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Retain Top Financial Employees

June 8th, 2018

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

Compensation is more that just salary.

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

Culture goes a long, long way.

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

Prepare to counteroffer.

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

Listen and respond.

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

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

How to Find the Best Accounting Jobs

May 25th, 2018

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

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

Get help.

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

Trust your networks and the networks of those around you.

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

Move toward what you want.

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

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

Recruit Hard-to-Find Top Talent

May 11th, 2018

To find the very best talent available, especially for a hard-to-staff position, you’ll have to do more than just cast a net and hope for the best. Most of your competitors will follow a straightforward path; they’ll publish a job post in a high traffic area, collect applications, and interview the best candidates from this initial pool…but that’s not exactly going the extra mile. And if you expect candidates who will pull out all the stops for your company, you’ll need to pull out all the stops first in order to find and attract them. Set yourself apart from the competition by making these extra moves.

First, research.

Carpenters measure twice so they can cut once, and your recruiting efforts should follow the same pattern. Before you begin drafting your post, conduct some research on your target audience, and set your sights high. Don’t just approach all new university graduates in a tri-state radius; instead, target relevant programs and majors, and seek candidates with specific certifications and areas of experience. Your research will tell you which ones.

Second, shape your message.

Once you’ve identified the population you’d like to target in your recruiting efforts, determine the kinds of motivations that are likely to attract and inspire this population. Do your target candidates want to make a difference in the world? Are they interested in money? Are they curious, ambitious, and driven? What will make them choose you over anther employer?

Third, partner with a pro.

Turn to an experienced recruiting firm to help you pick up on subtle signals and moves that you might otherwise miss, the moves that could mean the difference between attracting the best candidates and driving them away. Experienced, industry-specific recruiters know exactly what your target employees are looking for, and they know how to ask the right questions, conduct appropriate screening, and negotiate with these candidates in order to bring them on board. If you aren’t working with a recruiter already, consider adding this extra element of support to your staffing strategy.

When you spot top candidates, don’t let them get away.

Playing hardball with excellent candidates can undermine an otherwise promising approach. Once you have their attention, ask plenty of questions so you can understand what they need and want from their careers. And then quell the impulse to nickel-and-dime them into the arms of your competitors. Over the long term, it’s wise to pay a little more for a top candidate who will come on board, commit, and stay. While you’re at it, let go of perfectionism. Instead of engaging in a year-long search for a candidate who offers everything, prioritize your requirements and set your sights on the candidate who can offer most—if not all—of what you need.

For more on how to recruit and hire like a seasoned expert, turn to the New Haven County staffing team at Merritt.

Your Resume Could Be Better: Try These Tips

April 27th, 2018

Your resume will be your very first opening salvo in your relationships with most potential employers, so if this document represents the first contact an employer makes with your name and your personal brand, you’ll want put your whole heart into the little details that can help make it stand out. In other words, no matter how great your resume may be, there are always small ways to make it even better. Start with these simple but often-overlooked moves.

Keywords, keywords, keywords.

Every search algorithm works differently, and the keywords that grab attention on Linkedin may not work as well for your favorite job board, or your target company’s HR database. So cover your bases by making sure these three keywords appear in your document at least once: Your target job title, your target geographic area, the name of your industry (hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, etc), the full and accurate title of your most relevant former job, and your proudest and most relevant five skill sets. Add any other words you think your target employers might type into a search bar, but start with these.

Spacing.

A resume that’s hard to read will quickly fall through the cracks, so make sure your document provides an easy and pleasant reading experience both on screen and in hard-copy form. Keep your font large (nothing smaller than 11 points) and leave generous spacing between your lines and headings. If you fear that might push valuable information off the page, don’t worry. Just expand to two pages and carefully summarize your points.

Stick to tradition.

There are some times and places during your job search when you’ll benefit by going off script and doing things your own way. But formatting your resume should not be one of those times. When your readers scan the page in search of specific information, they should quickly and easily find what they need. So give your headings standard titles (“education”, “relevant experience”, etc) and place them in a recognizable order. Save your unique branding and personality for the next stage of the process.

Include a summary.

The top of the page, just under your name, should contain a few lines that provide readers with the most important elements of your message. Assume that your readers may only read the summary and may base their entire assessment on what they see there. In some cases, this is exactly what happens. So put your best selling points (including your ability to write a succinct and artful summary) into your summary.

Clarify your intentions.

