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What You Need to Know About Every Candidate

July 13th, 2018

As you launch into the initial screening and selection stages of the staffing process, there are a few things about each candidate you absolutely don’t need to know. These include your candidate’s ethnicity, religion, family status and sexual orientation, which may not be visible on the surface. They also include race, age, disability status or appearance (which may become apparent when you meet). These aspects of the candidate’s life should remain unknown as long as possible, if not forever.

But there are a few things you WILL need to know, and you’re better off obtaining this information as quickly as possible during the process. Save money, time and hassle for both the candidate and yourself by moving quickly toward these key data points.

Where the candidate lives.

More accurately, will the candidate be commuting a daily? And where will the candidate need to relocate from to accept the job? Will you be flying candidates in for interviews? Will you be covering relocation costs? Are you willing to accept a candidate who faces a miserable commute and may leave as soon as a closer opportunity becomes available? Answer these questions before you move forward.

What the candidate wants to do now and three years from now.

Two points of alignment may spell success or failure: what the candidate wants to do in the present, and what they want to do in the future. If they aren’t interested in or not qualified (just yet) to take on the daily tasks of the role, that’s important. If they’re fine with the daily tasks but want to advance within a year and won’t be able to do so if they take this job, that’s also worth noting. Get a sense of their long- and short-term mission.

Uncover any legal issues impeding the process.

Does the candidate have the appropriate visas or working papers to take the job? In this case, age may play a meaningful role, since you need to know they are old enough to enter the workplace.

Is this the right industry?

Almost every industry offers professional jobs in interdisciplinary fields (like marketing, sales, IT, PR, product development, product testing, etc.). A marketing or administrative candidate can easily move throughout their career from one major industry sector to another. But the question is: Do they want to? Are they interested in applying their marketing skills to this sector? Will this further their career or hold him back?

Can the candidate get over the highest hurdle?

This job may have one major issue that makes the position hard to staff (for example, a remote location, long hours or one odd problem that frequently sends candidates out the door). Determine the candidate’s feelings about this before you get into fine-grain details.

For more on how to move efficiently through the search process, 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.

Retain Top Financial Employees

June 8th, 2018

Like anyone else on your team, financial and accounting employees are likely to respond to common sense retention efforts; to keep them, you’ll need to respect their skills, respect their time, and pay them competitively. Chances are, your management experience has already shown you the benefits of these basic positive approaches to staffing and employee development. But retention is like an onion, and peeling away each layer tends to reveal more layers underneath. Yes, you need to treat your employees well…but how? And yes, you need to pay them, but what about your budget? Here are a few secondary thoughts that can support your larger goals.

Compensation is more that just salary.

Financial and accounting pros already know this, and you should too. If you can’t afford to compete with similar firms in your area, try adjusting your compensation package to add more benefits and perks. Reexamine your health plan provider, offer flexible hours, provide tuition support for employees who want to further their educations, add an on-site childcare facility, add a cafeteria, compensate commuters, and do whatever it takes to make your meager or average salaries add up to more overall by the year’s end.

Culture goes a long, long way.

Changing your culture might not be as hard or cost as much as you think. But keep one thing in mind: studies show that even underpaid employees with difficult and dangerous jobs will go the extra mile (and stay the extra year) for a company that feels like family. A friendly, welcoming, respectful, flexible culture can mean the difference between keeping a talented hire for a decade and saying goodbye to them within six months. Smart, experienced financial pros won’t put up with a toxic culture, nor should they.

Prepare to counteroffer.

If you really like your employee and you often find yourself saying “I don’t know what we’d do without her”, get ready for the day she resigns. It can and will happen eventually, so prepare for the day by setting up a system of operations that doesn’t depend entirely on her unique contributions. And in the meantime, keep a rough counteroffer estimate on your back burner. The day she shares her plans to leave, swoop quickly into action.

Listen and respond.

When top financial employees need something, accommodate them. And keep in mind that top employees rarely “complain”. Instead, they hint, react, and suggest. Don’t wait for your employee to storm into your office and demand more flexible hours or a lighter workload—That won’t happen. Instead, he’ll accept assignments with slightly less enthusiasm (he might say “I’ll see what I can do” instead of “Sure thing, boss!”) Listen for the signs, and be proactive. If you think it’s time to offer support, start a conversation and ask.

