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Do Employers Really Read My Cover Letter?

April 19th, 2019

Job applicants typically work hard to stay efficient with their time and energy. If you’re searching for work, you’re likely to choose actions and options that shorten the path to your goals and help you cover more ground using less fuel. And as you do so, you’re likely to find yourself asking a common question as you toil over every word of your cover letter: “Will anyone actually read this?”

To find an answer, we’ve turned to countless employers, including our clients, partners and professional contacts across multiple industries. Unsurprisingly, their answers differ. But most reposes fall into three distinct categories. The next time you ask yourself if your cover letter is worth the effort, consider your audience and try to determine which category they fall into.

Yes, we read (almost) every single letter.

Employers are likely to read letters carefully if they manage smaller firms, new startups, family-owned businesses, and tightly controlled companies (where the CEO or department head may be the one reading the resumes and making hiring decisions). With employers like these, don’t take a chance with your cover letter. That means no errors, poor wording or missed opportunities. Your strong cover letter may help you edge out a small pool of very tough competition, and it’s not uncommon to land an interview based on one passing remark or a throwaway statement you added to your letter at the last minute before sending. At some point down the road, these employers may let you know what aspect of your letter won them over.

We ask for them, but we don’t read them all.

Some employers request cover letters because they’re useful tiebreakers when the candidate pool has been narrowed to a small handful of excellent prospects. By the time the winner’s circle has been drawn, the front-runner with a brilliant, detailed letter will certainly win the interview over the one with a poorly written letter or a solitary resume. But most candidates won’t make it that far. If scanners don’t pick up the right resume keywords, your resume and letter may stagnate unread in a database somewhere.

Letters are our first (sometimes only) deciding factor.

Some employers don’t ask for cover letters … but some take cover letters only. These reviewers aren’t even interested in a resume; they just want you to tell them, point blank and in your own words, why you should have the job. If the job post makes it clear that your letter is important, don’t skip a single detail or cut a single corner. Your letter is your stage. Grab the spotlight and make the most of it.

For more on job search decisions that can help you find the fastest path to success, turn to the career experts at Merritt.

How to Handle a Slip-Up at a New Job

February 22nd, 2019

It’s your first year on the job and things are looking great! Or at least OK. You’re learning the ropes, winning over supporters and connecting with co-workers. Then something goes wrong. An embarrassing mistake, but you’re eventually forgiven; after all, you’re new, and this is how you learn. A rough day ends, and you wake up the next morning feeling a little better. Until …

It happens again. This time, you have no one and nothing to blame but your own shortcomings. You’re not new anymore, you should have known better and your blunder can’t be attributed to any circumstance or innocent lack of information. You had everything you needed, and you still screwed up. Badly. What now?

First, own what you’ve done.

Don’t launch an immediate search for excuses or explanations. Even if there’s a chance this isn’t your fault, leave that possibility on the shelf for now. And as you own your blunder, be very clear. Use the exact words “I own this mistake” when you speak to an angry boss or steamed clients. Even if you aren’t 100 percent sure you deserve to be thrown in the stocks, use the phrase and hold tightly to your dignity and integrity. First things first.

Second, make it right.

If you aren’t sure how to atone or heal those you’ve hurt (and even if you’re pretty sure this isn’t possible) seek advice. Be humble and ask the right person—your damaged clients, embarrassed boss or upset co-workers—what it might take to correct what you’ve done and put the universe back in order. Don’t expect a positive response right away, or any response. If doors are slammed in your face, be patient. This is part of the reset process.

Identify, verbalize and isolate worst-case scenarios.

Maybe this mistake will get you fired. If so, identify and accept that possibility. Maybe the company will lose money, or innocent stakeholders could be hurt by what you’ve done. Don’t let nameless anxieties and terrible possibilities drag you into panic and paralysis. Name them. Then face them and deal with them one by one.

Learn at least one critical lesson.

Think, reflect and identify at least one key lesson or something you’ll do differently next time to avoid this outcome. Verbalize that lesson. Write it down. And be absolutely sure—even if you’re fired—that your boss knows you’ve done this. By learning, and sharing what you’ve learned, you give yourself a fighting chance at redemption and forgiveness. You prove you’re working hard to earn back the trust you’ve lost.

