Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Best Interviews Are Free-Flowing

About six months back, I had to do my first interview for my new company. One of the things that I was surprised about was the rigidity in which I was supposed to do this. The candidates would only be meeting with me for an hour of one-on-one time before I passed them off through the three other interviews they had set up for them. Not only that, Human Resources instructed me to come up with certain questions that I had to use for every candidate.

That didn't quite sit well with me. All my best interviews that I've either been the interviewer or the interviewee have been free-flowing conversations that allow the candidate to show their true self. I've spent hours interviewing at times. The Astron interview certainly comes to mind here. Jennifer and I spoke for what seemed like hours. It allowed both her to learn more about me and me to learn more about her and the company. One interview for my current job, I walked in and the interviewer, having read my resume and realizing I was a sports fan, had an article on his screen about Alex Rodriguez from the Wall Street Journal, pointed at it and asked me what I thought about the situation. Later he told me the point was just to see how I communicated and presented myself. But he allowed me to get into a comfortable zone by starting the interview off like that. We still got to the important/mandatory/obligatory questions, but we started out on the right foot.

My feeling is that when you have rigidity in interviews, you make people answer questions they've already prepared for. Surprise them. One of my co-workers had to interview potential managers to be his boss. He would ask all of the potential managers during the interview: "what if I wanted to come in late every day?" One interview I was in I was asked to tell a joke. Another, I had to shout something at the top of my lungs in a crowded room of interviewers. The point is not to embarrass people but to see their creativity, their ability to think on the spot, and also to avoid getting answers they've practiced in front of the mirror many times and don't reveal their true self.

I'm not saying don't ask: "what is your greatest weakness?" but be willing to follow up on that. If someone goes "I'm a perfectionist, to a fault" make them elaborate and give examples. If the interviewer asks where you want to see yourself in five years, give an answer and then turn it around and ask them where the want to be in five years or if they ended up where they thought they'd be five years before. Engage. Be willing to push from both sides of the interview. Ask the other person "if you weren't working here but could be doing anything else in the world, what would you want to do/where would you be?"

I know, I seem fair and that you're not discriminating between candidates, you can't deviate too much from interview to interview. But the last thing you want to do is judge each candidate based on a set of canned questions. Make them open up. Even just a little. You will have to work with this person if you hire them; it would be a good idea to see a little of who they really are.


And with that, I'm out of here for two weeks. I'm heading to the Land Down Under. I will try to get some blog posts in from down there, but can't promise anything. In the meantime, Jennifer and the rest of the Astron crew should be taking over for me here. So, trust me, you're in good hands :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Giving Up Pay Raises and Other HR Articles

Got some good ones for your Thursday!
-From the AP/Yahoo! News: Lawmakers voted to give up pay raises in 2010. Not sure who the 24 people who voted against this are, but it's good to see politicians somewhat putting their money where their mouth is...
-Want to Twitter your way to a new job (or maybe it's Tweet your way to a new job...not sure)? Well has some suggestions on how to do so.
-The New York Times Freakonomics blog has an interesting suggestions on a way for potential employees to show employers what they can do before they get the job.
-Jim Stroud (you can follow him on Twitter @jimstroud) from The Recruiter's Lounge has an article talking about the intricacies of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
-News from this morning from Reuters that U.S. jobless claims are up and continued claims are at a record high. We just keep setting records we don't want to set.
-Lastly, an article from Workforce Management's blog, "The Business of Management", which talks about an issue we've covered on this blog: what to do when you overpay former workers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not The Way To Start A New Job

