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Interview Time: Why Do you Want to Work Here?

October 23rd, 2020

There’s a strong chance that at some point during your job interview, your interviewer will probe to find out how much you already know about the company and the role, and he or she will try to assess your level of personal interest in a partnership. Like almost every job candidate everywhere, you’re probably pursuing the role because you need to make a living and this opportunity revealed itself to you at the right place and time. But that’s not what your interviewer needs to hear (she already knows this). Instead, answer the question “Why do you want to work here?” by explaining why this specific company appeals to you.

Here’s how.

Don’t fawn or lie about your level of prior knowledge.

You don’t have to tell your interviewer that it’s always been your lifelong dream to work here. If you did not know the company existed before you saw the job posting, that’s okay. There’s no shame in not instantly recognizing the name of a random local business two counties away from your home. In fact, it’s best to be honest and say something like, “I didn’t know anything at all about the company, but when I saw the job post, I looked you up and learned more about your history and business model. I was impressed with (fill in the blank) and I feel like we are a good match because (fill in the blank).” Of course, you should never attend a job interview without briefly researching the company beforehand.

Anticipate being asked for more detail.

A common follow-up to “Why do you want to work here?” is “Please explain more about why you like us.” At this point, you can stop reciting the facts you learned from the website. Be introspective and look for connections between your personal long-term career plans and what this company may have to offer you. Find links between the product or service they provide and some aspects of your own personality. Since this may require thought, do your thinking beforehand, so you’re ready when the question comes your way.

Have answers ready if you hear an objection.

Your interviewer may put obstacles in your path to see how you respond. For example, she may say something like, “You seem friendly and outgoing. This job will require a lot of alone time and self-direction. Will you be okay with that?” Another example: “We provide products or services that some people object to morally. Will that be a problem for you?” Or yet another: “Your home address seems quite far from here. Will you be comfortable with a long commute?” Answer by explaining why you believe your sacrifice or compromise will be worthwhile. You may also want to explain why you’ve overlooked similar companies that presented you with fewer obstacles. Again, this may take some thought.

There’s no wrong answer to this question if you speak with honesty and self-knowledge. Focus on what you can offer the company, but also emphasize what you believe the company can offer to you. For more guidance, turn to the job search experts at Merritt.

Six Warehouse Skills Staffing Agencies Look For

September 11th, 2020

What kinds of warehouse skill sets can grab the attention of a staffing agency? If you can impress your staffing agency with your resume, you’ll gain the support from the staffing team and they can better connect you with a wide range of potential employers. If your list of skills seems a little too short or not quite relevant, you’ll be more likely to wait a bit longer for the job you need. So which skills areas should you place in the spotlight?

Here are a few guidelines that can help.

Listen closely and remember that nothing is personal.

Keep in mind that the staffing agency makes decisions based on what employers say they need. So if there’s a current strong demand for forklift operators, that’s what agencies will look for. Later, if employers need shifts elsewhere, your forklift skills may not shine as brightly. If your agency asks you to show off something specific—like your software skills, leadership abilities, or flexible schedule, just listen and comply as well as you can.

Inventory management

Warehouse managers appreciate an applicant who’s familiar with their current inventory software. But as a close second, they like candidates who can quickly gain expertise with ANY inventory software, whether they’ve worked with it in the past or not. Many companies use their own proprietary systems anyway; they need a candidate who can look at an unfamiliar menu and learn to navigate it in just a few days if possible.

Problem-solving skills

Materials management is an art and a science, and strong warehouse workers have the patience and the resourcefulness to solve common problems. For example, when you need to move bulky, perishable, or odd-shaped units into an area already occupied by something else. If you can follow your manager’s instructions, that’s great. If you can solve the problem yourself, that’s even better.

Safety and common sense

In most modern workplaces, employers prevent expensive workers’ compensation claims (not to mention pain, illness and injury) by posting clear signs and clear instructions everywhere they’re needed. But sometimes there’s no sign, and the difference between safe productivity and an expensive disaster can depend on the cool-headed common sense of a given employee—That’s you. Not sure if you’re standing in a hard hat zone? Not sure if that tank should be leaking the way it is? Not sure how to navigate a pallet lifter over a wet floor or during a power outage? If you can provide the safest answer to these questions, you’ll be hired sooner rather than later.

Teamwork

You can’t handle every task in a warehouse by yourself. A warehouse is complex place with lots going on and lots of moving parts operating on tight schedules. Can you trust your teammates? Can they trust you to be there when they need you?

Responsiveness

If you hear an instruction shouted from a distance, are you likely to hear it? If you do, will you nod briefly or will you turn to the speaker, acknowledge them, and respond? Again, warehouse work depends on communication and teamwork, so a natural ability to connect with others can go a long way. For more on how to impress your agency and your potential employers, turn to the team at Merritt.

Interview Time: How Would You Describe Yourself?

August 21st, 2020

At some point during your job interview—likely at the beginning—your interviewer may simply hand the conversation over to you by asking an open-ended question with no wrong answer, something like “Tell me about yourself.” If you’re asked to describe yourself, how should you answer?

Here are a few tips that can help.

Stay relevant.

Instead of telling your life story (“I was born in the town of X and my parents worked at X and X…”), simply relay the events of your career that brought you to this particular interview at this particular time. “Tell me about yourself” really just means “Tell me what you’re looking for from your professional life right now, and why you think this job and company may be your next destination.” You can explain your long and short-term goals, your proudest skill sets, and what your current or last job couldn’t quite do for you. Not only does this provide an answer to the real question, but it also provides a jumping-off point for the rest of the conversation.

If asked for more, share something personal.

If you reach the end of your answer and your interviewer still wants you to hold the spotlight and say more, you can share your hobbies and interests and maybe a few of the broad strokes that summarize your personality. For example, “I’m an active person who loves the outdoors. I like to go camping up in the local mountains and I like to ski.” Of course, you both know that skiing won’t be required at this job, but this simple statement can offer some information about what it might be like to work with you.

Never talk about your family, religion, ethnic background, or health status.

These are protected categories of information, and your employer has neither the need—nor the right—to know about them. Avoid the temptation to share your marital status or whether you do or don’t have children. And even if it seems harmless, share nothing about any disabilities (even allergies), and don’t offer a word about any area that may subject you to bias. These things may come up naturally later on, but they should not be discussed or revealed at this stage of the relationship.

Read the room as you speak.

You know you’ve said enough when the interviewer starts to get restless and look away, and you know you’ve answered the question satisfactorily if the interviewer breaks in and asks for specifics or answers on a different subject. Listen as you speak. You’ll know which parts of your story spark interest and which parts spark boredom or concern. Use this information as you move forward with the interview. For more on how to make a strong impression and land the job you need, turn to the team at Merritt.

The Best Way to Follow Up After an Interview

June 26th, 2020

Your interview is over. Whew! All that preparation and nervous tension are now behind you and it’s time to get ready for the next step. You may have fumbled a question or two and you may have hit it out of the park…but since you don’t have a clear answer just yet, you’ll want to take every step you can to make the most of what went right and overcome whatever went wrong. Don’t waste any time! Get to work as soon as you step out the door and drive away from the venue.

First, send a note.

A polite, small handwritten note can carry a lot of import after a job interview, and here’s why: because it’s sweet and personal. It lets the interviewer know that you’re a human being, you enjoyed making a connection with him or her, and you care about the job and the outcome of your session. Keep it small; a large card or flashy statement comes dangerously close to looking like a gift, which is not necessary and signals urgency instead of patience and class. (Gifts, by the way, are never a good idea. They can tank your chances and may even go against company policy, leading to your immediate removal from consideration.) Use your note to simply say thank you for the meeting and remind the recipient that you’re qualified for the role.

Second, sit tight.

After you send your note, don’t contact the interviewer or the company for at least two days. They will be interviewing other candidates during this time and it’s inappropriate to expect a decision before every candidate has been screened. After about three days, you can assume that the interview process may be ending soon, and you can plan your next move.

Send a short, professional message.

A short, concise, polite email offers and appropriate way to inquire about your status. If you decide to send a message like this to the hiring manager, don’t expect an immediate answer and never send more than one such message per week.

Call if you like, but recognize that you may be crossing a line.

Calling the office after your interview is not a crime, by any means. But it can be considered rude and intrusive, and some companies clearly ask candidates not to do this. If you call, keep your conversation short and take the opportunity to remind the employers that you’re still interested. Stay friendly, relaxed, and purposeful.

After your interview, focus your attention on the next task: lining up and preparing for your next interview. We can help. Contact the experts at Merritt for advice and guidance.

Landing an Interview When You’re Not the Perfect Fit for the Job

May 15th, 2020

You’ve read the job post carefully, and the hiring managers clearly want someone with your background and skills…or a close match, anyway. Or a not-so-close match. You have some of what they might be looking for, which is good news. But you also lack a few of the software skills specifically mentioned in the post, and you have three years of experience, not the “five plus” these employers require.

Here’s the truth: You can still get the job. And you can still learn what you need to know during your ramp-up period and thrive in the role over the long term. The biggest obstacle you face right now is landing an interview so you can make your case to these managers in person. Here are a few moves you can use.

Emphasize what you DO have in your resume and cover letter.

If the post mentions any detail, preference or requirement that you do have, mention it clearly in both of your application documents. And use the exact words and terms the employers use, since they may be filtering resumes using keyword searches. (“Experience with CNC” and “CNC coding background” are not the same.) Use every tool at your disposal, including your resume language, to make it past filters and algorithms.

Make contact.

Some job posts specifically say “No calls please” or “Do not call the office”. In this case, take the hint and don’t call. But if you don’t see this clear request, call. Why not? You have nothing to lose. If you can speak to someone in person and grab a few rays of attention, that may be all you need to move to the top of the interview shortlist. Be reasonable, of course. Don’t keep calling over and over.

Scour your social media to see if you have an inside connection.

Do you know someone who might know someone at this company? Check your Linkedin profile and Facebook feed to find out. Send a message to your potential contact and ask for advice.

Show off.

You may not be able to check every box in the job post, but you have plenty of other qualities that can help you stand out. Highlight them and don’t let them go unnoticed. Even if you think they can’t help you, they might.

For more on how to grab the spotlight and land an interview—even you doubt some of your qualifications—reach out to the job search experts at Merritt.

Go to the Interview Even When You’re Not Looking

February 28th, 2020

You’ve been summoned for an interview by an employer—or maybe a recruiter—who seems interested in your background and skills. Accepting the invitation will require a bit of an investment on your part; you’ll need to set aside at least an hour of your time, and you may need to dry clean your interview outfit, take some time away from your current job, arrange pet or childcare, or simply do some research and planning if the interview will happen via phone or video. So before you respond, you’ll need to ask yourself: Is it worth it? If you already have a satisfactory job and you aren’t actively looking for new work, should you take a closer look at this new opportunity?

Nobody can see into the future, but in most cases, the answer is yes. Here’s why.

You’ll learn something.

Attending the interview can help you gain a deeper understanding of what’s available to you in your industry and your geographic area. You’ll learn more about the job landscape around you, and you’ll also learn more—and gain a new contact—within a specific company near you. Even if you never speak to the employer directly and you only talk to a recruiter, you’ll find out more about what these employers need and what they’re trying to accomplish.

You may change your mind.

Every negotiation starts when two people sit down at a table. Even if you think you aren’t interested in switching jobs right now, give the interviewer a chance to convince you. This new opportunity may put you on a faster track to your goals. Or maybe the job offers a shorter commute or more flexible hours. Maybe you’ve been dealing with some minor headache or pain point in your current role and this new job can make that issue disappear. And of course, the new job may pay more. In order to find out, you’ll have to lend your ear.

If this job doesn’t suit you, another one might.

If you engage in an open and honest conversation with your interviewer, you may discover that this job isn’t a perfect fit for you, and the interview won’t lead to a hiring agreement. But she may have something else to offer you or someone else in her web of contacts who can present you with a closer match.

Interview practice makes perfect.

Time spent interviewing is never time wasted, despite the minor hoops you may jump through to make it happen. Hearing yourself as you highlight your skills and tell your professional story can help you work out the kinks and make your story tighter, stronger, and more convincing. When the next opportunity comes along, you’ll be that much better prepared. For more help with your job search and interview skills, contact the experts at Merritt Staffing.