Everyone makes mistakes. A mistake-free person is a person who takes no risks, makes no hard decisions and lacks meaningful life experience. Don’t be that person. But when you DO mess up, make the most of the moment and recover your stride with grace. For more on how to be the hero of your own life story, contact the career growth experts at Merritt.

Is Your Boss Babying You?

January 25th, 2019

“Micromanaging” may mean different things to different people; for some who prefer to work with no oversight at all, a boss who overexplains a task or brings a completed project back for a re-do can be intolerable. For others, micromanaging simply means close coaching and hand-holding, and when it disappears, these nervous workers feel adrift. The weight of personal responsibility and agency sits heavily on them.

Since the definition varies for each person, it’s up to you—the employee—to decide if you’re being babied. And if you are, here are a few moves that can help you convince your boss to take a step back.

Earn trust, and when you’ve earned, insist on it.

Gently saying, “I can handle this—I’ve done it before” can sometimes be enough to remind your boss that you know what you’re doing. For some bosses, what you have or have not done in the past can be easy to forget. Your manager doesn’t carry a list with her that covers all known facts about your accomplishments and capabilities, so it’s OK to politely point them out. If you haven’t done the task before (or can’t provide simple proof), then work to earn your manager’s trust. When you’ve earned it, capitalize on that fact. Point out your accomplishment and ask directly for the faith and trust that should now be yours.

Show empathy.

Often when bosses hover too close, it’s not because they’re jerks. And it’s not because they expect little of you or don’t respect you. It’s simply because they themselves are under pressure and they have a lot riding on the outcome of your work. They have trouble risking the disaster they believe will result if they walk away from the task and leave you to it. Recognize that their objectionable behavior isn’t personal; it comes from a sense of fear and anxiety. Address the anxiety rather than becoming angry or resentful with the boss.

Just ask directly for what you need.

“I need your trust” can be an ambiguous request. Instead, try something like “I’ll check in with you once a week, OK?” or “I’d like to let my team decide how to do this” or “I’d like to contribute to strategy discussions.” Direct requests might get better results.

Explain the problem.

Wishing and hoping your boss will back off won’t accomplish anything. But if you honestly explain the problem to her, she may see things from your point of view. Try a statement like, “When you step in at every stage of the process, we don’t learn how to do this on our own.”

Instead of resenting your boss’s bad behavior, do something about it. Stay calm and polite but be honest about what you need from your working relationship. Hiding the truth helps no one. For more, contact the career development experts at Merritt.

Staying Motivated During the Holidays

December 14th, 2018

As an ambitious employee with big plans for your future, or an ambitious job seeker with big plans for your next position, you have lots to do and lots on your plate. You know you need to get up each day and hit the pavement, and you know that you’re wise to stay on your feet and in motion as much as possible until you get where you’re going.

Your typical self-motivation strategies work well, and they keep you on track during the early spring, the summer, and the fall…but then the holidays arrive. And everything tends to fall apart. This year sidestep the distractions of the season and stay focused! Here’s how.

Keep your eyes on your goal.

The best gift you can give yourself will be a new job by February. Pursuing this goal is the kindest thing you can do for yourself, and in the long run, you’ll appreciate this gift more than a long weekday trip to the spa. Take breaks when you need to and remember that more stress won’t solve your problems faster, but while you feed and hydrate yourself and get adequate sleep, maintain focus on the thing that will really help and pamper you the most (that new job).

Draw on the love and support of your friends and family.

Don’t push your friends and family away; Your support system will help you succeed, they won’t hold you back. Canceling a few hours of quality time with loved ones so you can edit your resume won’t necessarily mean more job search success. But if the “quality time” is a tiresome party invitation shared by an acquaintance you hardly know, politely decline. Your resume is more important.

Examine your actions and how you’re using your time.

Frantic scrambling isn’t valuable. It won’t help you get anywhere, it won’t accomplish anything, and it can hurt you and hold you back by interfering with your sleep, your health, and your peace of mind. So, when you commit yourself to a long Saturday spent “working”, take a closer look. Are you really working? Or are you just foregoing family time and seasonal fun for no reason? If you plan to approach your task with calm and productivity, proceed. If you’re just making a pointless sacrifice, don’t. Learn to balance work with play, or you won’t be mentally present for either one.

