Monday, November 24, 2014

I am Thankful....Revisited!

November is a time for many of us to take a moment and give thanks.  And what better way than for me to once again share my words of gratefulness with you.....

This time of year, you may gather family and friends around you for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or simply join them in watching our favorite football teams compete.

Whatever you choose, the season brings thoughts of get togethers and a feeling of thankfulness.

I would like to extend that gratitude to you ~ my clients, readers, and Social Media friends.

Despite being in business for many years, I have been feeling more successful than ever.  What is really special to me is that this success does not come solely from having a healthy bottom line.  

It comes from the feeling of being blessed to have connected with each of you.  You have all been extremely supportive of my efforts and it has renewed my commitment to you and to my business.

I start and end each day with a sense of purpose, and I am thankful.

I can honestly say that I feel lucky and privileged.  You are all wonderful and amazing people.  Many of you are pursuing your own success, and I admire your efforts.  I also hope you feel the same sense of encouragement from me that I feel from all of you.

It is also gratifying to feel the camaraderie you have all shared with me.  It will never be forgotten.

My goal is to strive to live by these words from John F. Kennedy and put my gratitude and appreciation into action throughout the year.   You all deserve nothing less.

In closing I leave you with these thoughts:

“Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are leads to good places ~ productive, fulfilling, peaceful places. So be happy for those who are making progress. Cheer for their victories. Be thankful for their blessings, openly. What goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you're cheering for will start cheering for you.”     Unknown

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I Finally Got a Smartphone

It finally happened.  One day I wake up perfectly happy with the cell phone I have had for the past 7 years, and then very quickly everything changed.  

My phone made calls, took pictures ~ exactly the things a good phone needs to do.  I was content.

Then the next thing I know, the unthinkable happened.  My trusty cell ended up swishing around in my washing machine.

I won’t bore you with the details on how this catastrophe happened (suffice it to say that I should never have carried it downstairs in my laundry basket!).

But by the time I realized that is where my cell ended up, it was too late.  My machine was already filled and agitating!

I tried everything.  I took it apart, shook it gently to get the water out, and even submerged it in a bowl of rice (thanks to a suggestion from one of my “go to” tech people - my daughter).

My Old Cell!

Nothing worked.  It was a goner.  And there was no doubt I needed a working phone.

So, I got the previously mentioned daughter and we went to my wireless carrier store.  Lo and behold, the only phones they even carry anymore are smart phones.  My fate was sealed! 

While waiting for a service rep, I looked around the store.  Because I already had a MacBook Air and an iPad, an Apple phone was the obvious choice.  It would be easier to navigate and my apps would be interchangeable.

Of course I could have chosen the latest and greatest model, but instead I opted for the one where I could get the best deal.  So I entered the world of the iPhone 5s.

I got to pick a pretty cover (love my pink and purple) and chose a good screen protector (while jokingly asking if this helped make my new phone “washer proof”!).

And because I already had an iTunes account, the tech was even able to retrieve my contacts from my old phone!

Pretty soon, I was in business ~ and it was easier than I ever expected!

When I got home, I synced my phone with my iTunes account and all the apps I needed were quickly at my disposal.  I would now be able to get emails, check my social media accounts, and even get updates from Hootsuite on my scheduled posts.

Of course I am still tweaking my settings and learning all the things I am now able to do with my phone.  But I have already discovered that I love having a smartphone more than I ever thought I would.

I had resisted getting one for the longest time (despite being eligible for an upgrade for years).  I was not sure I wanted to be “connected” 24/7.  I liked being able to shut down my laptop or iPad and be “off” work.

But, as with anything, I have found that understanding the pros and cons, and learning what works for me, is what is important.

Here is what I now know about having a smartphone:


  • I am able to check for important emails, and trash the junk ones, while traveling ~ definitely streamlining my inbox before checking my laptop later.

  • My picture taking capabilities, both for work and personal use, have increased greatly.  This is great since I love using my own pics in my social media posts.

