Interviews are a great way to get to know applicants on an in-depth level — much more than resumes or test scores can offer. After all, someone can be excellent on paper, but not necessarily in person. It takes a face-to face interview to perceive someone’s attitude.
But although interviews are meant to give you a closer peek at applicants, there are several questions you shouldn’t ask, either for legal or ethical purposes. Otherwise, your company may end up with a discrimination lawsuit, as well as damage control problems on social media.
To avoid such headaches, take note of the following no-go lines of inquiries:
- Race/ethnicity — Questions like the following are off-limits because national origin is strictly a federally protected class.
- “Where did you originally come from?”
- “What’s your nationality?”
- “What’s your ethnic background?”
However, the law stipulates that companies must hire only people who are eligible to work in the U.S., so you should determine an applicant’s eligibility without asking questions that invade privacy. But it’s not a matter of how, but when. You can verify an applicant after you’ve hired them by asking them to fill out an IRS Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) on their first day of work.
Here are some additional thoughts about what you should and should not ask.
- Religion — If you’re concerned about whether or not an applicant can work during the required hours, you can straight up ask if they’re able to commit. It’s much better and clearer than asking them about the holidays they observe, what church they belong to, or when they will expect to have time off for their religious practices.
- Sexual orientation/gender identity — These are considered non-issues in job hunting, so there’s no reason to ask an applicant about their gender or sexual preference. But there are less obvious questions you still need to stray away from, like “Do you plan on having kids?” or “Are you single?” Plans for getting married and having children could be used to discriminate against female employees.
- Disability — People with disabilities (PWDs) are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means PWDs who are qualified to perform a job should not be discriminated against on the basis of their disability. Just ask the applicant if they can perform all the tasks associated with a job.
- Age — The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects applicants aged 40 and above from workplace discrimination on the basis of their age. Thus, don’t ask an applicant how old they are, or when they finished high school. However, in some cases, asking for age is legal because the law requires employees for certain jobs to be of a certain age, e.g. bartending and casino dealing.
Current salary — In Massachusetts, asking for an applicant’s current salary is prohibited until the job offer stage. In other states, it’s not, but it’s still considered taboo to ask about it in the early stages of the hiring process. You can ask about an applicant’s current salary once you already have a job offer that includes a compensation package.
It can be tricky to navigate the do’s and don’ts of HR interviews, but the key here is to stick to professional questions and stay away from personal ones. The more you focus on the job at hand, the less likely you’ll end up asking illegal/inappropriate questions.
Employers are often perplexed by how much they should spend on employee benefits. How much is too much for things like vacation time or bonuses?
A recent report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that benefits make up about 30% of the average worker’s total compensation. According to this September 2018 report, employer paid benefits represent 46% of an employee’s wage. So, if I pay you one dollar in base pay, I would on average pay you $0.46 in benefits!
That’s a number most employers and employees do not know. And if you are a gracious employer, like most of COMPackage’s customers, it’s even more!
The report provides separate numbers for civilian, private, and government workers, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll just look at the private business numbers. The highest percentage of benefit costs for private employers was insurance at 7.9%, followed by required benefits, at 7.7%, and paid leave, at 7.0%
According to the report, an employee with an annual salary of $50,000 would have a total compensation of $70,721. That employee’s package on average would include:
- $5,667 for insurance
- $5,524 for legally required benefits
- $5022 for paid leave
- $2,798 for retirement and savings
- $2,726 for supplemental pay
And if you never tell your employees, or their managers, they will never know!
Ask most employees if they’d rather have cash or non-cash incentives, and they’ll choose the cash incentives almost every time. However, as an employer, you have many other factors to consider when choosing an incentive other than whether or not employees say they want it. Carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of cash bonuses before creating your incentive program.
Benefits of Cash Incentives
- Nothing talks louder than cash – Many employers find that as soon as they offer cash incentives for a task, their employees start working harder. For fast, effective gratification, few incentives work better than cash.
- Easy to distribute – Cash incentives require little extra effort on the part of an employer to distribute. Money can either be added to a paycheck or distributed as cash.
- Practical – Many non-cash incentives appeal more to some people than others. While some employees may not need a new iPod or tickets to a sporting event, everyone can benefit from a little extra cash.
Drawbacks of Cash Incentives
- Can become viewed as base pay – When employees receive cash bonuses on a regular basis, they can come to expect them as part of their base pay. For example, many people rely on their annual Christmas bonuses or quarterly commission checks to pay their bills. If these benefits ever have to be taken away, things could get ugly fast.
- Disappears quickly – Cash incentives are often quickly forgotten because they are spent on necessities – things like bills, debt or Christmas presents. On the other hand, even small non-cash incentives like movie tickets, electronics or gift cards are remembered long after they’ve been received.