How to Answer When You’re Asked About Your Desired Salary

August 16th, 2019

As your interviewer sits across the table from you, she’ll have plenty of goals that will frame the meeting. She’ll want to find out if you can handle the job. She’ll want to assess how you’ll get along with your team. She’ll want to know if you have the personality to enjoy this job’s unique challenges. Some of these things are not up to you; you have no way of knowing if you’ll click with your new team, and you can’t really assess your readiness for the role if you can’t see behind the scenes. But your interviewer will also want to assess something only YOU can possibly know: How much would you like to be paid?

In other words: What is the lowest possible amount the company can give you without going so low that you reject their job offer?

How can you answer without a) underselling your skills and accepting a rate that’s less than your time is worth, or b) asking for so much that the offer isn’t made? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be the first to state a number.

No matter how direct, firm, or polite the request, don’t provide a number when your interviewer asks you how much you want. Simply smile and say, “I’d rather not share a number first.” There’s no need to play games (such as changing the subject to avoid answering); just say you aren’t ready to share a number and stick to your guns if pressed.

Never share your previous salary.

Your previous salary is a private and personal data point that should never be shared with a potential employer, ever. Even if you’re a government worker and your past salary is publicly posted, don’t share it. Let the company look it up on their own. Why keep this info private? Because once your interviewers have it, they can make you the lowest offer you’re probably able to accept. If you want an offer that’s twice or ten times your past salary, you can get that. But it will be harder if your interviewer can peer into your history.

Recognize that this is a negotiation, even if the company says it isn’t.

This is a negotiation and the number is NOT firm until you both agree to accept it. The offer may be presented as non-negotiable, but here’s a secret: every offer is negotiable. Before you dive in and try to bump the number up, remember that negotiations come with specific rules. Know the rules and respect them. (For example, don’t suggest a higher figure and then continue to raise it after the company agrees). If you’ve never negotiated before, get some coaching before you step in.

For more on how to receive an offer that matches your skills and experience, talk to the job search pros at Merritt.

Why Connections Are Increasingly Important to Your Job Search

July 19th, 2019

To find a great job, you’ll need all the classic job-search tools in your kit: a strong resume, a cover letter, an online profile that’s easy to find (on LinkedIn or your personal website), and at least three people who have enthusiastically agreed to serve as references if they’re called by your prospective employers. But you’ll also need something else, something that’s increasingly important in our digital age: personal connections.

Here are three reasons why you should develop your connections so you can leverage them when the time comes to move your career forward.

Connections indicate you’re part of a community.

If you’re connected to your potential employer’s social circle, professional circle, geographic area or past, then you’re a known quantity (even if the person doesn’t actually know you). This implies that you’re reliable, safe and have a strong personal motivation to work hard, do your best, and maintain your existing reputation as a good person. If you’ve appeared out of nowhere and have no context or community that can vouch for you, you bring a larger set of unknowns.

People like to help their friends.

To be clear, the “friend” in this scenario isn’t you; it’s the person standing between you and your employer. She’s calling in or returning a favor to someone else, and the bond between her and that person stand to be strengthened by your decision to ask for help or an introduction. The fact that you exist and need something (or can offer something) can bring two other people closer. Use this to your advantage!

If you have a connection, more info on you may be available.

A resume can only offer so much information about you. But a person making a personal introduction can offer far more. They can provide insight into your specific experiences, your competencies and your personality in ways no profile every really can.

Connections lead to more connections.

When we expand our web of connections, we help ourselves and widen our career opportunities, one strand at a time. This doesn’t just apply to you; it also applies to the boss who might hire you based on your shared personal contacts. A wise boss will apply this logic to their hiring decision and choose the candidate that can best help the person and the company advance.

For more on how to build up your network and make the best possible use of the connections you already have, turn to the career management team at Merritt!

Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

March 22nd, 2019

When your would-be employer is finished asking you a list of questions about your background, your career goals and your preparation for the company’s open position, it’s time to turn the tables. Never leave an interview session without obtaining some important information of your own; information you’ll need in order to make a smart, informed decision about this job and how it might support your career and add to your life.

