Archive for the Recruiting/Staffing Category

Questions about Forms I-9 from today’s webinar

During today’s webinar presentation of Identity and Eligibility Confirmation, a couple questions were asked to which I was pretty sure I knew the answer but wanted to do a little research to document my answer.

Question 1: If Section 3 of Form I-9 has already been completed (for a previous rehire or reverification of authorization, for instance), how do we document subsequent updates in Section 3?

According to the Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9, published by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in the situation where Section 3 of the Form I-9 has been previously completed (such as a rehire or a reverification of expired authorization), a new Form I-9 should be used. The employer should “write the employee’s name in Section 1 and complete Section 3 of the new Form I-9, retaining the new Form I-9 with the previously completed Form I-9.”

Also, note that if the Form I-9 is not the version currently in use, Section 3 must be completed on the current Form I-9 – not the older version previously completed by the employee. This will be particularly important in the next few months because the current form expired on 08/31/2012 but USCIS has instructed employers to continue using it until they release the new version. This means that when the new form is released, Section 3 must be completed on the new form rather than the one in your file.

Question 2: I’ve been told that you can’t staple documents to I-9s is that true?

There are several places in the Handbook and online resources that suggest that employers “attach” memos explaining changes to the Form I-9. I assume that “attach” would include staples. Also, on the page Avoiding Common Errors, USCIS includes the following tip for completing Form I-9: “Highlighting marks, hole punches and staples do not interfere with an authorized official’s ability to read the information on the form.”

This seems to suggest that it is okay to staple relevant documents to the Form I-9, so long as it does not interfere with the ability to read the information.

Thanks to all who joined the webinar today. Our full webinar schedule is available here.


Slidecast: Working with Generation Y

Our latest slidecast for the Austin Human Resource Management Association deals with the impact the Millenials (Generation Y, the Net Generation) are having on the workforce and ways that employers are attracting their talent. Doug Douglas of Stark Talent will be speaking on this topic during AHRMA’s November 15th meeting.

If you will be in the Austin area, you can see the full agenda and register for the meeting at

Enjoy the podcast

The New EEOC Guidance: The Sky Isn’t Falling

On April 25th, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new “enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

This is the first guidance on this topic issued by the EEOC in more than 20 years. It reflects the EEOC’s recent litigation trend of trying to limit employers’ use of criminal records in making employment decisions. Much of the new guidance reflects the policy considerations suggested in my Background Checks Under Fire presentations to SHRM chapters and webinar audiences.

However, the new guidance suggests several more restrictive items, including:

  • “Ban the box” – a suggestion that employers remove criminal history inquiries from the employment application and not make such inquiries until the applicant is being interviewed or even later in the process.
  • An interpretation of Title VII suggesting that employers create very job-specific (as opposed to job-category) guidelines identifying which kinds of criminal offense are directly applicable to a particular position.
  • A requirement that the employer conduct “individualized assessments” of most applicants whose criminal histories may eliminate them from consideration for employment. This would mean that employers would discuss the results of the background check with the applicant before making the hiring decision.

However, although the guidance suggests new policies for employers, it is important for employers to understand that little has really changed, despite much of what has been published in the media. (Remember that lawyers who speak to the media often give very generic and conservative advice.) The EEOC is not a rule-making entity – they can only bring civil cases against employers they believe to be in violation of the laws they enforce.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has not changed.

Employers run background checks for specific reasons (and none of them are prurient):

  • To protect the public from the consequences of the wrong person in the wrong job.
  • To protect their own employees from the consequences of the wrong person in the wrong job.
  • To protect the company’s assets from the consequences of the wrong person in the wrong job.
  • To protect the company’s reputation from the consequences of the wrong person in the wrong job.

Failures to protect against the consequences of the wrong person in the wrong job cost employers and society in many ways. In the worst situations, lives are lost or individuals are hurt. Expensive litigation often follows.

Employers should understand the ramifications of the new guidance on their operations’ safety and performance before making changes to their current policy. In fact, many employers who already have sound policies in compliance with long-standing EEOC guidelines may decide not to make any changes in light of the new guidance.

I conducted a webinar to go through the new guidelines last Friday. There were a lot of good questions and follow up conversations. In preparing the webinar, I visited with some really smart human resources professionals (including Terri Swain at The HR Consultant, who specializes in EEOC, affirmative action, and OFCCP issues), employment law attorneys, and my background screening industry peers. I’ve concluded that the sky isn’t falling but employers do need to make informed decisions about how they respond to the new guidance.

I’ve scheduled two additional webinars for the next two Mondays (April 30th and May 7th). The webinar will likely continue to evolve as great minds share their thoughts with me. I hope you’ll find time to be a part of that conversation. (There’s also free HRCI recertification credit in it for you, too.)

