Thursday, July 31, 2014

Resume Mistakes

Or, how not to end up in the circular file…..


I have reviewed a lot of resumes over the years – a lot. It only takes a few seconds to grab my attention – either good or bad – once I look at a cover letter or resume. It’s the same with other HR pros and hiring managers; we’re looking for the same things regardless of the particular job we’re seeking to fill. There are common mistakes that will cause your resume and cover letter to hit the "no" pile in nanoseconds. Luckily for you, it’s also very easy to avoid these mistakes with just a bit of careful attention. Most resume blunders fall into two categories: format and content. Here are the most common mistakes (in no particular order) that cause me to toss one toward the (trash) basket:

Typos and Grammatical Errors
Spellcheck is easy to use. It even has a grammar function! Please use it. We all make mistakes, but leaving yours indicates either that you’re too lazy or don’t care enough to check, or that you really don’t know how to put together a correct and coherent sentence. Either way, the chances your resume will make it into even the "maybe" pile are significantly reduced.

Using an Inappropriate Email Address
Email is the accepted and preferred form of communication in today's workplace, so it’s important for it to be visible and convey- at worst - a neutral message, if not professional. Don't use email addresses that contain immature, sexually charged or offensive elements.

Using Crazy Fonts and Color
Stick to black type and basic fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma, or Calibri. Don’t use different fonts or colors in different parts of your resume. Also, stick with white or cream paper. I’m not even going to look at a resume that’s on that lovely shade of lavender paper or has the flowers down the left margin.

Incorrect Contact Information
This may not be discovered until a hiring manger wants to contact you for an interview, but make sure your phone number and email address are on the resume and are correct. We’re not going to track you down if you’ve given the wrong contact information. You get one shot with this one.

Visually Too Busy
If your resume is wall-to-wall text it will most likely give the person reading it a headache. So show your resume to other people before sending it out. Do they find it visually attractive? If what you have is hard on the eyes, revise it. White space draws the reader's eyes to important points; use it wisely. 

Not Using Reverse Chronological Order
This is important because we can see what your most recent experience is first, which is often what we’re most interested in.

Omitting Exact Dates
Omitting exact dates of employment often raises suspicion and makes it look like you’re trying to cover up something. If you’ve got a large gap in your resume, be up front about it and address the issue in your cover letter (employing the most positive spin, of course). We need to know how long your tenure was at each job – good or bad.

Too Long or Too Short
There are no real rules governing resume length. But, that doesn't mean you should start sending out five-page resumes. Having said that, you should try to limit yourself to no more than two pages. If you can do it in one, great! If you go two and a half, ok! The point is, if we have to wade through too much text in order to get a sense of who you are and if you’re a viable candidate, we probably won’t take the time. If there’s not enough information, we’re not likely able to decide if we want to consider you further.

Not Using Action Verbs
Avoid using phrases like "responsible for." Use action verbs: resolved, managed, lead, implemented, etc.

Lack of Specifics
We need to understand what you've done and what you’ve accomplished. For example, you can say you worked with employees in a retail store. But what does that really tell me? However, if you say that you recruited, hired, trained and supervised 15 employees in a major department store, I have a much better idea of what you did.

Listing Duties-Not Describing Accomplishments
It's easy to simply start listing job duties on your resume. Hiring managers are as much, if not more, interested in what you accomplished in that job. Tell us the result of your job duties – what good things happened when you performed your job duties? Did you reduce errors? Did you increase sales? Save money? Create opportunities for others?

Not Customizing
Take a few minutes to tailor your resume to the specific job and company to which you’re applying. Above all, make sure that you review both your resume and cover letter to insure that reference to another company or job is not there! I’ve seen any number of cover letters addressed to someone at a different company, or that mentions a different job. I never get past that; it gets tossed aside.

Using an Objective Not a Summary
Objectives are outdated and usually irrelevant. I already assume you want a challenging position in which you can grow and contribute. Instead, include a summary, which should be like a 30-second sales pitch where you explain who you are, what you're looking for and what you can offer. Use just a few sentences to explain what you’re great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to my company.

