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Top Traits to Look For in Customer Service Talent

February 5th, 2016

Your company’s reputation, your bottom line, and your financial future all depend on the group of hard working professionals who stand between the company and the public and serve as ambassadors for your brand. So when you hire a candidate for a customer service position, you only want the best. Keep in mind that your customers have access to online review sites and are likely to share their experience with a wider audience, for better or worse. So if your customer service team can protect this experience and associate your brand with positive feelings, you’ll come out ahead. Here are a few traits to look for during the selection process.

Friendly confidence

Within the first ten minutes of your interview session, ask yourself a few quick mental questions: would you turn to this person if you needed help or an answer to a question? Would you follow their advice? If your candidate’s demeanor puts you at ease, that’s a great sign. If they seem comfortable in their own skin and make you feel comfortable in yours, that’s even better.

Experience with pressure.

Ask your candidate a few behavioral questions in order to assess her professional experience. For example, ask her to describe a situation in which she dealt with an unhappy customer under challenging circumstances. What were the specifics and how did she respond? If you appreciate the story (whatever it may be), that’s good news. But if the candidate can’t recall such an episode—or worse, if her idea of a “challenging” situation doesn’t measure up to yours—make a note of it.

Tenacity

When life presents us with a problem, most of us make a few easy attempts to solve it, and if these don’t work, we ignore the problem until it goes away (which problems often do). But in customer service, this approach just won’t sail. Will your candidate go the distance to resolve customer concerns? Will he apply a combination of knowledge, common sense, and critical thinking until the customer walks away happy? Or will he look for the fastest and easiest way to end the interaction?

Teamwork

This trait can be essential in a customer service environment, so you’ll need to ask a few pointed questions to determine how your candidate steps up to lead and steps back to follow when necessary.
Willingness to learn new things

This customer service role may involve a software system or a set of communications equipment that your candidate has never used before. Can this candidate handle a steep learning curve? Again, a few behavioral questions can help you use his or her past to make predictions about the future.

For more on how to find the candidates who can meet your needs and contribute to your team, reach out to the Connecticut staffing professionals at Merritt.

Four Things to Keep in Mind Before Accepting a Job Offer

January 22nd, 2016

You landed an offer! And that’s great news…especially after the weeks and months of patience, care, and anxiety you’ve poured into your search so far. But before you submit your enthusiastic “yes” and call an end to this grueling ordeal, think twice. Not every job is the perfect job for you, and if you say yes simply because you’re ready to start collecting a paycheck, you may create more problems for yourself than you solve. In the long run, it’s better to walk away from a weak offer then accept it and deal with regrets later on. Here are a few questions you’ll need to answer before making your decision.

Are you being paid what you’re worth?

What you’re worth is not always the result of a simple equation. You may be tempted to accept a salary that parallels that of your last job, or even a lower figure on the grounds that it’s better than nothing at all. But be careful. Your skills and experience have increased since you stepped into your last position, and your value has gone up, no matter how long you’ve been searching for work. Your potential employers don’t get to decide what your time is worth; you do.

Are you ready to stay for at least six months?

This may be a placeholder position for you, and that’s fine. It’s perfectly OK to accept an offer and continue looking for something better while you step into your new role. But how soon do you expect to leave? Will you be able to provide your new employers with at least two weeks’ notice? And will you be able to limit your search time to evenings and weekends only? In some cases, it might be easier and more practical to simply say no an offer you feel isn’t right for you and continue dedicating yourself to the search full time.

Will the benefits of this position meet your needs?

Your health insurance, pension benefits, and tuition reimbursement may be just as important as your salary considerations. Make sure these employers are able to offer what you need, when you need it. Don’t be surprised to discover that you’ll need to complete a six-month probationary period before your benefits can be activated.

Will this position help you reach your goals?

If you’re stepping into this role because it offers the potential advancement opportunity, exposure, experience, or mentoring that can move your career forward, confirm these things before you say yes. Don’t make assumptions. Gather evidence that your employer’s promises can and will be met.

For more on how to ask the right questions and find a job that works for you, reach out to the staffing professionals at Merritt Staffing.

