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Are You a Bad Boss?

October 19th, 2018

You’ve finally reached the management stage of your career, a level at which you hold sway over the positions, responsibilities, paychecks and expectations of other people. You’re a leader now, which is to say, a boss. But are you a good boss? Are you effective? Are you respected? Are you liked?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your leadership skills and look for areas where your management style could use a little work.

First, don’t coast.

Bad bosses usually don’t KNOW they’re bad bosses. And even when they do, they rarely choose to become bad bosses on purpose. Nobody does that. When you’ve earned the respect, trust and appreciation of your team, they tend to make this clear. If you haven’t, your employees aren’t likely to tell you anything at all. There are no billboards to inform you when you’re going down the wrong road. So, as you conduct your self-assessment, be brutally honest. Don’t assume little birds will bring the news; be brave and seek it out.

Give your employees a chance to speak their minds.

If you ask a subordinate, point blank, if they like and respect you, you won’t get an honest answer. But if you let your employees know you’re open to both general and project-specific feedback, you follow through on that by receiving the feedback gratefully and acting on it directly, you’ll get better results, more honesty and more helpful information.

Don’t make people share twice.

Here’s a habit we often employ when we face painful corrections, hard advice or negative feedback: we ask twice. We say, “Am I doing this wrong?” and when we get an affirmative answer, we ask again until we get the answer we’d rather hear. Don’t do this. If you’re told—even subtly—that your directions are unclear, your demeanor is ineffective, your jokes aren’t funny, your example isn’t inspiring or your work ethic could be improved, don’t respond by asking again. Just swallow that bitter pill and get to work on fixing the problem.

Be the person you want your employees to be.

If you want them to stay late, stay late and come in early. If you want them to care more about bigger-picture project outcomes, show you care about these outcomes more than anyone. If you want them to edit their emails carefully until they contain no typos, don’t send out emails with typos. If you want them to take safety rules seriously, make sure they see you doing the same. Don’t set standards that you don’t personally intend to meet. This includes everything from communication to organization to general engagement and professional behavior.

For more on how to set an example and earn the respect of your teams, contact the management experts at Merritt.

New Accounting Assignment: Start Day One with Confidence

September 28th, 2018

Your new contingency or temporary accounting position begins in just a few days, and you’d like to make a strong impression. You know that this job could potentially lead to full-time work, permanent part-time work or a long-term contract … but only if the relationship goes well and both parties (you and your employer) can provide each other with mutual benefit. So, how can you start things off on the right foot? Here are a few ways to boost your confidence and gain an edge on day one.

Be open, pleasant, and happy to be there.

On day one, step in like a cool breeze and cultivate a demeanor that relaxes the people around you. The wrong way to do this: Avoid eye contact, focus on your work instead of other people, and keep reminding yourself that you won’t be here more than a few weeks. Why invest emotional energy in getting to know names and faces you won’t need to remember? The right way: Be happy and present. Remember that this is the only place that matters, because this is where you are right now. When someone tells you their name, look the person in the eye and remember the name.

Be clear about what you’re there to do.

Many temporary accounting jobs involve either of two things: filling in for someone who’s temporarily absent or accomplishing a complete project from beginning to end before you leave. You may be asked to get a messy bookkeeping system in order, review recent records and produce a set of reports, or support an internal audit. OR you may be asked to step in and temporarily pick up someone else’s reins. Figure this out on the first day, clarify your goals, and get to work.

Fill in the gaps on your own but get help quickly when you need it.

Make it clear you aren’t afraid to apply your skills and use what you know to get things done. But also make it clear you aren’t afraid to ask for whatever you need. If you’re missing some documentation, need more background on a budget issue, or need clearer information to solve a problem, get it. Show confidence in both yourself and in others, and you’ll quickly gain trust.

Focus on the present, not the future.

If you’re hoping to be hired full time, that’s great, and you’ll want to clearly express those intentions in time. But not necessarily on the first day. For now, just concentrate on doing your work well and making a good impression. Later, you can leverage that success into the next stage of your plan.

For more on how to leave your mark and turn a temporary job into something more, turn to the career management pros at Merritt.

Leadership Traits Your Talent Needs

September 14th, 2018

Think only upper-level management candidates need leadership skills to succeed in your workplace? Think again. Ideally, every candidate for every job should recognize there’s a time to lead AND a time to follow, and that both actions require certain skills. Excellent candidates know how to read a situation and respond with either purposeful leadership or purposeful compliance, depending on the needs of the moment. And when the moment calls for leadership, the best candidates—even at the most junior level—know how to rise to the occasion. Here are a few of the leadership traits that are always valuable, no matter the role.

Situational awareness.

Does your candidate sit still and wait patiently until he’s told exactly what to do by whomever he perceives as an authority figure? That’s probably a bad sign. Not only does it suggest a decision-making blind spot, it also suggests the candidate may do a poor job of assessing authority. Highly passive people tend to follow orders without considering the actual role of the person giving it. Choose candidates who understand how the chain of command works and won’t blindly yield to the loudest person in the room.

Can your candidate spot a problem and take steps to fix it?

If your candidate witnesses a leaky pipe, a team miscommunication, a toxic relationship between two other team members or a mathematical error in a budget, how do they respond? Do they decide it isn’t their problem? Or do they make note of it, look for a solution, speak out, speak up, and get the issue addressed? Choose the candidate who will get answers and take action, even if they don’t immediately know what to do or how to do it.

Can your candidate say no?

There’s a time for yes and a time for no, and your candidate should be able to exercise each option under the appropriate circumstances. A doormat candidate will eventually feel resentful and bitter, and all employees need to take a share of responsibility for their own boundaries, schedules and limitations. If your candidate is asked to do something incorrect, unethical, harmful to their own well-being, harmful to the company, or harmful to customers or community members, will they have the strength to say no? Or can they ask directly for the resources and support they need? If so, consider this a plus.

Can your candidate say yes?

On the other end of the scale, can your candidate put others first when necessary? Can they move outside of their comfort zone when asked to stay late, make a difficult decision, stand in front of a group to speak, deliver painful news to someone, or put the needs and comfort of direct reports ahead of their own?

For more on how to choose a leader—even for a nonleadership role—turn to the hiring pros at Merritt.

Are You Wasting Time with a Generic Resume?

August 10th, 2018

In some ways, creating one beautiful, polished resume and then sending that single document to every employer on your list can save time. If you invest hours (or even weeks) in every detail of your perfect document, you can capitalize on that time investment by simply clicking attach and send each time you find a job post you’d like to pursue. Put in three days upfront, then spend five seconds on every application.

But unfortunately, no part of the job search (or life) is ever quite that simple. Far too often, employers complain that the resumes they receive seem “generic”, or one-size-fits-all. They get the impression that candidates are simply blanketing the landscape with pre-fabricated resumes and hoping that these resumes fall into the right hands.

So what’s a busy job seeker to do? You can’t afford to spend an entire day on every application, but a beige, un-customized resume may not impress your target hiring managers…So how can you resolve this conundrum? Here are a few moves to keep in mind.

Find a middle ground.

Create a sharp template resume with just a few blanks that can be filled in separately for each submission. For example, leave your target job title blank, and shape that insertion to fit each individual job you pursue.

Actually read the job post.

When employers are offended or put-off by generic resumes, it’s not because they’re entitled or expect candidates to treat them like royalty. It’s because the resumes they receive don’t seem to line up well with the job post. Their job may in the manufacturing field, and they’re receiving thoughtless mass resume submissions from seekers in healthcare or retail. They feel spammed, and they need to invest some considerable time in separating these auto-submissions from real ones submitted by serious candidates. Give these harried employers a break and make sure you actually WANT the job before you send a resume.

When you find your dream job, treat it like a dream job.

You may send ten resumes a day to “maybe” jobs that may or may not be perfect for you. That’s okay. But when you find a job post that truly IS perfect for you, a job you’d do cartwheels for, clear your schedule. Really sit down with the post for a while—and conduct a careful review of the employer’s website—so you can pour your whole heart into your resume submission. Shape your words around this job, and only this job. Clarify exactly how your experience and background set you up for success with this specific company. Chances are, your thoughtful investment will pay off.

