Vacation Approvals

I freely admit to my addictions. It is, after all, the first step to overcoming them. Right now, I am addicted to “Little People, Big World.” It’s a show about a family headed up by two little people that airs on TLC. They have four kids, and own a farm in Oregon where they grow pumpkins. When October rolls around, when pumpkins are in high demand, they have a pumpkin festival where people can purchase the bulbous fruits, take tours of the farm and generally meet the family they watch week after week.

The popularity of the festival, like the popularity of the show, has grown from year to year. Last year, since the mother, Amy, has a birthday in early October, the father, Matt, decided to take her on a cruise. This was the first week of their pumpkin festival. He figured that since it was only the first week, and the year before crowds weren’t that bad, that he and Amy could take the cruise.

Oh, how wrong he was.

Crowds were huge, and the staff he left in charge was ill-equipped to handle it. He chose his vacation poorly.

Most businesses have a vacation approval process. Employees must request the time off, which may or may not be approved. The reason is simple, most people want to take off the same time around school holidays and that would leave the business woefully understaffed. Retail stores typically have vacation blackouts set around Christmas, when shoppers pack the stores looking for gifts.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The boss should be just as choosy with his or her own vacation time as with the staff’s. Major events should be the first chunk of time blacked out on the calendar. Bookstores across the nation had an “all hands on deck” policy for the release weekend of the last Harry Potter book.

To be fair and equitable to the staff, the boss should also respect the order in which requests came in. If two other employees scheduled vacations for the week you just picked, then grin and bear it and choose another week. There are plenty of responsibilities that go along with being boss, as well as perks.

The ultimate goal is a smooth running and profitable business, just don’t take, or allow to be taken, any steps that will jeopardize that.

Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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Going Green in the Office

At home it is a lot easier to live a green life, but at the office we are paper cup squashing, copy machine wasting, and computer running waste makers of Mother Earth. With all of the talk and concern over global warming, we should make our long hours spent in the office as green and Earth friendly as possible. Here are some suggestions to improving your workplace.

  1. Recycle! – This is one of the most important things that humans can do to help the environment. And with the consumption of all of those energy drinks, those cans need a nice home in a recycling bin and NOT a garbage can.
  2. Carpool – According to the EPA, employers have a major incentive here: congestion created by people getting to and from work costs U.S. employers 3.7 billion hours of lost productivity a year, which adds up to $63.1 billion in wasted time and fuel every year. So find people who live near you and create a carpooling schedule with them.
  3. Drink from a water bottle – Stop wasting those little triangle paper cups every time you need a sip of water. Take a reusable plastic water bottle to work everyday and save the paper cups and the time you spend going back and forth to get one sip.
  4. Walk to lunch – Not only do you get exercise but you can walk with a group and save the CO2 from spilling out into the environment from the dozens of cars your company would have taken.

These are only a few steps on your way to becoming a green workplace. If you as an employer can make the first few steps to a more environmentally friendly workplace then your employees will most likely follow suit. Set the example and make your employees happier, healthier and more comfortable in the place where they spend the majority of their day.

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Does Experience as a Vampire Count?

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I checked my email when I got into work this morning and opened up a job alert from one of the major job boards. I write about jobs, it’s research. One of the jobs that came up, custom picked for me, was a “Phlebotonist.”

I didn’t know what that was. I’m an educated guy, but this was a new one to me. Also, that job ad listed precious little more to clarify the job’s duties. To get an answer, I did what any true-hearted American would do: I typed it into Google. The first entry broke the word into its two roots. The first root was “phlebo” which means blood.

Blood? Blood what? Blood sucker? Ooh, I did once dress up as a vampire for Halloween, maybe that’s why this job board thought a guy with an English degree and years of writing experience would want to work with blood.

Okay, the second root was “tomos” which means cutting. So, going by that logic, they must be looking for a teenage kid who thinks he’s a vampire and is also a cutter. Okay…

As it turns out, my deductive reasoning was wrong. The first clue was that Google automatically corrected the word’s spelling. A “phlebotomist” is a trained laboratory technician skilled at drawing blood. This particular training I do not possess.

Now, when this company gets flooded with résumés from woefully unqualified applicants, they have no one to blame but themselves. The job ad was both poorly written and improperly posted.

To begin with, misspelling phlebotomist doesn’t inspire confidence in the establishment’s medical prowess. I certainly wouldn’t trust a lab that doesn’t even know how to properly spell the position’s title to come after me with a needle.

Second, whoever listed the job opening on the job board must have clicked a few wrong categories for it to end up in my inbox. Maybe they thought communications and medical were synonyms. It’s a reasonable assumption to reach based on their spelling skills.

Finally, not writing a full and compelling job description compounded the confusion. Remember, you’re hoping to attract top notch candidates and therefore have to sell the job to them. At the very least, if it was written correctly, teenage vampire-wannabes would not be applying for the job right now.

This company could have saved themselves a lot of extra time and effort if it had just done a little proof-reading. At the time, it may have seemed like a drain on productivity, but trust me, the avalanche of résumés they’re probably receiving right now will be a productivity vacuum. Or should I say “vampire”? Nah, that’d be a bad pun.

Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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The Cover Letter That Conquered Tokyo

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Applicants don’t understand how important their cover letter can actually be. Most of the time they write one, and only one, that they will send out to every company they apply to. At best, they might paste your company name over the last one they sent a résumé to. Doesn’t that make you feel special?

The type of cover letter you’re looking for, regardless of your company, is one that was tailored specifically to you. One that you can tell was written specifically by this person to apply to work for you. That much is a given. Beyond that, what you’re looking for is a little personality.

