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ODDBALL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS, a jobs and career community, compiled a list of quite unique and interesting interview questions asked of job candidates throughout 2011.

Here are some of MGO’s favorites:



  • If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it? (Hewlett-Packard)
  • Room, desk and car — which do you clean first? (Pinkberry)
  • Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer? (Deloitte)
  • Please spell “diverticulitis.” (EMSI Engineering)
  • How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? (Horizon Group Properties)
  • Are you exhaling warm air? (Walker Marketing)
  • How would you cure world hunger? (
  • Is your college GPA reflective of your potential? (Advisory Board)
  • Just entertain me for five minutes; I’m not going to talk. (Acosta)
  • If you were a Microsoft Office program, which one would you be? (Summit Racing Equipment)
  • What do you think of garden gnomes? (Trader Joe’s)
  • Name 5 uses of a stapler without staple pins. (EvaluServe)
  • How many different ways can you get water from a lake at the foot of a mountain, up to the top of the mountain? (Disney Parks & Resorts)
  • Given 20 ‘destructible’ light bulbs (which breaks at certain height), and a building with 100 floors, how do you determine the height that the light bulb breaks? (Qualcomm)
  • If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess? (Rain and Hail Insurance)

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EEOC Says It Received a Record Number of Discrimination Complaints in 2011, with Race Discrimination at the Top of the List 


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a record 99,947 charges of employment discrimination in 2011, according to a report released today.

The commission obtained $455.6 million in relief through its administrative program and litigation in 2011.

For the second year in a row, the commission resolved more charges than it took in with 112,499 resolutions. That was 7,500 more resolutions than in 2010 — an increase of 7 percent. That leaves 78,136 pending charges, a 10 percent decrease in inventory, the first year the agency has seen a reduction since 2002.

The charges were related to these four key areas, which add up to more than 100 because some charges were in multiple categories:

  •    Race discrimination – 37,334 charges or 37.4 percent of all charge
  •    Sex discrimination – 28,534 charges or 28.5 percent
  •    Age discrimination – 23,465 charges or 23.4 percent
  •    Disability discrimination – 25,742 charges or 26 percent

The agency’s enforcement of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) produced the highest increase in financial relief among all of the statutes. The administrative relief obtained for disability discrimination charges increased by almost 35.9 percent to $103.4 million compared to $76.1 million in 2010. Back ailments were the most frequently cited impairment under the ADA, followed by other orthopedic impairments, depression and diabetes.

as reported by NAPBS’ Thursday letter


Dibyendu Malakar needed a graduate business degree to advance his career, but he was working full time and could not afford $100,000 or more for a two-year M.B.A. program at Berkeley, Stanford or another accredited business school. So Malakar enrolled at Frederick Taylor University, an unaccredited school in Moraga.

Because Frederick Taylor is listed in California as a state-approved school, he said, “I thought, ‘It can’t be completely bogus.’” In fact, he got his M.B.A. via the Internet in just a year, for less than $5,000.

That may not have been quite the bargain it seemed to be, though. “I did not realize that it did not carry the same weight as Berkeley or Stanford,” said Malakar, who emigrated from India. “But it was not a complete waste.” Malakar said his M.B.A. helped him get a job as director of product management at a software company in Cupertino.

Shakila Marando, a 33-year-old doula from El Cerrito, is seeking a bachelor’s degree in management from Frederick Taylor. Although she has been a student for nearly a year, she has never spoken to a teacher, she said. “They e-mail you a package of reading materials to read with a multiple-choice exam that is open book,” said Marando, who is from Tanzania. “For me, it is very convenient and I can work full time and read a little bit on the side. It is pretty easy.”

For Malakar, Marando and hundreds of students like them, it matters little that Frederick Taylor has no library or dorms; or that some states, including California, Michigan and Oregon, refuse to hire its graduates for many civil service jobs; or that its degrees are worthless for most professional licenses or teaching certificates.

Education experts say California leads the nation in unaccredited schools. Frederick Taylor is one of nearly 1,000 unaccredited or questionably accredited colleges and vocational schools that have been operating in the state without regular inspections or evaluations of educational quality, which is required under a state law that has rarely been enforced. State approval is basically a license to operate. Accreditation comes from national or regional agencies that review curriculums and educational standards.