Why Do We Still Accept Resumes?

If this is your resume...

Diana Meisenhelter, a principal at talent acquisition consulting firm Riviera Advisors and president of the DFW Staffing Management Association, and I were sitting in a session at HR Southwest last month when a presenter made an off-handed endorsement of functional resumes. The next week, I received a functional resume from someone with tangential HR experience who was trying to look more like a seasoned HR pro and I forwarded it to Diana. That started a several week discussion between us about functional resumes and resumes in general, finally leading to Diana’s riff on functional resumes on Riviera’s blog.

Diana and I agree that functional resumes are bad things promoted by well-intentioned people: job counselors, professional resume writers, “my friend who used to sit near the HR guy,” etc. But the problem with functional resumes (they don’t tell recruiters or hiring managers what they want to know: what have you done and where have your done it) begs the question for HR: Why do we accept resumes at all?

...this is your employment application.

Diana and many other recruiting professionals tell me that in this age of electronic applications or position-interest forms, they still like to see a candidate’s (chronologicial) resume. Resumes, they say, give recruiters insight into the applicants’ personalities, organization skills, thought processes, priorities, etc. To which I say “BUNK!”

Many (most?) of the stand out resumes I’ve seen are the product of someone other than the job seeker. (Did you really think that accounting applicant knew just the right amount of white space to leave on the left margin of their resume? Or that the engineering executive was really such a talented wordsmith that he could reduce his expertise and experience to a few powerful succinct lines?) The same goes for the vast majority of the less-than-outstanding resumes out there. Most are patterned after someone else’s less-than-outstanding resume, leading to generation loss and resulting in Doug Four’s resume.

Doug Four in the movie Multiplicity.

Really, how many resumes have you seen that start out “Accomplished business professional with a proven ability to…”? Zzzzz. Wake me up when we get there. Do you believe that all those job seekers came up with that horrid line independently?

So, let’s say that two in ten resumes are truly reflective of the job seekers’ personal style, organization skills, and communication ability. What about the other 80% of the job seekers who may be fully qualified but who don’t have great resume building skills or took the advice of the wrong career coach or website? The ugly truth is that many of them end up in the “I’ll-look-at-these-resumes-later-if none-of-the-candidates-with-more-aesthetically-pleasing-resumes-pan-out” pile, including in many cases the best candidate for the position.

Job seekers keeping pumping out resumes because employers keep asking for them. Even with technology that allows job seekers to complete online applications, job-interest forms, or profiles that reflect their knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience, employers keep asking for and accepting resumes.

The message to job seekers is “Read my mind to figure out what I want your resume to look like and say. Oh, and if you fib a little, that’s okay – it’s a resume!”

Why do we make job seekers jump through this ridiculous hoop that should have died with the advent of web-based forms? What value does it bring to the selection process? Why not decide as a company what information you want and how you want it presented and then make sure your online career site collects and formats the information that way and, in the process, take the presentation out of the mix.

Let me clarify that resumes do have a place in today’s job market. As long as employers ask for resumes, job seekers will need them. Also, if a job seeker is reaching out directly or through their network to a hiring manager or executive, a great resume that tells the job seeker’s story in a meaningful but concise manner is important. It is a “getting to know you” document. Job seekers should also have a good resume available on Monster or the other job boards (while they last) or on the job seeker’s own website and blog (which is increasingly more important) so that recruiters’ sourcing efforts might identify them as potential candidates. When building their resumes, they should get the help of someone like Brad Smith, who has been there, done that and can advise them in their job search, drawing on years of real-world experience.

My point is that recruiters should be careful not to fall into the trap of favoring one candidate simply because they had a more appealing resume. Whether we’ll admit it or not, resumes appeal to recruiters’ aesthetic biases and often don’t help connect the right job seeker to the right job. It is a classic “we’ve always done it this way” fallacy.

Free Webinar: Background Checks Under Fire

The use of this seal is not an endorsement by HR Certification Institute of the quality of the program. It means that this program has met HR Certification Institute’s criteria to be pre-approved for recertification credit.

Imperative recently received HRCI Approved Provider status, which means that the presentations I’ve been making to SHRM-related chapters for the last several years can also be provided in other venues for HRCI credit. One of these new venues is the webinar format.

On November 8th, Imperative will be hosting our first webinar: Background Checks Under Fire: Policy Considerations to Avoid Discrimination Claims (register here). This program has been approved for one hour of general recertification credit for PHR, SPHR, and GPHRs.

