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Are You Taking Too Long to Hire?

December 8th, 2017

As you launch your hiring process, you probably start with a few clear goals in mind; you want the right candidate, at the right salary, and you want the person to start at a time that’s convenient for your own schedule and the company’s needs. If you adjust your focus and think into the long term, you also hope for a few other things: you want a candidate who will stay with the company for at least a year or two, and you want someone who will leave the place in a better state then they found it. But as you strive for these goals, keep one thing in mind: your candidate has goals as well. And if she attains hers, you’ll be more likely to attain yours.

In addition to a suitable salary and employment terms, most candidates are making their plans around a timeline. If they left their last employer, they may be concerned about securing a new form of income. If they’d really like to leave their current employer ASAP, a few days can make a big difference, not to mention a few weeks or months. So to respect your candidate’s goals and timelines, make sure your hiring process stays efficient and on pace. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Move it or lose it.

If your timeline doesn’t keep pace with your candidate’s timeline, they may be scooped up by a competitor or simply lose patience before your formal offer materializes. If you find yourself constantly bringing your second, third, and fourth choice contenders on board, this may be why.

Just ask.

During the selection and interview process, ask your candidate about her timeline and availability. You may not get a complete answer (some of the story may be personal) but you’ll gather some data points that can give you an accurate sense of urgency.

Clear the red tape.

Don’t let an offer or a contract gather dust in the HR office while key personnel are on vacation. Transfer the task to someone else and move the process forward.

Recognize big obstacles ahead of time.

The biggest and most immovable roadblocks in your path should not come as a surprise. If you know the lab moves slowly to process hepatitis test results, consider contracting with another facility. If your background checks seem to account for the lion’s share of your delays, find out why.

Partner with a recruiter.

If paperwork, tax accounting, insurance forms, approvals, clearances, background checks and other administrative hassles are holding back key stages of your hiring process, hand them off to qualified recruiters like the local staffing professionals at Merritt. This is what we do, so let us take this burden off your shoulders so you can get back to running your business.

Stop Relying on Your Manager for Performance Reviews

November 17th, 2017

Are you waiting all year long for your annual performance review in order to get feedback on how you’re doing at work? Have you ever given a huge presentation or a high stakes project in June, only to hear in December that you aced it or didn’t quite hit the mark? If you have no idea how successful you are at your job, and you’re waiting for your boss to tell you how well your projects are being received, how widely you’re respected, or how likely you are to climb the ladder, that’s not great. Instead of relying on your manager’s opinion (especially if that means waiting all year for a formal review), change course and find alternative ways to evaluate your performance. Consider these moves.

Read the room.

You’ve worked for weeks on your sales pitch and you’ve lost sleep and stayed late at the office to make sure every detail is perfect. But during the actual presentation, you’ll need to stop thinking about your sweaty palms long enough to look around. Take the focus out of yourself and place it on your audience, and do this in the moment whenever possible. You will never receive a more honest and useful response then the expressions in the room while your performance is underway. But reading real-time responses will require a degree of self-possession and calm that may take some effort to summon.

Ask your direct reports how you’re doing.

Asking your boss for daily reviews of your performance can come off as needy and insecure, and asking your coworkers for constant feedback can come off as a confidence problem. But asking your direct reports won’t entail that type of baggage. You’re there to support the people who work for you, and asking them how you’re doing (and how you can do better) is usually received as a welcome sign of strong and engaged leadership.

Check the numbers.

Numbers don’t usually lie, and if your projects are consistently coming in on time and under budget, that’s a strong sign that you’re doing fine, at least on paper. But if your missed deadlines and overbudget projects are starting to creep above the average for your position, something’s wrong. Even if you had a good reason each time you missed the mark, you still missed it, and there’s probably something you can do to get your numbers up.

Even if you’re doing well, there are ways you can do better.

Remove your sense of harsh self-judgement and take a step back. Even if you’re doing a perfectly adequate—or exceptional—job, there must be at least one area in which you can focus your efforts on growth and improvement. So which area is it? If you have to pick one, which one would it be?

For more on how to conduct your own honest performance reviews instead of relying on feedback from others (especially your boss), turn to the career management team at Merritt Staffing.