One of the only good parts about working in cubicles is that sometimes you overhear conversations that make you laugh (and sometimes the conversations are on speakerphone). Today's could be labeled "How To Lose a Job in 10 Days" or "The Worst First Impression", but I think that I'll just let the story speak for itself. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. "Gerry" is the name of the guy who works here currently. "Alvin" is the name of the employee who is joining our team as part of his rotational program. Here is what transpired:
[phone ringing]
Alvin: umm...hello?
Gerry: Alvin, it's Gerry.
Alvin: who?
Gerry: Gerry! Are you still sleeping?!
Alvin: Yeah, why? What time is it?
Gerry: It's 9:20. Your hiring manager just messaged me to ask where you are
Alvin: I'm in New York City, I don't start for another day
Gerry: Oh, ok...phew...he told me you started on Wednesday
Alvin: I do
Gerry: Today's Wednesday!
Alvin:'s Tuesday
Gerry:'s Wednesday
Alvin: Oh [muffled expletives]
Gerry: Well I'll tell him you'll be right in
Alvin: Dude, I'm in New York City...I don't think I can get there before 10:30
Gerry: Wwwell what do you want me to do?
Alvin: Just tell him that I'm running late, stuck in traffic...gotta go get ready [click]
Wow...nice way to make a first impression...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Astronology - Save the Home, Keep the Employee

Astron Website Top
Volume IX
Issue 26
February 24, 2009
Dear Andrew,

Astron Solutions provides high-quality, low-cost, innovative human resources consulting services to organizations like yours. Call us for advice, innovative program design, and user-friendly Web/PC based software.

Fact or Fiction?
Fact or fiction: Australia has maternity leave, but has banned a similar practice for the birthing of new pets.


"Pet-ernity" has been introduced to Australia. This allows folks to take a special leave allowance to take care of newborn puppies and kittens. The policy has been enacted by Virgin Mobile, ONLY if you've been with the company for more than 2 years. The policy doesn't allow pet-ernity for other animals, such as snakes, turtles or fish. What are you waiting for? Go adopt a newborn kitten and enjoy the week off!

You can read the full article here.
The Astron Road Show
March is right around the corner, Old Man Winter is hopefully just about done pestering us with the bitter winds, and Astron is starting to hit the road. The next event for Astron Solutions will be the CUPA-HR Conference held in Somerset, NJ on February 27th for their New Jersey Chapter Meeting. Astron is a sponsor of the event. National Director Jennifer C. Loftus and Technology Supervisor Brendan Williams will be there meeting and greeting those in attendance. For more information on this conference, click here.

Astron's next event is the Capital Regional Human Resource Association's 2009 Conference and Marketplace on March 19th in Albany, NY. Look for Astron's exhibit booth in the main lobby. National Director Michael Maciekowich will be there meeting and greeting with attendees. For information on this event, please click here.

As promised in last issue, Astron Solutions has teamed up with Bond, Shoeneck & King, PLLC to give presentations regarding the latest changes in labor legislation. National Director Mike Maciekowich will present these seminars along with the BSK team lead by Partner Lou DiLorenzo. From March 24th through the 27th, and March 31st, Astron and BS&K will be in upstate New York giving presentations. Then on April 2nd and 3rd, we'll be in New York City and Long Island. For more information on upstate New York dates, locations, and how to register, please click here. For more information on New York City and Long Island dates, locations, and how to register, please click here.

Well, that's what we have for the coming month. More events will be announced as we get more details.

We hope to see you there!
Save the Home, Keep the Employee

dollarsignsBy Richard L. Virgilio, SPHR

Home ownership has always been touted as "The American Dream." Sadly, this dream is slipping away not only from many people who were "almost there," but also many who "just barely made it" or "made it but the breaks are going the wrong way." The consequences of losing one's home are on a par emotionally with losing one's job. As HR professionals, we can help keep our employees from making difficult choices about their financial positions in relation to their homes. These decisions can negatively affect the workplace; worse, force employees to leave just to relocate to where they can better afford to live, perhaps away from the area of their current employment....more

Have a Question?

If you have a topic you would like addressed in Astronology, or some feedback on a past article, don't hesitate to tell us!  Simply reply to this e-mail.  See your question answered, or comments addressed, in an upcoming issue of Astronology.

