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Interview Tips: Four Tricks That Make a Great Impression

January 23rd, 2015

Before you step into your next interview, add these four slick moves to your professional repertoire and you’ll increase your odds of making a positive impression. You already know that you need the basics: timeliness, neatness, preparation, eye-contact, and follow-up. But you may not know a few of these other strategies that can help you increase your likeability and establish a foundation of trust.

Enjoy the Process

Of course you’re nervous. All interview candidates are nervous, and all of them do their best to hide this fact. Employers are used to this and they expect it. A little sweat on your palm or a little restless tapping on the desk won’t hurt your chances. But if you can look past the moment, keep the entire day in perspective, and enjoy the ride, you’ll do two things: You’ll keep your nerves in check, and you’ll also put your interviewer at ease and help both of you create a positive memory.

Listen, Don’t Just Talk

Candidates often expect the interview process to resemble a kind of oral exam in which each question is followed by a polite (and correct) answer, a pause, and then another question. Interviews always happen this way in the movies. But in real life, interviews tend to take the shape of a conversation, and interviewers often take this opportunity to explain the nature of the job and the company. If you’re smart, you’ll listen while your interviewer talks. If you’re extra smart, you’ll take notes, and you’ll ask questions at the end of the process that show how well you’ve been paying attention.

Be Yourself

This sounds like a cliché, but during your interview, don’t try too hard to construct a persona that differs wildly from your real self. Unless you’re a professional actor, you won’t fool anyone; you’ll just confuse them and make them uncomfortable. Don’t flash your million dollar smile and try to tell jokes if you aren’t a smiler or a joke teller. If you’re naturally quiet and reserved, embrace that, and be the most professional and trustworthy quiet-and-reserved person in the room. If you’re naturally loud, that’s fine—use it to your advantage. If you’re a leader, be a leader. If you’re a follower, don’t hide it—be a follower, and a good one. Work with the grain of your real personality, not against it.

Treat the Interview Like a Date (Sort of)

Obviously, you shouldn’t make or accept romantic overtures with your interviewer, but the job search process and the dating process have a few things in common: In both settings, two parties come to the table as adults and equals, and both have something to gain from a potential partnership. Both parties are looking for the right match, and both benefit by presenting themselves honestly and expecting the same in return. Ask as many questions as you answer, and be polite but clear about what you’re looking for and what you have to offer.

For more interview tips that can help you relax, present your best self, and share information honestly with your potential employer, contact the staffing professionals at Merritt.


Employee Handbooks: Protect your Employees and Your Company

January 9th, 2015

If you’re not handing a comprehensive, updated employee handbook to each of your new hires during their first week on the job, you may want to consider drafting and distributing one in 2015. A well written employee handbook can help you clarify general workplace rules that are sometimes misunderstood or taken for granted. And if your workplace involves any safety hazards or unique HR requirements, a handbook can clarify these issues from the outside.

Employee handbooks can also help new hires understand the exact nature and requirements of their positions, which can keep the annual performance review process clear, effective, and on-track. As you sit down to draft and edit your handbook, keep these tips in mind.

Do some research first.

If you’re starting the process from scratch, lay the ground work before you begin drafting and editing the text of your handbook. Solicit feedback from all affected employees, and gather general length and content recommendations from your HR department and legal team before you move forward.

Keep job descriptions limited to one or two pages.

If you produce your handbook as a three ring binder, you can insert these pages into each specific employee’s copy upon his or her first day.

Obtain buy-in on each section.

Create a section for safety rules, a section for your dress code (if applicable), a section covering the performance review process, training requirements, a staff listing, an emergency phone tree, hiring, coaching, referral and termination rules, and any other section applicable to your workplace. But for each section, you’ll need to obtain approval from HR, legal staff, and upper management.

Be ready to update the handbook as necessary.

Company rules and policies evolve, and the handbook should be ready to evolve as well. Each page should be removable and replaceable, so when you distribute a new page, you can ask employees to remove and throw away the outdated section.

Keep a copy online.

Keep a tab on your webpage or internal intranet that takes employees directly to an updated online copy of the handbook. This way employees will still have access to necessary information even if they lose their binders.

For more information on the content and distribution of your new handbook, reach out to the staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Dealing with Rejected Candidates: Maintain a Positive Relationship

December 19th, 2014

It’s never easy to deliver bad news to a rejected candidate, especially one who holds impressive credentials and fine personality traits, and may have patiently maintained interest and respect through several rounds of interviews. Whether you recognize it or not, your candidates (all of them) are essential brand contacts, and their feelings about your workplace and about your product can have a wide circle of impact. When you treat customers well, your company benefits. But when you treat candidates well, your company benefits even more. And the reverse is also true. Before you say goodbye to second and third place contenders, keep these tips in mind.

Actually do it.

This is a no-brainer, but a surprising number of companies skip this easy step and suffer as a result. If a candidate goes through the trouble of attending a single interview—even a screening interview by phone—he or she deserves a clear and upfront yes or no response from the company. Never let the line simply go silent after the selection process has gone this far.

Express regret.

You don’t have to explain why you chose another candidate, and in fact, the less information you offer the better protected you’ll be from backlash and lawsuits. But accept the fact that eager, dedicated, smart and qualified candidates are probably going to feel disappointed by your decision. Their feelings may not be your problem, but if you respect these feelings, show some humanity, and try to keep the exchange polite and sympathetic, you’ll be leaving a positive impression that can last for a lifetime.

Keep the conversation short.

If you deliver the news by phone, make it clear that you can’t discuss the particulars of the decision. Simply deliver the message and say goodbye. Encourage the candidate to apply again if this suits the situation. Even better, share your decision in writing. Keep the message limited to a few lines of text.

Thank the candidate.

By the final stage of the selection process, your candidates have made some heavy investments, both in terms of time and money. Thank them for their sacrifices and show some sincere appreciation for their interest in your company. Your parting words should be warm, not cold, and grateful, not dismissive.

Try to convey the sense that your decision was measured and fair, and that even though you ultimately chose another direction, you appreciate the candidate’s time and interest and wish her well. For more on how to deliver this message properly, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt.

Future Hiring Needs: Are You Prepared?

December 12th, 2014

Your hiring needs for this month are covered. You’re steadily on track to replace every departing employee and you’re bringing in new recruits in perfect pace with your expanding business. You have not a single pair of hands beyond what you need, and as soon as Sally retires and Steve says goodbye to care for his growing family, you’ll have new employees already lined up to take over their desks.

So this day, week, and month are locked down and accounted for. But what about next year? What will you do when Steve’s replacement starts gunning for a promotion to the next level? If you can’t accommodate her, what will you do when she leaves in search of a company that can? What will you do if your new product line starts selling beyond expectations and you need to hire more staff to keep up with a flood of orders? And will happen when your new orders suddenly dry up and you need to contract your workforce back to affordable levels?

The answer, as always, lies in planning ahead. Instead of taking a lean, just-in-time approach to the staffing process, try to use all the data at your disposal to determine what your staffing needs will look like in one, three, and five years.

Build a Pipeline

You may not have a crystal ball that can tell you when your employees might leave the company, but you can certainly make educated guessed about promotion readiness. When your top executives leave or retire, have someone in mind who you can groom and prepare for the role. Have others in mind to replace those, and so on down to the entry level. The harder you work to cultivate and retain the links in this chain, the more closely reality will adhere to your expectations.

Hire Contingency Teams

Consider hiring contingency, temporary, independent, and part time staff for roles with an uncertain future. If you don’t know how long an expansion will last, or how a new product will be received by the marketplace, limit your risks and control your workforce growth. That way you won’t have to make promises or take on full time employees that you can’t keep. Contingency staffing can also help you ensure a personality and cultural match before you make a long term commitment.

For more information about staff development, hiring, pipeline building, and long term planning, contact the experts at Merritt.


The Cost of a Hiring Mistake

November 28th, 2014

Too many hiring managers make the same common and often expensive mistake: They confuse a low- responsibility position with a low stakes hiring decision. For example, they invest in careful reviews, extensive vetting, cold sweats and lost sleep while looking for a mid-level manager with eight direct reports. But they don’t put the same effort into an entry level role or a stock room position. Then they make an avoidable hiring mistake and need to start the process over…at a cost that may equal or exceed the annual salary for the position. Before you follow in the footsteps of these unfortunate managers, keep a few considerations in mind

Create a budget.

How much will your hiring process actually cost? If you don’t know, it’s time to find an answer. Include both hard numbers and intangible estimates in your equation. For example, factor in the cost of your hiring manager’s time and the cost of your contract with a staffing company, but make sure you also include the amount you stand to lose each day as long as the position remains empty

Listen, don’t just talk.

Don’t assume that you hold all the cards during the selection process, and don’t patronize your candidates or assume they’ll be eager to jump through hoops to please you. Instead, focus on what you have to offer, not just what you want. Make sure your candidate can tolerate the commute, make sure you can provide what she’s looking for in terms of advancement, and encourage her to talk about her long term plans so you can see how well your own plans measure up. If you don’t listen, and you candidate leaves the company five months after her start date for predictable reasons, you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.

Focus on cultural adaptability.

You understand the ins and outs of your own workplace culture (or at least you should). But your candidate can’t be expected to speak about this. She has no experience with this workplace and has no way to assess the likelihood of a match, so you’ll need to take full responsibility for this task. Don’t ask your candidate “Will you fit in here?” Instead, ask her about her preferred work style, her personality, her approach to leadership, and her cultural expectations. Then make your own decision about how well she’ll get along with your current teams. If she isn’t happy, you won’t be happy.

