TIME Management

Why Monitoring Employees’ Social Media Is a Bad Idea

Quote tweet feature
Nick Ansell—PA Wire/Press Association Images Quote tweet feature. File photo dated 10/02/15 of the Twitter bird logo. Twitter has overhauled its "frustrating" quote tweet feature to allow people to say more about text they want to comment on. Issue date: Tuesday April 7, 2015. The social media giant had faced criticism that users barely had any characters left to add a comment when they quoted a tweet because of the 140-character limit. See PA story TECHNOLOGY Twitter. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire URN:22671665

there is a vast difference between asking for employees to exercise good judgment and hovering over their Tweets like Big Brother

People today live in a virtual online aquarium, and chances are good that one of the people watching you is probably your current or potential employer. According to job site CareerBuilder, 52% of companies now check job applicants’ social media profiles before hiring them, up from 43% just a year ago.

On one hand, it’s understandable. After all, it can be embarrassing for a business if one of its representatives posts offensive content or does something illegal via social media. Employers can even get into legal trouble for their workers’ actions. Advocates of the practice say that it’s necessary to protect companies’ reputations, confidential information, and is an inevitable byproduct of the Internet age, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But does monitoring of employees’ social media really protect a company or can it do more harm than good?

First, the argument that companies need to keep tabs online to ensure that their employees refrain from inappropriate or illegal behavior doesn’t really hold. While it’s conceivable that some low level silliness, such as posting a picture of yourself dancing on a table, could be prevented by employer monitoring, more serious infractions are unlikely to be shared on social media and therefore never appear on the radar of the company anyway.

In addition, when job candidates or employees know that they are being watched, they can restrict access to certain posts, set up dummy profiles to fool companies, or otherwise throw up smokescreens. This is particularly true of millennials, who are technologically adept at controlling and manipulating their online avatars. The point is, the limited preventative effect of social media monitoring may not be worth the time and expense required for companies to do it.

There is also the problem of bias. Americans today are arguably more socially and politically conscious than previous generations and actively use social media to convey their thoughts, debate important topics, and fight for causes. In some cases, employers may even be supportive, such as if a job candidate works tirelessly to raise money for breast cancer research, but in other cases, there is a real danger of people being penalized for their personal views on things like politics, race, or religion.

Even if a company itself is neutral, the subjective feelings of the person tasked with monitoring employees’ social media could easily lead to discrimination, especially in the highly polarized environment of the U.S. People should be able to share their views on gay marriage, for example, with their friends on social media, without running afoul of an employer who disagrees with them. Recognizing that in essence this is an inadvertent violation of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, political preference, gender etc, employers should at the very least factor this into their social media policies and put safeguards in place to prevent against it. The harm caused by bias to workers is immense but so are the potential legal consequences for companies.

Finally, by looking over workers’ shoulders, companies could stifle the most important trait that can benefit a business: creativity. As innovation becomes increasingly necessary in a hyper-competitive business landscape, this factor can be crucial for a company’s success.

Social media, for those who use it avidly at least, can be a medium to express our personality – for who we are – which is naturally linked to our creativity. Companies that foster creativity are more profitable and 50% more likely to be market leaders than their peers, according to the Harvard Business Review. Yet some businesses fail to make the connection between suppressing their employees’ online freedom and restricting their creativity.

There is no doubt that companies are within their rights to expect compliance with some common-sense social media etiquette. However, there is a vast difference between asking for employees to exercise good judgment and hovering over their Tweets like Big Brother. The latter can erode a necessary sense of trust between companies and their workers and undermine loyalty. Just as an employee or a job candidate needs to trust that a company has integrity and is worth working for, the company needs to show its people that it trusts them to behave like responsible adults.

By allowing workers to live their personal lives without intrusion, smart businesses can make a powerful statement; namely, that they accept them for who they are, treasure their professional contributions to the company, and want them to be happy and fulfilled outside as well as inside the office. This, in turn, would inspire loyalty and boost productivity in the workforce, and make those companies more profitable.

Kumar has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. He has evaluated mergers and acquisitions in these sectors and provided strategic consulting to media companies and hedge funds.

MONEY Best Places

These Are the 25 Best Cities for Finding a Job

Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh, NC
Visions of America—UIG via Getty Images Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh, NC

A new report shows the best places to find a new gig.