Recruit Top Accounting Professionals in Today’s Market

November 10th, 2017

About a decade ago, the accounting job market looked very different than it does today. Unemployment soared, hiring managers held all the cards, and employers could essentially sit back and let top accounting pros seek them out. Even then, negotiations leaned in the employer’s favor and the best talent available could be easily sourced and brought on board. But these days, things have changed. Nine years of recovery have turned the tables, and now hiring managers are scrambling to find talented accountants. And many of these managers entered the game and learned the rules amid circumstances which no longer apply.

So what now? If you feel like you’re starting from square one and all the moves that used to attract candidates aren’t working anymore, put your trust in an established recruiting firm. Here’s what a professional recruiter can do for you.

Recruiters have wide networks.

We know where to find the best of the best, and in some cases, the best are just a few phone calls away. We’ve been in the business for a long time and our roots throughout the industry are wide and deep. No matter how specific your needs may be, or how quickly you need to find the perfect candidate at the right price, we have the sourcing tools and network connections that can get the job done.

We know that the right employee will be more than just an accountant.

You need the junior or senior level accounting skills that can help the right employee thrive in your available position. But chances are, you also need a few other qualities as well. You need a team member who fits your culture, you need a reliable person with strong client-facing skills, and you probably need someone who has experience in your area of need and proficiency with your specific software tools. Whatever you need, we have the research, training and experience to ask the right questions and make sense of the answers. We can help you spot red flags and move toward your next hire with ease.

We can help you handle the nuts and bolts.

Recruiting isn’t just about pairing the right accounting with the right team; it’s also about taken burdens off of your shoulders so you can focus on running your business. We’ll handle the tedious paperwork, from background checks to tax reporting issues and reference contacts.

For more on how to rely on a recruiting firm to help you find and attract the accounting candidates you need, turn to the Connecticut staffing experts at Merritt.

Is Your Elevator Pitch Costing You the Opportunity?

October 27th, 2017

Here’s a thought exercise that every job seeker should engage in on a regular basis throughout the search process: If you found yourself riding the elevator (or sharing a cab or subway ride) with a crucial networking contact or potential employer, would you know how to make use of that precious time? If you only had about 30 seconds to spend with someone in a position to move your career forward, would you know exactly what to say?

Those in the career management world refer to this 30-second burst of prepared words as an “elevator pitch”, and if your elevator pitch isn’t polished to perfection and ready at a moment’s notice, you may be missing out on opportunities to get ahead. Here are a few common pitch problems that might be affecting your chances.

Your pitch doesn’t exist.

If you can’t yet sum up your candidacy and your qualifications in less than a minute, start drafting your pitch today. Practice delivering it aloud at a speech pace that’s normal and comfortable for you. You’ll be glad you did. Even if you never find yourself riding a literal elevator, you can use your pitch to keep your interview conversations focused and on-message.

Your pitch is boring.

Keep your message exciting and relatable, and start by giving it a purpose and meaning that extend beyond your own career and your own hopes for yourself. Demonstrate how your credentials and your professional goals will benefit others outside of yourself, specifically the person you may be speaking to. Most listeners are more interested in themselves and their own company prospects than you and your personal past.

Tell a story.

Instead of structuring your pitch around a laundry list of reasons why your listener should hire you, shape your speech into a narrative. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end, and find a way to turn your listener (or their company) into the protagonist. If you’re the protagonist, make sure you come off as someone worth rooting for.

Use numbers.

Quantify your claims, accomplishments, and goals as well as you can. Adding numbers to the details of your story will make your pitch easier to put into perspective and easier to remember later on.

Leave room to land your plane.

Your pitch should not build and build and then abruptly cut off when the elevator doors open. Keep an eye on the time available and begin the process of wrapping up several seconds before the metaphorical buzzer.

For more on how to create a winning pitch that can win over a valuable contact in 60 seconds or less, turn to the New Haven County job search experts at Merritt.

Hire for Emotional Intelligence

October 13th, 2017

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) has taken on a growing weight during hiring decisions over the last few decades, and the growth of its measured value shows no signs of slowing down. Years ago, EQ was often considered a fringe benefit or tie breaker after other factors (like work ethic and industry-related knowledge) had already been worked into the equation. But at this point, wise hiring managers recognize that this is a make-or break metric that can determine the success of failure of a potential new hire.