- Takes the joy out of incentives – Non-cash incentives often make a more positive impact because they are viewed as “treats,” while cash incentives are often seen as more practical.
The best incentive programs often involve a mix of cash and non-cash incentives. To show your employees how much their non-cash incentives are worth, consider total compensation statements through COMPackage.
During a job interview, open ended questions provide valuable opportunities to peek behind the veil of prepared answers and find out what a job candidate is really like. The following are interview questions designed to get applicants to reveal more about themselves.
1. “Well…why don’t you start with telling me about yourself?”
As an hiring manager, pay attention to not only how impressive well the candidate can speak of themself, but also to how the candidate demonstrates her willingness to take the initiative in answering the question. Self motivated employees can do their jobs without constant supervision or motivational tricks.
2. “How would you go about handling _______?”
This question is designed to test technical knowledge. While candidates may claim to have experience in your industry, a question like this will test whether or not they actually know what they are doing.
3. “So, tell me about some of your biggest failures or regrets.”
This question tests honesty and sense of personal responsibility. Does the candidate take responsibility for their failures or do they blame others? Do they learn from their mistakes? Can they answer the question without going into personal details?
4. “If I were to call one of your co-workers, what would they say about you?”
This is a great way to indirectly find out whether or not a candidate can put their self in the shoes of another co-worker and to find out how well they can work with others, and also empathize with others.
5. “How have you handled conflict with coworkers in the past?”
We all have had at least one conflict with a coworker in the past. If the applicant denies ever having a conflict, dig a little deeper. This question is valuable for helping you determine whether or not a candidate is a good team player.
6. “Give me an example of a stressful situation at work and how you handled it. What did you do well? What could you have done better?”
The ability to work under pressure demonstrates that an employee is committed and can handle stress. For this question, look for specific answers that illustrate strength under pressure.
7. “Tell me about the strengths and weaknesses of your last boss.”
This can reveal how your applicant works with superiors and whether he will fit well under the new management style. Does the applicant have plenty of bad things to say about her last boss? Does she respond well to professional criticism? Ask for specific examples to back up her evaluation.
I came up with 7 — would love for you to share more in the comments!
Also, if you’re recruiting new employees, you may want to include an employee benefit statement during the interview to showcase how much your company spends on salary and benefits for your employees.
Is it part of your job description to complete regular performance reviews? If so, this is not something you should take lightly. It is important to do this at least once per year with each employee that you are responsible for.
So, what are the downsides of infrequent performance reviews?
- Employees don’t have any feedback on what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, etc. In turn, they continue doing things the same way and never progress as a worker. In the end, both parties are held back from reaching their maximum potential.
- Out of touch for too long. Let’s be honest, there are times when you go month after month without speaking to some employees. While this is more common in large companies, it happens everywhere. Business owners need to share their vision with employees at every turn in the road. With an annual performance review, you will have time to focus on each employee’s contribution to the company.
- One missed review can cause future trouble for you (the owner), the employee, and others in the company. Take this situation, for example. You have to fire an office manager because he failed to meet your expectations. While you have the right to do so, wouldn’t it be better for both parties to discuss this in a performance review?
Performance reviews need to occur regardless of salary expectations, such as a raise. It is not always about money. A review shows leadership and coaching, while ensuring that employees are growing and moving towards company goals.
Now do you see the downside of infrequent performance reviews? Avoid falling into this trap, or face the trouble outlined above.
The process of recruiting and retaining top talent is today’s toughest job. Because as an employer, you need your employees as much as they need you, you should actively communicate your employee value proposition (EVP) to potential and existing employees.
Importance of an EVP
An EVP is a strategy of everything a company has to offer to an employee. It is usually divided into salary and benefits, and it varies depending on the employee’s role, tasks, credentials, and skills. If an EVP is planned out well and laid out in detail, the employee will know the actual value of the compensation package they’re getting, and also the reasons they are getting it.
Were they headhunted from a competing company, and are now being offered a compensation package they should find irresistible? Did they perform well in the past year and now have given a significant raise not just in salary but in perks as well? Then they should know all about it through their personal total compensation statement. An EVP is essentially a sales pitch, and should be treated as such.
All companies have their own particular EVP, whether well-defined or not. Nevertheless, for the sake of attracting and maintaining top talent, it behooves you to have your company’s EVP clearly defined. How does your EVP compare to your competition? Or maybe the better question is, is your EVP, and whatever actions you take to communicate it, working well to recruit and retain employees?
Is your company’s EVP in sync with your company’s core values? For example, if your company values loyalty, your EVP might include additional incentives for employees who meet a specific length of service.
