Human Resources Kit For Dummies
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Becoming a so-called expert in human resources (HR) can be a complex endeavor because, well, people are complex. But for someone starting out in an HR role, hiring qualified employees and managing them effectively can be boiled down to a few basics: evaluating résumés, interviewing candidates, and creating an employee-friendly work environment. In addition, you need to be aware of key federal laws affecting HR. Keep the following in mind, and you’ll be off to a good start.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

How to evaluate résumés

When hiring, the résumé is your first contact with a job candidate. To get the most from this important document and determine if someone is worth calling in for an interview, you’ll need to know how to read between the lines. Here are some telling characteristics.

Signs of a solid résumé:

  • Sufficient detail: Although you don’t want an overly wordy résumé, you do want complete descriptions of the applicant’s accomplishments in previous jobs and a sense of the skills she’s gained over the course of her career. Look for details about how she has increased revenues, lowered costs, or improved productivity.

  • Continual advancement: Steady progression into higher roles indicates a potential hire who is likely able to take on new responsibilities as your business grows.

  • Targeted information: Savvy job seekers show that they understand your company’s needs. They reference points from the job posting or outside research and explain how their qualifications can benefit the business.

  • Clean content: The ideal résumé is free of typos and grammatical mistakes. A clean, well-organized document is a sign of professionalism and attention to detail.

Red flags to watch out for:

  • Fluff: Some job candidates try to pad their résumés — and, thus, appear more qualified than they really are — by listing the minutiae of previous jobs, overusing the thesaurus, or detailing their love of fly fishing.

  • Vagueness: View with suspicion phrases such as familiar withknowledge of, or experienced in. This type of wording can indicate that the applicant may not have the actual experience he claims or that his experience is more limited than you need.

  • Short tenures: A series of short stints of employment can be the sign of a job hopper or problem employee. Ask for more background about these roles and the reasons and circumstances surrounding the applicant’s departure from prior employers to see if you detect a pattern.

  • Unprofessional mail address or Twitter handle: A job applicant’s e-mail address may seem like the last thing an HR manager cares about. But a silly or inappropriate address or Twitter handle may hint at someone who’s not serious about his career.

Five interview questions that reveal the most about job candidates

The job interview is perhaps your best opportunity to determine if a potential hire will succeed with your firm. But most applicants now have ready-made answers to standard questions such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Here are five questions that can help elicit more candid responses:

  • “What interests you about this job, and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?” The answer shows how interested the applicant is in the position and how well prepared she is for the interview. Strong candidates should be able to correlate their skills with specific job requirements.

  • “Can you tell me a little about your last job?” How a person answers this question can help you determine his passion and enthusiasm for his work and his sense of personal accountability. Be wary of applicants who bad-mouth their employers.

  • “How have you changed the nature of your current job?” A convincing answer shows adaptability and a willingness to take the bull by the horns, if necessary. An individual who chose to do a job differently from other people also may have qualities such as creativity and resourcefulness.

  • “What was the most difficult decision you ever had to make on the job?” What you’re looking for is the person’s decision-making style and how it fits into your company culture.

  • “What sort of work environment do you prefer? What brings out your best performance?” Probe for specifics. You want to find out whether this person will fit into your company.

How to create an employee-friendly work environment

Making your company a great place to work will help you attract — and keep — great employees. But creating an employee-friendly work environment involves more than just offering an attractive paycheck. Keep the following tips in mind to build an appealing and stimulating workplace:

  • Invest in your employees. Offering a variety of training programs shows your workers that your firm is dedicated to helping them improve their skills and grow professionally.

  • Build career plans. Help employees set career plans so they understand the next steps on their career ladders and what they must do to reach them, as well as how they can develop skills that will aid them — and the business — in the future. This provides motivation and helps combat a challenge many small and midsize businesses face: a perceived lack of advancement opportunities due to the size of the company.

  • Establish a mentoring program. Identify colleagues workers can go to for guidance and advice. This can be especially valuable to new employees, who may feel out of place at a new organization.

  • Consider alternate work arrangements. These types of programs — which may include telecommuting, flexible hours, or job sharing — help workers maintain a healthy work/life balance (and, in the case of disabled employees, may be required as a form of reasonable accommodation).

  • Be a good corporate citizen. More and more professionals want to work for firms that do the right thing. Establish programs so employees can become involved in the community and support causes that are meaningful to them.

  • Survey employees. Getting regular feedback enables you to know how your employees feel about their jobs. Not only can surveys identify problem areas, but they also can point out strategies and ideas that can make your workplace even better.

Key federal laws affecting HR

There’s no substitute for the guidance of an attorney, but HR professionals need to have a basic understanding of the many legal issues and challenges that come with hiring and managing employees. Here are several important federal laws you should be aware of.

Many states have enacted laws similar to those listed here, and some state laws provide more generous benefits and protections to employees than the federal counterpart. Be sure to find out what laws apply to your organization.

  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. Requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” for individuals with disabilities. The law applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, and labor unions.

  • ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act): Prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years of age or older on the basis of age. The law applies to all private-sector employers with 20 or more employees who work 20 or more weeks per year, labor unions (with 25 or more members), employment agencies, and state and local governments.

  • COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): Provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. Employers with 20 or more employees usually are required to offer COBRA coverage and to notify their employees of the availability of such coverage. COBRA applies to plans maintained by private-sector employers and sponsored by most state and local governments. (Some states also have their own versions of COBRA.)

  • FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act): Establishes minimum wage rates, requires overtime pay for certain employees, restricts the employment of minors, and imposes certain recordkeeping obligations. The law applies to most private and public employers, with some exceptions in certain retail and agricultural industries.

  • FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act): Grants qualified employees a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for health-related reasons, including childbirth, family illness, or personal health reasons that preclude handling the job’s duties. The law applies to any individual or entity engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce that employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and public agencies regardless of the number of people they employ.

  • IRCA (Immigrant Reform and Control Act): Requires that employers attest to the immigration status of their employees, bans employers from hiring illegal aliens, and establishes penalties for such behavior. The law applies to all employers.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants for employment, in the terms and conditions of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as virtually all government institutions, employment agencies, and labor unions, but not the federal government.

  • WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act): Requires 60 days’ advance written notice to affected employees (or their bargaining unit), as well as state and local rapid response/dislocated worker agencies, of mass layoffs or plant closings that will result in at least 50 employment losses within a 30-day period. The law generally covers employers with 100 or more employees.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, the world's largest specialized staffing firm. He is one of the leading experts on human resources and employment issues.

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