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Landing an Interview When You’re Not the Perfect Fit for the Job

May 15th, 2020

You’ve read the job post carefully, and the hiring managers clearly want someone with your background and skills…or a close match, anyway. Or a not-so-close match. You have some of what they might be looking for, which is good news. But you also lack a few of the software skills specifically mentioned in the post, and you have three years of experience, not the “five plus” these employers require.

Here’s the truth: You can still get the job. And you can still learn what you need to know during your ramp-up period and thrive in the role over the long term. The biggest obstacle you face right now is landing an interview so you can make your case to these managers in person. Here are a few moves you can use.

Emphasize what you DO have in your resume and cover letter.

If the post mentions any detail, preference or requirement that you do have, mention it clearly in both of your application documents. And use the exact words and terms the employers use, since they may be filtering resumes using keyword searches. (“Experience with CNC” and “CNC coding background” are not the same.) Use every tool at your disposal, including your resume language, to make it past filters and algorithms.

Make contact.

Some job posts specifically say “No calls please” or “Do not call the office”. In this case, take the hint and don’t call. But if you don’t see this clear request, call. Why not? You have nothing to lose. If you can speak to someone in person and grab a few rays of attention, that may be all you need to move to the top of the interview shortlist. Be reasonable, of course. Don’t keep calling over and over.

Scour your social media to see if you have an inside connection.

Do you know someone who might know someone at this company? Check your Linkedin profile and Facebook feed to find out. Send a message to your potential contact and ask for advice.

Show off.

You may not be able to check every box in the job post, but you have plenty of other qualities that can help you stand out. Highlight them and don’t let them go unnoticed. Even if you think they can’t help you, they might.

For more on how to grab the spotlight and land an interview—even you doubt some of your qualifications—reach out to the job search experts at Merritt.

Don’t Let your Coworkers Make You Sick: How to Stay Healthy At Work

March 26th, 2020

With springtime illnesses spreading and 24-hour coverage of COVID-19 on the news and in the rumor mill, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your coworkers from bugs and germs. And keep in mind: news-making coronavirus and the flu aren’t the only troublemakers lurking on our phones, hands, and keyboards. Just a simple cold is still enough to bring on misery and lost workdays. Here’s how to stay a step ahead.  

Wash your hands.  

We all know that handwashing prevents illness, but make the practice easy for yourself. Make a note or set a timer so each hour, you stand up, walk to the sink and wash your hands, no matter what else you’ve been doing. Most of us don’t think about handwashing at all outside of trips to the bathroom or notably germy encounters. Wash for no specific reason, several times a day, on a schedule. Use lotion to keep your skin from drying out and to prevent the practice from becoming unpleasant.  

Place fun or fragrant soaps by the office sink.  

Again, making the experience pleasurable in a sensory or amusing way can keep it from becoming a chore. If you manage the office, place pleasant soaps and lotions at the sink. If you’re just an employee, consider making a generous gesture and buying a delightful soap that you can leave by the sink and share with everyone.  

Control coughs and sneezes.  

Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm, not your hands. Use your tissue one time and then throw it away. When you see others practicing controlled coughs and sneezes, thank them or quietly show your approval. Always say, “bless you.” If you see someone coughing incorrectly, don’t scold them, but be sure to lead by example.  

Clean your keyboard and phones at least twice per day.  

Again, set a timer if it helps. Otherwise, resolve to wipe down your screen, keyboard, office phone, and cell phone at least once in the morning and once more before you leave for the day.  

Use and share your hand sanitizer.  

Use the office hand sanitizer, but also carry a small bottle of your own. Be generous with it. If you see someone coughing or sneezing, offer them your bottle. Don’t be possessive or stingy with your gel and your tissues. The more you share, the more health benefits you provide to everyone in the office, including yourself.  

Call Us Today to Learn More

For more on how to keep your workplace clean and germ-free, contact the team at Merritt. 

 

Four Reasons to Hire an Aging Workforce

January 8th, 2020

While some employers may scramble to grab the attention of recent graduates, you may find some distinct benefits by rotating your gaze in another direction. Younger workers in their twenties bring energy to the workplace, and they may have fresher and more vivid retention of the lessons they picked up in the classroom. But if you widen your reach and work to draw older people into your entry and mid-level applicant pool, here are some of the benefits you may gain for your overall productivity, your workplace culture, and your bottom line.

Older workers (surprise) are often more flexible.

Since they’ve lived full lives and they’ve been exposed to a wider range of human experiences, older workers are less likely to become rigid, confused, paralyzed or outraged by events and expectations. For example, if you ask them to stay late to finish a rush order, they’re more likely to respond with calm clarity. They’ll say yes, or no, and move on. Younger workers may be caught off guard by your request, become resentful or flustered, offer more then they’re comfortable with in order to gain your approval, and/or get upset when the approval doesn’t arrive in the form they expect. Is your request reasonable or not? They can’t tell, because they don’t have the life experience to place the request in a context.