A new Glassdoor study ranked America’s 50 biggest cities and come up with the best 25 for workers.

The formula weights each city’s housing affordability, how employees rate their job satisfaction on Glassdoor’s site, and how easy it is to get a job (the ratio of openings to population).

Thanks in great part to its location in the university-heavy “Research Triangle,” Raleigh, N.C., is the top-rated metropolitan area for jobs. Like Austin and Seattle, which also rank in the top five, the city has benefitted from a tech boom in recent years, as companies and workers have left higher-cost areas like San Francisco and New York.

Scroll down for the top 25 cities—or check out the full ranking at Glassdoor, which has Riverside, Calif., and Las Vegas landing at the bottom of the list.

  1. Raleigh, NC – Glassdoor Job Score: 4.1
  • Number of Job Openings: 24,146
  • Population: 1,242,974
  • Median Base Salary: $50,950
  • Median Home Value: $198,400
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. Kansas City, MO – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.9
  • Number of Job Openings: 28,786
  • Population: 2,071,133
  • Median Base Salary: $46,000
  • Median Home Value: $138,500
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Oklahoma City, OK – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.9
  • Number of Job Openings: 16,759
  • Population: 1,336,767
  • Median Base Salary: $38,100
  • Median Home Value: $129,400
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. Austin, TX – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.9
  • Number of Job Openings: 33,198
  • Population: 1,943,299
  • Median Base Salary: $50,000
  • Median Home Value: $226,400
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. Seattle, WA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.9
  • Number of Job Openings: 69,423
  • Population: 3,671,478
  • Median Base Salary: $70,000
  • Median Home Value: $344,700
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. Salt Lake City, UT – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.8
  • Number of Job Openings: 17,970
  • Population: 1,153,340
  • Median Base Salary: $44,000
  • Median Home Value: $224,000
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.4
  1. San Jose, CA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 51,439
  • Population: 1,952,872
  • Median Base Salary: $99,000
  • Median Home Value: $863,800
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.5
  1. Louisville, KY – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 16,295
  • Population: 1,269,702
  • Median Base Salary: $40,000
  • Median Home Value: $131,100
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. San Antonio, TX – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 29,980
  • Population: 2,328,652
  • Median Base Salary: $40,000
  • Median Home Value: $147,600
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. Washington, D.C. – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 116,770
  • Population: 6,033,737
  • Median Base Salary: $61,000
  • Median Home Value: $361,200
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.4
  1. St. Louis, MO – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 31,365
  • Population: 2,806,207
  • Median Base Salary: $45,000
  • Median Home Value: $133,200
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.3
  1. San Francisco, CA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 94,933
  • Population: 4,594,060
  • Median Base Salary: $70,000
  • Median Home Value: $728,000
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.5
  1. Columbus, OH – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 25,242
  • Population: 1,994,536
  • Median Base Salary: $43,000
  • Median Home Value: $146,700
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 102,311
  • Population: 6,954,330
  • Median Base Salary: $50,000
  • Median Home Value: $157,900
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Boston, MA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 86,565
  • Population: 4,732,161
  • Median Base Salary: $56,000
  • Median Home Value: $367,600
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.4
  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 48,231
  • Population: 3,495,176
  • Median Base Salary: $52,000
  • Median Home Value: $210,300
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Atlanta, GA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.5
  • Number of Job Openings: 69,642
  • Population: 5,614,323
  • Median Base Salary: $49,180
  • Median Home Value: $155,200
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Memphis, TN – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.4
  • Number of Job Openings: 14,776
  • Population: 1,343,230
  • Median Base Salary: $42,000
  • Median Home Value: $107,000
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Indianapolis, IN – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 23,863
  • Population: 1,971,274
  • Median Base Salary: $44,000
  • Median Home Value: $130,100
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Chicago, IL – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 124,633
  • Population: 9,554,598
  • Median Base Salary: $50,000
  • Median Home Value: $186,900
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Houston, TX – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 74,442
  • Population: 6,490,180
  • Median Base Salary: $52,000
  • Median Home Value: $157,900
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Baltimore, MD – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 45,558
  • Population: 2,785,874
  • Median Base Salary: $46,000
  • Median Home Value: $244,100
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Richmond, VA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 17,933
  • Population: 1,260,029
  • Median Base Salary: $45,000
  • Median Home Value: $186,300
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2
  1. Pittsburgh, PA – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.1
  • Number of Job Openings: 29,456
  • Population: 2,355,968
  • Median Base Salary: $43,000
  • Median Home Value: $124,500
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.1
  1. Nashville, TN – Glassdoor Job Score: 3.1
  • Number of Job Openings: 27,850
  • Population: 1,792,649
  • Median Base Salary: $41,600
  • Median Home Value: $176,700
  • Job Satisfaction Rating: 3.2

 

MONEY job search

Fortune 500 or Startup? How to Tell What Size Company is Right for You

what size company to work for
Craig Roberts—Gallery Stock

These are the six factors to consider when looking for your next gig, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Size matters when it comes to finding a place to work that supports your career goals.

Of course, both big and small firms have advantages and disadvantages. A Fortune 500 company may have thousands of employees and monstrous bureaucracy, but great benefits and a lot of room for growth. On the other hand, at a start-up, the risks are higher, but the executive team knows the junior staff by name, you may have a chance to get a broader experience set, and you could be on the ground floor of tomorrow’s success story.

What’s tricky is that while company size does influence your career path, day-to-day role, and work environment, it isn’t the only factor.

And the generalizations above are not always true. A big company isn’t necessarily bureaucratic—it might have retained a collaborative, entrepreneurial culture. A small company isn’t inherently risky—maybe they offer you an upfront guarantee or they recently got funded.

Here are six career planning considerations that are influenced by size, and the pros and cons of small and large employers:

What Kinds of Resources Are Available

In general, big companies will have more resources.

This could mean more or better office supplies and equipment, professional development and training, benefits and pay, and a more comfortable work environment. This also means resources for your particular job—budget, direct reports, administrative support.

That said, it’s not necessarily true that small companies will have less (and big companies might be able to do more but be stingy), so try to get information about this during the hiring process. Ask pointed questions about, say, what your budget would be on certain projects, and do some research on sites like Glassdoor and using second- and third-degree LinkedIn connections who work or have worked at the company to find out the inside scoop.

What the Breadth of Your Responsibilities Will Be

Since big companies have more staff, it’s more likely the staff will have a more tightly defined (read: smaller) scope of responsibilities. This is a good thing if you want that structure.

But if you want variety and a chance to work across functions or touch a project from start to finish, a smaller company might be a better fit.

Again, size influences your scope but doesn’t determine it 100%. When you are interviewing, ask don’t assume what your responsibilities will be, whom you will be interacting with, and what decision-making authority you will have.

What Prospects for Advancement You’ll Have

Bigger companies have larger infrastructure, perhaps even more locations or industry areas where business is conducted. This typically means you have greater potential for internal mobility—the chance to move from the New York office to the London office, from serving financial services clients to media clients, from working in sales to working in marketing.

That said, small companies offer advancement via upward mobility. You take on more responsibility because you have to. While the small company may not have a London office to send you to, you may be asked to open one.

As you can see, big and small companies offer advancement opportunity. Ask about career growth specifically when you interview.

How Outsiders Will Perceive You

Small companies are typically less well-known than bigger companies. A brand name does convey advantages in introductions or on a résumé: When people glance at your C.V. and see you’re coming from Goldman Sachs (as opposed to Boutique Bank WHO?), they know what they’re dealing with.

That said, branding is more than a name. Some people hear big company and assume slow and not innovative.

And if your personal brand hinges on being seen as leading-edge or entrepreneurial, then a smaller company will be more consistent with your brand.

In addition, a company might be small but have big name clients. If you work for a small company that serves the Fortune 500 or other brand names, naming the clients is a way for you to get that pedigree on your résumé or in your pitch.

How Well You’ll Be Paid

Big companies can afford to pay more, but they might feel like they don’t have to because of their brand names and better resources.

Small companies might be limited on base salary but might offer equity participation or profit-sharing.

Compensation is tough to generalize. Don’t undersell yourself to a small company by assuming you need to take less. Don’t get overly aggressive with a big company and automatically negotiate for the top end of your range.

