Job Applicant Pre-Employment Screening

By Peggy B. — Published March 07, 2018

One of the key phases of the hiring process is the pre-employment screening. This is where recruiters decide whether a certain candidate qualifies to move up the hiring process. So, naturally, there are several points on which the candidate must be assessed.

How does this take place and what exactly goes on?
Well, that’s what we are going to figure out in this blog.

The basics
The purpose of pre-employment screening, as we mentioned earlier, is to verify the information submitted by the candidate. This typically includes the information found on the candidate’s resume and job application.

Pre-employment screening often involves investigations into the candidate’s character, that is, their flaws and possible criminal history. These areas are explored as they can end up being a threat to the employer. For instance, candidates with a criminal history could very well end up ruining the organization’s reputation or even put the lives of other workers at risk.

Screening also allows employers to determine whether or not the candidate can be trusted with responsibilities such as the management of financial resources and other sensitive data/information.

The screening process is usually aided by third-party organizations and even government entities such as the FBI and Department of Transportation.

Stages of screening
Here is list mentioning the possible components of a typical pre-employment screening process.

1. Verification of educational qualifications
One of the first things that employers will verify are the educational qualifications held by the candidate. This includes degrees, academic performance in school/college, and performance at previous jobs. The idea is to ensure that the information provided is authentic and accurate.

The candidate might have to provide consent to the employer for accessing their records.

2. Screening of criminal history
Most states in the US have certain regulations regarding how criminal information can be leveraged with regard to evaluation. However, the checking of criminal records itself is permitted. Government entities such as State Identification Agencies and FBI provide information to businesses about candidates to aid the screening process.

3. Lie detector tests
Though it is typically illegal to carry out lie detector tests on prospective employees, it is necessary for certain industries. This includes the pharmaceutical industry, where the candidate might be tasked with the manufacturing, distribution, and dispensing of pharmaceuticals. Other than that, those applying to alarm/guard services and armored vehicle services will also have to undergo a lie detector test.

4. Tracking of social security number
The candidate’s social security number is tracked to determine its validity. This, in turn, helps with other checks such as criminal and credit checks.

5. Drug testing
Employers also conduct drug tests on their candidates. However, they cannot carry it out without first informing the candidate and seeking his/her consent. Drug testing is carried out to make sure the candidate is worthy of hiring and to ensure that they aren’t a hindrance to the overall productivity of the workplace.

Benefits of screening
Screening of a candidate prior to employment is necessary for obvious reasons. The key objective of recruitment is to get the best candidate possible. Needless to say, the above-mentioned tests and checks help ensure that.

Employees serve as the foundational element of any organization and even one poorly chosen candidate can put the entire company at risk. All it takes is one misdemeanor and the organization could be looking at various kinds of liabilities.

So, screening basically allows organizations to minimize risk. For instance, a candidate with a low credit score is likely impulsive and a bad decision maker. If they are handed decision-making powers, it can prove to be a major risk for the organization.

10 Best Tax Software

By Eddie V. — Published March 15, 2018

Getting a professional to prepare your tax returns can be significantly heavy on your pocket, especially if your tax situation is complicated. That said, here are our top 10 tax software that will help address all your tax concerns at a fraction of the costs!

The undeniable leader in the world of tax preparation software, TurboTax by Intuit is your ultimate 'go to' option for hassle-free tax preparation. It not only provides an incredibly simple user interface but also is capable of importing multiple employer Tax Ids. The software also has an ‘expense finder’ tool that allows self-employed individuals to file Schedule C.

The hi-tech TaxSlayer mobile app allows users to click pictures of their W-2 instead of having to manually punch in all the details themselves. The Self Employed and Premium versions of the software also offer an additional audit assistance to prepare your business for an audit.

H&R Block
The H&R Block is a user-friendly tax preparation software that asks relevant questions and deciphers them perfectly to offer you efficient tax advice. In addition to its premium version, the H&R Block also offers a free version that is known as More Zero.

The TaxAct software is best known for its convenient user interface, excellent navigation, and help tools that enable the users to create their tax return with great accuracy and ease. A relatively inexpensive option as compared to H&R Block and TurboTax, the TaxAct also offers a price lock guarantee to ensure that you always pay the same amount regardless of how long you take to file your return.

Liberty Tax
If preparing your own tax returns is not something you are new to, then the Liberty Tax software is the most convenient tax preparation option for you. The software is more driven towards the needs of more experienced tax filers.

Credit Karma
One of the relatively new additions to the list, the Credit Karma was launched in 2016 and offers easy and free of cost filing of both state as well as federal tax returns. Apart from handling your regular 1040A and 1040EZ returns, the Credit Karma is also great at managing more complicated tax issues as well.


Another high-ranking tax preparation software that has made thousands of lives easy in the United States is the FreeTaxUSA that enables the users to e-file their federal tax returns for absolutely no charges! However, if you wish to file your state taxes or need support for the same, you might have to pay some additional fees.

Jackson Hewitt Premium
A more budget-friendly alternative to the Turbo Tax and H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt Premium is an exceptionally efficient and comprehensive software that not only answers all your little and large queries but also provides you with an accurate tax return on the basis of the information you input.

A clean-cut and modern user interface renders the eSMartTax tax preparation software convenient to navigate and use. The software is entirely owned by Liberty Tax and also offers brick and mortar offices where you can interact with real agents and get the required help and support for your tax filing.

IRS Free File
Administered wholly by a non-profit collaboration of tax preparation service providers, the IRS Free File is a software tool available on the IRS official website that, in turn, help you to zero in on the best tax preparation software for your individual needs. However, if you earn less than $54,000 a year and/or are permanently disabled, you can get your tax filing done by The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of the IRS free of cost!

How to Pay for College Fees – 4 Useful Tips

By Keren P. — Published March 15, 2018

Education has become expensive today, and no more can students opt out of getting into college because the competition out there is more intense than it ever was. On one hand, there are the growing costs and expenses youngsters have to consider when deciding to go to college, and on the other, limited sources of income. That does not mean that it is impossible to go to college. You just have to look in the right place to tap into the available– often hidden– resources that you can take advantage of.

1. Student scholarships
Students scholarships are definitely the best option available to students. Today, it is almost as if there is a scholarship available for everybody– as long as you know where and how to look for it! What makes scholarships such an amazing option is the fact that here there is no onus on the student to repay anything– which otherwise can prove to be quite taxing for students who have taken loans to complete their higher education. However, getting a scholarship may not always be easy– you need to focus intensely on making the cut to avail the scholarship. This means that no last-minute work will do and you will have to start working hard on looking for what scholarships you can make use of and get qualified for them.

2. Make use of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Similar to scholarships, students can also make use of the Grant Money that the Federal government provides for students trying to pursue higher studies. Check out whether you qualify for these grants, and submit an application. In addition, you can also check out if your own state provides grants for higher education. Do a little research on government grants and you are sure to hit upon something that will help you see you through your college.

3. Loans
Although the idea of taking a loan may seem scary, it still is a viable option that you cannot ignore, and many, many students apply for loans each year. There are two kinds of loans that you can try applying for- federal loans and private loans.

Federal loans, needless to say, are lent by the federal government and are definitely a safer bet to rely on compared to loans given by private agencies. For one, there is always the guarantee that you are relying on the government rather than on an unknown agency. There is better borrower protection when you have taken a loan from the federal government, and can even rely on their options for loan waivers if at all you are not able to repay the loan for genuine reasons.

Federal loans have a limit, however, which is why you may have to take private loans as well. Try to avoid taking private loans as much as possible, and keep to relying on yourself or on the federal government as far as you can.

4. Start saving-up
There are a lot of jobs out there you can do to increase your savings. Think of something you are good at, and look around if you can make money out of it. Remember, anything can sell if you know how to sell it right. Even something as simple as knowing how to bake muffins can prove to be a great additional source of income. Of course, you need to be smart with your savings – you definitely need to cut down on unnecessary expenditures and habits if you want your savings to actually be significant enough. It takes a long time to earn what you would spend in the fraction of a second.

What is a 401k Account?

By Eddie V. — Published March 14, 2018

A 401(k) plan is a savings plan for your retirement, legally offered by your employer. A portion of your paycheck is taken out and transferred to your 401(k) account, before the deduction of taxes.

The plan is named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that governs it, that is, subsection 401(k). It came into prominence around the 1980s, when employers realized that running pension funs was getting way too expensive. Pensions funds were paid by employers to employees after retirement on a regular basis, but this soon proved to be extremely expensive, and therefore, 401(k) plans were introduced.

If you have a 401(k) plan, you do not have to pay income taxes on the amount that is transferred to your 401(k) account for that particular year. This amount should fall under the legal contribution limit and is known as a salary deferral contribution. You defer a portion of your salary into your 401(k) plan and save it for your retirement.

Whatever amount is inside the account, it increases tax-deferred, which means that as the money grows with investment income, no taxes will be due on the gains every year. Instead, you will be required to pay tax at the time of withdrawal of the money, when you retire.