Looking for a top-notch presenter for your human resource organization's meeting?  Both Jennifer Loftus and Michael Maciekowich present highly-rated sessions on a variety of compensation and employee retention issues.  For more information, send an e-mail to

The Fine Print

We hold your e-mail address in trust.  Astron Solutions promises never to share or rent your personal information.  We also promise never to send you frivolous e-mails and will allow you to leave our list, at your option, at any time.

To remove yourself from this list, please follow your personalized subscriber link at the bottom of your Astronology alert e-mail.

Copyright 2009, Astron Solutions, LLC

ISSN Number 1549-0467

Quick Links

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Bringing you Human Resource news from around the globe...compliments of Astron Solutions.


Join Our Mailing List

Microsoft "Fixes" Severance Mistake

A follow up from yesterday's item: Now the overpaid laid-off Microsoft workers will get to keep the extra money instead of giving it back. Nice save, there, Microsoft.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Can't Be Good For Business...

According to the AP, Microsoft is asking some laid-off employees for a portion of their severance back, blaming an administrative glitch...oops.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies and Other HR Links

-Workforce Management starts us off this week with an article about why Girl Scout Cookie sales are down: the economy and the Employee Free Choice Act

-The HR Capitali$t asks why we're still using job boards when there's other social networking sites out there?

-Also from the HR Capitalist, an article on personal branding

-From the Workforce Management's Compensation Force blog, an article that says that adversity demands a kick-start with small goals and recognition

-Lastly, George's Employment Blawg, has tips to not get your resume blocked by spam filters. HR professionals should also look at this for tips on how to manipulate spam filters so that e-mails with resumes don't get blocked.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Links!

It's FRIDAY!!! Here are some links to bring you into your weekend...
Some more on that Twitter HR e-mail, this time form gurublog at Personnel Today
From the New York Times Freakonomics blog, "A Paycut By Any Other Name Is Still A Paycut"
Oldie but goodie from The Office Newb on how an advanced degree can ruin a relationship and lead to divorce
Benefits Buzz says that your 100% 401k Match is surprisingly no match for McDonalds
Politico's Ben Smith on the SEIU head's fight to merge labor unions
Lastly, Cheezhead says that according to comScore, topped in site rankings but both of those as well as Yahoo! HotJobs were up big in January. In all, the job search sites were up 42% in January and Career Resources sites were up 26%. The top gaining category? Tax-related sites.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Links

Thursday comes so quickly in short nice! And we have a ton of links for you nice!
First, from MSN and, tales of when older workers have younger bosses (H/T Wendy): click here
From the New York Times, how to friend the boss on Facebook (as well as mom and dad)...safely (H/T Sarah): click here
Also from the New York Times, this time from the Freakonomics blog, talks about the possible exodus of human capital from the financial industry with the $500,000 bonus cap (click here). My feeling is they won't go anyplace. The can't go to hedge funds since they're going under. The won't go to work for the public sector because their pay is capped. They won't go work for startups because of the uncertainty. Maybe they'll move to private equity...but even that's debatable.
Anderson Cooper's Twitter sent me to the AC360 blog which brought me to this article warning Baby Boomers to get working or go bust: click here
Cheezhead has a survey from CareerBuilder that says that 40% of employers are going to trim benefits and perks in 2009: click here
This story about the Twitter HR manager (click here) is certainly a horror story for a Human Resources professional and it continues to reverberate throughout the industry. The Hr Capitali$t picks up on it and has a few comments (including revelations that this HR manager has a few bikini shots on the web as well...oops): click here
Lastly, Fistful of Talent say that the job of Resume Writer is up in this down economy and people who pay for the expensive service may not get exactly what they wanted...: click here

What I'm Hearing...Winds of Change

Astron Solutions has partnered with Bond Schoeneck & King, PLLC, to present "Can Your Compensation System Weather the (Hurricane) Winds of Change From the Obama Administration?" We'll be presenting the program through the state of New York in late March and early April.

