HR Specialist

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Often-Overlooked Interview Advantage: Good Grooming

In Pre/Post Employment Services on December 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm

There are dozens of factors that affect whether or not you land a job: from your work and expertise to your education and your personality. In addition to these weighty factors, your appearance also counts, in particular good grooming.

Fashion stylist Colin Megaro, the founder of Planet Style Concierge, says that today, “Grooming standards are definitely higher across the board.” Megaro, whose company offers style analysis, personal-shopping services, and more, offers up these tips to make sure you’re good to go at your next interview.

1. Good grooming is standard, no matter the industry. If you work in the music industry, you may think you can push the boundaries of good grooming — but you’d be wrong. “Standards do not vary from industry to industry,” according to Megaro. “No matter what you do for work you should always be well-groomed. Take some pride in yourself and always present the best you.”

2. Nail it! Men and women should always be manicured, according to Megaro. “That’s right, gentlemen! A manicure and a good buff go a long way,” he states. Megaro, who styles both men and women, advises women to choose neutral colors for nails. “Bright red, black, or jeweled nails are not appropriate for the workplace.”

3. Don’t look shady with a “five o’clock shadow.” The rugged look probably isn’t best for the office, either. He says, “Five o’clock shadows aren’t OK — even after five o’clock. If you’re heading to an interview from a current job or even from home, schedule it so you have time to wash your face, shave, and make sure your suit is fresh and wrinkle-free.”

Facial hair can be fashionable, but it’s probably best for men not to rock the ZZ Top look. “If you must have it, it needs to be short and well groomed,” he cautions.

4. Put your best foot forward. “Women MUST have a pedicure if they’re wearing open-toe shoes, but even if you’re a man, your shoes shouldn’t look as if you regularly walk on hot coals (unless that’s the job you’re pursuing),” Megaro counsels. He recommends that shoes always be polished with proper soles. If you scuff a shoe, he reveals, “A Sharpie the color of your shoe can save the day!”

5. Wear it well. Make sure your clothes reflect the job you’re pursuing. “When dressing for an interview, research the company and dress accordingly. If you are interviewing at a bank, wear a classic suit with a beautiful tie or scarf. If it’s a media company, you have a bit more freedom. Aim for a more modern suit with a great briefcase/bag. You should show your personality and individualism when it’s appropriate,” he states.

6. Breathe easy. Fresh breath is a priority if you’re going on an interview. Megaro points out, “You don’t want to smell bad breath on other people and, trust me, they don’t want to smell it on you!” He recommends brushing your teeth, carrying breath mints, and keeping mouthwash in your desk or breath strips in your pocket.

7. Use scented products sparingly. If you’re wearing cologne or perfume, exercise caution. “Yes, it can be worn, but please do not bathe yourself in it. Remember that some people are sensitive or allergic to smells. Also, no one wants to walk into a wall of cologne,” Megaro says.

8. Act natural. Aim for a daytime appearance, especially when pursuing an office job. Megaro, whose company also offers wardrobe consultation and shopping tours, urges job seekers, “Avoid wearing too much makeup or overpowering nail color, and keep hair color to natural tones. We don’t need to see bright colors, over-done highlights, or bad wigs.”

9. Tress to impress. Beware of overdone hair. Megaro says, “Too much, whether it be color or product, is never attractive!” If you’re a bit too coiffed, you may appear high-maintenance, and, possibly, out of touch.


Employee Handbooks

In Human Resources on December 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

Many of us who manage small organizations consciously try to operate without the rules and regulations of large companies. However, as organizations grow, issues often become more complex, resulting in the need to define standards and policies. Even with as few as six employees, stating expectations and policies in writing helps prevent misunderstandings and ensure fairness. A properly composed, well written employee handbook is an effective way to meet this need to communicate information to all employees.


While headings vary, a handbook typically covers the following:

  • Welcome and Employer Information
  • Employment Policies and Issues
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Safety and Security

If you don’t have a handbook, or you copied and pasted from a colleague’s handbook, or if you have not updated your handbook to reflect the recent employment law changes and technology advances, now could be a good time to take on this project. The goal is not a lengthy, legalistic set of rules; the goal is a comprehensive, easy to read resource for employees and managers. Developing an employee handbook provides an opportunity to examine and align company practices, policies and values.

At Cardinal Services, our perspective is that effective employee handbooks:

  • Express company history, mission, values and culture;
  • Clearly communicate information that is relevant and important to employees;
  • Address federal and state employment laws;
  • Articulate company expectations and employee benefits;
  • Help to orientate new employees, and answer many typical questions;
  • Guide managers to consistent policy application and legal compliance.

Legally, it is important to include prudent disclaimers, such as at-will, non-contract, right to revise; etc; it is also important to write in a clear non-technical style that encourages employees to read and aids understanding. While you do not want your attorney to write the handbook, you may want him or her to review it. Organize the handbook in sections and include a table of contents. While headings vary, a handbook typically covers the following:

  • Welcome and Employer Information
  • Employment Policies and Issues
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Safety and Security

Use language that retains flexibility in policies as appropriate and include only policies and procedures you are prepared to follow. Even if you post the handbook electronically, include an acknowledgment of receipt for employees to sign.

