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How to Answer When You’re Asked About Your Desired Salary

August 16th, 2019

As your interviewer sits across the table from you, she’ll have plenty of goals that will frame the meeting. She’ll want to find out if you can handle the job. She’ll want to assess how you’ll get along with your team. She’ll want to know if you have the personality to enjoy this job’s unique challenges. Some of these things are not up to you; you have no way of knowing if you’ll click with your new team, and you can’t really assess your readiness for the role if you can’t see behind the scenes. But your interviewer will also want to assess something only YOU can possibly know: How much would you like to be paid?

In other words: What is the lowest possible amount the company can give you without going so low that you reject their job offer?

How can you answer without a) underselling your skills and accepting a rate that’s less than your time is worth, or b) asking for so much that the offer isn’t made? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be the first to state a number.

No matter how direct, firm, or polite the request, don’t provide a number when your interviewer asks you how much you want. Simply smile and say, “I’d rather not share a number first.” There’s no need to play games (such as changing the subject to avoid answering); just say you aren’t ready to share a number and stick to your guns if pressed.

Never share your previous salary.

Your previous salary is a private and personal data point that should never be shared with a potential employer, ever. Even if you’re a government worker and your past salary is publicly posted, don’t share it. Let the company look it up on their own. Why keep this info private? Because once your interviewers have it, they can make you the lowest offer you’re probably able to accept. If you want an offer that’s twice or ten times your past salary, you can get that. But it will be harder if your interviewer can peer into your history.

Recognize that this is a negotiation, even if the company says it isn’t.

This is a negotiation and the number is NOT firm until you both agree to accept it. The offer may be presented as non-negotiable, but here’s a secret: every offer is negotiable. Before you dive in and try to bump the number up, remember that negotiations come with specific rules. Know the rules and respect them. (For example, don’t suggest a higher figure and then continue to raise it after the company agrees). If you’ve never negotiated before, get some coaching before you step in.

For more on how to receive an offer that matches your skills and experience, talk to the job search pros at Merritt.

Is It Cheaper to Pay Overtime or Hire More Staff?

August 2nd, 2019

Eventually, almost every business owner or decision-maker faces a familiar choice. Orders are piling up, business is steadily increasing, and you need more hands to handle the workload (unless you’re ready to turn customers and clients away, which most of us would rather not do). So which path should you choose: Hire a new person (or several), or simply pay your existing teams overtime and expect them to stay after standard working hours are over?

Of course, for some businesses, the decision makes itself. If you simply can’t expect your workers to stay late (because you know their personal schedules, public transportation, or the limits of workplace don’t allow that flexibility), you’ll need to let them go at five and hire a new pair of hands. And the same is true in reverse; if you know that it’s unreasonable to simply put the word out and attract hundreds of resumes from well-qualified candidates, you’ll have to work with the teams you have, end of statement.

But if either option seems reasonable, factor these metrics into your decision.

Crunch the numbers.

Sit with a calculator and make some assumptions. Assume you WILL, in fact, be able to find qualified candidates and bring them on board within three weeks. Assume you WILL be able to convince your teams to stay late and pick up some extra cash. Then run a comparison based on the period in which you expect to be swamped.

Take a look at that time period.

Are you dealing with a seasonal rush that will ebb as soon as the busy season ends? Or are you dealing with what appears to be steady and sustainable growth in your orders, deliveries, and invoices? If this looks like long term growth, save yourself some headaches and start your candidate search now. Find the very best available and invest serious resources in attracting them, onboarding them, training them and retaining them. This may mean ensuring that your salary offers are competitive.

On the other hand, if this is a seasonal rush, just keep a short-term view and cut costs where you can. Look for temporary helpers who can pitch in with minimal onboarding and training. Or of course, you can just cut the cost of hiring altogether and pay time and a half until the rush settles down in a month.

Anticipate problems.

New workers bring a social shake-up that can be somewhat unproductive—at first. Over the long term, the social fabric resettles and work returns to normal. But will you lose more money during that time than the contributions of the new hires are worth? Remember that new employees also come with necessary, but expensive, mistakes. The same can be said of overworked or tired employees who are pushed past their limits.

In the end, you’ll need to roll the dice but enter into the decision with as much data in hand as possible. For more on how to get the most out of your hiring resources, turn to the experts at Merritt.

