Sunday, April 26, 2015

4 Reasons Job Seekers will want to work for Your Small Business

Small Businesses get it wrong.  
Many think that because they are small, they have less to offer their new hires than the big companies. Because of this, they often settle instead of pursuing the great hires they need!

Even job seekers can fall into this trap. Their goal is to work for a large company, often without even considering what a small business has to offer. They don't recognize the benefits that working for a small business can bring to their level of experience and confidence

It is time to change that mindset. 

There are Big Advantages to Working for a Small Business!  “Tweet This”

While it is true that some small companies may not be able to offer the salary associated with working for big business, they can offer many other things that will create a valuable working experience.   

Working for a Small Business can offer you something different

By nature, a small business atmosphere is more hands-on and close knit. Employees have a much more tangible stake in the success of the company and often have a chance for greater input. Even flexibility of work hours, telecommuting, and promotions are often part of the small business culture.

The success of a small company relies on flexibility. They depend upon being able to adapt quickly to changing external and internal forces. And their employees can learn a lot from this ever-changing environment. 

Small business employees have the opportunity to learn many rolesStrict adherence to job titles and work responsibilities is not often practical for companies with fewer employees. This allows for more job responsibilities and the chance to really make a difference ~ all of which is a great resume and career builder.

The collaborative and nurturing characteristics of small business are also a plus for employees. It is a chance to really get their voice heard and to get their ideas implemented much sooner and more often than will occur in a larger company. And as small businesses slowly start recovering from the effects of the pandemic and are once again hiring to bolster their workforce, it is more important than ever to keep them on your job search radar.

As a small business owner, are you finding yourself losing out on great talent because you can’t compete with the “big boys”? Then it is time you sell the real advantages of working for a small business!

4 Reasons You Should Work for Small Business!  “Tweet This”

Here is what Your applicants need to know ~ 
Working for a Small Business will.......
  • Give them a Chance to Learn all Aspects of the Business
In large companies, job titles and job duties are often clearly defined. This is less common in a small business where an employee has the opportunity to wear different hats. This is especially valuable to an employee that may be uncertain of where their interests really lie. The chance to explore different avenues is rarely a part of big business culture, at least for new hires.
  • Give them More Responsibility and Independence
With less people to rely on to get the job done, small businesses count on their employees to make decisions and take on more. Employees learn to work independently at an early stage. In turn, management is more apt to listen and implement their employee’s ideas. 

This level of responsibility and decision-making are invaluable to building a strong resume. Having the opportunity to do this in the early stages of a career is especially rewarding.
  • Help them Get Noticed and Advance
With added responsibility comes the chance for employees to really get credit for the work they do. A smaller number of workers allows hires to work more closely with management and get noticed. This is often not possible in a larger company.  

Getting recognized for good work and tangible contributions to the company's success can lead to even more responsibility, raises, and promotions.   
  • Allow for a More Casual & Close-Knit Atmosphere
Many small businesses are more casual. Employees may work from a small storefront, the owner’s home, or even out of their own homes. This non-traditional atmosphere usually results in things being much more laid back.

Even things like lunch, breaks, and start/stop times may be less rigid. This often translates to more relaxed dress codes too. This more casual atmosphere can appeal to new, and often younger, job seekers.

Small Businesses are also more intimate. While this may not appeal to all, the chance to work where “everybody knows your name” can be a great draw. Forging close working relationships is a fantastic way to gain valuable connections and learn skills from those around you. It can even lead to an important pool of future references.

As a Small Business employer, you will play a huge role in attracting the best talent. It starts with learning “When & How” to hire (you can find out more about this with these 10 Tipsand continues by creating an appealing company culture.
Here are a couple things you can do to up the ante: 
  • Give Your Employees Better Work-Life Balance & More Flexibility
Vacation time and Flex time ~ both are especially attractive to new hires. If at all possible, offering 2 weeks, or more, vacation is a great draw to job seekers. Knowing that you place value and importance in their “down time” goes a long way towards an attractive company culture.

This goes the same for allowing flexible start times and telecommuting. Both enable your employees to combine their work and family life with less stress. Having the chance to work from home and start at a time that allows for school schedules and snow and sick days can make all the difference in getting and retaining quality hires. 
  • Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits
In addition to creating a great company culture and atmosphere, giving your employees a fair and competitive wage helps attract and keep them. Offering the best you can afford is the way to start.
Good health benefits also go a long way towards gaining the loyalty of your employees. By all means shop around for the best deal, but skimping here and on wages will not help you in your quest to gain top talent.
  • Offer Quality Perks
Bonuses for quality work are key. While bigger companies may wait for the routine holiday bonuses, as the owner you can offer them any time. Your employees will really appreciate the timely recognition and it will make others strive to succeed.

Other perks like local restaurant or store gift cards, company sponsored “Friday Lunches”, or even an occasional golf outing or some other group activity, are some easy ideas that won’t break the bank.

These benefits and perks should be at the front and center of your marketing campaign to attract new employees. Be sure to emphasize what you and your Small Business can offer.

Flexibility, the opportunity to add quality skills and responsibilities to their resume, and a feeling of partnership in your success are definite draws to working in a Small Business.

It is Your Responsibility to create an atmosphere where these things are possible. And if you are a small business that has been hurt by the pandemic, now is the perfect time to "sell" your business to the top talent you need. Just be sure to spread the word!
Start by sharing and commenting on this article.  It is a great way to get the benefits of working for a Small Business out there. Thanks!

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

13 Tools That Revolutionized My Blog & They Will Work for You Too!

While I have written before about tools that have made running my small business easier (check out “7 Super Easy Apps & Sites Even ‘Technically Challenged’ People Can Use”), my recent success with “Click to Tweet” got me thinking about what other blogging tools have really worked for me.

My criteria in compiling this list was that these tools increase my blog reach and interaction and, most importantly, they must be easy to use!

While there are surely other tools that help many bloggers (Instagram and YouTube come to mind), these are the ones that I have tried personally and use regularly!

These 13 Tools Will Revolutionize Your Small Business Blog!  “Tweet This”

  • Click to Tweet  

“Click to Tweet” tops my list.  After reading an article by Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat, I was intrigued by this tool.  

Not only did Allton explain what “Click to Tweet” could do, he gave step-by-step instructions on exactly how to use it (truly invaluable to someone like me!).

Click to Tweet helps you create “tweetable” links you can place within your blog post.  These links will not only give your readers an easy way to tweet interesting information, it will share a link back to your article (a great way to increase traffic to your blog!).

And if you sign in via Twitter, your Click to Tweet Dashboard will keep track of your links, with access to edit and copy them at any time.  The Dashboard will also show your links’ stats.

Using “Click to Tweet” has not only been a huge boost for my new posts, it has increased clicks on my old articles too!

Check out the article by Mike Allton that started it all!, “How to Create Tweetable Links in Your Blog”, 

  • Blogger  

I won’t argue the WordPress/Blogger debate, but I use Blogger. For “tech challenged” people like myself, I have found it to be easy to use.  I also like the ready made connection with my existing Google account.

Blogger comes with a Template Designer tool. It is extremely easy for initial set-up and I am able to revamp the look of my blog whenever it suits me.  For example, I recently added a new logo and extra pages ~ all without any angst.  

I also appreciate the Statistics page.  Here I can see the number of views for my articles, traffic sources by referring URLs and referring sites, and my audience demographics by country, browsers, and operating systems.

  • Google Analytics / Webmaster Tools / Alerts

Google is a triple threat.  They offer 3 great tools to help you with the sticky side of blogging - tracking sources, traffic, and more. Their in-depth information is definitely valuable, and they are all free.

Google Analytics  

This is tool helps me track my blog statistics.  I can find where my traffic is coming from, what they click on, and how much time they spend on my site. 

Google Webmaster Tools   

This tool is invaluable for SEO.  I can discover where I rank in search engine results and what key words will help me better my rank.  
There are also some great trouble-shooting tools.  I can see if there are any critical issues with my blog like site errors or connectivity problems.  

I am still toying with some of its other features (like the Data Highlighter) but overall I am happy with how it has helped with my blog. 

Google Alerts 

Google Alerts is a content generation service.  You get to choose topics of interest, and Google will search for relevant content and send it directly to your email.  For example, my topics are background checks, employment screening, small business, and women in business. 

I have found many articles I end up sharing on my social sites or even cite in my blog posts.

  • Prismatic/Sway/Scoop.It 

I also use these tools for content curation.  They each allow me to set up parameters (much like those in Google Alerts) and will send me articles that match.  Both Sway and allow you to share directly from their site, while with Prismatic you have to save the article or share from the article’s source.  

Out of these 3, I am a little more partial to Sway.  Sway allows me to choose the day and time for each article I share.  This works great with my overall content sharing strategy.  

  • Quora   

Quora works a bit differently.  While this site also lets you choose topics of interest using keywords, it is what else it can do that really counts.

Quora is the ultimate “Question & Answer” site.  Users post questions on a variety of topics.  Then, other users will post responses.   I have answered many questions on background checks and hiring here.  

I think it is a great way to find out what people find confusing or are interested in learning.  Perfect for choosing my blog topics!

  • Emotional Marketing Headline Analyzer

Having a compelling headline is crucial in attracting people to read your blog.  If you don’t grab them with your title, or at least get them thinking, you have lost the battle.”  (quoted from the article "7 Super Easy Apps" I cited earlier) 

While I have mentioned this tool before, it is worth repeating.  This Headline Analyzer has really helped me tweak my blog titles for the best impact.  

  • Canva   

Images Matter for Your Small Business Blog  "Tweet This"

Every blog post needs at least one good image to capture attention and the simplest way of creating these images is using Canva.

Canva offers a variety of templates you can use to start creating your image or you can upload your own image.  You can then easily customize these images by changing colors, adding text, adding other images, and many other options.  

I have had the greatest success creating “title” images for each of my blog articles (like the one in this post!).  I love the fact that I can easily tailor the images to fit my blog.  It also doesn’t hurt that Canva is free! (although there are images you can use that cost a nominal fee, I have not had to go this route).  

Canva also helps me avoid copyright issues since I am able to use my own pictures.  

Here are some other examples of Title images I have created with Canva:

These 2 were created using pictures I had taken myself (and tweaked with Canva tools):

And these were created using Canva's free images:

  • Twitshot   

Now that you have made the perfect original image,  you will want it seen ~ and images on Twitter get noticed.

That is where Twitshot comes in.  

Twitshot is a tool to help your image show up nice and big in the Twitter feed. 

All you have to do is type in your tweet, add a link for the post you want to share, and Twitshot extracts images from your article.  You then get to choose which pic will show up on the Twitter feed.  It is that simple!

I recommend shortening the URL for your article before copying it to Twitshot.  I use Hootsuite for this purpose.  This will help you keep to Twitter’s optimum character count for re-tweets.

You can also install the Twitshot Chrome extension to make it super easy to tweet great pics.

  • Buffer   

While I also use Hootsuite to schedule and share content, Buffer is by far the best way to share my blog articles.  For me, its main selling point is the ability to share my blog posts across multiple channels, on multiple days and times, all with one click!

I have mine set up to share posts across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.  It really helps me get my content the exposure I need.

Face it, You work hard on your blog.  It takes time to find a topic, research it, write it, tweak it, share it...and the list goes on.

That is why when I find something that makes it even a little easier, I am on board!

If you haven’t already, give some or all of these 13 Blogging Tools a try.  Let me know what you think!

Please Share This & Leave a Comment!  I would love to hear about your favorite Blogging Tools too!

Authored by   

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You can find answers to your questions on Small Business and Hiring on my 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Volunteers & Background Checks - Questions Continue

Volunteers are critical to the success of many organizations.  
With tight budgets to hire full or even part-time employees, volunteers take up the slack. They spend countless hours coaching youth sports, delivering meals to the needy, mentoring and tutoring children, and so many more things to help those around them.

And with summer approaching, there are also many who volunteer in local day and sleep-over camps, in day cares, and as part of other summer programs.

Volunteers do these things as a way to give back to their community. They believe in making a difference and in being a good citizen. Their goal is to help those around them, especially our children, elderly, and disabled.  

However, there have also been horror stories about the danger some of these volunteers have posed. Reports of convicted abusers who are found volunteering as coaches or in child care are an obvious cause for concern.

Today, more than ever, organizations who use volunteers need to address this issue. Protecting the very people they are trying to help must be a priority. This is where screening volunteers comes in.

At the same time, these organizations do not want to alienate the volunteers they desperately need. Concerns that a background check will violate the volunteer’s privacy and that these organizations will not protect their personal information can arise.

This can be a delicate balancing act. Organizations are faced with the need to weed out unsafe volunteers without alienating the loyal and dedicated volunteers they need. 

New laws are being passed in some states (Pennsylvania is an example) that mandate background checks on anyone who comes in “direct contact” with our children. Despite this, questions continue.

And it is even more problematic when it comes to Volunteers.

What exactly is “direct contact”? Does it cover anyone who is even in the same room as children? Or does it only pertain to those who have unsupervised contact?
Who pays the fees associated with these background checks? Is it cost prohibitive for organizations, especially non-profits, to cover the cost? Or is it an undue burden on volunteers who are asked to pay for it themselves? 

What exactly should be checked? Since no standard exists, what is best practice?

What offenses should disqualify someone from volunteering?

What can be done to minimize a volunteer’s objections to a background check?    

This can all be very confusing for organizations who use volunteers.  

In reality, most organizations run some type of background check on their volunteers. These background checks are run for the same reasons as they would be on any employee ~ to keep out anyone who is unsafe.  

But while there may be some who are wary of pre-employment background checks, volunteers are often even more put off by the idea.

Long-time volunteers may object to a new screening policy after years of giving their time and energy to an organization. While those considering volunteering for the first time might be turned off from even applying.

Many are understandably worried about their personal information being leaked. Volunteers may also believe that a new screening policy creates an atmosphere of distrust. 

The bottom line is this:

Volunteers Who Work with Children Need Background Checks!  “Tweet This”

It is most important to remember that the top priority should always be the safety and well-being of our children.

Organizations can take definite steps to achieve this goal. It is possible to provide a safe and productive environment for the children you serve while mitigating the concerns of your volunteers.

To do this, Organizations Need to:

Create a Written Volunteer Screening Policy
This policy should outline the screening procedures used and be included in your organization’s written policies. Make sure that everyone is fully informed of your policy and publish it both in your written materials and online for all to clearly see.

Provide Job Descriptions for Every Position within Your Organization
This should include exactly what is required of each volunteer who fills the position. Being clear on this up front sets expectations and boundaries. It is also a great way of determining what needs to be checked during screening by fitting the scope of the check to the job duties. (Find out more about this in my article “One Size Does Not Fit All ~ Why You Need to Fit the BG Check to the Job!”).   

Obtain an Application and Signed Release for All Volunteers
The application should include the potential volunteer’s full name, any previous names used, addresses for the past 7 years, employers, references, and a copy of their photo ID. It is important that you get this application from each volunteer and keep it in a secure file.

This also goes for a signed release form. This form both notifies a volunteer that a background check will be performed and documents their consent. Requiring this authorization helps protect your organization. 

Establish Procedures to Review the Volunteer’s Application 
In reviewing the application, look for inconsistencies in the information listed. Check references and confirm employment history. Any questionable information found during this process needs to be documented. It is also important to be clear that anything found to be false on the application is cause for disqualification as a volunteer. Taking the time necessary to be diligent here is an important step in making sure you identify possibly problematic volunteers.  

Clearly Identify Which Criminal Offenses Would Disqualify a Volunteer
While it is important that each organization determine for themselves what offenses will prohibit someone from volunteering, the following criminal offenses should be automatic grounds for disqualification:
  • Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Convictions
  • Sex Offenses & Sexual Misconduct Convictions
  • Violent Felony Convictions
Although these offenses may not be grounds for immediate disqualification, Pending Criminal Cases, Arrests, and Misdemeanors within the past 7 years should also be noted.

Document All Information Obtained During the Screening Process & All Actions Taken 
Be sure to keep a written log of what was checked, when it was checked, and what action was taken because of the information obtained. It is important to keep a clear and concise record of any decision you make regarding each of your volunteers.

Identify the Background Check Fees & Who is Responsible for Paying Them
State clearly whether these fees are to be paid fully by your organization, fully by the volunteer, or by a combination of the two. Being up front is the best way to avoid surprises.

Create a Privacy and Personal Information Policy
Protection of sensitive, personal information should be a priority. All the information obtained on each volunteer, from the application, application review, and the criminal background check, must be kept completely confidential. It is good practice to keep the application review results and criminal check histories separate from the general volunteer files. These should only be accessible to authorized personnel.

We need to remember that Volunteers are Important. They provide much needed man power to many organizations and their contributions cannot be minimized.  

However, that does not mean that we should take any volunteer into our organization blindly. Making sure they do not pose a potential problem to those we serve is priority number one.

Putting sound screening procedures in place to make sure this does not happen is a great start. And making sure your volunteers understand why these checks are necessary is key.   

Then we can go about doing what we set out to do ~ Helping Others! Please Share This and Leave a Comment! Thanks!

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Friday, April 3, 2015

“Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal” ~ Why We Need to Believe in Second Chances

At API, we sometimes find ourselves at odds with our own industry. 
We put great weight in the validity of pre-employment background checks. Knowing the past of a person before you hire them makes sense. 

But we also choose to believe in second chances and the idea of fair play. For us, the mistakes someone made in the past should not define them for the rest of their lives. However, this is not always a popular opinion.

There are very real barriers 
that keep ex-offenders from finding work.
Many employers are hesitant to hire people with criminal records, and some, rightfully so, are prohibited by law from hiring them ~ the security, health care, and child care industries come to mind. Employers are concerned about the trustworthiness of those with prior criminal records. And if a position requires a worker to be unsupervised or come in contact with customers, those employers are even more cautious.

There is also the very real fear of the legal ramifications of hiring an ex-offender. Businesses are often held liable for the actions of their employees. Negligent hiring lawsuits are not uncommon.

However, we believe a blanket decision to never hire anyone with a criminal past is unnecessary, and recent suggested guidelines are looking to make it unlawful.

Once a Criminal does NOT mean Always a Criminal.  "Tweet This"
Instead, at API we remember that “to err is human”. Free will often results in us making the wrong choices.

Many in the background check industry are not always on board with this line of thinking. By its very nature, our jobs result in us often seeing the worst in people. Whether that be a past criminal record or a resume lie.

But people cannot only be defined by their pasts. Our greatest ability as human beings is being able to learn from our mistakes. We need to recognize this.
We, as employers and Background Check professionals, need to see beyond the notion that “Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal”. People can and do change. Giving them another chance can actually help make that change more permanent.

We propose a happy medium.
There are concrete ways to balance cautiousness with fairness.  

When doing a criminal background check, an employer’s goal should be to look for a pattern of behavior, not one mistake. A single or long ago offense should not be the sole reason to raise a red flag. However, repetitive or recent criminal behavior should.  

It is our job as employers and background check professionals to consider our findings and determine whether the subjects would really pose a danger to the company or our other employees and customers.

We can best address these concerns by making sure that the information we are checking truly has a bearing on the job. You can find out more about this in “One Size Does Not Fit All ~ Why You Need to Fit the Background Check to the Job”!

The “ban the box” movement also originally stems from this premise of second chances. Giving ex-offenders the opportunity to get past a “knee jerk” rejection is key. And when “ban the box” is utilized for this purpose, it works.

You can see more of my views on “Ban the Box” in these 2 articles; “Background Checks & Ban the Box - The Pendulum Swings” and “What New Ban the Box Legislation Means to You”.

Being very clear on the crime(s) committed by your applicant, and even the reasons why, is not a bad thing. Universally screening all your applicants still needs to be a part of your hiring practices.  

A pre-employment background check is the single best way for you to have the clearest picture possible of your potential employee. 

Even if you know your applicant has a criminal record, verifying the details and making sure there is nothing additional you should know is smart business.

When it comes to Hiring, Knowledge is Power!
You should know what your potential hires bring to the table, warts and all.

Employers still have a legal duty to exercise "due diligence" when hiring. This means that you are responsible for finding out if potential employees might be dangerous or unfit for a job.

However, it is one thing to conduct background checks on your new hires, but it is quite another to screen your applicants and to then consciously consider hiring an ex-offender. This is a true example of a second chance!

Those that have made mistakes, learned from them, and moved on can bring value to your business. It starts with believing that they should not be solely defined by the mistakes they made.

We need to recognize that ex-offenders often bring with them a feeling of redemption when they finally land a job. They understand the need to prove themselves ~ with their actions, not just their words.

Saying they have moved on from their past is not enough. Ex-offenders know that they may be judged differently and watched more closely than their co-workers.  

In fact, you may find that they turn out to be some of the best hires you have ever made. You may even find them more loyal. They have gone through an often discouraging job search and appreciate the “second chance” you have given them. 

Hiring ex-offenders can also be a great way to “pay it forward”. Helping people better their lives can be very rewarding.

There are even some more tangible benefits to taking a chance on hiring ex-offenders:

Work Opportunity Tax Credit
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to all private sector businesses as an incentive to employers to hire workers in certain groups who consistently experience high rates of unemployment.

The credit ranges from $1,200 t0 $9,600 credit on any new hires, including part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

Federal Bonding Program
The Federal Bonding Program to provide Fidelity Bonds that guarantee honesty for “at-risk”, hard-to-place job seekers.” The program covers the first 6 months of employment and is free to both the job applicant and you as the employer.

Low-Cost Training Programs
Many local and county programs exist that are designed to help ex-offenders reenter the workforce.  Their goal is to give them the life skills, job training, and workplace readiness to successfully land and keep a job.  

They focus on personal counseling (the importance of taking responsibility for your actions) and interviewing techniques.  

These programs also include career counseling, skill development, on the job training, and other things necessary to help the ex-offender ready themselves for employment.

Your hiring practices will still require diligence and common sense when it comes to hiring people with a criminal record. But it doesn't have to be a deal breaker! 

Making a decision with fairness and humanity in mind can still result in you making the best hire for your company.  

Just remember ~ Knowledge is PowerGoing into the hiring process with all the facts is Good for You and Your Company!

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API can help You Make the Quality Hires You Need. Contact Us to learn more!

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