For more on how to tailor your resume when necessary (and send a generic application when necessary), contact the job search team at Merritt.

Hiring For Adaptability

August 3rd, 2018

You want a candidate who can demonstrate the technical skills and work ethic that your open position will require, and of course you want a candidate who believes in your product or service and who can represent your company to potential customers. But you also need a candidate who can stand out in one specific area: adaptability.

Why choose an adaptable candidate? Because not every company culture can be custom tailored to match the kind of social fabric that your new employee may be used to. Not every path can be made perfectly smooth for him or her during transitions or training. Not every instruction will make perfect sense, and not every plan or project can be perfectly organized. Sometimes your employee will face the unexpected, be asked to change course at a moment’s notice, or be asked to find common ground with people and personalities he finds unfamiliar. If he can adapt and stay flexible, he’ll thrive. If not, he’ll drag the organization down. Keep these considerations in mind during the hiring process.

Has your employee “seen the world”?

If your candidate can tell you about some adventures, previous jobs, travel, mistakes, or challenges she’s faced in the past, both inside and outside of work, that’s a good sign. If your candidate has never veered (or been pushed) from a narrow path that winds from high school to college to internship to office cubicle, without a single misstep, plot twist, or interesting personal decision, beware.

How does your candidate handle stress?

If you can’t see for yourself, just ask. Interviews are stressful, so if your candidate is clearly brimming with nervous energy and yet handling herself with poise and composure, that’s great. If you see a bead of sweat or a shaky hand and that hand belongs to a candidate who can still think before she speaks, put that in the plus column. If you can’t read any stress in her non-verbal gestures, just ask. Ask her to describe a time in the past when she felt overwhelmed, pulled in multiple directions, or pressured to show flexibility. Ask what happened and how the story played out.

Ask how her own standards differ from those she applies to others.

A highly flexible and adaptable candidate can switch gears on a moment’s notice, but she also knows how to respond to confusing or rigid behavior from other people. If she can show up on time, even when the meeting venue changes at the last minute, that’s good. If she can forgive and work around others who show up a minute late, that’s even better.

For more on how to assess and identify adaptability in your top candidates, contact the staffing experts at Merritt.

Should I Consider Temporary Accounting Jobs?

July 27th, 2018

Maybe you aren’t a certified accountant, and maybe you haven’t given much thought to accepting a temporary job. But here are a few reasons why you might want to take a short term or project-based position in the accounting field as a means of advancing your career. If you fit any of these descriptions listed below, reach out to our staffing team and find out what we can do for you.
You aren’t an accountant, but you’d like to become one.

During tax season, accounting and tax preparation firms usually have several positions open to support, and administrative staff. The temporary employees who step into these roles help carry the burden of a very hectic season, and they help make sure that no task falls through the cracks. Taking on a role in an accounting firm can give you some insight into the business, and you might learn something while you earn something. Most important, you’ll get a chance to see if this really is—or isn’t—the career for you.

You aren’t an accountant, but you ARE something else.

Accounting offices don’t just need CPAs. They also need marketing staff, managers, IT pros, communications experts, and a host of other jobs that are always vital but become even more so during peak seasons. If you’re between full-time jobs in your own field, or you’ve recently moved to a new city and haven’t found a permanent position yet, consider a temp role. You’ll certainly be needed, and you’ll have the freedom to leave once something in your own field opens up.

Networking can boost your career.

Accounting teams often have insight into a wide range of industries, and accountants often have clients and contacts well outside their own small corner of the marketplace. It never hurts to meet new people and make new connections, and a temporary job in a cross-disciplinary field may be a great place to start.

Temporary jobs are easy to step in and out of.

Many job seekers (if not most) have considered taking a permanent full time position with a new employer, while privately preparing to leave the minute something better appears. Using a new job as a stepping stone is very common and it’s not unethical, but it does create some hassle, cost and inconvenience for the employers who showed enough initial interest in you to extend an offer. Instead, consider stepping into a temporary job while you continue to search for a position you expect to keep for the long term. You’ll leave behind a trail of good will, positive recommendations, and completed projects when you do.

