Human Resources Kit For Dummies, 4th Edition
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
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, attracting the right talent and creating a positive and meaningful employee experience 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/talent issues. Keep the following in mind, and you’ll be off to a good start.

How to evaluate résumés

When recruiting for strong talent, the résumé is your first contact with a candidate. To get the most from this important document and determine whether someone is worth moving to the next phase of the process, you 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 applicants’ accomplishments in previous jobs and a sense of the skills they’ve gained over the course of their career. Look for details of the outcomes they’ve achieved — how they increased revenues, lowered costs, developed leaders, or improved productivity, for example.
  • Growth orientation: Steady progression, taking on more responsibility, and advancement into higher roles indicate a potential hire who is likely able to expand their influence 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

  • 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 hobbies and activities outside of the job scope.
  • Vagueness: View with suspicion phrases such as familiar with, knowledge of, or experienced in. This type of wording can indicate that the applicant may not have the actual experience they claim or that their experience is more limited than what you need.
  • Short tenures: A series of short stints of employment can be the sign of a job hopper or lack of commitment. 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.

Five interview questions that reveal the most about job candidates

The job interview is perhaps your best opportunity to determine whether a potential hire is qualified for the role and will succeed in 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 they are 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 their passion and enthusiasm for their work and their sense of personal accountability. Be wary of applicants who blame or speak negatively about past 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 be successful and happy working at 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 a positive and meaningful employee experience involves more than just offering an attractive compensation package. Keep the following tips in mind to build an appealing and engaging workplace.

  • Invest in your employees. Offering a variety of learning and development opportunities shows your team members that your firm is dedicated to helping them improve their skills and grow personally and professionally.
  • Build career paths. Help employees set career plans so they understand the next steps on their career journey 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 whom 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.
  • Provide flexibility. Creating a flexible environment (as best you can, based on your business) helps team members maintain a healthy work/life balance (and, in the case of disabled employees, may be required as a form of reasonable accommodation).
  • Be a purpose-driven business. Employees today want to work for firms that do the right thing and exist for a purpose beyond profit. Establish programs so employees can become involved in the community and support causes that are meaningful to them.
  • Get regular feedback. Getting continual feedback from team members enables you to know how your employees feel about their jobs and the value they add. Not only can surveys identify areas of strength within the business, 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. Following, 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.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This law prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. It requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” for individuals with disabilities.

It prohibits retaliation for requesting accommodation or asserting rights under the ADA. The law applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, and labor unions.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The ADEA prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years or older on the basis of age. It prohibits retaliation for asserting rights under the ADEA.

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.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

This law 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.)

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The FLSA establishes minimum wage rates, requires overtime pay for certain employees, restricts the employment of minors, and imposes certain recordkeeping obligations. The law prohibits retaliation for asserting rights under the FLSA.

It applies to most private and public employers, with some exceptions in certain retail and agricultural industries.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

This law 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 prohibits interference with FMLA benefits and retaliation for asserting rights under the FMLA. In addition, there are military leave provisions under the FMLA.

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.

Immigrant Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

The IRCA requires that employers attest to the immigration status of their employees, bans employers from hiring undocumented workers, and establishes penalties for such behavior. The law applies to all employers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

This law 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. It prohibits retaliation for asserting rights under Title VII.

The law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as virtually all government institutions with the exception of the federal government, employment agencies, and labor unions.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)

This law 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.

Common pitfalls of ineffective learning events

Your ability to implement an effective learning event that achieves its desired results is often determined by the common mistakes you avoid.

Here’s a brief look at the most common pitfalls of implementing a learning event — and the consequences of those missteps.

  • Pitfall: Failing to incorporate business goals into the overall learning and development effort.
    • Consequence: Because learning and development efforts aren’t aligned with business goals from the start, the results rarely have any impact on company operations, and the learning initiative doesn’t get any further support from senior leadership.
  • Pitfall: Not identifying clear, measurable objectives for your learning initiatives.
    • Consequence: The organization devotes significant resources to learning initiatives that don’t produce a return on investment.
  • Pitfall: Not taking enough time to go through the needs-assessment process.
    • Consequence: The offerings have little or no impact on the performance issues that have the most bearing on employee effectiveness and business results.
  • Pitfall: Inefficient process for evaluating participants.
    • Consequence: Courses attract employees who, for any number of reasons, shouldn’t be in the course to begin with, and whose presence can be disruptive to employees who truly need the training. An example is an employee who fails to meet the prerequisites for an advanced software course and spends the majority of the course getting up to speed on the basics.
  • Pitfall: Lack of a disciplined process for evaluating learning and development programs from external partners.
    • Consequence: There is increased likelihood that the program doesn’t meet expectations which could result in the loss of credibility.
  • Pitfall: Failure to solicit feedback from supervisors during the needs-assessment process.
    • Consequence: Supervisors never really buy into the learning initiative and fail to reinforce what participants learn.
  • Pitfall: Not ensuring that the facilitator is qualified and has good facilitation skills.
    • Consequence: A facilitator who is not qualified can reduce the credibility of the learning content and impact the ability to accomplish the goals of the program.
  • Pitfall: Conducting the learning event in a space that is not conducive to learning.
    • Consequence: Discomfort and inconvenience send the wrong message to employees and inhibit their ability to absorb the training.
  • Pitfall: Trying to accomplish too much in a limited time frame.
    • Consequence: Employees who go through the learning event feel more frustrated at the end of the course than they did when they first entered the class.
  • Pitfall: Lack of experiential learning (for example, simulations, hands-on exercises, and role playing).
    • Consequence: Lack of engagement throughout through program and decreased retention of the content.

What to watch out for when recruiting on campus

Consider the following points before taking part in any campus recruiting activities.

  • Hit your message points. Make sure that you (and other company representatives you bring with you) are well prepped to cover the key benefits of working at your company. What does your firm provide in terms of a career? What training opportunities do you offer?
  • Make sure that you know your job openings. A sure way to annoy students you’re trying to impress is to come unprepared to discuss the jobs you currently have open. Also come prepared to answer the types of roles you’re offering (full time, part time, and so on) and whether you have internship opportunities.
  • Be prepared to be asked about your policies. Don’t be surprised if you’re closely queried on policies, including diversity, domestic partner benefits, green practices, or any number of social issues. You may want to spend a little time with your corporate communications department clarifying the best way to answer these questions.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Placement offices tend to stack interviews, often every 30 minutes. You may wind up interviewing 16 students in a single day. That’s why students often complain that interviewers frequently seem like they’re just going through the motions. (Note: Savvy students are aware of this problem and vie for appointments in the morning.)
  • Keep your energy up. Burning out after a day of interviews is all too easy to do. After all, you have to repeat the same information over and over, and you have to be just as enthusiastic at 4:30 p.m. as you were at 9:00 a.m.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Andrea Butcher is the CEO of HRD, a leadership development company. She is a renowned keynote speaker, talent strate­gist, execu­tive coach, and expert facilitator. She also hosts HRD’s weekly podcast, Being [at Work]. She is also the co-founder of Next Gen Talent, an organization focused on the development of emerging HR and talent leaders.

This article can be found in the category: