What Does A Company Owe Its Employees?

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

I’m reading an excellent eBook entitled “From Q&A to Z, the Hiring Manager’s Complete Interviewing Guide.” Inside are a number of excellent hiring tips.

You might ask, why would I promote a competitor’s product here?

Well, it’s a big world, and I imagine my company’s clients and prospective clients can benefit from quality information from more than one source.

Here’s the link to this eBook. When I tried the link just now, it wasn’t working, but I believe that’s a temporary issue. If you’re not able to access the eBook from the link, send me a message here and I’ll forward you the eBook directly.

From this eBook, I noticed an intriguing question you could ask your applicants:

“What does a company owe its employees?”

The answers you get are likely to be all over the spectrum.

Some may say they expect a great deal from the company and you may get a long list of specific items the applicant believes they are owed.

Others may tell you the company simply owes them a proper monetary exchange and that the APPLICANT wants to perform at a high level and demonstrate their value to the company before additional exchange is considered.

Between those two views will be a variety of responses.

And I’m sure your personal view of what your company “owes” your employees will influence how you interpret the responses you get.

All things considered, your applicant’s answers will tell you a great deal about their future expectations with you.

Then of course it comes down to whether you feel you can meet those expectations.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

Underpaid and Overpaid

Under and Over Paid

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

You’re essentially going to ask two questions here. One question may get you several answers. And the other may produce a blank stare.

“Fred, at which of your previous jobs did you feel you were underpaid?”

The concept of being underpaid is a fairly easy one for us to understand. We felt we were not adequately compensated for our work.

Perhaps we worked longer hours than what was initially bargained for.

Maybe we felt we worked much harder than our co-workers.

Or maybe we didn’t feel the quality of our work was financially appreciated.

So, when asking an applicant about having been underpaid, go over some of the above possible scenarios, dig in a bit and see what comes up.

After you feel you’ve covered this side of the coin, move forward with this question:

“Okay Fred, that was good to know. Now, at which of your previous jobs did you feel you were overpaid?”

This question might get you a long pause, maybe even a fidget or two.

Be patient and let the candidate come up with an answer.

If Fred doesn’t come up with anything you could ask:

“What would it mean to be overpaid?”

That is not directly connected to Fred and his past, so you should get a fairly good answer here.

Then, ask the earlier question again, with this slight modification:

“Fred, with that in mind, were there any jobs in which you felt you were overpaid?”

Yes, I realize this is a difficult question for many applicants to answer. If the person feels he was overpaid, then that begs the question:

“Well, why didn’t you perform to the level of what you were being paid?”

So, your applicant may feel it’s a “trap question.” But it really isn’t. You’re looking for a glimpse into the integrity level of your applicant.

Fred may say,

“Well, a few years ago, I was working for Company X and they paid me very well. It was a very cushy job and I just kind of glided along, happy to be making a good deal of money.

“When they downsized—and that included me—I wished I had rolled up my sleeves and had been much more productive. I may have been spared the pink slip.

“That was a big lesson for me. From that point on, I stopped gliding and got my act together.”

That’s a refreshing viewpoint, right?

Whatever you do find out with these two questions, I’m pretty certain you’ll get some keen insights into your applicant.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

How Can One Possibly Equal Three?

Kip Tindell CEO Container Store

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

I was reading today about Kip Tindell, the 61-year-old Chairman and CEO of The Container Store. He started out in 1978 with two friends and a whopping investment of $35,000.

Today The Container Store has 6,000 employees, 67 locations in the US and annual sales of nearly $800 million.

Mr. Tindell believes a key reason for the success of the store is what he calls their 1 equals 3 hiring philosophy:

‘1 Equals 3’ is our hiring philosophy. One great person equals three good people in terms of business productivity. We have to be selective when interviewing potential employees because of the brand promise we’ve made to our customers to provide exceptional customer service.

We hire only about 3% of all who apply. If you indeed believe that with one great employee, you get three times the productivity of a good employee, you can afford to extensively train them and communicate to them, empower them and pay them 50 to 100% more than what other retailers might pay them.

Our 1=3 employees have tremendous tenure with the company. They feel like owners of the company and strive to do what’s right for each other and our customers every single day.

It’s a win-win-win. Employees win because they’re getting paid twice as much… and what a delight for the entire team to work alongside other great people! The company wins because it gets three times the productivity at two times the payroll cost. But most importantly, customers win with extraordinary service!

I think that’s an incredible philosophy!

It might take us a bit of time to groove in that kind of approach to hiring, but get the idea of having only GREAT employees.

I should point out one other thing Mr. Tindell said:

We’re talking about business productivity. Of course, no one person is better than another person as a person. But if you can, why not hire great people? And you can pay them twice as much and still save, since you get three times the productivity at two times the cost. They win, you save money, the customers win, and all the employees win because they get to work with someone great. These people are the best in the industry, and I can’t wait to get up in the morning and work with them.

I love hearing how successful business owners make their way through the hiring process.

