Let's Talk Work

because there are two sides to every story

Refer to References…

people under magnifying glass

First, a note to those looking for and interviewing for jobs. Presume that your references will be verified, and maybe some others uncovered in the process. Read this article to learn more. Red flags are raised when individuals document one thing on their resume and another on their job application form. Your signature is the claim that ‘everything’ you’ve written is absolutely true. Remember that.

Employment Background Checks – Legal Rights

Employers – you must do your due diligence before making any job offers. Don’t rely on just a personal reference or recommendation. When someone is in your employ – you, and your company, are now responsible for their actions, in particular – those that could be found illegal (i.e. theft, harassment, violence).

Read this publication on negligent hiring

At home, you may take your time evaluating a painter, a housekeeping service, a landscapers or others you hire to help you with your responsibilities as a homeowner. Not only do you evaluate costs, but you may look at reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List and other resources that track satisfaction rates and help buyers to beware.

So, if you are in a position of authority in your organization to hire people – due diligence needs to take place there as well.

There’s a term ‘backdoor references’ which I became all too familiar with many years ago – when a manager was screening people through mutual connections, without the individual even knowing they were a ‘candidate’ for the job. This is absolutely wrong.

Never check someone’s references without their prior consent. Always look at their documented authorization on their application to allow you (or not) to contact their ‘current’ employer. Imagine the predicament you could put someone in with their current position/company when this is a surprise inquiry. Worse, if you do not hire that individual (for any reason) and now they are seen in a different light in their current work situation.

Never ask for information that could be used to discriminate. If you don’t know what type of information that might be, you shouldn’t be in a position to make hiring decisions.

Always dig deeper on a negative reference. Could this have been a cultural or more in relation to performance?

In those cases where a negative history may overshadow a current more positive history – be sure to ask more clarifying questions…and don’t assume people stay the same. They can improve; life circumstances may impact their past performance – as well as their future.

As found through solid interview and recruiting practices – past behavior usually predicts future behavior.

And a look at a recent event, spurred by a lack of references conducted which translates to negligent hiring.

April, Busy times

Tis the seasons. Tax season. Election season. Yard work. Spring cleaning. More hiring going on, temporary or otherwise. People and businesses have enjoyed the extra hour of daylight in recent weeks as it perks us up and energizes most of us.

Much is going on in today’s workplaces. Even if you are not in the accounting business or working for a government agency, somehow this high energy, overly busy time of those professionals may be impacting you as well.

Accounting professionals may or many not welcome extensions by their clients. It just delays the work and the payment. We’d like to hear from them on their reluctance to process extensions – how and if it really matters to them one way or another. But we know that through April 15th, not a whole lot of personal time is on the calendar for those who do tax work.

Then it is local election season as well in so many communities. People waiting on decisions to be made, that might be on hold – until new officials are in place, or not. Projects nearing completion may need final approvals in the workplace of these environments yet, the focus is on the future, not so much the now. While that ‘future’ could be the same as the ‘now’, a lot of uncertainty remains.

Landscaping businesses. Should they get a running head start because of all the mild weather the Chicago area has enjoyed this winter; or should they ‘wait and see’ in case there just may be one more big snow? Should they hire more people today, or delay that until needed? However, back to the west coast – this is a year round business in warm climates so steady-as-they go.

Spring breaks bring R&R to families but hectic times in the hospitality industry. Car sales may increase as people who filed their taxes early, may use their refunds to purchase another vehicle, or two.

Other businesses/industries pick up during these weeks: the big box stores with gardening centers; retail stores with spring clothes; and at home – some spring cleaning with or without the help of a 3rd party.

On the west coast, they are known for eating healthier all year-long, than those of us in the Midwest. We seem to wait until ‘salad season’ is upon us, and where the comfort food of the past few months are now showing their true colors.

So, we have a little patience and understand the stressed that occur in some workplaces and industries during these months as the 1st quarter of the year is now behind us.




90% of Recruiters use Social Media

It’s February and I’m already behind in my posts. Yet, I attended a seminar and thought the information I gathered would be helpful to those active in their job search or soon-to-be.


It’s about Social Media and how you may be viewed in advance of an interview and/or job offer. A few points of reference:

  • Over 90% of recruiters use social media to vet candidates pre-interview.
  • 56% of HR and recruiters say some of their best candidates are sourced via social media

A few facts about Social  Media Screening:

  • Over 43% of hiring managers  have uncovered material online that has resulted in not hiring  an individual.
  • 48% of applicants indicated drug or alcohol usage.
  • 24% of applicants lied about their qualifications.
  • 50% of candidates posted explicit or inappropriate photos.
  • 28% made comments discriminating on the basis of  race, gender, religion, etc.

Sources: CareerBuilder Social Media Recruitment Survey, 2016

One of the things I want you to consider is your privacy settings on any of the social networks you regularly participate in. While the U.S. is a bit behind the U.K. in how data is viewed and used when sourced online, I’d like to stay ahead of the game whenever possible. I advise my clients of the same.