DESCRIPTION: The EEOC, Congress, and many state legislatures are closely scrutinizing how employers use background checks, especially criminal histories and credit reports. This presentation will walk employers through the process of preparing a background screening policy that helps ensure a safe and productive workforce while staying out of regulators’ and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ crosshairs.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The learner will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the following objectives upon completion of this activity:

  •  The legal and safety reasons employers conduct thorough background checks; 
  • Employers’ responsibilities under the Fair Credit Reporting Act; 
  • Considerations in developing a background check and due diligence policy; 
  • Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its application to background checks; 
  • The National Labor Relations Act and its application to background checks; 
  • State-specific laws governing background checks.

 Space is limited. Reserve your webinar seat now at:

The HR Pro’s Guide to Navigating Corporate Politics

On March 16th, Jeremy Eskenazi of Riviera Advisors will be presenting this topic to a joint meeting of the DFW Staffing Management Association and Dallas HR.

Jeremy’s presentation has been approved by HRCI for one strategic recertification credit! This event is so big that we’ve resurrected the Imperative Podcast to help promote it!

You can use the player below to listen to the podcast from the website (mp3 file) or, if you’re really cool, you can download the AAC version here to see graphics and access hyperlinks. This version plays in QuickTimes or iTunes.


You can register for this event at the DFW SMA’s website. Hope to see you there!

No Background Check for Accused Sex Offender Working at Lufkin Apartment Complex

Had the owners of the Acadia Arms Apartments in Lufkin, Texas completed a background check on Jose Diaz before hiring him as a handyman, they would have learned that he has convictions for driving while intoxicated, driving while his license was suspended, and a felony conviction for possession of cocaine for which he spent eleven months in prison before being paroled in 2007.

This is definitely not someone you want  to have keys to your apartment.

According to television station KTRE: The owner says they didn’t check him since he was only contracted for ten days.

A female resident says she awoke inher bedroom on January 6th to find Diaz pulling off her shorts and began screaming, according to The Lufkin Daily News. When her roommate responded with a gun, Diaz left the apartment.

Since the incident, several other residents have made complaints against Diaz, including one, according to television station KLTV, who says he… it’s just too gross – you can read it on their website if you wish. (Warning: It is both graphic and gross.)

Many employers fail to conduct a meaningful criminal background check on contingent or temporary workers, thinking that they will only be around for a short time. That faulty thinking fails to recognize that a temporary worker with ill intent only needs a short amount of time to identify the vulnerabilities of the employer, coworkers, or customers.  Imperative  recommends that our clients select temporary employees with the same degree of diligence as regular employees.

Church and Nursing Home Fall Prey to “He’s a Nice Guy” Syndrome

My friend Greg Love is an attorney who, through his firm Ministry Safe, trains churches and community service organizations on how to keep sex offenders from harming their organizations. In his presentations he often laments that the Church is the last place where someone can show up and get access to kids or other vulnerable populations just by asking.

Greg’s point is that there is a tendency in a religious environment to presume to know someone’s “heart” and give them the benefit of the doubt along with access to kids, the infirm, or others who are vulnerable. The problem is that many deeply troubled and potentially dangerous people know how to talk the talk and appear to walk the walk. By the time their deception is identified, it is often too late.

That appears to be the case with this guy, Matthew Porter, a “volunteer associate pastor” and nursing home chaplain in Granbury, Texas.

According to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Porter has been accused of placing a hidden camera in a bathroom used by employees at Harbor Lakes Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation, where he was acting as a chaplain.

Apparently, only after this investigation began did the nursing home or The Church at Granbury learn that he was convicted in Manatee County, Florida for nine counts of video voyeurism. According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the Florida case, Porter videoed the bathroom activities of members of a juvenille Bible study group he held in his apartment. He was sentenced to 120 days in prison and one year probation, which he was allowed to serve in Texas.

What is even more disconcerting is that while on probation he received counseling at Gateway Community Church in Granbury, and was allowed to volunteer and act as a chaplain by both Granbury churches. “We let him do that because he was in counseling at the same time,” Gateway’s former music minister, who also counseled Porter, is quoted as saying. He added that he now believes that Porter lied to him about the Florida circumstances, though the Star-Telegram article doesn’t say how.

Which brings us to another issue my friend Greg Love often points out. Individuals who act out in this way (Greg often refers to them as predators) know who to cultivate the trust of gatekeepers – parents, church leaders, workplace supervisors – the very people whose job it is to protect vulnerable populations.

When conducting background checks, we often see situations where an employment applicant will admit to a minor criminal offense that, once the background check has been completed, turns out to be a gross reduction of the actual offense(s). Employers are sometimes so impressed that the applicant is forthright about past offenses, particularly minor but emberrasing ones, that they let down their guard and fail to conduct proper due diligence.

