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Four Tips that Can Help You Ace your Phone Interview

October 14th, 2019

Phone interviews and initial phone screenings are not new; they’ve long been used by employers to narrow down a large pool of candidates without the hassled and expense of bringing everyone into the office for an in-person session. Phone interviews usually give both parties a chance to establish a few basic parameters and deal-breakers before either party decides to invest further, a process that cut a large pile of resume in half within hours instead of days.

But there is one aspect of the phone interview process that’s on the rise in the modern workforce: Remote hiring, which may mean that the phone is your only mode of communication, not just your first. In 2019, your employers may hire you based on this medium alone, without ever seeing or talking to you in person.

So here’s how to use the phone (and only the phone!) to show off your readiness for the role.

Check your connections and distractions.

Before the call takes place, check and double-check to make sure your barking dog is locked in another room, your noisy children are in someone else’s care, your phone is fully charged, your signal is strong, and you have everything you need within reach. A quiet room and a strong connection can help you get your message across. If you’re currently employed while taking the call, arrange an hour at home or a coffee shop; try not to scuttle into a stairwell or whisper into the phone from your cubicle while you’re at work.

Do as much research as you can.

It’s always a good idea to research the company and the job before an interview, but this is especially important when the interview happens by phone. Why? Because over the phone, you have limited ways to show off. It’s harder to steer the conversation in your direction when you can’t use visual cues, and you can’t wow your interviewer with your million-dollar smile. So use what you have! A few signs of effort can go a long way.

Speak more slowly and clearly than you normally do.

You may think it’s best to adopt a natural and relaxed demeanor and be yourself. But over the phone, the stakes are higher if you deliver a garbled sentence or tell an incomplete story. If your witty remarks fall flat because your interviewers didn’t understand you, the fallout can be unfortunate. Slow down. Enunciate. And use fewer words to make your point than you would in person.

Reveal yourself through your voice.

Smile when you greet your caller; the person can hear your smile. Before you answer any question, pause for two full seconds. Convey your energy and interest through your voice. Again, you have limited ways to do this, so make the most of all of them!

For more on how to crush your interview, contact the staffing team at Merritt!

Four Questions to Ask at the End of Your Interview

September 20th, 2019

As your interview winds down and your employer reaches the end of his or her list of questions, the employer may turn the tables and ask if you have any questions of your own. Even if the interviewer doesn’t directly ask you, take advantage of these final minutes of your session to take the floor and get some vital information about the job before you walk out the door. 

Asking some questions of your own has a twofold advantage: Not only will you learn more about the company and the job, but you’ll also have a brief opportunity to impress your interviewer with your proactive, incisive nature and your sense of self-direction. Here are a few example questions that can grab answers AND positive attention. 

What made you choose my resume? 

Ask this question in good faith, and expect an honest and detailed answer. If you do, you’ll probably get one. And that answer will help you understand exactly what you’re employers are looking for and what they hope to attain when they bring you on board. What changes will they expect you to bring them? How do they believe you might influence the culture or personality mix in the office?  

What specific challenges are you facing as a company/department? 

This question can help you understand the larger industry and the business model of this company. It can also help you gaze into the future and get a sense of the struggles, pitfalls, or growth spurts that may be awaiting this team, and you if you sign on. For example, you may learn how competing products are encroaching on the company’s market share, and how the company hopes to push back against these trends.  

How does your company stand out from its competitors? 

Your employer should know that this job isn’t the only option that lies ahead for you. With skills and talents like yours, they are likely one of several organizations that stand to benefit by having you onboard. What can they offer you that others can’t? And in the meantime, what makes their product or service a better bet for their customers? 

We talked about your company values; how does the company demonstrate those values?

Companies often want to emphasize that they are driven by values, not just by profits. This may or may not be true, but it’s a nice way to humanize the organization and it helps the company attract human workers who do have values and want to partner with companies who share them. So if your interviewer talks about environmental responsibility, for example, ask for some of the green initiatives they’ve taken. If they claim to care about social equality, ask how they’ve demonstrated this through programs or charitable donations.  

For more on how to make sure you’re on the right track with your job search, talk to the experts at Merritt. 