I realize some people just don’t care what they post. However, while a company may follow certain rules about social media screening, the people inside may resort to their own vetting process. Whether this takes place before an applicant is even contacted, or after an interview takes place – one never can be sure who is looking in on you and at what point.

According to various sources, the top social networks used by Job Seekers are Facebook (83%); Twitter (40%); Google+ (37%) and LinkedIn (36%).

Those networks most used by Recruiters include: LinkedIn (94%); Facebook (65%); Twitter (55%) and Google+ (18%).

So if these are current and accurate ratings – something seems upside down. If 94% of Recruiters are using LinkedIn for recruiting, why are only 36% of Job Seekers?!

So without preaching to the choir – just take a moment to be smart. If you do your best to keep all your social media profiles smart, hooray for you! Set your privacy settings accordingly.

Here’s a bit of a safety net: While you may be careful when job hunting – one of your own contacts could tag you on something you are sure is inappropriate or just too risky for a hiring organization to see. Officially, something like that should not be held against you, as you did not originate it. But perception does not necesarrily mean reality. And we just can’t be sure who’s lurking.

Resolutions or…maybes

noun: resolution; plural noun: resolutions
  1. 1.
    a firm decision to do or not to do something.
    Synonyms: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, plan

Personally, I don’t make New Year Resolutions. They seem to set me up to fail. Whether diets or just chocolate, it reminds me of Lent, when we are supposed to give something up.

Instead, I choose to do something. Whether for myself or for someone else. Often, a silent resolution but one that is reasonably achievable. When preaching to the choir here, I promote personal and professional development; something that should be going on whether you are seeking a new job/career or actively employed. It keeps our minds open and operating.

In my case, I have registered for two webinars and one seminar for the month of January. Can I achieve all 3 of these? One in person but quite local, and the other two from the comfort of my office — so I should be able to. I intend to.

During the past year, there have been too many webinars I’ve missed because something came up. Those damn somethings!  I’ve realized that when something is offered ‘free of charge’ we become less committed to it. But we really miss out on something we were most likely very interested in. Even when free, no one wants to dedicate their time in advance to something that won’t benefit them. Time gets away from us all, work and personal distractions, the news, social media. Who loses? We do.

Maybe inviting someone else in the office to sit-in on the webinar with could help us stick to our schedule. Furthermore, the intended message or training will more than likely last beyond that one hour time slot when you have a colleague to continue the conversation with.

In a sense, I’ve made a professional resolution. To stick to my calendar of webinars/seminars. When I don’t, I always regret it. So maybe in a way – a personal resolution of sorts – to stop having regrets.

Would love to hear from you, on your plan or resolution, how you stick to your plan – particularly when it comes to your work life. Please share your comments or insight with the rest of us. We could all use a little nudge on occasion, to help us uphold our own commitments, even when no one is watching.

Happy 2nd week of 2017.






End of an era

To the Chicago Southland Career Network:

December 6, Tuesday was our final meeting of 2016. I introduced this new format of a Roundtable for job seekers and for those in career transition alike. The intention was to provide a more structured and thereby effective forum for those in career transition; beyond directives by the facilitator, each participant gaining insight and experience from others who are experiencing similar circumstances.

We never had to turn anyone away, not meeting our maximum participation, yet we’ve had to cancel more than once for a lack of. So, it is with lack of interest or availability that I have decided to put this group as it is, on hold. Not simply for personal reasons as it was two years ago, yet to permit me to continue to provide affordable coaching in this small group format, I would require more regular participation. Individual fees may not affordable for some, particularly when unemployed which is why I have continued in this path for the past eight (8) years.


The good side is, many people are finding their way to new jobs and careers. I believe there will always be a need for such support among professionals like yourselves. I hope to continue to provide some satisfactory support through the BLOG -Let’s Talk Work and through our GROUP on Facebook. The day may come where I integrate those two online resources.

I have often felt that “I am doing what I should be doing” when I meet with and discuss your concerns and conundrums; your aspirations and your accomplishments. It’s been an honor to get to know so many of you over these years. I am sure our paths will cross once again (they often do) and that you have felt that our meetings have been valuable and worthy of your time.

All the best to you and yours, in this holiday season and beyond,

Respectfully, Donna Mazalin


December 1st meeting, final of the year

PLEASE HAVE A SEAT – at OUR ROUNDTABLE. Click here for details.

RSVP however, by 6pm today! Thanks.

Voice Mail & Getting a Call Back


Felt the need to share this image again! It makes me grin.

I often get voice mails from people looking for jobs/connections even when I am not actively recruiting. I remember not-so-fondly when I was consulting at certain companies where I had a serious recruiting load. Ten jobs or more to fill, I knew my voice mail would be filled regularly.

So much so, that there was a point in time (a lengthy point in time) that I could not get to my voice mail messages at all. I actually had to hire someone weekly, to come in and retrieve all voice mails and keep track of them for me on the day I was out of the office. Otherwise, my message box would fill up and reject anything new. Yes, I had to hire a voice mail coordinator!!!!  And it was quite costly. But I was not about to ignore, or had not intended to, any of them. Prioritization was essential in returning the calls. But when people would call 2-3x or more, that mailbox would just get overloaded.