“There are a lot of schools that beg the question ‘What exactly is going on in California?’” said Eyal Ben Cohen, managing director of Accredibase Limited, a company based in London that monitors diploma mills. “California has very weak oversight procedures as far as allowing an institution to operate within its borders. An institution within California can obtain a license very easily.”

Based in a cramped office on the second floor of a nondescript office building in Moraga, Frederick Taylor is run by Mansour S. Saki and Zhilla Nayeri Saki. Saki’s own curriculum vitae lists a Ph.D. from the C.S.M. Institute of Graduate Studies, which forfeited its accreditation in 2004.

Zhilla Nayeri Saki lists a doctorate in business administration from the same institution. Both are listed among Frederick Taylor’s six-person faculty, along with the couple’s 32-year-old daughter, Maryam S. Boller.

Selling diplomas over the Internet is a thriving business. The Sakis live in Orinda in a three- bedroom home with an assessed value of $1.1 million, according to property records.

The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is responsible for overseeing schools like Frederick Taylor, which was named for a late-19th-century management consultant. But in interviews, state officials conceded that many unaccredited schools had operated with state approval for decades without regular inspections. Frederick Taylor initially received approval to award degrees in 1994, but state records do not show that it was ever inspected.

In October, state officials renewed the school’s application to operate, again without a visit.

“They received approval because the eight-page application that they filled out was in compliance with the law,” said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the postsecondary education bureau.

Frederick Taylor charges $5,212 for a bachelor’s degree or a master’s in business administration. The academic requirements are less stringent than those at accredited universities. Full-time M.B.A. students at the University of California’s Haas School of Business at Berkeley, for example, must complete 51 semester units of course work. Frederick Taylor requires 32 units.

In a brief interview recently, Saki defended his school’s quality but said he had no plans to apply for accreditation from an organization recognized by the United States Department of Education.

“Licensing organizations and the civil service department in Michigan are entitled to set their own selection policies,” Saki said in a subsequent e-mail. “For some reasons, they have decided to disallow graduates of state-approved schools to join their organizations.”

Two people who were listed as faculty members on Frederick Taylor’s Web site and its course catalog said they no longer worked there when they were contacted by phone.

One of them, Pamela Berkman, a production manager at John Wiley & Sons, was listed as a faculty member but said she had not taught at the school for at least five years. Robert Deer, who teaches marketing and business courses in Florida, said he was hired to teach at Frederick Taylor about a year ago but had not been contacted to teach a class.

“I would not have applied for the job if I had known they were unaccredited,” Deer said.

Deer’s and Berkman’s names disappeared from the faculty list soon after a reporter contacted them about the school.

Saki said his school had as many as 500 students, many from Europe, Asia or Africa. He declined to elaborate on how foreign students were recruited or how many American students were enrolled.

A branch of Frederick Taylor University, called Frederick Taylor International University, joined with recruiters based in India, China and other countries to enroll students, most of them from abroad. After officials in Hawaii found the school had failed to notify students that it was unaccredited, and falsely claimed it was licensed by the state, among other state violations, the school was closed in 2001 and ordered to pay a $35,000 fine.

California regulators say they concern themselves only with whether schools abide by California law, in keeping their promises to students.

“The only thing we can go by is what they have been doing in California,” Heimerich, the consumer affairs spokesman, said. “If they are compliant with California law, then what standing do we have to take any action against them?”

Given the state’s history of lax oversight, it now faces the enormous challenge of completing roughly 1,300 compliance inspections by its stated goal of fall 2013.

“The former staff had more of a consultant role,” said Joanne Wenzel, the deputy bureau chief of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. “Now we are trying to bring them into compliance to regulate them” and make sure they follow state laws. “There weren’t a lot of teeth in the old law. We have moved away from that in the new law. We’ve gone to a consumer protection stance.”

This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times.

Source: The Bay Citizen (




Pepsi Beverages Co. will pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants — even if they weren’t convicted of a crime.

The settlement announced Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is part of a national government crackdown on hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.

