Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘job search’

“Ban the Box” Continues to Take Off

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

erik idoni

Yesterday, June 10, 2015, the National Employment Law Project and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called on President Obama to “Ban the Box” and give everyone a fair chance to get a job by pushing background checks to later in the hiring process and banning the check-box on job applications asking if a person has a criminal record. That was the latest step in the “Ban the Box” campaign that on June 1 saw Ohio become the 17th state to “Ban the Box”, and expects to see Oregon join them soon.

An estimated 68 million Americans have a criminal record, about one in four and more than the total population of France. On top of that, only around half of the FBI’s records are up-to-date, meaning an arrest without a conviction can still negatively impact employment chances due to an incorrect record. Not only do 92% of employers run background checks, but more than 800 occupations ban felons via the law or licensing rules. Furthermore, only 40% of employers interviewed said they would “definitely” or “probably” hire someone with a criminal record. Furthermore, the inability of ex-felons and formerly imprisoned Americans to get a job is costing the economy an estimated $57 to $65 billion per year in lost output.

The “Ban the Box” campaign’s purpose is to give people with criminal records a fair chance at getting a job. By eliminating background checks until later in the process, every person would have the chance to demonstrate their qualification without the shadow of a criminal record hanging over them. This can be a serious help to people with criminal records as 76% of hiring discrimination takes place when reviewing a job application.

The campaign took its first major step back in 1998 when Hawaii became the first state to pass a “Ban the Box” law. However, the term “Ban the Box” wasn’t coined until All of Us or None started using it in the early 2000s. Since then, “Ban the Box” has taken off, with four states passing “Ban the Box” laws already in 2015. While most states’ “Ban the Box” laws only apply to public employers, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, along with cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have extended the laws to private employers.

These policies have been effective as well. After Minneapolis “Banned the Box” over half of applicants with convictions were hired, 10% of the people hired by the City of Atlanta between March and October of 2013 had records, and the number of people in Durham County, North Carolina with criminal records that were recommended for hire nearly tripled in the two years since they “Banned the Box”. Employers don’t regret these decisions either as a study by Evolv found that employees with criminal records end up being 1% to 1.5% more productive than those without criminal records.

There are many ways for people who want to help “Ban the Box” to get involved. The National Employment Law Project has plenty of information on the campaign as well as campaign strategies, model policies, and much more. People can also visit the “Ban the Box” campaign website to take the pledge, get information on the campaign, and find tools for a successful campaign. Similarly, All of Us or None has their own toolkit for people to use on their campaign as they try to make Ohio the 17th state out of 50 to “Ban the Box”.

In the interest of both strengthening the economy and giving more qualified individuals a fair chance at getting jobs, we here at Workplace Fairness hope to see “Ban the Box” continue to thrive.

About the Author: The author’s name is Erik Idoni. Erik Idoni is a student at the George Mason University School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.

Jobs Crisis Forum: The Time for Excuses Is Over. Create Jobs Now

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Image: James ParksShonda Sneed of Yellow Springs, Ohio, was laid off in December 2009 and is about to run out of unemployment benefits. Because of state budget cuts, she also could soon lose the health care nurse who helps care for her mother who has dementia. At the last job she applied for, she was told 450 others had also applied for the same position.

Shonda Sneed talks with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker at the AFL-CIO panel on the jobs crisis.

Shonda Sneed talks with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker at the AFL-CIO panel on the jobs crisis.

Sneed and Bob Stein, a 60-year-old former salesman who has been out of work since May 2010, are two of the 14 million Americans who are unemployed—and their story is not being told in the midst of the debate over the deficit. Sneed and Stein, who are both members of Working America, spoke to a forum on “The Jobs Crisis—Moving to Action: A Dialogue Between Workers and Policymakers” at the AFL-CIO this morning.

As Sneed said:

All I want is a decent job. I want to work. I love to work. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my mother. I have a home to pay off.

The forum, moderated by Bob Herbert, distinguished fellow at D?mos and an award-winning journalist, drew a sharp contrast between the policies that got our country in this economic crisis and are currently being advocated to get it out, and what is needed in order to spark a real economic recovery.

Stein says it’s frustrating to try and find a job in an economy that generated only 18,000 jobs last month. “I was set to lose unemployment as of the second or third week of December, and [politicians] were fighting back and forth and it was predicated on the Bush tax cuts. I was caught right in the middle of that,” he said.

The thing that was so upsetting is when you heard about the number of people about to lose their unemployment check. I thought, “OK, I understand that you’re adamant about this Bush tax cut thing, but you’re holding us all hostage. You’re playing politics with people lives. People use their unemployment. This will stimulate and help the economy.”

The panel also included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress.

Panelists noted that many in Washington continue to push deregulation and tax cuts as the way out of the economic hole the country is in, without acknowledging the role that those policies played in creating the current economic conditions. The strategy to encourage corporations to spend their billions of dollars in profits is doomed when politicians don’t first acknowledge the truth that working people drive the economy as consumers. Without good jobs or shared prosperity, corporations won’t spend and our economy can’t prosper.

