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Managing Your Professional Reputation

May 27th, 2016

In our digital age, your reputation is a 24-hour engine, and it’s always working even when you’re not. A generation ago, managing your reputation simply meant monitoring your words and behavior around others and working hard to accumulate a record of accomplishments and skills that could help you climb the ladder. When someone asked, you could show them your resume and work forward from there. But at this point, curious employers and network contacts don’t have to ask. They can simply type your name into a search engine and form an opinion based on what they find.

Is this a positive development? It depends on who you ask, and when. Can it support your success during the job search process? Yes. But it can also hold you back. Here are a few moves that can help you control and make the most of your online reputation.

Look yourself up.

Start your reputation management program by taking the steps a stranger might take to learn more about you. Type your name into Google and check your Facebook settings to determine which of your photos and posts are publicly visible. Knowledge is power, so make this move first.

Address the negative.

If strangers and potential employers can easily find information that embarrasses or misrepresents you, find a way to close this down or rein it in. Tighten your privacy settings, remove some of your awkward past tweets, and reach out to others who have posted or shared negative information attached to your name. Ask them to take it down.

Start building up the positive.

After you’ve addressed what you can and made peace with what you can’t, move on. Start flooding the airwaves with positive press and build up search results that frame you in a glowing, trustworthy light. Start a professional blog, establish yourself as an industry expert, and share news of your recent awards and publications. Use every channel available to you, including twitter and Facebook.

Make an appearance on Linkedin.

If you don’t yet have a profile available on Linkedin, establish one now. Include a flattering professional picture of yourself and the basic framework of your education and work history. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want the world to see, but if you include your name, photo, target job title, and geographic area, employees and recruiters will be more likely to contact you.

Post your resume.

No matter how you decide to do this, make your resume available to anyone who might be looking for it. You can use your personal blog, your website, or your Linkedin profile, but allow visitors and potential employers to glean the information they need without having to ask.
For more on how to create, build, and maintain and online presence that helps you shine, reach out to the Danbury staffing and job search team at Merritt Staffing.

The Benefits of Hiring Temporary Employees

May 6th, 2016

If you’re like most hiring managers, your company occasionally faces spikes in client demand. These spikes may happen on a regular seasonal schedule, or they may occur without warning based on market forces beyond your control. You may also sometimes find yourself in a lurch for the opposite reason; instead of too many projects, you simply don’t have enough hands to manage the standard workload, due to sudden departures, simultaneous leaves, or overlapping vacations.

So what to do? How can you handle the gap between the work that needs to be done and the employees available to do it? And how can you pull this off without breaking your budget or hurting your company’s reputation? Consider the benefits of a temporary or contingency hiring to get you through the rough patch.

Temporary employees reduce risk.

Sometimes temporary workers are only interested in temporary jobs. They want to step on board, work for a few weeks, and then move on. But plenty of others would actually like to find full time, permanent positions eventually. And plenty of employers are also interested in long term arrangements if—and only if—the two parties are mutually compatible. In a temporary work agreement, both participants can take the relationship for a test drive, and if all goes well, the agreement can become long term after the contract period ends.

Temporary employment reduces hassle.

Signing on a permanent full-time employee means paperwork, and paperwork means headaches. But if you employ a temp, the agency hires and pays them, not you. We also handle tax reporting, insurance issues, and all necessary screening and testing to make sure your candidate fits the bill before you even meet for the first interview.

Temporary employees can be highly skilled.

If you’re just looking for an honest, hardworking person who can help you complete a low skill task (like moving boxes or stacking papers), that’s fine. But modern temporary employees come with every imaginable skill set and every imaginable level of experience. From high school diplomas to Phds, and from coding to healthcare to engineering to culinary skills, a great agency can help you find the exact candidates and skills sets you need.

Temporary employment saves time.

Hiring is expensive, and a great deal of this expense is often a function of time. It takes time (and therefore money) to source positions, post ads, review resumes, screen candidates, screen them again, interview, then make a final decision. So leave the heavy lifting to us. We’re great listeners, and once we understand what you’re looking for, we can access our vast network of resources and connections to bring the right candidate directly to your door.

For more on how to handle a temporary workload or form relationships with new employees at minimal cost and risk, reach out to the Fairfeld County recruiting professionals at Merritt Staffing.

What are your Future Plans?

April 15th, 2016

Regardless of your specific industry or the nature of your target position, there’s a strong chance that your interviewer will eventually ask you about your future plans and ambitions, and when the conversation shifts toward this topic, you’ll want to be ready. Can you share your future plans in a way that’s honest, relevant and interesting? Can you frame your goals in way that aligns with the needs and goals of your future employer? Here are a few tips that can help you ace this aspect of your interview.

Plan ahead.

Since you know this question is coming your way, work out the details of your answer beforehand, so you aren’t caught off guard. A little research can help you frame a response that works for both you and for your potential employer. If this company plans to develop a foothold in a niche market that you understand in depth, or launch a product that lies within your area of interest and expertise, highlight this connection. Otherwise, simply map out a response that’s articulate, clear, and concise.

Don’t sputter out.

Far too often, interviewers encounter candidates (especially younger candidates) who do not seem to know or care what will become of them in the future. When they’re asked to describe their future ambitions, they freeze and fall silent, or they simply gaze two steps down the path ahead and mumble something like “Well….I want a job that can help me pay off my debts.” Don’t do this. Of course you want “a job”; that’s why you’re here. But aim higher and dig deeper. What would you really like to get out of this experience, and where do you see yourself five years from now?

Focus on skill overlaps.

If you hold a degree in accounting, and this is an accounting position, that’s great. But since every other candidate will also hold a similar degree and similar accounting plans, bring another one of your skill sets and interests into the mix. For example, you may also be bilingual. Or you may also be interested in art and design. Or you may also have a science background. Explain how your dual interests and areas of expertise can specifically benefit your employer; this can help set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

Focus on your body language.

In addition to your words, your non-verbal gestures should also send the message that no matter where you’re going, you’re determined, energetic, and ambitious. Maintain eye contact and lean forward as your speak. Keep an eye on your interviewer to make sure they’re following along and understanding you.
For more on how to explain your future plans and keep your interview on track to success, contact the job search and staffing team at Merritt.

Soft Skills Top Candidates Possess

April 8th, 2016

In an effort to categorize candidate skill sets and measure the value of one applicant over another, some employers divide a candidate’s profile into distinct “hard” and “soft” skill sets. While hard skills refer to job-specific capabilities (like proficiency with a specific piece of equipment), soft skills tend to be universal, non-industry-specific, and woven into a candidate’s personality and life experience. Hard skills, for example, might include knowledge of medical billing codes and the ability to pass a test on this subject. But soft skills might include negotiation, public speaking, customer service, conflict resolution, or problem solving. Here are a few of the soft skills that employers value most.

Written and spoken communication

Candidates who can express a complex thought in clear terms are not as common as you might believe, and are valued highly by employers in almost every industry. If you can write a clear message, use your words to explain your point of view, or contribute your voice to group discussions, you’ll want to make this known during your job search.

Critical thinking and problem solving

Sure, you can pass a test if your study beforehand and know exactly what to expect. But when life throws you a curveball, how do you react? Can you think on your feet and solve complex puzzles, even those that involve unpredictable factors like human nature? Can you face new situations or unexpected obstacles without losing your cool? Can you think your way out a sticky situation or take advantage of an unexpected opportunity before it passes by? Strong critical thinkers recognize multiple sides of a problem, situation, or argument.

Resilience

Resilience doesn’t mean staying on your feet and winning every single game you play. It doesn’t mean avoiding risk and setting a low bar in order to maintain an unbroken track record of “success”. It means setting a high bar, taking on big challenges, failing, and bouncing back. Resilient people are no strangers to the ground; they get knocked down on a regular basis. But they don’t stay down. Every time they hit the floor, they learn something, get back up and head back into the game with greater knowledge and experience than they had before.

Social skills

In our modern economy, there are very few jobs and industries that don’t require social interaction. And there are very few paths to success that don’t require making friends, gaining trust and respect, building coalitions, and maintaining a reputation of kindness and dependability. If you have trouble getting others to like and trust you, you’ll need to work on this in order to maximize your potential. If you thrive in this area, you’re likely to climb the ladder much faster.

For more information on the kinds of soft skills that can add power to you job search, reach out to the Hartford career development experts at Merritt Staffing.

Is it Okay to Quit Without Giving Two Weeks’ Notice?

March 18th, 2016

You don’t love your current job. Your boss is disrespectful, your paycheck is ridiculous, your workplace culture is toxic, and though there are plenty of available positions above you, you’ve been denied a promotion request twice in a row. As you launch your job search and start receiving offers from potential employers, how carefully should you factor the needs of your current company into your future plans? Specifically, should you walk out when you please, or should you provide two weeks’ notice and serve out your last ten days faithfully?

As the premier staffing and employment team in the Connecticut area, with decades of collective career management experience, we recommend providing two weeks’ notice…always. Regardless of the circumstances giving notice is a standard professional courtesy that costs very little and provides big returns. Here’s why.

Your future employers expect this.

Since this is a standard and widely accepted gesture, your next employers should have no trouble scheduling your start date to accommodate a two-week overlap period. If they balk at this perfectly reasonable request or insist that you start right away, something is wrong. Look closely at the offer and make sure your new employer is professional and legitimate before you make a long-term commitment.

It’s not required, but it’s generous and gracious.

Your integrity and your reputation are among the few things that will stay with you as you move from job to job throughout your career. Whenever possible, when you leave, leave on good terms. Companies often add this final parting note to your records (whatever these records consist of), and your choice to walk out or give notice may mean the difference between a glowing recommendation and a position on a permanent blacklist.

Think about who may suffer or benefit.

When you leave abruptly, your managers must scramble to fill your position and they may be left in a serious lurch. But your managers aren’t the only ones who may suffer; think about the problems you may be creating for your co-workers, your clients, your accounts, your vendors, and anyone else who has to shoulder an extra burden until your replacement is hired. You may meet these people again during your professional life.

It won’t cost much.

In the heat of the moment, you may be so focused on the future and excited about your new job that attending to the old job for ten more days may seem like a drag — or even a waste of your valuable time. But be patient. These last days will fly by faster than you realize, and soon you’ll be on your way to your next goal and the next chapter of your career journey.

For more on how to land a new offer and what to do once that offer is in your inbox, contact the staffing professionals at Merritt.

Prep Your Staff for Temporary Employees

March 4th, 2016

Taking on a team of temporary or contingency employees can help your company thrive during challenging times, and these extra hands can be a godsend when you’re trying to process an avalanche of new orders during your busiest season. But workplaces can be delicate ecosystems, and the arrival of new faces and personalities can sometimes shake up the status quo. Make sure your existing teams are not only prepared for the newcomers, but ready to give them a warm welcome and a helping hand. Here are a few tips that can keep the transition smooth and seamless.

Give plenty of warnings about dates and times.

As soon as you know when your new recruit—or recruits—will start, let affected employees know. But because the start date may be a long way down the road, expect them to forget. Send reminders a few times before the actual day arrives. Along with these reminders, encourage your teams to treat the new arrivals in a way that represents the company well. Request friendliness and proactive outreach.

Provide a place to land.

Don’t leave your new employee idling in the reception area or an empty conference room while you scramble to set up a workspace. Do this beforehand and you’ll cut back on expensive wasted time and general awkwardness. The same applies to HR processing and paperwork; try to get the new person up and running as soon as possible on his or her start date.

Employees should know what’s expected.

If you expect one of your employees to greet the person at the door, and another to conduct his first training session, and yet another to take him to lunch on his first day, make sure each of these employees clearly understands your expectations. Who will be the person’s “boss” or day-to-day supervisor? Who will they turn to when they have general questions? Who will be responsible for distributing and monitoring their assignments?

A little hype can’t hurt.

If you’re excited about your new employee, encourage your current teams to share that excitement. Tell them a little bit about her profile and background, and share some of her expressed interests. This will give them something to talk to her about, and it might preemptively break the ice.

Keep an open door.

If your assigned “coach” or manager finds him or herself at a loss, make sure they know where to turn. Sometimes having a temporary or new employee in the workspace can be confusing for everyone, but if your teams know where to take their questions, the acclimation process will be a little easier.

For more on how to help your new and existing employees connect and start working together as a team, reach out to the Westchester staffing experts at Merritt Staffing.

Turn a Temporary Assignment into a Full Time Opportunity

February 19th, 2016

If you’re stepping into your new temporary job because you really do only want a temporary job, and you plan to say goodbye later without looking back, that’s fine. But if you’d like to leverage this temporary role into career stepping stone, or maybe even a full time position, the power to do so is well within your reach. Here are a few simple moves that can turn your short term gig into a long term opportunity.

Ask a few questions.

Starting on your first day, make it clear that you’d like to make a strong impression, and ask a few questions to find out where this job can take you. Until you ask, you have no way of knowing if full time positions may become available here. You also have no way of knowing how to make a grab for those positions. And your employers have no way of knowing that this prospect interests you. As far as they know, you’re happy to leave when your contract period ends. So explain that, if possible, you’d like to stay.

Make a winning impression.

Again, starting on day one, demonstrate that you aren’t here to fool around. Dress for the full time job you’d like to land eventually. Or at the very least, stay as neat and professional as your workspace will allow. Make direct eye contact and offer a friendly, fully engaged smile to everyone you meet here. Show a genuine personal interest in both the job and the company.

Treat mistakes and lessons as a long term experience.

When you make a mistake and are corrected, treat this as an opportunity for growth. Most temporary employees will dismiss the moment (“I’m only going to be here for two weeks, so what does it matter?”) But if you take a different approach, you’ll send a stronger message (as in, “I’d like to get this right, so I can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.”)

Build relationships.

Try not to drift in and out of the facility every day like a nameless ghost. Make connections by remembering people’s names and recalling personal conversations. Show that you care about these people and in return, they’ll start caring about you. By the time your contract period ends, your employers will be more invested in what becomes of you. They’ll also make more of an effort to create room for you within this organization.

Ask for exposure.

If your temporary job involves filing in an out-of-the way office or moving boxes on the loading dock, try to learn more about the larger organization and how its business model works. Express an interest in expanding your skills and experience beyond your limited workspace. Even if no full time jobs are available in this space, your supervisor may be willing to shift you to another temporary position in another part of the company.

For more on how to leverage every temporary opportunity into a potential long term job, contact the Hartford staffing professionals at Merritt.

Top Traits to Look For in Customer Service Talent

February 5th, 2016

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

Friendly confidence

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

Experience with pressure.

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

Tenacity

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

Teamwork

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

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

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

Four Things to Keep in Mind Before Accepting a Job Offer

January 22nd, 2016

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

Are you being paid what you’re worth?

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

Are you ready to stay for at least six months?

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

Will the benefits of this position meet your needs?

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

Will this position help you reach your goals?

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

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

Overcoming 2016’s Biggest Hiring Challenges

January 8th, 2016

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

A potential skills gap

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

A thinning candidate pool

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

Employees are moving faster

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

Sourcing will become more complex

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

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

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