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Fired? How to Discuss This During your Next Interview

August 28th, 2015

If your last job didn’t end very well and you were hustled out the door before you were ready, you probably experienced a range of emotions and concerns. If you’re like most job seekers, you probably wondered how you were going to handle your finances and how you would break the news to your family. You may also be facing another sticky challenge: how will you land your next job with this incident on your record? Answers to the first two questions will depend on your circumstances, but for the third concern, these tips can help.

Don’t mention the event in your application materials.

Leave all discussion of your firing out of your resume and cover letter. Don’t bring up the subject in any online or printed application unless you’ve been directly asked to do so, and if you are, answer using the fewest possible words. Try not to engage in this conversation at all until you can do so in person.

Don’t volunteer this information during your interview.

Again, there’s absolutely no need to offer this information or steer the conversation in this direction unless you’re directly asked. For example: “Why did you leave your last position?” or “Did you leave your last position voluntarily?” There’s nothing remotely dishonest about discussing other topics instead of this one. But if your interviewer does ask, be prepared.

Know the difference between a layoff and a firing.

If you were laid off, say so. Explain that your position was eliminated or your branch of the company was divested, and expect your interviewers to understand that this decision had nothing to do with your performance or behavior. Don’t use the word “fired” if you were dismissed though no action of your own.

Control the conversation.

If you really were fired as a result of performance or behavior, don’t testify against yourself. Keep the conversation short, positive, and under your control. As soon as possible, redirect the focus back to your talents and credentials. Notice how hard your interviewer pushes for the details, and read between the lines. For example, if you were fired due to low sales numbers, your interviewer may be concerned about your ability to perform sales-related tasks. Offer reassurance as needed. If she’s concerned about a potential behavior issue, briefly tell yours side of the story and explain what you learned from the incident. Make it clear that this poor behavior will never happen again.

Use the word “fit”.

If you were fired due to a complex personality mismatch, a he-said-she-said interpersonal conflict, or any other drama that can’t be understood out of context, don’t try to explain or tell the whole story. Just state that you and the job were not a “fit”. Then move on.

For more on how to handle this tricky conversation and bring it to a graceful end as soon as possible, reach out to the experienced staffing team at Merritt.

 

The Cost of Overtime

August 14th, 2015

Overtime regulations have been the subject of some legislative scrutiny lately and may soon adjust to better reflect the needs and standards of the modern workplace. But right now, the same general rules have been in place for several years: overtime pay equals 1.5 times the hourly rate a given worker receives during the first 7.5 hours of the day or five days of the week. Not all positions are eligible for overtime pay, and salaried employees have overtime hours factored into their annual compensation and benefits.

But as a manager, are you closely monitoring the cost of your overtime hours and the value you derive from these hours? When you’re faced with an unexpected influx of orders, do you tend to push your current employees into overtime in order to produce your product or deliver your service on schedule? And are the results worth the toll this takes on your payroll budget?

Short Versus Long Term Goals

Before you make a plan to accommodate a rising demand for labor, estimate how long this demand will last. If this spike will subside within a few days or weeks, your overtime expenses may be well worth the benefits. You’ll build revenue and decrease risk by relying on employees who are already trained, tested, and familiar with the ropes. But if this increase in demand will continue for months or more, or if this spike correspond with a predictable point in your annual business cycle, consider the cost benefits involved in hiring temporary or contingency team members to share the load.

The Benefits of Contingency Staffing

As your need for help increases, pushing your current teams to the breaking point won’t just come at a cost to your payroll budget; it may also have a negative impact on work quality, morale, and turnover. Reduce both cost and risk by turning to an established staffing agency and taking on a temporary team of contingency employees who can pick up the slack. These employees can be carefully selected to meet your needs; if you require specific skill sets, training or educational credentials, the right staffing agency can provide them. Your temporary team can step in the door and start working right away.

In the meantime, temporary staffing can reduce the headaches and hassles involved in taking on new full-time staff. Taxes, insurance, and payments are all handled by the agency, not by you, so when it’s time to return your workforce to its original shape, these temporary employees will simply be reassigned to other clients.

Hiring temporary teams can keep your staffing program agile and cost effective. To learn more, reach out to the experts at Merritt.