So how can you recognize the signs of emotional intelligence in an interview setting? Here are few things to look for.

First, just ask.

If you ask your candidate to rate his or her emotional intelligence and give the reasoning behind the answer, you may be met with a blank stare. You may also be met with a candidate who has heard this term but personally dismisses the weight of this metric or seems uninterested in its value to you as a manager. These are red flags. Look instead for the candidate who understands what the term means, seeks to cultivate this quality, and knows how to recognize and value it in himself and others.

Request answers in narrative form.

To accurately assess emotional intelligence—a subjective quality—ask your candidate to “tell you story”. For example: “Tell me a story about a time you faced a serious challenge and had to rely on your team”, or “Tell me about a time when you had to compromise in order to succeed.” The narrative format allows the question to remain open ended and the candidate to answer in his or her own words. Listen carefully and read between the lines to look for signs of communication skill, listening skill, empathy, and life experience.

Can your candidate read your cues while staying true to her own personality?

You don’t want candidates who will change their answers, feelings, stories, personalities and interests in order to present you with what they think you want to see. But you DO want candidates who understand subtlety and recognize the intention behind your questions and statements. Look for a balance; your ideal candidate will understand your words, take them at face value, and present her own answers with honesty and confidence.

Assess teamwork and leadership skill.

Even if the position in question won’t involve any official leadership and won’t entail a heavy component of teamwork, these two qualities can reveal volumes about a candidate’s emotional intelligence. Determine how she typically approaches leadership and teamwork challenges and assess her growth and current strength in both areas.

For more on how to assess personality and readiness during candidate interviews, turn to the Hartford and Stamford recruiting experts at Merritt.

Is it Time to Rebrand Yourself?

September 22nd, 2017

Sometimes even the most popular and profitable brands need a reboot in order to stay fresh and hold their position as market frontrunners. If something isn’t broken, there’s usually no need to fix it, but even reliable classics need an update every few years so their storyline can stay consistant with the changing needs and priorities of their audience.

The same rule applies to job seeking employees. When you’re fresh out of college, bursting with ambition but short on practical experience, it’s okay to sell yourself based on your potential. As you get a little older and more immersed in your industry, it’s wise to reboot your profile so “potential” takes second place after the hard-earned lessons of experience. And as you enter the third phase of your career, it’s time to consider yet another update. If this describes your situation, keep a few job search and re-branding tips in mind.

Focus on Your Biggest Successes

Eagerness, a can-do attitude and a megawatt smile are worth more than gold for entry-level job seekers. And these qualities bring the rewards and honors that signal success. But gold stars for performance at the entry-level don’t shine as brightly for experienced workers, so at a certain point, it’s time to tuck these things away and replace them with more meaningful counterparts. The megawatt smile should give way to the thoughtful frown of someone who knows how to make hard leadership decisions, and cheerful eagerness should be replaced by the ability to say no, to speak honestly, to take a stand, to negotiate, and to embrace the mistakes of the past instead of hiding them.

Raise the Bar

At the entry-level, simply showing up on time can be praiseworthy. And after a few years of experience, easy wins and participation in successful team projects deserve top billing on a resume. But as you enter the second half of your career, make sure the top items featured on your profile reflect the rising expectations that come with age and experience. Don’t try to show off every detail of your career; instead, delete the easy victories and focus on the serious accomplishments that your younger competitors can’t claim.

Don’t Edit Out Your Past Careers

While it’s fine to edit out your early accomplishments and replace them more recent and impressive claims, don’t delete your previous careers. By the time we reach the latter part of our career, most of us have moved through several jobs and sometimes even completely different industries, so if you’re looking for an accounting job and you used to be in retail, share this fact, don’t hide it.

Your experience can work in your favor and can become a powerful selling point for potential employers, but only if you embrace it and show off your new brand strategically. For more information, turn to the career management experts at Merritt Staffing.

Does Your Team Know How to Prioritize?

September 8th, 2017

When you hire new candidates, you work hard to select those who have the knowledge base and experience to handle the technical challenges of the job. You only bring a candidate on board if he or she knows how to code, for example, or organize a budget, or conduct sales calls within a certain territory. But as it happens, there’s a gap between knowing something and knowing how to complete on-the-job tasks efficiently and effectively. At a certain point, what your candidates have learned in school or training sessions will need to carry over into deliverables and measurable accomplishments on the job. So how can you take a brilliant team and turn their brilliance into results? Keep these considerations in mind.

