Q: I am responsible for recruiting. Every time a position opens up, the managers always tell me, “I need someone yesterday.” How can I help them appreciate what it takes to recruit and hire someone?

A: Measure your recruiting periods. Track how long it takes you to hire people, starting with the point at which the position becomes open to the day the employee begins work. Keep track for exempts and non-exempts by position title and department. You will find over the course of several hires that there is a more or less regular placement period. Generally, it is much longer than managers expect. They fail to consider the time it takes to run an ad, get resumes in and interview candidates, and then for the working candidate to give the customary two-week notice. You will find that tracking your placement periods will give you a realistic picture of how quickly you can fill a position, which you can explain to your managers.

Q: We want to use personality tests before hiring people. We were told to watch out if the test isn’t valid. What does that mean?

A: If a test tends to disqualify people by race, sex, disability or any other protected category in disproportionate numbers, it will be considered discriminatory unless the test can be validated — that is, you can prove the test is job related, based on at least one of the following factors:

  • There’s a statistical relationship between scores on a test question and job performance for a sample of workers.
  • The test questions represent important aspects of performance on the job.
  • The test questions measure human traits or characteristics, such as honesty, that are important for successful job performance.

Before you test, be sure there is a relationship between the test and job performance. Otherwise, you might be liable for employment discrimination.

Q: We have an employee who told us that she was leaving for another position. We need her and would like to keep her. Should we offer her more money to stay?

A: It depends in part on the reason she is leaving. The issue may not solely be money. Counter-offering in a tight labor market is a fairly common strategy to retain employees. In fact, a recent national survey showed that more than half of the CFOs responding indicated that they would be more likely to make a counter offer than not when a good employee is leaving. Realize that a counter-offer may only be a temporary fix and that there may be underlying issues that more money does not address.

Q: How do we calculate our employment turnover rate?

A: One method is to add the number of employees on the payroll at the start of the month to the number of employees on the payroll at the end of the month, and then divide by two; this gives you the average employment for the month. Divide the number of terminations that month by the average employment figure and multiply by 100 to get the turnover rate for that month.

Another method is to count the number of employees who left the organization during a six-month period — for example, from July 1 through December 31. Divide this number by the average number of employees during this period to get a six-month turnover rate.

Q: Our application form does not ask for the applicant’s date of birth. However, the firm that does background checks for us tells us they sometimes run into situations where the birth date is needed to verify information. Is it OK to ask for the date of birth?

A: Employers aren’t actually prohibited from asking for an applicant’s date of birth. However, if an employer asks for certain information when hiring, it might be presumed that the information was a factor in the hiring decision.

Some employers ask for a birth date but include a statement on the application that state and federal laws prohibit discrimination because of age.

If you obtain a release from applicants authorizing you to conduct the background check, another option might be to ask for the date of birth on the release form, explaining that the checking firm needs the information. That way, the applicant’s age is not part of the official application.

Q: Are there any tax breaks available for employers who allow employees to attend personnel training programs?

A: Yes. Personnel training services are not subject to sales and use tax if the training topics covered by the program are indirectly related or unrelated to the employee’s actual job.

Examples might include training in time management, sexual harassment prevention, public speaking, motivation, alcohol and drug awareness, and wellness or physical fitness. Check with the Department of Revenue Services for more detail to ensure the training meets the necessary requirements.