You can learn more about the Long Island and New York City programs by visiting

You can learn more about the upstate New York programs by visiting

The lead speakers at all programs include Astron's own Michael Maciekowich, and BSK's Lou DiLorenzo.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bud Selig and the Questions on Accountability and Punishment

Bud Selig leads a charmed life. He's the commissioner of Major League Baseball. In 2007 he was paid higher than all but three players in baseball (click here). He survived even after a season was cancelled by the player strike. But I think he's sort of lost it. He first wanted to suspend Alex Rodriguez (click here) when the news that he had done steroids leaked (and return Hank Aaron to the title of "official all-time home-run king"). Now Mr. Selig says that he doesn't want blame for what happened in baseball with regards to steroids (click here).
Let me start by explaining that positive test that got released about Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be an anonymous test in 2003. What was the punishment for failing a test that year? Nothing...because it was anonymous. Or supposed to be. During the Barry Bonds investigation, the United States government seized the 104 positive test results from that season. The one name that has leaked so far has been A-Rod. Although taking "illegal drugs" was banned in baseball since the early 90s, a punishment for steroids wasn't instituted until 2004. So what Bud Selig wants to do is go back in time to 2003, when there was no punishment for steroids (mostly because he didn't have enough guts to stand up to the forces around him and demand such), and suspend A-Rod for a test that Selig shouldn't even know that A-Rod failed. 
Let's put this in another context (entering fantasy world...)
Let's say that you run a company called Initech. Let's say that you sort of knew that everyone in your company was doing some sort of drug that was making them more productive. It may be illegal, it may not, but hey, they are certainly putting up good numbers and your company has never been more profitable. One of your employees, Bob, is creating too much trouble, though, around the office and you decide to let him go. Bob's upset by the situation and alerts a lot of people to the fact that he thinks everyone in your company is doing an illegal drug to keep productive. You sweep this under the rug. This guy was disruptive when he was here, who knows if this is true, and even if it is, who is going to believe Bob or care. You have another guy, Bill, who is a star employee so you really hope he's just going to fill in for Bob. He's won a couple of employee of the month awards and really seems like he's going to make a lot of people forget about Bob. Bob says some things about Bill on his way out but you dismiss these as well.
Backing up a few years before this, you had decided that because people are getting sick too often, you wanted to institute a health screening to determine healthcare premiums. You take blood from everyone for the purpose of testing cholesterol and whether they are a smoker and some other factors. It's anonymous because of HIPPA so you have no clue anything other than if the person's premiums are going up or not. Some of your employees are still worried about privacy rights but you assure them that it is in the form that they sign that Initech can't use the test for anything other than a simple health-related screening and can't fire you for any of the results. 
All of a sudden Bob gets busted in his new company for doing an illegal drug. He says to the police that the drug is for his cholesterol. He says that he had really bad cholesterol for years and needed to take it. The police come to Initech and ask you for the blood results for Bob to see if this was true. Under order of subpoena, you are forced to hand over all the blood tests. For good measure, you make a new rule that anyone caught doing this drug will be fired immediately. You didn't have that rule in place already because there seemed no reason to and you already had a rule about "abusing".
The person testing the blood for the police, Joe, finds in inordinate amount of illegal drug in Bob's test. He thinks that maybe others are doing it as well. Joe takes a few and tests them and they all come back positive. Those weren't part of the subpoena, but Joe figures he might as well tell his friend who works for the local newspaper. He won't tell him much except that the new star earner for Initech, Bill, is also using this drug and that's probably why Bill and the company are so successful.
Suddenly you find out about what's going on in Initech. You already suspected that it was going on, but you can't believe that Bill was doing it, as well as Bob and others. So you decide to take decisive action. You tell Bill that you're thinking of firing him for what he had done in the past...even though it really wasn't explicitly banned and you weren't ever supposed to see that blood test or even test it for anything other than what was needed for the health assessment. You also inform him that you're taking away his employee of the month awards. You further let the public know that you weren't to blame for what was going on. It was the employees doing illegal things, not you. "Why would anyone blame me for this?" you say...
Ok...back to reality. How many of those things at the end would you get away with as the head of a company or as a Human Resource professional? Probably none. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy Tuesday