Overcoming 2016’s Biggest Hiring Challenges

January 8th, 2016

The upcoming year will bring a host of new opportunities for hiring managers, including a new generation of graduates who will be stepping onto the job market with skills, ambition, and energy to spare. But 2016 will also bring plenty of challenges for HR pros and hiring teams, and if you plan to expand your company or replace departing employees during the year ahead, you’ll want to be ready.

A potential skills gap

Some industries are likely to experience a widening skills gap during next 12 months, which may leave critical positions standing empty while managers scramble to find qualified candidates. In some fields, this is nothing new. But now that skill sets are becoming more highly specialized and technical than ever before, industries that have never had this problem are about to feel the pinch. If you just can’t seem to find the right candidate for a hard-to-staff position, an experienced recruiting firm can help.

A thinning candidate pool

During the peak of economic downturn in 2009, excellent candidates flooded the marketplace. Laid off workers lined up for every open position, many of them highly overqualified and willing to jump through hoops to impress potential employers. But at this point, unemployment rates are dropping, and great candidates are harder to find—and even harder to attract and retain. Qualified recruiters can help you target these candidates and shape offers that will bring them on board and keep them away from your competitors.

Employees are moving faster

Young millennial employees have plenty to offer to a growing company, including tech skills, affordability, and the enthusiasm and innovative attitudes that characterize their generation. But today’s entry-level employees aren’t like those of past generations. They have bigger loans to pay off, greater demands on their time, and fewer stigmas associated with “job hopping.” The average tenure of an entry-level employee is rapidly dropping below two years, and in order to retain valuable employees after training and investing in them, you’ll need to go the extra mile. A great recruiting firm can show you how.

Sourcing will become more complex

Large national job boards are still excellent places to post positions, and candidates still use them. But because these boards attract so many resumes, candidates are now migrating away from this resource and toward smaller, industry-specific resources with tighter keyword and geographic filters. Again, an established professional staffing firm like Merritt can help you make the most of the sourcing outlets, websites, and apps that will become available in 2016.

The staffing landscape is about to become more competitive and more focused than ever before, thanks to sophisticated online job search tools and expanding social and professional networks. Contact Merritt Staffing today, and choose a team of staffing experts that can help you stay on top of these changes.

“Tell Me About Yourself”: What Does this Actually Mean?

December 28th, 2015

Some interviewers like to divide and parse the session into a tight series of highly specific, highly scripted questions with obvious right and wrong answers. But don’t be surprised if you walk into the office on the day of your interview and encounter the exact opposite: aAn interviewer who asks very few questions that are open ended and loosely scripted. In other words, an interviewer who simply sits back and allows you—the candidate—to direct the session.

If and when this happens, your interviewer may ask any of the following questions. All of these are designed to let you take the floor and speak in a general way about whatever comes to mind:

“What’s your story?”

“Why don’t you fill me in on your background?”

“Tell me about yourself.”

If you’re faced with any of these unstructured prompts, here are a few moves to keep in mind as you formulate your response.

There’s only one wrong answer.

The only wrong answer to this question is no answer at all. Whatever you do, don’t sit there staring blankly at your interviewer like a deer in the headlights, and don’t squirm in your chair or declare that you “don’t like talking about yourself.”. It’s also unwise to turn the question back on your interview by demanding specifics (as in: “What would you like to know?”) Instead, have courage and trust yourself. Just speak from the heart.

Have a statement in mind beforehand.

Since you know that you may be pushed into the spotlight with no specific instructions, be ready. Prepare an “elevator pitch” that can be delivered in a time frame between 30 seconds and two full minutes. Use your pitch to list your most important credentials and make an argument that explains why you should be hired for this job instead of someone else. Practice in the mirror—or on a friend—at least once or twice before your session.

Start at the beginning.

If you’d rather skip the prepared pitch and speak off the cuff, that’s fine. But know where you plan to start. You can begin by explaining the general arc of your career, starting with the moment you first developed a passion for this type of work. You can also start by describing how you heard about this company and this open position, and why you decided to apply. As a third option, you can describe your last position and explain why you’re searching for something new.

Tell your story.