  • Replying to a comment on my blog or post is now done more quickly than ever.  This definitely increases timely interaction with my readers.

My Old & My New Cell!


  • I have to fight the urge to check social sites more than I should (it is just too easy).  

  • It can be “too much” access to my business. Constant alerts to emails coming in and group notifications can be overwhelming.  

Setting strict parameters as to when and where to check in has been important in managing both.

And this is the most important lesson I have learned through it all ~ the “ Do Not Disturb” mode is my friend!  

Every evening I silence all notifications except for incoming calls from my “favorites” (my close family).  This way I am not constantly getting buzzed or beeped while relaxing or during the night.  It has been a lifesaver (especially since I did not discover this setting until the second night of having my phone)!

I can now truthfully say that my reluctance to join the world of the smartphone was unfounded.  As with anything new, learning how to make it work for me instead of against me has been key.

Now if I can only keep this one out of the washing machine........

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Monday, November 10, 2014

The Top 5 Hot Topics in Background Checks in 2014

How, when, and why you can use Background Checks in your hiring process has changed.  And many of these changes were Hot Topics in 2014.

Here I will discuss my Top 5 and what they mean to you:

  • Consumer Reporting Agencies and Criminal Background Checks

Any employer who obtains criminal history reports on an applicant or employee from a CRA (Consumer Reporting Agency) must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Your Background Check provider falls under the CRA category.

The key features of the FCRA require that in order to conduct a criminal history check, an employer must do these 3 things:

  1. Obtain a Signed Release granting permission to perform the Criminal History Check
  2. Provide the applicant/employee a copy of the report and a Summary of their rights prior to any adverse action based on the information in the report.
  3. Send Written Notice if a decision not to hire is made based on the criminal history report.

The important takeaway here is that any time your company uses a third party to conduct your background check, you must make sure they understand that the FCRA requirements apply.

I believe your Best Offense is a Good Defense.  In order to avoid FCRA violations, it is crucial that your screening provider is knowledgeable, in full compliance, and can keep you in compliance with the Act. 

It is also important that they use procedures aimed at providing you with accurate and quality information.  Remember, not all background checks are created equal.

Learn more in “Tips to Help Your Business Fly Under the EEOC Radar”.  I help you avoid the pitfalls that can land your company in their sites when it comes to your release forms, your notice of applicant rights, and your adverse action notifications.

  • “Ban the Box” 

At its most basic, “Ban the Box” removes the criminal history question from job applications and delays the question of a criminal record until a conditional offer of employment has been made.

However, and as I discussed in my article, “Discover How Many States are Taking ‘Ban the Box’ too Far”, this trend continues to grow and morph as more states and cities adopt their own policy.

These new legislations are dividing many, with a middle ground currently out of reach:

“Critics of “ban the box” see the current trend as excessive intrusion on a company’s hiring decisions.  Giving extra protection to those with criminal records subjects employers to complicated hiring procedures and to possible litigation for making unsafe hires.

Making any decisions, even the decision to interview, will now be made without having all the facts.  And limiting what kinds of criminal offenses can be considered creates risk.

Opponents to the current and, most likely, future reach of “ban the box” believe having that information early in the process allows employers to make a much more informed decision.

They also believe these laws are a burden, especially to Small Business.  The additional time and money it takes interviewing those who an employer later learns has a criminal record can be damaging.”

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approach to the Use of Criminal Records in Hiring

According to the EEOC:

“Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking about your criminal history. But, federal EEO laws do prohibit employers from discriminating when they use criminal history information. Using criminal history information to make employment decisions may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII).”

This next phrase, however, is the most telling:
“Title VII prohibits employers from using policies or practices that screen individuals based on criminal history information if:

  • They significantly disadvantage Title VII-protected individuals such as African Americans and Hispanics; AND
  • They do not help the employer accurately decide if the person is likely to be a responsible, reliable, or safe employee.
  • Another key point here is the emphasis on using Convictions, not Arrests, when making your hiring decisions.

