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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!

Are Candidates Ghosting You?

October 4th, 2019

Since the recruiting world holds many parallels to the world of dating and relating, it’s usually only a matter of time before the terms and trends of the second realm work their way into the first. Interviews are often compared to first dates, and our awkward attempts to establish a connection and impress the other party can seem eerily similar in both endeavors. At the core, it’s because both actions involve the same goals: in each, we’re trying to establish a partnership that brings mutual benefit. And along the way, we need to break off or leave potential partnerships diplomatically if they aren’t giving us what we need.

Ghosting, or disappearing from a mismatch with no communication and no explanation, is considered rude, but there are several reasons why people tend to ghost employers (and dates). Most often, it’s because initial conversations have fizzled and ghosting seems like the easiest and most drama-free way to the exit. If you’re getting ghosted by your candidates, keep these considerations in mind.

They don’t want trouble.

When we ghost, it’s not because we’re trying to provoke, hurt or upset the other person. We’re not trying to teach them a lesson or compel them to respect us. The opposite is usually true. We just want out. When candidates ghost, their behavior isn’t personal, and it certainly does not warrant any attempt to pursue them, punish them, try to blacklist them, ruin their reputations or seek vengeance in any way. To do so is unprofessional and a terrible idea. Just let them go.

Review your behavior.

Did you treat your candidate as if he or she would never find a better offer? Did you ask for too much in terms of submitted paperwork or “test” projects? Did your words or behavior convey disrespect for the candidate’s time? Did you tell him or her that you would touch base in three days and then allow three weeks go by? If so, don’t do that with the next one.

Did you disrespect yourself, your company, or the position?

If you sent the message that the position is not important, or the company is a joke, the candidate may have taken your message at face value. This often happens when the position is portrayed as very low-skill, or the salary offer is low enough to present the role in a devalued light. If you send the message that you don’t care much about the job or who holds it, the candidate may consider it harmless to just disappear.

Unless unemployment rates are high, candidates always have alternative options, so it’s a good idea to put some effort into enticing them and shining a spotlight on what you have to offer. To get some help with this process, 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. 

Motivate a Bored Team With These Three Tips

September 6th, 2019

Each member of your team entered the workplace because he/she/they showed promise. The company or interviewer truly believed (at that moment) that this person could come on board, accomplish something important for the company, and change things for the better. Some of these hires have certainly done this, and continue to do it every day. But for most of the team, a more realistic scenario eventually sets in: On good days, they fulfill their promise. On regular days, they just show up, do their best, and clock out.

A little thoughtful motivation, properly applied, can help increase the overall number of good days, and reduce the number of days that are just meh. Here are a few ways to make that happen.

Rely on the power of teamwork

Recognize a key truth about all important endeavors: nobody accomplishes them alone. To do something big, we need multiple areas of expertise, multiple varied skill sets, and a combination of different strengths. We need to come to the table and pool the assets we have. We need to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, share our specific areas of knowledge, and talk through problems from multiple angles and perspectives. Make sure each person knows that they don’t have to shoulder the weight of an entire project or effort on their own. They really shouldn’t try. Collaboration and interdependence, not isolation or silent suffering, will get us to our goals.

Pay people what they’re worth

It’s nice to talk about employee engagement, and it’s wonderful to see workers having fun with each other and enjoying their projects. But under lots of cheerful, friendly, positive language about “passion” and “commitment” and “loyalty to the company”, no rational person would come in every day and work hard for the company if they weren’t getting paid. The bottom line for employee motivation is the bottom line: dollars. Make sure spending the entire day here is well worth your employee’s time. If you do, they’ll work hard. If you pay the minimum they’ll accept, they’ll only show up until they find something better.

Don’t punish employees for failure

As a manager (especially an inexperienced or first-time manager), you may believe that your job depends on an equal blend of carrots and sticks. Half your day should be spent on encouragement and the other half on correction and constructive criticism. That’s fine if you’re correcting a course of action to help an employee find a better outcome. But watch out; the stick should be used only for acts that seem both consciously negative and consciously counter to the interests of the company. Bad behavior and “failure” are not synonymous, and trouble brews for a manager who treats failure like a conscious decision to hurt the company. Encourage effort, risk and bold ideas. When they fail or don’t pan out as planned, encourage them even more.

For more on how to keep your teams inspired and get the most out of their efforts, contact the staffing experts at Merritt.

How to Answer When You’re Asked About Your Desired Salary

August 16th, 2019

As your interviewer sits across the table from you, she’ll have plenty of goals that will frame the meeting. She’ll want to find out if you can handle the job. She’ll want to assess how you’ll get along with your team. She’ll want to know if you have the personality to enjoy this job’s unique challenges. Some of these things are not up to you; you have no way of knowing if you’ll click with your new team, and you can’t really assess your readiness for the role if you can’t see behind the scenes. But your interviewer will also want to assess something only YOU can possibly know: How much would you like to be paid?

In other words: What is the lowest possible amount the company can give you without going so low that you reject their job offer?

How can you answer without a) underselling your skills and accepting a rate that’s less than your time is worth, or b) asking for so much that the offer isn’t made? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be the first to state a number.

No matter how direct, firm, or polite the request, don’t provide a number when your interviewer asks you how much you want. Simply smile and say, “I’d rather not share a number first.” There’s no need to play games (such as changing the subject to avoid answering); just say you aren’t ready to share a number and stick to your guns if pressed.

Never share your previous salary.

Your previous salary is a private and personal data point that should never be shared with a potential employer, ever. Even if you’re a government worker and your past salary is publicly posted, don’t share it. Let the company look it up on their own. Why keep this info private? Because once your interviewers have it, they can make you the lowest offer you’re probably able to accept. If you want an offer that’s twice or ten times your past salary, you can get that. But it will be harder if your interviewer can peer into your history.

Recognize that this is a negotiation, even if the company says it isn’t.

This is a negotiation and the number is NOT firm until you both agree to accept it. The offer may be presented as non-negotiable, but here’s a secret: every offer is negotiable. Before you dive in and try to bump the number up, remember that negotiations come with specific rules. Know the rules and respect them. (For example, don’t suggest a higher figure and then continue to raise it after the company agrees). If you’ve never negotiated before, get some coaching before you step in.

For more on how to receive an offer that matches your skills and experience, talk to the job search pros at Merritt.

Is It Cheaper to Pay Overtime or Hire More Staff?

August 2nd, 2019

Eventually, almost every business owner or decision-maker faces a familiar choice. Orders are piling up, business is steadily increasing, and you need more hands to handle the workload (unless you’re ready to turn customers and clients away, which most of us would rather not do). So which path should you choose: Hire a new person (or several), or simply pay your existing teams overtime and expect them to stay after standard working hours are over?

Of course, for some businesses, the decision makes itself. If you simply can’t expect your workers to stay late (because you know their personal schedules, public transportation, or the limits of workplace don’t allow that flexibility), you’ll need to let them go at five and hire a new pair of hands. And the same is true in reverse; if you know that it’s unreasonable to simply put the word out and attract hundreds of resumes from well-qualified candidates, you’ll have to work with the teams you have, end of statement.

But if either option seems reasonable, factor these metrics into your decision.

Crunch the numbers.

Sit with a calculator and make some assumptions. Assume you WILL, in fact, be able to find qualified candidates and bring them on board within three weeks. Assume you WILL be able to convince your teams to stay late and pick up some extra cash. Then run a comparison based on the period in which you expect to be swamped.

Take a look at that time period.

Are you dealing with a seasonal rush that will ebb as soon as the busy season ends? Or are you dealing with what appears to be steady and sustainable growth in your orders, deliveries, and invoices? If this looks like long term growth, save yourself some headaches and start your candidate search now. Find the very best available and invest serious resources in attracting them, onboarding them, training them and retaining them. This may mean ensuring that your salary offers are competitive.

On the other hand, if this is a seasonal rush, just keep a short-term view and cut costs where you can. Look for temporary helpers who can pitch in with minimal onboarding and training. Or of course, you can just cut the cost of hiring altogether and pay time and a half until the rush settles down in a month.

Anticipate problems.

New workers bring a social shake-up that can be somewhat unproductive—at first. Over the long term, the social fabric resettles and work returns to normal. But will you lose more money during that time than the contributions of the new hires are worth? Remember that new employees also come with necessary, but expensive, mistakes. The same can be said of overworked or tired employees who are pushed past their limits.

In the end, you’ll need to roll the dice but enter into the decision with as much data in hand as possible. For more on how to get the most out of your hiring resources, turn to the experts at Merritt.

Why Connections Are Increasingly Important to Your Job Search

July 19th, 2019

To find a great job, you’ll need all the classic job-search tools in your kit: a strong resume, a cover letter, an online profile that’s easy to find (on LinkedIn or your personal website), and at least three people who have enthusiastically agreed to serve as references if they’re called by your prospective employers. But you’ll also need something else, something that’s increasingly important in our digital age: personal connections.

Here are three reasons why you should develop your connections so you can leverage them when the time comes to move your career forward.

Connections indicate you’re part of a community.

If you’re connected to your potential employer’s social circle, professional circle, geographic area or past, then you’re a known quantity (even if the person doesn’t actually know you). This implies that you’re reliable, safe and have a strong personal motivation to work hard, do your best, and maintain your existing reputation as a good person. If you’ve appeared out of nowhere and have no context or community that can vouch for you, you bring a larger set of unknowns.

People like to help their friends.

To be clear, the “friend” in this scenario isn’t you; it’s the person standing between you and your employer. She’s calling in or returning a favor to someone else, and the bond between her and that person stand to be strengthened by your decision to ask for help or an introduction. The fact that you exist and need something (or can offer something) can bring two other people closer. Use this to your advantage!

If you have a connection, more info on you may be available.