No matter how you decide to dive in, try to answer the question by telling a story. When we provide information in the form of a narrative, people tend to show more interest and retain the details for the longer period of time.

For more on how to control the tone and outcome of your interview session, contact the job search experts at Merritt Staffing.

How Does Change Impact your Workforce?

December 11th, 2015

Most workplaces operate like delicate ecosystems; functional teams are made up individuals with complex relationships and established interpersonal patterns that serve and reinforce a specific status quo. When conflict arises and things go off the rails, your teams probably step into their familiar roles—peacemaker, problem solver, devil’s advocate, cheerleader—in order to push things back on track. When one member tips the system too far in one direction, another steps into reverse and stabilize it before it goes off course. Actions have reactions, friends support each other, plans fall apart, and everyone works together to keep things moving in a steady forward direction.

But what happens when the ecosystem changes? When new employees are introduced into the mix, for example, or when beloved team members suddenly leave the group for good? When big changes happen, do you find your feet quickly? Or do you collectively wallow through a period of low productivity and reshuffling before order is reestablished? Here are a few ways to minimize the impact of change on the success of your group.

Provide notice and warnings.

When a key employee gives notice, or when you decide to hire a new employee or bring on temporary staff, don’t ambush your current teams. Give them as much warning as possible. Even if they don’t seem to care or don’t believe this change will impact them very much, keep offering reminders as the day approaches. Be clear about why the change is happening and what will be expected of each current staff member.

Keep things positive.

Change can be upsetting and scary, but it can also be exciting and interesting. New people can be a drag, but they can also represent potential new friends or allies, and they bring interesting new stories and experiences to the group that can refresh existing worldviews. Emphasize the positive. Get your current teams excited about the new person. Share some key details regarding the person’s background and interests.

Provide infrastructure.

Long before the new person arrives or the departing one leaves, adjust your infrastructure to accommodate the change. Never leave a new employee standing idly in the hallway while you prepare a desk for them, and never drop a departing employee’s projects and responsibilities on a current team member without providing the tools required to handle these tasks. Everybody should have the basic equipment, space, and support they need in order to navigate the change, and they should have these things long before the change takes place.

For more on how to keep your teams from missing a beat during an awkward staff transition, reach out to the hiring and management experts at Merritt Staffing.

Does Your Cover Letter Stand Out?

November 27th, 2015

Your cover letter provides an introduction and an element of context for your resume. When you apply for a specific job, your resume will do the heavy lifting—this formal document will serve as a fact sheet that can help potential employers skim through your credentials, assess your basic readiness for the job, and compare your profile to those of other candidates. But your cover letter will support your resume the way a frame supports a painting.

Your letter will provide life, dimension and depth to your education and work history. And if you manage to send a strong message, your letter will set you apart from the crowd. Here are a few ways to create a letter that stands out and shines a bright spotlight on the rest of your application.

Start with a smooth opening paragraph.

Don’t begin your letter with an apology (I’m sorry for wasting your time), a corny joke, or a rambling, confused preamble. Just begin with grace and confidence. State who you are, the position you’re applying for, and how you found out about it. If you share a personal connection with your reader, now is the perfect time to say so.

Learn the rules; then break them.

After your opening paragraph, you’ll need to explain more about your background and why you—specifically—should be hired for this job instead of someone else. Most candidates will simply summarize their work history in two paragraphs and then close with a stiff, polite sign-off. That’s fine, but if you want to stand out, tell your story in your own words, on your own terms.

Remove every sentence that applies to most job seekers.

Quickly skim through your letter and take out every sentence that applies to everyone, not just to you. Remove sentences like: “I’m a hardworking professional” and “I really think you should hire me.” Everyone can say this. Focus on the details that set you apart.

Take one more look at your customization.

If you’re like most job seekers, you’re using a template cover letter and tailoring your words for each employer you pursue. This is a fine method, but it’s a recipe for easy typos and mistakes. Take one last look to make sure your letter is addressed to the right company and reflects this company’s specific needs and job requirements.

Read your letter aloud.

This last step might take three minutes, but it can help you catch rough sentences and vastly increase your chances of impressing employers with your wit, professionalism, and fluid writing style.