Train your teams to organize and prioritize.

Too often, young employees enter the workplace after spending most of their lives in the classroom, and in the classroom, tasks are all designed to be completed—otherwise they wouldn’t be assigned. In the workplace, tasks often pile up, they appear out of thin air, and they take the form of instructions and requests from many people who may or may not hold meaningful authority. In other words: in the workplace, most employees can’t say yes to every single task and chore that presents itself, so they need to learn to say no. They also need to learn to say, “Yes, but not today” and “Maybe, if I get to it.” This doesn’t always come naturally. But prioritizing is a skill like any other. Help your teams by exercising your coaching skills and your patience.

Teach strategy.

New and inexperienced employees often spend the first hours of the day utterly overwhelmed by all they have to do—so they do nothing. They sip their coffee in a state of paralysis until the first of their tasks rises to the top of the list of its own accord. Instead of reliving this ritual every day, train your employees to attack the list and aggressively cross off what isn’t vital, downgrade the items that can wait, and start working on the items that matter most. To do this, they’ll need to think into the future and examine the big picture. Who else depends on them in order to get things done? Who’s waiting impatiently for answers, and why? Which larger projects matter most, and how will outcomes be affected by these decisions?

Teach teamwork.

“Teamwork” doesn’t mean dealing with an overwhelming list by pushing tasks off on coworkers. But it does mean asking for help when high priority items are getting out of hand, for the good of the organization. Help your employees to understand the difference, share the load, and communicate effectively when it’s time to offer or receive assistance.

For more on how to encourage a culture of efficiency, teamwork, and productivity, talk to the Fairfeld County staffing and management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

Don’t Treat a Phone Interview Casually

August 25th, 2017

If you’re like most job seekers, you prepare well in advance for your face-to-face interviews, dressing to impress, researching the company, and taking extra precautions to put your best foot forward. But you probably don’t take the same approach or invest the same time and thought in a simple phone screening. But you probably should. Give yourself an advantage during the search and take a few extra steps that your competitors are likely to ignore. Here’s how.

Be yourself…but be your BEST self.

Affecting a fake persona during an interview isn’t a good idea, and over the phone this plan is even more likely to backfire. So don’t try to be someone you aren’t. But do bring your friendliest, most engaged, and most organized and purposeful side to the call. Sit up straight, or stand. Speak a bit more slowly and clearly than you’re used to. Smile as you speak— your listener can hear your smile.

Prepare beforehand.

Make sure you’re ready to take the call in a quiet place with no distractions or unpredictable noises in the background. And of course, don’t create these noises yourself. If you think your listener can’t hear you flushing a toilet or eating a snack, think again. The room around you presents a soundscape that your listeners can easily interpret, so don’t reveal what’s around you. When you take the call, do it far away from coffee shops, bathrooms, and dog kennels.

Do some research.

A phone screening doesn’t require the same depth of research that might help during a face-to-face meeting, but do some research all the same. Impress your employers by showing that you’re invested in the job and you’re interested in moving the process forward. A few minutes spent reviewing the company’s website should suffice; don’t miss this easy opportunity to shine.

Ask questions now.

During your initial phone call, you’ll have a chance to ask questions that may feel awkward later in the hiring process. For example, if you suspect that this job will pay far less than you can accept, get this cleared up now. Don’t waste the employer’s time and your own by moving forward toward an offer that you’ll inevitably reject. The same applies to other clear dealbreakers, like a geographic location far outside of your search range.

Prepare your tools.

Check to make sure your phone connection is clear and you have access to whatever conference platforms your employer plans to use during the call. If you plan to take notes, make sure you have your note-taking program or pad and pen handy. While you’re at it, prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask and key points you’d like to make about your background and credentials. Be ready to share these details without being directly asked. If you wait for the perfect prompt, you may miss your moment.

For more on how to make the most of your phone interview and move forward to the offer you’re looking for, turn to the Fairfeld County job search experts at Merritt.

Should You Hire Risk Takers?

August 11th, 2017

Imagine you face two candidates during your final round of interviews. Both have credentials that meet the requirements of the job, but the two have distinctly different personalities. You can see this based on their self-descriptions as well as their personal track records.

