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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.

If You’re Not Learning, You’re Falling Behind

January 12th, 2018

As you work your way through an average day, hour by hour, how many of those hours find you facing down a daunting, confusing, or excited new challenge you’ve never faced before? During an average week, how often do you find yourself getting nervous about a big task, sweating in front of a critical audience, or tackling a project with higher stakes than you’re used to?

If none of these scenarios apply to you, and you’re spending your days moving through a series of simple tasks and challenges that you could do in your sleep at this point, maybe it’s time to wake yourself up. You may be trapped in a comfort zone that will hold you in its soft embrace for the rest of your working life—If you’re lucky enough to keep this job forever and if your ambitions extend no farther than these walls. If you’d rather not see yourself in the same chair in 20 years, it’s time to start learning some new things…and that means discomfort. Face that discomfort head on and power through by keeping these tips in mind.

Nobody else will do it for you.

Your boss might gently chide you into reaching for a higher bar, but it’s not her job to coach you or take the wheel of your career. That wheel belongs to you alone, so if you’re waiting for her to come over to your desk and sign you up for a training course, or shove you beyond your familiar boundaries, you may be waiting a long time. You’ll have to do this yourself. And you’ll have to start today instead of waiting until all the conditions are perfectly in place. (They never will be).

Opportunities exist in this workplace and also beyond.

You can go to your boss and ask her to sign you up for that course if you choose, and that’s a great start. But if she can’t or won’t, or has nothing to offer you, your mission isn’t over. There are plenty of online and local community courses available all around you, and your company may even be willing to foot the bill if you declare your intentions and ask.

Bite off more than you can chew.

Sometimes the best way to learn to swim is by jumping in over your head. Accept a project or a task that you aren’t totally sure you can sleepwalk through. Put yourself in the path of trouble, then be your own hero and save the day.

For more on how to get out of your rut and explore new branches of your industry, new software platforms, new technical skills, and new opportunities, contact the career management experts at Merritt.

Can I Turn a Temporary Position into a Full Time Opportunity?

December 22nd, 2017

Your recruiter has a job opportunity that they think might be great for you. With one glance, you can tell that they’re right, for the most part. The job is located close to where you live, the schedule and hours work well for you, the conditions and culture seem great, and the responsibilities of the role fall directly in line with what you’ve done in the past and where you’d like to take your career in the future. There’s just one problem: The job isn’t meant to last.

This is a temporary role, and the employers only need someone who can step in while their regular employee is on leave or reassigned to another project. If you take the job, you’ll step in—and probably thrive—but you’ll have to find something else once the contract period ends. So what should you do? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Don’t immediately say no.

All jobs are temporary (when you think about it) and there’s nothing wrong with extending your search for full time work while you hold down a position, meet some new people, collect a paycheck and learn some new skills. In work, just because something doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean you should avoid the experience altogether. Just go in with your eyes open.

Talk to your recruiter about the changes you’d like to see.

Simply ask your recruiter to find out more about your options. Will this company consider taking you on permanently if the employee doesn’t return? Are there any other possible scenarios that might result in changes to the timeline of the role?

What will you gain for your troubles?

A short-term job (even a very short-term job) might come with some big benefits for your long-term career. If you can gain some assurance that your managers will give you a recommendation or if there’s a chance you can be shifted to another role or department when your contract ends, a gamble you take at the beginning of the process might pay off in the end.

As with all professional decisions and paths that diverge, ask plenty of questions before you make your final decision. If you need help crunching the numbers, contact the Connecticut expert career management team at Merritt.

Are You Taking Too Long to Hire?

December 8th, 2017

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

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

Move it or lose it.

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

Just ask.

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

Clear the red tape.

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

Recognize big obstacles ahead of time.

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

Partner with a recruiter.

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

Stop Relying on Your Manager for Performance Reviews

November 17th, 2017

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

Read the room.

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

Ask your direct reports how you’re doing.

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

Check the numbers.

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

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

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

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

Recruit Top Accounting Professionals in Today’s Market

November 10th, 2017

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

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

Recruiters have wide networks.

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

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

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

We can help you handle the nuts and bolts.

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

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

Is Your Elevator Pitch Costing You the Opportunity?

October 27th, 2017

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

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

Your pitch doesn’t exist.

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

Your pitch is boring.

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

Tell a story.

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

Use numbers.

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

Leave room to land your plane.

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

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

Hire for Emotional Intelligence

October 13th, 2017

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

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

First, just ask.

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

Request answers in narrative form.

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

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

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

Assess teamwork and leadership skill.

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

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

Is it Time to Rebrand Yourself?

September 22nd, 2017

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

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

Focus on Your Biggest Successes

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

Raise the Bar

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

Don’t Edit Out Your Past Careers

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

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

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