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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.

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.

The Benefits of a Temporary Position

March 20th, 2015

You’re stepping onto the job market and you need to find work as soon as…yesterday. Ideally, of course, you’d like to land the perfect job—one that will take your career to the next level while paying the full time salary and benefits you need. So you’re following every lead and turning over every stone as you struggle to begin the next chapter of your working life. You’ve posted online profiles, reached out to your network, and scanned every job board you can find online. But have you also considered stepping into a temporary position? Here are some of the benefits of partnering with a temp agency during your job search.

Temp Work Often Leads to full time Employment

When you connect with a temporary staffing agency, you won’t just be filling your workweek and collecting a paycheck. You’ll be making connections with a potential new full time employer, one who may be able to offer a specialized position that matches your skills and sets you up for success in your chosen industry. If your relationship works out, you may have the option of shifting to full time work when your contract period expires.

Temporary Work Keeps Your Skills Fresh

Accepting a temporary position in your field can help you stay in circulation and keep your skills sharp while you continue looking for long term opportunities. You’ll also have an easier time keeping up with new trends and software tools that can help you excel no matter where your future takes you.

Temp Work Brings Low Risk

If you accept a temporary position with an employer who can’t meet your needs or a workplace that can’t accommodate your schedule, don’t worry; the agency can simply reassign you to another client. There’s no need for drama, and you can move from one position to the next with minimal gaps in between.

Temp Work Means a Steady Paycheck

Years ago, the word “temp agency” conjured up images of low skill work at low pay. But times have changed, and temp agency professionals now maintain client relationships with a wide variety of industry employers looking for candidates with every skill set at every level, including technical, executive, and professional positions. We serve clients in every corner of the marketplace, from healthcare to hospitality to IT. If you’re looking for a position that can help you keep your career and skills on track, contact the staffing team at Merritt and arrange an appointment today.

Employee Handbooks: Protect your Employees and Your Company

January 9th, 2015

If you’re not handing a comprehensive, updated employee handbook to each of your new hires during their first week on the job, you may want to consider drafting and distributing one in 2015. A well written employee handbook can help you clarify general workplace rules that are sometimes misunderstood or taken for granted. And if your workplace involves any safety hazards or unique HR requirements, a handbook can clarify these issues from the outside.

Employee handbooks can also help new hires understand the exact nature and requirements of their positions, which can keep the annual performance review process clear, effective, and on-track. As you sit down to draft and edit your handbook, keep these tips in mind.

Do some research first.

If you’re starting the process from scratch, lay the ground work before you begin drafting and editing the text of your handbook. Solicit feedback from all affected employees, and gather general length and content recommendations from your HR department and legal team before you move forward.

Keep job descriptions limited to one or two pages.

If you produce your handbook as a three ring binder, you can insert these pages into each specific employee’s copy upon his or her first day.

Obtain buy-in on each section.

Create a section for safety rules, a section for your dress code (if applicable), a section covering the performance review process, training requirements, a staff listing, an emergency phone tree, hiring, coaching, referral and termination rules, and any other section applicable to your workplace. But for each section, you’ll need to obtain approval from HR, legal staff, and upper management.

Be ready to update the handbook as necessary.

Company rules and policies evolve, and the handbook should be ready to evolve as well. Each page should be removable and replaceable, so when you distribute a new page, you can ask employees to remove and throw away the outdated section.

Keep a copy online.

Keep a tab on your webpage or internal intranet that takes employees directly to an updated online copy of the handbook. This way employees will still have access to necessary information even if they lose their binders.

For more information on the content and distribution of your new handbook, reach out to the staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Hiring Top Administrative Talent: Tips

September 26th, 2014

You’re facing a stack of admin resumes or applications for a personal assistant position, and you realize that the outcome of this decision can have a powerful impact on your own work performance and the success of every project under your purview. In order for you to complete your own work and manage your responsibilities, you need to hire a person you can trust, and you need someone who can stand beside you and provide the right tools and support exactly when you need them. Here are a few moves that take some of the risk and expense out of the process and streamline the path to a successful decision.

1. Make the most of your current employee.

If your current admin is still working for another few weeks, make sure your leverage his help and support before you no longer have the opportunity to do so. Ask him to document each of his daily, weekly, monthly and annual responsibilities and provide a written list of the steps he takes to execute them. If at all possible, schedule some overlap between his departure and the arrival of the new employee.

2. Refine your interview questions.

If you have 30 minutes to chat with a candidate, don’t waste a second of this time. Cut questions from your interview script if they add no value. For example, skip empty bureaucratic questions like “are you a strong leader/well-organized person/ punctual?” These all have easy answers. You can also cut silly “personality” questions like “Which five items would you take to a desert island?” Let these go and get to the heart of the matter.

3. Focus on skill sets first.

This doesn’t mean that skill sets will hold more weight or serve as a better predictor of candidate success; it simply means that these are easier to assess than personality traits. Determine exactly which software systems and specific capabilities the candidate will rely on most (budgeting, scheduling, records management, etc) and assess these with tests and clear questions about her level of experience in each area.

4. Focus on behavior second.

Ask open ended questions to gain a sense of your candidates working style, problem solving strategies, and approach to written communication. Ask her to describe specific challenges she’s faced in the past, listen to the answers, and let her know how the challenges of this workplace will align with or vary from what she’s seen before.

For more information and personal guidance as you conduct your admin candidate search, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt Staffing.

Five Tips for Hiring Accounting and Finance Personnel

February 28th, 2014

Accounting, controlling and financial decision-making are all critical roles that can be challenging to source and retain, even with the most sophisticated staffing strategy in place. At the highest senior levels, these positions often require vast amounts of institutional knowledge, so an effective strategy will require pipeline building and a program of grooming and hiring from within. But what about the entry level? When you reach out to the general public with an open post for a junior accounting or finance position, what steps can you take to attract and select the best candidates? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Keep long term growth and development in mind.     

Again, if you choose the most promising contenders at the entry level, then bring them aboard and cultivate a long term relationship, you’ll be better poised for success with your senior level staffing challenges. You’ll be reducing risk and setting yourself up for strong cultural matches with minimal guess work.  Script your interviews with plenty of questions that assess  behavior and cultural alignment, not just accounting-focused skill sets.

2. Choose candidates who learn, not those who already know.

A sparkling academic track record and a history of relevant coursework can be great, but if you have to choose, lean toward candidates with natural curiosity, open minds, and the ability to unlearn or relearn as necessary in order to thrive within your company.

3. Don’t let the best contenders slip away for foolish reasons.

Ivy League schools are nice, and an unbroken record of work (no gaps, no travel, no career changes, etc) can suggest focus and commitment. But be careful. Don’t be drawn in by assumptions or stereotypes. Consider each candidate as an individual, not a collection of data points. And realize that a little self- direction and life experience can be a powerful asset to your company.

4. Choose candidates who can see the big picture.

Is your candidate here because she loves this business, has a true head for numbers, and has carefully researched your company and its mission? Or is she only here because she needs a job? A little evidence of enthusiasm and personal investment can forecast a brilliant long term relationship.

5. Don’t be afraid to test.

Accounting and aptitude tests can support your selection process and can provide huge returns for minimal investment. Just make sure you choose the right ones. Don’t rely on testing alone to help you find the most valuable match. For additional guidance, including specific sourcing and interview scripting tips, reach out to the financial staffing experts at Merritt.

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