For more on how to retain your most talented contributors, reach out to the team at Merritt.

Is Your Elevator Pitch Costing You the Opportunity?

October 27th, 2017

Here’s a thought exercise that every job seeker should engage in on a regular basis throughout the search process: If you found yourself riding the elevator (or sharing a cab or subway ride) with a crucial networking contact or potential employer, would you know how to make use of that precious time? If you only had about 30 seconds to spend with someone in a position to move your career forward, would you know exactly what to say?

Those in the career management world refer to this 30-second burst of prepared words as an “elevator pitch”, and if your elevator pitch isn’t polished to perfection and ready at a moment’s notice, you may be missing out on opportunities to get ahead. Here are a few common pitch problems that might be affecting your chances.

Your pitch doesn’t exist.

If you can’t yet sum up your candidacy and your qualifications in less than a minute, start drafting your pitch today. Practice delivering it aloud at a speech pace that’s normal and comfortable for you. You’ll be glad you did. Even if you never find yourself riding a literal elevator, you can use your pitch to keep your interview conversations focused and on-message.

Your pitch is boring.

Keep your message exciting and relatable, and start by giving it a purpose and meaning that extend beyond your own career and your own hopes for yourself. Demonstrate how your credentials and your professional goals will benefit others outside of yourself, specifically the person you may be speaking to. Most listeners are more interested in themselves and their own company prospects than you and your personal past.

Tell a story.

Instead of structuring your pitch around a laundry list of reasons why your listener should hire you, shape your speech into a narrative. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end, and find a way to turn your listener (or their company) into the protagonist. If you’re the protagonist, make sure you come off as someone worth rooting for.

Use numbers.

Quantify your claims, accomplishments, and goals as well as you can. Adding numbers to the details of your story will make your pitch easier to put into perspective and easier to remember later on.

Leave room to land your plane.

Your pitch should not build and build and then abruptly cut off when the elevator doors open. Keep an eye on the time available and begin the process of wrapping up several seconds before the metaphorical buzzer.

For more on how to create a winning pitch that can win over a valuable contact in 60 seconds or less, turn to the New Haven County job search experts at Merritt.

Don’t Treat a Phone Interview Casually

August 25th, 2017

If you’re like most job seekers, you prepare well in advance for your face-to-face interviews, dressing to impress, researching the company, and taking extra precautions to put your best foot forward. But you probably don’t take the same approach or invest the same time and thought in a simple phone screening. But you probably should. Give yourself an advantage during the search and take a few extra steps that your competitors are likely to ignore. Here’s how.

Be yourself…but be your BEST self.

Affecting a fake persona during an interview isn’t a good idea, and over the phone this plan is even more likely to backfire. So don’t try to be someone you aren’t. But do bring your friendliest, most engaged, and most organized and purposeful side to the call. Sit up straight, or stand. Speak a bit more slowly and clearly than you’re used to. Smile as you speak— your listener can hear your smile.

Prepare beforehand.

Make sure you’re ready to take the call in a quiet place with no distractions or unpredictable noises in the background. And of course, don’t create these noises yourself. If you think your listener can’t hear you flushing a toilet or eating a snack, think again. The room around you presents a soundscape that your listeners can easily interpret, so don’t reveal what’s around you. When you take the call, do it far away from coffee shops, bathrooms, and dog kennels.

Do some research.

A phone screening doesn’t require the same depth of research that might help during a face-to-face meeting, but do some research all the same. Impress your employers by showing that you’re invested in the job and you’re interested in moving the process forward. A few minutes spent reviewing the company’s website should suffice; don’t miss this easy opportunity to shine.

Ask questions now.

During your initial phone call, you’ll have a chance to ask questions that may feel awkward later in the hiring process. For example, if you suspect that this job will pay far less than you can accept, get this cleared up now. Don’t waste the employer’s time and your own by moving forward toward an offer that you’ll inevitably reject. The same applies to other clear dealbreakers, like a geographic location far outside of your search range.

Prepare your tools.

Check to make sure your phone connection is clear and you have access to whatever conference platforms your employer plans to use during the call. If you plan to take notes, make sure you have your note-taking program or pad and pen handy. While you’re at it, prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask and key points you’d like to make about your background and credentials. Be ready to share these details without being directly asked. If you wait for the perfect prompt, you may miss your moment.

For more on how to make the most of your phone interview and move forward to the offer you’re looking for, turn to the Fairfeld County job search experts at Merritt.

Encouraging Employees to Continue Learning

March 10th, 2017

As a manager, you’ve made your public position clear: You fully support ongoing education, and you want your employees to keep growing, keeping taking courses and keep expanding their knowledge base, no matter how old or experienced they may be.

This sounds great, and it’s something that most active and prospective employees want to hear…but when it comes to practical application, are you doing everything you can to facilitate this process? Coursework and advanced education can be luxuries for those who are working full time and who may be burdened by family and other responsibilities outside of the work place. So short of dropping everything and enrolling as full time students, how do you expect your employees to bring this positive position to life? Here are a few ways to help them as they make an effort to help themselves.

Podcasts and webcasts

Public lectures and learning opportunities that require no more than an internet connection are everywhere…But do your employees know how to find them and do they have the time and the motivation to tune in? Help them out by doing some research. Identify podcasts that you think might be meaningful and provide alerts to your team. Then tune in yourself and find ways to lead meaningful discussions on the topic afterward.

LinkedIn groups

Leadership and industry-specific groups have access to an organized platform in the form of LinkedIn—but again, your employees may not know about these things. So light the way. If you find a topic or group that may interest a specific employee, let her know about it. If you find a group that your entire team could learn from, ask them all to join.

Courses and certification programs.

Find out how to efficiently reimburse your employees when they enroll in programs that require tuition or course fees. Many companies pay for the course work in exchange for a one, three, or five year work commitment from the employee. If you need to present this to upper management and obtain they’re buy-in, start working on that process. If you call the shots, just make it happen.

Team up with local resources

Local universities, adult education centers, and vocational/technical schools may be able to offer training programs for a lower rate in return for student referrals or group sign-ups. Consider sitting down with these educational institutions and working out a program or plan by which they gain more student traffic and you (or your employees) pay less in tuition and course fees.

For more on how to encourage your employees to keep learning and growing, contact the career development 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.

Preparing Your Staff for the Addition of Temporary Employees

November 4th, 2016

Your new temps are on the way! Which is to say, you’ve sourced, reviewed, and hired a team of temporary employees who will step into your workplace at some point during the next few weeks. Your temps won’t stay long—by nature—but while they’re here, they will be making important contributions and keeping the gears of your enterprise in motion. They might be replacing staff members who are on leave, or adding extra pairs of hands for the busy holiday rush, but no matter what roles they fill, everyone will be happier and more productive if their presence in the office is understood and respected. Here’s how to make that happen.

Provide your current employees with clear timelines.

Your teams should know exactly what day the temps will arrive, and your best estimate of how long they’re going to stay. New coworkers, temporary bosses, direct reports, or office mates should never appear by surprise.

Generate some hype.

Before a new temp arrives, share a few details about the person with the members of her team. Let them know a little bit about the temp’s background and interests, and encourage them to find common ground and icebreaking conversation topics.

Pave the way.

Every new employee should step into a functional workspace on day one, but this is especially important for temps, since the ramp-up period may be very short. If the temp will only be contributing to the company for three weeks, you don’t want the first week to be swallowed up by paper work delays, unavailable work stations, and computers that aren’t functioning yet.

Clarify assignments.

In order to welcome, onboard and train your new temps properly, you’ll need the help and cooperation of your current teams. So make sure each person knows exactly what to do and how to do it. Who will be meeting the new person in the reception area? Who will be taking them to lunch on day one? Who will sit with them to explain the company database? And who will fill in for each of these people while they’re temporarily pulled away from their own responsibilities? Make your expectations clear.

Thank your teams in advance.

The onboarding and transition process can be unpredictable, so thank your teams in advance for their patience and cooperation. While you’re at it, thank them (also in advance) for their welcoming and friendly approach to the newcomers.

Thank them again in retrospect.

Working with temporary employees can be time consuming at first, since they often have questions and require assistance during their first few days and weeks. Thank and reward the full-time team members who go the extra mile to answer these questions and provide this assistance.

