Job Interviews

Employee Fraud: Investigate Before You Hire

fraud in your companyOn Monday night, I watched the Dateline episode, “Tangled Web,” about a woman named Sandra Bridewell who was recently arrested on fraud charges.

In 1985, Sandra was also the prime suspect in her husband’s death. The Dateline story details how after his death she traveled the country for 20 years using a number of different names.

At one point, she worked as a caregiver for an elderly woman. The woman’s family claims Sandra embezzled their mother’s social security checks and nearly had the mother’s home put into foreclosure for failure to pay the mortgage. Throughout the story, several individuals from Sandra’s past are interviewed, claiming they were conned for thousands of dollars.

What surprised me was how easy it seemed Sandra was able to gain access to personal information and large amounts of money, even though she had a questionable history and most likely very few solid personal or professional references.

Like the individuals in the Dateline story, businesses are often too quick to give an untested employee control of highly sensitive information. According to a 2002 study, published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, occupational fraud costs organizations $600 billion a year.

How often could these devastating fraud cases have been avoided by performing background checks and asking more in-depth interview questions?

An applicant may sound great on paper and may even be charming in person, but what do their references have to say about them? Has a background check been performed? What about a simple Google search?

I’m not saying people should hire a private investigator to snoop out every new acquaintance, but it just makes good sense to perform due diligence before giving a perfect stranger access to things like social security numbers, company checks, banking information or other sensitive information.

What steps does your company go through before hiring new employees? Do you feel these are sufficient? Have you or your organization ever been a victim of fraud?

7 Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Asking questions is a vital step for any job-seeker in an interview. You may think that asking questions makes you look unprepared, but the opposite is usually true (unless you are unprepared!) Having several specific questions in mind before you go to your interview can ensure that you end the interview giving a good impression. If things brought up during the interview intrigue you, ask about them. If you feel like you have a good grasp on things, ask questions anyway. Even if you land the job – and even once you’ve been on assignment – you won’t know all there is to know about it.

With that in mind, here are seven basic questions to pick from for your next interview. Asking two or three questions like these can set you apart from the pack and get you one step closer to getting the job.

1. What does a normal workday for this position look like? This question can reveal a lot about the job that’s not listed in the job description. It can also demonstrate to you the level of knowledge the interviewer has about the job itself. And, asking it shows that you’re interested in more than a paycheck and benefits.

2. What does your typical day at work consist of? People love talking about themselves. Asking this question not only gives the interviewer a chance to share about themselves, their answer can show you how much someone in the position you’re interviewing for would interact with you on a daily basis.

3. What is the biggest challenge someone in this position typically faces? This is one of the tougher, more insightful questions you can ask. It may put the interviewer on the spot, but it also shows that you are thinking critically about the job. The fact is, there are challenges in any job, and showing that you know that and are willing to face them is a great trait for any job seeker to demonstrate.

4. What are the opportunities for career growth in this organization? You probably don’t want to tell the interviewer that you want their job in the next two years. Believe me. I’ve sat in interviews where job candidates said that, flat out. (They didn’t get the job.) But demonstrating that you’re interested in career growth shows you’re committed to your field and the organization. And, the interviewer’s answer can also tell you a lot about whether this is an organization you really want to join.

5. What is the growth plan for this company in the next five years? Asking this question shows that you can think beyond yourself and your job. Managers are held accountable for their department’s contribution to the company’s goals and bottom line, so asking the interviewer about the company’s plan for growth not only shows your business acumen, it can tell you a lot about the stability of the organization you’re considering tying yourself to.
 

6. Why is there a vacancy for this position? This can be a tough question, but it’s often worth asking. If there are personality conflicts or management issues in a department, and someone left for those reasons, this is a great time to find out. Sometimes, a position has been created because you’re joining a growing team or a person left because they were promoted. Both are answers you deserve to know.

7. When can I expect to hear back from you? If you don’t ask this, you might never know. You can end up spending a lot of time waiting by the phone if you don’t know the interviewer’s schedule for filling the position you’re seeking. It can also help you know when to follow up or send a thank you note. For example, if they’re planning to make the hiring decision that day, you’ll want to send an e-mail or leave a note at the front desk as opposed to mailing it.

Remember, the interview is also your chance to find out about your potential employer. If you land the job, you’ll spend a lot of time and energy working for the company. That’s why you need to make sure you want the job, fit with the organization’s culture, believe in its mission and understand its goals. So, on your next interview, take the opportunity to ask meaningful questions.

What questions have you asked in past job interviews? Were they a hit or a flop?

Ace the Interview by Asking Great Questions

So you’re at the point in the interview where you’ve given your background and qualifications. You’ve demonstrated your people, problem-solving and follow-through skills. The interviewer has asked their questions, and hopefully, you’ve answered their unasked ones. But now, they toss things your way and ask if you have any questions.

If you’re like many job seekers, you will say simply, “No,” or “I  don’t think so,” or “Not at this time,” take this as your cue the interview is over and exit, leaving opportunities – and often a chance at the job – behind.