Forming a Connection with Your Interviewer

July 24th, 2015

Your interview is scheduled for later this week, and you know you have what it takes to step into this job and excel. You have all the skills you need and years of experience with this specific type of work, so your credentials aren’t really subject to doubt. But what about everything else? You already know that landing a job and thriving in your new role will depend on your relationships even more than your job-specific skills. So what if you and this interviewer just don’t seem to click? What if she doesn’t get you? What if you don’t get her? What if the two of you just can’t find an inch of common ground?

Don’t worry. If you keep an open mind and take these considerations to heart, you’ll increase your chances of making a positive and lasting impression.

Be receptive and flexible.

Despite what some advisors may tell you, you really don’t land jobs (or make friends) by striding in the door with your chest puffed, as if you’re going into battle. Your interviewer is not your enemy or you adversary, and this is not the time to channel your inner warrior. Despite what you might like to believe, you don’t know everything about this industry, and every encounter should be seen as an opportunity to learn something — or meet someone — new. During the entire session, try to listen more than you speak, and remember the things you hear.

Observe and dial in.

If your interviewer is like most, they will tell you exactly how to win them over and land the job…but they probably won’t deliver this message with words. If they frown over a certain questionable detail of your resume, that means you’ll need to determine what their concerns are and address them. If they ask you how you feel about extensive travel or public speaking, that means these things will be central to this job. If you excel in these areas, say so. If not, say so. Be honest. Give — and receive — all of the available information that can lead both of you to an informed decision. Help them to help you.

Ask questions.

Ask as many questions as you answer regarding this job and this company. Ask your interviewer about their own experience here. People like to explain their stories and share their opinions, and they usually appreciate signs of engagement, curiosity, and interest.

Show evidence of research and preparation.

Tighten your elevator pitch and conduct thorough research on the company before you walk in the door. Have a printed copy of your resume in hand and demonstrate that you respect your interviewer and the significance of this opportunity. Make it clear that you appreciate the opportunity to form a partnership, regardless of the outcome of this meeting.

For more on how to connect with your interviewer and earn their support, contact the staffing and employment team at Merritt.

Evaluate Work Ethic During an Interview

July 10th, 2015

By the time your candidate walks into your office and sits down for her interview session, you already know plenty of facts and details about her readiness for the job. You have her resume printed out and sitting on the desk in front of you (ideally), and you’ve already looked over each section and prepared a few meaningful questions based on what you see. You’ve also made a brief assessment of her personality and corporate style based on her appearance, posture and body language. But so far, you don’t know very much about her basic work ethic. Here are a few questions that can help you gather data on this subject.

Just ask.

It’s okay to be direct. Simply asking a candidate to describe her own work ethic may feel like requesting a canned response; and yes, a few applicants will simply blurt out the positive, empty answer they think you want to hear. (“My work ethic is amazing!”, “I’d rather work than breathe!”, “I’ll work all day and night!” etc, etc)  But most of them won’t. It may come as a surprise, but trusting candidates to provide an honest answer will often encourage them to do just that.

Ask open-ended questions.

These are sometimes called “behavioral” or behavior-based questions, and they usually involve asking the candidate to tell you a story about her past. Try a question like: “Can you tell me about a time when you were asked to work harder than you usually do? What were the circumstances and how did the situation play out?” This question can provide value on two levels: first, it can give you sense of the candidate’s baseline definition of “hard work”. And second, it can provide insight into how the candidate responds to pressure and heavy workloads.

Read between the lines.

A candidate may tell you that he works harder than anyone else in the world, but if his resume looks like an unaltered template riddled with typos, and his cover letter looks like a lazy mass mailing, you’ll be wise to dig a little deeper. The same applies to the details of his background. If you ask why he made a certain career decision in the past, or why he moved from one city or industry to another, scan his answer carefully. His words, tone, and personal philosophy may reflect his attitude about shortcuts and easy options.

Ask about future plans.

Ask where your candidate would like to take his career in five years. If he shrugs and tells you that he has no plans beyond this job and this company, take that into account. But if she launches into an ambitious description of the future, and her plans align with yours, that may be a great sign.

For more on how to evaluate and select the right candidates for your open positions, reach out to the staffing team at Merritt Staffing.

Social Skills Employers Need

June 26th, 2015

Social and interpersonal skills (once referred to as “soft” skills) are considered a critical aspect of success in almost every industry. And as it happens, some of these skills are harder to find than others. Mangers often sift through huge stacks of resumes and interview an exhaustive list of candidates before they come across one or two who can offer the level of social savvy, empathy, and communication skill required by a given open position.

But among these crucial skill sets, which ones are considered the most valuable? And if you possess these abilities, how can you make this clear to employers during your job search? Here are a few tips and considerations to keep in mind.

Written and spoken communication skills are indispensable.

The ability to read and write an email, give instructions, receive instructions, explain a complex situation, or listen as someone else offers a similar explanation are required skills in the modern workplace. And while almost every one of us can do these things, some employees can execute these tasks at a higher level. As far as possible, work to become one of the employees in this rare group. Practice your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills at every opportunity.

Show, don’t just tell.

If you excel in the areas of written communication or document design, you can mention this directly in your resume (and are wise to do so). But our actions always speak louder than our words, and the best way to send this message is by creating an absolutely show-stopping resume and cover letter. Get help from a professional resume editor if necessary, but keep in mind that your word choices, your layout decisions, and your attention to detail will speak for themselves.

The interview table will be your stage.

The same rule applies to your in-person interview. Nothing sends a weaker message than a candidate who avoids eye contact and mumbles an inarticulate statement like, “I’m great with people” or “I’m an excellent speaker.” By the same token, if you sit up straight, speak with confidence, and practice your elevator pitch until you can recite it in your sleep, then your interviewer won’t even have to ask about your communication skills; they’ll be evident from the moment you walk into the room.

Pause, relax, and think as you speak (or write).

Your communication and interpersonal skills show clearly in your words and expressions…but they also show in your pauses and silences. Communication is a two way street, and empathy and listening skills are a vital element of the equation. Make you’re hearing the messages delivered by others, not just shaping and delivering your own.

For more on how to sharpen and showcase your “soft” skills and communication strengths, reach out to the staffing and career management team at Merritt.

 

Overcoming Tough Hiring Challenges

June 12th, 2015

What are some of the toughest hiring and staffing challenges you expect to face in 2015? If you’re like most managers and business owners, some of your biggest hurdles will be industry-specific, but most of them will reflect universal aspects of leadership and management in our modern employment landscape. If you’re addressing difficult issues like the ones listed below, you’re not alone…And an experienced staffing firm like Merritt can help you navigate these rough waters.

Selection and Risk

No matter how carefully you vet each candidate and how many rounds of interviews you hold, you’ll still have to eventually roll the dice. When your applicant pool has been narrowed down to a few final contenders, you’ll have to just make the call and take a leap of faith…and your chosen candidate may not live up to your expectations. In this case, you’ll lose your new employee and you’ll have to start the hiring process over from square one. Here at Merritt, we use a scientifically proven approach to candidate sourcing, selection, and testing, and we can use our methods to help you find your star.

Staying Lean and Flexible

In a perfect world, you could glance into a crystal ball and see far enough into the future to know exactly how your levels of need will expand and contract. You’d see the big rushed orders coming in and you’d be able to predict the lulls, and you could shape your work force accordingly, with plenty of lead time for everyone. But in the real world, workforce shaping isn’t so simple, and just-in-time hiring doesn’t always work according to plan. A great staffing agency understands that you can’t make money with extra hands standing around, but you can’t build a reputation or a respected brand if you dismiss workers indiscriminately. We’ll help you bend without breaking as your business fluctuates.

Managing Staff and Running a Business at the Same Time

Multi-tasking is no easy feat, and nobody understands the value of this skill better than a small business owner. While you lead your teams, train your new employees, staff your positions, and keep everybody paid, you also need to focus on your products and customers. We can help. Let us handle the paperwork, insurance, and tax reporting involved in taking on a new employee. Meanwhile, you can keep your attention where it belongs: on your company.

Finding Rare Skill Sets

Do you need rare unicorns with very specific, overlapping skill sets? Are you having trouble finding these candidates using your current sourcing methods? Let us help. We have the wide network and industry-specific staffing experience necessary to scour the landscape and find the unique job seekers who can meet your needs.

For more on how to face down the hiring challenges that can stand in the way of your growth, contact the staffing and management experts at Merritt Staffing.

Four Things Your Interviewer Wants You To Know

May 22nd, 2015

As you sit down across the desk from your interviewer (who may become your future boss if all goes well) you may not know exactly what they are thinking and what they want to get out of this experience. As your conversation moves forward, their expectations will become clearer, but for now, here are a five things most interviewers want you to know. This list may help clear up some of the mystery.