For more on why (and how) to accept a temporary position in an accounting firm, contact the staffing team at Merritt.

What You Need to Know About Every Candidate

July 13th, 2018

As you launch into the initial screening and selection stages of the staffing process, there are a few things about each candidate you absolutely don’t need to know. These include your candidate’s ethnicity, religion, family status and sexual orientation, which may not be visible on the surface. They also include race, age, disability status or appearance (which may become apparent when you meet). These aspects of the candidate’s life should remain unknown as long as possible, if not forever.

But there are a few things you WILL need to know, and you’re better off obtaining this information as quickly as possible during the process. Save money, time and hassle for both the candidate and yourself by moving quickly toward these key data points.

Where the candidate lives.

More accurately, will the candidate be commuting a daily? And where will the candidate need to relocate from to accept the job? Will you be flying candidates in for interviews? Will you be covering relocation costs? Are you willing to accept a candidate who faces a miserable commute and may leave as soon as a closer opportunity becomes available? Answer these questions before you move forward.

What the candidate wants to do now and three years from now.

Two points of alignment may spell success or failure: what the candidate wants to do in the present, and what they want to do in the future. If they aren’t interested in or not qualified (just yet) to take on the daily tasks of the role, that’s important. If they’re fine with the daily tasks but want to advance within a year and won’t be able to do so if they take this job, that’s also worth noting. Get a sense of their long- and short-term mission.

Uncover any legal issues impeding the process.

Does the candidate have the appropriate visas or working papers to take the job? In this case, age may play a meaningful role, since you need to know they are old enough to enter the workplace.

Is this the right industry?

Almost every industry offers professional jobs in interdisciplinary fields (like marketing, sales, IT, PR, product development, product testing, etc.). A marketing or administrative candidate can easily move throughout their career from one major industry sector to another. But the question is: Do they want to? Are they interested in applying their marketing skills to this sector? Will this further their career or hold him back?

Can the candidate get over the highest hurdle?

This job may have one major issue that makes the position hard to staff (for example, a remote location, long hours or one odd problem that frequently sends candidates out the door). Determine the candidate’s feelings about this before you get into fine-grain details.

For more on how to move efficiently through the search process, contact the staffing team at Merritt.

Support Your Job Search by Working with a Recruiter

June 22nd, 2018

You may be steaming forward with your job search, collecting one offer after another and sifting through them at your leisure. If you are, well done! But if you’re like most candidates, the job search can feel like an uphill climb with no clear end in sight, and even when you find an acceptable job, land an offer and start working, you may not feel like staying in your new role for very long. If the job turns out to be a bad match, you may be back on the market again and back to square one within a year. So what can you do to shift the odds in your favor, land more and better offers, and put the search behind you for good? Try working with a recruiter! Here’s how partnering with an expert can help you move forward.

Recruiters have bigger networks than you do.

No matter how many people you know in your industry, your recruiter probably knows more. It’s her job to know people, connect people, and place the right person in the right role with a few phone calls or the click of a mouse. She’s been in this business for a long time, and while networking is something you may do now and then, she’s networking all day, all week, and all year.

Recruiters have plenty of experience with successful matches AND mistakes.

Your recruiter knows what a great match looks and feels like. This knowledge comes from a combination of hard data, gut instinct, great listening skills, and years of trial and error. Just as she can help her employer clients spot red flags and questionable candidates, she can help steer you toward the role that’s right for you and away from one that spells certain trouble. For example, if you’re gunning for a promotion to management within three years, she’ll help you find employers who can provide real opportunity—not just empty promises.

Recruiters help you without charging you.

Your recruiter works for her employer clients, not for you. These employers are looking for great candidates, they want help, they hire her, and voila…She’s on the trail of the perfect new employee, and that employee could be you. But since it’s her job to help the company find you, she’s paid by the company, not by you. If she gives you advice, take it to heart. If she asks for information that can help you, provide it quickly. You’ll “pay” your way by matching with the right company, so recognize how this system can work in your favor if you use it correctly.

For more on how to enlist the help of a recruiter during your job search, reach out to the career development team at Merritt.

Retain Top Financial Employees

June 8th, 2018

Like anyone else on your team, financial and accounting employees are likely to respond to common sense retention efforts; to keep them, you’ll need to respect their skills, respect their time, and pay them competitively. Chances are, your management experience has already shown you the benefits of these basic positive approaches to staffing and employee development. But retention is like an onion, and peeling away each layer tends to reveal more layers underneath. Yes, you need to treat your employees well…but how? And yes, you need to pay them, but what about your budget? Here are a few secondary thoughts that can support your larger goals.

Compensation is more that just salary.

Financial and accounting pros already know this, and you should too. If you can’t afford to compete with similar firms in your area, try adjusting your compensation package to add more benefits and perks. Reexamine your health plan provider, offer flexible hours, provide tuition support for employees who want to further their educations, add an on-site childcare facility, add a cafeteria, compensate commuters, and do whatever it takes to make your meager or average salaries add up to more overall by the year’s end.

Culture goes a long, long way.

Changing your culture might not be as hard or cost as much as you think. But keep one thing in mind: studies show that even underpaid employees with difficult and dangerous jobs will go the extra mile (and stay the extra year) for a company that feels like family. A friendly, welcoming, respectful, flexible culture can mean the difference between keeping a talented hire for a decade and saying goodbye to them within six months. Smart, experienced financial pros won’t put up with a toxic culture, nor should they.

Prepare to counteroffer.

If you really like your employee and you often find yourself saying “I don’t know what we’d do without her”, get ready for the day she resigns. It can and will happen eventually, so prepare for the day by setting up a system of operations that doesn’t depend entirely on her unique contributions. And in the meantime, keep a rough counteroffer estimate on your back burner. The day she shares her plans to leave, swoop quickly into action.

Listen and respond.

When top financial employees need something, accommodate them. And keep in mind that top employees rarely “complain”. Instead, they hint, react, and suggest. Don’t wait for your employee to storm into your office and demand more flexible hours or a lighter workload—That won’t happen. Instead, he’ll accept assignments with slightly less enthusiasm (he might say “I’ll see what I can do” instead of “Sure thing, boss!”) Listen for the signs, and be proactive. If you think it’s time to offer support, start a conversation and ask.

For more on how to retain your most talented contributors, reach out to the team at Merritt.

How to Find the Best Accounting Jobs

May 25th, 2018

Maybe you’re a newly minted graduate with high hopes and ambitious plans for yourself in the accounting field. Or maybe you’re a mid-life, mid-career employee with your last job in the rearview mirror and your sights set a better job with a different employer. Or maybe you’re a former chef/dog-walker/CEO/educator who wants to step into accounting after spending the last several years working on something else.

In all three cases, you have the skills, enthusiasm and positive attitude you need to find a great job, and there’s no need to settle for less than you want. But how can you bypass the mediocre stepping stone jobs that hang in front of you like accessible fruit and reach for better opportunities that hang a little higher? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Get help.

First, if you haven’t traveled this path before, get some professional guidance. The support of an experienced recruiter can connect you to the most appropriate jobs and help you filter out those that aren’t quite right, pay too little, or offer marginal paths to growth. Talk to your recruiter and be as honest and explicit as possible as you describe your goals. Then let your recruiter review your resume and steer you toward an appropriate match.

Trust your networks and the networks of those around you.

The word “network” implies connections that extend beyond your immediate social circle. When you tap into your network of contacts, you aren’t just turning to friends and colleagues for leads and tips; you’re also turning to your friends’ friends and your colleagues’ colleagues. To do this properly, you’ll need to be patient and persistent, and you’ll need to constantly assess what you have to offer to others, not just what you have to gain.

Move toward what you want.

If you want to live in Hartford, look for jobs in Hartford, not in your current city. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we often feel tempted to take higher paying over a lower paying jobs, or choose a short commute over a long one, when in fact pay and commuting distance aren’t our actual priorities. We want to live in Hartford, but we take a job here instead of there, hoping that somehow it will all work out. It will only work out if we take actions that move us toward where we need to be. The same applies to building a career in a new field.

For more on how to find the employers and opportunities you’re looking for, turn to the New Haven County career management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

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