Seven Benefits to Being Involved on LinkedIn

July 5th, 2019

Not sure LinkedIn can really support your career growth? Here are a few reasons to take a closer look. This unique social media platform differs from the rest of the crowd; on LinkedIn, people may not share pictures of their cats, and they may share way too many thoughts about “synergy” and “action plans”, but you still don’t want to be left out of these impersonal, work-focused conversations. Here’s why.  

Professional networks can be even wider than social ones.  

You don’t have to be friends to connect with someone on LinkedIn. In fact, friendship isn’t as important in this realm as shared professional interests and the ability to provide mutual support, now or someday in the future. If you’ve worked with, worked for, partnered with, hired, or simply brushed against someone in any professional way, add them to your network. No need to hesitate.  

LinkedIn in allows recruiters to find you (and vice versa).  

You can blow the dust off your phone book if you really want to go out into the world and track down recruiters in search of candidates with your skill sets. Or you can sign on with LinkedIn and let recruiters find you…in droves. A simple keyword search can bring recruiters right to your doorstep, and they’ll bring jobs that are a perfect fit for your needs.   

Adjust your settings and site will show you open positions.  

Let LinkedIn know you’re actively looking for work, and the site will send you job postings that match the terms and indicators in your shared resume. You can apply for these jobs if they seem like a good fit, or ignore them if they don’t.  

LinkedIn helps you show off.  

Too shy to boast about your skills and accomplishments in social settings? That’s good; most socially well-adjusted people are. But you still want contacts to know what you bring to the table, so send them to your LinkedIn profile and they can see for themselves.  

Your profile provides a record.  

Even if you don’t include every aspect of your profile in your formal resume (or every aspect of your resume in your profile), you can still add each job, employment date, accomplishment, published paper, leadership role, etc, to your site and consult the list when you need to impress an employer.  

LinkedIn helps you stay in touch.  

It can be difficult to reach out to an old employer you haven’t seen or spoken to in years and ask for a reference or recommendation. But with LinkedIn, the gap isn’t so wide—especially if share a public post or update now and then.  

LinkedIn connects you with specific groups.  

Individual connections are valuable, but group contacts can be valuable too. Connect with industry organizations or just casual shared-interest groups and stay in touch with changes and big players in your field.  

For more on how to get the most of this popular platform during your career climb, contact the team at Merritt.  

How to Stop Feeling Like the New Kid at Work

May 17th, 2019

When you’re new at work, you experience a kind of double-sided coin. Everyone gives you a break, since you’re new and you haven’t yet had time to learn the ropes. But at the same time, all the breaks and indulgences you receive may leave you feeling a little patronized or excluded. Sure, you don’t know anyone here and you’re still finding your feet … but being treated like the “new kid” for too long can be unpleasant, and it can interfere with the development of your relationship with your new lifestyle.

So, move through that early chapter as quickly as possible. The sooner you’re up and running, the sooner you can have honest conversations with others, reveal your true self, gain trust and become part of the social fabric. Here’s how.

Make yourself selectively vulnerable.

When you don’t know something, just ask. When you need help navigating a new software system, get help. When you can’t find the exit door or the restroom, ask for directions. Don’t hide or pretend. Come clean, be bold, admit your ignorance and get it resolved. Be vulnerable, get your answers, and get it done. At the same time, be careful; some forms of vulnerability are not for public access just yet. Emotional stress, anxiety and personal or family information should stay under lock and key for a little while longer.

Be uncharacteristically friendly.

How friendly are you on a scale of one to ten? Take your answer and add two points. That’s how open, friendly and forward you should try to be at your new job. Of course, your extroversion and high energy will revert to the status quo in time, but meanwhile, you’ll learn some new names and faces and make some connections, a task that gets harder the longer you wait.

Take notes.

Make things easy on yourself by writing down new information instead of trying to remember it and hold it all in your head. You can even write down names, titles and key information about your new colleagues. The faster you learn who they are, what they do and how they relate to you, the better.

Accept invitations that come your way.

If you’re invited to lunch, go. If you’re drawn into a pleasant conversation, allow it to happen. You’ll thank yourself later when you’ve had a chance to become (insert your name) instead of “that new person over there.”  At the same time, don’t worry if you have to say no. Another opportunity to connect will come along soon.

For more on how to integrate yourself into the social and professional machinery of your new workplace, talk to the career management experts at Merritt.

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.

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