Older workers bring the benefits of diversity.

We all know that diversity makes workplaces stronger, more resilient, more innovative, and more productive. Diversity breeds success because any group can accomplish more when the group contains a wider range of talents and worldviews. Just as you work hard to make sure your workplace reflects differences in gender, race, and personal background, make sure the birth dates of those around you are as varied as possible.

Older workers respond to different motivators.

Younger workers often go the extra mile because they’re making long term career plans that extend decades into the future. They know that if they show off, complete training courses, or make valuable mistakes now, the lessons and gains they see will pay off as they move from job to job and promotion to promotion. Older workers don’t usually envision climbing ladders that go on for decades, so they respond to motivators their younger counterparts may ignore. A friendly (if boring) workplace, a fair (if not extravagant) paycheck, meaningful work, a stable company, and generous benefits may keep them cheerfully on board, even if you can’t offer excitement and huge potential for career growth.

Older workers can be more honest and forthright.

Again, older workers are often less fearful of minor upsets or social misunderstandings. Because of this, they can find it much easier to communicate clearly and set clear boundaries and expectations.

For more on why you may want to draw applicants from an elder population, turn to the staffing experts at Merritt.

 

Is Your Resume Too Generic for the Job?

December 20th, 2019

Your resume seems excellent on the surface. You use the word “great” at least five times. You also lean heavily on the words “skilled,” “experienced,” and “excellent.” All employers like great candidates, don’t they? So why aren’t you landing more interviews?

Maybe your word choices aren’t giving you the boost that you expect. They may even be holding you back. Here are a few simple tips that can help you get rid of some of that generic language and deliver a more specific, focused, and memorable message.

Review the job post carefully.

All employers want candidates who work hard, show up on time, and look sharp. But these qualities aren’t rare and they won’t set you apart in a crowded pool. To find the traits that WILL set you apart, start by scanning the job post carefully and looking for specific requests that these specific employers find relevant to the position they’re trying to staff. Focus on those traits and on the narrow, measurable skill sets that can bring success in this field, at this level.

Shine a light on the things you offer than nobody else can.

You may be proud of your friendly personality, but you can let that aspect of your candidacy speak for itself. In your resume, focus instead on the skills that took you years to obtain. Focus on your most challenging courses, your most unusual accomplishments, and awards, and the specific lessons you learned in the school of hard knocks. Be most proud of the achievements that came with the highest level of time, setbacks, and difficulty.

Shine a light on preferences few others share.

Do you enjoy some of the aspects of this job that others will merely endure? Do you like humble tasks, dirty tasks, or tasks that others find tedious? Do you like social challenges, public speaking, high pressure, or tight deadlines? Do you thrive in harsh environments, or enjoy extensive work-related travel? Most people don’t. So if you have these traits, you’ll move quickly from a generic scan to a curious second look.

Sharpen your verbs.

Now that you know the specific points that can help your resume stand out go back and highlight those messages by choosing strong verbs. Replace weak choices, like “has,” “was,” “is,” “gave,” and “does,” with more specific ones, like “builds,” “leads,” “directed,” “implemented,” and “organized.”

Add some details that may not be entirely relevant.

Add just one or two proud accomplishments to your resume that don’t directly relate to the job, like sports accomplishments, art awards, or community leadership roles. These small details can help employers notice and remember you as a person.

For more on how give you resume an extra boost and separate yourself from the crowd, turn to the experts at Merritt.

How to Make Temporary Employees Feel Like Part of the Team

December 13th, 2019

Your new employee may not be staying onboard for very long, and they may be here to complete a three-week task and disappear again. But while they’re here, they should feel welcomed, appreciated, and part of the team. Keep in mind that short arrangements often become long term, even if that isn’t part of the plan at the beginning. Here’s how to lay the groundwork for success.

Develop an Official Onboarding Process

Make the most of the employee’s first day. Make sure that when they arrive, they have a computer, a phone, and a dedicated workstation ready, and make sure they understand the lay of the land and what’s expected of them. Most importantly, make sure they have a contact person they can turn to with questions. If you can’t accomplish all of this in one day, aim for one week. In any case, move quickly and efficiently. Don’t let them idle all day long.

Encourage Relationships with the Team

Introduce your employees to the members of the team and allow and encourage them to get to know each other. Even if the new person won’t stay long, take them out to lunch on the first day and give them some time to converse with the others around them. Encourage your teams to be friendly and welcoming.

Give Them the Tools they Need

If your new employee needs a security badge, a list of phone contacts, a map of the job site, an employee handbook, or a set of safety gear, the sooner you supply these things, the better. Make sure the employee feels like an asset, not a burden to the team or company. If this involves coordination with the staffing agency or recruiter who connected the two of you, stay in close communication to avoid bottlenecks and hold-ups.

Don’t Put Them Out on a Limb

Don’t set your temporary employee up for failure by neglecting to explain the most important aspects of the job in advance. This applies to tasks, important workplace rules, dress codes, and safety policies. If the employee comes in blind on day one, make sure they’re fully informed by day two.

Demonstrate the Benefits of Working Here

If there’s a chance, the job may become a permanent role, say so upfront, and explain what will need to happen for this to take place. If certain goals must be met by the time the contract ends, clarify those goals. Work together with the new employee and help them succeed so that they can help the company as much as possible.

For more on how to get the most out of your temporary and contingent staffing agreements, contact the expert team at Merritt.

How Procrastination will Hurt You in the Long Run

November 25th, 2019

Do you tend to put off tasks or ignore obligations until you run head-first into your deadline, or miss it altogether? Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to begin a project and then doing a sloppy rush job that could have been avoided if you had started earlier?

The tendency to procrastinate is relatively common, and in some cases, it can be serious…and it can also bring serious consequences for those who aren’t sure how to get it under control. If you feel like your minor habit of procrastination is slowly becoming a significant habit, or you’ve already missed one too many deadlines or milestones, and you’d rather not miss any more, keep these thoughts in mind.

Address one problem at a time.

Your report is due in three days. You’ve had it on your plate for two months, and you haven’t yet started. So you have two problems: 1) a report that’s likely to be rushed or missed altogether, and 2) a psychological problem (procrastination) that will haunt you and hold you back long after this report is over and forgotten. Don’t let a sense of paralysis cause you to freeze, give in, and give up on both. Instead, take a deep breath and face the first problem, the report. When that’s over, don’t take a long vacation. Face your next challenge and do what you need to do to get help, counseling, or support. Don’t walk away from either of your challenges; face both, but tackle only one at a time.

The second battle will be harder than the first.

Once your report is no longer an issue, face your procrastination problem with courage and conviction. Ask yourself honestly why you behave this way and what you hope to gain each time you do it. Do you feel rebellious and passive-aggressive, and is procrastination your way of claiming control? (“The person asking me to complete this task can’t tell ME what to do!”) Do you feel scared of the task and doubt you’ll be able to do it successfully? (“As long as I haven’t started yet, I haven’t failed.”) Are you so excited about the task that you’re hiding from your strong feelings? (“I really want to plan this wedding/write this novel/ finish this job application, but I just can’t get started!”) These are all very common reasons why people succumb to procrastination…but they’re all very different. Which do you relate to the most?

Break big tasks into smaller tasks.

No matter which reason best reflects your situation, one approach can help with all three: breaking down your intimidating task, so it no longer controls, scares, or overwhelms you. Instead of “planning a wedding,” choose a date. Instead of “writing a novel,” write a rough outline. Once you’ve started, you’ll find it easier to continue.

Merrit can help you with professional challenges.

For more on how to address and overcome the professional challenges that may be holding you back, talk to the career management team at Merritt!

Do You Have a Hiring Need? Ask Your Team for Their Input

November 18th, 2019

Collaborative hiring, or the process of soliciting input from your entire team while bringing on a new member, can vastly increase your odds of hiring success. By making this one change, you’ll bring significant benefits to team productivity, ease the transition for everyone, and ensure that the new person you choose and bring aboard represents the best possible match. Here are a few of the specific benefits you’ll gain when you make an effort to bring everyone to the table.

It demonstrates trust and strengthens your existing relationships.

Hiring decisions are essential, and they come with high stakes for the company. If something goes wrong, or you choose a candidate who doesn’t fit in and leaves within a few months, the results can be costly and damaging. That makes it all the more meaningful when you tap your employees and specifically solicit their input and feedback. It shows you trust their opinions and instincts when it counts the most, and it shows that you’re listening and interested in providing them with the resources and support they need.

It helps you home in on cultural matches.

It matters if your new employee gets along with the team, and it matters if he/she doesn’t. So don’t try to size the person up on your own and make wild guesses. Instead, introduce the team and then ask them to provide their assessments. For example, if your culture is driven, cold, and impersonal, your employees may not take well to someone who is warm, collaborative, and here to make friends. The opposite can also be true: a chatty, friendly, laid-back team may not be interested in taking on a self-interested cool customer.

It spreads out a blanket of accountability.

Team decisions may take longer to make than individual decisions, and they may bring higher levels of risk and more moving parts, which increase the number of potential failure points. But they also come with an upside: When everyone takes a small portion of responsibility, no one person has to bear responsibility for the entire process. Both credit and blame and shared, and so are long term outcomes, both positive and negative.

It increases overall flexibility.

When your team has a hand in choosing the new employee, they’re more likely to be flexible and accommodating during the unpredictable early stages of the transition. If they don’t understand the person’s motives or tumble into a miscommunication, they’ll be more willing to ask the right questions and patiently work through the issue. If the new person is thrust upon them, they may be more resistant to change and adaptation.

Merritt will help with your hiring needs!

For more on how to make a candidate selection and onboarding as easy and successful as possible for everyone involved, turn to the staffing pros at Merritt.

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. 

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