EEOC officials said the company’s policy of not hiring workers with arrest records disproportionately excluded more than 300 black applicants. The policy barred applicants who had been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, and denied employment to others who were convicted of minor offenses.

Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the EEOC, which enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws. The agency says such blanket policies can limit job opportunities for minorities with higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.

The company has since adopted a new criminal background policy and plans to make jobs available to victims of the old policy if they are still interested in jobs at Pepsi and are qualified for the openings.

“I commend Pepsi’s willingness to reexamine its policy and modify it to ensure that unwarranted roadblocks to employment are removed,” EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien said in a statement.

Pepsi Beverage spokesman Dave DeCecco said the company’s criminal background check policy has always been neutral and that the EEOC did not find any intentional discrimination. He said after the issue was first raised in 2006, the company worked with the EEOC to revise its background check process “to create a workplace that is as diverse and inclusive as possible.”

“We are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and we have been widely recognized for our efforts for decades,” DeCecco said.

He said the new policy would take a more “individualized approach” in considering the applicant’s criminal history against the particular job being sought.

Pepsi Beverages is PepsiCo’s beverage manufacturing, sales and distribution operating unit in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Under the settlement, the company will provide the EEOC with regular reports on its hiring practices and offer antidiscrimination training to its hiring personnel and managers.

About 73 percent of major employers report that they always check on applicants’ criminal records, while 19 percent do so for select job candidates, according to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

But increased federal scrutiny of such policies has led some companies to reevaluate their hiring process. Pamela Devata, a Chicago employment lawyer who has represented companies trying to comply with EEOC’s requirements, said there has been an uptick over the past year in EEOC charges over the use of background checks.

“The EEOC has taken a very aggressive enforcement posture on the use of criminal background and criminal history,” Devata said.

The commission held a special meeting on the topic last summer, and Devata said employers have been expecting the EEOC to issue more specific guidance.

EEOC officials have said, for example, that an old drunken driving conviction may not be relevant to a clerical job, but a theft conviction may disqualify someone from working at a bank.

Julie Schmid, acting director of the EEOC’s Minneapolis office, said the EEOC recommends that employers consider the nature and gravity of offenses, the time that has passed since conviction or completion of a sentence, and the nature of the job sought.

“We hope that employers with unnecessarily broad criminal background check policies take note of this agreement and reassess their policies to ensure compliance” with antidiscrimination laws, Schmid said in a written statement.

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To help prevent discrimination against unemployed Californians by employers or employment agencies only interested in hiring applicants who already have a job, newly proposed legislation in the state – California Assembly Bill No. 1450 (AB 1450) – would fine California employers and employment agencies that refuse to consider jobless applicants for job openings.

Introduced by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa/San Rafael), California AB 1450 would add Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1812.50953) to Title 2.91 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code and Chapter 3.95 (commencing with Section 1046) to Part 3 of Division 2 of the Labor Code, relating to employment.

California AB 1450 would add protections for unemployed jobseekers to existing law that contains provisions defining
unlawful discrimination and employment practices by employers and employment agencies. The bill would make it unlawful, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification or any other provision of law, for:

An employer to knowingly or intentionally refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed, publish an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes provisions pertaining to an individual’s status as unemployed, as specified, or direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account in screening or referring applicants for employment.

An employment agency to knowingly or intentionally refuse to consider or refer an individual for employment because of the individual’s status as unemployed, limit, segregate, or classify individuals in any manner that may limit their access to information about jobs or referral for consideration of jobs because of their status as unemployed, or publish an advertisement or announcement, as described above with respect to employers.

If passed, California AB 1450 would also subject an employer or employment agency who violates the new provisions to civil penalties that increase as the number of violations increase:

  1. An amount not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the first violation.
  2. An amount not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) for the second violation.
  3. An amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each subsequent violation.

The full text of California Assembly Bill No. 1450 (AB 1450) is available at:

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Smokers in the medical field now have another reason to quit as a Pennsylvania hospital has said it will no longer hire smokers and is introducing nicotine tests in order to enforce the rule.

Geisinger Health System’s smoke-free health policy will go into effect on Feb. 1, according to

“Not only do we want to practice what we preach, but we also want our employees to feel healthy, we want our patients and visitors to feel that they are in a healthy environment. So it’s an overall commitment to the well-being of all those people,” Geisinger spokeswoman Marcy Marshall told the Vancouver Sun.

