Author Archives: catherine

Why Google is a Great Company to Work For (and How Your Company Can be Great, too)

Every year, Fortune magazine lists the 100 Best Companies to Work For. In 2013, the number one rated company was Google (for the fourth year in a row). Why do its employees give Google such high marks? And, how can you get some of that employee love, without building a roller hockey rink? Continue reading

Writing an Effective Job Description: Stick to the Basics

Finding the right employee for the job can be a difficult process. In today’s tight job market, you might be flooded with applications. You can interview dozens of people, none of whom seem to really meet your needs. To save time and effort, one of the best strategies you can use is to write an effective job description.

What does Your Job Description REALLY Need?

The first step to writing a truly effective job description is to decide what you really need from the employee you’ll hire.

  • What actual tasks will be completed during the day?
  • What skills are really required to complete those tasks?
  • What experience, if any, is really needed?
  • What hours do you need the employee to work?

Avoid adding anything additional that’s not specifically-related to the position.

Ditch the Platitudes

Phrases such as, “Provides great customer service” are overly obvious and just take up space in your job description. If you’re trying to hire a customer service agent, listing requirements such as “be friendly” or, “enjoy working with people” is redundant.

Avoid Long Lists of Job Tasks

Some jobs have so few tasks that the person writing the job description feels as though there should be more involved, if for no other reason than to make the description a little longer. For instance, if you’re hiring a receptionist, the tasks probably include:

  • Answer the phone
  • Take and relay important phone messages.
  • Greet clients.

Sure, it’s a short list. But unless you’re paying your new receptionist $70k a year, should you expect much more? While you might find it helpful for your new hire to know Excel or Photoshop, if those skills aren’t necessary, you might be missing out on a great receptionist who reads your description and doesn’t qualify.

Don’t be Greedy in Your Job Description

It can be tempting to think that you can get an employee with more experience, education and flexibility than you really need. After all, isn’t the economy struggling? Aren’t people begging for jobs? You might feel that you can find a highly-qualified employee to do a job that is typically entry-level. And the truth is that you might be able to do exactly that. But is that a good idea? No—for two main reasons.

1) If your new employee is over-qualified, he’ll quickly become bored. A bored employee is an unhappy employee, which can affect not only his morale, but that of your other employees, too.

2) Your new employee might take your job offer, but he won’t stop looking for a better job. You’ll end up spending precious time and money hiring and training him, only to have him quit a few months later.

Instead, just list the qualifications you really need from your new employee. If you’re hiring a receptionist, do you really require a bachelor’s degree and 8 years of experience?

Be Honest

You want to find an employee that’s not only a good fit for the position, but is also a good fit for your company. Be honest about the hours you require, and the pay and benefits you’re willing to provide. While you shouldn’t pad the description with extraneous requirements, you should definitely list everything that is required. Be honest with your expectations, and you’ll find a new employee who is capable, willing and even excited to work for you.

5 Questions You Can’t Ask in an Interview

Typically, when employers ask illegal questions in an interview, they aren’t even aware of their mistakes. Some interview questions may seem harmless; the interviewer may be asking them for the most innocent of reasons: simply to fill awkward silences or get to know someone better. However, these 5 questions are illegal to ask in an interview, because they are discriminatory and violate state and federal laws.

1) Where did you grow up?

This is the kind of question you’d ask someone you just met at a party, but it’s not appropriate to ask in an interview. As an employer, you can’t discriminate against someone based on their national origin. Asking this question in a formal interview situation makes you appear narrow-minded and potentially even racist.

You’re not allowed to ask a candidate if he is a U.S. citizen, but you can ask if he is legally authorized to work in the United States.

2) Do you have a family?

Again, this one might seem innocent. After all, if you ran into an old friend from college, he might ask you this exact question, and you probably wouldn’t be offended. But in an interview, it’s illegal, because you cannot base your hiring practices on someone’s marital or family status. While it might be nice to know if the candidate plans on having a baby and quitting her job next year, it’s really none of your business. Avoid any questions about a candidate’s spouse, children, potential future children, child-care arrangements, etc.

3) Are you comfortable leading a team of male employees?

This one should be obvious. It’s one thing to ask a candidate if she’s comfortable managing people. But when you ask about managing men specifically, you’re implying that, as a woman, she might not be capable of the task, which is gender discrimination. While this example applies to a female candidate, you can’t ask a man the same kind of question in regards to managing or working with women—gender discrimination goes both ways.

4) What year did you graduate from high school?

Perhaps everything is going swimmingly with the interview, and you’ve lapsed into idle chit-chat. You think the candidate is roughly your age, so you ask this question as part of a conversation about music from the 80’s. Instead of fostering camaraderie, you just crossed the line and have opened yourself up to accusations of ageism. Don’t ask any question that would require the candidate to reveal his age.

5) Do you have to attend church on Sunday?

While you can certainly ask a potential employee about the hours during which he is available to work, you need to tread carefully to avoid asking a question that would require a candidate to reveal his religion. Asking someone if he needs a holiday off because of his religion is not OK, for instance. It’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on religious beliefs.

Do Your Homework

Before you start interviewing candidates for a job opening, do your homework about what’s legal and what’s not. Anti-discrimination laws protect particular classes of people who cannot be discriminated against during the hiring process based on the following characteristics:

  • National origin
  • Familial status
  • Disability status
  • Race
  • Color
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic information