Stratford Office: 203-386-8800 | Stamford Office: 203-325-3799

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.

Can Temporary Employees Cut Your Overtime Costs?

July 14th, 2017

Overtime hours committed to the company by hardworking employees can be a godsend for a growing company; these extra hours put in outside of the standard business day and exceeding 35 hours per week can keep a company afloat during a challenging crisis or a rush of deadline driven orders. But of course this dedication comes at a cost, and while overtime hours are invaluable, they also cut into the margins they produce. So if you feel like these margins are undermining your long term success, consider easing the pressure on your current teams and reducing the strain on your bottom line by employing temporary teams for short term projects. Here are a few factors to consider.

Highly Skilled vs Medium-Skilled Labor

If you have highly trained or certified staff members putting in overtime hours to conduct tasks that lie outside their skill areas, reconsider. A trained machinist who stays after hours to help box and ship a rush order, for example, may be making 1.5 times his or her salary to complete a task that could be managed by a junior or temporary staffer. When it comes to overtime costs, task allocation matters, and small missteps in this allocation could come at a high cost.

Temporary employees bring value of their own

Some question the value of bringing on new or temporary team members who may take the hours that rightfully belong to seasoned and committed full-time employees. But don’t discard or dismiss the value of temporary labor. Temporary employees often work just as hard and possess as much skill, training and commitment as full-time staff, and more important, temporary employment often serves as a pipeline to full time hiring agreements. Connect with your temporary employees and evaluate their performance closely. Ask them about their plans for the future, and if they’re seeking full time work over the long term, develop a pathway and offer guidance to help them move in this direction.

Full time hiring can bring a high price tag

Hiring full time staff to handle temporary or seasonal burdens can be an expensive move. The hiring process brings background checks, paper work, tax reporting, and sometimes legal contracts that can be costly and binding. But temporary staffing means rapid, inexpensive onboarding, and an easy drama-free separation after the short term period ends. In the interim, the staffing organization handles the insurance and paperwork so you don’t have to. During the contractual period, your team member works for the staffing company, not for you.

For more on how to choose temporary help to move your growing business through peak periods of high demand, contact the Fairfeld County staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Are you Prepared to Answer Questions About Salary?

June 16th, 2017

As you apply for a new position, you’ll probably be asked to supply a resume that documents your previous job titles, and you may be asked to furnish references who can speak candidly about your character. Your prospective employers can use these details– plus any information they find online—to assess your readiness for the role. But most employers don’t want to stop there; they’d like assurance that you can do the job, but they also want to know how much your services will cost. And to make that assessment, prospective employers may ask some challenging questions. Will you be ready to answer? Keep these tips in mind.

Your previous salaries are (usually) your business and your business alone.

Prospective employers do not have a right to your salary history. If you’re asked what you earned at your last job, you’re under no obligation to answer honestly, or at all. Many job seekers don’t recognize this, and when faced with a firm question from a panel of serious-looking hiring managers, they feel pressured to respond. As a result, they’re often presented with an offer that’s equal to or just above whatever they were making in previous roles, and over the long term, this can seriously limit their earning potential and financial growth. Think about it: if you make a negotiating mistake while landing your very first job, this mistake could haunt you for life…but fortunately, it doesn’t have to. Past jobs are in the past, and unless your salary history is publicly available online, it’s nobody’s business but your own.

Answer by providing your preferred range.

Instead of answering with: “I made $52,000 per year, plus benefits,” you can say “My salary was in the fifties.” Even better, you can say: “I’m looking for a salary between $60,000 and $65,000 per year.” It’s what you want and what you’re willing to negotiate for that matters. Be sure the lowest end of your range still falls within the amount you can accept. And keep in mind that an offer at the lowest end of your preferred range sends a message about how much your work is valued and how much this company can afford. Either could indicate a red flag, so keep your eyes open.

Salary history and public employment.

If you work or previously worked in a government role, your salary history may be made public, so recognize this before you attempt to negotiate for an offer that’s vastly above your past earnings. Keep your expectations reasonable, and be ready to provide a clear list of all the reasons why you’re worth what you’re asking for.

For more on how to set the opening stage for your salary negotiation, contact the job search and career management experts at Merritt.