Your Interviewer Wants You to Succeed

Your interviewer is not trying to undermine your chances of landing this job. They are not trying to start an adversarial conversation with you, and they don’t believe that one of you can benefit only at the expense of the other. They are not trying to poke holes in your story, and they definitely are not trying to embarrass you, trip you up, or create an awkward scene. Nobody wants that. Ideally, they want both of you to enjoy this conversation and see the best in each other. In fact, they’re hoping that the interview goes so well that they can bring this selection process to an end and make a hiring decision.

The Interviewer Wants Your Help

A positive, successful conversation requires the combined effort and input of two people. The interviewer doesn’t fully expect you to take over, of course…But in a perfect world, that’s exactly what will happen. Ideally, they won’t have to keep prompting you and coaxing you to speak; instead, you’ll take the reins and start explaining how you’ve researched the company and decided that this job offers everything you’re looking for. You’ll explain what you know about the position and you’ll list all the ways in which you’re a perfect match. In the best case scenario, the interviewer will able to just sit back and listen.

The Interviewer Wants to Trust You

Before every interview you attend, regardless of your industry, imagine your interviewer as a first-time business owner who runs a corner store and needs to hire an employee to take on tasks that they are used to completing. Or just as effective, imagine them as a parent trying to choose a care provider for their young children. In both scenarios, your interviewer needs to feel a sense of deep, visceral trust in order for the interview to be a success. This trust has to come from the core, it should feel instinctive, and it should be based on a combination of intuition and body language, not just facts and credentials.

She Knows that You’re Nervous

Your interviewer knows that you’re nervous about this meeting, and that’s okay. They are perfectly willing to see past this (in fact, they expects some nerves). But they need you to do the same. Don’t worry about concealing your nervous energy…Just don’t let it control your behavior. Stay focused on the conversation and you’ll be fine.

For more on how to ace your next interview and land the job you need, reach out to the experienced job search professionals at Merritt.

Are you Hiring the Best Candidate?

May 15th, 2015

When you choose top candidates for your open positions, do you make your decision based credentials or future growth? Are you choosing new hires who have the skills and competence to step into your open positions and pick up the reins, or are you looking further into the future and choosing the kinds of employees who will help you reach your goals after a long — and possibly ongoing — training period? Here are a few things to consider as you shape your staffing program.

Hiring the “Perfect Right Now” Candidate

Sometimes, the wisest hiring strategy is too look no further than the end of the year, or even the month. If you have an open chair and you need someone to occupy that chair and start contributing immediately, you’ll need a candidate who’s already done this exact type of work before, and has hopefully developed a track record of success. You’ll need someone who requires no training and no investment on your part, a candidate who already fits the mold and requires no upfront launch period in which she costs more than she contributes.

But before you set your sights on this candidate, keep two things in mind: First, when you find her, expect her to be expensive. Hiring a candidate like this is like buying a beautiful model house with all the furnishings; you’ll be making your bid at the absolute top of the market. But since she’s already generating revenue on day one, you don’t have to hold onto her for more than a year or two to gain returns on your investment. She may not stay—especially if you can’t afford to keep her happy—but when she leaves, your bottom line won’t suffer as much.

Hiring the “High Potential” Candidate

As an alternative, consider hiring a candidate who seems slightly underqualified, but who makes up for this lack with ambition, intelligence, and interest in future growth. The high potential candidate may not have the degree credentials you ask for, and she may not have experience that aligns perfectly with the needs of your open position. But if you hire her, you’ll be able to do so at a discount. And once she’s on board, you can invest in her training, exposure, and formal education. In a few years, her salary will have gone up by only a small percentage of the base. But her skills and contributions will have increased immeasurably.

Before you hire this candidate, keep a few things in mind. First, your decision won’t start paying off for quite some time, so you’ll need to concentrate on retention. If your new hires keep leaving within a few months, you’ll never reap the benefits of your choice. And second, you’ll have to use the interview process to make sure that her long term plans align with yours. Ask as many questions as you answer, and draw a detailed picture of how you see this relationship developing over time. For more on how to make the right decision, reach out to the Staffing Experts in Fairfield County at Merritt.

 

Are you Losing Candidates to your Competition?

