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Are you Prepared to Answer Questions About Salary?

June 16th, 2017

As you apply for a new position, you’ll probably be asked to supply a resume that documents your previous job titles, and you may be asked to furnish references who can speak candidly about your character. Your prospective employers can use these details– plus any information they find online—to assess your readiness for the role. But most employers don’t want to stop there; they’d like assurance that you can do the job, but they also want to know how much your services will cost. And to make that assessment, prospective employers may ask some challenging questions. Will you be ready to answer? Keep these tips in mind.

Your previous salaries are (usually) your business and your business alone.

Prospective employers do not have a right to your salary history. If you’re asked what you earned at your last job, you’re under no obligation to answer honestly, or at all. Many job seekers don’t recognize this, and when faced with a firm question from a panel of serious-looking hiring managers, they feel pressured to respond. As a result, they’re often presented with an offer that’s equal to or just above whatever they were making in previous roles, and over the long term, this can seriously limit their earning potential and financial growth. Think about it: if you make a negotiating mistake while landing your very first job, this mistake could haunt you for life…but fortunately, it doesn’t have to. Past jobs are in the past, and unless your salary history is publicly available online, it’s nobody’s business but your own.

Answer by providing your preferred range.

Instead of answering with: “I made $52,000 per year, plus benefits,” you can say “My salary was in the fifties.” Even better, you can say: “I’m looking for a salary between $60,000 and $65,000 per year.” It’s what you want and what you’re willing to negotiate for that matters. Be sure the lowest end of your range still falls within the amount you can accept. And keep in mind that an offer at the lowest end of your preferred range sends a message about how much your work is valued and how much this company can afford. Either could indicate a red flag, so keep your eyes open.

Salary history and public employment

If you work or previously worked in a government role, your salary history may be made public, so recognize this before you attempt to negotiate for an offer that’s vastly above your past earnings. Keep your expectations reasonable, and be ready to provide a clear list of all the reasons why you’re worth what you’re asking for.
For more on how to set the opening stage for your salary negotiation, contact the job search and career management experts at Merritt.

Leadership Skills Every Employee Needs

May 26th, 2017

You might not believe your current job requires anything that can be defined as “leadership”. In fact, you may look around your work environment and see yourself as the lowest person on multiple totem poles. Or you may not interact with your coworkers in a way that suggests hierarchy or levels of influence. You may contribute to a team of equals, or you may be the newest and least influential person in every room you occupy. But we have news for you: this won’t always be the case. You have a greater impact on others than you realize, and your influence will only grow with time. So in order to thrive, you’ll need to build a few critical leadership skills. Start now and within a few years, you’ll be on your way up the ladder.

Speak up.

Practice raising your voice in order to make your thoughts and feelings heard. Don’t wait for an invitation; just speak, even if it means interrupting someone or setting yourself up to be interrupted by others. Words have no power if you don’t use them, and speaking up usually brings lower risk than you might imagine. Gather your courage and join the conversation.

When you want someone to do something, tell them.

Instead of hinting or insinuating, just make your request. When you need a pen from distant shelf, say “Can you hand me that pen, please” or simply “Grab me that pen over there, thanks.” If you simply express abstract sorrow regarding your lack of writing equipment, or go to impractical lengths to get the pen yourself, you miss out on an opportunity to practice issuing a request and enlisting the help of others to get things done.

Take up space.

Gracefully accept what’s yours. In fact, assert yourself a little bit in order to reach out and take it. When you’re offered a chair, take possession of the entire chair, including the armrests; don’t perch nervously at the edge. The same applies to your work area, your salary, and the resources you require in order to do your job. None of these things are gifts. You deserve them, you earned them, and they’re yours by right. So take them and say thank you. Then move on.

When you’re right, stand your ground.

If several members of your team suggest opposing plans, and you know that yours is the best idea on the table, don’t let go until you receive evidence that an alternate plan may offer more benefits. Push for your ideas and suggestions, and while you’re at it, stand up for others who propose great ideas, and don’t let them be shouted down. Amplify the voices of those who have something to say that might benefit the team.

