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Job Search Mistakes Made by Experienced Professionals

August 19th, 2016

You’ve skimmed through hundreds of articles that warn job seekers away from “common mistakes”, and when you see these headlines, you tend to tune out. After all, you’re an experienced professional, not an entry-level candidate in your 20s. You know better than to show up late for your interview, and you obviously have no plans to lie your potential employers, swear at the receptionist, or submit a resume filled with typos. But just because you’re an experienced employee doesn’t mean you’re immune to mistakes. At your level, common errors aren’t so easy to spot, but they can still prevent you from landing your target position. Watch out for subtle blunders like these.

Too much (of anything)

During entry level interviews, employers are most concerned with basic competence. But at your level, employers are often much more concerned about over-competence. Overqualified candidates require (and deserve) higher salaries than some employers want to pay. They also ask for more, expect more, are harder to mold and shape, and tend to demonstrate lower levels of obedience, eagerness, and loyalty. All of these things are difficult for some employers to take. So at this stage, frame yourself as a fit for the job. Don’t worry about coming off as an all-around superstar.

Desperation

At the entry level, most candidates are on the market for one reason: they want to launch brilliant careers. They just graduated and they’re eager to start the next chapter. But at the mid-level, the reasons behind the job search vary widely. Employers want to know why you’re here. Were you fired? Why? Do you dislike your current job? Why? Have you been searching for a long time? Why? In other words… What’s wrong with you? So make one thing clear: There’s nothing wrong with you. You can do anything you choose, and you choose to do this. Don’t let desperation, limited options, or urgency play a role in your search.

Anger or maladjustment

At the mid-career level, some of the biggest hiring mistakes take place when employers miss or overlook red flags related to attitude and people skills. Employers know this, and they know that people skills are very easy to misread. So they have a sharp eye out for any signs of irritability, poor listening skills, social maladjustment, or anger. Recognize that no matter how impressive your resume, a glimmer of an attitude problem can push you right out of the running.

Entitlement and corner cutting

Mid-level employers are also on the lookout for candidates who have coasted (for one reason or another) through the early stages of their careers. If you’ve lucked your way up the ladder so far, prepare for an extra level of scrutiny as you enter the next chapter. On the other hand, if you’ve had an opportunity to face real challenges, experience real failure, or demonstrate real leadership, sharing these stories can help you separate yourself from the crowd.

For more on how to ace your mid-level job search, turn to the career development 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.

Interview Tips: Four Tricks That Make a Great Impression

January 23rd, 2015

Before you step into your next interview, add these four slick moves to your professional repertoire and you’ll increase your odds of making a positive impression. You already know that you need the basics: timeliness, neatness, preparation, eye-contact, and follow-up. But you may not know a few of these other strategies that can help you increase your likeability and establish a foundation of trust.

Enjoy the Process

Of course you’re nervous. All interview candidates are nervous, and all of them do their best to hide this fact. Employers are used to this and they expect it. A little sweat on your palm or a little restless tapping on the desk won’t hurt your chances. But if you can look past the moment, keep the entire day in perspective, and enjoy the ride, you’ll do two things: You’ll keep your nerves in check, and you’ll also put your interviewer at ease and help both of you create a positive memory.

Listen, Don’t Just Talk

Candidates often expect the interview process to resemble a kind of oral exam in which each question is followed by a polite (and correct) answer, a pause, and then another question. Interviews always happen this way in the movies. But in real life, interviews tend to take the shape of a conversation, and interviewers often take this opportunity to explain the nature of the job and the company. If you’re smart, you’ll listen while your interviewer talks. If you’re extra smart, you’ll take notes, and you’ll ask questions at the end of the process that show how well you’ve been paying attention.

Be Yourself

This sounds like a cliché, but during your interview, don’t try too hard to construct a persona that differs wildly from your real self. Unless you’re a professional actor, you won’t fool anyone; you’ll just confuse them and make them uncomfortable. Don’t flash your million dollar smile and try to tell jokes if you aren’t a smiler or a joke teller. If you’re naturally quiet and reserved, embrace that, and be the most professional and trustworthy quiet-and-reserved person in the room. If you’re naturally loud, that’s fine—use it to your advantage. If you’re a leader, be a leader. If you’re a follower, don’t hide it—be a follower, and a good one. Work with the grain of your real personality, not against it.

Treat the Interview Like a Date (Sort of)

Obviously, you shouldn’t make or accept romantic overtures with your interviewer, but the job search process and the dating process have a few things in common: In both settings, two parties come to the table as adults and equals, and both have something to gain from a potential partnership. Both parties are looking for the right match, and both benefit by presenting themselves honestly and expecting the same in return. Ask as many questions as you answer, and be polite but clear about what you’re looking for and what you have to offer.

