Can You Fire Someone for Having Voted for President Obama?

That was the question a caller, who had read a quote of mine published in an article ( he could not remember which one), recently asked me.

He explained that he owns a business that has over 50 full-time employees.  In order to avoid Obamacare, he has to let some go so he is under the 50 employee threshold.  His question was, Is it legal to fire employees who voted for Obama?   The logic behind the question was, Why should people who voted for Governor Romney lose their jobs when they are in no way responsible for Obamacare?  Supporters of the President should be held responsible for the ramifications of their efforts.

My answer began with the warning that I am not an attorney.  But then I helped him think it through.  First, in New York State it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of “creed.”  Since he is in New York, assuming that “creed” includes political beliefs, it would be illegal to fire supporters of the President.  Additionally, since the foundation of our democracy is the secret ballot, it is probably illegal (again, I’m not an attorney) to force someone to tell you how they voted.

So my response was, it’s not fair, but you can’t do it.

The Skype Interview

Interviewing candidates over Skype has become an acceptable practice.  For years I have been interviewing out-of-town career counseling clients using the service.  It’s the only way I can tell if their body language complements or contradicts what they are saying when we conduct a mock interview.  But it’s also the only way I can judge how a candidate, for one of my executive recruiting clients, presents themselves in person.

The rules for a Skype interview are somewhat relaxed.  Dress conservatively and professionally, but it’s silly to wear a suit and tie (or the female equivalent thereof).  On the other hand, you have to be aware of how you look on camera and the message your surroundings send.

Regarding the first, go to the “Settings” option on your computer camera and make certain the “zoom” is such that your entire face does not take up the computer monitor.  You do not want the interviewer to be able to see every imperfection on your face – or to think you have a big head!  Also, make certain that the picture does not “flicker.”

Just as importantly, or perhaps more so, are your surroundings.  I once interviewed an individual, over Skype, for a position that required, first and foremost, someone who was detail-oriented.  He assured me that he was.  Problem was, his computer was in his bedroom facing the bed.  The bed had not been made and the photos hanging on the wall were all crooked.  His environment, if you will, contradicted his words.  I did not submit him.

Another interview I did went very well.  Again, it was a bedroom scene, only this time everything was in order.  In the middle of the interview something cute happened.  The candidate’s young daughter, she was maybe four or five, came into the room.  Her father did not realize it.  She climbed on the bed with her stuffed animal (a dog) and just watched.  When he finished answering my questions I asked him if he had any questions for me.  When we were done I told him I had one final question for him: “What’s the name of your daughter’s dog?”

He looked at my like I was crazy and assured me that she, they, did not have a dog.  “It doesn’t look that way to me!”  I was smiling and told him to turn around.  He started to laugh and asked me how long she had been in the room. 

She was a bit embarrassed.  Instead of running out of the room she went over to her father, dog in hand, for protection against the strange man on the computer.  He put her on his lap, introduced us, and we had a very nice conversation.  He let her talk.  She told me about her dog and what she wanted to be when she grows up.  It was a very sweet conversation and a great way to end an interview.

He was impressive, but she was even more so.  Clearly he was a good parent.  When I told my client about the interview, she was interested in him but not overwhelmed.  In passing I mentioned his daughter.  That’s what got him the interview with the client.  It didn’t get him the job, but it got him the interview.

So, be aware of your surroundings and, if you have one, a stuffed animal might help (OK, a cute daughter)!

The Advantage Men Have Over Women

I don’t know who said it, but we know it is not true that “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.”  You can make a bad first impression and recover.  Here’s an example:

I once had a candidate show up at my office.  He was waiting for me in the Reception area.  The first thing I noticed about him was that he was holding his cell phone up to his nose.  The second thing was that his shirt collar was not buttoned.  And the third thing was that his tie was neither straight nor tight.  When I approached him, he lowered the phone, looked at my outstretched hand and, to my mind, thought about whether or not he would shake it.  After a second or two he did, but by then I was convinced that he was not the candidate for my client – who was looking for someone extremely detail-oriented.

We entered my conference room, sat down, and after the normal chit-chat, he said, “Bruce, I have to tell you one thing before we start, I am legally blind.”

Bad first impression explained.  Candidate submitted to client.  You can get a second chance to make a good first impression.

But here’s the thing:  Sloppiness aside, it is fairly difficult for men to dress inappropriately for a job interview or a business meeting.  Granted, I have had men show up with wild ties.  And, as most people who have heard me speak know, I even had one gentleman, bald, show up having spray painted his head black!  (Remember the infomercials for “hair in a can?”)  But, for the most part, life for men is simple:  suit, white shirt, conservative tie, black shoes.  Easy!

Women have a problem.  They can easily dress inappropriately.  Showing off physical attributes (who says I can’t be diplomatic?!) is a sign of a lack of confidence.  You can’t get the job based on your record so…  This can happen when the top is too low or the hem is too high.  But, as I recently witnessed at a business gathering, it can also happen if the dress is too tight requiring the wearer to lower her skirt whenever she rose to speak.

And that was all people talked about, behind her back, after the fact.  No one even remembered what she had said.  Which is why you always want to dress conservatively – man or woman.