For more on how to exercise your small but growing influence in the workplace, reach out to the Connecticut career management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

Keys to a Successful Interview

April 21st, 2017

If you’re like many candidates, you might approach the interview process from deficit perspective, meaning you automatically place yourself in an inferior position with regard to your interviewer. You want the job (presumably) and the interviewer has the power to grant or withhold something you want. So you might see the relationship like a student taking a test or an employee asking for a raise.

But this doesn’t accurately describe the interaction, and seeing things this way can prevent you from taking full advantage of the opportunities of the moment. Instead of approaching an interview like a parole hearing or a pop quiz, treat this process like a simple conversation between two equal adults. You both have something the other may want, so listen as much as you speak, and ask as many questions as you answer. Keep these tips in mind.

You’re here to learn and so is your interviewer.

When you sit with another person to have a conversation—any kind of conversation at all—you’ll have more success if you focus on an honest attempt to learn something you didn’t know before. If you’re arguing, try to understand the other person’s point of view. If you’re getting to know each other, ask smart questions and listen to the answers. And if you’re applying for a job, use this moment to glean as much as you can about the nature of the job, the mission of the company, and the culture of the workplace. Ask, listen, and ask some more.

There are no right or wrong answers.

Your interviewer will want to assess various aspects of fitness for the role. But that’s her job, not yours. If she asks you to describe your working style or your background, answer fearlessly and honestly. Don’t tell her what you think she wants to hear. Job interviews are like dates; misrepresentation doesn’t help either party. By the same token, ask your own bold questions and expect honestly from your interviewer.

There’s no better time than now.

You may want to bring up salary issues in a delicate way, but all other aspects of the job and the potential relationship will need to be hashed out before any agreements are signed, and the sooner this happens, the better. There will never be better time to bring up any concerns you have about this position. So ask now, and you’ll save both yourself and your interviewer from hassle and wasted time. Before you leave, clarify any confused or unaddressed issue. Don’t allow your interviewer to trail off or avoid questions that can help you make an important decision about your future.

For more on how to step into your job interview with optimism and confidence, turn to the staffing and job search team Merritt.

Can a Recruiter Find me a Job?

March 17th, 2017

As you search for work, you lean heavily on a few tested and proven resources. For example, you’re contacting every member of your network who might be able to help you. And chances are, you’re combing the internet each day searching for job posts in your field and in your geographic area. You have a resume posted online and you’re making the most of your informational interviews and meetings with your mentors. But what about recruiters? Should you call a recruiting agency and ask for some help? Should you answer those mysterious messages from recruiters that sometimes show up in your inbox? Can a recruiter help you land a job? Here’s our answer.

Reaching out directly.

If you pick up the phone and contact a staffing agency you’ll be asked a few questions about what you’re looking for, and you may be asked to stop by the office for a personal meeting. The ways in which we can help you will depend on your needs, and the wider your flexibility, the better. If you’re willing to accept a temporary position, we can assign you on a contract basis to employers who need temporary or seasonal help. If you’re looking for a full-time role in a specific field, we can help with that too.

Answering messages from recruiters.

Recruiters don’t always reach out directly to job candidates, but when they do, this may happen in the form of an email or blind phone call based on a review of your online resume. When a recruiter contacts you to say “I think I have the perfect job for you”, your first thought may be, “How did you find my information?” If you’re curious, just ask. Then move on to the next step.

If you like the job, act.

If the job description you receive seems promising, call or email the recruiter back. Ask for more information and be willing to answer a few basic questions about yourself and your job search. Never give out information that should not be made public, like social security numbers or credit card information. No legitimate recruiter will ask for these things. (they’re paid by their employer clients, not by you.)

Don’t wait.

After this exchange of information, hang up and get back to your search. You may or may not hear from this recruiter again, since they may not maintain a dialogue if you aren’t a fit for the role. Remember two basic rules of an effective job search: be polite and stay in motion.

For more on how to work with recruiters and help them to help you, reach out to our professional recruiting team at Merritt Staffing.