In, “Why Checking an Applicant’s Criminal Past Should be About Convictions, Not Arrests”, I explained that,  

“The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) differentiates between arrests and convictions.  An arrest alone simply does not prove criminal conduct.  It is important to keep in mind that excluding someone based on an arrest record that is not job related or necessary based on your business can be seen as a Civil Rights violation.”

In addition,

“To be safe, employers should give convictions much more weight than arrests in their hiring decision.  When you have evidence of a conviction (especially those verified through a quality background check company), you know the record is that of the applicant and you know the outcome of the case.”

Only then can you make a truly fair and informed determination of the applicant’s suitability for the job.

  • The Rise in Class Action Lawsuits involving the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

In 2013 there were 3500 more cases filed (alleging FCRA violations) than in 2012. (Source: Lexology)

Employers are in a tough spot.  They need to practice Due Diligence in hiring, while at the same time dealing with changing compliance issues.  Because of this, companies can expect to see an increase in lawsuits for both failing to use background checks in hiring and for failing to use them correctly.

According to an article published in Lexology by Sara Hutchins Jodka (Porter, Wright, Morris, & Arthur LLP), “The FCRA is the new FLSA ” (Fair Labor Standards Act);

“Many employers run into problems because they fail to comply with one or more of these four distinct steps (disclosure, authorization, pre-adverse notice, adverse notice), but even employers who do manage comply with these four broad requirements tend to miss some of the more intricate, lesser-known requirements that each step further requires. Add a per-violation statutory penalty and an award of attorneys’ fees for each FCRA violation an employer commits and it becomes clear how FCRA class actions are quickly becoming the new go-to class action lawsuits for plaintiff-employment lawyers.”

This climate makes it more important than ever for employers to consult legal counsel well versed in FCRA compliance and employ a good Background Check company to help. 

  • Use of Social Media in Background Checks.

A 2014 CareerBuilder study shows that, “Forty-three percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 39 percent last year and 36 percent in 2012.”  

I have always been an advocate of knowing what is “out there” about you, especially before beginning any job search.

In Part 1 of my series, “Social Media, Background Checks, & Company Policy:  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”, I share exactly how Social Media posts, pictures, etc. are used during the hiring process.

It is important to understand that “many times it is not part of the formal background check investigation, but is often an 'added tool' used by the hiring company or background check investigator to get a clearer picture of the applicant”.

In Part 2, I go further and explain the importance of a sound Social Media Policy, “5 Things a Good Social Policy Needs”.

While it is easy to see why using social media in your hiring process is appealing (it is free and quick after all), employers need to be wary.

Existing laws that govern fairness in employment still apply.  Any personal information you discover that relates to protected classes as defined by Title VII (race, religion, etc.), cannot be used in your employment decisions.

The problem is, once you have seen something, it cannot be unseen.  This results in an added risk to your company.  If you make the determination not to hire someone, proving that you did not factor in anything you may have seen online covered by Title VII can prove difficult.

Your best bet is is use a 3rd party screening company to conduct all aspects of your background check.  They will be well versed in what information they can and cannot include in their reports.

  • Use of Credit Reports

Employers would do well to approach the use of credit reports in their hiring process with caution.

It is important to know your existing state laws governing credit reports (and be aware that these laws may change) and understand whether a credit report is necessary and relevant to the job.  Having a permissible purpose for the credit report and meeting all guidelines is crucial.

Employers also need to be aware that credit reports are not infallible.  They can contain errors.  In addition, the growing problem of identity theft creates a nightmare for victims in terms of their credit reports.

2014 saw employment credit checks continue to be looked on with disfavor.  In “Employment Credit Checks, Will They Soon be a Thing of the Past?”, I wrote;

“I do not think using credit checks to determine employment is necessary.  The information obtained in a credit check, even the “modified” ones supplied to employers, is simply not needed in making an informed hiring decision.  Unless required by law or when hiring for upper level positions, other options are available to employers for determining whether an applicant is the right choice.”