Why Connections Are Increasingly Important to Your Job Search

July 19th, 2019

To find a great job, you’ll need all the classic job-search tools in your kit: a strong resume, a cover letter, an online profile that’s easy to find (on LinkedIn or your personal website), and at least three people who have enthusiastically agreed to serve as references if they’re called by your prospective employers. But you’ll also need something else, something that’s increasingly important in our digital age: personal connections.

Here are three reasons why you should develop your connections so you can leverage them when the time comes to move your career forward.

Connections indicate you’re part of a community.

If you’re connected to your potential employer’s social circle, professional circle, geographic area or past, then you’re a known quantity (even if the person doesn’t actually know you). This implies that you’re reliable, safe and have a strong personal motivation to work hard, do your best, and maintain your existing reputation as a good person. If you’ve appeared out of nowhere and have no context or community that can vouch for you, you bring a larger set of unknowns.

People like to help their friends.

To be clear, the “friend” in this scenario isn’t you; it’s the person standing between you and your employer. She’s calling in or returning a favor to someone else, and the bond between her and that person stand to be strengthened by your decision to ask for help or an introduction. The fact that you exist and need something (or can offer something) can bring two other people closer. Use this to your advantage!

If you have a connection, more info on you may be available.

A resume can only offer so much information about you. But a person making a personal introduction can offer far more. They can provide insight into your specific experiences, your competencies and your personality in ways no profile every really can.

Connections lead to more connections.

When we expand our web of connections, we help ourselves and widen our career opportunities, one strand at a time. This doesn’t just apply to you; it also applies to the boss who might hire you based on your shared personal contacts. A wise boss will apply this logic to their hiring decision and choose the candidate that can best help the person and the company advance.

For more on how to build up your network and make the best possible use of the connections you already have, turn to the career management team at Merritt!

Seven Benefits to Being Involved on LinkedIn

July 5th, 2019

Not sure LinkedIn can really support your career growth? Here are a few reasons to take a closer look. This unique social media platform differs from the rest of the crowd; on LinkedIn, people may not share pictures of their cats, and they may share way too many thoughts about “synergy” and “action plans”, but you still don’t want to be left out of these impersonal, work-focused conversations. Here’s why.  

Professional networks can be even wider than social ones.  

You don’t have to be friends to connect with someone on LinkedIn. In fact, friendship isn’t as important in this realm as shared professional interests and the ability to provide mutual support, now or someday in the future. If you’ve worked with, worked for, partnered with, hired, or simply brushed against someone in any professional way, add them to your network. No need to hesitate.  

LinkedIn in allows recruiters to find you (and vice versa).  

You can blow the dust off your phone book if you really want to go out into the world and track down recruiters in search of candidates with your skill sets. Or you can sign on with LinkedIn and let recruiters find you…in droves. A simple keyword search can bring recruiters right to your doorstep, and they’ll bring jobs that are a perfect fit for your needs.   

Adjust your settings and site will show you open positions.  

Let LinkedIn know you’re actively looking for work, and the site will send you job postings that match the terms and indicators in your shared resume. You can apply for these jobs if they seem like a good fit, or ignore them if they don’t.  

LinkedIn helps you show off.  

Too shy to boast about your skills and accomplishments in social settings? That’s good; most socially well-adjusted people are. But you still want contacts to know what you bring to the table, so send them to your LinkedIn profile and they can see for themselves.  

Your profile provides a record.  

Even if you don’t include every aspect of your profile in your formal resume (or every aspect of your resume in your profile), you can still add each job, employment date, accomplishment, published paper, leadership role, etc, to your site and consult the list when you need to impress an employer.  

LinkedIn helps you stay in touch.  

It can be difficult to reach out to an old employer you haven’t seen or spoken to in years and ask for a reference or recommendation. But with LinkedIn, the gap isn’t so wide—especially if share a public post or update now and then.  

LinkedIn connects you with specific groups.  

Individual connections are valuable, but group contacts can be valuable too. Connect with industry organizations or just casual shared-interest groups and stay in touch with changes and big players in your field.  

For more on how to get the most of this popular platform during your career climb, contact the team at Merritt.  

Does Being Bilingual Increase Your Worth to a Company?