Leaving Red Flags
People often feel they can wait for the interview to explain any red flags or gaps that may be on their resume, but that’s too late. If you have gaps in your history, explain them in your cover letter. If you’re applying from out of state, explain why and what your plans are (moving into area, etc.). Don’t have the degree stated in the job posting? Explain how your experience or other education qualifies you. And don’t simply copy/paste text from the job ad. I know what the ad said; I need to know how you’re going to meet our requirements.
Job hunting is tough enough. Don’t make it any tougher on yourself by making these mistakes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What’s up with the ACA Now?

A Roundup of Recent News and Developments on the Affordable Care Act

For a while there, the news bits about the ACA were fast and furious – delays, changes, delays and more delays, court challenges, failed Exchanges – you name it, it was happening. Then it got fairly quiet. Or maybe the media just got tired of it. I know I did.

Now, over the last couple of weeks, there has been another spate of developments; all interesting, but the long-term effects will be hard to predict.

More Delays
The Employer Mandate (or actually, the penalty under the Employer Mandate) was delayed. It’s due to take effect in January 2015 and The Hill reports that businesses still don’t have the final forms or technical guidance they’ll need to comply with the reporting requirement under this mandate. "These forms will be made available in draft form in the near future," said a spokesman for the IRS. This has fired up the discussion again on whether the Employer Mandate is even necessary to the success of the law. Of course, President Obama is already under attack for making what many feel are unauthorized changes to the law. We’ll see how this plays out.

Lower Premiums?
Many Americans are still waiting to see the promised reductions in health insurance premiums. A Gallup poll finds that over four-in-ten Americans are spending more on health care in 2014 than they did in 2013. Only 8% reported spending less on health care than in 2013. Interestingly, one of the elements of the new law that was supposed to help control health care costs was the Small Business Health Options Program exchanges (one of the many delayed features). It finally went into operation last October, but HHS has not come out with numbers of enrollments despite several requests for data. The SHOP exchange apparently suffered even more technical problems and delays than the exchange for individuals and families. "The SHOPs opened, although without online enrollment and many promised features, on October 1, 2013," Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), chair of the House Small Business Committee, wrote in his latest letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the exchanges. "Over seven months later, we still do not have any federal and some state SHOP enrollment data."

Graves was later told that the data he requested was "not currently available". Guess what? CMS officials explained that, unlike on the individual exchange, employers are not required to first verify their eligibility with federal regulators before enrolling in a plan on one of the state-based or federal small business exchanges. This is very interesting. See the next item!

Exchange Fraud
Investigators with the Government Accountability Office were able to get subsidized health insurance premiums on the exchanges using fake names. The GAO reports to Congress that there’s still a huge backlog of applications with "discrepancies". Eleven of 18 fake applications were accepted. The White House said that 6 of them were blocked by eligibility checks built into the system, but the GAO says the undercover agents were able to find a way around those blocks and enroll anyway.

The investigators found:

—Contractors processing applications for the government told the GAO that their role was not to ferret out potential fraud.

—Five of six bogus phone applications went through successfully. The one exception involved an applicant who refused to provide a Social Security number.

—Six online applications were caught by an identity checking system. But investigators simply contacted a call center and all six were then approved. Kind of a big hole in the security net.

—The GAO also tried to check the reliability of counselors providing in-person assistance. In five out of six cases, investigators were unable to get help. In the final case, the counselor correctly told the undercover investigator that their stated income would not entitle them to subsidized coverage.

Does this give anyone confidence that those who don’t qualify for subsidies won’t get them anyway?

And finally, probably the most interesting is…….

Dueling Court Decisions
Two U.S. appeals courts delivered opposite opinions on the legality of the subsidies under the ACA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Internal Revenue Service lacked the authority to allow subsidies to be provided in exchanges not run by the states. If it stands, this ruling could put at risk the subsidies given to millions of people who bought insurance in the 36 states where the online insurance exchanges are run by the federal government. Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion, said they concluded "that the ACA unambiguously restricts" the subsidies to "exchanges ‘established by the state.’ "

But wait! Just hours later, a unanimous three-judge panel for the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled exactly the opposite in King v. Burwell – that Congress intended to allow subsidies to be provided regardless of whether the exchange was run by the state or the federal government. "It is therefore clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act’s primary goals and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill," said Judge Roger Gregory.

