Thursday, April 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Archive: April, 2012

POSTED: Monday, April 30, 2012, 3:55 PM

In the morning, Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, spent an hour on WHYY's Radio Times talking about child abuse in Philadelphia. In the afternoon, he talked to me about Chinese philanthropy for a story now planned for Friday's Inquirer. The two topics are connected -- one the story of a long-established institution and the other the possibility of creating a new institution.

His radio interview focused on some of the child welfare system issues raised by the tragic death of Khalil Wimes, 6, reported by my colleague Mike Newall. Click here to read the Inquirer story.

His radio conversation came up during our interview about China. "When you go to China, it's a clean palette," he said. "They have no institutions in place. They don't have child welfare laws. They don't have child reporting laws. They don't have unions." In China, he said, it's almost possible to create a safety net from scratch, without having to work around programs and policies and their legacies."

POSTED: Friday, April 27, 2012, 3:10 AM

The legislation had a catchy name -- Ban the Box. The "box" refers to the box on a job application that candidates must  check it if they've ever been convicted, or in some cases, arrested for a crime. A year ago, Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law a measure forbidding employers to use the box on applications or to even ask potential employees about their criminal histories during their first encounter. The EEOC seems to agree.

In new guidelines released Wednesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission described it as a best practice for employers. 

"Some states require employers to wait until late in the selection process to ask about convictions," the EEOC wrote. "The policy rationale is that an employer is more likely to objectively assess the relevance of an applicant's conviction if it becomes known when the employer is already knowledgeable about the applicant's qualifications and experience. As a best practice, and consistent, with applicable laws, the Commission recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquirers, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity."  

POSTED: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 11:43 AM

In 1960, a 15-year-old Philadelphia teenager got involved in a gangfight that led to someone's death, even though he claimed he wasn't the one who pulled the trigger. The teenager served less than four years for the crime and kept a clean record from then on. But his story made a big impact on the law and on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's new guidelines on how to handle employment of people with criminal records.

Released Wednesday, the guidelines talk about the case of Douglas El, who challenged SEPTA's policy of barring anyone convicted of a violent crime (in his case, second-degree murder) from holding a job as a paratransit driver. El was 55 years old in 2000, when SEPTA hired him as a driver for paratransit passengers who have physical and mental disabilities. A few weeks later, he was fired. 

He sued SEPTA in federal court, lost on the first round and also lost on the appeal, mostly because El never offered an expert witness who could talk about the likelihood of him harming these particularly vulnerable passengers. The EEOC's guidelines mention the case and the 2007 decision by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The EEOC noted that the court expressed "reservations" about a blanket exclusion policy like SEPTA's. The appellate judges said that the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination, requires employers to justify criminal record exclusions (which are, at heart, about mitigating risk). Employers, the court said, "must accurately distinguish between applicants [who] pose an unacceptable level of risk and those [who] do not."

POSTED: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 3:20 AM

In America, we put a lot of emphasis on team work, especially on the job. Remember that saying -- there is no "I" in team?  That's good to a point, but...

The "but" occurs during job interviews, say two recruiters for Target's program to hire college graduates for the retailer's fast-track to management. "I tell them to focus on the "me," not the "we," said Amanda Abney, senior field campus recruiter for Target. 

Too often, she said, students talk about their school team projects, but never describe what their individual contributions were. In fact, she said, they aren't even necessarily prepared to answer the question. Maybe they organized the meetings. Maybe they delegated the responsibilities to others. Maybe they created the power points, honed the presentation, handled the research. Maybe they were leaders. "Think about what you did," said Abney, who is based in Springfield, Delaware County.

POSTED: Friday, April 20, 2012, 3:55 AM

 And so do computers, says Jon Ciampi, a business executive who has become a student of "cognitive linguistics" and a related discipline, "computational linguistics."

Ciampi's building a business on these disciplines, specifically something he calls candidate optimization.  His company, Preptel Corp., promises to rewrite resumes so that they are in a language that computers can understand. And that's important, because these days, computers are doing the first sort on resumes. They are scanning resumes and picking out keywords that match the job posting. The more matches and the more relevant matches, the more likely it is that the jobseeker's resume will rise to the top of the list where it can be reviewed by a human being.

And it's not only keywords, like copying a grocery list of skills. The order of words and their placement is also important and part of the give-and-take between human and computer.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 3:50 AM

Listen 20-somethings: While you are learning all sorts of good financial advice for paying debts and saving for retirement, don't neglect to budget for dreams.

Today (April 18) at 4 p.m., the U.S. Labor Department is hosting a free webinar  on good financial habits for college seniors and young workers. Click here to register.  They didn't ask me to be on panel (and that's a good thing), but I want to throw in my two cents.

When you get your first pay check, put aside a small amount of money each week for your dreams. You'll have a checking account for your everyday expenses.You'll contribute to an IRA for retirement. You'll have another savings account for short-term emergencies or mid-level major expenses, such as a new tire for your car or a sofa to replace that ratty one that was in your college apartment. But this third account is for something much more wonderful. 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 3:30 AM

College seniors and young people embarking on first jobs have a chance to learn good financial habits from the start. 

“Many young adults are entering the workforce today with the right knowledge and skills to perform their jobs at a high level but lack understanding of how to manage their personal finances,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “By acting early and utilizing employer-sponsored benefits, young workers can take charge of their finances and begin to build retirement savings at a time in their lives when it will have the greatest impact.”

The U.S. Labor Department is holding a free webinar from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on April 18. Click here to register. Speakers will address how to create a budget, repay student loans, think like a saver and stay out of debt, invest for the future and make the most of job-related benefits. The cast of experts comes from the Consumer Federation of America/America Saves, the National Endowment for Financial Education, and the Society for Financial Education and Professional Development.

POSTED: Monday, April 16, 2012, 3:25 AM

These days, Amy Dinning has a job, but the senior training and talent development professional personally knows the pain of unemployment. That's why she is reaching out to help others.

For the last few years, Amy has put together a day-long, reasonably priced seminar to help the unemployed re-energize their job searches. Topics include using social media for job hunting, preparing for job interviews, finding the hidden job market through networking and maintaining momentum. 

I met Amy when doing my series "Looking for Work," profiling 100 unemployed people in 2011. Click here to read her story. Since this was written, she landed a fulltime job, but her commitment to helping others who haven't been as fortunate has not changed.

About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer