Essential HR Handbook

About The Essential HR Handbook — A quick and handy resource for any manager or HR professional, this book by HR experts Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell is a useful 250-page reference guide. Published in the fall of 2008 by Career Press, it is a must-have for everyone who deals with employees on a daily basis, say the authors who wrote the book because — as human resource professionals with decades of experience — they wanted to shed light on the issues that keep managers up at night.

How Inkandescent PR Helped — Sharon and Barbara approached Hope Gibbs to get the word out about their new book. The Inkandescent team created an elegant website (design by Michael Gibbs, concept and writing by Hope Gibbs and programming by Max Kukoy) that not only featured the new book, but also highlighted Sharon’s 2003 book, “Stress Free Performance Appraisals,” and through a variety of articles and a speaking engagement / workshop calendar showed readers the expanse of experience and expertise these two veteran HR professionals have.

Success Story — Due to the posting of several press releases and an active reporter outreach campaign, the Essential HR Handbook sold hundreds of copies within months of its release, and Sharon and Barbara have been sought after speakers for companies looking to build their teams and improve their relationships with employees.


WASHINGTON DC, December 1, 2009 — Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell, co-authors of the popular human resources book, The Essential HR Handbook (, got word today that their 2008 book is so successful that it will go into its second printing later this month.

Nearly 6000 copies have been sold to date, an impressive amount for a business book, explains the publisher, Career Press. It plans to print 2000 more copies just in time for the holiday rush.

While many of the books are sold at national retail bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble, the majority of books are sold through In addition to being available in paperback, the 224-page book is one of fewer than 300,000 titles that were selected to be compatible with Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.

“We couldn’t be more excited that the book is doing so well,” says Armstrong, who is also the author of Stress-free Performance Appraisals, which is also in its second printing. Her next book, The Essential Performance Review Handbook will be published in the spring of 2010.

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E-NEWSLETTER: A Special Report from Sharon Armstrong on Golden & Cohen November News

I’m sending you this special newsletter this month from my colleagues, Scott Golden and Stephanie Cohen, owners of the Gaithersburg, MD health benefits firm Golden & Cohen.

They invited me to write an article about the importance of stress-free performance appraisals for this, their November newsletter. Since a revised edition of my 2003 book is currently at the printer (The Essential Performance Review Handbook will be out in the Spring), I was happy to participate.

I think you’ll enjoy the following articles that focus on the current health care reform bill before Congress and the impact it will have on all of our insurance rates. Also below is an interesting Q&A between Stephanie Cohen and therapist Susan Richman about how to manage stress during the holidays. Since staying stress-free is so important – in every area from holiday madness to performance appraisals – I think you’ll find Susan’s advice useful and informative.

I thank you in advance for welcoming this special news blast into your inbox, and look forward to sending you the December newsletter from Sharon Armstrong & Associates in a few weeks.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sharon Armstrong, president and founder, Sharon Armstrong & Associates
Author, Stress-free Performance Appraisals (second edition coming in 2010)
The Essential HR Handbook (


IN THE NEWS: Sharon Armstrong talks about "Fair Appraisals"

Systems Contractor News, Aug. 17, 2009 — In today’s Systems Contractor News, HR expert Sharon Armstrong was featured in an article entitled, “Fair Appraisals.” Reporter Carolyn Heinze wrote: “For many, the phrase “evaluation time” conjures up images of classrooms, report cards, parent-teacher meetings and, for those that didn’t do their homework all semester, the prospect of being grounded. It may be years, decades even, since any of us have been in school, but once the announcement is made that our work will be formally appraised, it’s difficult not to slip back into the mindset of a school kid.”

When done right, said Sharon Armstrong, evaluations are ongoing. “That means that you are keeping this conversation going when people are doing the right thing, and nudging them gently when something needs to happen,” she said. “The performance evaluation is a culmination of all of those conversations.”

The key factor, she added, is to train managers that the evaluation is not an annual event; it’s an ongoing conversation, one that should take into account how the business changes throughout the year.

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IN THE NEWS: HR expert Sharon Armstrong featured in Associated Press article about older job seekers struggling to overcome age barriers

WASHINGTON (AP) July 2, 2009 — In an Associated Press wire article posted today in several U.S. newspapers, Sharon Armstrong — author of The Essential HR Handbook and owner of Sharon Armstrong and Associates — talked about ways older job seekers can overcome age barriers.

To avoid appearing out of touch, she explains, they can use their time between jobs to become familiar with the latest technologies and social networking sites.

AP economics writer Christopher Rugaber wrote: Sharon Armstrong, a career consultant in Washington, D.C., urged one client fearful of seeming too old to discuss her use of Twitter and Facebook during job interviews. “I don’t think anyone needs to know when you graduated from college,” she said. “Don’t give people reasons to discriminate against you.”

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IN THE NEWS: Sharon Armstrong featured in the Washington Business Journal

Washington Business Journal, June 4, 2009 — “It’s one of those favorite half-full observations for a human resources department: A down economy is a great opportunity to pick up top talent that might not otherwise be on the market or in your price range,” writes Washington Business Journal reporter Jennifer Nycz-Conner. “That, of course, is easier said than done. But it’s a key move right now.”

Nycz-Conner interviewed several local firms, including HR expert Sharon Armstrong, co-author of The Essential HR Handbook and owner of Sharon Armstrong and Associates.

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IN THE NEWS: HR Expert Encourages 'Bucket List'-Making

Leesburg Today, Thursday, May 15, 2009 — In an article featured in the May 15 issue of the Leesburg Times, reporter Kara Clark wrote about HR expert Barbara Mitchell, co-author of The Essential HR Handbook who spoke at the May 14 Sterling Women luncheon about her experience as a business owner.

“Human resources expert Barbara Mitchell takes exception to the term “bucket list”. Instead, she refers to her list as things to do while I’m still living,” Clark wrote. “She encouraged the 100-plus women in attendance to make such a list. She said she got the idea for her list after reading a newspaper article and immediately sprang to action. She happily reported that she has been able to accomplish the top two priorities on her list: starting a business and writing a book.

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In the News: Sharon Armstrong featured in Washington Business Journal article: Bounce back from a layoff

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL, March 13, 2009 — Layoffs are never pleasant and often scary. Stay upbeat, make a plan and get busy. This seismic shift could help push your career in a better direction, human resources training and consulting expert Sharon Armstrong told Washington Business Journal reporter Jennifer Nycz-Conner in a March 13 feature on pages 26-27. If you become one of the unfortunate ones, read the following are tips to help you bounce back:

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In the News: Sharon Armstrong interviewed on WUSA: "Looking for a new job?"

WUSA: DC Channel 9 News NOW — HR expert Sharon Armstrong was invited with her colleague Marshall Brown on December 30 to talk about the best approach to find a new job in the current economic downturn. A human resources consultant, trainer and career counselor, Armstrong has interviewed and helped hundreds of job candidates land the perfect job. Brown, a certified career, executive coach, and author of “High-End Resumes,” focuses on strategies for succeeding in interviews and making it to the final candidate list in this tough market.

“Don’t panic,” Armstrong told WUSA reporter Mike Walter. “Just start working right away on a new plan.” Watch the clip on YouTube

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In the News: Sharon Armstrong featured in Washington Business Journal article: Gotta make a plan for inaugural day madhouse

Washington Business Journal, January 9, 2009 — In this week’s Washington Business Journal, HR expert Sharon Armstrong is quoted in an article on page 13 entitled, “Gotta make a plan for inaugural day madhouse.”

Armstrong said executives and human resource professionals have a joint mission: “Communicate, disseminate information, anticipate and get the word out.”

_Work with your human resources team to keep your staff informed of our plans (“We’re closed,” “We’re open, but you can take a vacation day,” etc.) and what’s going on around them. Put together a contact sheet or online list of links to public information about inaugural activities, such as road closing locations and times, suggestions for travel and the like. Get the information to your staff as soon as possible. Then follow up with reminders leading up to Inauguration Day.

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Press Release: Sharon Armstrong featured in new book: "42 Rules™ for Driving Success With Books"


WASHINGTON, DC, January 1, 2009 — Insight into how her three books have helped HR expert Sharon Armstrong’s business is featured in a new book released this month entitled, “42 Rules™ for Driving Success With Books,” by Mitchell Levy, publisher of Happy About, a quick2publish book publisher based in Southern California.

“The authors in this book wrote content that allowed them to demonstrate innovation, share their marketing strategy, improve client retention, and share tricks and techniques on using a tool or service,” Levy explains. “The fact that they put this content in a book gave their ideas weight and increased their credibility and reputation. Having the books show up on Amazon, and other bookstores as well as personally delivering their books to clients/prospects really helped to drive the impact of their message.”

Armstrong is the author of three books: The Essential HR Handbook, 2007, Stress-Free Performance Appraisals, and Healing the Canine Within. For Levy’s book, she contributed the text for Chapter 25: Get Immediate Credibilty.

She writes: “I hadn’t planned on writing ‘Stress-Free Performance Appraisals’ back in 2002. But when an agent at Career Press read my first book … she liked it, and thought I could write another one for her. The next one was for HR professionals, and right up my alley … “

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White Paper: How to Master Behavioral Interviews

Download Sharon Armstrong’s white paper: 100 Best Behavioral Interview Questions

Washington DC, January 1, 2009 — Released today is a free gift from HR expert Sharon Armstrong, “100 Best Interview Questions,” a guide that will help job candidates master a tried and true interviewing technique called behavioral interviewing.

“Behavioral interviewing is defined as a technique used by employers that asserts that past performance is the best indicator of future behavior,” Armstrong explains. “More and more employers are using this approach to make solid hiring decisions.”

How can you best present yourself during a behavioral interview — when it really matters? Armstrong admits these 100 questions can be tricky to master. “With the economy in the doldrums, I wanted to give job candidates a leg up on the interviewing process,” says Armstrong, who suggests job seekers practice answering the 100 questions on pages 2-5 of her guide by:

• Thinking of examples when you have cut costs, introduced a new approach, increased productivity, and encouraged teamwork.
• Giving concrete examples of the technical skills and competencies required for the position.
• Responding to answers using the CALL format:
C = Circumstances: What were you tasked with doing and why.
A = Actions: Explain what steps you took.
LL = Lasting Legacy: Explain the result you achieved.

“Potential employers aren’t trying to trick candidates,” Armstrong assures. “They just want to be sure to match the right person with the right job. These questions help them see inside an applicant and in the end this process assures everyone wins.”

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In the News: Sharon Armstrong featured in Washington Business Journal

Washington Business Journal, November 21, 2008 — What are the biggest challenges facing human resources departments in 2009? A reporter at The Washington Business Journal asked five HR experts, including Sharon Armstrong, owner of Sharon Armstrong & Associates and co-author of The Essential HR Handbook. Her response was featured in the piece issue published today.

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Book PR: Great Holiday Gift, The Essential HR Handbook


Washington DC, November 1, 2008 — In these tough economic times, HR professionals and managers alike need a guide to help them create and keep positive relationships with employees, and develop attractive and fair compensation packages.

That’s why Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell’s new book, “The Essential HR Handbook,” is the perfect gift this holiday season. It’s the perfect time to buy a copy for yourself — and your employees.

“Human resource professionals are not only charged with resolving labor issues,” explains Mitchell, who worked for Marriott Corporation and several technology firms in the Washington DC area before launching her own company — The Millennium Group International — n 1998. “We also help acquire, train, appraise, and make sure employees are fairly compensated, while attending to their concerns about labor relations, health and safety, and fairness.”

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Book PR: The Essential HR Handbook [The Press Release]


Washington DC, September 8, 2008 — In 14th-century England, masons, carpenters, leather workers, and other skilled craftsmen organized themselves into guildsAithe first unions that were used to improve their work conditions. With the Industrial Revolution came divisions of labor, negotiable wages and hours, and challenging work conditions, and the owner was replaced by a new character, the boss, who was solely focused on getting the job done fast and right.

Conflict ensued and so the human resources industry was born to help set things straight, explain authors Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell in the introduction to their new book, The Essential HR Handbook: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional.

This 250-page reference guide, published in the fall of 2008 by Career Press, is a must-have for everyone who deals with employees on a daily basis, believe Mitchell and Armstrong. They wrote the book because, as human resource professionals with decades of experience, they wanted to shed light on the issues that keep managers up at night.

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WEBSITE — The Essential HR Handbook

Click image for larger view

Illustration and design by Michael Gibbs
Website coding / database by Max Kukoy
Writing / Concept by Hope Katz Gibbs

About The Essential HR Handbook / The Essential Performance Review Handbook

Created for human resources experts and authors Barbara Mitchell and Sharon Armstrong, “The Essential HR Handbook website is an easy-to-navigate website that focuses on the benefits of their backgrounds and useful guidebook.

The site also serves to illustrate the knowledge that both experts have developed in the field of human resources through articles and blog postings. And, the site helps to serve as a resource for those looking for HR experts to assist at their firms, for it profiles other professionals each month who work with Sharon Armstrong through her HR brokerage firm, Sharon Armstrong & Associates.

Both authors say they are pleased with the site and the effectiveness of the Inkandescent PR campaign.

“The best business decision I made this year was to call Hope Katz Gibbs. She listened, asked relevant questions, then offered expert guidance that reflects her wealth of knowledge about PR,” Sharon Armstrong says. “She offered invaluable recommendations to help my co-author and I get the word out about our new book and my consulting practice. Her work for us has resulted in increased book sales and more referrals for my business. Hope is creative, practical, and a delight to work with. She has terrific writing skills and incredible insights into an industry I knew nothing about. We couldn’t have done it without her.”


In the News: Sharon Armstrong featured in Washington Examiner article

WASHINGTON EXAMINER, Sept. 26, 2008 — Do you know what your references will say? In a Sept. 26 Washington Examiner article reporter Heather Huhman interviewed author and HR expert Sharon Armstrong about how to best handle the opportunity.

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In the News: Sharon Armstrong helps say "You're Fired"

WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR, August 15, 2008 — “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a business owner was to fire someone,” begins reporter Aliza Sherman for an article posted on She interviewed HR expert Sharon Armstrong, author of The Essential HR Handbook, about how to soften the blow.

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