Make lists, organize, and plan.

Going back to the same shopping complex five times because you forgot something can burn through half a day when the entire task should take no more than an hour. Creating a list and thinking ahead can prevent this before it happens. Stay a step ahead of yourself and don’t get tangled in the weeds.

For more on how to reach your career goals without missing out on holiday fun, contact the job search experts at Merritt.

New Accounting Assignment: Start Day One with Confidence

October 26th, 2018

Your new contingency or temporary accounting position begins in just a few days, and you’d like to make a strong impression. You know that this job could potentially lead to full-time work, permanent part-time work or a long-term contract … but only if the relationship goes well and both parties (you and your employer) can provide each other with mutual benefit. So, how can you start things off on the right foot? Here are a few ways to boost your confidence and gain an edge on day one.

Be open, pleasant, and happy to be there.

On day one, step in like a cool breeze and cultivate a demeanor that relaxes the people around you. The wrong way to do this: Avoid eye contact, focus on your work instead of other people, and keep reminding yourself that you won’t be here more than a few weeks. Why invest emotional energy in getting to know names and faces you won’t need to remember? The right way: Be happy and present. Remember that this is the only place that matters, because this is where you are right now. When someone tells you their name, look the person in the eye and remember the name.

Be clear about what you’re there to do.

Many temporary accounting jobs involve either of two things: filling in for someone who’s temporarily absent or accomplishing a complete project from beginning to end before you leave. You may be asked to get a messy bookkeeping system in order, review recent records and produce a set of reports, or support an internal audit. OR you may be asked to step in and temporarily pick up someone else’s reins. Figure this out on the first day, clarify your goals, and get to work.

Fill in the gaps on your own but get help quickly when you need it.

Make it clear you aren’t afraid to apply your skills and use what you know to get things done. But also make it clear you aren’t afraid to ask for whatever you need. If you’re missing some documentation, need more background on a budget issue, or need clearer information to solve a problem, get it. Show confidence in both yourself and in others, and you’ll quickly gain trust.

Focus on the present, not the future.

If you’re hoping to be hired full time, that’s great, and you’ll want to clearly express those intentions in time. But not necessarily on the first day. For now, just concentrate on doing your work well and making a good impression. Later, you can leverage that success into the next stage of your plan.

For more on how to leave your mark and turn a temporary job into something more, turn to the career management pros at Merritt.

New Accounting Assignment: Start Day One with Confidence

September 28th, 2018

Your new contingency or temporary accounting position begins in just a few days, and you’d like to make a strong impression. You know that this job could potentially lead to full-time work, permanent part-time work or a long-term contract … but only if the relationship goes well and both parties (you and your employer) can provide each other with mutual benefit. So, how can you start things off on the right foot? Here are a few ways to boost your confidence and gain an edge on day one.

Be open, pleasant, and happy to be there.

On day one, step in like a cool breeze and cultivate a demeanor that relaxes the people around you. The wrong way to do this: Avoid eye contact, focus on your work instead of other people, and keep reminding yourself that you won’t be here more than a few weeks. Why invest emotional energy in getting to know names and faces you won’t need to remember? The right way: Be happy and present. Remember that this is the only place that matters, because this is where you are right now. When someone tells you their name, look the person in the eye and remember the name.

Be clear about what you’re there to do.

Many temporary accounting jobs involve either of two things: filling in for someone who’s temporarily absent or accomplishing a complete project from beginning to end before you leave. You may be asked to get a messy bookkeeping system in order, review recent records and produce a set of reports, or support an internal audit. OR you may be asked to step in and temporarily pick up someone else’s reins. Figure this out on the first day, clarify your goals, and get to work.

Fill in the gaps on your own but get help quickly when you need it.

Make it clear you aren’t afraid to apply your skills and use what you know to get things done. But also make it clear you aren’t afraid to ask for whatever you need. If you’re missing some documentation, need more background on a budget issue, or need clearer information to solve a problem, get it. Show confidence in both yourself and in others, and you’ll quickly gain trust.