Trumka said working people are frustrated with both political parties.

The time for excuses is over. People don’t care about why it [creating jobs] isn’t getting done. They just want to get it done. We can create jobs if we want to. It’s a matter of political will.

More and more economists are coming around to the idea that the economy is faltering because of a lack of demand, said Boushey. The best ways to increase demand, she said, is to invest in things that generate demand, like infrastructure aid to the states, education and long-term unemployment benefits.

Levin said the nation’s trade policies must be a part of any jobs policy. It’s important, he said, for trade agreements to include enforceable labor standards to develop a strong middle class in the nations we trade with who can then buy U.S. products. It also is important to ensure that American workers don’t compete with workers who are oppressed, he said.

Noting that the middle class is the engine of our economy, Franken said retaining tax breaks and loopholes for the rich, as Republicans have proposed, won’t increase demand. Rich people can only buy so much stuff, Franken said, then they save their money.

The idea that those at the top who are richer than anyone has ever been in history—why they can’t pay a higher percentage in taxes is crazy.

This Blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on July 11, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was 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 also has 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.

Hiring Managers are from Mars and Job Seekers are from Venus

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

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.

On the Path to Economic Recovery: Extended Unemployment Benefits

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Image: Courney ChappellAlthough it is encouraging to see that the Dow Jones Industrial Index hit 10,000 this week, unemployment in this country continues to look bleak.  The September national unemployment rate shot up to 9.8%, and a record 5 million people have been unemployed for six months or longer.  These workers are now competing for a very limited number of available jobs, a ratio of 1 to 6.  If the Dow is in fact a reliable indicator of an economic rebound, why hasn’t the unemployment rate followed suit and leveled out or decreased?  Economists predict that unemployment will continue to remain high throughout 2010 – and even 2011 – at which time we will see more promising signs of recovery.  Until then, however, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an estimated 1.4 million jobless workers will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of 2009.

The purpose of the unemployment insurance (UI) system is to prevent workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own from slipping into poverty.  By temporarily filling the income gap for families while they search for work, UI serves as a critically important safety net.  Although the weekly benefit amount generally replaces only about one-third of a worker’s weekly earning, those checks can stabilize a household and help families cover their basic needs.

Congress is currently debating legislation that will extend benefits to workers who are struggling during this economic downturn.  Last month, the House passed a bill that would extend UI by 13 weeks, but it would apply only to those jobless workers who live in states with unemployment rates higher than 8.5%.  The Senate has likewise introduced legislation, but it is broader in scope.  The Senate bill would provide 14-20 weeks of additional benefits to jobless workers in all states.  Although advocates originally expected the bill to pass the Senate rather quickly, opposition has been raised regarding how these additional weeks will be paid, ultimately stalling any movement.

Any extension of benefits will no doubt help jobless workers in D.C.  The city’s unemployment rate is over 11%, and even higher in Wards 7 (19%) and 8 (27%), two of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.  According to NELP, by the end of 2009, approximately 4,700 District workers will have exhausted their federal extensions.

The D.C. Employment Justice Center, in collaboration with its community partners, has been working to ensure that all available stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will make its way into the pockets of District workers.  Specifically, D.C. is entitled to receive $27 million of federal funding as incentive payment for modernizing its UI system.  Because the District adopted the alternative base period (ABP) in 2002, it has already received $9 million of this funding from the Department of Labor.  In order for the District to qualify for the remaining incentive payments, it must implement, at a minimum, two additional reforms and submit a second application to the Department by August 22, 2011.  Emergency legislation was introduced and passed in July 2009 that included two such reforms: a dependent allowance and an extension of UI to those enrolled in approved training.

Permanent legislation must still be passed in order for D.C. to receive the remaining stimulus funding.  But even this will not be enough.  In order to address the record rate of joblessness, the significant percentage of workers exhausting benefits, and the inadequate weekly benefit amount, evidenced by the fact that over 50% of UI recipients receive the maximum amount, the District must maximize the scope and impact of the $27 million federal funding to which it is entitled.  It can do so by also increasing the maximum weekly benefit amount by $20; expanding eligibility to those who leave their jobs to care for a sick family member or to relocate with their spouse/domestic partner; and extending the time in which an individual may file an appeal if he/she is denied UI.  These changes will help thousands of District workers and families as they continue to look for long-term employment.  Specifically, $10 million will make its way into the pockets of approximately 22,000 struggling workers.

If the federal government steps in to extend benefits for an additional 14-20 weeks under the Senate bill, all of the District’s reforms could be funded with stimulus money for 2 ½ years, and employer taxes would not increase.  Other states are no doubt in a similar situation – with the federal government footing the bill for up to 20 extra weeks, states can maximize the impact of their stimulus funding by changing their UI programs beyond the minimum requirements prescribed by the Department of Labor, and thereby provide much needed relief to their residents.  Two and a half years is a significant amount of time to feel the impact of the ARRA and create real economic opportunities for struggling communities.

