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Hiring Managers are from Mars and Job Seekers are from Venus

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Image: Bob RosnerAccording to a survey of hiring managers, 44% reported that they were surprised that workers were different on the job than in an interview. Duh!

This intrepid blogger decided to dig deeper; to explore this disparity from both the point of the view of the hiring manager and from the job seeker to find out why they seem to exist on separate planets. Maybe Rodney King was wrong—that we all CAN just get along.

HIRING MANAGERS. Reading the latest literature (if you can call business books and magazines the “L” word) about how to conduct an interview, the interviewing game seems to be following the path of playing more sophisticated games with the interviewee…often at the price of relevance. Take the ever popular brain teaser questions (please!):  For example, “How many quarter coins do Yankee fans have in their pockets during a sold out baseball game?” (My response, I thought New Yorkers in general wouldn’t be caught dead with anything smaller than a ten dollar bill.) Who cares about this stuff, and how does it predict job performance?

If this is really the criteria that more and more organizations are using to hire talent, we’re getting to a point where the brainteaser expert Jeopardy millionaire is going to get every job. But every person I’ve ever met who is a whiz at quiz shows isn’t necessarily at his or her best when it comes to dealing with human beings. And the last time I checked, most organizations are still full of ‘em.

Maybe the reason that 44 percent of hiring managers said they were surprised at how the person changed when they were in the job is because the art of interviewing has become too technical — all fluff and no substance. More and more effort in an interview is focused on less and less of who the person actually is and what they’ve accomplished.

JOB SEEKERS. According to my e-mail, given all of the layoffs and turbulence in the job market today, job seekers are increasingly defensive about the gaps in their resumes — the layoff that they don’t know how to explain, or bosses who they are sure are giving them terrible references. Rather than accepting that the odds are pretty good that the person interviewing them has either experienced one of these things or knows someone who has. And with all the interviewing self-help books out there, they’ve become experts at covering up their own perceived shortcomings.

Sure it’s always been true that job seekers aren’t always as focused on telling the employer who they really are, but rather who they think the employer wants to see. But workers today are becoming as adept at spin as the average political candidate.

So with interviewers focusing more and more on the clever questions and job seekers spinning and spinning, is it any wonder that there are more and more surprises at work? Get out your soapbox and tell me what you think about this topic below.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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Stimulus and Jobs: We Can Do Better

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Image: Dean BakerThe Obama administration came out with its first set of numbers on the jobs impact of its stimulus package. It’s pretty much along the lines of what was predicted. To date, the package has created close to one million jobs. That is good news, but in an economy with more than 15 million unemployed workers, it is not nearly good enough. We need to do more, much more.

Fortunately, there is an easy and quick way to begin to get these unemployed workers back to work. It involves paying workers to work shorter hours. The mechanism can take the form of a tax credit to employers. The government can give them a tax credit of up to $3,000 in order to shorten their workers’ hours while leaving their pay unchanged. The reduction in hours can take the form of paid sick days, paid family leave, shorter workweeks or longer vacations. The employer can choose the method that is best for her workers and the workplace.

A map showing Michigan, the west coast, the southwest and the southeast as hardest hit by unemployment. (Photo: austrini / flickr)
A map showing Michigan, the west coast, the southwest and the southeast as hardest hit by unemployment. (Photo: austrini / flickr)

If take-home pay is left unchanged as a result of the credit, then demand should be left unchanged. If workers are on average putting in fewer hours and demand is unchanged, then employers will need to hire more workers.

This logic is about as simple as it gets. The process is also quick and cheap. In principle, the government can go this route to save jobs at a cost of a bit more than $20,000 per job, far less than the estimates of the cost per job under the administration’s stimulus package.

We don’t even have to speculate about whether this sort of short-hours arrangement can work. Germany put a short-hours program in place at the start of its recession. Its unemployment rate today is 7.6 percent, about the same as the unemployment rate it had going into the recession. Imagine that workers in the United States, like workers in Germany, were dealing with the recession by putting in four-day weeks (while getting paid for five) or getting an extra two weeks a year of paid vacation. This sure beats being unemployed or being threatened with unemployment.