Additionally, many organizations seem to equate how much an individual is being compensated with the level of the background check that is conducted. Never mind that a “volunteer pastor” or “chaplain” is automatically given immediate credibility by those he or she encounters and the potential for damage to others and the organization is often greater than many other more highly compensated positions. Organizations need to carefully review the risks associated with a position rather than the compensation level when determining the necessary level of due diligence.

Meanwhile, Hood County Sheriff investigators are still trying to identify Porter’s vicitims from the hidden camera images they found. He is out on $20,000 bond so if you use a public restroom in Granbury… well, I’m just saying.

In Defense of Social Media and HR

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting The Business Case for Social Media in HR to the Hill Country Human Resources Management Association. What business does the president of the best background screening company in the universe have talking to HR folks about social media, you ask?

I was an HR-guy long before I was a background checks guy. In fact, Imperative Information Group grew out of my HR consulting practice and before that I was the HR guy tasked with, among lots of other things, managing the background screening relationship for a large North Texas hospital chain. So, HR and I go way back.

As far as social media goes, I just think it is really cool. I’m seeing smart recruiters like Jim Schnyder at Pepsico/Frito Lay and Craig Fisher and companies like Intuit do smart and creative things to use social media to attract active and passive candidates and evangelize their employment brand and I almost want to get into recruiting. Short of that, I’m always looking for information that can be helpful to my clients in executing their people strategy and social media has been a big part of that lately.

The HR pros at Hill Country HRMA were really gracious and I enjoyed our time together. Renee Holloway, who coordinated my visit to San Marcos, was extremely kind in a follow up email:

Mr. Coffey,

Thank you so much for your humorous and thought provoking presentation!  The buzz from local HR professionals was top notch about your topic!  We thank you so much for your valuable insight on social media, your time, travel and presentation.
May your 2011 be blessed!
Renee Holloway PHR

Though some of the slides may be out of context apart from the rest of my “humorous and thought provoking presentation” (I’m going to milk that one!), here is a copy of the ever-evolving slide deck for this presentation:

To put one thing in context from the slides, I want to point out that I don’t encourage HR professionals to use Facebook or other social media as a background checking tool for actual candidates. However, recognizing that they are going to do so, I try in the presentation to give them guidelines to consider that may help them stay out of hot water.

The best bet is still to partner with a third-party, like Imperative Information Group, to act as a firewall between the employer and potentially discriminatory information.

Also, here is a list of my upcoming presentations to HR groups:

January 27th: Pineywoods SHRM, Lufkin, TX; Background Checks Under Fire: Employer Considerations to Avoid Discrimination Claims

February 8th: Permian Basin HR, Odessa, TX; What Employers Need to Know About Background Checks

February 9th: Laredo SHRM, Laredo, TX; The Business Case for Social Media in HR

Feburary 10th: Concho Valley SHRM, San Angelo, TX; Background Checks Under Fire: Employer Considerations to Avoid Discrimination Claims

February 17th: East Texas HRA, Lufkin/Tyler, TX; Background Checks Under Fire: Employer Considerations to Avoid Discrimination Claims

March 4th: Williamson County HRMA, Round Rock, TX; What Employers Need to Know About Background Checks

April 12th: Corsicana HR, Corsicana, TX; The Business Case for Social Media in HR

April 21st: Fort Worth HRMA, Fort Worth, TX;  Background Checks Under Fire: Employer Considerations to Avoid Discrimination Claims with Julie Ross, JD!


A Reminder That Dumb Questions Don’t Make You Look Clever recently published their “Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions of 2010.”

Glassdoor is kind of like Imperative’s evil-brother-from-another-mother. They help job seekers get the “real dirt” on companies with whom they are applying. Of course, unlike Imperative, the information isn’t really verified for accuracy – sort of like buying an “instant criminal background check.”

In the mid-90’s I was asked during an interview which character on the TV series ER I was most like. I suggested Dr. Benton (played by Eric La Salle) was the character with whom I most identified. The interviewer paused and then replied “But you’re not black.” Gee, thanks for noticing.

I’ve often cringed when an acquaintance would share a catch-you-off-guard interview question that they thought gave them great insight into the soul of the applicant. First, I don’t think you want to get too deep into the applicant’s soul – especially if you’re still carrying around baggage from the playground in third grade.

When I’ve asked these clever folks what their answer to the question would be, they either give me an equally oddball answer as though it was obvious or dodge my question by claiming that they just want to see how the applicant would go about formulating a solution.

I often suspect that these questions are meant more to impress or intimidate the applicant rather than encourage a two-way conversation about whether the applicant and the company are a good fit.

The bottom line is that an interviewer’s time is better spent planning a good behavioral interview and perhaps scheduling a validated test that are geared to measure the applicant’s ability to do the job and work within the company’s culture.

Looking over the list, I did know the answer to one question (allegedly asked at Google):

Question: “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room”

Answer: A roomful.

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