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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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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