A resume can only offer so much information about you. But a person making a personal introduction can offer far more. They can provide insight into your specific experiences, your competencies and your personality in ways no profile every really can.

Connections lead to more connections.

When we expand our web of connections, we help ourselves and widen our career opportunities, one strand at a time. This doesn’t just apply to you; it also applies to the boss who might hire you based on your shared personal contacts. A wise boss will apply this logic to their hiring decision and choose the candidate that can best help the person and the company advance.

For more on how to build up your network and make the best possible use of the connections you already have, turn to the career management team 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.  

Does Being Bilingual Increase Your Worth to a Company?

June 21st, 2019

You’re bilingual. Which means you can speak fluently (or somewhat fluently), read, write or all three in at least two languages. You have a special skill that’s far from universal in the U.S., and you have the ability to communicate on a level others can’t, even if the need doesn’t arise every single day. So, what does this mean for your job prospects?

If you grew up speaking this language at home, you may be shrugging at the idea that your “special skill” holds monetary value for your employer. You may be thinking, “Big deal. So, I can talk to my grandma in Farsi/Hindi/Spanish/Italian. But what does that mean to my employer? I’ve never been asked to use this skill on the job as a regional account manager in New Jersey, and I’m not sure this gives me leverage during my career climb.” If this is you, think again. Here are a few reasons to hold that card like an ace up your sleeve and be ready to use it as you interview and negotiate for raises and promotions.

Language skills are valuable because they’re difficult to acquire.

As you may know, it’s easier to gain language fluency in childhood than it is later in life. Which means that, like art or any other limited commodity, the market isn’t flooded, and new sources aren’t easy to access. Teaching language skills to existing employees isn’t as simple as teaching them to use Excel. No matter how infrequently used your skill may be, it’s harder to find than you think, which makes you that much harder to replace.

Bilingual brains are different.

Studies show that learning a second language expands our brains in complex and still not fully understood ways. Our understanding of the world and our ability to grasp and retain complex new information are broader when we have two words (with subtle implications and tones) for every noun and verb that we use to make sense of things. Put another way: bilingual people are smarter. They possess a certain mental flexibility the rest of us just don’t. Even if you don’t speak or use your language on a daily basis at work, you use your big flexible brain, and wise employers recognize this as an asset.

Resumes, interviews, and negotiations all benefit from this detail.

Always mention your second language in your resume. And always bring it up (even if you aren’t asked) during job interviews. Are you bragging when you do this? Maybe a little. But it’s a skill that most employers won’t ask about without prompting, and it should never go unnoticed or undiscussed. The same applies to salary negotiations.

Need help making the most of your language skills during your job search? Contact the career experts at Merritt.

 

4 Ways to Make Sure People Are Using Their Vacation Time This Summer

June 7th, 2019

Paid vacation time isn’t a frivolous perk. It isn’t a luxury or a gesture of generosity from a benevolent company manager. It isn’t a gift. It isn’t something that benefits the employee at the expense of the company’s bottom line. And it isn’t optional … for either party.

Vacation time may have become part of the workplace landscape after hard-won union victories in the 19th and 20th centuries, but since that time, research and empirical evidence have revealed an additional truth: Vacation time isn’t just necessary for the health and safety of employees, it’s also essential to the health and growth of a business. When employees live balanced and sustainable lives, companies live balanced and sustainable lives as well. When people are granted the minimum necessary for their well-being, including manageable schedules, clean conditions, safe tools, fair wages, and yes, vacation time, they’re better able to make smart decisions and productive contributions on the job.

So, employees need to take their vacation time.

But some employees need to be pushed out the door, mainly because they believe they’ll be scolded or judged for leaving. Here’s how to improve compliance and overcome those obstacles.

Monitor schedules and provide notice.

Your employee won’t take her vacation time and she seems to think nobody will notice, so what does it matter? She appears to believe that her schedule isn’t being monitored and HR won’t recognize if she lets a year slip by without taking her break. Let her know that she isn’t correct. Have HR send notices and warnings to employees who haven’t taken any vacation time in the last six-month period, and make sure the notice is phrased as a warning and censure, not a form of back-handed praise.

Use monetary incentives.

Just as you might use monetary incentives and gift rewards for employees with exemplary attendance records, do the same for those who use their vacation days regularly and fully. Everyone who finishes the year with an empty tank of vacation days should receive a bonus or gift card.

Disparage attempts at heroism.

Develop a culture that actively discourages employees from coming to the workplace with contagious illnesses and do this by withholding approval from those who soldier in with fever and chills. Meet these flu-ridden heroes with an eye-roll and a dismissal home, not a pat on the back. Do the same for those who boast about skipping vacations or who mock and belittle peers who use their time. Culture shaping starts with management; pay attention to your subtle messages of approval and disapproval.

Set an example.

The best way to encourage vacations and make employees feel safe from judgment is to start with yourself. Use every one of your days each year—no excuses—they’ll be more likely to do the same.

For more on how to shape behavior and culture in your workplace, turn to the team at Merritt.

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