Yes, the Obama administration said it will appeal the DC District decision and that it is confident that the ruling will be overturned.

Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western Reserve University, disagreed. "The heart of the decision today is a reaffirmation of the principle that the law is what Congress enacts, not what Congress wanted to enact or what some, with the benefit of hindsight, wish Congress had done differently," he said.

No less interesting is that these two decisions were split along party lines, essentially going by which sitting president appointed the various judges. Gee, I thought justice was supposed to be impartial and not influenced by politics. Silly me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Annoying Coworkers

Work is hard, and every work place has its frustrations; we usually manage to deal with them and even enjoy our job a good part of the time. But, there’s always one person (at least) that just sets our teeth on edge or our hair on fire. Here are 10 annoying coworker traits that are common irritants (and a bonus, just because!). If you see yourself in any of these, wise up before your coworkers super-glue you to your chair.

Being Too Chatty. Spend too much time engaging in small talk instead of working and your coworkers may start to avoid you; and your boss certainly won’t appreciate the never-ending stories about your absolutely adorable puppy, or your jerk of a boyfriend.

Grossing People Out. Coughing and sneezing like crazy, clipping your fingernails or toenails, or picking your nose or fingernails and then touching a piece of shared office equipment? Yeah…..cut it out. Now. 

Lunch Thief. Nothing’s worse than looking forward to having those wonderful leftovers from last night and discovering they have gone missing – again.

Stinky Lunch. Are you frequently using the community microwave to heat up foul or pungent foods? Once in a while might be excusable, several times a week will set off even the most patient of us.

Stinky People. Coworkers who don’t bathe regularly or don’t wash their clothing regularly. Ewww. Or, those who bathe in their cologne.

Coming to work sick. And then complaining about it all day (also, see "Grossing People Out").

TMI. Overshares extremely intimate details about their sex life.

Still Sends Chain Emails. ‘Nuff said.

Causing Chaos on Conference Calls. Being the source of distracting background noise during a conference call. We can hear you eating lunch; talking to other people or slurping your coffee. You’re also the one who puts your phone on hold and we have to sit through the awful hold music until you come back.

Can You Top This? You have an even better story. You always have a better story.

Can You Hear Me Now? There’s that coworker who practically shouts into the phone. His voice is so deafening you can't hear yourself think.

What’s your most annoying coworker story? Regale us in the comment section.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

When You Reward (business) Firefighters

You encourage fires…..and arsonists

Not the criminal, actually setting stuff on fire kind of arsonist, of course – but the business version.

A project starts to fall apart. Everybody’s running around like headless chickens, in a panic. Then, someone steps in and takes over. People are assigned tasks, things get done, the project is back on track and your fat is pulled from the fire. People have reacted – and got ‘er done!

Is this a scene that plays out frequently in your business? Does your team seem to work better when the deadline is looming, or the more urgent matter (not necessarily the more important matter) is pressing in from all sides? You might not care, since they always seem to pull together and save the day. Or do they?

How much time and effort is wasted with this last minute craziness, the disorganization and the stress? When the process becomes chaotic, resources are strained, people are stressed and mistakes happen. It’s possible those mistakes get fixed – at least enough to get the job done – but wouldn’t it be nice to have things go more smoothly more of the time, you wonder?

It might be that you’re encouraging this scenario by rewarding those "firefighters", those people who always seem to be able to pull it together at the last minute. And why not? They most likely get a huge bucket of praise for doing so! You show them you value their ability to save the day. The only problem is that "saving the day" becomes the norm and you and your team are constantly fighting fires. No one prevents the fires. It must be more fun to put them out. Maybe planning doesn’t feel like "doing".

I really don’t think most of your staff thinks that crisis mode is fun, or the best way to do business, but if they’re rewarded for it, or if those that lead them are, there’s not much reason or opportunity to change. But, operating this way day in and day out is exhausting for them, bad for your business and your organization.

Assessing, planning, organizing and then "doing" is much more productive and in the end, more efficient and less costly – both in financial terms as well as human terms. Today’s work world is stressful enough without artificially setting the stage to create unnecessary turmoil. Stop rewarding firefighting and start rewarding working smart.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Social Media Mistakes

Wait! Are You Sure You Want to Post That?

A little over a year ago, I posted an article on this blog about the advantages and disadvantages of employers using social media to vet applicants or check on employees. I had a companion post about the dangers to employees, or prospective employees posed by what shows up under their name on the internet. It seems that things haven’t changed much (not that most of us expect it would). If anything, it may have gotten worse, with people being totally indiscriminate in what they say and do (and then show!) on the internet via various social media channels.

CareerBuilder has once again released a survey showing an increase in employers who use social media rejecting candidates based on what was found online – 51% compared to 43% in the same survey last year; and last year’s figure was a 9% jump over the previous year.

Forty-three percent of employers say they use social networking sites to research job candidates. Many don’t limit their searches to just social networking sites, but include using search engines like Google.

It used to be a more distinct line between our personal and professional lives. That line has become much more transparent over the past decade or so. While that may have some positive aspects, it can’t be argued that it has also caused many a headache for both employers and employees.

What are they finding that they don’t like?

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information – 46%
  • Information about drinking or using drugs – 41%
  • Bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee – 36%
  • Poor communication skills – 32%
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, gender, and religion etc. – 28%
  • Lied about qualifications – 25%
  • Shared confidential information from previous employers – 24%
  • Linked to criminal behavior – 22%
  • Screen name was unprofessional – 21%
  • Lied about an absence – 13%

Yikes! That’s an awful lot of folks sabotaging their own job opportunities and careers. It’s not like there haven’t been many examples, widely reported in the media, that should give anyone reason to be more cautious of what they post on the internet.

Anyone remember the PR exec canned after she posted somewhat racist and discriminatory "joke" on her way to Africa? She was canned before the plane landed. How about the voice of Aflac? His insensitive joke after the Japanese tsunami left him struggling even while he had been working on a come-back – took all of an hour to come crashing down on him. And then there’s Adam Richman. After being called out because he made a rather thoughtless (although I’m sure, rather innocent) link of his recent weight loss to a hashtag associated with pro-eating disorder messages, he lashed out in an obscene and violent manner. Travel Channel didn’t like that too much - having its brand associated with someone who would suggest his detractors should commit suicide – and have removed his new show Man Finds Food, from the schedule.

How about a few average-type person examples?

Bartender Jessica Elizabeth found out her employer didn’t care for her racist and derogatory online diatribe.

Teacher Carly McKinney was suspended, and later fired, when the school system found her tweets containing revealing photos of her and bragging about bringing marijuana to school.

Utility Service Rep Rachel Burnett probably regretted her posts about utility customers she was hired to assist when her employer decided she probably wasn’t the most appropriate representative for their company.

Or how about the guys who worked for Taco Bell and KFC who decided it was funny to post pictures of themselves – ummm- mishandling – food? I’ll let you look those up for yourselves.

I could tell you about the examples of which I’m personally aware…………….like the young ladies who posted a video of themselves driving and smoking the biggest darn blunt. Or one of those same ladies who tweeted (while at work) that she and her mother were stinking drunk just a mere hours before she came to work that night. Yeah, that inspires a lot of confidence that she can do her job caring for people with disabilities. How about the one where the employee posts on Facebook that she took her clients to a party where alcohol was, uh, rather generously consumed? I got a million of ‘em.

Despite this survey, people should not think that their employer or prospective employer actually makes an effort to find these things online. As an HR pro, I don’t go looking for it. I didn’t really want to know, until it became clear that not knowing put my company, or our clients, at risk. In every case that I recall, someone else brought the post to our attention; either a co-worker of the clueless poster or a friend of an applicant alerted us to things they saw online.

My point is that despite all the examples, spread all over the media – including social media – people persist in failing big time when it comes to their judgment or restraint in posting this stuff. Get a clue. Don’t "overshare" and don’t think that only your friends (who think you’re cool and don’t care that you spend too much time getting high, driving drunk or breaking any number of other laws) see what you do online. Nothing on the internet is ever really private. The World Wide Web has given us many good things, but it also has allowed everyone the ability to see our every bad habit, foible and totally disgusting behavior. Don’t be surprised if that results in unintended consequences.