Focus on the present, not the future.

If you’re hoping to be hired full time, that’s great, and you’ll want to clearly express those intentions in time. But not necessarily on the first day. For now, just concentrate on doing your work well and making a good impression. Later, you can leverage that success into the next stage of your plan.

For more on how to leave your mark and turn a temporary job into something more, turn to the career management pros at Merritt.

Are You Wasting Time with a Generic Resume?

August 10th, 2018

In some ways, creating one beautiful, polished resume and then sending that single document to every employer on your list can save time. If you invest hours (or even weeks) in every detail of your perfect document, you can capitalize on that time investment by simply clicking attach and send each time you find a job post you’d like to pursue. Put in three days upfront, then spend five seconds on every application.

But unfortunately, no part of the job search (or life) is ever quite that simple. Far too often, employers complain that the resumes they receive seem “generic”, or one-size-fits-all. They get the impression that candidates are simply blanketing the landscape with pre-fabricated resumes and hoping that these resumes fall into the right hands.

So what’s a busy job seeker to do? You can’t afford to spend an entire day on every application, but a beige, un-customized resume may not impress your target hiring managers…So how can you resolve this conundrum? Here are a few moves to keep in mind.

Find a middle ground.

Create a sharp template resume with just a few blanks that can be filled in separately for each submission. For example, leave your target job title blank, and shape that insertion to fit each individual job you pursue.

Actually read the job post.

When employers are offended or put-off by generic resumes, it’s not because they’re entitled or expect candidates to treat them like royalty. It’s because the resumes they receive don’t seem to line up well with the job post. Their job may in the manufacturing field, and they’re receiving thoughtless mass resume submissions from seekers in healthcare or retail. They feel spammed, and they need to invest some considerable time in separating these auto-submissions from real ones submitted by serious candidates. Give these harried employers a break and make sure you actually WANT the job before you send a resume.

When you find your dream job, treat it like a dream job.

You may send ten resumes a day to “maybe” jobs that may or may not be perfect for you. That’s okay. But when you find a job post that truly IS perfect for you, a job you’d do cartwheels for, clear your schedule. Really sit down with the post for a while—and conduct a careful review of the employer’s website—so you can pour your whole heart into your resume submission. Shape your words around this job, and only this job. Clarify exactly how your experience and background set you up for success with this specific company. Chances are, your thoughtful investment will pay off.

For more on how to tailor your resume when necessary (and send a generic application when necessary), contact the job search team at Merritt.

Should I Consider Temporary Accounting Jobs?

July 27th, 2018

Maybe you aren’t a certified accountant, and maybe you haven’t given much thought to accepting a temporary job. But here are a few reasons why you might want to take a short term or project-based position in the accounting field as a means of advancing your career. If you fit any of these descriptions listed below, reach out to our staffing team and find out what we can do for you.
You aren’t an accountant, but you’d like to become one.

During tax season, accounting and tax preparation firms usually have several positions open to support, and administrative staff. The temporary employees who step into these roles help carry the burden of a very hectic season, and they help make sure that no task falls through the cracks. Taking on a role in an accounting firm can give you some insight into the business, and you might learn something while you earn something. Most important, you’ll get a chance to see if this really is—or isn’t—the career for you.

You aren’t an accountant, but you ARE something else.

Accounting offices don’t just need CPAs. They also need marketing staff, managers, IT pros, communications experts, and a host of other jobs that are always vital but become even more so during peak seasons. If you’re between full-time jobs in your own field, or you’ve recently moved to a new city and haven’t found a permanent position yet, consider a temp role. You’ll certainly be needed, and you’ll have the freedom to leave once something in your own field opens up.

Networking can boost your career.

Accounting teams often have insight into a wide range of industries, and accountants often have clients and contacts well outside their own small corner of the marketplace. It never hurts to meet new people and make new connections, and a temporary job in a cross-disciplinary field may be a great place to start.

Temporary jobs are easy to step in and out of.