For more on how to find a candidate that can maximize your returns on an expensive hiring investment, contact the experienced staffing professionals at Merritt.

Strategic Staffing: Preparing for Your Future Staffing Needs

November 14th, 2014

Some of your staffing needs are as clear and predictable as the changing of the seasons. Based on years of experience, you may know exactly how many new pairs of hands you’ll need to hire during your upcoming busy cycle. And you may know exactly how many new staff members you’ll need when your company’s new facility opens for business in 2015.

But not all of your staffing needs are so predictable, and when it comes to unexpected events, no crystal ball can show you the future of your industry and its dynamic and constantly changing marketplace.  You may be expecting two retirements on your team next year. But what if two becomes five? And what if replacements aren’t as easy to find as you anticipate?

To prepare for the unexpected, you’ll need a long term plan…and you’ll need the help and guidance of an experienced staffing firm. Here’s why.

Strategic Staffing Means Flexibility

When you take on a full time employee, you make a long term commitment. If your candidate doesn’t work out or leaves before the year is over, you may have a very expensive problem on your hands. But with a staffing firm at your side, this doesn’t have to happen. The team at Merritt can pair you with an appropriate candidate, and the two of you can get to know each other for long “test drive” before you decide to take the next step.

Strategic Staffing Means Minimal Hassle

While your employee is engaged in the probationary period, she’ll be employed by the staffing firm, not by you. So you won’t have to worry about taxes, insurance, and other paperwork. Leave that to us.

Strategic Staffing Means Minimal Risk

Before we pair you with a list of likely candidates, we listen carefully to your needs. Then we reach out to our extensive network and find exactly the kinds of candidates you’re looking for. Our proven screening and review methods reduce the possibility of a mismatch, and we can also conduct testing and background checks depending on your needs.

To find out more about how Merritt can support your staffing program, contact our office and arrange a consultation today.

Networking: It’s Easier Then You Think

October 24th, 2014

You’ve been working steadily for several years now, or maybe you’ve been making your way through a few years of college course work. You’ve been applying yourself to daily tasks all week long and then socializing on the weekends with no particular need to merge these two activities and no desire to force an overlap between your social life and your professional ambitions.

But now all of that is about to change. Soon, you’ll be leaving your current routines behind and facing the job market…and that means you’ll need to start the process of “professional networking”, a form of social career-building that can inspire anxiety even among extroverted and outgoing job seekers. But don’t panic just yet. There are plenty of ways to keep this process natural, organic, genuine, and even easy. Try the moves below.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Just do it better.

Carry on your normal mode of socializing…just dial up your level of effort and pay more attention to the details of other people’s lives. Work harder to remember names when you’re introduced. Don’t walk away from someone at a party just because their story doesn’t interest you. Listen harder, remember more, and actively engage with those who may not seem to have much in common with you at first. If you reach out and listen, you’ll learn more about the world outside of yourself. You’ll also make a better impression on those you meet.

Ask the right questions.

Ask people where they’re from. Ask them what they do. Ask them how they feel and what they think about various topics relevant to the moment. But most of all, ask people about their experience with the kinds of things that can support your own career growth. If they can help you in any way, or if they know someone who can, they won’t necessarily volunteer this information without prompting.

Offer favors before you ask for them.

If you listen when people talk, you’ll catch valuable information about the things they need and want. If you can provide any of these things, you’ll place yourself in good standing later when the tables are turned.

Be brave.

When the time comes to ask for help instead of offering it, step up to the plate. This can be very difficult, and we’ve all felt a moment of hesitation when requesting a favor from someone we just met, or a long-lost contact, who may respond with a blank stare. But reach out anyway. Most of the time, this feels far more awkward from our own position that it does on the receiving end.

For more on how to build your network in a way that is both effective and genuine, reach out to the staffing and career-building experts at Merritt.

Reducing Stress with a Contingent Workforce

October 10th, 2014

Your busy season is about to begin, and you’re anticipating a flood of new orders and new projects that will roll in like a wave and overwhelm your current teams, just like it did last year (and the year before). Every year, your teams hold on by their fingertips, working overtime and losing sleep. And each year at least one or two of them flirt with the idea of leaving. While your employees are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with their demanding workloads, you’re experiencing your own form of stress while you wait for your most talented workers to reach their limit, walk into your office and give their notice.

But you and your employees don’t have to live this way for three, five, or eleven months of the year. Consider a practical alternative: a contingency staffing plan. Here’s how a temporary team can lift your seasonal burden without breaking your budget.

Contingency staffing reduces your financial and personal obligations.