Seventeen states already have a “work-share” program in place that allows employers to use unemployment insurance money to cover a reduction in work hours, without a corresponding reduction in pay. More than 100,000 layoffs have been prevented as result of this program.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island has a bill that would increase funding for work-share programs and remove some of the bureaucracy that makes it difficult for employers to take full advantage of the programs that currently exist. The bill would also provide start-up money for the states that do not have work-share programs.

The Reed bill would be a big step towards following the Germany model, taking advantage of a program that is already in place. It could very quickly make a big dent in the unemployment rate, by preserving many of the jobs that are now being lost.

In this respect, it is important to clear up a common confusion about the economy. Every month, we get a figure from the Labor Department for the new jobs created or lost. However, this is a net figure. Approximately four million people leave their jobs every month, about half of these workers, or two million, lose their jobs involuntarily. If the economy creates more than four million new jobs, then we will have a positive jobs figure for the month. If the economy creates less than four million new jobs, then the Labor Department will report that the economy lost jobs in the month.

Suppose that this work-share program reduced the number of people who lose their jobs involuntarily by 20 percent, or 400,000 workers per month. This would have the same effect to our job count as adding 400,000 additional new jobs. If this rate could actually be maintained over a full year, then it would imply that the economy would generate nearly five million new jobs.

All the projections show that the unemployment rate is likely to continue to rising for the immediate future and remain high for years to come. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the unemployment rate will average 10.2 percent next year and even in 2011 it will average 9.1 percent. If this projection proves accurate, it would be a disastrous scenario for tens of millions of people.

There are quick and effective ways to increase employment, with shorter hours at the top of the list. Making tens of millions of people suffer for economic mismanagement and the greed of the bankers is not acceptable. We must do something.

This article originally appeared in Center for Economic Policy and Research on November  2, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.  He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CNBC, and National Public Radio.  He writes a weekly column for the Guardian Unlimited (UK), and his blog, Beat the Press, features commentary on economic reporting.  His analyses have appeared in many major publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the London Financial Times, and the New York Daily News. He received his Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan.


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Today Is World Day for Decent Work

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Today is World Day for Decent Work, and union members in more than 100 countries are mobilizing to address the global economic and employment crisis and demand fundamental reform of the world economy.

The deepest global recession since the 1930s has led to a jobs crisis with millions of people out of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that as many as 50 million more workers could be kicked out of jobs worldwide in the next year and could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of working poor.

Live online coverage of the activities around the world, including videos, photographs and messages from events in every continent, will be broadcast on a special website, www.wddw.org, which will be updated via a 24-hour live feed.

At its recent convention, the AFL-CIO strongly underscored its support for decent work for workers in the United States and around the world by unanimously passing a major resolution, “A Labor Movement Agenda for a Stronger, Cleaner and More Just Global Economy.” The resolution stressed the need for the global labor movement to promote the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact to help coordinate government efforts to respond to the employment crisis.

Following the convention, the newly elected AFL-CIO leadership traveled to meet with working families around the country, leading up to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. At the G-20, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Guy Ryder, along with other international trade union leaders, met with President Obama. They stressed the elements of the June 2009 ILO “Jobs Pact” and the importance of enacting coordinated policies to create decent and environmentally sustainable work to combat growing unemployment, enact comprehensive and effective regulation of financial markets and promote the inclusion of key international labor standards in all assistance programs of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The economic crisis is far from over and the global stimulus packages will not be enough to keep joblessness from growing at a steady pace, according to a new report by the ITUC. The report, “Jobs—The Path to Recovery,” was released to mark World Day for Decent Work. It shows that only 1.8 percent of financial rescue efforts have been dedicated directly to employment.

The report highlights trade union actions to fight the crisis around the world and explains the steps needed to achieve a decent work-led recovery and build a fairer and more sustainable world economy for future generations.

The G-20 summit, which ended recently in Pittsburgh, made progress in some areas but failed to completely address the overwhelming need to create new jobs now. “The current situation needs mending,” says Ryder:

Trade unions are raising their voices across the continents, to keep up the pressure for fundamental change, for justice and equity.

They face tremendous resistance from those who have profited from the exploitation of others in the past. Trade unions are determined to confront and defeat that resistance, and to ensure that governments everywhere get the message that they must deliver the results that working people demand.