For more interview tips that can help you relax, present your best self, and share information honestly with your potential employer, contact the staffing professionals at Merritt.

 

Five Tips for Hiring Accounting and Finance Personnel

February 28th, 2014

Accounting, controlling and financial decision-making are all critical roles that can be challenging to source and retain, even with the most sophisticated staffing strategy in place. At the highest senior levels, these positions often require vast amounts of institutional knowledge, so an effective strategy will require pipeline building and a program of grooming and hiring from within. But what about the entry level? When you reach out to the general public with an open post for a junior accounting or finance position, what steps can you take to attract and select the best candidates? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Keep long term growth and development in mind.     

Again, if you choose the most promising contenders at the entry level, then bring them aboard and cultivate a long term relationship, you’ll be better poised for success with your senior level staffing challenges. You’ll be reducing risk and setting yourself up for strong cultural matches with minimal guess work.  Script your interviews with plenty of questions that assess  behavior and cultural alignment, not just accounting-focused skill sets.

2. Choose candidates who learn, not those who already know.

A sparkling academic track record and a history of relevant coursework can be great, but if you have to choose, lean toward candidates with natural curiosity, open minds, and the ability to unlearn or relearn as necessary in order to thrive within your company.

3. Don’t let the best contenders slip away for foolish reasons.

Ivy League schools are nice, and an unbroken record of work (no gaps, no travel, no career changes, etc) can suggest focus and commitment. But be careful. Don’t be drawn in by assumptions or stereotypes. Consider each candidate as an individual, not a collection of data points. And realize that a little self- direction and life experience can be a powerful asset to your company.

4. Choose candidates who can see the big picture.

Is your candidate here because she loves this business, has a true head for numbers, and has carefully researched your company and its mission? Or is she only here because she needs a job? A little evidence of enthusiasm and personal investment can forecast a brilliant long term relationship.

5. Don’t be afraid to test.

Accounting and aptitude tests can support your selection process and can provide huge returns for minimal investment. Just make sure you choose the right ones. Don’t rely on testing alone to help you find the most valuable match. For additional guidance, including specific sourcing and interview scripting tips, reach out to the financial staffing experts at Merritt.

6 Innovative Interview Questions to Get Results

December 9th, 2013

When developing interview questions, employers can struggle to branch out from the old, stale pile of traditional queries. If you want your interviews to produce results you can use, stay away from the “tried and true” open/closed questions and start getting more inventive. Here are several types of questions that the big companies and key industry leaders have begun using to make their interviews more than just a bump on the road.

1. The Personal Happiness Question

This question focuses on personal drives. “What moment in your life gave you the greatest satisfaction?” is a common version. This encourages the applicant to show communication skills while also giving you an excellent idea of what drives them – or what they like to think drives them. Finding out what makes the applicant happy and gives them fulfillment will give valuable clues about their work habits and management styles.

2. The Group Crisis Question

The most popular version of this question is the Google interview question, which essentially says: You’re a pirate ship captain, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided. If fewer than half the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend rationing the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the treasure, but still survive? This example is a little ridiculous, but similar situations illustrate the point as well. How does the applicant lead and solve problems in a small group, team, or office? This is often an important management question.

3. The Industry Question

What are some of the key trends in our industry? Where do you see our industry in five years? Who are the most important leaders in our industry? These informational questions are very important when analyzing how much an applicant understands about the business, what the long-term goals are, and how everything fits together. They will easily show if an applicant has a real interest in the company or is just looking for a job.

4. The Career Move Question

If you had to change careers, which career would you move to? Why? If another company was to make you an offer, what would make you consider it? These questions can unveil loyalty issues, long-term interests, and general skillset information in a unique way. They could be more useful than more traditional career questions in showing what an applicant really thinks.

5. The Problem-Solver Question

If [this scenario] occurs, how would you solve this problem? This is a more detail-oriented version of the group crisis question, and is more suitable for lower-level or temporary employees who need to accomplish tasks and capably deal with issues whenever they come up. Tailor the scenario to match the position, but keep things simple. Throw a real-world problem to the applicant and note the response to see what their experience brings to the table and how much training they will need.

6. The Imagination Question

The imagination question can reveal a lot about personality type and is useful to Connecticut recruiters (link to the about us page)  when trying to find the right fit for a team or a flat organization with plenty of flexibility. From “What is your spirit animal” to “What would be your favorite superpower,” this question will show just how innovative, imaginative, and, well, fun your applicant may be. Just remember to follow up with a “Why” question as well.

About Merritt Staffing

Founded in 1989, Merritt Staffing specializes in filling entry-level to middle-management positions in Westchester, Fairfield and New Haven counties. Our staffing and payroll services fill a variety of employment needs, including part-time, full-time, temporary staffing, temp-to-hire and direct-hire positions. See more at: http://www.merrittstaffing.com.

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