What Does an Employer Really Need to Know About an Applicant?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the relatively new practice of U.S. employers asking job applicants to provide their Facebook login information.

Besides the passwords to social media accounts, employers have been known to “shoulder surf” while an applicant logs into his/her account, or request an applicant to befriend a human resource manager, letting him have access to their formerly private information.

I can see the employers’ reasoning: People tend to loosen up more online than they do in person. They’ll post pictures and comments they might never voice aloud, and they’ll show their “real” selves.

But that’s not true in all cases. Some of us are mighty selective about what we know will follow us, maybe forever.

Everything I’ve read suggests this practice is more common with industries where applicants need to pass a background check. Those employers are hoping a quick (or not so quick) peek into a Facebook account will reveal things about the applicant they’re not able to ask — things like age, race, religion, and gender — as well as activities like drug and alcohol use.

I can see why they’d want such information. With so darn many job applicants these days, anything that helps to narrow down the contenders would be helpful.

But applicants rightfully are concerned. After all, most social media accounts require a person signing up NOT to share their login and passwords.

Applicants fear that refusal to hand over such information will be grounds for employers to toss them out of the applicant pool. How can they feed their family and clothe their children unless they have a job?

Shouldn’t there be a division between what one does at work and what one does off work?

Legislators think so.

In fact, some states (Maryland and Illinois, for example) are considering passage of laws preventing employers from asking applicants for privacy information. Two Senators — one from New York, one from Connecticut — have asked the U.S. Justice Department to determine whether this practice is against the law.

I don’t do Facebook (despite constant urgings from friends to the contrary!). Nor am I looking for a job, thanks to being self-employed.

While I don’t have a dog in this fight, I am disturbed by the issue. It seems that attacks on an individual’s right to privacy are growing and relentless. Shouldn’t there be a better way to weed out unacceptable job applicants without resorting to violating their privacy?

Help me out here. What do you think?

When I Tried Wen…

Seems like I can’t turn on the TV lately without seeing commercials for a hair care system called “Wen.”

This product by celebrity hair guru Chaz Dean is actually a 5-in-1 system, replacing shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler, and leave-in conditioner. It’s supposed to make your hair shiny and soft, preserve your color and highlights longer, and actually save you money by reducing the number of products you’ll have to buy.

Sounds intriguing, huh?

So when one of my friends said she had some and offered to give me a sample, I jumped at the chance.

‘I’m sharing it around,’ she said. ‘We all want to try it, but we shouldn’t all have to buy it.’ Indeed.

So why didn’t I use it the minute I got home?

Leery, I guess.

Typical Midwestern distrust of anything new, “high fashion,” celebrity-endorsed.

Sometimes that can be good, but it tends to put our region of the country far behind the curve compared to the East and West coasts.

Oh well.

Last night I figured if I was going to use the stuff, I might as well (doesn’t hurt to know I’m going to see her next week and she’s going to ask how I liked the Wen!)

Now in a general way, I’m not unhappy with my hair. It makes up for the “disadvantage” of being stick-straight by being thick and healthy and growing faster than turtles crawl.

But Wen commercials depict women with gorgeous hair, and who wouldn’t want that?

‘How do I use it?’ I asked.

‘Just put it on your hair,’ she told me. ‘Doesn’t matter how.’

She didn’t get that exactly right. I probably should have browsed through the instructional videos online before using Wen, but it seems results take place regardless.

After only one use, I can tell my hair isn’t tangly. It looks shinier. Feels softer. Seems straighter (if straighter is desirable!)

Wen is touted as containing only natural ingredients, nothing like the hair care products on the shelves. And it’s one of those things where you buy it, then they regularly send you another supply until you cancel. Kind of like ProActiv or something.

I’m not sure I want to get locked in to that kind of purchase.

Nor am I sure I’m ready to part with shampoos that lather up and smell wonderful.

Still, if you get a chance to try some, go for it. And do share your thoughts with us!

Topsy-Turvy Weather

I doubt any section of the United States is more concerned about weather than the Midwest.

Perhaps it’s because we’re so heavily agriculture-based. Perhaps it’s because for so much of the year, our weather is lousy.


We talk about the weather. We pray for good weather. Our radio stations and newspapers carry extensive weather reports. We have weather apps on our phones, and our computers bring up The Weather Channel as a home page. Weather radios are a big seller for stores; so are snow blowers and houses with basements.

Normally, mid-March brings awful weather. Cold, winds, grey skies. A sudden snowfall. An unexpected ice event. More shoveling, more concern over when the farmers can get into the fields and plant, more despair over Spring’s tardiness.

Not this year.

This year, our weather (as my friend Monica so aptly pointed out) has been gorgeous.