April 24th, 2015

If you lose one or two of your top candidates every now and then to better offers, that’s nothing to worry about. This happens to all employers every once in a while, and since candidates are free to walk away at any time (as long as they haven’t signed a contract), there’s not much you can do to prevent the occasional top choice from slipping away.

But if this disappointment is taking place on a regular basis, there are a few things you can do to step up your offer and speed up your hiring process. Show respect and present your company’s best side and you’ll grab the attention of top contenders. Start with these moves.

Show Interest from the Beginning

If a candidate shows enough respect for your company to apply here, then she deserves an equal level of warmth and interest on your part. Never leave a candidate waiting by the phone once you’ve opened a dialogue. And course, never leave candidates waiting in the reception area for more than ten minutes after the scheduled start time of an interview. Welcome them with a smile and a firm handshake, show interest in their backgrounds, and never cross examine them or put them on the defensive during the selection process. Would you work for a company (or hire a candidate) who treated you this way? Probably not.

Once you Make Your Decision, Act Quickly

When you’ve settled on your top contender, move fast. Don’t expect her to put her job search on hold while you slowly process her paperwork and wait for key HR personnel to return from long vacations. Make sure she knows that she’s the one for you by presenting her with a clear verbal offer, and if the written offer will take two days or two weeks to process, let her know the timeline and stick with it.

Handle Second Choices Carefully

Be perfectly honest with your runner up candidates about where they stand. Treat them with the same respect you would appreciate if you were in their positions. Don’t lead them to believe they’re at the top of the list, but tell them they’re still in the running until the day they aren’t anymore. Contact them on that day and deliver a clear, positive, and decisive message. Thank them genuinely for their interest in the company.

Keep the Process Short

Try not to conduct more than then three rounds of interviews total, including phone screenings. Dragging candidates back into the office multiple times will only alienate the ones who are strong enough to have other options. If you subject your applicants to ten rounds, you’ll lose the best contenders at round three, and by round ten, only the desperate will still be showing up. Respect your candidates and they’ll respect you.

For more on how to attract the most talented applicants in the marketplace, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt.

 

Showcase Your Company Culture to Attract Top Talent

April 10th, 2015

When it comes to attracting talented applicants, you have plenty of tools at your disposal and plenty of aces in your hand. You offer fair and competitive salary rates, your benefit package is attractive, your workplace is safe and clean, your brand is respected, and your turnover is low (if any of these things don’t apply to your company, now is the perfect time to make some changes). But as valuable as any of these other selling features may be, you also offer a terrific company culture. Here’s how to make the most of this important detail.

Know how to Describe Your Culture

A “terrific” company culture means different things to different people. When you look around your office, what do you see? Are your employees quiet and diligent? Are they noisy and extroverted? Do they compete or collaborate? Are they driven or laid back? Any of these descriptors can be presented in a positive light…Just make sure you know which ones can honestly be applied to your workplace.

Consider Your Target Applicant

What kinds of candidates would you like to attract? Are you looking for bold risk takers who speak up even when their ideas haven’t been carefully considered? Or do you prefer cautious rule-followers who respect an established hierarchy? Are you looking for driven loners who will stay till midnight? Or would rather hire relaxed team players who watch out for each other and leave at five to attend to well-rounded personal lives? Before you try to pitch your culture as a selling feature, recognize who you’re pitching it to…and respect the kinds of social elements these candidates might prefer.

Go to the Source

Screen-focused millennial candidates who are online 24-7 can best be reached though appropriate social media channels. Seasoned corporate leaders at the mid-career stage can be best reached through industry organizations and higher level networking events. Trusted experts in narrow fields can be reached through specialized channels, and broad workers with general talents can be reached through national job boards. Keep in mind that workers in all of these categories are attracted to companies that emphasize productivity and show clear respect for their employees.

Let your Pride Show

If there’s something about your company culture that makes you proud, don’t hide that feature… Show it off! If you go out of your way to take care of employees at each stage of their working lives, from cultivating new graduates to supporting those who are planning families or preparing for retirement, make this clear. If you encourage your workers to laugh and socialize with each other, make this known. If your teams are driven to win at all costs, brag about this to your candidates. If they like what they see, then they represent the right matches for you. If not, they’ll self-select.

For more on how to show off your company culture to attract candidates who share your values, consult with the staffing experts at Merritt.

 

 

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