What Networking Opportunities You’ll Have

Big companies offer you more people to connect with, but those people are more dispersed, and you will have to be more proactive about reaching out.

Small companies offer fewer people to add to your network but it may be easier to get to know people and therefore build deeper connections.

As you interview, recognize there are advantages and disadvantages at both ends of the size spectrum. Focus on your day-to-day colleagues, senior leadership, and overall culture and how all of these fit with you, regardless of size.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME Social Media

How Twitter Can Become the Premier Site for Job-Seekers

The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters  in San Francisco
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Twitter should add a traditional job board to its social media platform to enhance its value for job seekers

A new study shows that Twitter has more job openings than other social media sites and more job seekers than even LinkedIn. In addition, the number of Twitter users grew more rapidly than LinkedIn and Facebook in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Much of this growth seems to be coming from young professionals and high income workers, fertile demographics for employers.

Despite that, only 15% of recruiters have actually found someone to hire through Twitter. A possible reason for this is a lack of response from job seekers to Twitter postings; the people surveyed by Software Advice cited inconsistency of job postings and poor communication by companies with job seekers as reasons for dissatisfaction. 76% of them indicated that their primary interaction with employers on Twitter is to check out company profiles, not necessarily to apply for jobs themselves.

All this begs the question of how Twitter can improve its performance as a matchmaker for jobs. One good way would be for the company to set up a traditional job board, organized by categories, along the lines of a Monster.com.

Currently, the primary way for a Twitter user to find a job is by following specific companies he or she is interested in or by searching via hashtags related to jobs, companies, or industries. While these methods can bear fruit, they’re a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. For example, a search for the hashtag #jobsearch will produce hundreds of tweets that are only tangentially related to actual jobs, including articles on job hunting, random thoughts, and junk tweets that use the hashtag for promotion.

In addition, unless you search for every possible hashtag an employer might use and unless the employer uses the right hashtags, you could easily miss a posting for your dream job. Not to mention that as new tweets keep appearing every few seconds, the process of finding an appropriate job can be extremely time consuming and difficult.

This might also explain why job seekers tend to use Twitter more for gathering information on specific companies than to check out job postings and even less to apply through Twitter. The pace of Twitter is so fast and the content so diverse and scattered that finding a job directly through the Twitterverse is simply too challenging.

Sites like Monster.com or CareerBuilder, on the other hand, provide a more attractive option by aggregating job postings and making it easy for job seekers to view jobs by different parameters such as functional area, industry, region etc. It’s less dynamic than social media but comfortably static for users.

What Twitter needs to do is add this functionality to complement the strength of its own platform. While traditional job boards are great for active candidates, Twitter can also be useful for general career development and to keep a pulse on the market for a future job hunt. It’s a real-time information medium that also allows users to gain market insight and to communicate directly with companies they may be interested in working for. That’s a huge advantage for Twitter.

The only real service that the company needs to provide is to curate tweets to differentiate between actual job listings and other types of tweets, and to aggregate those tweets under common verticals like function, industry, and region.

There is, of course, tweetMyJobs, a leading social media add-on service that enables job seekers to receive targeted job matches via Twitter and to send resumes to employers. The site also helps employers set up profiles and send out listings to job seekers through social media. But that further illustrates the tremendous opportunity that Twitter is failing to take advantage of.

By becoming a go-to site for job seekers, Twitter could potentially outpace its competitors in the space and create a new revenue stream in the future by charging employers for posting listings. As those looking for employment or career advancement search for new ways to find what they’re looking for, Twitter, by standing at the vanguard of social media, is uniquely positioned to help them.

S. Kumar has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. He has evaluated mergers and acquisitions in these sectors and provided strategic consulting to media companies and hedge funds.

MONEY Income equality

Why This CEO Pays Every Employee $70,000 a Year

Dan Price
Dan Price

Dan Price's decision to dramatically increase wages at his company sparked a lot of controversy. Here's why he did it.

Growing up in rural Idaho, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price remembers learning that one’s values are most sacred.

“My dad would ask me a question…He’d say, ‘How much money is your integrity worth?’ His point was there’s no amount of money that he would be willing to sell his integrity for. And that was ingrained in me at a very, very young age.”