Job Seekers: Cut Through the Noise

February 24th, 2017

As you sift through job boards and personal contacts, reaching out to employers and sending out resume after resume, you’re confident that your credentials will speak for themselves. You’re great at what you do, and you have the track record to prove it. You also hold all (or most) of the necessary education and certification requirements that your target employers are looking for. They need a Masters in Education? You have it. Bachelors in Geology? Check. Fluent French speaker? Check. License to practice in the state of Indiana? Check.

But there’s just one problem: everyone else who applies for this job will also hold these credentials. So how can you set yourself apart? What can you do to stand out in a crowded field of dozens, or even hundreds, or qualified applicants? Here are a few distinguishing moves.

Lean on your connections.

Check Linkedin and Facebook, and the company’s personnel directory to find out if you have any contacts at all (even friends of friends) within the organization. Any name you can drop or testimonial you can request will instantly separate you from a crowd of faceless resumes. No matter how thin your connections may seem, use them. Don’t miss an opportunity.

Leverage your overlaps.

The company needs a BS in Accounting, and you have that. Great. But you might also notice that the company is opening new offices and expanding its consumer market in South America. And it just so happens that you speak fluent Portuguese. Could this help you land the job? Maybe. Should you mention this skill in your cover letter? Yes, absolutely. Some of the other applicants will have language skills. Most of them will have accounting skills. Very few will have both.

Use your formatting skills.

Your resume should have a visual layout and a calm, pleasing sense of design that allows your message to shine through. Keep your font size and line spacing relaxed, not tiny and crowded onto the page. Instead of packing in volumes of text, rewrite your phrases and sentences. Summarize your points elegantly you can say more while using fewer words.

Use color to your advantage.

Add a dash of color to your resume document by coloring your heading text, the outlines of your text boxes, or the separations between your lines. Choose a color that represents your brand and personality. If you feel passionate about your work, use red. If you’d like to seem cool and collected, use blue. If you’re going for a creative vibe, try green.

For more on how to give your resume a certain special flair that can help you stand out and get noticed, contact the job search experts at Merritt.

Boosting Your Personal Brand on Paper

January 20th, 2017

Showcase your personal brand during your job search! Let your potential employers know who you are and what you stand for using just a few words, and make sure your message resonates and lingers in their minds long after they’ve moved on to the next applicant in the pool. Here are a few simple branding moves that can help you stand out.

Calm formatting

Your formatting and visual choices can speak volumes about your candidacy. A well-presented resume can tell the world that you have an eye for design, you understand the visual aspects of sales and marketing, you understand and respect your reader, and you have the professionalism and experience to know which moves work and which ones don’t. Start by keeping your text and your lines relaxed on the page. Don’t use tiny font or crowd your statements together. Instead, summarize your statements so they say everything they need to say without taking up too much space.

A dash of color

Some employers print out resumes in black and white in order to pass them around, or they transmit them by fax, in which case your color decisions may not come through. But that’s okay; use color anyway. Keep your color palate limited to two, black and one other (or three at the most). Stay stylish and understated, and choose a color that reflects your personal statement. Keep in mind that reds suggest passion, blues represent a cool head, yellow implies a sunny disposition, green means creativity, orange means friendliness, and purple implies dignity.

Simple themes

Simple themes and statements are easier to remember, so if you had to simplify your entire resume and cover letter into one sentence, what might that sentence be? What about five words? What about one word? You don’t have to do anything specific with that word, necessarily, but you should know what it is. Take that single, simple word and build the rest of your brand around it.

Give yourself a hook.

Your target employers have clearly stated in the job post that the position requires a master’s degree in accounting. They also have a bilingual, multinational client base. This means they’ll hear from hundreds of candidates with a master’s degree. But how many of these candidates will also speak Spanish? If you can offer a valuable skill in addition to and apart from what your employers will find in the rest of the applicant pool, leverage that skill. Give it a prominent place in your profile.

Use strong branding to keep your resume and cover letter at the top of the list and at the forefront of your employer’s attention. For more on how to do this, contact the Connecticut job search experts at Merritt.