No matter how long your temporary employees stay with you, encourage and cultivate a climate of mutual respect. For tips and guidance, reach out to the Connecticut staffing experts at Merritt.

Soft Skills Top Candidates Possess

October 14th, 2016

The best candidates in your applicant pool are likely to demonstrate a set of skills that are difficult to measure (often called “soft” skills for this reason). These skills can serve as a strong predictor of long term success, and if you’re watching carefully, they’re often easy to spot. If you see a candidate who can handle the day-to-day demands of this specific role while also bringing these intangible benefits to the table, don’t let that candidate get away.

Listening skill.

For almost any position, you’ll want candidates who can speak boldly and articulate their thoughts and opinions. Employees who can charm, persuade, and motivate using words can boost your reputation as well as your sales numbers and can help any company grow and thrive. But there’s one thing that’s more important—and harder to find—than good talkers: good listeners. Listeners are the candidates who understand your words, process your intentions accurately, and remember the things you say. They can read nuance and inflection, and they truly care about the success of any given interaction.

Friendliness and approachability.

Again, skilled communicators all have one thing in common: They really want to want to understand and be understood. They have a personal desire for connection, and they work hard to reach out and to make themselves available to others.

Executive functioning skill.

Great candidates can do several things at one time (multitask), and they have strong memories. They can break off one conversation, pick up another, and return to the first where they left off without missing a beat. They can handle the complexities of scheduling, budgeting, teamwork, and leadership all on the same day, and sometimes during the same minute.

Culture-building.

The best candidates can read a person’s mood, but they also read the mood of a room, or an entire workplace. They know the difference between a toxic conversation, culture or mission, and a healthy one. And they know how to set a personal example and steer the ship in the right direction.

Fearlessness.

When change needs to happen, the best candidates face it head-on. They aren’t afraid to speak up for what’s right or stand up for a person or an idea. Ask your candidate to describe a moment from the past in which she demonstrated courage by taking action against the status quo.

Resilience and determination.

What happens to your candidate when she experiences a setback? What happens when he doesn’t get what he wants or doesn’t experience immediate results? Choose the candidates who get up when they get knocked down—the ones who aren’t phased by minor obstacles and who don’t take rejection personally.

For more on how to recognize signs of success in your applicants, turn to the staffing and hiring experts at Merritt.

Hiring for Motivation

September 9th, 2016

As you sift through your applicant pool and start scheduling interviews, you’ll be searching for candidates who seem genuinely excited to take this specific job and work for your specific company. Motivation is an important selling point, and you’ll definitely want a candidate who leans forward, speaks with enthusiasm, and seems pleased and honored to have your attention.

Unfortunately, “motivation” is also a vague concept that’s difficult to define, and it’s easy for some candidates to put on a mask and act motivated, even if they really aren’t interested in the company and they intend to abandon the job as soon as another opportunity comes along. So how can you tell if your excited candidate is truly interested in contributing to your enterprise, and not simply planning to use this job as a short term stepping stone? Keep these tips in mind.

Directly address issues of over-qualification.

If your candidate seems excited about the job, but her impressive resume and track record suggest that she could be aiming much higher, ask why. Ask her to explain why this specific job sparks her interest. If she provides clear detail and she seems to have given the issue some serious thought, that’s a good sign. Look closer if she answers in generalities like, “Well, I just love to succeed!”

Address signs of coasting.

Younger candidates are often handed a few breaks early in their careers. This is not uncommon, since many companies hire under-qualified entry-level candidates at a discount, hoping to train them in-house. Keep an eye out for candidates with a history of failing upward, chair-warming, or completing only the bare minimum during their past three or four positions. It’s an easy thing to get away with, for a while. But the free ride should stop with you.

Ask tough questions about future plans.

When you ask your candidate about his career goals during the next two, three, and five years, he should have a
clear and thoughtful response. His answer should touch on specific branches and subspecialties of your industry, and should indicate clear interest in at least one concrete aspect of this field.

Keep an eye on non-verbal cues.

Which conversation topics cause your candidate to light up, lean forward, gesture while talking, and speak with volume and animation? Does the position at hand involve the kinds of tasks and learning opportunities that light this fire in your candidate? If so, then she’s a great match for the job.

For more on how to spot genuine alignment and strong motivation in your candidates, reach out to the Hartford staffing team at Merritt.

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