Fast forward to today, the 30-year-old CEO is staying true to those principles. Just last week he announced he’d be taking a $930,000 pay cut to help afford raising the minimum wage at his Seattle-based credit card processing company to $70,000. This means that out of the 120 employees, 70 will be getting raises and 30 will see their incomes double.

For Price, this will also mean reducing his $1 million annual salary to $70,000. “I may have to sell my house, to be honest,” he told me.

I spoke with Price on my daily podcast, So Money, about how he arrived at choosing $70,000 as the company’s starting salary and how he’ll be measuring the success of this bold decision. While Price’s move was born out of a desire to bring more income equality to his workforce, he’ll be looking to his customers to learn if, in fact, he made the best decision.

Farnoosh Torabi: You were inspired to raise the minimum wage because of a well-known Princeton study that found that emotional well-being rises with income—but only to an extent, which is around $75,000 dollars. Was it just the study that was the game changer for you? The numbers also had to make sense for the business, right?

Dan Price: To me, once you know the right thing to do, and it’s the right thing for everybody involved and it’s going to be beneficial to everyone, it becomes a moral imperative to actually do it. In the past, as much as I would have wanted to do something like this, it wasn’t practical, it wasn’t the right timing. And so, with that Princeton study, one of the other aspects that really hit home with me was, “The dollars that you’re making underneath that amount are causing harm to your well-being.” And that, to me, is powerful stuff. And we only get to live this life once. And I want everybody that I’m partnered with at Gravity to really live the fullest, best life that they can. And so, that was a big part of it. And to be honest with you, all of those studies and stuff, you can throw them out the window. If you just talk to people around Seattle, or really anywhere, and you see how it’s impacting them, that’s the top thing for me.

The day I decided to do this, I was on a hike with a friend who had her rent hiked up a little bit. And she’s incredibly smart, very hard-working, and her employer does a great job taking care of her, but market rates being what they are, and living expenses being what they are, it was creating a very difficult, stressful situation for her.

[Editor’s note: The cost of living in Seattle is 24% above the national average, according to PayScale, mainly due to the high price of housing. Home prices are 51% above the national average.]

FT: You said from the beginning that this is really just an experiment for now. How will you be measuring its success?

DP: First and foremost will be our client satisfaction. That’s what we’ve always built the whole company on. In my mind, I am a butler, I’m a servant for our clients, which are amazing independent businesses all over the country, and we help them accept credit cards for less and give them great service. And so, if our clients are more satisfied, that’s going to be, for me, the most important bellwether.

We never really had trouble attracting talent because we’re very purpose-oriented. We never really had trouble retaining talent because the most important thing we provide our team isn’t money, but an opportunity—an opportunity to serve, an opportunity to grow. But I do think that there was some level of distraction, and there must be when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. And so, I honestly believe that removing that distraction will significantly increase our ability to take care of our clients.

Every day, MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi interviews entrepreneurs, authors, and financial luminaries about their money philosophies, successes, failures and habits for her podcast, So Money—which is a “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes.

More from Farnoosh Torabi:
How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Obsessed With “Stuff”
Self-Help Guru Tim Ferriss Confesses His Biggest Financial Mistake
How I Conquered My Fear of Going Broke

TIME

How to Ace the Most Important Part of Your Job Interview

Handshake illustration
Anna Parini

You're a perfect fit for the job. But that doesn't mean you're definitely going to get it

We’ve all been there. You aced the job interview and your credentials are a perfect fit for the position. Now comes the hard part – the ‘beer test’ or the personality test, a casual chat over drinks or dinner meant to determine how well you will fit with an organization on a personal level. Since your resume can’t really capture what kind of person you are, both you and the interviewer are walking into an unknown situation with unpredictable results.

But despite the dangers of the process, it’s possible to pass the test with flying colors if you recognize the priorities of your potential employer and the questions they are really trying to answer:

What else are you good at other than work?

This may seem irrelevant to the job but it’s not. While serving on the board of a mid-sized radio group, I was tasked with identifying and hiring a new Chief Operating Officer. The leading candidate was a long-time consultant for media companies who checked all the technical boxes for the job. However, learning about her passion for composing music in her spare time and sailing gave me a sense of a well-rounded person who could not only manage the firm’s logistical operations but also liaison with the quirky radio personalities that were our bread and butter.