Temporary employees aren’t hired and paid by you; they’re hired and paid by the agency. This means that you don’t have to make any long term promises or plans regarding their relationship with your company. You don’t have to worry about taxes, paperwork, salary negotiations, or insurance. You’ll keep them onboard as long as you need them, and when your workload settles down, the agency will place them elsewhere.

Contingency staffing is flexible.

When a temporary employee enters your workplace, your agency contract will allow the two of you to work together for an extended period of time before either of you decide to make a long term commitment. You can test drive the arrangement to see how well it works for both of you, and when you’re ready, you’ll have the option of taking him or her on as a permanent hire.

Contingency staffing is easy.

An experienced staffing agency will listen carefully to your needs and requirements and find a pool of candidates who fit the bill. Here at Merritt, we have an extensive network of industry contacts and a sophisticated screening and selection process that can help you quickly identify the employees most likely to thrive in your workplace.

When you’re ready to take on some extra hands and tackle your seasonal challenges, put your trust in the Fairfeld County staffing experts at Merritt. Contact our office for a consultation.

Hiring Top Administrative Talent: Tips

September 26th, 2014

You’re facing a stack of admin resumes or applications for a personal assistant position, and you realize that the outcome of this decision can have a powerful impact on your own work performance and the success of every project under your purview. In order for you to complete your own work and manage your responsibilities, you need to hire a person you can trust, and you need someone who can stand beside you and provide the right tools and support exactly when you need them. Here are a few moves that take some of the risk and expense out of the process and streamline the path to a successful decision.

1. Make the most of your current employee.

If your current admin is still working for another few weeks, make sure your leverage his help and support before you no longer have the opportunity to do so. Ask him to document each of his daily, weekly, monthly and annual responsibilities and provide a written list of the steps he takes to execute them. If at all possible, schedule some overlap between his departure and the arrival of the new employee.

2. Refine your interview questions.

If you have 30 minutes to chat with a candidate, don’t waste a second of this time. Cut questions from your interview script if they add no value. For example, skip empty bureaucratic questions like “are you a strong leader/well-organized person/ punctual?” These all have easy answers. You can also cut silly “personality” questions like “Which five items would you take to a desert island?” Let these go and get to the heart of the matter.

3. Focus on skill sets first.

This doesn’t mean that skill sets will hold more weight or serve as a better predictor of candidate success; it simply means that these are easier to assess than personality traits. Determine exactly which software systems and specific capabilities the candidate will rely on most (budgeting, scheduling, records management, etc) and assess these with tests and clear questions about her level of experience in each area.

4. Focus on behavior second.

Ask open ended questions to gain a sense of your candidates working style, problem solving strategies, and approach to written communication. Ask her to describe specific challenges she’s faced in the past, listen to the answers, and let her know how the challenges of this workplace will align with or vary from what she’s seen before.

For more information and personal guidance as you conduct your admin candidate search, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt Staffing.

What Does the Interview Process Tell Candidates about Your Company?

September 12th, 2014

A growing number of managers are now factoring cultural adaptability into their candidate selection decisions, based on the idea that attitude matters just as much as aptitude when it comes to forecasting candidate success. If a candidate fits the culture, her odds of landing a job will greatly increase.

But if you’re sitting on the manager’s side of the table, recognize that the equation works both ways. If the candidate looks around your office and likes what she sees, she’ll be far more likely to accept your offer and stay with the company over the long term.

So how can you use your interview process to showcase your culture and convince the best candidates in your applicant pool to join your organization? Here are a few ways to make this happen.

1. Keep all pre-interview interactions clear and positive.

Nothing frustrates a job applicant like unanswered calls, unreturned messages, and conflicting information and instructions regarding the interview date and location. Make sure everyone who speaks to your candidate has access to the correct information and speaks in a confident and welcoming tone.

2. Take first impressions seriously.

The candidate may make her first impression when she greets you and shakes your hand. But the company starts making a first impression the minute she walks in the door. Is your lobby clean, well-lit and inviting? Is your waiting area comfortable? And most important, is the interviewer prepared and ready to conduct the meeting on time? Never leave a candidate waiting for more than fifteen minutes.

3. Confident, competent interviewers inspire trust.

You may be just as nervous as your candidate (meeting new people isn’t always easy), but try not to let this show. Have your notes or your script prepared, have a copy of the candidate’s resume in front of you, and try not to ramble or fluster.

4. Show respect for her expertise and also for her time.

You may think that you hold the power position in this dialogue, but you need your candidate as much as she needs you. Respect her willingness to share her skills and dedicate her time to this company—specifically the thirty minutes she’s spending in this interview. Keep your questions relevant.

5. Explain your culture as well as you can.

This can be a tall order, but if you provide accurate and honest information about your culture, your candidate will be better able to make an informed decision.

For more on how to keep your interview process meaningful for parties on both sides of the table, reach out to the Fairfeld County staffing professionals at Merritt Staffing.

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