Click here to read the full report, “The Path to Recovery: How Employment is Central to Ending the Global Crisis.”

Nowhere is the need for decent work more obvious than in the sweatshops of Asia, where workers toil long hours for little pay and few, if any, benefits to make apparel and other items for export that they could never afford to buy themselves.

Today, in New Delhi, India, and in cities in the United States, United Kingdom and throughout Europe, workers will launch a campaign for a living wage called the Asia Floor Wage.

In rallies, workshops, meetings with government and business leaders, public lectures by prominent human rights supporters and press conferences, they will promote a new strategy for global economic growth based on protecting workers’ rights and guaranteeing a living wage.

With so many of the world’s garments and other products being manufactured in Asia, corporations have exploited the workers there, forcing them to work long hours with little pay and few benefits. The campaign challenges this race-to-the-bottom by calling for raising the minimum wage in all major garment producing countries.

In the United States, Jobs with Justice is teaming up with the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and the AFL-CIO for an educational campaign with our members and allies.

To learn more about the Asia Floor Wage campaign, click here.

About the Author James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

This article originally appeared in the AFL-CIO blog on October 7, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.


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Is It a Job Hunt or A Spam Campaign?

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This just in: we don’t like spam. Big surprise, I know.  In fact, 59 percent of the respondents to a Workplace911 online ballot reported that they hate marketing (a.k.a. spam) on the Internet .

I think it’s a given that most people don’t even glance at spam before deleting it. But are there times when this accepted practice can come back to bite us? What if it’s an e-mail you sent that’s being classified as spam? And what if, heaven forbid, it’s a potential employer trashing your resume as spam? Well, maybe — probably, actually — it’s a sign that your  approach to the job search could stand to be tweaked.

The Daily Show had a great interview with an Internet marketer who boasted how he was providing a service to people by marketing products and services on the web. However the marketer’s tone changed when he was asked about people who flood him with emails to protest his marketing efforts. Without a shred of irony, Mr. Spam said how much he personally hates unsolicited emails.

All of this leads to a remarkable discovery that I made two weeks ago. I was sending email and my email program crashed just after I hit sent. I got a message saying that my email may not have reached its intended destination. Because this was an important communiqué, I resent it and added my name to the CC line so I could see if it actually arrived this time.

You probably see where this is headed. I didn’t get the email for two days. Suddenly it dawned on me to look in my spam folder. Yep, you guessed it correctly; my computer determined that  an email  sent  from the person who bought the virus protection program in the first place  — me —  was spam.  Yep, I inadvertently spammed myself. Pretty funny, but it got me thinking about the possible consequences of unintentionally sending spam.

We are all fond of pointing to others about the spam problem that we face. But as my mom used to say, whenever you point a finger at someone else, four fingers point back at you (actually for total accuracy, only three really point back at you, that darn thumb tends to point wherever it is in the mood to point).

Unfortunately most job hunters are spammers at heart. I can’t tell you how many people have written to me through the years to say that they’ve sent out 100 resumes, 500 resumes, even 1,000 resumes. Is this really a job hunt or is this simply spam in a different form ? The reality is, most of these e-mails are probably classified as spam whether they were intended as such or not.

Job hunts should be targeted. Job hunts should be tailored. Job hunts should be rifle shots rather than shot gun blasts.

How can you turn away from spam in your next job hunt? Start by looking in the mirror. Ask hard questions of yourself and what you want to be when you grow up. Next identify a short list of companies that you’d actually want to work for. Keep the list short enough that you’ll have the time to do homework on each one.

How do you escape the trap of sending out spammish emails in a job hunt? By using your network to make personal contacts inside the organizations that you want to work for. So your phone calls or emails are greeted with open arms rather than as a pain. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time someone contacted you who you had never heard of. How excited were you to talk to them. Now think of a time someone called you referred to you by a dear friend. Case closed.

Reverend Ike was one of my favorite spiritual leaders. One of my favorite quotes of his was, “The best way to help the poor is not to be one.” And when it comes to job hunts and spam, the best way to help get a job is to renounce spam and create a job hunt that is targeted and focused.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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