For more on how to create a cover letter that sends a unique, and memorable message, consult with the job search experts at Merritt Staffing.

Looking for Accounting Talent?

November 13th, 2015

You have a vacancy on your accounting team and you need to staff the position before your remaining team members become overburdened. Or maybe you’ve never needed an in-house accountant before, but now you do, and you want to find someone who can help your growing company make smart financial decisions. In either case, an established, reputable staffing firm can help. And in the meantime, there are several winning moves that you can make on your own. Keep these tips in mind.

Sourcing matters.

As you look for places to publish your post and cast your net, your decisions can have long-term consequences for the success of your accounting department. Don’t just post your position anywhere. Do some research first, and recognize that large national websites will attract one kind of candidate, while small, local, industry-specific sites will attract another. Think about the kinds of students or job-seeking professionals who frequent your chosen outlet. Are these the ones you want?

Don’t engage in adverse selection.

Hiring managers often make a damaging mistake: They set up barriers to entry, like thorns around a forbidden castle. They create a tedious application process, they treat candidates rudely, they conduct harsh, off-putting interviews, and they let candidates sit in the dark for weeks before providing updates. They often believe they’re “weeding out” losers and the uncommitted, but they’re actually doing the opposite. Talented candidates are in demand; they don’t have to put up with nonsense. After the tenth round of adversarial interviews, only the most desperate applicants will still be waiting in line.

Look for thought leaders.

At networking events and industry gatherings, ask for recommendations. If you hear the same name multiple times, track this person down. Look them up online and find out more about them. Sometimes it’s better to pursue passive candidates than wait for active seekers to come to you. If you discover a talented, local, ambitious potential employee somewhere within your professional community, reach out. You have nothing to lose.

Don’t miss opportunities.

Are local universities in your area sponsoring job fairs or career days? Find out and get involved. Have you visited veteran job placement offices in your area? Are you connected with university career placement services? Does your company have a prominent profile in the community? The candidate search is mutual; recognize that your best candidates are searching for you just as you search for them. Raise your profile and they’ll be more likely to see you.

Get help.

Again, your best and most efficient resource will be professional staffing and recruiting experts that can help you source, target, and pursue the accounting talent you need. Call the team at Merritt and arrange a consultation today.

The One Question Your Resume Must Answer

October 23rd, 2015

Your resume will break down your assets as a candidate and describe them, point by point, in separate subheadings focused on your education, your work history, and your specific skill sets. But while each of these separate aspects of your profile will need to be addressed, your primary argument can be summarized with one question: Why should you be hired for this job instead of someone else? What can you bring to this role that no other candidate can? Here are few things to keep in mind as you build your document around this central point.

Answer before you write.

Before you take a single stab at the actual text of your resume, spend some time thinking about this question, and imagine how you might answer in person if you were speaking to an interviewer. What would you describe as you strongest assets? How would you list your most valuable assets? Keep in mind that the two lists may not be identical. For example, you may offer basic proficiency in a critically important skill area, but you may also be a high-level expert in an area that’s of secondary importance.

Separate your skills from your unique skills.

Think about the skills and accomplishments you plan to highlight in your resume and in the text of your cover letter. Then separate these offerings into two categories. If you’re applying for a mid-level accounting job, you may be very proud of your bachelor’s degree in accounting (and you should be), but there’s a strong chance that every candidate in the pool will also hold this credential. What are the skills and traits that truly set you apart? What have you done that few others will also be able to claim?

Keep these unique qualities at the center of your summary.

No matter how you choose to populate the subheadings of your resume document, you’ll need to focus strong attention on your summary, the short descriptive paragraph at the top of the page that most employers will read first. This short, hard-hitting statement should be built around the skills and qualities that help you stand out, not just the ones that help you fit in or meet the basic requirements for consideration. Instead of wasting valuable space in this section by calling yourself a “hard worker” or an “experienced professional”, cut to the chase: what can you bring to the table that nobody else can?

For more tips and tools that can help you create a winning resume and land the job you’re looking for, reach out to the career management team at Merritt.

