to time. But when this becomes a routine, that is where the time theft concern arises. Non-work-related calls, emails, personal discussions, and social networking are the primary time wasters that are making employers pay the price.
  • Over-Extended Breaks: Employees are due a break or two during their shift according to federal labor laws. The most common instances of time theft occur when employees either take more breaks than allotted during their shift, do not clock out for breaks that they take, or extend the break time without making up the time.
  • Using Sick Time Inappropriately: Sick time is set aside to help employees in the event that they are ill and cannot be at work. Sometimes, employees will use these days to receive pay when they are taking a personal day off.

For a better understanding of how much these small actions can affect your productivity and profitability, take a look at the following chart from Acroprint. It shows how much arriving even five minutes late and leaving five minutes early can cost employers on a typical, full-time (250-day) work year.

Number of employees

2

5

10

25

50

Hourly Pay

Cost/Minute

Profit Loss

$8.00

$0.1333

$1,333

$3,333

$6,667

$16,667

$33,333

$12.00

$0.20

$2,000

$5,000

$10,000

$25,000

$50,000

$15.00

$0.25

$2,500

$6,250

$12,500

$31,250

$62,500

As you can see, even a small bending of the time rules can cost employers thousands of dollars.

While I applaud you for doing the ethical thing and not committing time theft yourself, I do suggest that you keep your co-worker’s behavior to yourself. Eventually, your supervisor will catch on and the employee will have to face the consequences. It is best to only be concerned with your work ethic and your performance. These issues typically work themselves out in the end.

Readers, do you find time theft occurring in your workplace? What would you do if you noticed your co-workers bending or breaking the rules and committing time crimes?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Declining a Job Offer Professionally

A reader writes…

Good Morning, Anita:

I have great news to report! After searching high and low for job opportunities, I was able to get not one but two job offers. I have taken both into consideration and analyzed the pros and cons of each position. Now that I have made my decision, I need to tell the other employer that I am not going to take their offer. How can I politely decline the position so as not to burn any bridges for the future?

Dear, Job Offer Juggler:

Congratulations on this exciting news! It is always great to hear from readers who have successfully found employment. For all you out there on the hunt for a new job, this is proof that you can and will find something!

Job offerAs for your question, I think that it is very important for your professional reputation to politely decline the other job offer. Just as you do not want potential employers to leave you hanging, you should show them the same courtesy. Who knows, the hiring company may have a future position you are interested in pursuing, and you do not want to sour a positive relationship.

Just as we previously discussed in my post Thank You for the Interview, it is important to be courteous and professional with your communications to the hiring manager. This will most likely be the last chance you have to leave an impression on them, and you want it to be a good one. Below are some rules to follow for declining the offer.

  • Use the appropriate means of communication. If you have been working with the hiring manager through email, you can  respond in that format. In some instances, a formal letter and even a phone call may be more appropriate. Choose  to communicate the news in whichever way  is more relevant to your experience.Job offer2
  • Take the time to plan your message. At this point, the hiring manager has spent a lot of time considering you for the position, and you need to be respectful of this. A well thought out message will show that you greatly appreciate the offer and will leave a more positive impact.
  • Be prompt with your response. Once you have made the decision to decline their offer, you need to let them know. They will have to make other arrangements and contact other candidates when you refuse, so try to make this process as timely as possible.
  • Keep the details to a minimum. The employer does not want to hear about how much better the other offer is. Let them know that you were impressed by their company and that you took all aspects of the offer into serious consideration before making your decision. A great “out” is that the job opportunity was not the best fit for you at this time.
  • Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to carry on about how great the company is and how much you wished it would have worked out. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

A great site to look at for examples and different ways to craft your letter can be found at Harvard Business Review blogger Jodi Glickman’s post Turning Down a Job Offer. It does a great job of laying it out for you, so take advantage of her advice!

Job seekers and employees, what would you do if you were offered two or more positions?

Managers and business owners, how would you like a possible candidate to break the bad news to you?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Importance of Annual Résumé Updates

A reader writes:

Hi, Anita:

I have been working at my current job for about two years. From the time that I started until now, my job responsibilities have grown. Even if I am not planning on leaving my current position, should I keep updating my résumé? If so, how often?

Dear, Résumé Refresher:Annual Updates 2

Thank you for your question! Keeping your résumé up-to-date is very important to your current and future career success. Creating a résumé that is high quality and worthy of attracting future employers takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Don’t let the cobwebs build up and cover up what made you shine in the first place. Even if you are not planning on making a job change anytime soon, it is important to keep your CV current and include your recent accomplishments and duties. With the way the employment market and economy has been over the past few years, it is always good to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you are laid off.

As a good rule of thumb, everyone should plan on updating his or her résumés at least every six months. Be sure to include recent accomplishments, newly bestowed responsibilities, and anything important that is representative of your current position. If you have joined new professional organizations or become involved in new community groups, be sure to include this as well. It is important to add these as you go along because we all have a tendency to forget important details. What will also be helpful is to make what I like to call a “kudos” file. In this file, you can keep copies of performance reviews, recommendations, or testimonials to show how great of an employee you are!

Annual UpdatesAnother thing to do is to review job postings that are similar to your field and pick out the important buzzwords. With the high number of companies using keywords to filter out unqualified applicants, it is an important step to add a few to your résumé. In the chance that your dream job comes knocking at your door, you won’t find yourself scrambling to have a strong and relevant résumé.