June 21st, 2019

You’re bilingual. Which means you can speak fluently (or somewhat fluently), read, write or all three in at least two languages. You have a special skill that’s far from universal in the U.S., and you have the ability to communicate on a level others can’t, even if the need doesn’t arise every single day. So, what does this mean for your job prospects?

If you grew up speaking this language at home, you may be shrugging at the idea that your “special skill” holds monetary value for your employer. You may be thinking, “Big deal. So, I can talk to my grandma in Farsi/Hindi/Spanish/Italian. But what does that mean to my employer? I’ve never been asked to use this skill on the job as a regional account manager in New Jersey, and I’m not sure this gives me leverage during my career climb.” If this is you, think again. Here are a few reasons to hold that card like an ace up your sleeve and be ready to use it as you interview and negotiate for raises and promotions.

Language skills are valuable because they’re difficult to acquire.

As you may know, it’s easier to gain language fluency in childhood than it is later in life. Which means that, like art or any other limited commodity, the market isn’t flooded, and new sources aren’t easy to access. Teaching language skills to existing employees isn’t as simple as teaching them to use Excel. No matter how infrequently used your skill may be, it’s harder to find than you think, which makes you that much harder to replace.

Bilingual brains are different.

Studies show that learning a second language expands our brains in complex and still not fully understood ways. Our understanding of the world and our ability to grasp and retain complex new information are broader when we have two words (with subtle implications and tones) for every noun and verb that we use to make sense of things. Put another way: bilingual people are smarter. They possess a certain mental flexibility the rest of us just don’t. Even if you don’t speak or use your language on a daily basis at work, you use your big flexible brain, and wise employers recognize this as an asset.

Resumes, interviews, and negotiations all benefit from this detail.

Always mention your second language in your resume. And always bring it up (even if you aren’t asked) during job interviews. Are you bragging when you do this? Maybe a little. But it’s a skill that most employers won’t ask about without prompting, and it should never go unnoticed or undiscussed. The same applies to salary negotiations.

Need help making the most of your language skills during your job search? Contact the career experts at Merritt.

 

4 Ways to Make Sure People Are Using Their Vacation Time This Summer

June 7th, 2019

Paid vacation time isn’t a frivolous perk. It isn’t a luxury or a gesture of generosity from a benevolent company manager. It isn’t a gift. It isn’t something that benefits the employee at the expense of the company’s bottom line. And it isn’t optional … for either party.

Vacation time may have become part of the workplace landscape after hard-won union victories in the 19th and 20th centuries, but since that time, research and empirical evidence have revealed an additional truth: Vacation time isn’t just necessary for the health and safety of employees, it’s also essential to the health and growth of a business. When employees live balanced and sustainable lives, companies live balanced and sustainable lives as well. When people are granted the minimum necessary for their well-being, including manageable schedules, clean conditions, safe tools, fair wages, and yes, vacation time, they’re better able to make smart decisions and productive contributions on the job.

So, employees need to take their vacation time.

But some employees need to be pushed out the door, mainly because they believe they’ll be scolded or judged for leaving. Here’s how to improve compliance and overcome those obstacles.

Monitor schedules and provide notice.

Your employee won’t take her vacation time and she seems to think nobody will notice, so what does it matter? She appears to believe that her schedule isn’t being monitored and HR won’t recognize if she lets a year slip by without taking her break. Let her know that she isn’t correct. Have HR send notices and warnings to employees who haven’t taken any vacation time in the last six-month period, and make sure the notice is phrased as a warning and censure, not a form of back-handed praise.

Use monetary incentives.

Just as you might use monetary incentives and gift rewards for employees with exemplary attendance records, do the same for those who use their vacation days regularly and fully. Everyone who finishes the year with an empty tank of vacation days should receive a bonus or gift card.

Disparage attempts at heroism.

Develop a culture that actively discourages employees from coming to the workplace with contagious illnesses and do this by withholding approval from those who soldier in with fever and chills. Meet these flu-ridden heroes with an eye-roll and a dismissal home, not a pat on the back. Do the same for those who boast about skipping vacations or who mock and belittle peers who use their time. Culture shaping starts with management; pay attention to your subtle messages of approval and disapproval.

Set an example.

The best way to encourage vacations and make employees feel safe from judgment is to start with yourself. Use every one of your days each year—no excuses—they’ll be more likely to do the same.

For more on how to shape behavior and culture in your workplace, turn to the team at Merritt.