Skipped Monday (AKA the worst day of the week) and now on to Tuesday!
The New York Times writes that in this economic climate, the check is killing power business lunches (H/T Sarah): click here
From our new blogroll on the right, found this very interesting article from Workforce Management on the cost to get smokers to quit: click here
Also from the blogroll, from Learning New Playbook, will Millennials lead the way in mobile learning?: click here
Via Twitter: barbarasafani: Get a free resume critique from Career Solvers on 2/18 at the Monster Job Fair in NYC 11am to 3pm Radisson Martinique Hotel 49 W32nd St.
From TickledByLife, an article on deciding on how to decide: click here
Also from TickledByLife, a seven-step plan for success: click here

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Added Bonus

There is a new feature on this blog: an updated blogroll on the right side that will keep you updated on the latest news in the blogs we're reading. If you have any additions for us, please let us know. We'd be happy to share links.

Thanks again for reading. Hope you're enjoying your long weekend!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Office Romance and Other Friday Links

-A recent U.S. survey says that romance blooms at the office (H/T Sarah): click here
-6 tricks for a recession-proof resume from and MSN: click here
-Sometimes interview/application questions can get a little too ridiculous: click here
-The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) says to expect hiring to hit "deep freeze" in February with mass layoffs and cost-cutting continuing for U.S. payrolls in this economic crisis: click here
-Another SHRM survey is quoted in this Washington Business Journal article saying that hiring is down in manufacturing and services, a group that together employs more than 90% of the nation's private sector workers: click here
-HR Daily Advisors says that overtime rules are resented by high-earning employees: click here
-ABC in Los Angeles has some tips for job searching after layoff and beyond: click here
-Good to hear: human resources training is still a priority: click here
-Good news for HR services from Thomason Financial News via Forbes: Citigroup thinks that you will continue to be solid despite the economic downturn: click here
-Lastly, the Charlotte Business Journal says that HR outsourcing has gained favor in this down market: click here
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Articles on a Great Day

Those who've gone outside in New York today know it was a beautiful day. Where here are some links to enjoy once you're done enjoying the weather...

Got some good stuff from the Boston Globe's Job Docs, the first article is about a couple of bad apples spoiling things for everyone at work: click here

Also from Job Docs, advice on whether it is appropriate to get calls for jobs--while at work: click here

Lastly from Job Docs, it's not just in the school yard anymore--job interview do overs: click here

From the Wall Street Journal, word that recruiting at business schools has dropped: click here

Also from the Journal, despite cutbacks in firms, they are still investing in developing future leaders: click here

Lastly from the Journal, an article making the case for executive education: click here

And our last article for the day, from Dice, 8 ways to keep your career moving while out of work (H/T Wendy): click here

Astronology - Employ Voluntary Programs to Enhance Your Benefit Offerings

Astron Website Top
Volume IX
Issue 25
February 10, 2009
Dear Andrew,

Astron Solutions provides high-quality, low-cost, innovative human resources consulting services to organizations like yours. Call us for advice, innovative program design, and user-friendly Web/PC based software.

Fact or Fiction?
Fact or fiction: Companies want you to go home and make babies!

Absolutely Fact

Canon's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan has gotten into the habit of letting employees go early twice a week with one goal in mind: go home and multiply. Japan, like America, is in the middle of a recession. Canon is using this technique to help offset their costs, while also trying to fix one of Japan's major health issues: low birthrate.

You can read the full article here.

The Astron Road Show
Two months into 2009, and it's time to grab your calendars and mark Astron's first Road Show event of 2009. Our first show of the New Year is in Houston, TX. National Director, Michael Maciekowich, will be presenting at the Houston Society of Healthcare Human Resources Administration conference held on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009. For more information, please click here.

Also, stay tuned for details on an exciting spring seminar series we'll be presenting across New York State in partnership with Bond Schoeneck & King, PLLC!