Know exactly what you’d like to do and build your resume around that type of work or specific job title. Super vague resumes that attempt to fit any job description can be confusing and off-putting to readers who are searching for signs of a match. Don’t suggest that you’re great at everything and will accept any job, anywhere. Hone in on what you actually want.

For more information on how to create a resume that sets your apart, contact the job search team at Merritt Staffing.

Why Failure is Good for your Employees

April 13th, 2018

You’re been coaching your team of employees for a while now, and you’ve recently watched them put together a project for which they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’ve stayed late, they’ve demonstrated teamwork, and they’ve brought all of their hard-earned skills to the table. They’ve done their very best on their respective parts of the project. And they’ve utterly failed.

The disappointment is palpable, and the dark cloud in the office is fanning the flames of blame, mistrust and recrimination. The failure was so epic that some members of the team are rethinking their talent for this work and others are thinking of leaving the company. So as a manager, what should you do? Should you yell at them? Should you tell them they should have tried harder? Or should you view this as a valuable teaching moment? Consider the last option. Here’s why.

They are upset because they care.

Deep disappointment after failure is a strong sign of engagement, which should always be valued and encouraged in the workplace. Remember that, and respect and appreciate that if your team is gloomy, embarrassed, or wracked with self-doubt after the episode, you (and they) are doing something right. If they just shrugged it off, you’d have more cause for concern.

Put the episode in an appropriate context.

If your company is solely driven by profit and sales, let your teams know that this is just business, and growth in business comes at a cost. The more you fail, the more you learn to face failure and move past it. When you don’t fail, you don’t learn and you don’t grow. If, on the other hand, putting things in a context deepens the pain of the loss (for example, if you work in a hospital instead of an office) take a philosophical approach. Get some help from relevant therapist or healthcare management expert if you need to.

Speak privately with those who are experiencing self-doubt.

Give special attention to the employees who believe they lost the day through their own mistakes or skill deficits. These employees, separate from the team, will need a cleared-eyed assessment from you. If they’re mistaken about their abilities, let them know. If they’re correct, help them bolster their areas of weakness with appropriate training, exposure, and advice.

Keep an eye out for toxic behavior.

These difficult moments present opportunities for bullies, back stabbers, blame-placers and credit stealers. When you see subtle signs from bad actors (those who push others under the bus or deny their own share of responsibility) don’t fall for it. Give credit where it is rightfully due.

For more on how to pick up the pieces after a failure and make the most of the episode from a management perspective, contact the staffing and coaching experts at Merritt Staffing.

Candidates: Prepare to Answer Questions About Past Employment

March 23rd, 2018

As you sit down with your prospective employer during your interview, you can expect to answer questions about the future; you’ll be asked what you want to do next, where you see yourself in a few years, and what you’ll contribute to the enterprise after you’re brought on board. But you’ll also be asked about the past, and your interviewers will want to know what you’ve been up to, and why, and for whom. Here’s how to handle questions about events you can’t change and decisions you’ve already made.

Don’t be relentlessly positive.

If your entire past comes across as one unbroken, blinding ray of sunshine and unmitigated success, your interviewers will naturally assume you aren’t providing the full story. In an interview, it’s better to let your honesty shine then your “success” (however you define that term). Managers are familiar with the type of smoke that gets blown in the interview setting, and they won’t be impressed by a candidate who seems never to have experienced a single mistake or setback. But they will be impressed by a candidate who tells an honest story, appears refreshingly self-aware, and feels comfortable with his or her unique set of likes, dislikes, strengths, and limitations.

Demonstrates these two core skills.

As a candidate, you’ll stand out if you can do two things, things that far too many candidates can’t do at all: connect and learn. If you can treat your interviewer as a friend and respected colleague who deserves to see you as you truly are, you’ll instantly set yourself apart. Small things like eye contact, honesty, engagement, and fearlessness can further this effort. You’ll also stand out if you show the ability to learn from mistakes and problems. If you cling to platitudes or myths instead of trusting your own experience and listening to what it tells you, you’ll have trouble gaining your interviewer’s confidence.

Stories carry more weight than explanation and exposition.

If your employer asks why you left a previous job, you can answer in either of two ways. You can explain, or you can tell a story. If you explain, you may say something like “I had no voice with upper management. I had useful ideas, but they were not implemented.” If you choose the other route, you’ll tell a story about a specific appearance of this specific workplace dynamic. Your story will leave a greater impact and last longer in your interviewer’s memory than your explanation. The same applies to questions about your accomplishments. Set the stage and tell the tale, don’t just share your accomplishment as if you’re reading it from a list.

