TIP TUESDAY: Conducting Reference Checks on Potential Employees


by Judith Lindenberger

You learn a lot about potential employees during job interviews, but performing a reference check can ensure that applicant is being honest and is a good fit for your business. Here’s how you should go about checking references and a list of questions you should ask.

With resume falsification an ongoing concern, many organizations have become more aggressive in conducting reference and background checks. Doing so is a best practice and is not required by law. If you plan to conduct reference and background checks, which I highly recommend you do, here are some pointers to follow.

As a starting point, you may want to verify the correct spelling of applicant’s name(s), check for aliases, verify the applicant’s SSN, verify current and previous addresses, and verify the applicant’s home telephone number.

Next check information related to educational, business, and professional achievements. referenceYou can verify degrees earned, certificates received, and professional designations obtained. And, depending on the nature and requirements of the job, such as bonding or security clearance requirements, the degree of contact with the public, and other factors, check the applicant’s credit history and conduct a criminal conviction check.

Since some references may be reluctant to discuss an employee’s work performance or conduct, it has become common practice to have applicants sign a form, releasing their references from liability for responding to your inquiries.

Telephone or email inquiries are usually the quickest way to contact references. You could also send a letter on your company stationary requesting a reference.

Seek only information that is relevant to the position being filled and which will help you to choose the best candidate. Never request or collect information about an applicant — or employee — that you can’t or won’t use. Reference questions about an applicant’s propensity for filing discrimination charges, OSHA and workers’ compensation claims, union grievances, or employment practices lawsuits, for instance, place you on a slippery slope, since you may not be allowed to use this information in making a hiring decision.

For example: if you do not hire an applicant after finding information about previous discrimination claims activity — even though your decision was based on other factors — the EEOC may charge both you and the organization ­that provided you with negative information with unlawful retaliation.

Plan your questions and ask each reference the same list of questions. Give the person time to respond, don’t put words in his or her mouth, and, if you aren’t sure what he or she is trying to say, ask follow up questions.

Here are of some of my possible questions to ask when doing a reference check:

  • How do you know this person? For how long?
  • How would you describe him/her professionally and personally?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate this person on meeting his or her business goals?
  • We all have strengths and areas of weakness. What is his/her greatest strength and biggest challenge?
  • What would you advise me about how to manage him or her?
  • Would you hire this person again? Why or why not?
  • Tell me about this person’s level of integrity.
  • In your opinion, what is this person’s growth potential?
  • Is there anything else I should know?
The Lindenberger Group, LLC provides results-oriented human resources consulting, organization development, customized training workshops and personal career training. www.lindenbergergroup.com. 

Throwback Thursday: The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.decoration-day-190x300

Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). This helped ensure a three-day weekend for federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Workfact Wednesday: Telecommuting

A growing number of Americans are working from home.  Whether they are self-employed entrepreneurs telecommutingrunning small accounting services, or telecommuting for multinational consulting firms, some 30 million of us work from a home office at least once a week. And that number is expected to increase by 63% in the next five years, according to a study by the Telework Research Network.

An estimated three million American professionals never step a foot in an office outside of their own home and another 54% say they are happier that way.

New technologies like telepresence are making telecommuting more feasible, and allowing for expanding offices around the world.

In fact, half-time home-based work accounts for savings of more than $10,000 per employee per year, according to Telework—the result of increased productivity, reduced facility costs, lowered absenteeism, and reduced turnover. Employees save somewhere between $1,600 to $6,800 and 15 days of time once used driving to work or taking public transportation.

A total of 47% of people who have the option to telework are “very satisfied” with their jobs, compared to 27% of those who are office-bound, according to Telework. Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their teleworkers.  Contributing factors include fewer interruptions from colleagues, more effective time management, feelings of empowerment, flexible hours and, of course, even longer hours…. because the home office never closes.

TIP TUESDAY: Writing Your Employee Handbook

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Your Employee Handbook

by Judith Lindenberger

Whether you’re writing your first employee manual or you’re updating one you’ve had for a while, this article explains the topics you should cover.

employee-handbookEmployee handbooks should be designed to do more than just communicate information and answer routine questions; your handbook should help you achieve your organizational goals and objectives. Thus, while a list of rules of conduct and a summary of benefits are important information, you should evaluate your handbook on its ability to help your organization meet its objectives.

One purpose of your employee handbook is to help you attract and retain employees. Your employee handbook should help your employees answer — hopefully in the affirmative — two important questions: “Why should I work here?” and “Why should I continue working here?”  If your employees are not receiving a positive message about your organization, your handbook is not doing its job.

Your handbook should also help convey useful information about hours of work, paydays, leaves of absence, and benefits. More importantly, your handbook should help create an atmosphere of trust and respect and give your employees a sense of belonging.

At the same time, your employee handbook must help you comply with your legal obligations and ethical requirements. It must also help you protect management’s right to make changes and adapt the organization’s policies and programs as needed.

Since your organization and its employees are affected by all of your written and unwritten policies and procedures, you should ensure that your employee handbook incorporates as many of your organization’s written and unwritten policies and procedures as practical. You must further ensure that your handbook communicates top management’s commitment to your policies. As a result, your handbook will promote consistency and assist you in preventing claims of disparate treatment.

You should regularly assess your employee handbook, not only from the standpoint of how well it communicates policies and procedures, but also from the standpoint of how well it helps you achieve your organization’s goals and objectives. Employee handbooks that fail to help your organization succeed in these areas should be rewritten.

(excerpted from BusinessKnow-How.com)

Throwback Thursday: Brief History of the Water Cooler

WaterCoolerLong known as a place around which to gather to exchange greetings, share company news (and often gossip!) and grab a few minutes’ break with fellow employees, the water cooler has been around at least since the mid-19th century, with a glass jug and a block of ice inside. Even in Victorian households and workplaces it was the basic block of ice for cooling water. But if they didn’t use ice, it was room temperature drinking water for the workers.

In 1906 Halsey Willard Taylor and Luther Haws invented the first drinking water fountain, with the primary motivation being to provide safer drinking water and avoid the risk of typhoid fever caused by contaminated water. (Luther Haws’ father had died of typhoid fever precipitated by contaminated water.) Haws also patented the first drinking faucet, in 1911.

Early drinking fountains provided room temperature drinking water, but demand led to the development of fountains that could provide cooler water thereby killing the micro-organisms responsible for pollution and disease. But early water coolers did not have a discrete water treatment method for purifying the dispensed H2O.

As the years went by, water coolers further evolved into smaller, lighter, and more efficient units. They also varied in shape and size, depending on the needs of the consuming public.

With health and safety being the main drivers in recent years, modern water coolers were created with inbuilt purifying systems with some having a reverse osmosis system that removes chlorine and destroys microbials.

Today there are two main types of water cooler: bottled and bottleless. The bottleless cooler connects directly to the water supply and has a filtering process for purifying the water. One of the big advantages here is that you don’t have to maintain the cumbersome and heavy bottles; plus, bottleless water is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.