Avoid Burnout on your Team

October 9th, 2015

Your employees work hard for your company. They give their absolute best, one hundred percent of the time, which challenges you to dig deep and give your best in return. Usually, this leads to an upward spiral; you draw inspiration from them and set a high bar for yourself, and they follow your example and do the same. Your customers reap the benefits, and your company grows and grows. But while your orders flow in and you observe this cycle of success, keep one important thing in mind: everything comes at a cost, and every employee has limits. Keep the cycle going by protecting your employees from burnout.

Pay attention.

Watch out for signs of stress. Ironically, the hardest working employees may also work hard to hide the signs of burnout and overload. A cheerful smile and a little extra makeup go a long way, but don’t be fooled. Keep an eye on the loaded plates of each individual employee, and before you assign new tasks, think about the projects they’re already dealing with. If you need to redistribute workloads, don’t wait for your employees to tell you so directly; they probably won’t.

Encourage the use of sick time.

Never encourage your employees to come to the office when they’re sick. This includes both physical and mental health issues, and when they feel anything from a cold to a case of generalized exhaustion, don’t just let them leave, send them home. Even subtle gestures and word choices can inadvertently encourage a culture of “heroism”, which can spread germs, low morale, and disengagement throughout the office.

Recognize different personalities and work styles.

Sometimes a case of burnout can be held at bay with fun activities that help your teams relax, socialize and de-stress. But think carefully. A mandatory weekend retreat in the mountains, a non-optional mini-golf tournament, or expecting every employee to show up at five for a sponsored happy hour at a local bar can actually make the problem worse, not better. Respect the needs of employees who recharge their batteries in their own way. Instead of group fun, consider surprising your teams by letting them leave early on a Friday. Tailor your program to your people and your specific culture.

Listen and respond.

In the meantime, keep your door and your ears open. Some employees may hide their stress, but others will let you know what they need. And when they do, you’ll be wise to listen. If they need better resources or extended deadlines, take action immediately and let them know they can count on you to help them do their jobs.

For more on how to work hard for your employees so they can keep working hard for you, reach out to the Westchester County staffing experts at Merritt.

 

Three Interviewers to Prepare For

September 18th, 2015

As you put the finishing touches on your elevator pitch, map out the route to your venue, and take care of your other last minute pre-interview preparations, add one more detail to the list. Not all interviewers are the same, and there’s more than one approach to the candidate selection process. But distinct patterns tend to arise all the same, and there’s a strong chance that you may encounter any one of these three common interview types as you step in the door and sit down to begin your session. Be ready.

The Friendly Face

This interviewer will put you at ease immediately. As soon as you see his smiling face coming across the lobby to greet you, your blood pressure will drop and your nervous tension will fade away. Your interview will feel like a conversation with an old friend, and you’ll find yourself sharing your true feelings and talking easily and openly about your skills, passions, and plans for the future. There’s nothing wrong with this scenario, and this is the sign of a great interviewer and a promising company. But be careful. Don’t be fooled; this person is not your friend, and even though he seems fascinated by everything you say, he’s reading between the lines and conducting an evaluation that’s shrewd and entirely self-interested. Keep a close eye on your words and gestures.

The Bored Interviewer

This interviewer seems distracted and disinterested in the process at hand. She’s asking questions, but she isn’t really listening to the answers, and she seems to take every opportunity to turn away from you, scan her email, check her phone, or gaze out the window. If you walked away, you’re not sure she would notice. And the longer you stay, the more bored and irritated she seems to become. But again, be careful. Choose your words with caution. Because she IS listening, even if hers isn’t the only opinion influencing the outcome of this decision.

The Confrontational Person

This interviewer makes a seemingly deliberate attempt to appear obnoxious, hostile, cold, or intimidating. He takes every opportunity to scowl at you as you speak and he tends to cross examine each of your responses as if you’re saying or doing something wrong. He appears to believe that this job is a golden reward offered from on high, instead of mutual exchange of labor for a fair salary. His demeanor may be off-putting, and he may be making a poor impression on behalf of the company, but be patient. As far as possible, stay polite and humble. Give this person and this company a chance…After you’ve landed this job and settled in, you may be glad you kept things in perspective.

For more on what to expect from the interview process, contact the staffing and job search team at Merritt Staffing.

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