For more on how to impress interviewers while describing your professional past, turn to the job search experts at Merritt.

Traits to Look for in Top Talent

March 9th, 2018

As an experienced manager, you already know that hiring is an expensive process, and you recognize the risks involved in making a serious hiring decision based on a simple resume review and a few rounds of 30-minute interviews. If you examine this limited data and make the right decision, you send your company down a path of growth and positivity. If you make the wrong choice, you can pay a high price only to end up with a struggler who contributes little and leaves within one calendar year. This simple choice comes with very high stakes. So how can you size up your candidate and make smart assumptions based on what you see? Look for these visible qualities.

Communication

Some hiring managers embrace a theory that goes like this: “Job skills” are all that matter, and any skills that fall outside a narrowly defined, job-specific list are irrelevant. A plumber needs to connect pipes, end of story. A data analyst needs to analyze data. A surgeon needs to use a scalpel– and nothing else– in order to do a good job. But buy into this logic at your own risk. If your candidate can hold up her end of a lively and interesting conversation, or if he can write a cover letter that grabs and maintains your respect, that’s a good sign. If he speaks in monosyllables, can’t write, and can’t make himself understood on the phone, those are all red flags regardless of the job description.

Adaptability

Great candidates (for any job) know how to keep things in perspective and recover quickly from surprises and setbacks. Don’t cancel or reschedule your interview at the last minute just to test a candidate’s ability to adapt (this is rude), but if you need to shift gears for unexpected reasons, observe how the candidate reacts. A last-minute meeting room change or a surprising question from left field can serve the same purpose. Great candidates take things lightly and stay on their feet.

Self-Motivation

It might seem nice to hire an employee who does exactly what he’s told, on time, every time. A can-do attitude and an obedient smile might seem invaluable, at least on the surface. But before you sign on with such a person, make sure he knows what to do when clear instructions are not forthcoming. Great candidates don’t just do what they’re told and then check out; they keep track of the company’s larger goals and they find productive ways to contribute, even when their bosses aren’t telling them what to do. Choose a candidate who can see the big picture and who will independently find ways to apply her skills and time.

For more on how to choose the candidates that are most likely to succeed in your workplace, contact the Stamford recruiting and management team at Merritt.

Employees: Make Yourself Indispensable

February 23rd, 2018

After a grueling job search, you’ve finally received an offer, and it’s one you can happily accept. Congratulations! Now it’s time to put that exhausting search behind you, prop your feet up, and take a well earned relaxation break. After all, your new employers have already indicated that they’re impressed with you and pleased to bring you on board. Mission accomplished! Right?

Not exactly. Instead of treating a job offer like a chance to relax, treat the next few months as an opportunity to insert yourself into a new system, weave your way into the social fabric, and quickly make yourself indispensable. Gain a foothold now, and you’ll thank yourself later— Especially on the day you miss a beat and you need to rely on your bank of established capital to protect you.

Meet everyone and remember their names.

Don’t just let yourself be introduced; make an effort to shake hands and exchange names with as many new faces as possible during your early weeks on the job. Say hello and greet people by name when you see them. Now is the time. Turn this minor gesture into a solid habit. As you walk around, keep your eyes up and your expression friendly.

Be responsive.

Especially at the beginning of your new job, respond to every message and call. Eventually this may become impossible, but keep up this expectation as long as you can. When you start to fall behind and delete messages as a matter of course, learn to filter and prioritize the messages from those who need you most. But at the beginning, give everyone a chance to experience your best and most responsive self.

Don’t do everything.

You may have been advised never to use the phrase “that’s not my job”, and instead to rush forward eagerly, obey every command, and serve the needs of everyone around you, no matter what they ask. This is bad advice. Don’t roll up your sleeves and grab every single wrench or mop that’s handed to you; instead, prioritize the tasks that require your unique skill sets. First, do the things that nobody else can do. When you finish those, then move on to the areas in which you don’t excel, have minimal training, or aren’t as qualified. Your cheery can-do attitude won’t be welcome when you really can’t or shouldn’t handle the task in question.

Be kind.

Be kind to the busy manager who can’t give you clear instructions. Be kind to the frazzled direct report who needs a deadline extension. Be kind to the rude person in the hall who rushes past you. Be kind to the client who needs help, even if they aren’t part of your account. Be kind to people who behave in ways you don’t understand. You’re new here, and many of your questions will be answered in time. Your patience at this stage will serve you well later on.