What do you think? Is this something you can do?

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

Why Do You Want to Work Here?


Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

This is the classic hiring question. But it doesn’t always get the answer you’re looking for, which is simply an unrehearsed answer.

Asking the prospect why he wants to work at your company will often get a prepared answer. Here are some examples:

“Well, I’ve looked over your web site and I feel you have a really great product.”


“Sarah in accounting is a good friend of mine and she has told me how wonderful it is to work here.”


“I feel I can develop here if given the opportunity.”

or even

“I feel I have a lot to contribute to your company.”

So, how do you cut through the prepared answers?

Try something like this:

“Tell me more about your purpose for choosing this company?”

After the prospect’s response:

“In terms of working here, what percentage would you say aligned with your last answer regarding “purpose” and what percentage would be that you need an income?

“Would that be 80/20 or 50/50, what would that be for you?”

I realize it’s a bit of an unusual question, but sometimes the unusual question doesn’t permit the rehearsed answer and instead you get a cleaner representation of your prospect.

Another way of asking it would be:

“Is your purpose for working here strong enough that you might consider less pay?”

Now that’s an interesting question and it might produce a very interesting answer.

All in all, you are looking to get past the canned responses. Not all prospects will have them, but you do want to be ready for the ones that do.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

Terminations and the Law —
Payout of Vacation Days on Termination of Employment

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, is providing us with insight and information regarding the hiring process. Ms. Lindeman is a management-side employment lawyer and has exclusively represented managers and companies in federal and state agencies and courts with regard to their labor and employment needs for many years.

Questions addressed to Ms. Lindeman may be addressed in this column.

Hiring and the Law
By Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.*

Question: I just let an employee go for not meeting job expectations. She sent me a text message asking when I would be sending her payment for the vacation days she didn’t use. Do I have to pay her for those?

Answer: The response to that question is again (as I’ve noted in other columns) a very lawyerly “it depends.” In this case, the answer depends upon the state your company is located in, as well as what your vacation policy says. Don’t have a vacation policy? Then the response defaults to your state’s law.

Many states have little to no legal requirements when it comes to vacation pay – unless the state includes accrued vacation days in the definition of “wages” and also has a requirement as to when all wages must be paid to an employee whose employment has been terminated.

Many states require final payment to terminated employees to be made no later than the next regular pay date. Some states, however, like California and Massachusetts, require you to hand an employee their pay—the final pay check—in the termination meeting—and specify that “final pay” includes accrued but unused vacation days.

Other states, like New York, tell employers to follow their own policy with regard to the payout of vacation days to terminated employees. These states allow employers to have what are called “use it or lose it” policies: if the employee does not use his or her vacation days, they are forfeited and not paid out upon termination of employment. If, however, your vacation day policy does not specify that days are forfeited, and is silent on that issue, you may be required to pay them out. If you are in a state that permits “use it or lose it” policies, it is prudent to include language both forfeiting unused vacation days upon termination and indicating that unused days will not be paid out.

If employees believe that they are owed for unused vacation days, and your state’s laws or regulations require that vacation days be paid out, terminated employees can usually go to your state’s Department of Labor and file a wage payment claim against your company seeking the value of the unpaid vacation days. Companies can handle such wage claims in the DOL alone, without the assistance of an attorney—but government agencies usually will provide more assistance to the employee than they will to you.

If your state has no law requiring pay out of vacation days, but your policy clearly says they are paid out and then you do not pay them, the employee would need to bring a lawsuit against your company (probably in small claims court) seeking payment under the policy probably alleging a breach of contract (i.e. the company promised to pay out unused vacation days and broke its promise (violated the contract) with regard to this employee). How successful such a lawsuit would be depends on a number of factors, including the language in your vacation pay policy and whether the court will consider the policy to be an actual contract the court can enforce.

Thus, to answer your question you need to first look at your vacation pay policy. If you don’t have such a policy, look to your state’s wage laws. To find them, go to your state’s Department of Labor web site (or the website for the equivalent state agency that handles employee wage issues for your state; for example, in Oregon the agency is called BOLI – Bureau of Labor and Industries). Most such web sites have an “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) section specifically for employers and often you can find your answer there. You also probably can call that agency and ask the question without giving any identifying information about yourself or your company—but that is not always the case. For certainty in terms of what to do (and how to fix your policy if needed for the future), consult with a management-side employment lawyer familiar with the law in the state where your company is located.

*Ms. Lindeman is a Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, a law firm that exclusively represents businesses in all aspects of labor and employment law.  These columns are intended to be general information regarding the topic discussed and are not to be considered legal advice regarding a specific situation. Contact a management-side employment attorney familiar with the law of your jurisdiction for specific advice.  Ms. Lindeman is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ and may be contacted at DL@greenwaldllp.com.  She is under no obligation to respond to reader inquiries personally, but may answer general employment law questions through this column.

© 2011 Greenwald Doherty.  May not be reprinted without permission.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

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