Written and Verbal Communication for Job Seekers

November 11th, 2016

As you work to grab employer attention and win over potential recruiters and hiring managers, your knowledge base and specific job skills will play a strong role. You’ll have to have a demonstrate your ability to handle the sales tasks, clinical techniques, or technical aspects of your daily round. But your hiring managers will pay just as much attention to your communication skills. Can you send a message clearly? Can you provide and accept instructions? Can you win others over to your point of view? And most important of all: are you easy to get along with in a workplace setting? Can you use your words to earn the trust and respect of those around you? Here are a few ways to highlight your strengths as a speaker, listener, writer, reader, and team member.

Recognize that your documents represent you.

Your resume and cover letter don’t just highlight your education and background; they also give your reviewers an excellent example of your skills as a written communicator. If you think they’re only searching for facts and won’t look closely at your grammar, style, and wording, think again. Get all the editing help you need and make sure your application is flawless before you submit.

Your voice matters.

The first impression you make will come from your written application, but the second will probably come from your phone persona. When your employer calls to speak to you, keep your posture straight, speak clearly and smile as you talk (your listen can detect the expression on your face). Keep your voicemail message simple and professional.

Your emails also matter.

During the early stages of the selection process, you may exchange a few emails with your employers to confirm their acceptance of your resume, answer some screening questions, and set up an interview time and date. As you answer, think carefully about every line. Recognize that your tone and your attention to detail can actually make or break your chances at this early stage. Start your relationship off on sound footing.

Polish your interview skills.

Before the date of your scheduled interview, don’t just mark the meeting on your calendar and forget about it. You may see yourself as an experienced interviewee and you might expect your experience, education and skills to win the day for you. But a little practice never hurt anyone, a few sessions with a friend can help you relax and take tough questions in stride when your big day finally arrives. Practice pausing for two full seconds before you answer a question, and practice maintaining relaxed eye contact and a friendly, assertive posture.

For more on how to speak well, write well, and use your communication skills to lard your target job, reach out to the Connecticut staffing team at Merritt.

Questions to Ask During Your Interview

October 28th, 2016

As a nervous, hopeful candidate stepping into your scheduled interview, you might think you’re here to answer questions, not ask them. You might imagine that you’re in the interrogation seat, and your employers are the ones who have something to gain by learning as much about you as possible. But that’s only half true. Your interviewers need to gather the facts so they can make a smart hiring decision, but you also have a decision to make. To find out if this job is right for you, turn the tables during your session and make sure you get some answers to these key questions.

Where can I go from here?

You want this job, but of course you don’t plan to settle into this position and keep it until you retire. You have long term career plans that will eventually take you beyond this role, and ideally, you want to work for a company that can help you reach your destination. Can this organization provide opportunities, exposure, training, and room for a promotion—or several? Will your managers coach you and support your plans, or will they work to keep you in your chair? Now is a great time to find out.

How would you describe this company’s culture?

Culture matters, and the atmosphere and energy in this office can influence your job satisfaction, your health, and of course your career growth. Don’t lead the interviewer as you ask; just encourage him or her to speak from the heart and describe this workplace in their own words. Read between the lines as they answer, and know what you’re looking for. What kind of culture will best help you thrive and contribute?

What kinds of qualities will I need to demonstrate in order to succeed here?

Will this job require excessive travel, social interaction, solitude, public speaking, repetition, or constant disruption? What kinds of traits will help you accomplish your daily tasks and form strong relationships with your coworkers and clients? Will your competitive edge help you, or will a more collaborative attitude serve you well as you work to find a place for yourself here?

What will I need to accomplish right away?

Starting on day one, what kinds of problems will you be solving and what kinds of challenges will stand in your way? Will you have a clear set of goals for your first day, week, or six months? If you don’t, that’s okay; you’ll just have to set your goals on your own.

For more on how to make the most of your interview and land the job that’s right for you, reach out to the professional staffing team at Merritt.

The Benefits of Working with a Recruiter During Your Job Search

September 23rd, 2016

You’re hitting your job search with everything you have, and you’re taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. You’re contacting your network, scanning job boards, and pursuing leads, and you’re submitting at least a few resumes to prospective employers every single day. But there’s a critical step you may not have added to your list; are you working with a professional recruiter? Here are a few reasons you may want to add recruiters to your job search team.