However, if you withdraw your money before your retirement age, you will have to pay a penalty of 10 percent, including your income taxes. This is done by employers to ensure that their employees do not leave them way too early.

Types of 401(k) contributions
There are three different types of contributions that employers make to your 401(k) account. These are always pre-tax, meaning that they can be taxed only when you withdraw them at retirement.

Here are the three types of 401(k) contributions made by employers.

• Matching
A matching contribution is where your employer puts in money to your plan that will match your own contribution. This means that employer contributions are made only if the employee himself or herself contributes. A matching contribution of 3 percent is usually the most common. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, you put in 3 percent of it, which is $1,500 into your plan. Your employer also puts in another $1,500 to match your contribution.

• Profit sharing
A profit sharing 401(k) contribution is where your employer contributes a set amount of dollars to your plan, if the company receives a profit. Although many companies follow various formulas to determine the amount of contribution employees can get, the most common is that each employee with a 401(k) plan will receive a contribution proportionate to his or her pay.

• Non-elective
A non-elective contribution is where an employer contributes a set percentage to each employee’s 401(k) account. Even if an employee does not contribute his or her own money to the plan, the employer will still make the set percentage contribution. For example, the company may contribute a set 3 percent of pay to all eligible employees’ 401(k) plans every year.

Designated Roth 401(k) plan
Apart from the traditional 401(k) plan, there is also another type, known as Roth 401(k) plan. However, fewer companies provide this type of plan.

Established back in 2006, the main differences between a traditional 401(k) plan and a Roth 401(k) plan lie in tax implications, and accessibility of funds. While funds in a traditional 401(k) plan are taxed at the time of withdrawal, Roth 401(k) contributions are made only after tax deductions. This means that you won’t have to pay any taxes when you withdraw at the time of retirement.

Another difference is that while funds in traditional 401(k) plans cannot be accessed before retirement, and a penalty has to be paid if you do so, Roth 401(k) funds can be easily accessed any time as long as you have had the account for 5 years or more.

What is an Hourly Employee?

By Clark K. — Published March 14, 2018

An hourly employee refers to a person who is paid for the number of hours he or she works, unlike a salaried employee who is paid a fixed amount that does not take into account the number of hours the employee has worked. Hourly employees are required to be paid a minimum wage. The amount set as minimum wage varies from state to state and an employer cannot pay the employee any less than that.

Minimum wages and overtime pay
Often, there is a federal minimum wage that is imposed by the federal government and a state minimum wage that is set by the state. An employer is required to pay the higher of the two.
In certain states, local governments have also set minimum wages that are far higher than either the state or federal minimum wages. In 2017, laws were passed against this system.

According to the law, an hourly employee is paid for a standard number of hours they work on a weekly basis. As per the federal law, it totals up to forty hours a week. If an hourly employee works for more than forty hours a week, it is considered to be overtime and he or she is eligible for extra pay. State laws regulate the payments for overtime although employers can be generous with the pay if they so wish.

In most cases, salaried employees are not eligible for overtime pay, although, in some cases, even salaried employees receive a consideration. This happens when the average weekly pay earned by a salaried employee is much less than the amount that is set by the Department of Labor.

Unlike salaried employees, hourly employees do not work on a contractual basis. They can be hired or terminated at any time with no consequences for the employer.

Number of hours worked and benefits
Hourly employees are required to record the number of hours they work through a simple system that either uses a time card or a time sheet. The wages are handed out based on the number of hours that have been recorded by the system.

Hourly employees are different from part-time employees. The two terms are often mistakenly thought to be one and the same. Part-time employees, like salaried employees, have fixed working hours and pay. Some of them are entitled to certain benefits as well. The payment received by a part-time employee is quite different from the payment received by hourly employees.

In most cases, hourly employees are those who work in entry-level jobs or even manual labor. Examples of hourly employees include waiters at restaurants, ancillary staff, house help, and so on.

In certain cases, hourly employees are entitled to certain benefits such as paid sick leaves and holiday exemptions. This depends strictly on company policies. An hourly employee who works in a company becomes eligible for the benefits that a full-time employee is entitled if the total number of hours worked is more than what is normally put in by a salaried employee. Federal laws dictate that an hourly employee who works at least 130 hours on a monthly basis are entitled to such benefits.

Hourly employees contribute a large fraction of the country's workforce and their labor is invaluable. But, often, hourly employees are taken advantage of and a number of such employees are not paid in full or on time. As a result, the people in this segment become demotivated and unwilling to take up work. It is important to motivate hourly employees and make sure that they receive the benefits they are entitled to. They contribute in a large way to everyday labor and they are an important part of the country's workforce.