How to Stop Feeling Like the New Kid at Work

May 17th, 2019

When you’re new at work, you experience a kind of double-sided coin. Everyone gives you a break, since you’re new and you haven’t yet had time to learn the ropes. But at the same time, all the breaks and indulgences you receive may leave you feeling a little patronized or excluded. Sure, you don’t know anyone here and you’re still finding your feet … but being treated like the “new kid” for too long can be unpleasant, and it can interfere with the development of your relationship with your new lifestyle.

So, move through that early chapter as quickly as possible. The sooner you’re up and running, the sooner you can have honest conversations with others, reveal your true self, gain trust and become part of the social fabric. Here’s how.

Make yourself selectively vulnerable.

When you don’t know something, just ask. When you need help navigating a new software system, get help. When you can’t find the exit door or the restroom, ask for directions. Don’t hide or pretend. Come clean, be bold, admit your ignorance and get it resolved. Be vulnerable, get your answers, and get it done. At the same time, be careful; some forms of vulnerability are not for public access just yet. Emotional stress, anxiety and personal or family information should stay under lock and key for a little while longer.

Be uncharacteristically friendly.

How friendly are you on a scale of one to ten? Take your answer and add two points. That’s how open, friendly and forward you should try to be at your new job. Of course, your extroversion and high energy will revert to the status quo in time, but meanwhile, you’ll learn some new names and faces and make some connections, a task that gets harder the longer you wait.

Take notes.

Make things easy on yourself by writing down new information instead of trying to remember it and hold it all in your head. You can even write down names, titles and key information about your new colleagues. The faster you learn who they are, what they do and how they relate to you, the better.

Accept invitations that come your way.

If you’re invited to lunch, go. If you’re drawn into a pleasant conversation, allow it to happen. You’ll thank yourself later when you’ve had a chance to become (insert your name) instead of “that new person over there.”  At the same time, don’t worry if you have to say no. Another opportunity to connect will come along soon.

For more on how to integrate yourself into the social and professional machinery of your new workplace, talk to the career management experts at Merritt.

Personality and Personal Expression at Work

May 10th, 2019

A few generations ago, rigid personal conformity in the workplace was seen as a good thing … at least for employers. If employees were dressed the same and had the same haircut, the effect (so the theory went) would be positive. Rules would be followed; hierarchies would be respected without question; and the company would benefit in more or less the same way that uniforms benefit military organizations; a sense of teamwork and mutual trust would arise as individual identities fell away.

While the value of uniforms in foxholes is still up for debate, their value in the office is steadily being resolved. It’s low. Forcing employees to dress and act the same may contribute a small military-linked benefit, but this small benefit doesn’t make up for what it takes away. Employees who are required to discard their personal identities at the door and adopt a mandated company identity during the workday do not, in fact, feel greater loyalty to their employers. The opposite appears to be true. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

People like being accepted as they are.

We all prefer to spend our time among people who accept us. And we especially enjoy spending time with people who genuinely like us. This is true in the workplace just as it would be in a classroom or at a family reunion. If we feel liked and respected, we want to be there. If we don’t, we count the hours until we can leave. Being forced to adopt a false identity during the duration of our stay doesn’t change that.

People don’t enjoy fake identities, no matter who they belong to.

Just as most of us prefer to show our true faces and be respected as-is, we also appreciate the same from others. Most of us don’t enjoy extended interactions with someone who is desperately trying to hide their true personality. It’s exhausting. When we show our real selves to others, we relax and life becomes easier, for us and also for them. Trust goes up, teamwork goes up, communication becomes clearer. And when we understand each other, we get more done.

Hair and adornments are serious and should be taken seriously.

It’s dangerous to assume that hairstyles, tattoos and piercings are only skin deep and can be easily removed and put back on again at the will of an employer. To assume this is to potentially misunderstand or disrespect what may be an integral part of a person’s ethnic, cultural or personal identity. Before you assume an external aspect can be tossed aside, pause. Is the aspect hurting you or anyone else? Is it a danger to the company or its stakeholders? If not, recognize its inherent value and show the person respect, acceptance and appreciation by leaving it alone.

If an external trait is truly causing problems for the company, compromises are available. Contact the staffing team at Merritt to learn more!

Do Employers Really Read My Cover Letter?