We hope to see you there!
Employ Voluntary Programs to Enhance Your Benefit Offerings

handshakeToday we provide you with a special article written by guest author Doug Mantz of The Farmington Company. You can reach Doug directly at or 860-678-6703 with your questions and feedback.

Attracting and retaining quality employees is becoming increasingly challenging for many employers. Rising medical insurance rates and scaled-back benefit offerings are prompting employees to place greater emphasis on their total compensation package "beyond the paycheck." With 45 percent of employees reporting that benefits are an important reason why they stay with their employer, it is clear that benefits have taken on a greater significance among workers and their families....more

The Office Romance Dilemma
Amour. The French translation of the romantic feeling of love is something most people want in their life at some time or another. Interestingly, many are finding love in what could be considered an unconventional location...the places where they work. Consider the results from Vault's 2008 Office Romance Survey....more
Have a Question?

If you have a topic you would like addressed in Astronology, or some feedback on a past article, don't hesitate to tell us!  Simply reply to this e-mail.  See your question answered, or comments addressed, in an upcoming issue of Astronology.

Looking for a top-notch presenter for your human resource organization's meeting?  Both Jennifer Loftus and Michael Maciekowich present highly-rated sessions on a variety of compensation and employee retention issues.  For more information, send an e-mail to

The Fine Print

We hold your e-mail address in trust.  Astron Solutions promises never to share or rent your personal information.  We also promise never to send you frivolous e-mails and will allow you to leave our list, at your option, at any time.

To remove yourself from this list, please follow your personalized subscriber link at the bottom of your Astronology alert e-mail.

Copyright 2009, Astron Solutions, LLC

ISSN Number 1549-0467

Quick Links

World of HR Blog

Bringing you Human Resource news from around the globe...compliments of Astron Solutions.


Join Our Mailing List

Monday, February 09, 2009

20,000 Visitors and Counting

We had our 20,000th visitor to the blog today which came from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Our recent visitor map shows we have visitors from all around the US and Canada as well as Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, the UK, Netherlands, France, Singapore and the the past week!
We thank you for your support and we ask you to continue to check us out here at the Astron Solutions World of HR blog, sign up for our updates on the right-hand side in whichever way is most convenient to you and that you spread our website among your friends, family and, co-workers.
And don't forget to visit our main site where you can see what Astron Solutions can do for you and your company.

Some Early Morning Articles

Some early morning articles for your Monday morning (trying to only have good articles this morning...):
From the Herman Trend Alert, an article about the growth of green jobs: click here
It seems that employees will not have the excuse that they couldn't do work because they were on a plane: click here
And lastly, HR and the art of clich├ęs management from Tickled by Life (H/T Wendy): click here

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Follow Us On Twitter

Just in case you didn't know (and if you didn't, it's probably because you missed this post) Astron Solutions has a Twitter account so you can follow us:

We're all up in your social networking!

Friday, February 06, 2009

IBM's laid off employees offer jobs overseas

One more article before the weekend...
IBM is offering employees who would otherwise be laid off a chance to take a job in India instead of getting the pink slip. A really interesting article and an interesting debate for many people in this economy (H/T Cassandra): click here

Some Good Friday WSJ Articles

Wanted to post some good article from the Wall Street Journal to take you into your weekend
First from the Journal, word about the job loss numbers surpassing 3 million...quite a recession: click here
With all that job loss, this article says that states' jobless funds are running so low that seven states are already borrowing from Washington to pay unemployment benefits (can't we change that name too...sounds oxymoronic): click here
On the dress code at work topic, we have a WSJ article on a place that still goes with "old-school power attire": click here
Next, a question that could make a monkey out of you in job interviews "What is your greatest weakness?": click here 
Guess who's hiring again (and one of the hot firms to work for)? Give up? Lehman! Want to know why? click here
And from the Journal, word that women aren't waiting to delve into childbirth as long as they had in the past: click here
On that subject, we go to one New York Times article which says that as layoffs surge, women may pass men in the workforce: click here
Have a great weekend!

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