Your employer can’t read your mind, and they won’t know exactly what to tell you about the company and the job unless you ask. So, make sure you include these questions in your conversation (plus any others you decide to add).

Where can I go from here?

What will this job do for your career? Ask your employer to describe the next rung of the ladder and explain where you’ll go when you outgrow this job and it’s time for a promotion. Are there management roles above you that you can step into? Or will you need to seek work elsewhere as soon as you’re ready for the next chapter?

Will this job provide the specific training and exposure that you need?

What kinds of training and experience will you need to become one, two, and ten degrees better at what you do? Can this company provide that training and experience? Maybe this employer offers or supports opportunities outside the company. Ask about tuition reimbursement for coursework at local colleges, and ask about extracurricular training and support, sabbatical programs, conference attendance and other forms of personal development.

Will you be able to do the kind of work you want to do?

Some companies offer a kind of bait-and-switch, a system in which you step onboard but don’t actually DO the work you want to do until you’ve stayed for several years and reached various assigned milestones. If this may be one of those companies, establish a clear timeline. If you can’t do your chosen work right away, when will it happen?

Can they give you the benefits you need?

Now isn’t the best time to ask about salary (save that until you’re closer to receiving an offer). But it’s a great time to clearly ask about the benefits you’ll need the most. Does the company offer on-site childcare? Commuter compensation? A strong healthcare plan? If you need something specific and the company can’t offer it, find out sooner rather than later.

What makes this place special?

You can work anywhere. So why should you choose to work here? Frame your question diplomatically but get the answer you need. If competing companies in the same industry are equally likely to hire you, what makes this company stand out? Is it the culture? The low turnover? The prestige? Factor the answer into your decision.

For more on how to get the most out of your interview, contact the job search team at Merritt.

 

How to Sell Yourself During a Phone Interview

November 23rd, 2018

When your employers contact you by phone for an initial screening or a formal interview, you’ll want to be ready. Phone interviews and in-person interviews are very different, and while in some ways the phone may be an easier tool for candidates, it also precludes some helpful forms of non-verbal communication like body language and facial expressions. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get ready to wow an employer with your voice alone.

Smiling and nice clothes still have an impact.

Your employer can’t see your face, but certain expressions show through in our voices, and a smile is one of them. When you’re smiling, your listeners can hear it. So, as you say hello and greet the person, make sure you’re wearing an appropriate expression—even if there’s no one in the room with you. As for professional clothing, what you wear can subtly influence your presentation and sense of self. There’s no need to dress to the nines but keep this unconscious connection in mind as you prepare for your call.

Avoid friendly interruptions.

A few well-intended interruptions may be fine and may even come off as a sign of high enthusiasm. But don’t let them become a pattern. In real life, your interruption says, “I’m excited by what you’re saying, and I don’t need to hear all of it before I chime in”, but over the phone, this isn’t clear. Let your employer finish speaking and then pause for a full second before you respond.

Complete every sentence and laugh audibly.

Don’t say anything—a statement, a joke, an assertion, or an agreeable remark—unless you are prepared to turn your words into a complete sentence or thought. Don’t stop short or trail off. Trail-offs have a place in face-to-face conversation, but with a stranger over the phone, they can be confusing. As for laughter, when your interviewer makes a lighthearted remark, turn your quiet smile or shy chuckle into an audible laugh, or a “ha ha”. Otherwise it’s just a weird silence.

Let your interviewer drive.

Let the conversation go wherever your interviewer wants to take it and let them control the pace. When two people vie for the driver’s seat in a face-to-face dialogue, the result can be engaging, sparkling and often meaningful and memorable. But over the phone, signals can easily get crossed and confused. One driver is enough. If you’d like to redirect, do so clearly and assertively.

Turn up your wattage.

Are you interested in the job? Are you excited to share your relevant experience and qualifications? Do you have questions about the role? Great! Take this energy and play to the back row. Dial everything up by one notch so it’s easier for your listener to pick up on your vibe.

For more on how to ace your interview—on the phone or in person—turn to the career management experts at Merritt.

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