Role of Employee Compensation Software
An EVP is not a one-time thing. You don’t develop it and then just leave it there. It has to be regularly reviewed and continuously improved to be competitive.
For example, technology is rapidly changing the way people work. Think about it: If the last time you’ve updated your company’s EVP was five year ago, then your telecommuting perks (if you have them in the first place) need to be revised in light of the new digital solutions that have made remote working easier and smoother. Instead of offering just one day for working from home, maybe your company can now afford to make it the whole five days. But that’s just one thing to look out for.
Aside from streamlining your EVP, employee compensation software can also help with highlighting the important values that can drive an employee’s compensation. As with marketing to customers, marketing to employees shouldn’t come across as generic if you want to make a lasting impact. Because, today, you can tailor your EVP on a total compensation report accordingly.
Employee compensation software solutions, like those from COMPackage, also help with transparency. You never want your employees to feel shortchanged, so you must be able to explain their compensation package instantly, regularly and repeatedly in order to promote your EVP.
In today’s competitive recruitment landscape, an employer like you should not only value your employees; you should also make it clear to your employees just how much you value them. It sounds like common sense to do so, but you’ll be surprised at how many employers fail to let employees know the exact monetary worth of their total compensation package. Minor benefits like summer Fridays or corporate discounts are always appreciated, but also often underestimated. As a result, employees don’t often realize what they’re getting.
Thus, it’s important for your company to use employee benefit statement software to break down and keep track of employees’ benefits. Using such software helps with the recruitment of new employees and the retention of existing employees. Here are a few reasons why.
1) Transparency – As mentioned, employees appreciate their benefits more if they know exactly what they’re getting. Even non-monetary benefits like mentoring programs and flexible schedules have monetary equivalents, and employees should know about those. People pick and stay at a job for more reasons than money; but there’s no denying that money plays a big part, so it’s best for your company to emphasize that.
2) Spotlight – Some benefits are unique enough to deserve being highlighted; otherwise, they may end up being taken for granted. A few examples of such benefits are free parking, wellness plans, and pet care. These are not considered core benefits, but some companies offer them to motivate employees. But because these are not core benefits, they need to be brought to attention to employees in their employee benefit statements.
3) Automation – Newly added, removed, or updated benefits are automatically reflected in the employee benefit statements, so that employees always see the most accurate listing and calculation of their benefits at any given moment. At the same time, you don’t need to manually adjust statements each time there is a change in benefits when you use employee benefit statement software. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
4) Awareness – Benefits can go unused if employees are either unaware these exist in the first place, or they know but simply forget later on. However, using employee benefit statement software changes all that. Employees can quickly check which benefits they have and haven’t used yet, and also how to use them in case they still haven’t. You’d be surprised at how many employees fail to take advantage of all their benefits simply because they don’t know how to.
Is using employee benefit statement software the right path for your company? There’s only one way to find out, which is to try it out yourself. But given the advantages already listed out here, the answer to the question is quite clear.
Joseph Blattner is the founder of COMPackage.com, the world’s first online employee benefits software solution.
Over the past 12 months, most companies have increased their benefits to remain competitive, with health and wellness seeing the largest increases according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Here are seven ways that your company can increase competitiveness by taking advantage of Employee Benefit Reports.
- Stay on-trend. To compete in the marketplace for the best employees, providing on-trend benefits is one way to ensure that potential employees will take a close look at your company. With prepared reports, potential employees never have to guess at what you have to offer.
- Increase the perception of the value of your benefits. When you write out your benefits for employees in an Employee Benefit Report, while it does not increase the dollar value, many employees will have the perception that their benefits are worth more – and this added benefit can be achieved with negligible expense.
- Improve your employee morale. One thing is clear: happy employees know their worth, and nothing says it better than a clear presentation of all the benefits each employee receives.
- Use your Employee Benefit Report to attract and retain employees. For many employees, benefits will contribute up to 43% of an employee’s base pay. When you want to attract or keep the best talent, showing them what they can expect will help them to see their importance and to see their quality of life while working at your company.
- Reduce the use of sick days and other absenteeism. It might seem counterintuitive but presenting your employees their benefits relating to the sick day policy and others regarding paid/unpaid time off has been found to reduce, among other things, employee sick days.
- Consistent engagement. Once you have done all the work to bring in the best of the best, keeping that talent and improving production requires a strong team. You can leverage your Employee Benefit Report by using it to engage employees through questionnaires, team building, hosting Q&A meetings (during and after office hours), and other events that show those changes in rollouts of new Employee Benefit Reports.
If you’re ready to take the next step, you may find it’s easier, and less expensive than you imagined. Check out Employee Benefit Reports from COMPackage. There’s even a 30-day full-refund guarantee if you’re not fully satisfied.