She got the job and was extremely successful at securing popular new radio hosts for us, many of whom enjoyed discussing her music with her more than audience ratings. She also organized a sailing outing for the firm, which was a hit with the employees. Revealing your outside interests can help your interviewer see the three-dimensional person you are and (maybe) tap into some of your hidden talents.

Are you socially adept?

There are two aspects to this. Some very smart and capable people are bad at social interaction. In some professions, such as medical research or back-office accounting, that might not matter. But in other jobs, such as in marketing, sales, or even general management, social skills are extremely important and can determine your ability to do your job. How well you engage with your interviewer during a beer test will show him or her how good you are at interpersonal communication.

In addition, your future employer may be trying to gauge if you know how to socialize with a work colleague, which is not necessarily the same as with your friends. When spending time with a colleague, you need to be aware of personal boundaries that would be dangerous to breach. You may not, for example, want to discuss the subject of dating, which a colleague might consider intrusive and which could cause problems in the work environment later. It also opens up the company to lawsuits.

Being friends with your co-workers without being too friendly isn’t easy but essential, especially in smaller organizations where socializing is inevitable. Too much closeness can lead to awkwardness, misunderstandings, and office gossip. When confronted with this type of challenge, your best bet is to show your acumen by using it – chat engagingly but casually, avoid sensitive topics, and show your interviewer that you know how to have a good time within boundaries.

Are you Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

In vino veritas as the saying goes. In wine (or beer) there is truth. This is probably the single most important reason for employers to want to meet a candidate socially. We all put on our best face during official interviews, but from an employer’s standpoint that can be a problem. After all, no one wants to hire the polished Dr. Jekyll and wind up with the wild Mr. Hyde instead – especially in the age of social media where that picture of you dancing on a table with your shirt off can go viral.

A social outing tends to entice people to let their guard down. That’s totally fine, as long as you don’t let it too far down and maintain the same decorum you would with anyone you respect. Another vital thing to remember is that just because it’s called a beer test doesn’t mean that you have to overload on the beer. Whenever you’re around co-workers, it’s always best to moderate your drinking, and this is something a smart interviewer will watch for.

And if you’re a party animal who just can’t help himself, and manage to offend your potential employer with your behavior, then you may be better off working at a different company or in another profession.

Why do you really want the job?

When interviewing analyst candidates during my investment banking days, I would routinely receive canned answers to this question, but what I was really looking for was that spark of honesty that gave me confidence the candidate was truly motivated to work at the firm and would go that extra mile for his or her job.

In a beer test, the logic is that without the pressure of being in an interview room, a candidate will feel more comfortable giving a heartfelt answer to the question. If you’re in this position, keep in mind that there isn’t one ‘right’ answer. In some cases, the fact that you want to use the job as a stepping stone to some other career in the distant future is perfectly acceptable – as long as it’s clear to the employer that you’ve really thought about it and have a convincing motivation to excel at the job.

The problem arises when you really don’t have a compelling reason for wanting the job except for being unemployed at the time. If all you want is a paycheck and the job you’re interviewing for requires deep commitment, then the job may not be right for you. That’s a reason to take a step back, be honest with yourself as well as your future employer, and decide if you have a better reason for taking that job.

Great employees flourish in great jobs, but only if the two are compatible. The beer test is designed to determine this very intangible.

Sanjay Sanghoee is a business commentator. He has worked at investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, at hedge fund Ramius Capital, and has an MBA from Columbia Business School.

MONEY salary

How to Get the Raise You Deserve

Two-thirds of people asking for a raise get at least some of the money they request. MONEY's Donna Rosato has tips on how to ask for more pay.

MONEY Jobs

March Jobs Report Disappoints

150403_EDM_jobs_1
Getty Images

A government report shows that the labor market struggled. What does that mean for your salary?

After months of impressive gains, employers slowed down hiring last month.

Employers added 126,000 jobs in March, while employment gains for January and February were revised down. Over the past three months, businesses have increased their payrolls by 197,000 workers a month. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.5%.