April 19th, 2019

Job applicants typically work hard to stay efficient with their time and energy. If you’re searching for work, you’re likely to choose actions and options that shorten the path to your goals and help you cover more ground using less fuel. And as you do so, you’re likely to find yourself asking a common question as you toil over every word of your cover letter: “Will anyone actually read this?”

To find an answer, we’ve turned to countless employers, including our clients, partners and professional contacts across multiple industries. Unsurprisingly, their answers differ. But most reposes fall into three distinct categories. The next time you ask yourself if your cover letter is worth the effort, consider your audience and try to determine which category they fall into.

Yes, we read (almost) every single letter.

Employers are likely to read letters carefully if they manage smaller firms, new startups, family-owned businesses, and tightly controlled companies (where the CEO or department head may be the one reading the resumes and making hiring decisions). With employers like these, don’t take a chance with your cover letter. That means no errors, poor wording or missed opportunities. Your strong cover letter may help you edge out a small pool of very tough competition, and it’s not uncommon to land an interview based on one passing remark or a throwaway statement you added to your letter at the last minute before sending. At some point down the road, these employers may let you know what aspect of your letter won them over.

We ask for them, but we don’t read them all.

Some employers request cover letters because they’re useful tiebreakers when the candidate pool has been narrowed to a small handful of excellent prospects. By the time the winner’s circle has been drawn, the front-runner with a brilliant, detailed letter will certainly win the interview over the one with a poorly written letter or a solitary resume. But most candidates won’t make it that far. If scanners don’t pick up the right resume keywords, your resume and letter may stagnate unread in a database somewhere.

Letters are our first (sometimes only) deciding factor.

Some employers don’t ask for cover letters … but some take cover letters only. These reviewers aren’t even interested in a resume; they just want you to tell them, point blank and in your own words, why you should have the job. If the job post makes it clear that your letter is important, don’t skip a single detail or cut a single corner. Your letter is your stage. Grab the spotlight and make the most of it.

For more on job search decisions that can help you find the fastest path to success, turn to the career experts at Merritt.

Five Ways Internship Programs Help You Recruit Top Talent

April 5th, 2019

An internship program can be a magical thing: one of those rare workplace arrangements that benefit both parties in immeasurable ways while costing almost nothing on either side. When an internship is conducted in an appropriate and professional way, both participants gain, and neither side loses.

Specifically, a young graduate is offered her first paid position in her professional field—even if she doesn’t have a lick of experience on her resume—and the company gains access to inexpensive, enthusiastic labor, and possibly a valuable full-time employee later on.

Here are five ways your intern can evolve into a long-term contributor.

Internship programs build loyalty (for life).

If your intern is paid well and respected, and if she receives the training and industry exposure she came for, she’ll develop a positive impression of the company. After all, she has no other workplace to compare this one to, so if you show her your best side, you’ll set the standard. Even if she leaves after one summer, she’ll remember this place and she’ll walk away with lasting warm feelings about your brand. Even long-term employees leave eventually, but fans and customers can stay forever.

Internships help mold young minds (and work habits).

If you scoop up a 21-year-old employee before he graduates from college, you’ve landed more than just an enthusiastic, fresh-faced worker bee. You’ve landed a pristine open mind, a person who has never experienced the professional world before. This is his first professional boss, his first breakroom, his first staff meeting, his first desk. This is also his first exposure to what your business does, what a work day should feel like, how clients and agents interact, and what efficient team contributions look like. He doesn’t have to unlearn anything in order to accept your terms. This can benefit both of you in big ways.

Internships build your social fabric.

The best retention strategy is a culture that feels like a family, and the way to create that family feeling is by maintaining long term employees, as many as you can. Deepen your organizational memory and traditions by reducing your turnover.

Internships set expectations on both sides.

New employees often start their first week on the job frequently repeating (or at least thinking) phrases like “That’s not how we did it at XYZ Co.,” or “At my old job, we always…” Interns rarely do this. Your expectations of them quickly become their expectations of themselves, and vice versa.

Interns train in-house.

Too often, new full-time employees come on board and go through an expensive training process, then when they’ve received a year of training on your dime, they leave. Interns receive the same training period, but since both promises and pay are modest on both sides, your investment returns are almost always positive.

When you’re ready to launch your internship program, contact the experts at Merritt for guidance.

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