How important is it to your organization to have “identity protection” show up in your employees’ total compensation reports? In the past few years, concerns over identity theft have slowly been making their way into benefit options as companies look differently at protecting their employees from data hacks. With the massive security breach at Equifax Inc., which, according to USA.gov affected 143 million consumers, even more companies are likely to add identify theft protection to their complement of employee benefits as early as 2018.
Current estimates are that about 35 percent of companies now offer some sort of identity theft protection. The reasons are straightforward. Security breaches expose an individual’s personal data – driver’s license, bank account, and social security numbers – to relentless hackers. The Insurance Information Institute notes that in the last seven years, identity thieves have amassed $107 billion from stolen identities. Many hackers take the data to sell it, such as bundling credit numbers to sell in groups to willing buyers, or keep the best data to use for themselves and use it to steal from unsuspecting individuals. From law offices to Dropbox, hacks pose a serious threat to employee well-being, and company benefits are a critical avenue for companies to respond. And companies must respond because the costs of identify hacks are high.
For employees, the costs extend far beyond recovering overcoming any direct financial losses. It can take months of phone calls, emails, and correspondence to contact creditors and repair credit reports. Most of those calls must be made during working hours, so many victims of identity theft are either distracted at work or need to take some time off. The amount of time an employee must consume during normal working hours to straighten out this mess that’s of no cause of their own are way more hours of company time than any company would want to lose. But, the employee has no choice. So, if you won’t give it to them, they may feel forced to take it anyhow.
Other victims find that having their identity stolen is traumatic, which means they must also recover from the emotional stress. For these reasons, identity theft can lower employee productivity.
For companies, however, the benefit to the bottom line begins with their employee’s well-being. While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of anti-identity theft protection, studies show that employees gain peace of mind from the benefit, and with peace of mind comes increased productivity – and profitability. Identity-theft protection offers peace of mind to companies, too, because most hackers make their way into corporate accounts through employee’s personal records. Shutting down employee identify theft also protects the company.
The best news for employees and employers is that the benefit is not only low-cost to employees since it is non-taxable benefit, but companies can usually get the employee coverage from issuing companies either free-of-charge or at a steep discount. There is a great likelihood that companies can successfully negotiate a preferred rate from a quality service.
It should come as no surprise that the fastest growing benefit option is identity theft protection. So, companies moving too slowly with ramping up their identify theft protection benefit risk losing their competitive edge in recruiting and retaining valuable employees.
Benefits don’t need to be expensive to be appreciated. Low-cost perks can leave a high impact. One such perk is ‘Summer Fridays’ in which employers allow employees to leave a few hours earlier on some, most or all Fridays of summer.
Cost of Summer Friday
The great thing about this perk is that it makes for a significant addition to employees’ total compensation reports, yet it doesn’t cost much to implement. If anything, you save more on electricity, water, and other office expenses when people aren’t at the office. In terms of productivity, you’re not sacrificing a lot, either. According to a survey conducted by Accountemps – an accounting staffing firm – Thursday and Friday are the least productive days of the week. Your employees may be physically present to complete their full hours on Fridays, but they’ve already mentally checked out of work and checked in to the weekend. Given this, perhaps you might as well make them happy by allowing them to leave early, especially on long weekend holidays. Of course, it may be challenging to implement Summer Fridays for hourly-based jobs (like contact center representatives), but for output-based jobs, it shouldn’t be a problem. As long as your employees meet their expected deadlines, they should be good to go at the end of the work week.
Effect of Summer Friday
A flexible work schedule – which is what Summer Fridays is essentially part of – increases morale and satisfaction, which in turn increases productivity. Employees who enjoy work-life balance feel that they’re in control of their schedules, and not the other way around.
In addition to that, Summer Fridays in particular prevents burnout by giving employees something to look forward to every week. It also gives them the motivation to finish their tasks well before the deadlines, so that they can enjoy this perk. It’s a win-win situation for both staff and company.
To ensure your employees fully appreciate Summer Friday, make sure to quantify it in their total compensation reports. Even if they’re not paid by the hour, you can still compute their hourly rate from their yearly rate. This makes it possible for you determine the monetary value of the number of hours they’re allowed to take off for Summer Friday.
In the latter years of running Blattner Brunner, an advertising agency with over 100 employees, we instituted Summer Fridays off for noon on from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but with the caveat that each employee was responsible to make up the four hours anytime during each work week. We never monitored it. Didn’t feel we needed to. The benefit to making our agency a best place to work was significantly felt, especially during a time of tough recruiting for the best and the brightest … a time we’re also in today.
If you still haven’t implemented this perk yet, now is the perfect time to start!
Joe Blattner is the Founder and CEO of COMPackage.com, makers of the COMPackage Total Compensation Reports.