Those exposed to second hand smoke will be exempt from the test, which screens applicants for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and cigars.

For those who fail the test, the hospital says applicants can reapply after six months, reported.

According to CNN, Pennsylvania is among 19 states that allow employers to screen job applicants for signs of smoking.

While there’s certainly an incentive to keep employees healthy for work, the economic benefit of having non-smokers on the payroll is also notable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts a $3,391 price tag on each employee who smokes: $1,760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in excess medical expenditures.

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Goofing off on the computer landed a Chapel High School student in jail after he allegedly completed an online application for a credit card using the social security number of a high-ranking White House official.

James Townsend was charged with identity fraud for allegedly completing the application for a Discover credit card issued to “a senior level executive branch official under the protection of the United States Secret Service,” according to the warrant Douglas County Magistrate Court Judge Susan Camp read in court Wednesday. The White House, the Secret Service, the United States Attorney’s Office or local authorities would not confirm the name of the person whose social security number was used.

“The investigation was turned over to us from the United States Secret Service,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Inv. Josh Skinner said. “It was determined that an individual using the name of Austin Townsend had filed a credit app with Discover credit card using a social security number that didn’t belong to Mr. Townsend. The subsequent investigation led to Mr. Townsend’s address on Yancey Road where we met with his parents.”

The parents reportedly agreed to allow officers speak with Townsend, search the residence and copy files from the computer.

“The parents and Mr. Townsend have been completely forthright in the investigation and cooperated in every way,” Skinner said.

He told the judge the family requested a cash bond in the amount of $500.

“How do you think it’s OK for you to do this,” Camp said. “Were you just thinking up numbers or what?”

“I was just goofing off,” Townsend said. “I wasn’t really trying to do anything.”

He also told the judge he was in the 11th grade at Chapel Hill High. Camp told him what he did was no different than stealing and that authorities can track down who is responsible.

“As you see, you messed with the wrong person there on that one,” she said.

Camp thought setting a $500 cash bond was too low. But she granted the father’s request for a $1,000 cash bond. She also made sure Townsend understood on the seriousness of his crime.

“You’re the one that choose the direction of your life and you don’t need to be messing around on that computer doing stuff like that because they’ll catch you every time,” she said.

Camp also told Townsend he could serve five years if convicted of identity fraud.

Read more: Douglas County Sentinel – Secret Service Student used info of high ranking White House official



Hundreds of prison inmates have found new careers behind bars — by registering with the IRS as income tax preparers.

A total of 331 inmates were serving prison terms when they got active or provisional tax preparer tax identification numbers from the IRS, according to an audit issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Forty-three of those applicants were serving life sentences at the time. Yet none of the lifers disclosed their felony convictions on the IRS application, the audit found.

In all, 962 applicants who had an incarceration date within the last 10 years got active or provisional tax preparer identification numbers. More than three in four didn’t disclose their convictions.

The inmates and ex-cons were among thousands of applicants who got the identification numbers from the IRS from September 2010 through July 2011 as the agency began phasing in a 2009 congressional mandate that requires many preparers to file tax returns electronically.

The IRS officials told auditors it would suspend tax preparer identification numbers already issued to prisoners and deny any future applications from inmates.

“Our report shows that the problem of misuse of the tax system by prison inmates continues,” said J. Russell George, who heads the inspector general’s office. “Based on our report, the IRS is working on solutions for suspending preparer identification numbers obtained by prisoners and preventing future applicants who are prisoners from receiving a preparer ID number. They must persevere in these efforts … especially given the prison inmate population’s determination to misuse the system.”

Prisoner registration as tax preparers is a new twist in a long history of tax scams involving inmates.

For instance, USA Today reported in February that prisoners in three states — Florida, Georgia and California — led the nation’s inmate population by using false or fraudulent tax returns to scam nearly $19 million in IRS refunds during 2009.

That total was part of $39.1 million in unmerited federal tax returns the IRS issued to jail and prison inmates nationwide, according to an IRS report to Congress in January.

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