With more money in the hands of consumers, more dollars will circulate throughout the economy, the stock market will continue to steadily rise, employers will regain their confidence, and the unemployment rate should eventually fall.  Congress’ decision to provide extended unemployment benefits is a critical step in helping the economy rebound, and will help ensure that the Dow’s resurgence this week is a truly promising long-term sign of the nation’s recovery, rather than a single snapshot of Wall Street.

About the Author: Courtney Chappell is the Advocacy Manager at EJC.  Prior to joining EJC, she was an associate at James & Hoffman, P.C., where she represented unions and individual employees in all matters relating to labor and employment law. As the first Policy & Programs Director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Courtney spearheaded the organization’s reproductive justice program and developed a multi-pronged action agenda that included lobbying, grassroots organizing, and public education campaigns.  Her achievements included coordinating a national lobby day relating to immigration reform, and convening a national coalition of women’s rights, immigrant rights, and reproductive rights organizations to focus on the intersection of health care and immigration.  She similarly engaged in policy advocacy as a fellow at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund after graduating from law school. Courtney graduated magna cum laude from the American University Washington College of Law, where she was a student attorney in the domestic violence clinic and interned for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, the EEOC, and the ACLU. She was also a staff member of the American University Law Review and volunteer intake counselor at the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center and the Domestic Violence Intake Center.  Courtney has served on the boards of the Third Wave Foundation and the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project.  She is a recipient of a New Voices Fellowship and a Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship.

Four Tips to Help You Stay Sane on Your Job Hunt

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Image: Anya WeberI’ve applied for 70 jobs over the last five months, and honestly, it’s been kind of a nightmare. The hardest part for me has been maintaining my cheerful attitude. In that spirit, here are a few tricks that seem to be helping me land interviews and (just as important) feel like I’m approaching my job safari with style, grace, and finesse, rather than abject desperation.

1. If you see a job posting, that interests you, apply within 24 hours.

It’s just so competitive out there! One position I applied for, at a high-profile nonprofit in Boston, received 200+ applications within 48 hours of being posted. The hiring managers took down the job listing at that point, figuring that they had more than enough fodder for their search already and that taking on more resumes would be self-defeating.

So don’t put it off while you work your connections at the company, hone your cover letter, or perfect your resume. Don’t rush your job app out there, but give it an hour or two of concerted effort and then send it.

2. Make sure the position’s still open before you apply for it.

Sounds obvious, but we’re talking about some surreally tight turnaround times here. One position, at a big-name university, was posted on a Tuesday. I applied on a Wednesday — or tried to. When I clicked the “send resume” button on the job-search website, an error message came up: the job was no longer open.

There could be several reasons for this. The school might have had an internal candidate and just posted the position publicly for legal reasons. Or they, too, might have received 200+ applications within the first 24 hours of posting the position.

Moral of the story: If you’re applying for a job off a site such as Monster, Idealist, or (especially) an aggregator site such as Indeed, make sure the job still exists. To do this, go to the source (for me, this would have been the university’s online job board) <i>before</i> doing your research and writing your application. In my case, I wasted an hour or so researching one specific branch of this university — time I could have saved if I’d gone directly to the school’s job page and made sure the position was still posted.

3. Dodge the trap of perfection.

My resume isn’t perfect. None of the four versions of it that I’m customizing for different types of jobs are flawless. But they’re all solid. My cover letters aren’t perfect, either, but they’re pretty good. I try to employ the 80/20 rule in my job apps: often, 20% of the effort will yield 80% of the results, and a lot of the time that’s enough. For example, spending 20 minutes on a company’s website jotting down notes and key phrases is just as effective as spending three hours on there researching every morsel of their mission, branding, and business plan.

4. Work your network, but don’t let the network slow you down.

My usual technique when I see a job posting that interests me is this:

I look on LinkedIn to see if I have any secondary connections there (that is, people I know who know someone at the company). If so, I drop my friend a line asking if they’d be comfortable e-introducing me to their contact at Company X, so that I can learn more about what it’s like to work there.

While I wait for their reply, I do my due diligence, researching the company, the open position, and anything from their branding that I can hijack in my application.

If the friend-in-law writes to me immediately, saying something like, “Don’t go through HR — just send me your cover letter and resume and I’ll pass them on,” I do that promptly.

If I don’t hear back from the friend-in-law within 24 hours, I send in my application through the usual channels. If I do wind up talking to the contact later, I can always ask her if she’d be OK with passing my resume and cover letter up the channels unofficially, or with dropping my name to someone in HR. It’s a good way to do an end run around HR purgatory.

I hope these ideas are helpful to my fellow job seekers! Good hunting, and let me know how it goes.

About the Author: Anya Weber is a writer and editor looking for fulfilling, creative work in Boston and elsewhere. You can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

This article was originally published on Media Bistro on October 5, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Is It a Job Hunt or A Spam Campaign?

Monday, April 27th, 2009

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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