Recruiters cost nothing

Your recruiter works for the company (or companies) that hire her candidates; she doesn’t work for you. No legitimate recruiter will expect payment from a candidate, and it’s in her best interests to seek out only the best adapted and most qualified applicants on the market (hint: that’s you). Your recruiter wins when the company wins, and the company wins when they identify and hire the highest level of talent. Become a link in that winning chain: it won’t cost you anything.

Recruiters have large networks.

You may think your own professional network is expansive. After all, you’ve been studying and working in your field for a long time. But your recruiter’s network IS his field. He knows people who know people who know people, and his connections and resources extend in all directions. He can connect you with people and companies that can move you forward, and he also helps them to find you.

Recruiters can offer coaching tips.

Before she presents you to her client, your recruiter will have a chance to study your resume and (usually) meet with you in person or by phone at least once. Since she knows what the employers are looking for, she can help you address potential concerns and highlight the elements of your resume that they’re likely to find impressive. Recruiters can help you play up what works and dial back the issues that may stand in your way; trust your recruiter when she offers you some free guidance.

Recruiters have a wide reach.

Recruiters provide an integral service in almost every imaginable industry. No matter what you do, and no matter what kind of job you’re looking for, there’s a professional recruiter out there somewhere who can help you get where you’re going. The experts at Merritt staffing have decades of experience in a long list of fields and industries.

Recruiters are great listeners.

When they’re trying to fill an open position, hiring managers have a long list of specific needs. But job seekers have specific needs as well. No matter what you’re looking for– in terms of salary, location, hours, responsibilities, and opportunities for advancement– your recruiter will listen carefully and help you find it.

Partner with a recruiter and find the fast track to your next job offer! Contact the Fairfeld County staffing professionals at Merritt today.

Reentering the Workforce? Five Ways to Make the Process Easier

July 29th, 2016

If you’ve been absent from the work force for a few years (or more than a few) and you’re trying to elbow your way back in, you may encounter frustrations and obstacles that your competitors don’t have to deal with. But don’t worry; with a little patience and focus, you’ll soon be launching a new chapter of your career story. A few simple re-entry tips can move the process forward.

Keep your expectations reasonable.

Immeasurable amounts of human suffering come not from adverse events, but from inaccurate and unrealistic expectations. When you’re coming back into the market after a period of absence, you’ll have to accept that your search may take a while. There’s nothing wrong with you—you just need to take several swings before you finally hit your homerun. If you let frustration and impatience get the best of you, you may bail out too soon or reduce your expectations and take a second rate job just to have a paycheck. Be patient.

If you don’t have a network, use what you have.

Job seekers are often told to rely on their “network of professional contacts”, but if you haven’t set foot in the workplace in ten years, you probably don’t have a network of professional contacts. That’s okay. Just work with what you do have: friends, family, amiable strangers at social events, and industry people you may meet online. Make the most of these resources and stay in circulation. Make sure your contacts know what you’d like to do and what you’re looking for.

Take a class or volunteer (or both).

In order to brush up on rusty skill sets and demonstrate that you’re still in touch with your field, sign up for a local university or community college course. Meanwhile, if you can find a non-profit group in your area that might benefit from your unique skills sets, submit yourself as a volunteer. Stick with non-profits; too many for-profit corporations will happily accept free labor from anxious mid-career candidates reentering the market, just like you. Don’t allow yourself to be exploited.

Work part time.

Accepting a part time job, even one that lies outside of your industry, can remove some of the urgency from your job search process. Even a modest income can prevent you from accepting the wrong job, working for free, taking a lowball salary, or otherwise making poor decisions out of desperation. You’ll find your way back onto the ladder soon. But in the meantime, you’ll need to keep a cool head and stay in control of your career destiny.

For more on how to polish your skill sets and restart a career climb that’s been on hold for a while, reach out to the professional Fairfield County staffing team at Merritt.

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