Hourly earnings, however, were a positive, rising 0.3% last month. Workers have seen a raise of 2.1% over the past 12 months, though, which is barely keeping pace with inflation.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen promised in a press conference last month that “we will be looking at wage growth,” adding that “we have not seen wage growth pick up.” A lack of sustained, accelerated wage growth is one reason the Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero since the recession.

There have been other disappointments in the economy. As the dollar has strengthened against the euro, American exports have become less competitive in the global market place at the same time that economic weakness in Europe, China and Japan have reduced demand for U.S. goods. U.S. companies are starting to take it on the chin. According to S&P Capital IQ, large corporations are expected to see a 3.1% quarterly earnings decline in the first three months of 2015, the first drop since 2009.

Meanwhile U.S. productivity, measured by the growth of services and goods produced per hour worked, declined 2.2% in the last quarter of 2014.

“Wage growth will ultimately be constrained by productivity as employers cannot let paychecks increase faster than hourly output growth for years on end,” says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for BMO Private Bank. “While job growth is the most important barometer of economic success, healthy wages play an important supporting role. Until productivity picks up, wage gains will likely be constrained.”

James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, points out that productivity has only grown 0.8% annually in the last five years, compared to a post-war norm of 2.4%.

What’s holding productivity back? “The problem has been a lack of investment spending,” says Paulsen. Since the recession, the private sector “has been noticeably reserved with capital spending plans. Moreover, as a percent of GDP, real public sector investment spending has been declining steadily since 2010, falling recently to a 65-year low.”

Corporations aren’t going to invest unless there’s a demand for its products, which has been muted as U.S. consumers have spent the past half decade or so dealing with debt. Government spending has been limited due to sequestration.

Whether or not the Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy by raising interest rates before the end of the year, while key employment indicators lag, remains to be seen.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Economy

Why This Fed Meeting Could Be a Game Changer

dollar sitting on fan of Euros
Dado Ruvic—Reuters

On Wednesday, the Fed may hint at raising interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. These three major issues will affect their decision.

Employment is up and economic growth is stronger, but that hasn’t made Janet Yellen’s job any easier. The Federal Reserve chair now has to decide how she’ll shift monetary policy out of crisis mode—the Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero since 2008—and into something more like normal. All without breaking anything in the process.

That problem is the backdrop to the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. If early predictions are correct, the big news from the meeting may be that Yellen removes her pledge to be “patient” about possible interest rate hikes. If so, based on what Yellen has said about how she’ll signal a coming policy shift, the Fed could start raising its benchmark interest rate as early as June. That would ripple through the economy as lenders raise their own interest rates on loans.

But even before the Fed actually raises rates, any hint that it could raise rates will itself have an effect on markets, as investors and businesses try to get ahead of the trend.

In making this decision, the Fed faces three tough questions:

  • We have stronger economy—but is it strong enough to withstand higher rates? By many measures, the U.S. economy is doing quite well. Job growth has topped 200,000 per month for 13 straight months, and the unemployment rate has now fallen to 5.5%—four and a half points lower than at the height of the financial crisis. Yellen has previously promised to keep interest rates low until unemployment improved. Will she finally decide her job is done?
  • Does the rallying dollar change the game?. While a strong economy might make Yellen more comfortable about raising rates, an increasingly valuable dollar might push her in the opposite direction. America’s (relative) prosperity combined with Europe’s stagnation—and now looser money from the European Central Bank—has caused the euro to crash in value against the greenback. The EU’s currency recently fell to a 12-year low versus the dollar, making U.S. exports more expensive and potentially hampering future growth. Will the Fed decide to keep interest rates low for longer in the hopes of keeping the dollar competitive with the euro, or will the desire to normalize monetary policy win out?
  • Where’s the inflation? The reason to raise rates is to prevent a hot economy from igniting higher inflation. It might seem silly to worry about inflation when the dollar is the strongest it’s been in years and wage growth is all but nonexistent. That’s what economists like Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers are arguing. On the other hand, lower unemployment suggests wages could rise in the near future, eventually pushing up prices. Although there is very little inflation right now, so-called inflation “hawks,” including some Federal Reserve regional bank presidents and members of the Fed’s rate-setting committee, think the central bank should act early to nip it in the bud.

We’ll know more about how the Fed is answering these questions on Wednesday, when the Fed announces it rate decision. Until then, “patience.”

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