Sunny. Warm, to the point of almost-hot. Gentle breezes. Downright Spring-like.

College kids home on Break didn’t need to plan a trip to Florida this year. They could golf, catch some sun, run, and play tennis, right here at home!

Indeed, who wants to stay inside watching March Madness on TV when you can be outside?

Within just a few days, our weather went from this:

Gotta love this snow, Mom!










To this:

Daffodils in bloom










Too weird.

Usually, we’re bundled to our chins in coats, hats, mittens. Boots and jeans are the uniform of the day.

Now we’re shedding clothes like my Sheltie sheds his coat. We’re busting out shorts and flip-flops, T-shirts and tanning oil.

Some love it; some hate it. But in the Midwest we have a saying, ‘If you don’t like the weather, just stick around a few days because it will certainly change.’

How true that is!

I don’t expect this balmy spell to last. It probably won’t, if truth be told and history any indication. As the experts note, March came ‘in like a lamb,’ so it’s bound to go out roaring ‘like a lion.’

But, oh, while it’s here, we’re enjoying every minute of it!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

May there always be work for your hands to do.

May your purse always hold a coin or two.

May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane.

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

— Irish blessing

ImageHappy St. Patrick’s Day from me and Fiona.

Who’s Fiona? My Shamrock plant, that’s who.

Of course you knew I’d have a Shamrock plant, didn’t you? Don’t all Irish folks have Shamrocks hanging around?

Actually, Fiona’s real name is Oxalis, and she’s a member of the wood sorrel family. Her brothers and sisters come in shades of green, purple, and red; they bloom with tiny white, pink, yellow, or red flowers once or twice a year.

Widely available around St. Patrick’s Day, Oxalis is easy to grow from carrot-shaped roots. A perennial, Oxalis likes a woodsy, shady area with rich, moist soil. It goes dormant during the summer; cut the leaves back and put it in a cool, dark place for two to three months. When you notice fresh shoots emerging, move it to a sunny window and start the cycle anew.

One warning: Shamrock plants are toxic to dogs! Ingesting quantities of any part of the plant can cause a dog to vomit and lead to kidney failure and death. My Sheltie doesn’t even know that Fiona exists because she’s on a really tall shelf, far away from his curiosity!

Death of a Teacher

My high school band director died over the weekend, and reading his obituary shamed me at how little we appreciated him during our teen years.

A former military man, Mr. B was on the strict side. He didn’t succumb to giggles the way we girls did, didn’t immerse himself in sports the way the boys did. He was a polar opposite to our former band director, who got into some “trouble” with a student and abruptly was gone. Probably fired, though that sort of scandal was hushed up at the time (nor did we have Facebook and Twitter to help us connect the dots!)

Anyway, one year prior to band contest, we were practicing, and Mr. B had us all turn our music stands — with our music — toward him and try to play our three selections. Talk about a wake-up call! The notes that minutes before sounded so clear and beautiful suddenly became a cacophony; rests were ignored, phrasing went out the window.

‘You should know these pieces like the back of your hand,’ he scolded us.

It must have worked, for we consistently earned top marks at local and state contests.

But Mr. B was so much more than just a band director. He was an outstanding role model, daily living his faith with emphasis on family. A tiny, leprechaun-ish man, Mr. B was dwarfed by many of his students in size, but outshone all of us in his love for music.

Too soon, the community college snatched him away to head up their music department. That, coupled with the fact that I’d headed off to college, left me clueless as to Mr. B’s whereabouts. Not that he didn’t cross my mind occasionally — important people from our past usually don’t vanish entirely.

But I never really said the words that most teachers need to hear. Two simple words every teacher longs to hear.

Thank You.

The entire time I was at university on a band scholarship, never once did I return home to say ‘Thank you’ to Mr. B for his encouragement.

Years later, our paths crossed when, as a journalist, I was covering a local festival and suddenly caught sight of Mr. B performing with a ragtime combo as a street musician.

Did I thank him then? No.

Some time later, when my son Domer was involved in solo and ensemble contests at the middle school level, I was helping as a parent volunteer and who should I see as one of the judges but Mr. B! Yep, he was still giving of his time and expertise to young band students.

Surely I thanked him then, didn’t I? Sadly no.

And now he’s passed to his Great Reward, playing music in Heaven that far overshadows anything earth can create. I hope he knows how grateful I am — how thankful all of us are — for his unselfish gift of self.

But in case he doesn’t — Thanks, Mr. B.

How’s Lent Working Out for You So Far?

My pretty boy's face

Sometimes I think my dog is a better Christian than I am.

He’s never read the Bible. Never studied the Catechism. Never been inside a church. He’s never attended a prayer group, never joined with others in praise songs.