When introducing a handbook to current employees, explain that the handbook was developed to clarify expectations, procedures and policies – not because of any particular conduct or problem. Before distributing to all employees, brief managers and supervisors on the contents, as employees will expect them to be able to answer questions they might have.

Every year, new laws affect the workplace and a handbook can become out of date quickly. In addition, your organization can grow in size and cross a threshold where certain laws now apply, or shrink to the point where laws that had applied to the organization are no longer applicable. Plan to periodically review, revise, and update your handbook.

FMLA Military Leave Expanded

In Human Resources on December 9, 2009 at 10:55 am

On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2647, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, which expands the federal Family Medical Leave Act’s leave provisions for military families. These new leave entitlements are effective immediately.

Last year, the FMLA’s scope expanded to include two new categories of protected leave: Qualifying Exigency leave and Caregiver leave. As originally enacted, Qualifying Exigency leave was designed to help families of National Guard and military reservists manage affairs when the service member was called to active duty. H.R. 2647 extends the leave entitlement to families of active duty service members.

Caregiver leave provides an employee up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member who is injured while serving on active military duty. H.R. 2647 extends Caregiver leave to include veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for serious injury or illness that occurred any time during the five years preceding the date of treatment.

Oregon employers should recall as well that the Oregon Military Family Leave Act (“OMFLA”) went effect in June 2009. OMFLA provides protected leave to the spouse or domestic partner of a member of the federal Armed Forces, the National Guard, or the federal military reserve forces who has been called to (or notified of an impending call or order to) active duty, or who is on leave from active duty during a period of military conflict. OMFLA applies to employers with 25 or more employees.

Now is a good time to review all Family and Medical Leave policies to ensure compliance with the federal expansion of Qualifying Exigency and Caregiver leave as well as OMFLA.

Economy sheds fewest jobs since 2007

In 1 on December 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

WASHINGTON – A surprising drop in the November unemployment rate and in job losses cheered investors Friday and raised hopes for a sustained economic recovery.

Read the rest of the article at:

10 Real-Life Interview Mistakes

In 1 on December 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Hiring managers don’t want to hear a lot of things during an interview — confessions of a violent past, a cell phone ring, a toilet flush. Yet job seekers have committed these interview gaffes and worse.

Odd behavior isn’t the only way to ruin your chances of landing a job. When hiring managers were asked to name the most common and damaging interview mistakes a candidate can make, 51 percent listed dressing inappropriately. Forty-nine percent cited badmouthing a former boss as the worst offense, while 48 percent said appearing disinterested. Arrogance (44 percent), insufficient answers (30 percent) and not asking good questions (29 percent) were also top answers.


Here are 10 real-life mistakes that illustrate what not to do when you sit down for your next interview:


1. Candidate answered cell phone and asked the interviewer to leave her own office because it was a “private” conversation. 


2. Applicant told the interviewer he wouldn’t be able to stay with the job long because he thought he might get an inheritance if his uncle died — and his uncle wasn’t “looking too good.”


3. The job seeker asked the interviewer for a ride home after the interview. 


4. The applicant smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room. 


5. Candidate said she could not provide a writing sample because all of her writing had been for the CIA and it was “classified.”


6. Candidate told the interviewer he was fired for beating up his last boss. 


7. When the applicant was offered food before the interview, he declined saying he didn’t want to line his stomach with grease before going out drinking.


8. An applicant said she was a “people person” not a “numbers person” in her interview for an accounting position.


9. During a phone interview the candidate flushed the toilet while talking to hiring manager.


10. The applicant took out a hairbrush and brushed her hair.


To ensure your interview is error-free (and smoother than the examples above), follow these five tips:


Do some research: When you walk into a job interview, knowledge of the company’s history, goals and current activity proves to the interviewer that you are not only prepared for the interview, but also that you want to be a part of the organization.


Don’t lie: If the conversation drifts to a topic you’re not knowledgeable about, admit you don’t know the answer and then explain how you would go about finding a solution. Displaying your problem-solving skills is better than babbling about something you don’t understand.


Keep it professional: Although interviewers often try to create a comfortable setting to ease the job seeker’s nerves, business decorum shouldn’t disappear. Avoid offering personal details that can be controversial or have no relevance to the position, such as political and religious beliefs or stories about a recent break-up.


Know what to expect: Expect to hear staple interview questions: “What’s your biggest weakness?” “Why do you want to work here?” “Tell me about yourself.” “Why did you leave your last job?” These open-ended questions are harder to answer than they sound, so think about your responses before the interview.


Put on a happy face: The interview is not the time to air your grievances about being wronged by a past boss. How you speak about a previous employer gives the hiring manager an idea of how you’ll speak about him or her once you’ve moved on.

By Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources,