Why Role Playing Can Be An Effective Interview Technique

While many companies hire based on candidates’ experience, others find raw talent to be a stronger harbinger of success. But, how do you identify and measure “raw talent” during the hiring process?

Austin Merritt, the COO at Software Advice–a website that presents reviews and ratings of human resource information systems (HRIS)–recently shared how he objectively measures raw talent during his team’s hiring process. In a post on Software Advice’s New Talent Times blog, Merritt shares his “coffee scenario,” a role-playing scenario used when hiring for his inside sales team. It closely imitates the process his team goes through when placing sales calls. Except, instead of advising the caller on what software to purchase, the job candidate advises the caller on what coffee shop to visit. Here are a few key tips Merritt has shared about his process: 

Develop a set of competencies to look for

What are the top uncoachable competencies required for a person to thrive in a role? For example, when hiring for their sales team, Software Advice grades along the following criteria:

  • Articulation – Do they clearly communicate their thoughts?

  • Energy – Does the candidate appear alert and genuine on calls?

  • Ability to take control – Can the candidate steer the conversation?

  • Ability to think on their feet – Can the candidate respond calmly, but quickly?

  • Coachability – Does the candidate understand the scenario enough to apply?

Your competencies may (and probably should) be different. Identify what empowers current star performers to be successful, and make your list of competencies around these qualities.

Create a project that tests each of them

The “coffee scenario” is effective because coffee is a familiar subject matter. Candidates are familiar with coffee, and it allows interviewers to focus on talent over domain expertise. The topic should be common enough for candidates to complete successfully without much preparation. In Software Advice’s instance, they set up a 10-minute mock sales call, but it doesn’t have be a phone call. Create something you can present to an applicant before meeting them in person.

Use a universal grade scale for performance

To ensure that every candidate gets a fair shot, develop a scoring method that can be kept consistent. If someone scores low in one area, but nails the others, it may be worthwhile to give the candidate another shot at the role-playing scenario. It doesn’t take too long, and by giving people a second chance, you’re leaving no stone unturned.

Before you bring someone to your office, try out a short role-playing scenario for them to showcase their raw talent. It’s a quick and easy way to critically assess strengths and weaknesses during the early stages of an interview process.

How to Pay an Employee Who Works During Daylight Savings Time

Once of the most confusing payroll and time keeping concerns revolve around Daylight Savings Time and how to pay employees when they either lose or gain an hour during their shift.

In 2013, Daylight Savings Time begins (springs forward) on Sunday, March 10, 2013 and ends (falls back) on November 3, 2013.

So, how do you pay an employee while we’re stuck in the time warp? Here are the quick and easy answers:

Spring Forward (in the spring):

  • If an employee works at 2am and then the clock moves forward to 4am when it would normally move to 3am, you are required to pay for both the 2am hour and the phantom 3am hour as two separate hours, not just one.

Fall Backward (in the fall):

  • If an employee works at 2am and then the clock resets to 2am again when it would normally move to 3am, you are required to pay these two hours as two separate hours, not just one.


  • Companies are required to pay employees for all hours worked, even if this includes additional overtime.
  • Communicating the change to your staff well ahead of time can result in less confusion when the time change occurs and during payroll and time sheet reconciliation after the switch occurs.
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry: Consult the US DOL (http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime_pay.htm) or Jumpstart:HR for any of your overtime wage determination questions.

The “D” Word That No One is Talking About in Corporate America

Micro-managing managers, policies that limit employee autonomy and critical thinking and zero attempts to expand employee knowledge through company approved training and development programs.

Do these ring a bell or resonate with your current workplace? If so, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

Demoralization, defined. By definition, to demoralize is to “undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten.” Whenever someone is demoralized, there are negative implications like anger, resentment, lack of motivation and lack of trust. One recent – non-HR yet still scientific published in The Journal for Psychosomatics  – survey even ties demoralization with psychological distress (83%) and depression (44%)  in their sample population.

Demoralization in the workplace. Demoralization can happen as a result of policies that result in angry, resentful employees. While no one sets out to debase their employees on purpose, it’s very important to be mindful of the psychological effects that can result when new policies are established. For example, if there is a new policy that limits a certain benefit or restricts professional growth and autonomy in any way, it would be in your organization’s best interest to track the psychological response from these policies – through survey or brief employee interviews. Why? Because the impact of demoralizing policies can always be tied employee disengagement which results in measurable decreased levels of productivity.

Burnout or Demoralization? Which one is it? The terms burnout and demoralization may seem similar at first but they are actually very different. Burnout occurs  gradually when you have simply exhausted your physical capacity to complete a job. For example, years of repetitive tasks and stagnancy can lead to burnout. Everyone needs to get away at some point and the best prescription is a sabbatical or extended vacation. If that’s not possible, perhaps cross-training in another business function to stay engaged and learning something new. However, demoralization is instantaneous and is not fixed by just “getting away.” Whenever an employee is demoralized, it can negatively impact their view of the workplace, coworkers, their job, customers, etc. The only fix for removing demoralization is to remove the source of demoralization which is oftentimes a policy that has resulted in negative emotional sentiment amongst employees.

How do you measure demoralization in the workplace? Demoralization can be measured through surveys that gauge emotional sentiment of employees in the workplace. The key, however, is to actually do something about what you find in your feedback or that can actually make the demoralization much, much worse. Employees who work in organizations that are apathetic to their emotional needs are the most demoralized. If you are not sure how to conduct a survey on employee demoralization or feel that it would be best to have a neutral third-party conduct such testing, Jumpstart:HR can provide such a test and make recommendations on how best to turn emotional sentiment around while still navigating the confines of key business objectives that cannot be disrupted.


Hate your job? Read this letter.

As you may know, Jumpstart:HR provides HR solutions to companies but we also help job seekers find employment quicker through our professional resume revision and career coaching services. Who better to help fix your resume and make sense of your career goals than an HR professional who does hiring and recruitment right?

Well, here is a letter that I recently received from a Career Coaching and Resume Revision client and I must say that I appreciate the message and tone of the letter. When we spoke, I gave the client options based on desired career interests but I also advised that there might be reason to stick around and learn and grow in their current work environment.

Here’s an update almost a year later:

“Hi Joey,

You crossed my mind a couple times within the past few months. I just wanted to reach out and give you an update!

I have actually been enjoying my job!!! Yes, this is the SAME job we’ve met about. Lol. I guess along the way, I decided to embrace the time that I’m here and make the most of it. I saw that a lot of me was being dealt with while working here, so I just decided to embrace it and…I have definitley grown. You were right: I have been learning much about Humility. I’ve also been seeing the benefits of serving. My attitude has been put in check many times. And my perceptions of things has been challenged more than I can say. I have been learning how to deal with and handle people in varying circumstances/situations. I’ve been learning to be more comfortable in social situations. I’ve become a bit more polished professionally. One thing that I’m very happy about is that I have become more emotionally stable and mature. I’m learning to be the same way every day…all day. I’m learning to not be (so) judgmental and/or harsh, but to administer grace to people… I’m just learning a lot. I am being developed and I have been loving it.

Now, instead of breaking down and wanting to throw the copy machine through the window, I have been embracing the tough moments, the undesireable moments, etc. and I’m learning to get through them- with a great attitude! Yaaay! I never thought I’d see the day!

So… I’m glad I stayed here. My boss has seen me come a long way, and we are getting along on a more consistent basis now – (because I ain’t acting crazy)! Lol.

So, other than the update, I just wanted to thank you for taking out the time to meet, sit and talk with me when you did. 

*Happy Career Coaching Client*”


I’m always excited to see someone happy in their job. Even if it means sticking it out in one that they initially aren’t so sure about.

Do you have a similar story of a time where you wound up loving a job you initially didn’t like? When did you realize that something changed?

What “Years of Experience Needed” Really Means

You’re fresh out of college, Sum Cum Laude (or hey maybe just a 3.0) and you’ve graduated from one of the top schools in your field.

You’re even the President of a few clubs and and organizations on campus.

All looks right in the world for you until you read entry-level job ad after entry-level job ad that says the following:

“Two Years of Experience Needed”

What does that mean? Well… It means a few things:

1) This is non-negotiable.  Sorry, there’s no getting no around this one. When a company says that they want you to have x amount of years under your belt then they really mean it. You can really be ambitious about your career but if a company says they need you to come equipped with two or three (or ten) years then it means that they know there are certain things that you can only get after x amount of years on the job.

2) Experience trumps education almost every time.  Ever since the Griggs vs. Dukes case companies have been obligated to hold years of experience in equal measure to education but there is a key difference between Education and Experience. Experience is results-based while Education is theory-based. Experience says “what you’ve gone through” where eduction says “what you might do [because the books told me what I should do].” While education is always a great supplement to experience, often times the real world and the academic world don’t align. Employers want someone who has gone through a few things.

3) “Honestly, we don’t want to have to train you.” As one of my good friends likes to say once the point is driven home in a discussion: “And there it is.” Human Resources is shifting to “Human Capital” for several reasons but one of the main reasons, in my opinion, is that bringing individuals on to a company through recruitment has become more like the larger practice of mergers and acquisitions. What do I mean? Simply stated, companies [rightfully] feel like hiring is an investment and to insure the greatest return on investment, they want to hire people that can produce immediate returns and come “ready to work.” The cost of turnover is already high when replacing a terminated employee and training budgets were the first to go in the age of the recession. While the value of training and investing in a new employee can yield unforeseen benefits for the company, most organizations stick to people who have already done the work and have a track record of being pretty darn good at it.

The Best Tax Deductions for Job Seekers

“Tax experts say diligent record-keeping to keep track of expenses and pre-planning your job-hunt activities when you travel are key since you’ll need to prove your expenses were primarily job-search related if you — yikes — happen to be selected for an audit. Here’s a look at what you can deduct and how to keep track:

Career coaching: If you use a coach primarily to bolster your efforts to find a job in your field, the fees are deductible. That session you used to work on achieving balance in your life or to decide whether to switch careers, is not. Keep records and notes about each meeting and claim costs associated with sessions directly related to improving the outcome of your job search.

Travel and transportation: Did you drive to a job interview 50 miles away? Fly three states away and spend two nights in a hotel — on your own dime — for informational interviews? Deductible. For mileage (reimbursed at a rate of 50 cents per mile), write down the date, miles driven and job search-related purpose on the day you travel, advises Perlman. Guessing later can prove problematic. Airfare, hotel bills, and rental car costs associated with traveling for your search are deductible. So are meals on those trips. Log the date and purpose and save the receipts for those expenses. Do the same for tolls, parking and taxi trips related to your hunt. They’re deductible, too.

A word of caution: If you travel to Orlando with the primary purpose of two days worth of informational interviews, but your family flies joins you for two extra days at Disney, deductions are murky. Your roundtrip airfare is usually deductible, says Eva Rosenberg, an enrolled agent and the brains behind tax advice website TaxMama.com. Keep a log of your time and the expenses devoted to job-hunting; if the job search was the primary reason for the trip and not an afterthought, those are deductible.

Conferences: “Finding a job has to be your primary intent” to deduct expenses, says Perlman. If the main reason you attend a professional conference or trade show is to further your job search — maybe you know the networking events are famous for yielding job interviews later — your associated expenses (from conference fees to travel) are deductible, says Rosenberg. Keep a log of costs and how you spend your time in case you’re asked to prove your intent.

Networking events: Deductibility depends on why you attend. “It’s right on the borderline,” says Perlman. “There has to be some proximate connection between what you are doing and getting a job.” Rosenberg says that’s not as hard to prove as it might sound; there’s plenty of research about the importance of networking to a job search. Translation: The deduction survives an audit, if you keep a log and detail how attending relates to your search — or to a business purpose, which counts as a miscellaneous deduction.

Childcare expenses: Experts disagree on this one. But Rosenberg says if you keep clear records — a calendar that designates which hours you used a sitter for job-search related activities, like an interview or job fair — it’s a legitimate deductible expense.

Phone bills. You’ll need to show you incurred an extra expense, says Perlman. If you have a plan that allots you a certain number of minutes and charges you for extra time, those 30-minute calls to a recruiter or hour-long phone interviews might push you over the limit. Add up job-search related calls on statements where you incurred extra charges. You can deduct the overage related to the search, says Rosenberg.

The rest: Keep receipts for stamps; envelopes; copying charges and paper costs for printing your resume, cover letter or other materials for your job search; faxing costs at your local Kinko’s; cost of attending a job fair (that includes any entry fee or transportation expenses); and any other items you think might be related to your job search. A tax pro can tell you what counts, if you have the receipts.”

Source: http://blogs.reuters.com/reuters-money/2011/04/06/the-best-tax-deductions-for-job-seekers/


Straight from the IRS:

Job Search Expenses

You can deduct certain expenses you have in looking for a new job in your present occupation, even if you do not get a new job. You cannot deduct these expenses if:

  • You are looking for a job in a new occupation,
  • There was a substantial break between the ending of your last job and your looking for a new one, or
  • You are looking for a job for the first time.


Employment and outplacement agency fees.    You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay in looking for a new job in your present occupation.
Employer pays you back.   If, in a later year, your employer pays you back for employment agency fees, you must include the amount you receive in your gross income up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year. See Recoveries in Publication 525.
Employer pays the employment agency.   If your employer pays the fees directly to the employment agency and you are not responsible for them, you do not include them in your gross income.
Résumé.   You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of a résuméto prospective employers if you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.

Travel and transportation expenses.   If you travel to an area and, while there, you look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area. You can deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity compared to the amount of time you spend in looking for work is important in determining whether the trip is primarily personal or is primarily to look for a new job.Even if you cannot deduct the travel expenses to and from an area, you can deduct the expenses of looking for a new job in your present occupation while in the area.

You can choose to use the standard mileage rate to figure your car expenses. The 2010 rate for business use of a vehicle is 50 cents per mile. See Publication 463 for more information on travel and car expenses.”

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