But he knows how to act lovingly. He grasps wrong from right and generally seems to choose ‘right.’ And he knows who his mistress is and how to stay on her good side. Witness these examples:

  • He doesn’t fail to put me ahead of everything else (well, except maybe food!).
  • When I call, he listens and responds. I’ve never heard him reply, ‘Just a minute, ‘k?’
  • He doesn’t demand to know why he has certain ‘talents’ instead of others. He’s good at herding, for example, but doesn’t pine for a swimming pool.
  • He never grumbles and complains when things don’t go his way.
  • His greatest delight is spending time with me. If I interrupt his nap to go for a walk, he’s right there with me.
  • He’s content to follow me wherever I go, without fighting me for the reins.
  • He’s always thankful. For a full tummy, a scratch beneath the chin, a romp through the house.
  • If I’m gone ‘too long’ by his book, he shreds a few newspapers, but never does he lie when I ask him about it.
  • He never questions my judgment but assumes I must know what I’m talking about.

We could learn a lot from our dogs!

Of course, there are dogs and there are dogs. Some, through poor early socialization or bad breeding or whatever, are doomed to be less than they could have been. They don’t bond with their owners; they prefer the animal world to that of humans.

Others are like Mary Poppins, ‘practically perfect in every way.’ They seem attuned to you, to be the better part of you, keeping you grounded when life gets crazy, making you laugh through hardships, nursing you through illnesses, adoring you with their attentions.

Soul dogs, they’re called. And if you’ve ever been owned by one, you’ll know what I mean.

I don’t know whether all dogs go to Heaven when they die. I imagine, just like with people, there are some who won’t arrive there. But I’d bet my last dollar soul dogs go!

Who among us is as patient, as trusting, as kind, as unselfish, as a soul dog?

No, they can’t be born again, in the Christian sense. They can’t actively choose Jesus Christ. But perhaps God doesn’t call them to the same standards He calls us. Perhaps it’s enough that they do what they’re best at doing — loving, trusting, obeying.

When ‘Boy’ Becomes ‘Man’

My Favorite Domer (A.K.A. my son) celebrates one of those Milestone birthdays this week and since he says he doesn’t read my blog, I’m going to wax nostalgic.

You see, Domer is turning 21.

Legal. With all the privileges — and responsibilities — that brings.

For him.

For me, it brings a certain dash of worry.

By the time a “child” gets to the ripe old age of 21, a parent has had lots of opportunities to worry:

  • While Baby is still in the womb, we worry whether he will be healthy. Will he have all his fingers and toes? Will we be adequate in training up this babe in the way he should go? When will he sleep through the night??
  • As he goes off to school, we worry whether other kids will like him. Will he behave in class and respect his teachers? Will he ever learn cursive handwriting or multiplication tables?
  • Then comes middle school, and we continue to worry whether the other kids will like him. Will he be chosen last in P.E. class? Will he find bullies? Will they find him? In his eagerness to explore lots of different things, are we pushing him too hard, loading him up with too many activities and lessons?
  • As he enters high school, we worry whether the other kids will like him (yes, it’s kind of an ongoing thing!). Will he find a class that sparks his passion? Will he manage to juggle his courses and extra-curricular activities? Will he find work, at least part-time? Will he test well enough to get into college, if that’s his goal? Will he steer clear of the troubled kids and choose to be alone, if that’s what it takes?
  • Then he goes off to college and regardless whether it’s the place of his dreams, we worry. Will he adapt to dorm life, to life on his own? Will he zero in on a major and a career path? Will he eat enough, keep his clothing clean, get enough sleep? Will the other kids like him?

Unlike cars and home appliances, babies don’t arrive with a manual. Parents, especially first-time parents, often find themselves navigating uncharted waters when it comes to making decisions. I’m told it’s easier with number two and later, but I wouldn’t know; my guess is, if you’re conscientious, you’ll find it equally difficult, since siblings don’t necessarily come with the same set of abilities or personality.

Worrying just seems to be part of the parenting package.

And now that Domer is turning 21, it feels only natural for me to worry.

Will he get sucked into those drinking games where you take 21 shots in rapid succession, then pass out? Or will he be the responsible adult I know and drink sensibly? Will he skip classes as a present to himself? Or will he buck up to his responsibilities and celebrate afterward?

A 2006 survey at Virginia Tech University found that 72 percent of men and 65 percent of women don’t feel that getting drunk on their 21st birthday is a rite of passage. In addition, 95 percent of the women surveyed and 80 percent of the men didn’t attempt the 21 drinks.

That’s good to know. Because college is hard enough without trying to do it drunk.

Do you remember how you celebrated your 21st birthday?