This tool could possibly disappear from employer’s hiring practices in the near future.

I believe each of these trends will continue to be Hot Topics in the coming year.  That is why making sure you keep up to date is the primary goal of your background check provider.

While this can seem like a daunting prospect, being flexible and trusting in your screening company is key.

Authored by   

If you have questions on how you can make new hires or screen existing employees safely, I can help.  Contact me at or check out my website,, for more information.  I can offer you a free consultation or simply answer any questions you may have concerning your hiring needs.

I would also love to connect with you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Playing Candy Crush is the Best thing You can Do to Increase Your Productivity!

Millions of people are hooked on Candy Crush.  In fact, according to App Data, “43 million people play Candy Crush every month! (which makes it) the most popular app on Facebook.”

And I have joined the bandwagon.

While I can’t speak for everyone, my fascination with the popular game has both practical and personal reasons.

I have written before about the benefits I found in taking “active breaks” (Tips to Help You Gain Focus and Get Active).  And there is no doubt that it has benefitted me both mentally and physically.

However, when I need a purely “break for the mind”, nothing beats Candy Crush!  

Okay, okay, I exaggerate a bit.  But, whenever I want to get the juices flowing again, or just need to rest my brain, I find that playing a “mind game” like Candy Crush to be just the thing! 

And I think it will work for you too!

As with anything, there are times when playing a game, or taking any kind of break, is Good for you.  But other times when it is not. 

It is Good When:

  • You use it as a Treat for Getting Work Done

Who doesn’t like a reward, even a small one?  When I complete a job, especially one that ended up taking a lot of my time, it is a welcome relief to take a quick break and do something fun.  

  • You use it as a Break to Re-group & Reduce Stress

There are times when a difficult deadline or a problem project will put my brain on overload.  Putting it aside for even a few minutes often gives me the breather I need to go back and tackle it head on.

  • You use it as a Time to let Your latest Blog or Project Sit

      Before hitting that publish button, or even before editing, it is always best to let that blog or project sit.  I have found that by taking a break, I can come back with fresh eyes and my blog is better for it.

My Current Level

  • You use it as a way to stir Your Creative Thinking & Problem Solving Skills

Each level of Candy Crush is different and gets progressively harder.  Finding a way to solve each level sometimes requires you to use trial and error or think outside the box.  Win, win!

  • You use it as a way to gain a Sense of Accomplishment 

Completing each level is a victory ~ and who doesn’t like to 
win?  There are times I complete a level on the first or second try.
Other times it take many, many times before I solve the puzzle.
But either way, when I get to move on, I have earned a small win!

  • You use it as a way to Have Fun!

After all, isn’t that what playing any game is really all about?

There has been much research on why playing games is actually good for your brain and help you learn.

This infographic on “Why are Games Good for Learning” illustrates the effect of Rewards, Play, and Mastery on the “Laws of Learning”.

Playing games has shown to be good for your brain.  By solving the game’s puzzles, we are really increasing our mental ability and helping our brain form new connections.

But, there can be too much of a good thing ~ and playing games is no exception.

It is a Problem When:

  • You use it as a Way to avoid Work or Family 

This is when the game has become addictive.  A survey from
“Ask Your Target Market” polled 1,000 Candy Crush players and found that;

“ 32% of them ignored friends or family to play the game, 28% played during work, 10% got into arguments with significant others over how long they played, and 30% said they were “addicted.””.

The bottom line ~ games like Candy Crush are fun.  They also really do challenge your brain.  You are required to think, problem solve, and strategize.  Each time you play, you are working your brain in ways that will improve your memory, and clear your mind.

Having your brain always on the full "on" position isn't good for productivity. Being able to take short breaks to recharge your brain is much better.

So next time you are feeling stressed or are stuck on a problem, take a break and play a quick round of Candy Crush.  You may actually be helping yourself more than you know!

And if you have a favorite game, Let me Know!

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