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John Wilcox, Moderator

I’m going for SHRM’s PHR certification, and want to know what to expect, and how others have approached the process. I’ve completed the SHRM Learning System and purchased a number of resource materials that look good. But I’d love to get feedback from people who have actually been through certification. I’m especially interested in getting comfortable with how the questions are asked. Any suggestions or tips? Better yet, success stories?—Chris

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Can anyone share with me a general checklist of the steps we must take and what needs to happen when we terminate an employee?—Mary Jo, Wisconsin

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“The recent Forum post about interview questions got me thinking about the question/statement I usually start interviews with: ‘So, tell me about yourself.’ It seems like a good icebreaker, but I’ve heard it can trigger some legal problems (learning too much information). Do others use it, or it too cliche?” – Michelle, California

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Now that warm weather has arrived, it seems abundantly clear that some of our employees are, shall we say, hygienically challenged. Any suggestions on what to say or how to handle an employee who has body odor?—Darlene, Pennsylvania

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I need some help coming up with good interview questions. We’re hiring and—because the economy is so slow—we’re getting tons of applicants for every job we post. Many are equally well-qualified, so we have the luxury of looking for people with the intangible qualities we seek: initiative, collaborative skills, entrepreneurial spirit, pride in a job well done. I use the standard “Tell me about a time when you…” questions, but I’d like some fresh questions that really get at what kind of person the applicant is. What questions have you asked that revealed stellar personal traits?—Theresa, Chicagoland

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One of the managers at our small firm constantly chooses on a whim which company policies apply to her people. She lets the departments she manages have privileges no other department in the company has. For example, they get great latitude when filling out time sheets (which has led to what I consider Fair Labor Standards Act violations). As the HR rep, I hear complaints all the time about this inequitable policy flexibility. What should I do? I’m worried about morale, but also about legal liability. — Louise, Pennsylvania

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One of our employees would like us to designate a room as a playroom for kids. Employees could bring in their kids in case of some emergency—say, on a day that the babysitter doesn’t show up. It sounds good in theory, but I’m concerned about insurance, bothering other employees and, especially, parent productivity. Any suggestions for making this work? — Gary, AZ

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As the weather turns, many of our employees want to leave early on Fridays. I am wondering, does anyone have a seasonal flexible schedule plan that they use and would recommend? Can you share what your policy says?—Erika, MA

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I’m studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I’ve been considering an HR career once I graduate. Beyond my biz ad requirements, what kinds of courses should I take in my junior and senior years to help me qualify for an HR position?—E.B. in New York

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We have an African-American employee who has repeatedly complained that supervisors and co-workers single her out for poor treatment because of her race. This has ranged from the very serious (that she received a poor review because she is black) to the trivial (that someone told a joke about Barack Obama to upset her).

On every occasion, HR has investigated her complaints. We’ve never found any evidence of discrimination or harassment, which infuriates her even more. Eventually, she calms down, but five or six months later she’s back with another complaint. She’s otherwise a good employee. Any ideas on how to handle her?—Jeanne

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