For more on how to adjust to your new job and make the most of your first few weeks, contact the career management experts at Merritt.

What Role Does Culture Play in Retention?

February 9th, 2018

For the sake of your business, and for the sake of its long-term health and sustainability, you want your workforce to be happy. Job satisfaction isn’t just a nice perk that you, as an employer, hand out with benevolence; it’s a signature aspect of any successful and functional business. Of course you can still make money with a miserable team—some companies do—but not very much, and not for very long. Poor satisfaction means high turnover, and high turnover means high costs and low productivity.

Long story short: It’s hard to stay competitive when your employees sign on reluctantly and spend their short tenures with one foot out the door. And a positive, thriving culture can keep that from happening. Here’s how.

Culture works like a magnet.

The impact of a positive culture starts long before the hiring process even begins. When talented candidates hear about your workplace and are motivated to apply, your overall applicant pool begins to improve. Your average candidate becomes nicer, smarter, more reliable and more highly qualified. Why? Because the best candidates always have plenty of options, and they won’t reach out to a company with a weak workplace reputation. They want the best, and they know they’ll find a welcome anywhere they go.

Culture knits people together.

A positive culture doesn’t just attract great candidates; it attracts candidates who already fit in and belong. Why? Because happy employees want to bring their own friends, family, and trusted colleagues onto the team. When those highly qualified friends apply and join the organization, they won’t have to build every relationship from the ground up. They’ll have a pathway to trust already in place.

Culture is contagious.

Once the best, smartest, and friendliest people are encouraged to sign on, they spread their positive energy and personal example to everyone around them. There’s much talk of how a single bad apple can ruin the barrel—and there’s truth in that folksy wisdom—but the opposite is also true: One great hire can bring cascading benefits to the entire team. Even better, these benefits can last for years after the person leaves.

Culture means stability.

A great employee will leave an average workplace within about two years (and that timeline shortens significantly in a below-average, toxic workplace). But when the boss feels like a friend and coworkers feel like family members, good people stay. Sometimes they stay for a long time, and they may even turn down offers from higher paying competitors.

A better culture means better relationships with vendors, clients and partners, a better product, a general sense of pride, and an upward spiral that brings long term benefits to the bottom line. Learn more by contacting the staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Recruit Candidates Who Will Shine

January 26th, 2018

Experienced hiring managers know that a successful staffing process is built upon several pillars. In order to round out the year with a winning employee who started out as a top candidate, hiring managers need to focus an equal degree of attention on all the pillars: sourcing, recruiting, resume review, interviews, background checks, and finally, a smooth onboarding process. So for now, let’s isolate just one of the links that crucial chain: recruiting.

Once you’ve targeted a population of likely stars through your sourcing efforts, how can you encourage these potentially excellent candidates to apply? And just as important, how can you inspire them to feel genuine excitement about the company and the prospect of working there? Here are a few moves that can help you light a spark in a population of candidates who best poised to shine when they walk in the door.

Clearly separate your “must-haves” from your “pluses”.

Understand the nature of the job well enough to recognize the difference between needs and wants. To do this, you’ll need to communicate clearly with all stakeholders, including the future employee’s coworkers, boss, clients, and customers. Use appropriate channels to glean critical information from all of these corners. Then give the “must-have” skills and credentials top billing in your job post.

Ask the right questions—Not just smart questions.

Yes, you want a candidate who has a can-do attitude, a winning smile, high energy, and loads of loads of ambiguous brilliance and charm. But most of those aren’t real things. Take a closer look and shape your message around the actual candidate who you actually need. Instead of all-around “winner”, you probably need somebody who can design a marketing plan, code in XTML, or stand on his feet all day long. Maybe you need someone isn’t disgusted by a menial task, driven bonkers by unpredictable clients, or turned off by periodic episodes of lonely travel. Focus your targeting efforts around these specific needs. Can the candidate meet them or not?

Partner with a great recruiter.

Experienced, established recruiters make use of a wide network of contacts and an array of tools that can help them reach out to your target audience—and only your target audience. Using both online and real-world methods, our team can head out into the marketplace and bring back a wide pool of highly qualified candidates. Even better, we know how to target the prospects who are most likely to accept your offer, join the company, contribute, and stay.

For more on how to find and pursue the candidate population that best meets your needs, reach out to the expert CT recruiting team at Merritt.

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