Candidate X is rule-follower. If you ask them to do something, they’ll do it, no questions asked. They won’t attempt anything risky; from speaking up in a meeting with an untested idea, to floating an off-the-script maneuver with a client during a pitch meeting. If it hasn’t been done before, they’re not interested. If there’s any chance it could bring harm to the company or their own career— even if the harm is minimal and the move might also bring great benefits— the answer is clear: no thanks.

Candidate Y is a risk-taker. They’re open to new ideas, unafraid of new suggestions, and willing to try anything that might boost the company bottom line or further their own prospects. Even if there’s a chance the move could backfire, they’re in. They seem to travel with a parachute at the ready; if something goes wrong, they’re prepared to pull the cord and switch to plan B… even if there is no plan B.

So which candidate would you rather hire? Here are a few things to keep in mind before you make this challenging decision.

Do the mental math.

Take a close look at the specific position and determine how often this employee will take responsibility for high stakes decisions. Often? Or once in a blue moon? If the “risks” this role entails come with minimal consequences or very low odds of disaster, why hire a candidate who can’t bend or try new things? In this case, hire the risk taker.

Consider the lightning.

When a thunderstorm happens, the odds of being hit by lightning are famously low. But when that one unlikely bolt hits the mark, the results can be utterly terrible. In a reverse scenario, the odds of catching a cold are famously high—we’ve all caught colds before and we surely will again. but when it happens, we sniffle for a few days and move on. These disparate odds and differently weighted consequences factor into our willingness to avoid these two fates. If your risk-taking employee makes one mistake, could lives be lost? If so, hire the risk-averse candidate.

Consider your culture.

If neither of the thought exercises above prove helpful, consider the personality match between your candidate and the coworkers they’ll be called upon to trust— and vice versa. In an office full of risk takers, a Steady Betty might not be comfortable and might not fit in socially. In an office of dormice, a risk-taker might feel stifled or underutilized. Keep in mind that diversity benefits everyone (including the company), so for the smartest move, maintain a well-balanced mix of risk approaches.

For more on how to make a hiring decision based on personality, turn to the staffing and management teams at Merritt.

Proving Your Time Management Skills

July 28th, 2017

Most hiring managers in most industries seek a few core qualities from prospective candidates. In addition to job-specific skills, almost every hiring manager—from those in manufacturing to education to food service—wants employees who commit themselves fully to the job. They also want employees who don’t require extensive oversight and those who can handle tasks and solve problems independently. And almost all managers want a team who can manage their time to the best advantage of the company.

If you know how to break your day down into hours and minutes and use each hour to complete useful tasks that move the company—and your own career—forward, then you’re a master of time management. And you’ll need to highlight this ability in your resume and cover letter. Here are few moves that can help you accomplish this.

Be direct.

When in doubt, it’s okay to simply say “I’m a master of time management”. You can use this exact statement in your cover letter or your job interview, but keep in mind: You’ll have to provide evidence to back it up. What specific events or accomplishments from your past can you share to drive this message home? Gather two or three concrete memories or quantifiable victories and list them as bullet points in your resume. As for your interview, get ready to tell your story, even if you aren’t specifically asked.

Explain your strategy.

People aren’t usually born as exceptional time managers. Babies aren’t very good at this skill, no matter how their personalities develop later on. So if you’re an efficiency wizard, explain how you got where you are. Explain the methods and strategies that you’ve discovered and how they help you stay on track. Share what you’ve learned, and share how you learned it.

Be open to growth.

Recognize that no matter how organized and driven you may be, there are always moves you can use to get more out of the day, multitask, delegate, coach and strategize your way to improvements in this area. Stay receptive to new information.

Explain how you’ve gone the extra mile.

Don’t just boast about what you’ve gained from your time management expertise; be sure to mention what you’ve invested. If you stayed late to develop a new plan, or broke the rules to chart a new course that ultimately worked out well, bring these facts and stories to your reviewer’s attention. Describe the risks you’ve taken, the losses you’ve sustained, and the mistakes you’ve made—But focus on the happy endings and lessons that resulted.
For more on how to grab the spotlight and show off your time management skills, turn to the Westchester County job search experts at Merritt.

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