Many job seekers (if not most) have considered taking a permanent full time position with a new employer, while privately preparing to leave the minute something better appears. Using a new job as a stepping stone is very common and it’s not unethical, but it does create some hassle, cost and inconvenience for the employers who showed enough initial interest in you to extend an offer. Instead, consider stepping into a temporary job while you continue to search for a position you expect to keep for the long term. You’ll leave behind a trail of good will, positive recommendations, and completed projects when you do.

For more on why (and how) to accept a temporary position in an accounting firm, contact the staffing team at Merritt.

Support Your Job Search by Working with a Recruiter

June 22nd, 2018

You may be steaming forward with your job search, collecting one offer after another and sifting through them at your leisure. If you are, well done! But if you’re like most candidates, the job search can feel like an uphill climb with no clear end in sight, and even when you find an acceptable job, land an offer and start working, you may not feel like staying in your new role for very long. If the job turns out to be a bad match, you may be back on the market again and back to square one within a year. So what can you do to shift the odds in your favor, land more and better offers, and put the search behind you for good? Try working with a recruiter! Here’s how partnering with an expert can help you move forward.

Recruiters have bigger networks than you do.

No matter how many people you know in your industry, your recruiter probably knows more. It’s her job to know people, connect people, and place the right person in the right role with a few phone calls or the click of a mouse. She’s been in this business for a long time, and while networking is something you may do now and then, she’s networking all day, all week, and all year.

Recruiters have plenty of experience with successful matches AND mistakes.

Your recruiter knows what a great match looks and feels like. This knowledge comes from a combination of hard data, gut instinct, great listening skills, and years of trial and error. Just as she can help her employer clients spot red flags and questionable candidates, she can help steer you toward the role that’s right for you and away from one that spells certain trouble. For example, if you’re gunning for a promotion to management within three years, she’ll help you find employers who can provide real opportunity—not just empty promises.

Recruiters help you without charging you.

Your recruiter works for her employer clients, not for you. These employers are looking for great candidates, they want help, they hire her, and voila…She’s on the trail of the perfect new employee, and that employee could be you. But since it’s her job to help the company find you, she’s paid by the company, not by you. If she gives you advice, take it to heart. If she asks for information that can help you, provide it quickly. You’ll “pay” your way by matching with the right company, so recognize how this system can work in your favor if you use it correctly.

For more on how to enlist the help of a recruiter during your job search, reach out to the career development team at Merritt.

How to Find the Best Accounting Jobs

May 25th, 2018

Maybe you’re a newly minted graduate with high hopes and ambitious plans for yourself in the accounting field. Or maybe you’re a mid-life, mid-career employee with your last job in the rearview mirror and your sights set a better job with a different employer. Or maybe you’re a former chef/dog-walker/CEO/educator who wants to step into accounting after spending the last several years working on something else.

In all three cases, you have the skills, enthusiasm and positive attitude you need to find a great job, and there’s no need to settle for less than you want. But how can you bypass the mediocre stepping stone jobs that hang in front of you like accessible fruit and reach for better opportunities that hang a little higher? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Get help.

First, if you haven’t traveled this path before, get some professional guidance. The support of an experienced recruiter can connect you to the most appropriate jobs and help you filter out those that aren’t quite right, pay too little, or offer marginal paths to growth. Talk to your recruiter and be as honest and explicit as possible as you describe your goals. Then let your recruiter review your resume and steer you toward an appropriate match.

Trust your networks and the networks of those around you.

The word “network” implies connections that extend beyond your immediate social circle. When you tap into your network of contacts, you aren’t just turning to friends and colleagues for leads and tips; you’re also turning to your friends’ friends and your colleagues’ colleagues. To do this properly, you’ll need to be patient and persistent, and you’ll need to constantly assess what you have to offer to others, not just what you have to gain.

Move toward what you want.

If you want to live in Hartford, look for jobs in Hartford, not in your current city. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we often feel tempted to take higher paying over a lower paying jobs, or choose a short commute over a long one, when in fact pay and commuting distance aren’t our actual priorities. We want to live in Hartford, but we take a job here instead of there, hoping that somehow it will all work out. It will only work out if we take actions that move us toward where we need to be. The same applies to building a career in a new field.

For more on how to find the employers and opportunities you’re looking for, turn to the New Haven County career management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

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