What you may not know is the question-asking time can be one that sets you apart from other candidates. Interviewers are paying careful attention to what you say during this part of the interview. They want to know that you have thought about the job beyond the description you read when you applied. You can use this as an opportunity to show your thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and self-confidence. Asking well-thought-out questions can demonstrate:

  • Your knowledge of the company.
  • Your passion for the job.
  • Your curiosity about the industry.
  • Your ability to take charge.
  • Your desire to stand apart.

Check back tomorrow to learn what questions you should ask when you’re on a job interview. 

Think Before You Ink

tattoos at workDo you remember the episode of Friends in season two when Rachel and Phoebe get tattoos?

It was Phoebe’s idea and Rachel had second thoughts, but then follows through and gets a heart tattoo on her hip. Phoebe is scared of the needle and only gets one pin-prick sized blue dot. It’s referred to as a tattoo of the world (from very far away).

At the time Rachel and Phoebe got their tattoos their characters were 26 and 29 respectively. With 29% of the lead characters having a tattoo, the 1996 show was a snapshot of American society 11 years later.

A recent study by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology sited that 25% of U.S. adults age 18-50 have tattoos. One-in-three (35%) adults age 18-29 have at least one tattoo.

According to a 2006 U.S. appeals court ruling, Rachel and Phoebe were wise to get their tattoos in easily-coverable areas. The court ruled that police officers do not enjoy First Amendment protection and can be subject to department uniform rules, which required that tattoos be covered.

Employers are beginning to take a hard stance on excessive body art. Companies hire individuals who match with the company image and culture. If that doesn’t include visible tattoos, those who are noticeable inked may be out of luck.

In many parts of the country police officers must wear patches or winter clothes year-round to cover tattoos. Some police forces even turn away applicants with visible tattoos.

Even Uncle Sam is taking a stand on image protection. The Air Force prohibits tattoos that cover more than 25% of exposed body parts and any above the collarbone.

Tattoos are a part of American culture and are firmly entrenched in our society. But your body has a lot of canvas to work with. So, you might want to hold off on that flaming skull tattoo you were planning to get on your neck. I’m certainly glad I wear my art on my back.

What’s the tattoo culture like in your workplace? Have you experienced tattoo regret? What have you done about it?

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Who’s Facebooking You?

The social networking site Facebook is now the most used people search engine on the
Web according to data reported by Inside Facebook, an independent blog dedicated to Facebook news. And, according to Wikipedia, the site is now the 7th most visited site in the U.S. and has 30 million registered users.

What does all this mean to you? That friends, acquaintances and employers could be searching Facebook for information about you. If you have a Facebook account, the thought of your boss or a random neighbor perusing your profile may not sit well with you – depending on what you have posted there.

The content on Facebook profiles has created career hiccups for some. For example, Miss New Jersey was recently involved in a blackmailing fiasco that threatened to end her reign as a result of some questionable photos on her Facebook page. 

According to CBS.com research, about 20 percent of employers are routinely scanning the Facebook profiles of applicants. When employers stumble upon racy or questionable content on applicants’ profiles, it can do serious damage to the applicants’ chances of landing an interview, let alone a job.

But just because employers are browsing social networking sites for information on candidates doesn’t mean you should delete your Facebook profile. Online profiles can actually be used to your advantage. For one, they give employers an inside look at your personality, interests and creative abilities – all of which can help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re actively applying for jobs and you have an online profile, consider including some of your career strengths and interests on your profile in case a recruiter finds you online. Or if you have content on your profile that you don’t want prospective employers to view, make your profile private.

What’s been your experience with Facebook and other social networking sites? Have you searched co-workers, applicants or employees on these sites? How would you feel if you knew a recruiter had looked at your profile?

That’s a Good Question

I’ve been on my fair share of job interviews. Now that I’m a manager, I appreciate the importance of a good first interview. Committing to a long-term relationship with a relative stranger can be intimidating for the interviewer and the applicant alike.

Yesterday, I counseled a colleague who is re-entering the job market after a six-year departure to raise her son. She was looking to improve her interview skills.

I shared with her the top three things I look for in a successful interview. If a candidate can demonstrate aptitude in these three areas, there’s a good chance there’ll be a second interview.

Problem-solving skills. Creativity and thinking logically are only part of the equation. What I look for are concrete examples that prove a candidate can solve problems by providing workable solutions. This gives the applicant a chance to provide real-life experiences of past successes or how obstacles were overcome.

People skills. I actually had a candidate for a receptionist position tell me that she didn’t really like people. That interview ended about three minutes later. You might not have a job that interacts with clients, customers or suppliers, but every job has some level of personal interaction. You need to be able to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, accommodating and a team player. I’m especially interested in a candidate’s listening skills, which are as important as speaking.

Follow through skills. I look for people who possess follow through and can get things done. This is another opportunity to share a story of how you closed the deal or completed the project. In the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” there is a line that refers to the ABCs – Always Be Closing. It is important that you can demonstrate that you can complete projects and not just move from project to project.

When you are asked questions about your skills, try to focus your responses in one of these three areas. What do you think is important to convey in a job interview? What question do you dread being asked?