See, as a corporate recruiter especially – one is charged with doing other things and that might often be meetings with hiring managers, conducting interviews by phone and in person, scheduling those interviews, coordinating travel or other logistics for the 2nd and often 3rd round of interviews. As an HR professional, there are many other responsibilities that one might be charged with – that are considered urgent: employee relations issues, new hire processing, employee training and even terminations.

More often than not, I would get to my office in the morning, and my first item was to check my calendar for scheduled interviews – which may indeed be occurring right away. My goal and most often I achieved it – was to at least LISTEN to all the voice mail messages left for me. Write down names, numbers, time left, etc. Make a note if this was a candidate I had already connected with or someone brand new. Or, maybe it was a hiring manager requiring my immediate attention. Nevertheless, so often – by the time I retrieved ALL my voice mails and would hang up the phone, it was already filled again with brand new messages. Calls I could not take because – I was retrieving voice mails!

Now to my point. So often and even not when actively recruiting, I receive voicemail messages that are absurdly long. A lot of hemming and hawing, going on with a career history, stuttering through an explanation of why they called. Worse, when someone was downright rude or sounded entitled – that I had not yet returned their call from earlier in the day. Not as bad but equally frustrating are those messages that are unfriendly or sound like they are talking from a speaker phone and hard to hear. Even worse, when we have to play a message back once or twice, because of a bad connection, low talking or just plain poor communication skills. Believe me, recruiters make notes of all conversations.

My suggestions:

  • Practice. On yourself. Leave yourself a voice mail message, from one of your phones to another. Retrieve it. Listen to yourself. Was your message on point, to the point, or did you ramble? Did you state your name and callback number clearly? Did you leave a message that approached a minute long? Too long.
  • Call from a landline when possible. Omit the possibility of distracting noise (like trains!, yes I’ve got calls from riders on a train). Don’t use a speaker phone when you are leaving a message or calling someone. You want to be as clear as possible.
  • When a call is inquiring about a job…state something simple like ‘I have applied online to your company’s website for ______ and feel that I a strong candidate. I do hope that I am considered for this role and look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you.’
  • Be sure to state your name and contact number in the beginning of the message, in case you forget to at the end. It’s helpful for us in the beginning, so we know who we are listening to.
  • Be friendly, but genuine. Be clear and articulate. Don’t hesitate too much of too often.
  • Practice. It just might help.







R E S U M E – from the other side


Since I’ve been in the midst once again of a high volume of resumes to review – I’ve noticed a few things that candidates themselves might not be aware of.

First off, and I’ve sent this often – when you share your resume with an agency – staffing, executive search, whatever – the same exact one that you’ve created may not be the one presented to the employer that agency is soliciting.

A version of your resume, often cut in half, will be presented – typically showing only relevant skills, experience, history. Some things you felt important may not be seen as such by the middle-person now representing you. Keep a handle on this when the time comes from you to interview with the employer. You should always have your own version ready to share, via email or in-person.

Next, so many resumes are just left to their own devices, or that of the various job boards out there. When you are able, share a PDF of your resume to these job boards so that YOUR VERSION is the one viewed by actual employers. In recent weeks, I’ve noted that through one reputable job board – ALL RESUMES are identical. So this job board (will go unnamed here) somehow translates your resume into their format for consistency sake, I guess. However, it is not always the best reputation of yourself.

As an example – when you have had multiple jobs or progressive titles at one company – the ONE COMPANY should still be listed with the entire date range. What often occurs on resumes, by default or just not thought about – is that each of these positions are portrayed as one job. Therefore, with the faster-than-the-speed-of-light experienced recruiters review resumes – this can first appear as several jobs, often in a short time frame. Thereby a mistaken perception of job-hopping when in fact it is the opposite.  Be sure you represent yourself clearly – showing a progression of jobs within one company, before listing then the next company and details, and that associated information.

Last, there are instances of course, when there has been short periods of time noted with various companies/job titles. Instead of being totally disregarded due to that presumed 10-second glance, have some sort of explanation of gaps, or of why a job ended after a short time.

If there are more thoughts on this, please reply in a post here. Or call me, if you choose. I’d be happy to discuss, or even edit or prepare your resume, as needed!






quick mention about our Chicago Southland Career Networking…

abstract group

There were only 5 people in attendance (besides myself) at our roundtable meeting last night. It was productive still. A few more regular participants would round out this group nicely, but no more than 10-12 each time. However, those who have found satisfying and challenging work – I am glad you won’t be needing this forum for awhile!

Our discussion last night was on presenting yourself during an interview and how body language, tone of voice, etc. could make or break the potential of getting hired – no matter the qualifications. After our roundtable, we discussed an article that was publicized recently about being older and looking for work, or even a change in careers. As always, it’s in the attitude and the presentation…

Hoping that just a few more could join us next time. I’d like to set up a mock interview session however more participants will be needed.

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