The kind of personality you’re looking for depends on the office environment you’ve created. If it’s more professional and serious, look for a cover letter written in that tone. If your culture is a little more relaxed and boisterous, then see if you can spot that in the letter.

For instance, I was reviewing résumés to hire an instructor for a small college. The open position was for one in the film and television department. As you can imagine, the other instructors in that department had created an atmosphere that was very creative and fun loving.

Several applications quickly passed over my desk; too bland, too generic, not qualified. However, one cover letter stood tall and proud over the others.

First, the applicant explained briefly why he was qualified for the position. Not very exciting, but at the very least I could tell that he wrote this specifically for this open position. After that, though, was when he really shined.

He explained that if he were to get the job, we’d be helping him accomplish two of his life’s goals. The first would be to teach in the field of film and technology. The second would be that he’d finally have enough money to go to Tokyo and actually watch a Godzilla movie while sitting in the town that Godzilla was rampaging through.

It was cute, it was relevant to the position he was applying for and it showed the type of personality we were looking for. From that cover letter, I instantly knew that he had a distinct chance of not only being able to succeed at the job, but fit in famously with the rest of the staff in that department. I immediately set up an interview with the department head.

That’s just one example, but I think it’s pretty illustrative of what a great cover letter should do. It needs to be like great art, I can’t explain to you what it is, but I know it when I see it. The same goes for cover letters.

~Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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Video Résumés – Are You Ready For Them?

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It would appear by all of the press that You Tube has generated over the past two years that they are currently planning their world domination tour. They have pretty well entrenched the term “viral video” into the cultural lexicon. When a You Tube video hits it big, real big, it can get a mention on the network evening news.

All of the predictions from the ‘80s about the new generation being obsessed with video have come true. It’s safe to say that if we don’t already get the majority of our news and entertainment from moving pictures, it’ll be that way soon.

It’s just a natural progression that this new generation is starting to embrace the idea of a video résumé – a video produced and posted on an internet video site that can be viewed by a prospective employer.

Job seekers are attaching these videos, typically as a link in an e-mail, with the hopes that employers will see the personality and enthusiasm for a job that can be lost in a written résumé. Some applicants believe that their oral communications skills are better than written, and that he will be better able to sell himself with a video.

The upside is that these benefit you too when you’re looking at the initial résumé package. You will be able to save the time of an interview if you don’t think the candidate presented himself well, or you can skip right to a follow up interview if you were really impressed.

There is a downside to a video résumé that many legal experts are warning employers and recruiters about – the possibility of a lawsuit. Most of the factors left off of a paper résumé to prevent discrimination, i.e. gender, race, weight and age, are front and center in a video. Even if you don’t discriminate against the candidate for any of those reasons, it’s easier to prove you don’t if you lack that knowledge entirely. You’ll want to carefully consider if the advantages of a video résumé outweigh the possibility of a discrimination suit – although none have been brought to court as of this writing.

If you do decide to click on that link and take a look, judge the video the same you would any résumé or interview. How much effort was put into the video? Is the applicant just reading his cover letter? How professionally is he dressed? How well does he communicate ideas?

In the same vein, don’t get caught up by a particularly flashy video or one that has lots of effects and editing. Is he trying to hide something behind all of that flash? How much of his personality is actually coming through?

You may also want to use the video at the screening stage rather than the initial review process. A good eye can search through the initial stack of résumés spending 30 seconds on each one. A video can be much longer than that, and you can potentially spend four times as long searching through that initial pool of applicants. Saving the video for the screening stage can then save you time by possibly eliminating the phone screening step so you can go ahead and invite the applicant in for an interview.

At this stage, a video résumé should only be viewed as, and accepted as, a supplement to the applicant’s formal cover letter ad résumé. Perhaps one day our business will go completely video – but, for now you can feel confident to keep your feet planted in the old school and dip your toes into the new media waters.

~Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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What Should My Screening Questions Be?

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Resumes can only tell you so much about a person. Or more accurately, they only tell you what the person wants you to know about them. Aspects of their lives or careers can be hidden or glossed over – vital information you need to help decide whether to hire them or not.

That’s where the interview process comes in. But doing formal interviews with too many applicants can put quite the dent into your schedule. The initial phone interview is increasingly becoming a vital step in the hiring process. It’s less time consuming and far less stressful for both the applicant and the employer.

It is therefore important to craft your screening questions carefully to get a clear picture of the candidate’s qualifications for the job. You’ll want to ask questions both specific to the job and to the candidate, not just a list of generic questions you find on a random Website.

For example, if a resume lists computer proficiency as a skill and you’re looking for someone with expertise specifically with Excel – pointedly ask a question to that end. To avoid any potential “knowledge inflation,” ask a question about the program an expert should know.

If you’re looking for an inventory analyst and the jobseeker lists inventory manager on his/her resume, ask questions about that job. It’s best to ask what a typical day was like on that job or what responsibilities were day to day. You’ll get a better picture of what their duties actually were rather than what their resume wants you to think they know.

Resume books teach job seekers to maximize their experience with strong language; the goal of the phone screening is to undo that and actually get to the reality of the candidate’s experience.

~Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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Welcome to the Career Creature employer blog!

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We’re glad you’re here. Pull up a chair and start reading helpful tips about things like the best ways to use the Career Creature site, selecting how many applications to purchase, the best screening questions to ask, and when to use pictures and videos in the interviewing process.

It’s an exciting time for everyone here at Career Creature. Welcome aboard!

~ Career “Creature Feature” Writer

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