By staying on top of your CV now, you will be in better shape later, prepared for anything that may come your way! If you need more advice on how to make sure your résumé stands out from the crowd, see my post Reasons for No Résumé Responses for tips.

Here is a great video about  how to update your résumé effectively!

Readers, how often do you update your résumé? What tips do you have for making your résumé the leader of the pack?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take five minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Choose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards,
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity. Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Obamacare and Employees

For the past two weeks, I have written about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and how it affects large and small businesses. (Click here to view last week’s post.) I have also heard from several employees who are concerned about how this legislation will impact their lives. In truth, the law already has been in effect for over 3 years, but January 1, 2014 marks a new milestone in the way businesses and their employees are impacted. American workers are wondering if the cost of their health care premiums and coverage will go up as a result of this game-changing legislation.

Doctor_PatientWill your paycheck be affected?

Funding for all of the new expenses resulting from the ACA has to come from somewhere. Instead of increasing the deficit to fund the program, President Obama has introduced 21 new taxes; it’s estimated those taxes will negatively impact the incomes of only 2% of Americans, whereas 98% won’t see any change in their take-home pay. Click here for a full list of Affordable Care Act tax provisions.

However, on average, employers are expected to see a 6.5% rise in their rates from insurance companies, and that could create additional premiums for their employees. Obamacare forces insurance providers to offer coverage to all Americans, even those with pre-existing conditions, and those insurance companies may pass that increased expense onto employers. According to Mercer’s 2012 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, 58% of employers plan to pass a portion of their increases to their employees. It is at your employer’s discretion whether they will pass along that burden in some form or fashion; however, the Obama administration anticipates that benefits from the ACA will offset any reduction of income employees might see.

Will your coverage change?

The American Action Forum estimates that, under Obamacare, 35 million Americans will lose employer-sponsored health care coverage. Those employees will be forced into government-run exchanges, which the government is working to make affordable. The good news from just last week is that the exchanges may be even more affordable than previously thought. The Washington Post noted that the heavy competition among providers in California and Oregon is driving down costs to lower than what the Congressional Budget Office had anticipated. What plan you choose dictates what coverage you will have, which may or may not be different than what you were receiving previously.

Some Americans and their families will receive a tax break when purchasing their insurance plans through the exchange. The price for plans is capped at no less at 1.5% and no more than 12% of their income for health insurance premiums under the new law. The amount you will pay is determined using a sliding scale.

Health careIf your employer does not offer health insurance and you choose not to get an individual plan, you will be subject to a penalty of $95 or 1% of your income (whichever is greater) for noncompliance in 2014. Readers, you should expect this to rise in 2016 to $625 or 2.5% of income.

How should you prepare?

With all of the new laws, taxes, and regulations, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for the changes that are certain to take place. Your situation is likely to change in one way or another. You should start budgeting for an increase now, and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t come. If you have concerns over what will happen to your health care plan at your workplace, now is the time to have a conversation with your benefits administrator or human resources manager.

Readers, what are your employers doing to prepare for Obamacare in 2014? Have you developed a strategy of your own?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Obamacare Effects: Employers

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I am a small business owner with about 45 employees and have some questions about Obamacare. I have heard a lot of buzz about the subject but not much concrete information about the effects of its implementation. Can you help shed some light on how my business and I need to adapt to these changes in the law?

Dear, Unsure About Obamacare:Dr_Woman

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been on the minds of business owners and  managers across the country. Though the next round of changes isn’t scheduled to begin until January 1, 2014 (can you believe we are halfway through May already!), now is the time to get the facts straight and figure out what steps you need to take to prepare. Below are some basic points all employers and managers need to keep in mind:

  • The Affordable Care Act applies only to employers that have 50 or more employees or full-time equivalents. Because you have 45 employees, you will not be required to “pay” (a $2,000 penalty for each employee after the first 30 not covered by insurance) or “play” (and provide coverage for each of your full-time-equivalent employees) come 2014. However, if your business grows and you need to add 5 or more full-time employees, you will be subject to these rules. Note that “50 full-time-equivalent employees” means that the total hours among all full- and part-time employees equals the amount of hours worked by 50 full-time employees.
  • State exchanges will provide individuals and small employers (those with less than 200 employees) a marketplace to purchase group health coverage plans.
  • Comprehensive health plans used by employers to leverage employment deals and keep the best talent on staff are subject to an additional tax. In 2016, health benefits that are valued at $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for family coverage will be taxed at 40%.
  • If the health care plan you offer your employees is too expensive and exceeds 9.5% of their income, you will be subject to a hefty fine. This piece is a growing concern for employers like manufacturing firms, restaurants, and retail establishments that offer positions at a lower wage. Employers will be facing a penalty of $3,000 if the plan is deemed unaffordable or inadequate.

If your head is swimming, you’re not alone. It’s a complex law but an important one for everyone to understand, especially you as a business owner. Because I’ve also received questions about Obamacare from employees and job seekers, I’m going to be writing a series of posts on this subject over the next couple of weeks. So check back next Tuesday!

In the meantime, you might want to watch the video below, in which CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains which parts of health care have changed or will change soon as a result of Obama’s health care reform.

Stay well,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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