Hiring Generation Z

June 9th, 2017

There’s been plenty of buzz generated by the arrival of millennials in the professional workplace, but since the first members of this generation began their careers about 12 years ago, the buzz is now starting to fade. The earliest of the so-called millennials are about to enter their 40s, and whether they’re thriving or struggling, their career patterns are fairly well-established. At this point, employers are preparing for a new wave of up-and-coming entry-level workers who are poised to bring a new set of social and cultural norms to the office and workshop. It’s time to welcome Generation Z! These are the students currently working their way through high school and college who are ready to hit the job market as soon as they graduate. Will your workplace be ready? When Gen Z arrives at your door, keep these tips in mind.

Kids will be kids.

The very nature of entry-level employment lies in the name; workers at the earliest end of the career pipeline have plenty of ambition but little to no experience, and there’s nothing wrong with this. We all start somewhere. As adults and experienced managers, we owe them our patience and withhold said patience at peril to ourselves and our organizations. Teach, coach, train, mentor, and at all times keep your expectations fair and reasonable.

Pay them fairly.

Entry-level workers are not lazy; they’re typically more driven than their older counterparts and they expect less in terms of respect, thanks, and even fair compensation. But wise managers pay them well for their time and efforts. If you attempt to exploit them, they’ll disappear the moment they wise up. When that happens, they’ll take their newfound training and experience to your competitors.

Generation Z will ignore traditional career-building instructions and prescriptions.

They’ve been told exactly what to do: study this, not that, get this internship, not that one, take no risks, worry all the time, etc, etc. And Generation Z has watched this prescriptive model fail repeatedly for those who have gone before them. As a result, they might not chase the things their elders chased (for example, marriage, a single lifelong job, or a steady industry that promises never to change or fade.) They’ll be light on their feet and they’ll quickly leave jobs they don’t want. When things around them aren’t working, they’ll evolve and adapt…fast.

Respect generates respect.

Treat all your workers with respect, regardless of their age. But when Generation Z arrives in the office, acknowledge the unique needs and special strengths that accompany their youth and energy. For more on how to manage the newest members of your workforce, contact the professional staffing team at Merritt.

Leadership Skills Every Employee Needs

May 26th, 2017

You might not believe your current job requires anything that can be defined as “leadership”. In fact, you may look around your work environment and see yourself as the lowest person on multiple totem poles. Or you may not interact with your coworkers in a way that suggests hierarchy or levels of influence. You may contribute to a team of equals, or you may be the newest and least influential person in every room you occupy. But we have news for you: this won’t always be the case. You have a greater impact on others than you realize, and your influence will only grow with time. So in order to thrive, you’ll need to build a few critical leadership skills. Start now and within a few years, you’ll be on your way up the ladder.

Speak up.

Practice raising your voice in order to make your thoughts and feelings heard. Don’t wait for an invitation; just speak, even if it means interrupting someone or setting yourself up to be interrupted by others. Words have no power if you don’t use them, and speaking up usually brings lower risk than you might imagine. Gather your courage and join the conversation.

When you want someone to do something, tell them.

Instead of hinting or insinuating, just make your request. When you need a pen from distant shelf, say “Can you hand me that pen, please” or simply “Grab me that pen over there, thanks.” If you simply express abstract sorrow regarding your lack of writing equipment, or go to impractical lengths to get the pen yourself, you miss out on an opportunity to practice issuing a request and enlisting the help of others to get things done.

Take up space.

Gracefully accept what’s yours. In fact, assert yourself a little bit in order to reach out and take it. When you’re offered a chair, take possession of the entire chair, including the armrests; don’t perch nervously at the edge. The same applies to your work area, your salary, and the resources you require in order to do your job. None of these things are gifts. You deserve them, you earned them, and they’re yours by right. So take them and say thank you. Then move on.

When you’re right, stand your ground.

If several members of your team suggest opposing plans, and you know that yours is the best idea on the table, don’t let go until you receive evidence that an alternate plan may offer more benefits. Push for your ideas and suggestions, and while you’re at it, stand up for others who propose great ideas, and don’t let them be shouted down. Amplify the voices of those who have something to say that might benefit the team.

For more on how to exercise your small but growing influence in the workplace, reach out to the Connecticut career management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

© Year Merritt Staffing. Site Credits.